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1971–72 in English football

1971–72 in English football

The 1971–72 season was the 92nd season of competitive football in England.

Football in England
Men's football
First DivisionDerby County
Second DivisionNorwich City
Third DivisionAston Villa
Fourth DivisionGrimsby Town
FA CupLeeds United
Texaco CupDerby County
League CupStoke City
Charity ShieldLeicester City
← 1970–71England1972–73 →


First DivisionDerby County (1)Leeds United
Second DivisionNorwich CityBirmingham City
Third DivisionAston VillaBrighton & Hove Albion
Fourth DivisionGrimsby TownSouthend United
FA CupLeeds United (1)Arsenal
League CupStoke City (1)Chelsea
Charity ShieldLeicester CityLiverpool
Home ChampionshipShared byEnglandandScotland

Notes = Number in parentheses is the times that club has won that honour. * indicates new record for competition

FA Cup

Leeds United won the FA Cup for the first time in their history by beating the previous year's winners, Arsenal, 1–0 in the final at Wembley. Allan Clarke scored the winning goal.[3]

1971–72 marked the centenary of the FA Cup. Non-League club Hereford United of the Southern League provided one of the shocks of the season by knocking out Newcastle United 2–1 after extra time in the 3rd Round Replay.

League Cup

Stoke City won the 1972 Football League Cup Final to claim the only major trophy in their history.

Football League

First Division

Brian Clough, 37, won the first major trophy of his managerial career by guiding Derby County to their first ever league championship. They overcame Leeds United, Liverpool and Manchester City to win a four-horse race, with only a single point separating them. It was so close that when Manchester City won their last game of the season — against Derby on April 22, 1972 — they were top of the league by a point but had no chance of actually being champions, as Derby and Liverpool both had games in hand and were still to play each other on May 1 (with Derby prevailing 1-0), and both boasted a superior goal average to City.[4][5]

Although Derby's victory moved it above Manchester City to the top of the table, the season still was not over. Liverpool (two points back) and Leeds (one point back) each still had a game left. Leeds could have been crowned champions and completed an historic double by defeating or even drawing to Wolves (given their superior goal average to Derby) on May 8, but instead lost 2-1.[6][7] By the same token, Liverpool could have won the league by defeating Arsenal (given the Leeds result), but could muster only a 0-0 draw.[8] This assured Derby a title by the narrowest of margins.

There were later bribery allegations from The Sun newspaper regarding Leeds manager Don Revie, who stood accused of (unsuccessfully) attempting to bribe Wolverhampton Wanderers on the final day of the season (May 8, 1972) in an attempt to win the league title. Captain Billy Bremner won a high court battle to clear his name of the allegations, with evidence provided by Wolves striker Derek Dougan.

Although Leeds failed to win the league, they did win the FA Cup for the first time of their history.

Stoke City finally got their hands on some silverware after a century of trying, by winning the League Cup.

Nottingham Forest and Huddersfield Town lost their First Division status. By the end of the decade, Forest had made an explosive comeback to the top flight under Brian Clough. 1971–72 was Huddersfield's last season in the Football League's top flight until 2017, and within a few seasons they would be in the Fourth Division – most of their existence from 1972 to 2017 was spent in the league's third tier, with seventeen seasons being spent in the second and six in the bottom.

PosTeamPldWDLGFGAGRPtsQualification or relegation
1Derby County422410869332.09158Qualified for the European Cup
2Leeds United42249973312.35557Qualified for the Cup Winners' Cup
3Liverpool42249964302.13357Qualified for the UEFA Cup
4Manchester City422311877451.71157
6Tottenham Hotspur4219131063421.50051Qualified for the UEFA Cup[1]
8Manchester United4219101369611.13148
9Wolverhampton Wanderers4218111365571.14047
10Sheffield United4217121361601.01746
11Newcastle United4215111649520.94241
12Leicester City4213131641460.89139
13Ipswich Town4211161539530.73638
14West Ham United4212121847510.92236
16West Bromwich Albion4212111942540.77835
17Stoke City4210151739560.69635Qualified for the UEFA Cup[2]
18Coventry City429151844670.65733
20Crystal Palace428132139650.60029
21Nottingham Forest42892547810.58025Relegated to the Second Division
22Huddersfield Town426132327590.45825

Second Division

Norwich City won the Second Division and were promoted along with Birmingham City. This marked the first time that Norwich City reached the top flight in their history, less than 70 years after the club was founded. Charlton Athletic and Watford were relegated.

