1988–89 in English football
The 1988–89 season was the 109th season of competitive football in England.
The season saw Arsenal win their first league title for 18 years, in dramatic fashion, as they beat defending champions Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield to clinch the title on number of goals scored. Liverpool had won the FA Cup six days earlier and for the second season running missed out on a unique second double. Third placed Nottingham Forest lifted both the Football League Cup and Full Members' Cup. The ban on English clubs was now in its fourth season and UEFA then voted for it to continue for a fifth season.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Star players
- 3 Star managers
- 4 Famous debutants
- 5 Top goalscorers
- 6 Diary of the season
- 7 Retirements
- 8 Deaths
- 9 Transfers
- 10 Honours
- 11 League table
- 12 Football League Playoffs
- 13 References
On 15 April, a crowd crush at the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough killed 96 people and injured more than 300. A 95th Liverpool supporter died in hospital shortly after. The final death toll became 96 in March 1993, when Tony Bland died after being in a coma for nearly four years. A subsequent inquiry into the tragedy led to the Taylor Report, in which Lord Justice Taylor of Gosforth ordered that all top division clubs should have all-seater stadiums from the 1994–95 season onwards.
Changes to football on television
One of the biggest changes in the history of football on television began in this season, as ITV gained exclusive rights to show Football League matches, both in live and highlights form. The rights cost £11m, up from £5.2m in 1983. Most of their coverage was of live matches on Sunday afternoons of top-flight games. They would hold the exclusive rights until 1992, when they lost coverage of the newly formed Premier League to Sky Television.
Scunthorpe's new stadium
Arsenal won the league title with a goal scored in the last minute of the last game of the season, as they beat Liverpool 2–0 at Anfield to claim the championship trophy and deny Kenny Dalglish's men a unique second double, with goals from Alan Smith and Michael Thomas. Third place in the league was occupied by League Cup and Full Members' Cup winners Nottingham Forest. In their second season back in the top flight, Derby County beat eventual champions Arsenal home and away on their way to achieving an impressive fifth-place finish, while Dave Stringer's Norwich City made the most of their limited resources by finishing fourth.
Ian Rush returned to Liverpool after a season with Juventus and was once again a prolific goalscorer. Mark Hughes returned to Manchester United after two seasons with Barcelona and his brilliance earned him the PFA Player of the Year award – although he couldn't help his side finish any higher than a disappointing 11th in the First Division.
Newcastle United endured a disastrous season and succumbed to relegation after finishing bottom of the First Division. They were joined by West Ham United, who later sacked long-serving manager John Lyall; he was replaced by the Swindon Town manager Lou Macari. The other relegated side was Middlesbrough.
Chelsea returned to the First Division at the first time of asking by totalling 99 points as Second Division champions. Manchester City ended their two-year exile from the top flight by finishing runners-up in the Second Division. The third promotion place went to Steve Coppell's stylish Crystal Palace side.
A disastrous season saw Walsall slip out of the Second Division after just one season. They were then joined by Birmingham City, who fell into the league's third tier for the first time in their history. Shrewsbury Town's luck finally ran out as they occupied the final relegation spot and fell back into the league's third tier after 10 years.
The prolific goalscoring of striker Steve Bull and expertise of manager Graham Turner saw Wolves promoted for the second season running as Third Division champions. Dave Bassett's Sheffield United followed Wolves up in second place. The Third Division playoffs were won by John Rudge's hard working Port Vale side.
Rotherham United were crowned Champions. 22 points from their final 8 games saw Frank Clark's Leyton Orient make a late run into the Fourth Division playoffs and win the final to gain promotion. The automatic promotion places went to Tranmere Rovers and Crewe Alexandra.
At the bottom end of the table, Darlington struggled all season long and not even the arrival of enthusiastic young manager Brian Little could save them from losing their league place – which was gained by Conference champions Maidstone United.
In their first season after relegation from the Football League, Newport County went out of business on 27 February. They were then expelled from the Conference for failing to fulfill their fixtures but reformed three months later.
Change in playoff format
The play-off system was slightly altered, they were now contested by the four sides just missing out on promotion, with one less team automatically relegated. The system has stayed in place since then (although it was not until the following season that Wembley Stadium began hosting finals).
Liverpool won the Cup by beating Everton 3–2 at Wembley. Ian Rush, who had returned to Anfield after a year at Juventus the previous summer, scored twice. This year's FA Cup featured a famous upset as First Division Coventry City, who had won the competition two years earlier, sunk to a 2–1 loss in the third round at lowly Sutton United. The joy of the non-leaguers was ended emphatically though in the next round as they were thumped 8–0 by Norwich City. Also, Third Division Brentford went on an impressive run to the quarter-finals before losing to Liverpool at Anfield.
