The 1987–88 season was the 108th season of competitive football in England.
Liverpool won the league title with a comfortable nine-point margin and just two defeats all season. Their key players were two new signings – winger John Barnes and forward Peter Beardsley, John Aldridge scored 26 league goals and helped defy any doubts that people might have had as to whether Liverpool could challenge for honours after Ian Rush's departure to Juventus. Second in the league were Manchester United, rejuvenated under Alex Ferguson – who had bought some impressive new players including Brian McClair and Steve Bruce.
The first relegation places went to Watford and Oxford United, who both lost far too many games and picked up far too few points to have any realistic hope of avoiding relegation. Next to go down were Portsmouth, whose First Division comeback lasted just one season. Chelsea then became the first top division club in 90 years to lose their status after playoffs. They lost to Second Division Middlesbrough in the playoff final and surrendered their First Division place to the Teessiders.
John Docherty's impressive Millwall side lifted the Second Division championship trophy and gained promotion to the First Division for the first time in their history. Runners-up were Aston Villa, managed by Graham Taylor and boasting a squad of strong players like David Platt and Martin Keown. Middlesbrough won promotion for the second season running after negotiating the relegation/promotion playoffs at the expense of Chelsea.
Huddersfield Town, who had suffered a 10–1 defeat at the hands of Manchester City in November, were the Second Division's biggest flops during 1987–1988 as they went down in bottom place. Reading followed them. The Second/Third Division relegation/promotion playoffs once again saw a Second Division club suffer relegation, this time it was Sheffield United.
Sunderland's first season in the Third Division ended in glory as they lifted the championship and went back up to the Second Division. They were joined by runners-up Brighton & Hove Albion and playoff winners Walsall.
Wolves ended their two-year tenure in the Fourth Division by finishing top of the table and winning promotion to the Third Division, one season after being rescued by new owner Jack Hayward and new manager Graham Turner. They completed an outstanding season by winning the Associate Members Cup final at a packed Wembley against Burnley. Earlier the campaign had begun on a sour note, when Football League newcomers Scarborough hosted Wolves on the opening day in a match that was marred by crowd trouble.
Bolton Wanderers, another fallen giant, also ensured their Fourth Division tenure was short lived by winning automatic promotion. Swansea City were promoted via the playoffs just two years after almost going out of existence, while their South Wales neighbours Cardiff City were also promoted.
After having spent several seasons as the highest placed Welsh team, financially troubled Newport County were relegated for the second successive season. This time they lost their Football League status after 60 consecutive seasons in the Football League. Lincoln City won the Conference title to take their place. Less than a year later Newport were to go out of business before reforming.
Wimbledon caused one of the biggest footballing upsets of the 20th century by defeating champions Liverpool 1–0 in the FA Cup final. The winners had only been league members for 11 years and First Division members for two years, while the losers had just wrapped up their 17th league championship. Lawrie Sanchez headed the only goal from a Dennis Wise free kick in the first half of the final, while Dave Beasant became the first player to save a penalty in an FA Cup final (saving from John Aldridge, who had scored all 11 other penalties he had taken that season) and the first goalkeeper to captain an FA Cup-winning side.
Ray Harford's Luton Town achieved a shock 3–2 win over Arsenal in the League Cup final to win the first major trophy of their history. Harford had only been promoted to the manager's seat from assistant manager a year earlier as successor to John Moore.
In April 1988, Nottingham Forest won the Football League Centenary Tournament, a competition played over two days between 16 clubs at Wembley. They beat Sheffield Wednesday on penalties in the final after a goalless draw in the 60-minute match.
Liverpool striker John Aldridge was top scorer in the league and collected a championship medal in his first full season at the club, but missed the penalty in the FA Cup final that cost his side the chance of a unique second double.
Steve Bull scored 52 goals in all competitions (37 in the league) for Fourth Division champions Wolves.
- Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish added the league title to his managerial CV to bring his total of championships to two in three seasons and Liverpool's all-time total to 17.
