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1976–77 in English football

1976–77 in English football

The 1976–77 season was the 97th season of competitive football in England. This year The Football League revamped the tie-breaking criteria for teams level on points, replacing the traditional goal average tie-breaker with one based on goal difference to try to encourage more scoring. Coloured red and yellow cards were introduced for the first time in domestic English football.

Football in England
Men's football
First DivisionLiverpool
Second DivisionWolverhampton Wanderers
Third DivisionMansfield Town
Fourth DivisionCambridge United
FA CupManchester United
Anglo-Scottish CupNottingham Forest
League CupAston Villa
Charity ShieldLiverpool
1975–76England1977–78 →

Diary of the season

21 August 1976: The First Division season opens with a surprise 1–0 win for promoted Bristol City over Arsenal at Highbury. Champions Liverpool beat Norwich City 1–0, but last year's runners-up Queens Park Rangers lose 4–0 at home to Everton.[1]

31 August 1976: No fewer than nine teams are level on four points at the top of the First Division after three matches. Aston Villa lead on goal difference. Norwich City are the only team yet to register a point.[1]

22 September 1976: West Bromwich Albion winger Willie Johnston is sent off, reportedly for "aiming a kick" at the referee, as his side are eliminated from the League Cup by Brighton & Hove Albion.[2]

30 September 1976: Liverpool lead the First Division at the end of September, level on points with Middlesbrough. The two Manchester clubs are a point behind.[1]

9 October 1976: Surprise package Middlesbrough move to the top of the First Division table following a 1–0 win at home to Norwich City.[1]

13 October 1976: England beat Finland 2–1 at Wembley in their second World Cup qualifier.[3]

16 October 1976: The 1975 champions Derby County belatedly record their first League win of the season when they thrash Tottenham Hotspur 8–2 at the Baseball Ground. Newly promoted West Bromwich Albion beat Manchester United 4–0.[1]

18 October 1976: Sunderland manager Bob Stokoe stuns the world of football by handing in his resignation, saying that he believes a new manager will give the club a better chance of First Division survival. Despite a poor start which has seen the club marooned at the bottom of the table with no wins, Stokoe was still incredibly popular among the Roker Park faithful, due to his role in the club's victory in the 1973 FA Cup Final.

31 October 1976: Liverpool are the First Division leaders at the end of October, three points ahead of a chasing group that comprises Manchester City, Ipswich Town, Newcastle United, Leicester City and Middlesbrough. West Ham United are bottom, and Sunderland and Bristol City make up the bottom three.[1]

6 November 1976: Ipswich Town move up to second in the First Division with a 7–0 thrashing of West Bromwich Albion. Tottenham Hotspur suffer another heavy defeat, 5–3 at struggling West Ham United.[1]

17 November 1976: With a team featuring six changes from their previous match, England suffer a major set-back in their attempt to reach the World Cup Finals when they are beaten 2–0 by Italy in Rome.[3]

25 November 1976: Barely 18 months after winning the First Division title, Derby County manager Dave Mackay resigns following a poor start to the season, which has left the club just a single point off the bottom of the table. Reserve team coach Colin Murphy takes over as caretaker manager of the club, who are rumoured to be looking to reappoint former manager Brian Clough.

30 November 1976: Liverpool retain a three-point lead from Ipswich Town and Newcastle United at the end of November. Tottenham Hotspur have joined West Ham United and Sunderland in the relegation zone.[1]

2 December 1976: After over a month without a permanent manager, Sunderland announce former Burnley manager Jimmy Adamson as Bob Stokoe's successor.

