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1981–82 in English football

1981–82 in English football

The 1981–82 season was the 102nd season of competitive football in England. It was also the first season that the three-points-for-a-win system was introduced.

Football in England
Men's football
First DivisionLiverpool
Second DivisionLuton Town
Third DivisionBurnley
Fourth DivisionSheffield United
Alliance Premier LeagueRuncorn
FA CupTottenham Hotspur
Football League Group CupGrimsby Town
League CupLiverpool
Charity ShieldShared between Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur
1980–81England1982–83 →

Diary of the season

13 July 1981: Everton sign 22-year-old goalkeeper Neville Southall from Bury for £150,000.

19 August 1981: Brighton & Hove Albion sign Liverpool midfielder Jimmy Case for £350,000. 22 August 1981:Aston Villa & Tottenham Hotspur draw 2–2 in the FA Charity Shield at Wembley 29 August 1981: The first Football League games of the season are played. Swansea City begin life as a First Division side on a high note by beating Leeds United 5–1.[6] Promoted Notts County win 1–0 at Villa Park against defending champions Aston Villa. Howard Kendall begins his career as Everton manager by guiding them to a 3–1 win over Birmingham City. Liverpool lose 1–0 to Wolverhampton Wanderers.[7]

9 September 1981: England suffer a shock 2–1 defeat away to Norway in a qualifier for the World Cup.[8]

20 September 1981: Alan Brazil scores twice as Ipswich Town beat Notts County for 4–1 at Meadow Lane, while Liverpool and Aston Villa draw 0–0.[9]

29 September 1981: Legendary former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, 68, dies from a heart attack three days after being admitted to hospital.

30 September 1981: The month ends with Ipswich Town leading the First Division. Newly promoted West Ham United and Swansea City are their nearest challengers, with Nottingham Forest completing the top four, but champions Aston Villa are struggling with just one win from seven games. Leeds United are already adrift at the bottom of the table following a horrific start to the season, with Sunderland and, surprisingly, West Bromwich Albion also in the bottom three.[7] The race for a place in next season's First Division is headed by Sheffield Wednesday, Luton Town and Norwich City.[10] In the UEFA Cup, Liverpool beat Finnish league champions Oulun Palloseura 7–0 at Anfield to complete an 8–0 aggregate first leg triumph, with 19-year-old striker Ian Rush scoring his first senior goal for the club.[11]

1 October 1981: Manchester United pay a national record fee of £1.5 million for West Bromwich Albion midfielder Bryan Robson.

7 October 1981: Ian Rush scores his first domestic goals for Liverpool, finding the net twice in their second round first leg League Cup 5–0 win over Exeter City at Anfield.

27 October 1981: First Division clubs Notts County and Swansea City are eliminated from the League Cup by lower league opposition: Division Three's Lincoln City despatch the Nottingham club while the Welsh were beaten by Barnsley of the Second Division.[12]

31 October 1981: Manchester United finish October as First Division leaders, although Ipswich Town are level on points with them, and have two games in hand. Tottenham Hotspur, Swansea City, Nottingham Forest and West Ham United are also amongst the front-runners. Sunderland, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Middlesbrough occupy the relegation places.[7] Luton Town's recent excellent form has taken them to the top of the Second Division, heading a promotion race in which Watford stand second and Sheffield Wednesday are third.[13]

4 November 1981: Fourth Division side York City sack manager Barry Lyons, following a poor start to the season on top of last year's bottom-place finish, and replace him with Kevin Randall.

18 November 1981: England seal qualification for the World Cup with a 1–0 win over Hungary at Wembley in their final qualifying game.[8]

30 November 1981: November draws to a close with Manchester United still top of the First Division, though Swansea City are two points behind them with a game in hand. Ipswich Town and Tottenham Hotspur are still pushing them hard, as are Southampton, Nottingham Forest and West Ham United. Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Birmingham City occupy the relegation places, while defending champions Aston Villa are 13th in the league and Liverpool are 10th.[7] Luton Town continue to head the Second Division promotion race, with Watford and Queens Park Rangers completing the top three.[14]

15 December 1981: Swansea City go top of the First Division after beating Aston Villa 2–1.[7]

16 December 1981: The Football Association bans Chelsea supporters from visiting away grounds for the remainder of the season in response to an incident by travelling Chelsea fans at Derby County.[15]

31 December 1981: The year draws to a close with Manchester City top of the First Division. However, just two points separate the top five places, with Southampton, Swansea City, Manchester United and Ipswich Town in close pursuit.[7] Luton Town remain the runaway leaders of the Second Division, while Oldham Athletic have muscled into second place, with Watford third.[16]

2 January 1982: Holders Tottenham Hotspur beat Arsenal 1–0 in the North London derby in the FA Cup third round. Liverpool beat Swansea City 4–0, while Manchester United are beaten 1–0 by Second Division Watford.[17]

8 January 1982: John Barnwell resigns as manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers, whose fortunes have declined sharply in the two years since he took them to sixth place in the First Division and a League Cup victory.

