The 1989–90 season was the 110th season of competitive football in England.
English clubs were still banned from competing in European competitions following the Heysel Stadium disaster.
Liverpool overhauled a greatly improved Aston Villa side to win their 18th league championship trophy and their fifth major trophy in as many seasons under Kenny Dalglish's management. To date, this remains their last league title. Gary Lineker's arrival at Tottenham Hotspur saw the North Londoners occupy third place after a season of improvement.
Luton Town stayed up on goal difference at the expense of Sheffield Wednesday's relegation, while Charlton's four-year spell in the First Division came to an end at the beginning of May. Millwall were rooted to the bottom of the division despite briefly topping the league in September.
Leeds United finally returned to the top flight after an eight-year exile, as Howard Wilkinson's side lifted the Second Division championship trophy thanks to a superior goal difference over runners-up Sheffield United.
Swindon Town won the Second Division playoff final but Sunderland were promoted instead on away goals after the Swindon board admitted a series of financial irregularities. Swindon were initially relegated to the Third Division and replaced by Tranmere because Swindon began financial irregularities before competing in the playoffs, the division's losing Play-Off finalists, but this decision was later reversed on appeal and it allowed Swindon to finish 4th in one division and Tranmere to finish 4th in the other division.
The city of Bristol was celebrating after Rovers were crowned champions and City finished runners-up in the Third Division to gain promotion. The third promotion spot was secured by playoff winners Notts County, who beat Associate Members Cup winners Tranmere Rovers at Wembley.
Exeter City were crowned Fourth Division champions and went up to the Third Division along with runners-up Grimsby Town, third-placed Southend United and playoff winners Cambridge United. Newly promoted Maidstone United almost ended their first league season with success, but their promotion hopes were ended by playoff failure.
Alex Ferguson silenced the critics who attacked him for a lack of progress in the league by guiding Manchester United to a 1–0 replay victory over Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final, which was achieved after a 3–3 draw. The pivotal game in his side's season had been in the televised third round tie at Nottingham Forest, when a Mark Robins goal gave relegation-threatened United a surprise win and triggered improved times for the club. They won the cup despite not playing a home game along the way, and was Ferguson's first major trophy as United's manager.
The season produced arguably the most memorable combination of FA Cup semi-finals in history, as Crystal Palace surprisingly beat Liverpool 4–3 just a couple of hours before Manchester United and Oldham Athletic fought out a 3–3 draw, with United going on to win the replay 2–1.
The season marked the beginning of the regular trend for clubs to leave their homes of many years and head for purpose built new stadia, following the bold move to Glanford Park by Scunthorpe United in 1988. Walsall and Chester City brought the curtain down on their many years at Fellows Park and Sealand Road respectively (both with games against Rotherham United). Walsall moved to the Bescot Stadium, while Chester began a groundshare with Macclesfield Town at Moss Rose until their new stadium was completed.
Nottingham Forest retained the Football League Cup to match the record of four wins in the competition set by Liverpool, while Manchester United finally won some silverware at the fourth attempt under Alex Ferguson by lifting the FA Cup to match the record of seven wins in the competition set by Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur.
Millwall, who had briefly topped the First Division in September, ended the season relegated in bottom place with a mere four wins to their name all season. Charlton Athletic's luck finally ran out after four seasons as they became the next team to go down. The last relegation place went to Sheffield Wednesday, who went down on goal difference after a late escape act by Luton Town.
|11||Queens Park Rangers||38||13||11||14||45||44||+1||50|
|18||Sheffield Wednesday (R)||38||11||10||17||35||51||–16||43|
|19||Charlton Athletic (R)||38||7||9||22||31||57||–26||30|
Leeds United finally made it back to the First Division after eight years away by winning the Second Division title. They were joined by Sheffield United, who won a second successive promotion under manager Dave Bassett, who won his sixth promotion in 10 seasons. Swindon Town did beat Sunderland in the playoff final, but their opponents were then promoted instead after Swindon admitted to 36 charges of financial irregularities.