4 December 1976: Malcolm Macdonald scores a hat-trick for Arsenal in their 5–3 League win over his old team Newcastle United.[1][4]

15 December 1976: Aston Villa beat Liverpool 5–1 in the League at Villa Park.[1]

31 December 1976: At the end of the year, Liverpool's lead at the top of the First Division has been cut to two points over Ipswich Town, who have three games in hand, and Manchester City. Sunderland, West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur continue to occupy the relegation zone.[1]

8 January 1977: Tottenham Hotspur are beaten 1–0 by Second Division Cardiff City in the FA Cup third round. Northern Premier League side Northwich Victoria beat Watford 3–2.[5]

10 January 1977: Everton sack manager Billy Bingham. The club had looked like possible title challengers early in the season, but a poor run of form has dropped them to the lower reaches of the table.

30 January 1977: Newcastle United manager Gordon Lee is appointed as Everton's new manager. Lee's assistant at Newcastle, Richard Dinnis takes over as acting manager of the Tyneside club.

31 January 1977: Liverpool still lead the First Division, but Ipswich Town are now just a point behind, and still have three games in hand. Manchester City are a further two points adrift.[1]

2 February 1977: The Newcastle United squad, led by captain Geoff Nulty, threaten to strike unless Richard Dinnis is appointed as the club's permanent manager, with frictions exacerbated by the board signing Ralph Callachan without consulting either Dinnis or the other players. Later that day however, the board agree to the players' demands and appoint Dinnis as manager.

9 February 1977: England lose at home for the first time for four years when they are beaten 2–0 by Holland at Wembley.[3]

15 February 1977: Ipswich Town move to the top of the First Division with a 5–0 thrashing of Norwich City in the East Anglia derby.[1]

26 February 1977: Middlesbrough dump Arsenal out of the FA Cup with a 4–1 win at Ayresome Park in the fifth round. Manchester City lose 1–0 to Leeds United, and Manchester United draw 2–2 against Southampton in a repeat of last year's final.[5]

28 February 1977: Two successive defeats for Ipswich Town have allowed Liverpool to regain top spot in the race for the title. At the bottom, Tottenham Hotspur now prop up the table, and are joined by Sunderland and Bristol City in the relegation zone.[1]

5 March 1977: In a spectacular change in form, Sunderland beat West Ham United 6–0 at Roker Park. It is their third consecutive victory in a run in which they have scored sixteen goals.[1]

8 March 1977: Holders Southampton are knocked out of the FA Cup 2–1 by Manchester United in their fifth round replay.[5]

12 March 1977: The League Cup final ends in a 0–0 draw between Aston Villa and Everton at Wembley.[6] Arsenal's 2–1 loss to Queens Park Rangers is their seventh consecutive League defeat, a club record.[1][7]

16 March 1977: The Football League Cup final replay at Hillsborough ends in a 1–1 draw.[6]

19 March 1977: First Division heavyweights Everton, Leeds United, Liverpool and Manchester United all win their FA Cup sixth round ties to reach the last four.[5]

20 March 1977: Peter Houseman, who helped Chelsea win the FA Cup in 1970 and the European Cup Winners' Cup a year later, dies in a car crash at the age of 31. His wife is among the four people who die in the crash, which takes place near Oxford.

31 March 1977: With ten matches left, Ipswich Town have joined Liverpool at the top of the First Division table. Manchester City are three points behind with a game in hand, and Newcastle United are still in contention, a further point adrift. At the bottom, West Ham United, Sunderland, Derby County and Bristol City are separated by a single point.[1]

9 April 1977: Liverpool beat Manchester City 2–1 in a crunch League match at Anfield. Ipswich Town continue their challenge by winning 1–0 at Norwich City.[1]

13 April 1977: The Football League Cup final is decided at the third attempt when Aston Villa beat Everton 3-2 in the second replay at Old Trafford.[6] A last minute goal from Brian Little sends the trophy to Villa Park and prevents the game from going to a third replay.