23 January 1982: Third Division Oxford United cause the shock of the FA Cup fourth round with a 3–0 win away to Brighton & Hove Albion. Watford claim another First Division victim, beating West Ham United 2–0.[17]

31 January 1982: January ends with Southampton top of the First Division. Manchester United are a point behind, while Ipswich Town are two points off the top but still have three games in hand. Manchester City occupy fourth place, two points behind the leaders. Liverpool's resurgence has seen them climb into fifth place. Brighton & Hove Albion, in only their third season as a top flight club, are in seventh position. Defending champions Aston Villa, meanwhile, are struggling in 17th place. Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Wolverhampton Wanderers occupy the relegation places.[7] Luton Town, Oldham Athletic and Watford head the Second Division promotion race, followed closely behind by Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers.[18]

2 February 1982: Wolverhampton Wanderers appoint Oxford United's Ian Greaves as their new manager.

9 February 1982: Ron Saunders announces his resignation as manager of defending league champions Aston Villa.[19] He is succeeded by assistant Tony Barton.

13 February 1982: Chelsea shock Liverpool 2–0 at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup fifth round. Shrewsbury Town surprisingly beat Ipswich Town 2–1, Watford's run ends with a 2–0 defeat to Leicester City, and Tottenham Hotspur beat troubled Aston Villa 1–0.[17]

15 February 1982: Birmingham City sack manager Jim Smith, following a run of just one win since the beginning of October, which has left the club only a single place outside the relegation zone.

18 February 1982: Nine days after walking out on Aston Villa, Ron Saunders makes a surprise return to management with their local rivals Birmingham City.

28 February 1982: February ends with Southampton still top of the First Division, with Swansea City's challenge back on track as they occupy second place. Manchester United are six points off the top with two games in hand, and Liverpool now stand fourth, eight points off top place with three games in hand. Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Wolverhampton Wanderers remain in the bottom three.[7] Luton Town, Watford and Oldham Athletic continue to head the Second Division promotion race, with their nearest challenge now coming from Rotherham United, who have yet to play top division football.[20]

1 March 1982: Jim Smith makes a swift return to management at Oxford United, who had been managerless since the departure of Ian Greaves the previous month.

6 March 1982: Shrewsbury Town's impressive FA Cup run comes to an end when they lose 5–2 to Second Division rivals Leicester City at Filbert Street in the sixth round. In two London derbies, Tottenham Hotspur beat Chelsea 3–2 and Queens Park Rangers win 1–0 at home to Crystal Palace. West Bromwich Albion take the remaining semi-final place with a 2–0 win over Coventry City.[17]

13 March 1982: Liverpool retain the Football League Cup with a 3–1 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the Wembley final.[21]

16 March 1982: York City, who have been bottom of the Fourth Division for much of the last few months, sack Kevin Randall. Former captain Barry Swallow is appointed as the third manager of the season at the club, who are considered highly likely to be voted out of the Football League if they finish bottom for the second year in a row.

31 March 1982: Southampton remain the leaders of the First Division, but Liverpool and Ipswich Town are closing in, a point behind with three games in hand. Swansea City and Manchester United complete the top five. The bottom three of Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Wolverhampton Wanderers remains unchanged.[22] Watford have overhauled Luton Town as Second Division leaders, with Sheffield Wednesday now completing the top three. Rotherham United, Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United are close behind in the promotion race.[23] Fulham defender Dave Clement, who was capped five times by England and spent the first 14 years of his career at Queens Park Rangers, commits suicide.[24]

3 April 1982: FA Cup holders Tottenham Hotspur reach the final for the second reason running with a 2–0 semi-final win over surprise contestants Leicester City at Villa Park, while Second Division Queens Park Rangers overcome West Bromwich Albion 1–0 at Highbury to reach the final for the first time in their history.[17] Tottenham's victory is marred by Leicester fans booing Argentine midfielder Ossie Ardiles amid hostility over the Falklands War.[25]

7 April 1982: Liverpool achieve a vital 1–0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford to move two points ahead of Ipswich Town at the top of the First Division.[7]