PosTeamPldWDLGFGAGRPtsQualification or relegation
1Norwich City422115660361.66757Promoted to the First Division
2Birmingham City421918560311.93556
4Queens Park Rangers422014857282.03654
8Bristol City4218101461491.24546
10Carlisle United421791661571.07043
11Swindon Town4215121547471.00042
12Hull City4214101849530.92538
13Luton Town4210181443480.89638
14Sheffield Wednesday4213121751580.87938
15Oxford United4212141643550.78238
18Preston North End4212121852580.89736
19Cardiff City4210141856690.81234
21Charlton Athletic421292155770.71433Relegated to the Third Division

Third Division

Aston Villa ended their two-year spell in the Third Division by gaining promotion as champions, and by the end of the decade would be firmly re-established as a First Division club. Brighton & Hove Albion followed Villa into the Second Division, but would not reach the heady heights that the midlanders would experience. Mansfield Town, Barnsley, Torquay United and Bradford City were relegated.

PosTeamPldWDLGFGAGRPtsQualification or relegation
1Aston Villa46326885322.65670Promoted to the Second Division
2Brighton & Hove Albion462711882471.74565
4Notts County462512974441.68262
5Rotherham United4620151169521.32755
6Bristol Rovers4621121375561.33954
7Bolton Wanderers4617161351411.24450
8Plymouth Argyle4620101674641.15650
10Blackburn Rovers461991854570.94747
11Oldham Athletic4617111859630.93745
12Shrewsbury Town4617101973651.12344
14Swansea City4617101946590.78044
15Port Vale4613151843590.72941
17Halifax Town4613122148610.78738
19York City4612122257660.86436
20Tranmere Rovers4610162050710.70436
21Mansfield Town468201841630.65136Relegated to the Fourth Division
23Torquay United4610122441690.59432
24Bradford City4611102545770.58432

Fourth Division

Grimsby Town, Southend United, Brentford and Scunthorpe United were promoted from the Fourth Division. Barrow were voted out of the Football League and replaced by Hereford United, who a short time earlier had achieved a shock FA Cup victory over Newcastle United.

Ernie Tagg sacked himself as manager of Crewe Alexandra because he felt that a younger manager should take charge of the club.

PosTeamPldWDLGFGAGRPtsQualification or relegation
1Grimsby Town462871188561.57163Promoted to the Third Division
2Southend United4624121081551.47360
4Scunthorpe United4622131156371.51457
5Lincoln City4621141177591.30556
8Peterborough United4617161382641.28150
10Cambridge United4617141562601.03348
11Colchester United4619101770691.01448
12Doncaster Rovers4616141656630.88946
14Newport County461882060720.83344
15Exeter City4616111961680.89743
21Northampton Town4612132166790.83537Re-elected
22Barrow4613112240710.56337Not re-elected
23Stockport County469142355870.63232Re-elected
24Crewe Alexandra461092743690.62329

Top goalscorers

First Division

Second Division

  • Bob Latchford (Birmingham City) – 23 goals[9]

Third Division

  • Ted MacDougall (Bournemouth) – 35 goals[10]

Fourth Division

  • Peter Price (Peterborough United) – 28 goals[10]

European competitions

The 1972 UEFA Cup Final was the final of the first ever UEFA Cup and was contested by two English teams, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs won 2–1 in the first leg at the Molineux on 3 May. The second leg, played on 17 May at White Hart Lane, ended 1–1. The 3–2 aggregate win by Tottenham Hotspur gave them the second European trophy in their history [11]

Diary of the season

8 July 1971: Bill Shankly signs a three-year contract as Liverpool manager which will keep him in charge until the end of the 1973–74 season.[12]

7 August 1971: The 1971 FA Charity Shield is held, but without reigning League and Cup winners Arsenal, who are on a pre-season tour abroad. The Shield was won by Second Division champions Leicester City, who beat 1971 FA Cup Final runners-up Liverpool with a Steve Whitworth goal; Arsenal were beaten 1–0 by Feyenoord.[13]