23 April 1977: Everton and Liverpool draw 2–2 in the FA Cup semi-final at Maine Road, with referee Clive Thomas disallowing a late goal from Everton's Bryan Hamilton.[8] At Hillsborough, Manchester United beat Leeds United 2–1 to reach the final for the second consecutive year.[5]

27 April 1977: Liverpool beat Everton 3–0 in the semi-final replay to reach the FA Cup final.[5]

30 April 1977: Liverpool effectively end Ipswich Town's title challenge by beating them 2–1 at Anfield. Manchester City crash to a 4–0 defeat at relegation-threatened Derby County, and are now two points behind the Reds having played a game more. Meanwhile, half the clubs in the division remain in danger of relegation: Bristol City are bottom, but just five points separate the ten teams immediately above them, with Tottenham Hotspur in most danger, having played more games than their rivals.[1]

7 May 1977: Tottenham Hotspur's first relegation since 1935[7] is virtually guaranteed after the Londoners are thrashed 5–0 at Manchester City.[1]

14 May 1977: Liverpool are confirmed champions of the Football League First Division for the second season running and for the tenth time in total[9] following a 0–0 draw with West Ham United. Manchester City finish second. Tottenham Hotspur's relegation is confirmed, but in an extraordinarily close finish to the season, six other clubs are still fighting to avoid the other two relegation spots.[1]

16 May 1977: Stoke City lose 1–0 to Aston Villa and are relegated. West Ham United and Queens Park Rangers win their last matches of the season to survive, and Bristol City keep their hopes alive by beating Liverpool 2–1. They go into their last match level on points with Coventry City and Sunderland.[1]

19 May 1977: Coventry City and Bristol City draw 2–2 at Highfield Road and both survive in the First Division as Sunderland lose 2–0 at Everton to take the final relegation slot.[1]

21 May 1977: Liverpool's treble bid ends when they lose 2–1 to Manchester United in the FA Cup final.[5] It is United's first major trophy since they won the European Cup nine years ago.

24 May 1977: The First Division fixture schedule is completed when Everton beat Newcastle United. Just five points separate the bottom ten clubs in one of the closest finishes in the history of the League.[1]

25 May 1977: Liverpool win the European Cup for the first time, defeating Borussia Mönchengladbach of West Germany 3-1 Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

28 May 1977: Wimbledon, champions of the Southern League, are elected to the Football League Fourth Division at the expense of Workington, who drop into the Northern Premier League. [3] [13]

31 May 1977: England lose to Wales at Wembley for the first time when Leighton James scores the only goal from the penalty spot in a Home Championship fixture.[3]

4 June 1977: Scotland beat England 2–1 at Wembley to clinch the Home Championship, but their victory is overshadowed by a pitch invasion by celebrating supporters.[3]

15 June 1977: After previous draws against Brazil and Argentina, England end their South American summer tour with a 0–0 draw against Uruguay.[3]

1 July 1977: Liverpool sell striker Kevin Keegan for a European record fee of £500,000.[10]

4 July 1977: Just six weeks after managing Manchester United to FA Cup glory, Tommy Docherty is sacked by the United board soon after admitting to having an affair with Mary Brown, the wife of club physiotherapist Laurie Brown. [4] [14]

11 July 1977: Don Revie announces his resignation as England manager after three years.

14 July 1977: Dave Sexton is announced as the new Manchester United manager.

National teams

UEFA Competitions

Liverpool won the European Cup for the first time, beating Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-1 in the final in Rome.

FA Cup

Tommy Docherty guided Manchester United to a 2–1 win over Liverpool in the FA Cup final, but was sacked within weeks after announcing his affair with the wife of the club's physiotherapist.

A new competition, the Debenhams Cup, was introduced to reward the two teams from outside the top two divisions to progress furthest in the FA Cup. Chester beat Port Vale in the final but it was only competed for once more.

League Cup

Ron Saunders took Aston Villa to their second League Cup victory in three seasons as the midlanders continued to re-establish themselves as a top club.

Football League

First Division

Liverpool retained their league championship trophy after a season long neck and neck battle with Ipswich Town and Manchester City that came down to the final game, City edging out Ipswich for second place.