21 April 1982: Tottenham Hotspur lose the European Cup Winners' Cup semi-final 2–1 on aggregate to Barcelona.[26]

30 April 1982: Liverpool are now clear at the top of the First Division, four points ahead of Ipswich Town with a game in hand. Swansea City are third. Manchester City, who led the league four months ago, are now 10th. Middlesbrough and Wolverhampton Wanderers remain in the relegation zone, but Sunderland have climbed out of the bottom three at the expense of West Bromwich Albion.[7] Luton Town's promotion is now almost certain, while Watford are also looking likely to reach the First Division for the first time in their history. Sheffield Wednesday currently occupy the final promotion place, but Leicester City, Norwich City and Queens Park Rangers remain in contention.[27]

4 May 1982: Southampton and Coventry City draw 5–5 in the highest-scoring match of the First Division season.[7] A brace from Ross Jenkins in Watford's Second Division win over Wrexham seals their promotion into the First Division for the first time in their history; Jenkins himself was playing for the Hertfordshire club in Division Four five years previously.[28]

15 May 1982: Liverpool win the Football League championship for the 13th time after they beat Tottenham Hotspur 3–1 and Ipswich Town lose 3–1 at home to Nottingham Forest. Wolverhampton Wanderers are relegated despite beating West Ham United 2–1 in their last match of the season. The other two relegation places are still to be decided, with Middlesbrough, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Leeds United all still in danger.[7]

18 May 1982: Middlesbrough draw 0–0 with Liverpool and are relegated to the Second Division, finishing bottom of the First Division table. West Bromwich Albion guarantee safety by beating Leeds United 2–0.[7]

20 May 1982: Stoke City beat West Bromwich Albion 3–0 to survive at the expense of Leeds United, who are relegated after 18 successive seasons in the First Division.[7]

22 May 1982: The FA Cup final between Tottenham Hotspur and Queens Park Rangers ends in a 1–1 draw after extra time.[17] Tottenham's line-up does not include Argentinians Ricardo Villa and Ossie Ardiles, who have withdrawn from first-team action owing to the Falklands War.

26 May 1982: Aston Villa lift the European Cup when a Peter Withe goal gives them victory over Bayern Munich in Rotterdam.

27 May 1982: Tottenham Hotspur retain the FA Cup thanks to a penalty from Glenn Hoddle in the replay against Queens Park Rangers.[17]

29 May 1982: England beat Scotland 1–0 in the 100th international between the countries to win the Home Championship with a 100% record.[8]

16 June 1982: England open their World Cup campaign with a 3–1 win over France.[8]

20 June 1982: England seal qualification to the next stage of the World Cup by defeating Czechoslovakia 2–0.[8]

25 June 1982: England complete the first stage of the World Cup with a 1–0 win over Kuwait.[8]

29 June 1982: England draw 0–0 with West Germany in the first game of the second round of the World Cup.[8]

5 July 1982: England are eliminated from the World Cup after only managing a goalless draw with host nation Spain in a match they needed to win.[8] Ron Greenwood retires as national team manager, and is succeeded by Ipswich's Bobby Robson.

National team

Ron Greenwood, 61, retired as England manager after the 1982 World Cup. He was succeeded by the Ipswich manager Bobby Robson.

UEFA Competitions

Aston Villa beat Bayern Munich 1–0 in the 1982 European Cup Final. Arsenal were knocked out in the 3rd round by semi-professional Belgian side KFC Winterslag[29]

FA Cup

Tottenham Hotspur retained the trophy, drawing 1–1 with Queens Park Rangers, managed by former Tottenham player Terry Venables, in the final before winning the replay 1–0. Venables would however eventually win the trophy himself with Tottenham in 1991.

League Cup

Liverpool won the League Cup with a 3–1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the final.

Football League

First Division

The First Division title race brought many different challengers. But in the end, however, Liverpool overcame a dismal first half of the season which saw them climb from mid-table at Christmas to clinching the title on the final day of the season, having lifted the Football League Cup weeks earlier for the second successive season. Ipswich (runners-up), Manchester United (third), Swansea (sixth) and Southampton (seventh) all managed good finishes in the league despite being unable to win the title, but Manchester City finished a disappointing 10th after briefly taking the lead of the First Division just after Christmas. Their season of triumph was overshadowed, however, by the death of former manager Bill Shankly in late September. Shankly had suffered a heart attack.

Tottenham retained the FA Cup to match Aston Villa's record of seven wins in the competition.