Stoke City's decline continued as they fell into the Third Division, along with a Bradford City side who had almost won promotion to the First Division two years earlier, while Bournemouth's late season slump cost them their Second Division status and helped save Middlesbrough from a second successive relegation, as well as keeping West Bromwich clear of Third Division football for the first time.
|1||Leeds United (C, P)||46||24||13||9||79||52||+27||85|
|2||Sheffield United (P)||46||24||13||9||78||58||+20||85|
|7||West Ham United||46||20||12||14||80||57||+23||72|
|18||Brighton & Hove Albion||46||15||9||22||56||72||–16||54|
|20||West Bromwich Albion||46||12||15||19||67||71||–4||51|
|23||Bradford City (R)||46||9||14||23||44||68||–24||41|
|24||Stoke City (R)||46||6||19||21||35||63||–28||37|
Former England international Gerry Francis guided Bristol Rovers into the Second Division at the third attempt as they won the Third Division title, with local rivals Bristol City joining them as runners-up, and Neil Warnock's Notts County triumphing in the playoffs.
|1||Bristol Rovers (P)||46||26||15||5||71||35||+36||93|
|2||Bristol City (P)||46||27||10||9||76||40||+36||91|
|3||Notts County (P)||46||25||12||9||73||53||+20||87|
|19||Preston North End||46||14||10||22||65||79||–14||52|
|21||Cardiff City (R)||46||12||14||20||51||70||–19||50|
|22||Northampton Town (R)||46||11||14||21||51||68||–17||47|
Exeter City were promoted as Fourth Division champions, joined in the automatic promotion places by Southend United and a rejuvenated Grimsby Town who were on the comeback trail from near closure two years earlier. New manager John Beck kicked off his managerial career with playoff glory at Cambridge United, while Colchester United's 40-year stay in the Football League ended in relegation.
|1||Exeter City (C, P)||46||28||5||13||83||48||+35||89|
|2||Grimsby Town (P)||46||22||13||11||70||47||+23||79|
|3||Southend United (P)||46||22||9||15||61||48||+13||75|
|6||Cambridge United (P)||46||21||10||15||86||66||+20||73|
|24||Colchester United (R)||46||11||10||25||48||75||–27||43|
8 July 1989 – Olympique Marseille pay Tottenham Hotspur £4.5 million for winger Chris Waddle, a fee that makes him the most expensive British player. After a year in France with Bordeaux, Clive Allen returns to England in a £1million move to newly promoted Manchester City.
12 July 1989 – Glenn Hysen, the Swedish defender who had been expected to sign for Manchester United, is instead signed by Liverpool. Don Howe, a member of the English coaching staff, resigns as assistant manager of Wimbledon and becomes assistant to Trevor Francis at Queens Park Rangers.
15 July 1989 – Laurie Cunningham, who played in Wimbledon's FA Cup triumph 14 months ago and had a successful spell with West Bromwich Albion in the late 1970s, dies in a car crash in Spain. He was 33 years old and had been playing for Rayo Vallecano at the time of his death.
19 July 1989 – Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Ossie Ardiles, 37 next month, is appointed player–manager of Swindon Town.
24 July 1989 – Aston Villa sign Manchester United defender Paul McGrath for £400,000.
31 July 1989 – Norwich City pay Coventry City £525,000 for Welsh winger David Phillips.
7 August 1989 – Everton sign Aston Villa defender Martin Keown for £750,000.
18 August 1989 – Property tycoon Michael Knighton agrees to buy control of Manchester United in a deal which is believed to be worth around £20 million.
19 August 1989 – On the first day of the First Division season, champions Arsenal lose 4–1 away to Manchester United, while Liverpool beat Manchester City 3–1. Second Division promotion favourites Newcastle United and Leeds United clash at St James' Park in a match which ends with the home side winning 5–2 thanks largely to a four–goal scoring spree by new signing Micky Quinn. West Ham United striker Frank McAvennie breaks his leg against Stoke City and is expected to miss most if not all of the rest of the season.
22 August 1989 – Tottenham Hotspur sign defender Pat van den Hauwe from Everton for £650,000.
24 August 1989 – West Ham United prepare for their Second Division promotion push with a £675,000 move for Queens Park Rangers midfielder Martin Allen, just weeks after a move to First Division champions Arsenal collapsed.
31 August 1989 – The first month of the league season ends with Coventry City as First Division leaders after three wins from four games. Sheffield Wednesday prop up the table, followed by newly promoted Manchester City and Crystal Palace. Defending champions Arsenal occupy a lowly 15th place. The Second Division promotion race gets underway with West Ham United leading the table level on points with Blackburn Rovers. The playoff places are occupied by Sheffield United (newly promoted), Ipswich Town, Watford and newly relegated Newcastle United.