- Alex Ferguson's efforts in rebuilding Manchester United saw them finished second in the league just 18 months after they had looked in danger of relegation.
- Bobby Gould guided Wimbledon to a shock victory over Liverpool in the F.A Cup final.
- Ray Harford earned Luton Town the first major trophy of their history by guiding them to victory over Arsenal in the League Cup final.
- Graham Taylor's first season at Aston Villa ended in promotion to the First Division at the expense of his old club Watford.
- John Docherty brought First Division football to Millwall for the first time in their history.
- Bruce Rioch took Middlesbrough to the First Division just two years after financial problems almost put the club out of business.
- Denis Smith began Sunderland's revival by guiding them to the Third Division title.
- Graham Turner guided Wolverhampton Wanderers to Fourth Division title glory which made them the first club to win all four divisions of the Football League.
- Phil Neal ensured that Bolton Wanderers bounced back quickly from their recent sharp decline by taking them to runners-up spot in the Fourth Division.
- 26 September 1987: Rod Wallace, 17-year-old striker, makes his debut for Southampton as a substitute in the First Division 2–1 defeat by Newcastle United at St. James's Park.
- 7 November 1987: Michael O'Neill, 18-year-old Northern Irish striker and A-Level student, makes his debut for Newcastle United in 4–0 defeat by Luton Town in the First Division at Kenilworth Road.
- 26 March 1988: Alan Shearer, 17-year-old striker, makes his debut for Southampton in the First Division 1–0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
- 7 May 1988: Kevin Campbell, 18-year-old striker, makes his debut for Arsenal in 2–1 win over Everton in First Division at Goodison Park.
- 9 May 1988: Lee Martin, 20-year-old defender, makes his debut for Manchester United in 2–1 First Division win over Wimbledon at Old Trafford.
- John Aldridge (Liverpool) – 26 goals
- David Currie (Barnsley) – 28 goals
- David Crown (Southend United) – 26 goals
England were eliminated from Euro 88 after losing all three group games in West Germany. The Netherlands went on to win the tournament. In spite of continued calls from the tabloids for a new manager to be installed, the FA kept faith in Bobby Robson once more.
Diary of the season
9 July 1987 – Manchester United sign Arsenal defender Viv Anderson for £250,000. Former Queens Park Rangers and England forward Gerry Francis, 36, is appointed player-manager of Third Division side Bristol Rovers as successor to Bobby Gould who moved to Wimbledon last month.
15 July 1987 – Ray Harford, first-team coach, is promoted to the manager's seat at Luton Town following the resignation of John Moore. Coventry City more than double their record transfer outlay with a £750,000 move for Chelsea striker David Speedie.
21 July 1987 – Tottenham Hotspur and England midfielder Glenn Hoddle moves to AS Monaco for £800,000 on a three-year contract. Manchester United get a £300,000 insurance payout from The Football Association following the injury enforced retirement of 29-year-old goalkeeper Gary Bailey.
22 July 1987 – Scunthorpe United announce that they will leave the Old Showground at the end of the season and move to a new stadium in the town's suburbs - the first relocation of a Football League club since Southend United moved to Roots Hall in 1955.
29 July 1987 – Wimbledon sign defenders Terry Phelan from Swansea City for £100,000 and Eric Young from Brighton & Hove Albion for £70,000. Chelsea striker Kerry Dixon withdraws his transfer request.
6 August 1987 – Peter Beardsley becomes the most expensive player to move between British clubs when he joins Liverpool in a £1.9 million deal from Newcastle United. Britain's first million-pound player, Trevor Francis, returns to Britain when Graeme Souness signs him for Rangers in a £70,000 deal from Atalanta of Italy.
8 August 1987 – The Football League begins its centenary celebrations by hosting a match against a Rest of the World XI at Wembley. Diego Maradona and Gary Lineker are in side beaten by a Football League XI.
12 August 1987 – Barclays Bank become the Football League's new sponsors in a three-year deal worth in the region of £5million, while Portsmouth prepare for their first top division campaign since the 1950s by paying Leeds United £285,000 for striker Ian Baird.