Ipswich Town finished third, Aston Villa finished fourth and won their second League Cup in three seasons, while Newcastle United completed the top five. Manchester United finished sixth but beat Liverpool 2-1 to win the FA Cup final and prevent their opponents from becoming the first English team to win a treble of trophies in the same season.

QPR dipped to 14th place a year after almost winning the title, while 1975 champions Derby County finished 15th, with manager Dave Mackay being sacked before Christmas and replaced by 26-year-old coach Colin Murphy, one of the youngest managers ever to take charge of a Football League side.

Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City's long spells in the First Division came to an end with relegation. Stoke sacked their manager Tony Waddington. On the last day of the season, with three teams hoping to avoid the last relegation place, Coventry City and Bristol City played out a controversial 2–2 draw. The kick-off had been delayed for fifteen minutes by Coventry chairman Jimmy Hill due to "crowd congestion". With ten minutes still to play, and the sides level, play virtually stopped when it was announced over the tannoy that Sunderland had lost to Everton. Both clubs survived while Sunderland was relegated.[11]

PosTeamPldWDLGFGAGDPtsQualification or relegation
1Liverpool42231186233+2957Qualified for the European Cup
2Manchester City42211476034+2656Qualified for the UEFA Cup
3Ipswich Town42228126639+2752
4Aston Villa42227137650+2651
5Newcastle United421813116449+1549
6Manchester United421811137162+947Qualified for the Cup Winners' Cup
7West Bromwich Albion421613136256+645
10Leeds United421512154851−342
11Leicester City421218124760−1342
13Birmingham City421312176361+238
14Queens Park Rangers421312174752−538
15Derby County42919145055−537
16Norwich City42149194764−1737
17West Ham United421114174665−1936
18Bristol City421113183848−1035
19Coventry City421015174859−1135
20Sunderland421112194654−834Relegated to the Second Division
21Stoke City421014182851−2334
22Tottenham Hotspur42129214872−2433

Second Division

Wolves sealed an instant return to the First Division as champions of the Second Division. They were joined by Chelsea, back in the First Division after two seasons away, and by Brian Clough's ambitious Nottingham Forest side. Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool stayed down by a single point.

Hereford United, Plymouth Argyle and Carlisle United were relegated to the Third Division. Hereford became the first club to finish bottom of the Second Division after winning the Third Division the previous season.

PosTeamPldWDLGFGAGDPtsQualification or relegation
1Wolverhampton Wanderers42221378445+3957Promoted to the First Division
3Nottingham Forest422110117743+3452
4Bolton Wanderers422011117554+2151
6Luton Town42216156748+1948
7Charlton Athletic421616107158+1348
8Notts County421910136560+548
11Sheffield United421412165463−940
12Blackburn Rovers42159184254−1239
13Oldham Athletic421410185264−1238
14Hull City421017154553−837
15Bristol Rovers421213175368−1537
18Cardiff City421210205667−1134
19Leyton Orient42916173755−1834
20Carlisle United421112194975−2634Relegated to the Third Division
21Plymouth Argyle42816184665−1932
22Hereford United42815195778−2131

Third Division

Mansfield Town won the Third Division title to seal a second promotion in three seasons. Alan Mullery guided Brighton to promotion. The last promotion place was sealed by Crystal Palace, where Terry Venables was enjoying a dream start to his managerial career. Rotherham United stayed down on goal difference, while Wrexham missed out by a single point.

Sheffield Wednesday progressed to an eighth-place finish after almost slipping into the Fourth Division a year earlier, while Lincoln City finished ninth. Manager Graham Taylor was subject of interest by a number of First and Second Division clubs, but ended up leaving Sincil Bank to drop into the Fourth Division and take over at Watford, who had just been taken over by Elton John.

York City, Northampton Town and Reading fell into the Fourth Division along with Grimsby Town who entered administration.