23 September 1989 – Manchester City thrash neighbours United 5–1 in the first Manchester derby since the 1986–87 season. Liverpool win 3–1 at Goodison Park in the Merseyside derby, with Ian Rush scoring twice. In the race to get into the First Division, Sheffield United are top of the Second Division and looking good bets for a second successive promotion, with Blackburn Rovers second in the table and level on points with Newcastle United. Sunderland, Leeds United and Brighton & Hove Albion complete the top six. Leicester City, often among the pre–season promotion favourites for the last three seasons, prop up the Second Division table sparking fears that they could be relegated to the Third Division for the first time in their history.
30 September 1989 – Liverpool and Chelsea are level on points at the top of the First Division at the end of the month. Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton Athletic and Manchester United languish in the relegation zone.
21 October 1989 – The last two unbeaten records in the First Division end when Liverpool and Norwich City both lose 4–1 away from home, to Southampton and Luton Town respectively.
31 October 1989 – October ends with Liverpool as First Division leaders, one point ahead of Everton with a game in hand. Sheffield United remain top of the Second Division, with Leeds United second and the playoff places occupied by Newcastle United, West Ham United, Sunderland and Plymouth Argyle.
4 November 1989 – Chelsea move to the top of the First Division after they beat Millwall 4–0 and Liverpool lose 1–0 at home to Coventry City.
7 November 1989 – Mick Mills is sacked after four years as manager of Stoke City, who are winless and bottom of the Second Division. His successor is Alan Ball, the 1966 World Cup winner and former Portsmouth manager, who joined Stoke as assistant manager late last month.
13 November 1989 – Former England captain Ray Wilkins agrees to join Queens Park Rangers from Glasgow Rangers on a free transfer at the end of this month.
16 November 1989 – Manchester City sign Blackburn Rovers defender Colin Hendry for £700,000. Three Chelsea fans jailed for hooliganism offences in 1987 are freed after their convictions are quashed by the Court of Appeal.
27 November 1989 – Queens Park Rangers player–manager Trevor Francis is sacked after just one year in charge.
28 November 1989 – Assistant manager Don Howe succeeds Trevor Francis at Queens Park Rangers.
30 November 1989 – Liverpool, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Chelsea are locked together at the top of the First Division at the end of the month. Manchester City, Queens Park Rangers and Charlton Athletic are level on points at the bottom. Nigel Spackman leaves Queens Park Rangers after nine months to join Rangers.
5 December 1989 – Andy Thorn moves from Newcastle United for Crystal Palace for £650,000.
19 December 1989 – 18–year–old Trinidadian striker Dwight Yorke signs for Aston Villa.
28 December 1989 – West Ham United sign midfielder Ian Bishop and striker Trevor Morley from Manchester City for £500,000 each. Millwall attempt to arrest their dramatic fall down the First Division by playing a club record £800,000 for Derby County striker Paul Goddard.
31 December 1989 – The year and the decade ends with Liverpool as First Division leaders by four points from Aston Villa. Arsenal are a point further adrift. Charlton Athletic prop up the table, behind Luton Town and Sheffield Wednesday, while out–of–form Millwall are out of the relegation zone only on goal difference. Leeds United are top of the Second Division with Sheffield United in second place. Sunderland, Oldham Athletic, Ipswich Town and Newcastle United occupy the playoff zone, while West Ham United's early challenge has fallen away and they now stand 11th in their first season outside the top flight for almost a decade.
5 January 1990 – Swindon Town chairman Brian Hillier and former manager Lou Macari are suspected of making an illegal bet against their own club in an FA Cup tie with Newcastle United in January 1988.
17 January 1990 – Derby County replace Paul Goddard with Mick Harford in a £500,000 move from Luton Town.
21 January 1990 – Manchester United's plight in the First Division continues as a 2–0 defeat at Norwich City leaves them just one point and one place above the relegation zone.
22 January 1990 – Almost two months after being sacked as player–manager by Queens Park Rangers, Trevor Francis signs for Sheffield Wednesday.
27 January 1990 – Chelsea are beaten 3–1 by Bristol City in the FA Cup fourth round. West Bromwich Albion beat First Division opposition for the second round running, winning 1–0 against Charlton Athletic.