15 August 1987 – The Football League season begins. In the First Division, Queens Park Rangers record the biggest win of the day by beating West Ham United 3-0. Champions Everton beat Norwich City 1-0, and Liverpool win 2-1 away to Arsenal. Scarborough, new members after their promotion to the Fourth Division from the GM Vauxhall Conference, hold fallen giants Wolverhampton Wanderers to a 2-2 draw, but crowd trouble results in 56 arrests.
18 August 1987 – Newly promoted First Division side Derby County pay a club record £760,000 for Southampton defender Mark Wright. UEFA announce that if the ban on English clubs in Europe is lifted in time for the 1988–89 UEFA Cup, there will only be two slots available for clubs in England due to their UEFA coefficient falling.
22 August 1987 – Brian McClair scores his first goal for Manchester United in their 2–0 home league win over Watford. In the first top flight South Coast derby, newly promoted Portsmouth draw 2-2 with Southampton at Fratton Park.
24 August 1987 – Striker Terry Gibson ends his unsuccessful 18-month spell at Manchester United and joins Wimbledon for £200,000.
25 August 1987 – Luton Town lift their ban on away fans and are allowed to compete in the League Cup, from which they were banned last season.
31 August 1987 – Manchester United finish August as First Division leaders, two points ahead of Queens Park Rangers and Nottingham Forest. At the bottom of the table, Charlton Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday and Luton Town remain without a League win so far this season. In the Second Division, Plymouth Argyle and Barnsley lead the way on goal difference, but fancied Aston Villa are fourth from bottom.
9 September 1987 – 25 Liverpool fans are extradited to Belgium on manslaughter charges in connection to the Heysel disaster in which 39 spectators (most of them Italian) were crushed to death at the European Cup final on 29 May 1985. Oxford United's £400,000 bid for Derby County winger Nigel Callaghan is accepted, but the player turns down the chance to move – less than a year after he joined the East Midlands club for barely a third of that amount.
18 September 1987 – Defender David Bardsley moves between First Division strugglers Watford and Oxford United for £265,000. Charlton Athletic sign Wales striker Andy Jones from Third Division side Port Vale.
29 September 1987 – John Aldridge reaches the 10-goal margin in the league for Liverpool after just seven games, scoring a hat-trick in their 4–0 home win over Derby County.
30 September 1987 – Queens Park Rangers, without a top division league title to their name, finish the month as leaders of the First Division, three points ahead of Liverpool, who have two games in hand. Charlton Athletic are bottom, with four points from eight matches. Bradford City top the Second Division, with Hull City second. Crystal Palace and newly promoted Middlesbrough and Swindon Town occupy the play-off places.
2 October 1987 – Tottenham Hotspur sell defender Richard Gough to Rangers for £1.5million – a record fee for a British defender.
10 October 1987 – Everton's Graeme Sharp and Adrian Heath bag braces as Chelsea are beaten 4–1 at Goodison Park. Elsewhere, Paul Wilkinson scores the only goal of the game as Nottingham Forest beat Derby County in the first East Midlands derby of the season.
17 October 1987 – Liverpool move to the top of the First Division by thrashing previous leaders Queens Park Rangers 4-0 at Anfield.
23 October 1987 – David Pleat resigns after 15 months as manager of Tottenham Hotspur, following allegations that he was involved in kerb crawling.
27 October 1987 – Tottenham Hotspur appoint Terry Venables as their new manager.
28 October 1987 – Everton knock Liverpool out of the League Cup with a 1-0 win at Anfield in the third round.
31 October 1987 – Arsenal and Queens Park Rangers share leadership of the First Division, but Liverpool, just one point behind, have three games in hand. Charlton Athletic remain bottom of the table, and are joined by Watford and Norwich City in the relegation zone. Bradford City now have a six-point lead at the top of the Second Division, their nearest rivals being Middlesbrough and Hull City. Aston Villa now stand fourth, with Ipswich Town and Birmingham City close behind.