Football League silverware
Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest ended their nine-year trophy drought by beating holders Luton Town 3–1 in the final to win the League Cup. Nottingham Forest also won the Full Members' Cup, beating Everton 4–3 in the final after extra time, having come twice from behind. Garry Parker scored a brilliant goal for Nottingham Forest, running nearly the full length of the Wembley pitch, before beating Neville Southall in the Everton goal. This is arguably one of the best goals scored in a Wembley final.
Manchester United striker Mark Hughes, who had returned to the club after two unhappy seasons with Barcelona in Spain and Bayern Munich in Germany was voted PFA Players' Player of the Year. The PFA Young Player of the Year award went to Arsenal's winger Paul Merson, who helped his side win their first league title for 18 years.
- George Graham's three years of rebuilding Arsenal paid off as he ended their 18-year title drought with the last goal of the season. He received the Manager of the Year award for his efforts.
- Kenny Dalglish compensated for Liverpool's title disappointment with victory over neighbours Everton in the FA Cup final.
- Brian Clough guided Nottingham Forest to a hard-earned League Cup triumph and also victory in the Full Members Cup after they had gone nine years without a trophy.
- Dave Stringer pulled off one of the shocks of the season by taking unfancied Norwich City to fourth place in the First Division.
- Steve Coppell's five years of outstanding effort at Crystal Palace paid off as he got them promoted to the First Division as playoff winners.
- Graham Turner's rejuvenated Wolves side reached the Second Division with a second successive championship and promotion triumph.
- Dave Bassett celebrated his first full season as Sheffield United manager by winning promotion to the Second Division.
- John Rudge took Port Vale to their highest point in decades by guiding them to success in the Third Division promotion playoffs.
- Dario Gradi took Crewe Alexandra to third place in the Fourth Division and earned them promotion after years in the league's lowest division.
- Frank Clark inspired a late run of excellent form for his Leyton Orient side who won promotion to the Third Division as Fourth Division playoff winners.
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13 May 1989: Steve Howey, 17-year-old defender, makes his debut as a substitute for relegated Newcastle United on the final day of the First Division season, when they lose 2–0 to Manchester United at Old Trafford. Graeme Le Saux, 20-year-old Jersey born defender, makes his debut for Second Division champions Chelsea in 3–2 win against Portsmouth at Fratton Park.
- Alan Smith (Arsenal) – 22 goals
- Keith Edwards (Hull City) – 26 goals
- Steve Bull (Wolverhampton Wanderers) – 37 goals
Diary of the season
7 July 1988 – Tottenham Hotspur complete a British transfer record £2 million deal for 21-year-old Newcastle United midfielder Paul Gascoigne. Gascoigne signs a contract at White Hart Lane until the end of the 1992–93 season.
13 July 1988 – Gordon Cowans ends his three-year spell at Bari to rejoin Aston Villa in a £250,000 deal, while Everton strengthen their midfield in a £925,000 move for Chelsea and Scotland midfielder Pat Nevin.
19 July 1988 – England defender Gary Stevens moves to Scotland in a £1 million move from Everton to Rangers in the costliest transfer involving a British defender. He is replaced at Goodison Park by Newcastle United's Neil McDonald.
20 July 1988 – After two seasons at Barcelona, Mark Hughes returns to Manchester United for a club record £1.8 million, breaking the previous record of £1.75 million that the club paid for Bryan Robson seven years ago.
25 July 1988 – Less than three weeks after Tottenham broke the national transfer record, a new record is set when Everton complete the signing of West Ham United's 23-year-old striker Tony Cottee for £2.2 million.
28 July 1988 – Billy Bonds, the oldest player in the Football League at 41, announces his retirement as a player but will remain with West Ham United as youth team coach.
8 August 1988 – Graham Roberts returns to England in a £470,000 move to Chelsea from Rangers.
13 August 1988 - The first North London derby to be held at Wembley Stadium was a 4–0 victory for Arsenal in the friendly Wembley International Tournament; Gunners' goalscorers were Paul Merson, Alan Smith, and brace-producing Brian Marwood.
27 August 1988 – Millwall begin their life as a First Division side by drawing 2–2 at Aston Villa. Forwards John Aldridge, Alan Smith, and Tony Cottee score opening day hat-tricks as Liverpool beat Charlton Athletic 3-0, Arsenal move to top position by thrashing FA Cup holders Wimbledon 5–1, while Everton thump Newcastle United 4-0. Tottenham Hotspur's opening fixture at home to Coventry City was postponed following the Londoners' failure to obtain a safety certificate for White Hart Lane.