By contrast, Villa had a disappointing defence of the league title and could only finish 11th, with manager Ron Saunders stepping down in February and being replaced by his assistant Tony Barton, who enjoyed instant success in his first managerial job by guiding Villa to glory in the European Cup, while Saunders made a quick return to management at local rivals Birmingham City, achieving First Division survival by a comfortable margin.

Middlesbrough finished bottom of the First Division and went down after eight years among the elite. Wolves, faced with huge debts and the possibility of bankruptcy, went down too. Leeds United, who had rarely challenged for honours since Don Revie left for the England job in 1974, ended their 18-year stay in the First Division with relegation.

PosTeamPldWDLGFGAGDPtsQualification or relegation
1Liverpool4226978032+4887European Cup 1982–83 First round[1]
2Ipswich Town42265117553+2283UEFA Cup 1982–83 First round
3Manchester United42221285929+3078
4Tottenham Hotspur422011116748+1971UEFA Cup Winners' Cup 1982–83 First round[2]
5Arsenal422011114837+1171UEFA Cup 1982–83 First round
6Swansea City42216155851+769UEFA Cup Winners' Cup 1982–83 First round[3]
7Southampton42199147267+566UEFA Cup 1982–83 First round
9West Ham United421416126657+958
10Manchester City421513144950−158
11Aston Villa421512155553+257European Cup 1982–83 First round[4]
12Nottingham Forest421512154248−657
13Brighton & Hove Albion421313164352−952
14Coventry City421311185662−650
15Notts County42138216169−847
16Birmingham City421014185361−844
17West Bromwich Albion421111204657−1144
18Stoke City42128224463−1944
20Leeds United421012203961−2242Relegated
21Wolverhampton Wanderers421010223263−3140

Second Division

Luton Town clinched the Second Division title and a place in the top flight in their fourth season under the management of David Pleat, while their local rivals Watford reached the First Division for the first time in their history by finishing runners-up. The final promotion place went to Norwich City, who went from mid table to third place in the final quarter of the season with a storming run of form. Sheffield Wednesday missed out on promotion by a single point, while FA Cup finalists QPR were just two points short of promotion. Barnsley's success under Norman Hunter continued when they finished sixth, the closest they had come in decades to winning the First Division place that had eluded them since their formation in 1896. Emlyn Hughes, the former England captain, enjoyed a promising start to his managerial career as his Rotherham United side emerged as unlikely contenders for a First Division place, before they finished seventh.

Orient, Wrexham and Cardiff City were relegated to the Third Division.

PosTeamPldWDLGFGAGDPtsPromotion or relegation
1Luton Town42251348646+4088Division Champions, promoted
3Norwich City42225156450+1471
4Sheffield Wednesday422010125551+470
5Queens Park Rangers42216156543+2269
7Rotherham United42207156654+1267
8Leicester City421812125648+866
9Newcastle United42188165250+262
10Blackburn Rovers421611154743+459
11Oldham Athletic421514135051−159
13Charlton Athletic421312175065−1551
14Cambridge United42139204853−548
15Crystal Palace42139203445−1148
16Derby County421212185368−1548
17Grimsby Town421113185365−1246
18Shrewsbury Town421113183757−2046
19Bolton Wanderers42137223961−2246
20Cardiff City42128224561−1644Relegated

Third Division

Burnley clinched the Third Division title on goal difference ahead of Carlisle United in a tight promotion race, with the final promotion place going to Fulham. Lincoln City missed out on a Second Division place by a single point, while Oxford United's turnaround under new owner Robert Maxwell and new manager Jim Smith wasn't quite enough for promotion as they had to settle for fifth place in the final table.

Bristol City, faced with closure as a result of huge debts, became the first English league club to suffer three successive relegations. Chester's seven-year stay in the Third Division came to an end as they finished bottom of the table and 21 points adrift of safety. Also relegated were Swindon Town and Wimbledon.

PosTeamPldWDLGFGAGDPtsPromotion or relegation
1Burnley46211786645+2180Division Champions, promoted
2Carlisle United462311126550+1580Promoted
4Lincoln City462114116640+2677
5Oxford United461914136349+1471
7Southend United461815136351+1269
10Plymouth Argyle461811176456+865
14Preston North End461613175056−661
15Bristol Rovers46189195865−761[5]
16Newport County461416165454058
17Huddersfield Town461512196459+557
18Exeter City46169217184−1357
19Doncaster Rovers461317165568−1356
22Swindon Town461313205571−1652
23Bristol City461113224065−2546

Fourth Division

Sheffield United's ambitious revival under new manager Ian Porterfield began with the Fourth Division title. They went up with Bradford City, Wigan Athletic and Bournemouth.