1 November 1987 – Liverpool move back to the top of the First Division table by beating Everton 2-0 in the Merseyside derby. 31-year-old England midfielder Ray Wilkins returns to Britain after more than three years away when he signs for Rangers in a £250,000 move from Paris St Germain.
11 November 1987 – England seal European Championship qualification with a 4–1 win over Yugoslavia in Belgrade. A Gary McKay goal gives Scotland a 1–0 win in Bulgaria, a result that allows the Republic of Ireland, managed by former 1966 world cup winner Jack Charlton, to qualify for their first major tournament.
19 November 1987 – Liverpool reject an offer from Bayern Munich for Danish midfielder Jan Molby. Aston Villa boost their Second Division promotion quest with a £150,000 move for Crystal Palace midfielder Andy Gray.
26 November 1987 – The takeover of Watford falls through after the High Court vetoes it due to Robert Maxwell already being the owner of Derby County.
30 November 1987 – Liverpool lead the First Division by five points from Arsenal. Charlton Athletic, Norwich City and Watford continue to occupy the relegation places. Middlesbrough and Bradford City are level at the top of the Second Division on 43 points. Aston Villa, Hull City and Crystal Palace occupy the play-off places.
7 December 1987 – Queens Park Rangers sign striker Mark Falco from Rangers for £350,000.
9 December 1987 – Eight football hooligans, all either Manchester United or West Ham United supporters, receive prison sentences totalling 51 years at Chelmsford Crown Court after being found guilty of public order offences on a Sealink ferry bound for Amsterdam on 8 August 1986. Meanwhile, Chelsea look to the future with the acquisition of Jersey-born defender Graeme Le Saux, 19.
26 December 1987 – Boxing Day sees Nottingham Forest win 2–0 at Highbury to overtake Arsenal into second place, while in a London derby Wimbledon beat West Ham 2–1, and David Pleat's tenure as Leicester manager starts with defeat to A.F.C. Bournemouth.
29 December 1987 – Queens Park Rangers defender Terry Fenwick completes a £550,000 transfer to Tottenham Hotspur.
31 December 1987 – The year draws to a close with Liverpool holding a commanding ten-point lead over second-placed Nottingham Forest. Watford have slipped to the foot of the table, level on points with Charlton Athletic. Portsmouth occupy the final automatic relegation place. Graeme Souness signs Aston Villa midfielder Mark Walters for Rangers for £550,000 in the latest of several moves for English players. In the Second Division, Middlesbrough lead with a one-point margin over Bradford City. A four-point margin separates their nearest six challengers – Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Millwall, Hull City, Manchester City and Ipswich Town.
1 January 1988 – Out of favour Arsenal striker Charlie Nicholas returns to his native Scotland in a £500,000 move to Aberdeen. Billy Bonds of West Ham United, the oldest Football League player at 41, is awarded an MBE.
4 January 1988 – John Wark returns to Ipswich Town from Liverpool in a £100,000 deal.
16 January 1988 – John Aldridge becomes the first player to reach the 20-goal margin in the First Division when he scores in Liverpool's 2–0 home win over Arsenal.
20 January 1988 – Oxford United, winners of the 1986 League Cup, reach the semi-finals of this season's competition with a surprise 2–0 win over Manchester United in the quarter-finals.
30 January 1988 – FA Cup holders Coventry City are knocked out by Watford in the fourth round. Last year's defeated finalists Tottenham Hotspur are also eliminated, losing 2-1 at Third Division Port Vale.
31 January 1988 – Liverpool remain top of the First Division as January draws to a close, now 16 points ahead of second-placed Manchester United. Charlton Athletic, Watford and Oxford United make up the bottom three. Aston Villa have crept to the top of the Second Division, while Crystal Palace have risen to second place. Middlesbrough, Millwall and Blackburn Rovers occupy the playoff zone, while Bradford City have slid from second to sixth place in the space of a few weeks. Leicester City, relegated from the First Division last season, are now in the Second Division relegation play-off places.
4 February 1988 – Tommy Docherty is sacked after just over four months in charge of GM Vauxhall Conference side Altrincham.