1 September 1988 – Brighton & Hove Albion, newly promoted back to the Second Division, sign Barnet defender Nicky Bissett for £115,000, a record fee for a non league player. Richard Thompson, 24, becomes the youngest chairman in the Football League when he takes over at Queens Park Rangers in place of David Bulstrode.
12 September 1988 – David Rocastle, Paul Gascoigne and Tony Cottee win their first international caps for England in a 1-0 friendly win over Denmark at Wembley. Nearly a decade after leaving them for Sunderland, goalkeeper Chris Turner returns to Sheffield Wednesday in a £175,000 move from Manchester United.
16 September 1988 – Andy Gray returns to his native Scotland after 13 years to sign for Rangers.
18 September 1988 – Southampton midfielder Glenn Cockerill suffers a broken jaw in a clash with Arsenal midfielder Paul Davis in a First Division match at Highbury which ends in a 2–2 draw. Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar is hospitalised with meningitis and is expected to be out of action until the new year.
28 September 1988 – Wimbledon sign Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Hans Segers for £180,000. Leeds United, fourth from bottom in the Second Division, sack manager Billy Bremner after three years at the helm.
30 September 1988 – The month ends with Norwich City as surprise leaders of the First Division, two points ahead of Liverpool and newly promoted Millwall. FA Cup holders Wimbledon occupy bottom place. The Second Division promotion race is headed by Blackburn Rovers and Watford. Ipswich Town, Portsmouth, Bradford City and Oldham Athletic occupy the promotion play-off places, while pre-season promotion favourites Leeds United occupy a lowly 18th place.
1 October 1988 – Millwall go top of the league for the first time in their history with a 3-2 win over Queens Park Rangers.
10 October 1988 – Howard Wilkinson ends six years as Sheffield Wednesday manager by agreeing to drop down a division to join Leeds United, while Willie McFaul ends his 22-year association with Newcastle United when he is sacked as manager. Reserve team coach Colin Suggett is put in charge, with the club's board saying that he will stay in the role until the end of the season.
22 October 1988 – Southampton make history by fielding three brothers in the same team in their 2-1 league defeat to Sheffield Wednesday: 24-year-old Danny Wallace lines up alongside twin brothers Rod and Ray.
29 October 1988 – Mark Lawrenson is sacked as Oxford United manager after a dispute with the club's board over the sale of Dean Saunders. His assistant Brian Horton, the former Hull City manager, is appointed as his successor.
31 October 1988 – Norwich City are back at the top of the First Division table at the end of the month, now with a six-point lead over nearest rivals Arsenal, who have a game in hand, while Millwall are still third. The bottom three places are occupied by Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. Middlesbrough, who two seasons ago were in the Third Division and threatened with closure due to financial problems, finish the month in a creditable seventh place. Watford lead the Second Division by five points over Blackburn Rovers. The playoff zone is occupied by West Bromwich Albion, Portsmouth, Chelsea and Manchester City. Leeds United continue to struggle, only being out of the relegation zone on goal difference.
1 November 1988 – Out-of-favour Manchester United striker Peter Davenport becomes Middlesbrough's record signing in a £750,000 deal. Former Tottenham Hotspur manager Keith Burkinshaw takes over as manager of Third Division strugglers Gillingham.
5 November 1988 – In the Second Division, Chelsea win at league-leaders Watford through goals from Gordon Durie and Kerry Dixon, Tommy Tynan fires four for Plymouth Argyle against Blackburn Rovers, and John Sheridan scores the only goal as Leeds United pick up an away win at Ipswich Town.
16 November 1988 – England draw 1-1 with Saudi Arabia in a friendly in Riyadh, with goalkeeper David Seaman making his international debut. Manchester United sell winger Jesper Olsen to Bordeaux of France for £400,000, where he links up with former Tottenham Hotspur striker Clive Allen.
18 November 1988 – Oxford United captain Tommy Caton returns to the First Division in a £100,000 move to Charlton Athletic.
25 November 1988 – Wimbledon defender Terry Phelan is omitted from tomorrow's squad for the First Division fixture against Liverpool due to a court appearance he faces on a charge of cannabis possession.
30 November 1988 – The month ends with Norwich City still top of the First Division, with Arsenal, Millwall, Liverpool, Coventry City and Southampton all in close contention. Newcastle United and West Ham United are level on points at the bottom. Watford and Blackburn Rovers lead the way in the Second Division, level on 33 points. Manchester City, Chelsea, Portsmouth and West Bromwich Albion occupy the play-off zone.