There was no movement between the Football League and the Alliance Premier League this season.

1Sheffield United46271549441+5396Division Champions, promoted
2Bradford City46261378845+4391Promoted
3Wigan Athletic46261378046+3491
5Peterborough United462410127157+1482
6Colchester United462012148257+2572
7Port Vale461816125649+770
8Hull City461912157061+969
10Hereford United461619116458+667
11Tranmere Rovers461418145156−560
14Hartlepool United461316177384−1155
15Torquay United461413194759−1255
17York City46148246991−2250
18Stockport County461213214867−1949
19Halifax Town46922155172−2149
20Mansfield Town461310236381−1849
22Northampton Town46119265784−2742
23Scunthorpe United46915224379−3642
24Crewe Alexandra4669312984−5527

Top goalscorers

First Division

  • Kevin Keegan (Southampton) – 26 goals[30]

Second Division

  • Ronnie Moore (Rotherham United) – 22 goals

Third Division

  • Gordon Davies (Fulham) – 24 goals

Fourth Division

  • Keith Edwards (Hull City and Sheffield United) – 36 goals

Non-league football

The divisional champions of the major non-League competitions were:

Alliance Premier LeagueRuncorn
Isthmian LeagueLeytonstone/Ilford
Northern Premier LeagueBangor City
Southern LeagueMidland Division – Nuneaton Borough
Southern Division – Wealdstone
FA TrophyEnfield
FA VaseForest Green Rovers


  • Southampton striker Kevin Keegan marked his return to English football by scoring more goals than any other player in the Football League and being voted PFA Players' Player of the Year.

  • Tottenham's Steve Perryman added to his FA Cup winners medal with the FWA Footballer of the Year award.

  • Southampton's Steve Moran was elected as PFA Young Player of the Year.

Successful managers

  • Bob Paisley retained the League Cup and won the league title for Liverpool.

  • Tony Barton won the European Cup with Aston Villa.

  • Keith Burkinshaw helped Tottenham win the FA Cup for the second year running.

  • David Pleat ended Luton Town's absence from the top flight by guiding them to the Second Division title.

  • Graham Taylor took Watford into the First Division for the first time in their history.

  • David Webb took Bournemouth into the Third Division after they finished fourth in the Fourth Division.

Famous debutants

5 September 1981: John Barnes, 17-year-old Jamaica born winger, makes his debut for Watford in their 1–1 home draw with Oldham Athletic in the Second Division.[31]

10 October 1981: Gary Stevens, 18-year-old full back, makes his debut for Everton in their 1–1 league draw with West Ham United at Upton Park.[32]

21 November 1981: Kevin Richardson, 18-year-old midfielder, makes his debut for Everton in their 2–1 league defeat at home to Sunderland.[33]

5 December 1981: Stewart Robson, 17-year-old midfielder, makes his debut for Arsenal in their 2–1 league win over West Ham United at Upton Park.[34]

24 April 1982: Norman Whiteside, 16-year-old Northern Irish forward, makes his debut for Manchester United in their 1–0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion at the Goldstone Ground 13 days before his 17th birthday.[35]

28 April 1982: Mark Walters, 17-year-old midfielder, makes his debut for Aston Villa in their 4–1 home defeat by Leeds United in the league.[36]

1 May 1982: Peter Davenport, 21-year-old striker, makes his debut for Nottingham Forest in a 2–0 league defeat by Liverpool at Anfield.[37]

15 May 1982: Steve Hodge, 19-year-old midfielder, makes his debut for Nottingham Forest in a 3–1 league win over Ipswich Town at Portman Road.[38]


  • 29 September 1981 – Bill Shankly, 68, former Liverpool manager who transformed the Reds into one of Europe's top footballing sides. Shankly had taken Liverpool into the First Division in 1962, and over the next 12 years they were league champions three times, FA Cup winners twice and UEFA Cup winners once.

  • 8 December 1981 – Bob Lord, 73, chairman of Burnley F.C. for 26 years until three months before his death, died of cancer.

  • 31 March 1982 – Dave Clement, 34, former QPR and England full-back who committed suicide after breaking his leg.

  • 13 May 1982 – Billy Steel, 59, became the most expensive player in Britain in 1947 when he left Morton in his native Scotland to move south of the border to Derby County.


Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgLiverpool were also this season's League Cup Winners.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgFA Cup winners
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgSwansea City qualified for the European Cup Winners' Cup as 1982 Welsh Cup winners.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.orgAston Villa won the European Cup this year, and thus qualified for the following season's competition as defending champions.
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Citation Linkopenlibrary.org2 points deducted
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