20 August 1971: Manchester United beat Arsenal 3–1 in a "home" tie, played at Anfield in Liverpool as a result of a ban from hosting their first two home games in Manchester, the second would be held at the Victoria Ground in Stoke-on-Trent.[14]

6 November 1971: The Manchester derby at Maine Road ends in a 3–3 thriller, with debutant 17-year-old winger Sammy McIlroy on the scoresheet for United.[15]

27 November 1971: Alan Woodward scores four of the seven Sheffield United put past Ipswich Town without reply, while elsewhere, George Best is the hat-trick hero as Manchester United beat Southampton 5–2, and Wolverhampton Wanderers beat West Bromwich Albion 3–2 in the Black Country derby.[16]

15 December 1971: John Ritchie's goal and a penalty save from Gordon Banks gives Stoke City a replay in the Football League Cup semi-final against West Ham United.[17]

31 December 1971: At the end of the year, Manchester United are top of the First Division, three points ahead of Manchester City and four ahead of Leeds United. West Bromwich Albion and Nottingham Forest occupy the relegation places.[18]

29 January 1972: In the second League Cup semi-final replay, at Old Trafford, Stoke overcome a West Ham side forced to make Bobby Moore their stand-in goalkeeper, putting them through to the League Cup Final for the first time.[19]

19 February 1972: Leeds United thrash Manchester United 5–1 at Elland Road and are two points behind Manchester City at the top of the table. Manchester United have now lost five League matches in a row.[18]

4 March 1972: Leeds United beat Southampton 7–0 and will overtake Manchester City at the top of the table if they win their two games in hand. Manchester United are beaten for the sixth consecutive match in the League when they lose 2–0 to Tottenham Hotspur.[18]

8 March 1972: Rodney Marsh moves from Queens Park Rangers to Manchester City for £200,000.[20]

31 March 1972: Brian Clough dismisses reports that he is to be Noel Cantwell's successor as Coventry City manager.[21] Meanwhile, on the pitch, in the First Division, Leeds' failure to beat West Ham sees them miss the opportunity to top the table, victory for Millwall allows them to ascend to the summit of the Second Division ahead of Norwich City and Birmingham City, Third Division table-toppers Aston Villa pull away from A.F.C. Bournemouth, and Grimsby Town move into second in the bottom tier (behind rivals Scunthorpe United) with a win over Reading, becoming the first League side to score 50 this season.[22]

1 April 1972: Derby County beat Leeds United 2–0 and take over at the top of the First Division.[18]

26 April 1972: Derby County win the Texaco Cup by beating Airdrieonians 2–1 on aggregate.[23] Crystal Palace's 2–0 win over Stoke City relegates both Nottingham Forest and Huddersfield Town from the First Division.

1 May 1972: Derby County, in their last League game of the season, beat Liverpool 1–0. Leeds United beat Chelsea 2–0 and will win the title if they can beat Wolverhampton Wanderers in their final fixture.[18]

6 May 1972: Leeds United win the FA Cup for the first time in their history by beating Arsenal 1–0 in the final at Wembley, with Allan Clarke heading the only goal in the second half.

8 May 1972: Derby County win the League Championship as neither Leeds United nor Liverpool manage to win their final league games. Leeds would have overtaken Derby on goal average had they drawn with Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux, but lose 2-1, while Liverpool draw 0-0 with Arsenal at Highbury.[18]

11 May 1972: The First Division season ends when Tottenham Hotspur beat Arsenal 2–0 in the North London derby at Highbury.[18]

Star players

  • Gordon Banks was voted FWA Footballer of the Year to add to his League Cup winners medal.

  • Norman Hunter and Billy Bremner helped Leeds win the FA Cup.

  • Roy McFarland and Colin Todd helped Derby win the League Championship.

Star managers

  • Brian Clough guided Derby to their first-ever league championship triumph.

  • Don Revie helped Leeds lift the FA Cup for the first time.

  • Tony Waddington ended Stoke City's trophyless history by winning the League Cup.

National team

England were eliminated from the 1972 European Championships in the quarter-finals after losing 3–1 on aggregate over two legs (1–3 at Wembley and 0–0 in West Berlin) to West Germany, who went on to win the tournament.


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