1 December 1988 – Jan Molby is released from prison after serving 45 days of his three-month prison sentence for motoring offences.
14 December 1988 – Luton Town sign 23-year-old Northern Irish striker Iain Dowie from Isthmian League side Hendon for £30,000. Queens Park Rangers appoint their 34-year-old former England striker Trevor Francis as player-manager.
22 December 1988 – Kenny Sansom ends eight years at Arsenal by making a £300,000 move to Newcastle United.
31 December 1988 – Arsenal move to the top the First Division on goal difference from Norwich City after beating Aston Villa 3-0. West Ham United are now bottom, and Newcastle United and Charlton Athletic are also in the relegation zone. Chelsea have climbed to the top of the Second Division, level on 40 points with West Bromwich Albion. The play-off zone is now occupied by Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City and Portsmouth, while AFC Bournemouth are just one point short of the playoff zone.
1 January 1989 – Manchester United beat Liverpool 3-1 at Old Trafford to leave the Merseysiders nine points behind leaders Arsenal. 20-year-old midfielder Russell Beardsmore, starting for only the second time in the league, scored a second half equaliser for United before setting up a goal each for Brian McClair and Mark Hughes.
2 January 1989 – Luton Town thrash Southampton 6-1 in the biggest win of the First Division season.
12 January 1989 – After just seven months at Newcastle United, goalkeeper Dave Beasant signs for Second Division leaders Chelsea in a £725,000 deal which contracts him to the Stamford Bridge club until 1994.
28 January 1989 – Sutton United's FA Cup adventure ends in the Fourth Round when they are hammered 8–0 by Norwich City. Brentford beat Manchester City 3-1.
31 January 1989 – Arsenal remain top of the First Division, three points ahead of Norwich City. Coventry City are third, but Millwall have slipped to seventh. Newcastle United are back in bottom place after failing to gain a single league point this month, and are level on points with West Ham United. Chelsea continue to lead the way in the Second Division, while Watford now stand second, level on points with third placed Manchester City. West Bromwich Albion, Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland complete the top six.
8 February 1989 – Midfielder Peter Reid moves from Everton to Queens Park Rangers on a free transfer. Watford boost their Second Division promotion challenge with a £175,000 move for Halifax Town's 19-year-old winger Lee Richardson.
9 February 1989 – Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough is fined £5,000 and banned from the touchline for the rest of the season for punching supporters who invaded the pitch in the recent Football League Cup quarter-final victory over Queens Park Rangers.
14 February 1989 – Just three months after quitting West Bromwich Albion to take over at Spanish side Atlético Madrid, Ron Atkinson returns to England to succeed Peter Eustace as manager of First Division strugglers Sheffield Wednesday. Arsenal win a friendly against the France national football team 2–0.
18 February 1989 – Liverpool come from behind to beat Hull City 3-2 in the FA Cup fifth round. Everton win 1-0 at Barnsley, and Third Division Brentford continue their good run by beating Blackburn Rovers.
28 February 1989 – Arsenal remain top of the First Division as February ends, with Norwich City still second, and Millwall back up to third. Liverpool are eighth, 19 points behind Arsenal, but with four games in hand. West Ham United are now bottom of the division, and Newcastle United and Sheffield Wednesday complete the relegation zone. Manchester City have overtaken Chelsea as Second Division leaders. The play-off zone is occupied by Blackburn Rovers, Watford, West Bromwich Albion and AFC Bournemouth.
9 March 1989 – Queens Park Rangers set a club record transfer by paying Southampton £800,000 for striker Colin Clarke.
18 March 1989 – Brentford's FA Cup dream ends in the quarter-finals when they lose 4–0 to Liverpool at Anfield. Nottingham Forest defeat Manchester United 1–0 at Old Trafford. West Ham United and Norwich City draw 0–0 at Upton Park.
22 March 1989 – Norwich City move closer to their first-ever FA Cup final by defeating West Ham United 3–1 in the quarter-final replay at Carrow Road. while Southampton pay a club record £700,000 for Portsmouth midfielder Barry Horne. West Ham United also break their transfer fee record by paying £1.1million to bring striker Frank McAvennie back to the club after 18 months at Celtic.
23 March 1989 – Gordon Strachan leaves Manchester United after nearly five years to join Leeds United for £300,000. Trevor Francis bolsters the Queens Park Rangers midfield with a £350,000 move for Brentford's Andy Sinton.