5 February 1988 – A UEFA referendum decides that all English clubs will be banned from European competition for a fourth successive season. Derby County since midfielder Ted McMinn from Seville of Spain for £300,000.
12 February 1988 – 18 of the 25 Liverpool fans charged with manslaughter in connection with the Heysel disaster return home after being cleared of the charges.
20 February 1988 – Shrewsbury Town striker Jim Melrose, on loan from Leeds United, suffers a broken cheekbone in a clash with Swindon Town midfielder Chris Kamara at the end of Shrewsbury's 2–1 win over Swindon in the Second Division at Gay Meadow. In a heavyweight clash in the FA Cup fifth round, Arsenal beat Manchester United 2-1 at Highbury.
21 February 1988 – Liverpool avenge their League Cup defeat earlier in the season by beating Everton 1-0 in the FA Cup fifth round at Goodison Park.
25 February 1988 – Tottenham Hotspur sign goalkeeper Bobby Mimms from Everton for £325,000. Swindon Town fine midfielder Chris Kamara £1,000 and ban him from playing for a month following the incident with Jim Melrose.
28 February 1988 – Luton Town reach the League Cup final with a 3-1 aggregate win over Oxford United.
29 February 1988 – February draws to a close with Liverpool still top of the league having stretched their unbeaten start to the season to 27 games, and with a 14-point lead over Manchester United with two games in hand. The Second Division promotion race sees Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers level at the top of the table, with Millwall, Middlesbrough and Bradford City occupying the play-off places.
3 March 1988 – Norwich City sign defender Andy Linighan from Oldham Athletic for £300,000.
4 March 1988 – After seven months at Portsmouth, Ian Baird returns to Leeds United for £120,000.
12 March 1988 – Luton Town edge closer to a remarkable cup double by defeating Portsmouth 3–1 in the FA Cup quarter-final at Kenilworth Road, while Wimbledon's hopes of a first-ever cup final appearance move closer to reality with a 2–1 win over Watford. Arsenal blow their hopes of a cup double by losing 2–1 at home to Nottingham Forest. Maurice Evans resigns as manager of struggling Oxford United.
13 March 1988 – Liverpool move closer to a unique second double by thrashing Manchester City 4–0 in the FA Cup quarter-final at Maine Road.
18 March 1988 – West Ham United sign Fulham striker Leroy Rosenior for £275,000.
20 March 1988 – Liverpool's unbeaten start to the league season is ended when they lose 1-0 in their 30th match to neighbours Everton.
22 March 1988 – John Hollins resigns as Chelsea manager and is replaced by his assistant Bobby Campbell.
24 March 1988 – Nottingham Forest pay Preston North End £150,000 for 18-year-old striker Nigel Jemson. Liverpool defender Mark Lawrenson retires from playing after an injury at the age of 30 and is appointed manager of Oxford United.
31 March 1988 – Liverpool finish March with a 14-point margin over second-placed Manchester United at the top of the First Division. At the bottom, Watford are eight points from safety with eight matches left, and Oxford United and Portsmouth are also struggling in the relegation zone. Aston Villa remain top of the Second Division with a two-point margin over Blackburn Rovers, with the play-off places being occupied by Middlesbrough, Millwall and Bradford City. Leeds United, Crystal Palace and Stoke City remain in strong contention for promotion as well.
2 April 1988 – Brian McClair scores a hat-trick to bring his league tally for the season to 19 goals in Manchester United's 4–1 home win over Derby County.
4 April 1988 – Manchester United draw 3–3 with Liverpool at Anfield after being 3–1 down, but remain eleven points behind the Merseysiders in the League table.
9 April 1988 – Liverpool move closer to an unprecedented second double by beating Nottingham Forest 2–1 in the FA Cup semi-final at Hillsborough. Wimbledon end Luton Town's cup double hopes with a 2–1 win at White Hart Lane to reach the final for the first time. In the league, 17-year-old Alan Shearer becomes the youngest hat-trick scorer in the First Division in Southampton's 4–2 home win over Arsenal.