PosTeamPldWDLGFGAGDPtsQualification or relegation
1Mansfield Town46288107842+3664Promoted to the Second Division
2Brighton & Hove Albion462511108340+4361
3Crystal Palace462313106840+2859
4Rotherham United46221596944+2559
6Preston North End462112136443+2154
8Sheffield Wednesday46229156555+1053
9Lincoln City461914137770+752
10Shrewsbury Town461811176559+647
11Swindon Town461515166875−745
14Tranmere Rovers461317165153−243
16Peterborough United461315185565−1041
17Oxford United461215195565−1039
19Port Vale461116194771−2438
21Reading46139244973−2435Relegated to the Fourth Division
22Northampton Town46138256075−1534
23Grimsby Town46129254569−2433
24York City461012245089−3932

Fourth Division

Cambridge United won the Fourth Division title under the management of Ron Atkinson, lifting them into the Third Division. Also promoted were Exeter City, Colchester United and Bradford City. Swansea City missed out on promotion by a single point.

A terrible season for Workington was compounded by their failure to gain re-election to the Football League, a humiliation which saw them slip into the Northern Premier League. In their place were Southern League champions Wimbledon, who would make amazing progress over the next decade.

The British pop star Elton John took over Fourth Division side Watford and installed Graham Taylor as manager. Former Arsenal manager Bertie Mee came out of retirement to work at Watford as assistant to Graham Taylor. John immediately asserted his ambition by promising to bring First Division football to Watford.

PosTeamPldWDLGFGAGDPtsQualification or relegation
1Cambridge United46261378740+4765Promoted to the Third Division
2Exeter City46251297046+2462
3Colchester United46259127743+3459
4Bradford City462313107851+2759
5Swansea City46258139268+2458
8Doncaster Rovers46219167165+651
9Huddersfield Town461912156049+1150
10Southend United461519125245+749
12Crewe Alexandra461911164760−1349
14Stockport County461319145357−445
16Torquay United46179205967−843
19Newport County461410224258−1638
20Scunthorpe United461311224973−2437
21Halifax Town461114214758−1136Re-elected
24Workington464113141102−6119Not re-elected

Top goalscorers

First Division

Second Division

  • Mickey Walsh (Blackpool) – 26 goals

Third Division

Fourth Division

  • Brian Joicey (Barnsley) – 25 goals

Non-league football

Isthmian LeagueEnfield
Northern Premier LeagueBoston United
Southern LeagueWimbledon
FA TrophyScarborough
FA VaseBillericay Town

Star players

  • Aston Villa's exciting young striker Andy Gray finished the season with a League Cup winners medal as well as being voted PFA Players' Player of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year.

  • Liverpool captain Emlyn Hughes added the FWA Footballer of the Year award to his league championship and European Cup winners medals.

  • Manchester United's FA Cup winners included promising young players Steve Coppell and Arthur Albiston.

  • Fulham's Football League Second Division team starred ex Manchester United player George Best alongside ex Queens Park Rangers player Rodney Marsh

Star managers

  • Bob Paisley retained Liverpool's league title and guided them to their first European Cup triumph.

  • Tommy Docherty ended Manchester United's 14-year wait for the FA Cup and delivered their first trophy of the post-Matt Busby era.

  • Ron Saunders delivered another League Cup victory for Aston Villa.

  • Brian Clough guided Nottingham Forest to promotion to the First Division.


  • 22 October 1976 – Willie Hamilton, 38, former Scottish international forward who had played for Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and Aston Villa as well as several Scottish clubs. Died in Canada as a result of a heart attack.

  • 20 March 1977 – Peter Houseman, 31, Oxford United midfielder who had previously played for Chelsea when they won the F.A Cup in 1970 and the Cup Winners Cup a year later. Houseman died in a car crash near Oxford. His wife also died in the crash.

  • 18 May 1977 - Tony Aveyard, 21, Scarborough winger, died in hospital after collapsing as a result of a head injury in a Northern Premier League fixture two days earlier.[12]


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