27 March 1989 – Referee Kelvin Morton awards five penalties in just 27 minutes during the Crystal Palace versus Brighton & Hove Albion match. Crystal Palace miss three of their four penalties, while Brighton and Hove Albion score from their only penalty. Palace eventually won the match 2-1.
31 March 1989 – Arsenal remain top of the league, three points ahead of Norwich City, while Liverpool, who won six League games this month, have moved into third place with a game in hand and a five-point deficit behind the leaders. West Ham United occupy bottom place with 22 points from 27 games, but Newcastle United are now just one point adrift of safety. Southampton have slipped into the bottom three. Chelsea have returned to the top of the Second Division, exchanging places with Manchester City, while the play-off zone is occupied by West Bromwich Albion, Blackburn Rovers, Ipswich Town and AFC Bournemouth.
4 April 1989 – Liverpool play Scottish champions Celtic in the last ever Dubai Champions Cup, an unofficial 'British Championship'. John Aldridge scored for Liverpool to equalise an earlier Mark McGhee goal for Celtic, and the game finished 1-1. Liverpool lost 4-2 on penalty kicks.
5 April 1989 – Newport County lose a final appeal against their closure in the High Court more than a month ago; they are expelled from the GM Vauxhall Conference and their record for the season is expunged.
15 April 1989 – English football endures its greatest ever tragedy with the death of 94 Liverpool supporters, and injury of some 300 others, at the FA Cup semi-final clash with Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough. Some of the injured are in a serious condition and there are fears that the death toll could rise even higher. The match is abandoned, while the other semi-final sees Everton beat Norwich City 1–0 at Villa Park.
17 April 1989 – Within 48 hours of the tragedy at Hillsborough, Home Secretary Douglas Hurd promises to pass new legislation which will force all Football League teams to remove standing accommodation from their stadiums. The Football Association gives the go-ahead for the FA Cup to continue, with the re-staged match to take place at Old Trafford on 7 May, despite calls for the final not to be played.
18 April 1989 – The Hillsborough disaster death toll reaches 95 when 14-year-old Lee Nichol dies in hospital from his injuries. Many more of the injured are still in hospital, and there are fears that six spectators who had to be resuscitated have suffered brain damage.
19 April 1989 – The Sun newspaper sparks controversy over an article about the Hillsborough disaster, that carries the front-page headline "The Truth". It contains allegations, supported by sources including South Yorkshire Police, Conservative MP Irvine Patnick and an unnamed South Yorkshire news agency, that Liverpool fans robbed the injured and dead, and assaulted and urinated on police officers who were attending to injured fans. Similar allegations have also been printed by national newspapers including the Daily Star and Daily Mail, as well as several regional newspapers.
26 April 1989 – England beat Albania 5–0 at Wembley in their third World Cup qualifying game. Substitute Paul Gascoigne scores his first international goal.
28 April 1989 – Of the 25 Liverpool fans who were extradited in connection with the Heysel disaster of May 1985, in which 39 spectators died at the European Cup final, 14 are found guilty of voluntary manslaughter; they went on to serve one year in prison.
30 April 1989 – Arsenal remain top of the league as April draws to a close, but are now just three points ahead of a Liverpool side who have superior goal difference and a game in hand. Norwich City are now eight points behind the leaders. At the other end of the table West Ham United are ten points from safety, and occupy the relegation zone with Newcastle United and Luton Town. Chelsea have sealed an immediate return to the First Division as Second Division champions, while Manchester City are just five points away from returning as runners-up after a two-year exile. Watford and Crystal Palace are now the only other teams who can go up automatically, while Blackburn Rovers and Swindon Town complete the top six. Nottingham Forest beat Everton 4-3 in the Full Members Cup final at Wembley to become the first club in English football to win two domestic cups in the same season. Liverpool travelled to Glasgow to play their first game since the Hillsborough disaster. 60,000 attended at Parkhead to watch Liverpool beat Celtic 4–0 in a match arranged to raise money for the disaster fund. An estimated £500,000 was raised.
1 May 1989 – Arsenal thrash Norwich City 5-0 at Highbury to effectively end the Canaries' title challenge. Maidstone United clinch the Conference title and are promoted to the Football League, giving them a clash next season with fellow Kent club Gillingham, who are relegated to the Fourth Division on the same day.
2 May 1989 – Manchester United beat Wimbledon 1-0 in a league game at Old Trafford which is watched by 23,2368 - the club's lowest home crowd in the league since August 1971.
3 May 1989 – Liverpool play their first match since the Hillsborough tragedy, a 0-0 draw with Everton. Newcastle United are relegated from the First Division after losing 2-1 to West Ham United, whose victory keeps their own slim survival hopes alive.