13 April 1988 – Hull City sack manager Brian Horton. Liverpool and Nottingham Forest do battle for the third time in twelve days, and just as four days ago, the Merseysiders come out on top, as they win 5–0.
16–17 April 1988 – The Football League programme is put on hold for a week as the Football League Centenary Tournament is staged at Wembley Stadium between 16 clubs on the 100th anniversary of the league's foundation. Nottingham Forest are the winners of the two-day event.
18 April 1988 – Torquay United winger Lee Sharpe, who turns 17 next month, agrees to sign for Manchester United at the end of the season in a £30,000 deal. Hearts striker John Robertson agrees to join Newcastle United for a club record £750,000 at the end of the season. The Football Association suspends Chris Kamara for the rest of the season.
23 April 1988 – Liverpool's 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur confirms the Reds as League champions. Watford are relegated thanks to Charlton Athletic's 2-0 win over Newcastle United.
24 April 1988 – Holders Arsenal are beaten 3-2 by Luton Town in a dramatic League Cup final at Wembley. It is Luton's first ever major trophy.
30 April 1988 – Oxford United are relegated after defeat against Newcastle United. Portsmouth are favourites for the last automatic relegation place, trailing West Ham United by four points with two matches left. The promotion issues in the Second Division have yet to be confirmed, with just four points separating the top five clubs – Millwall, Aston Villa, Bradford City, Middlesbrough and Blackburn Rovers. Derby County goalkeeper Peter Shilton, 38, sets a new Football League appearance record when he makes his 825th league appearance since his debut 21 years ago in his side's 1-1 draw at Watford.
1 May 1988 – Sunderland win promotion back to the Second Division at the first attempt with a 1-0 win over Port Vale at Vale Park.
2 May 1988 – Portsmouth lose 2-1 at home to Newcastle United and are relegated from the First Division after just one season. Millwall, meanwhile, clinch the Second Division title with a 1-0 win over Hull City at Boothferry Park and reach the First Division for the first time in their history.
7 May 1988 – On the final full day of the First Division season, Charlton Athletic stay up with a 1-1 draw at Chelsea, a result that sends their opponents into the relegation play-offs.
9 May 1988 – Liverpool finish their League campaign with a 1-1 draw against Luton Town. John Aldridge finishes the season as the First Division's top scorer with 27 league strikes for Liverpool, and 30 in all competitions. Brian McClair of Manchester United, the division's next highest scorer, scores twice against Wimbledon to take his league tally to 24.
11 May 1988 – Aberdeen goalkeeper Jim Leighton links up with his former manager Alex Ferguson by signing for Manchester United in a £500,000 deal.
14 May 1988 – Wimbledon pull off a major upset by beating Liverpool 1–0 in the FA Cup final. They have been First Division members for just two seasons and have only been a Football League side for the last eleven years. Lawrie Sanchez is Wimbledon's goalscoring hero, while Liverpool have a goal from Peter Beardsley disallowed and a penalty from John Aldridge saved by Wimbledon goalkeeper and captain Dave Beasant.
20 May 1988 – Kevin Clarke, 30, is sentenced to three years in prison after being found guilty of being the ring leader of a notorious gang of Oxford United hooligans who were involved in running battles with rivals fans, often in busy shopping areas.
28 May 1988 – Middlesbrough are promoted to the First Division, taking the place of Chelsea, whom they beat 2-1 on aggregate in the play-off final.
8 June 1988 – Dave Beasant completes a £750,000 transfer from Wimbledon to Newcastle United, making him the costliest goalkeeper in English football.
10 June 1988 – Tottenham Hotspur sign Paul Stewart from Manchester City for £1.5 million – a record fee for a Second Division player.
12 June 1988 – England's European Championship campaign begins with a 1–0 defeat to the Republic of Ireland.
15 June 1988 – England's chances of progressing to the semi-finals of the European Championships are ended by a 3–1 defeat to the Netherlands. Everton sign Bradford City midfielder Stuart McCall for £850,000.
18 June 1988 – England's final group match at the European Championship Finals ends in a third defeat, 3–1 to the USSR.
23 June 1988 – Eighteen Scarborough hooligans receive prison sentences of up to 12 months for their part in clashes with Wolverhampton Wanderers fans at the club's very first Football League game in August.
24 June 1988 – Watford striker Luther Blissett agrees to stay with the club for at least one more season despite their relegation to the Second Division.
- 18 September 1987: Fred Chadwick, 74, was top scorer for Ipswich Town in their first season as a Football League team (1938–39). Manchester born Chadwick also played for Newport County and Bristol Rovers as a centre-forward.
- 16 October 1987: Lady Blanche Cobbold, 89, served Ipswich Town as the only female vice president of a Football League club, of which her son Patrick was chairman. She was widowed in World War II and regularly attended the club's matches for nearly 50 years until 1985.
- 19 October 1987: Ernie Toseland, 82, played 368 league games as an outside-right for Manchester City between 1928 and 1938, scoring 61 goals and winning a league title and FA Cup. After leaving Maine Road he signed for Sheffield Wednesday, but his playing career was cut short by the outbreak of war the following year.
- 23 October 1987: Jimmy Mullen, 64, spent his entire playing career at Wolverhampton Wanderers, winning three league titles and an FA Cup between his debut in 1937 and retirement in 1960. Tyneside born Mullen, who played as a winger, scored 98 goals in 445 league games for Wolves, and was also capped 12 times at senior level for England, scoring six goals.
- 1 November 1987: Tom Parker, 89, won a solitary England cap in 1925 and played more than 500 league games in a professional career which stretched from 1919 to 1933 and was divided with seven years each at Southampton and then Arsenal. He later managed Norwich City (twice) and Southampton. He later returned to Southampton as a scout, holding the position of chief scout until he retired in his 78th year.
- 7 January 1988: Arthur Atkins, 62, played 97 league games for Birmingham City between 1948 and 1954 before completing his career with 16 games in two seasons at Shrewsbury Town.
- 21 January 1988: George Kidd, 78, who was born in Dundee, Scotland, made 134 league appearances as a forward for Charlton Athletic, Gillingham and Luton Town between 1931 and 1936.
- 27 January 1988: Cyril Bridge, 78, played 155 league games at left-back for Bristol City in the 1930s.
- 28 February 1988: Norman Brunskill, 75, played 237 league games at wing-half for Oldham Athletic, Birmingham City and Barnsley between 1932 and 1947.
- 4 March 1988: Bobby Etheridge, 52, played 259 league games and scored 42 goals as a wing-half for Bristol City between 1956 and 1964.
- 13 March 1988: Ray Warren, 69, spent his entire 20-year playing career at Bristol Rovers, making 450 appearances for the West Country club between 1936 and 1956, scoring 28 goals from defence.
- 1 April 1988: Tom Williamson, 87, who was born in Scotland and died in Norwich, played 253 times in the English league for Blackburn Rovers, Stoke City and Norwich City between 1922 and 1933.
- 13 April 1988: Martin McDonnell, 63, played 412 league games between 1946 and 1960 for Everton, Southport, Birmingham City, Coventry City, Derby County and Crewe Alexandra.
- 13 May 1988: Elfed Evans, 61, played 122 league games as a forward for Cardiff City, Torquay United, West Bromwich, Wrexham and Southport between 1949 and 1957.
- 24 July 1988: John Harris, 71, played 326 league games in defence for Chelsea between 1946 and 1956, including their league title triumph in 1955. He then became manager of Chester, before managing Sheffield United, taking the South Yorkshire club to promotion to the First Division in 1971 and remaining in charge for another two years, preserving their status among the elite. After retiring from football, he worked as a lay preacher.