7 May 1989 – Three weeks after the Hillsborough disaster, Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final clash with Nottingham Forest is replayed at Old Trafford. Liverpool win 3–1 to keep their dream of a second double alive.
13 May 1989 – Middlesbrough join Newcastle United in being relegated from the First Division after they lose a relegation showdown 1-0 away to Sheffield Wednesday and Luton Town beat Norwich City 1-0. The result ensures Wednesday's survival, and West Ham United must now win their last two games to stay up at the expense of Aston Villa. At the top, Arsenal suffer a 2-1 defeat at home to Derby County, while Liverpool beat Wimbledon 2-1 to move within two points of the Gunners with a game in hand.
16 May 1989 – Liverpool move to the top of the First Division for the first time this season after beating Queens Park Rangers 2-0.
17 May 1989 – Arsenal draw 2-2 with Wimbledon in their last home League game of the season. They are level on points with Liverpool having played one game more.
20 May 1989 – Liverpool lift the FA Cup with a 3–2 win over Everton after extra time. Ian Rush scores twice for Liverpool while John Aldridge scores the other goal, and Stuart McCall scores twice for Everton.
23 May 1989 – West Ham United are relegated after eight successive seasons of First Division football as they lose 5-1 to Liverpool at Anfield. The result moves Liverpool three points clear of Arsenal at the top of the table with one game remaining.
26 May 1989 – Arsenal win the league title in the final moments of the season thanks to a late goal from Michael Thomas against Liverpool which gives them a 2–0 away win. First Division top scorer Alan Smith had put Arsenal ahead earlier in the second half. Their triumph gives them their first league championship trophy for 18 years, having scored more goals than their rivals, their points tallies and goal differences being identical. Former Leeds United and England manager Don Revie dies of Motor Neurone Disease at the age of 61.
27 May 1989 – Steve Bull, who scored 52 goals in all competitions for Third Division Wolverhampton Wanderers this season, scores on his debut for England against Scotland at Hampden Park. England win 2-0 to take the Rous Cup.
1 June 1989 – Trevor Steven, the Everton winger, becomes the latest Englishman to sign for Rangers when he agrees terms for a £1.5million transfer. Kenny Sansom leaves Newcastle United to return to London in an exchange deal to Queens Park Rangers, with Wayne Fereday moving in the opposite direction.
3 June 1989 – England make it three wins from their opening four World Cup qualifying games with a 3–0 win over Poland at Wembley. The domestic season draws to a close when Crystal Palace overhaul a 3–1 deficit to defeat Blackburn Rovers 4–3 on aggregate to win promotion to the First Division after an eight-year exile.
5 June 1989 – John Lyall, the longest-serving manager currently employed in the Football League, is sacked after 15 years in charge of relegated West Ham United. He had been with the club for 34 years, since joining them as an apprentice on leaving school in 1955 at the age of 15.
21 June 1989 – Gary Lineker ends three years in Spain with Barcelona to return to England in a £2million move to Tottenham Hotspur.
- May 1989: Andy Gray, 33-year-old Rangers and Scotland striker who spent most his career in England. Retired from professional football but returned to England to play non-league football with Cheltenham Town.
- June 1989: Arnold Muhren, 38-year-old Dutch winger who played in England for Ipswich Town and Manchester United before returning to the Netherlands in 1985 to complete his playing career.
- June 1989: Remi Moses, 28-year-old Manchester United midfielder who had been out of action for more than a year due to ongoing injury problems.
- 24 July 1988 – John Harris, 71, born in Glasgow, was Chelsea's centre-half in their league championship winning side of 1955. Later managed Sheffield United and took them into the First Division in 1971.
- 1 August 1988 – Steve Mills, 34, who died after a two-year battle against leukaemia, starting his playing career with Notts County and later playing for Southampton. His career was ended by injury at the age of 23.
- 3 August 1988 - Vic Watson, 90, was West Ham United's all-time leading goalscorer with 326 goals between 1920 and 1935.
- 21 August 1988 – Stuart Leary, 55, played a total of nearly 500 competitive games for Charlton Athletic and Queens Park Rangers and was also a first-cricketer for Kent between 1951 and 1971.
- 16 September 1988 - Dick Pym, 95, kept goal more than 300 times for Bolton Wanderers between 1921 and 1931 as well as three times for the England team. He collected three FA Cup winner's medals with Bolton and was the last surviving member of the team which won the first FA Cup final at Wembley in 1923.
- 7 October 1988 - George Ansell, 78, was a forward for Brighton, Norwich City and Southampton during the interwar years.
- 9 October 1988 – Jackie Milburn, 64, legendary goalscorer for Newcastle United and England during the 1950s. Was a cousin of England World Cup winners Bobby and Jack Charlton. Died of cancer.
- 19 December 1988 – Lady Jean Busby, 80, wife of Manchester United's former manager and current president Sir Matt Busby.
- 11 January 1989 - Len Dunderdale, 73, was a centre forward for clubs including Sheffield Wednesday, Walsall, Watford and Leeds United during the 1930s and 1940s.
- 13 January 1989 - Stan Cribb, 83, played 125 league games during the interwar years for Southampton, QPR and Cardiff City.
- 1 April 1989 – George Robledo, 62, Chilean born striker, formerly of Newcastle United, died of a heart attack. He played for Chile at the 1950 World Cup and won the F.A Cup with Newcastle in both of the two seasons that followed the World Cup. In the second final, he was playing in the same team as his brother Ted Robledo.
- 2 April 1989 - Les Bruton, 86, played for clubs including Southampton, Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool during the interwar years.
- 15 April 1989 – The 94 Liverpool supporters who died in Hillsborough disaster, on the day of the tragedy at the FA Cup semi-final either at the stadium, on their journey to hospital, or shortly after arrival. These included the tragedy's youngest victim, 10-year-old Jon-Paul Gilhooley, and the oldest victim, 67-year-old Gerard Baron, whose late brother Kevin had played for Liverpool in the 1950 FA Cup Final.
- 18 April 1989 – Lee Nicol, 14, the 95th victim of the Hillsborough disaster, died in hospital from his injuries having never regained consciousness.
- 26 May 1989 – Don Revie, 61, manager of the great Leeds United side of the late 1960s and early 1970s who were league champions twice, F.A Cup winners once, League Cup winners once and European Fairs Cup winners twice. Managed England from 1974 to 1977 but walked out on them to gain a lucrative four-year deal as national coach of the United Arab Emirates. Returned to his homeland in 1985, four years before his death from motor neurone disease.
- 7 June 1989 - George Roughton, 80, played at centre-half for Huddersfield Town and Manchester United in the decade preceding the outbreak of World War II, and was Exeter City's first postwar manager, later taking charge of Southampton.
Tottenham midfielder Chris Waddle was sold to Olympique Marseille of France in a £4.25 million deal, in the latest of big money deals which saw players desert English clubs for foreign clubs who were prepared to pay higher wages. Gary Lineker ended his three-year spell at FC Barcelona to join Tottenham. He had played under Tottenham manager Terry Venables during his first season at Barcelona.
Lineker's strike partner Mark Hughes also left Barcelona and returned to his old club Manchester United in a £1.8 million deal. Hughes had been a disappointment in his first season at Barcelona but had recaptured his form during a successful season-long loan deal at Bayern Munich.
|First Division||Arsenal (9)||Liverpool|
|Second Division||Chelsea||Manchester City|
|Third Division||Wolverhampton Wanderers||Sheffield United|
|Fourth Division||Rotherham United||Tranmere Rovers|
|FA Cup||Liverpool (4)||Everton|
|League Cup||Nottingham Forest (3)||Luton Town|
|Full Members Cup||Nottingham Forest||Everton|
|Centenary Trophy||Arsenal||Manchester United|
|Associate Members Cup||Bolton Wanderers||Torquay United|
|FA Charity Shield||Liverpool||Wimbledon|
Notes = Number in parentheses is the times that club has won that honour. * indicates new record for competition
An exciting season was eventually won by Arsenal, who clinched the title on number of goals scored with a late goal from midfielder Michael Thomas on the final day of the season at Liverpool, six weeks after the death of more than 90 fans at the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough, which delayed the end of the league season by two weeks and meant that the last league games were played six days after the FA Cup final, in which Liverpool beat Merseyside rivals Everton 3-2. It was Arsenal's first league title for 18 years.
Nottingham Forest's title challenge was over by the end of April, by which time it was a two-horse race between Arsenal and Liverpool, but compensated for this by winning the Football League Cup and Full Members Cup to end nine years without a major trophy. Fourth placed Norwich City mounted the first serious top flight title challenge of their history and although their challenge was over some weeks before the season's end, their final position was still the best to date, and they also reached the FA Cup semi-finals for only the second time ever. Derby County completed the top five to secure their best finish since winning the league title in 1975.