Notes = Number in parentheses is the times that club has won that honour. * indicates new record for competition
Liverpool won their 17th First Division title with just two league defeats all season and enjoying a record 29-match unbeaten start to the league season, which had seen them looking uncatchable since before Christmas. They finished nine points ahead of their nearest rivals Manchester United, who made impressive progress in their first full season under the management of Alex Ferguson. Nottingham Forest enjoyed their best season for four years as they finished third, while Everton and QPR completed the top five and Arsenal finished sixth, suffering a shock defeat to Luton Town in the League Cup final.
Oxford United's three-year stay in the First Division came to an end with relegation in bottom place, while Watford failed miserably in the aftermath of Graham Taylor's departure and went down after six years among the elite. Portsmouth's first top flight season since the 1950s ended in relegation, while Chelsea went down after losing to Middlesbrough in the playoffs.
|5||Queens Park Rangers||40||19||10||11||48||38||+10||67|
|16||West Ham United||40||9||15||16||40||52||−12||42|
|21||Oxford United (R)||40||6||13||21||44||80||−36||31|
A tight Second Division promotion race ended with Millwall as champions and promoted to the First Division for the first time in their history. Aston Villa were promoted on goals scored ahead of Middlesbrough, who triumphed in the playoffs to secure a second successive promotion a mere two years after they had almost gone out of business. Bradford City, another club faced with closure a few years earlier, also qualified for the playoffs, as did Blackburn Rovers.
Huddersfield Town's catastrophic season ended in relegation after a mere six wins and 28 points. They were joined by Reading, whose consolation came in the form of Full Members Cup victory. Sheffield United went down in the playoffs, while West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City narrowly avoided their second relegation in three seasons.
|1||Millwall (C, P)||44||25||7||12||72||52||+20||82|
|2||Aston Villa (P)||44||22||12||10||68||41||+27||78|
|20||West Bromwich Albion||44||12||11||21||50||69||−19||47|
|21||Sheffield United (R)||44||13||7||24||45||74||−29||46|
|23||Huddersfield Town (R)||44||6||10||28||41||100||−59||28|
Sunderland sealed the Third Division title by a comfortable margin in their first season at this level to secure an instant return to the Second Division. Runners-up Brighton also secured an instant return to the Second Division, while the third promotion place was taken by playoff winners Walsall.
Doncaster Rovers and York City propped up the Third Division to suffer relegation after four seasons at this level, while debt-ridden Grimsby Town suffered a second successive relegation. Rotherham United went down in the playoffs. Newly promoted Aldershot narrowly survived their first season at this level for over a decade.
|1||Sunderland (C, P)||46||27||12||7||92||48||+44||93|
|2||Brighton & Hove Albion (P)||46||23||15||8||69||47||+22||84|
|16||Preston North End||46||15||13||18||48||59||−11||58|
|21||Rotherham United (R)||46||12||16||18||50||66||−16||52|
|22||Grimsby Town (R)||46||12||14||20||48||58||−10||50|
|23||York City (R)||46||8||9||29||48||91||−43||33|
|24||Doncaster Rovers (R)||46||8||9||29||40||84||−44||33|
Administration entrance= Grimsby Town
Wolverhampton Wanderers clinched the Fourth Division title, the Football League Trophy and promotion to the Third Division at the end of a thrilling season where striker Steve Bull found the net 52 times in all competitions. They were joined in promotion by Cardiff City and Swansea City as well as another fallen giant, Bolton Wanderers, who enjoyed their first successful season for a decade.
Debt-ridden Newport County moved closer to oblivion, losing their league status with just 25 points to suffer a second successive relegation and find themselves being forced into non-league football a mere five years after being on the brink of the Second Division and seven years after playing in the European Cup Winners' Cup.
|1||Wolverhampton Wanderers (C, P)||46||27||9||10||82||43||+39||90|
|2||Cardiff City (P)||46||24||13||9||66||41||+25||85|
|3||Bolton Wanderers (P)||46||22||12||12||66||42||+24||78|
|6||Swansea City (P)||46||20||10||16||62||56||+6||70|
|24||Newport County (R)||46||6||7||33||35||105||−70||25|
P = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; F = Goals for; A = Goals against; GD = Goal difference; Pts = Points