Everton's eighth-place finish was their lowest since 1981, while newly promoted Millwall's 10th-place finish was the lowest standing they had occupied at any stage during their first season in the top flight. As well as Everton, another big club to endure a disappointing season was Manchester United, who finished 11th a year after finishing second.
A disastrous season for Newcastle United saw them relegated in bottom place after five years back in the First Division. They were relegated along with local rivals Middlesbrough, as well as a West Ham United side who had almost won the league title three years earlier, and who then sacked their manager John Lyall after 15 years in charge. Aston Villa, Luton Town, Sheffield Wednesday (who went through three managers in the season) and Charlton Athletic all had narrow escapes from relegation.
|9||Queens Park Rangers||38||14||11||13||43||37||+6||53|
|19||West Ham United (R)||38||10||8||20||37||62||−25||38|
|20||Newcastle United (R)||38||7||10||21||32||63||−31||31|
Chelsea sealed an instant return to the First Division by topping the Second Division with 99 points, giving them a 17-point lead of second-placed Manchester City. The final promotion place went to Crystal Palace, whose manager Steve Coppell had gradually rebuilt the club since taking over as manager five years earlier. They overcame Blackburn Rovers in the two-legged final by overhauling a two-goal deficit and prolonging the Lancashire club's absence from the First Division into its 24th season. West Bromwich had looked all set for promotion as late as February, only for a late season collapse to drag them down to ninth in the final table - not even enough for a playoff place.
Walsall suffered an instant return to the Third Division after winning just five league games all season, while Birmingham City's decline continued as they fell into the Third Division for the first time. The last club to go down were Shrewsbury Town, whose luck finally ran out after defying the odds at this level for a whole decade, while some of the game's most illustrious clubs had gone down before them.
|1||Chelsea (C, P)||46||29||12||5||96||50||+46||99|
|2||Manchester City (P)||46||23||13||10||77||53||+24||82|
|3||Crystal Palace (P)||46||23||12||11||71||49||+22||81|
|9||West Bromwich Albion||46||18||18||10||65||41||+24||72|
|19||Brighton & Hove Albion||46||14||9||23||57||66||−9||51|
|22||Shrewsbury Town (R)||46||8||18||20||40||67||−27||42|
|23||Birmingham City (R)||46||8||11||27||31||76||−45||35|
Wolverhampton Wanderers continued to thrive after a traumatic few seasons which had almost put the club out of business, as they sealed a second successive promotion and a second successive title thanks largely to prolific striker Steve Bull, who became the first player in senior football to reach the 50-goal mark in consecutive seasons. They were joined in the Second Division by runners-up Sheffield United, whose manager Dave Bassett secured his fifth promotion in nine seasons as a manager. Port Vale compensated for missing out on automatic promotion on goal difference by winning the playoffs.
Northampton Town, promotion contenders the previous season, only survived on goal difference. Southend United were relegated instead, on 54 points - more than any other Football League team ever to have been relegated, until Peterborough United were relegated from the Championship in 2012-13 having also finished the season with 54 points. Gillingham, Chesterfield and Aldershot completed the bottom four.
|1||Wolverhampton Wanderers (C, P)||46||26||14||6||96||49||+47||92|
|2||Sheffield United (P)||46||25||9||12||93||54||+39||84|
|3||Port Vale (P)||46||24||12||10||78||48||+30||84|
|6||Preston North End||46||19||15||12||79||60||+19||72|
|21||Southend United (R)||46||13||15||18||56||75||−19||54|
Rotherham United secured an instant return to the Third Division as Fourth Division champions. Tranmere Rovers finished runners-up to end the decade on a high by winning promotion from a division where they had spent most of the decade. Crewe Alexandra finally made it out of the Fourth Division at the right end after being there continuously for over 20 years. Leyton Orient triumphed in the playoffs less than three months after they had been 15th in the league and seemingly out of the promotion race.
|1||Rotherham United (C, P)||46||22||16||8||76||35||+41||82|
|2||Tranmere Rovers (P)||46||21||17||8||62||43||+19||80|
|3||Crewe Alexandra (P)||46||21||15||10||67||48||+19||78|
|6||Leyton Orient (P)||46||21||12||13||86||50||+36||75|
P = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; F = Goals for; A = Goals against; GD = Goal difference; Pts = Points
Football League Playoffs
Division Two playoff
|6th||Swindon Town||1||3rd||Crystal Palace||4|
aBlackburn won on away goals after Extra Time.
Division Three playoff
|4th||Fulham FC||0||5th||Bristol Rovers||1|
|6th||Preston North End||2||3rd||Port Vale||2|
Division Four playoff
|6th||Leyton Orient||2||6th||Leyton Orient||2|
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