29 January 1990 – The Taylor Report, an inquiry into stadium safety following the Hillsborough disaster nine months ago, recommends that all First and Second Division stadiums are all–seater by 1994 and that the Third and Fourth Divisions follow suit by 1999. Coventry City pay a club record £900,000 for 23–year–old Dundee United and Scotland striker Kevin Gallacher.
31 January 1990 – Queens Park Rangers beat Arsenal 2–0 in an FA Cup fourth round replay. Liverpool end January as First Division leaders on goal difference ahead of Aston Villa, who have a game in hand. Manchester United are still just one place above the relegation zone, occupied by Charlton Athletic, Luton Town and Millwall. The race to get into the First Division is headed by Leeds United and Sheffield United, who are further distancing themselves from the rest of the Second Division. Just two points separate the next five clubs – Swindon Town, Oldham Athletic, Sunderland, Newcastle United and Ipswich Town. Meanwhile, eighth placed Wolverhampton Wanderers are just two points short of the playoff zone and are looking like reasonable challengers for a unique third successive promotion.
2 February 1990 – Former Liverpool manager Don Welsh dies aged 78.
10 February 1990 – Manchester United end their 11–match winless league run with a 2–1 away win over Millwall, who led the league five months ago but have now slipped into the relegation zone.
12 February 1990 – Brian Hillier and Lou Macari are both fined after being found guilty of placing an illegal bet against Swindon Town. Hillier is also given a 6–month ban from football and is forced to resign as the club's chairman.
16 February 1990 – Striker Tony Cascarino pledges his future to relegation threatened Millwall despite reports that he is to join Aston Villa or Manchester United.
18 February 1990 – Lou Macari resigns after seven months as manager of West Ham United. Manchester United reach the FA Cup quarter finals with a 3–2 fifth round win at Newcastle United.
21 February 1990 – Aston Villa move to the top of the First Division with a 2–0 away win over Tottenham Hotspur.
23 February 1990 – West Ham United appoint their former player Billy Bonds as manager.
25 February 1990 – Nottingham Forest reach the League Cup final for the second season running by completing a 2–1 aggregate semi–final victory over Coventry City.
27 February 1990 – Fourth Division Cambridge United reach the FA Cup quarter–finals after a 5–1 second replay victory against Bristol City.
28 February 1990 – Aston Villa finish February as First Division leaders by two points from Liverpool in only their second season following promotion. Charlton Athletic, Millwall and Luton Town occupy the bottom three places, with the two Manchester clubs directly above them. Leeds United and Sheffield United continue to lead the way in the Second Division. Swindon Town, Oldham Athletic, Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers occupy the playoff zone, while Port Vale are emerging as surprise contenders for a playoff place that could be their key to First Division football for the first time in their history.
10 March 1990 – Second Division Oldham Athletic reach the FA Cup quarter–finals after defeating Everton 2–1 after extra time in their fifth round second replay. Cambridge United's cup run is ended by Crystal Palace in the sixth round.
12 March 1990 – Bristol City striker Dean Horrix, 28, is killed in a car crash a week after joining the club from Millwall.
14 March 1990 – First Division leaders Aston Villa suffer a shock 3–0 defeat at Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup quarter–finals, while Liverpool's double bid remains on course after a 1–0 replay win over Queens Park Rangers. Nottingham Forest build for the future with an £80,000 move for Runcorn's 22–year–old Northern Irish winger Ian Woan.
15 March 1990 – Manchester City sign striker Niall Quinn from Arsenal for £700,000.
20 March 1990 – Chester City are taken over by Edinburgh based construction firm Morrison Construction in a deal which will see them leave Sealand Road at the end of this season and move to a new stadium in 1992.
31 March 1990 – Liverpool return to the top of the First Division at the end of the month, leading the table on goal difference with a game in hand ahead of Aston Villa. Millwall are eight points from safety at the bottom, and are joined in the relegation zone by Charlton Athletic and Manchester City. Leeds United and Sheffield United continue to lead the Second Division, with Wolverhampton Wanderers having leapfrogged Sunderland into the playoff zone where they join Swindon Town, Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers.
1 April 1990 – Millwall's six–week hunt for a new manager ends when they appoint Bruce Rioch.
8 April 1990 – Liverpool's hopes of a unique second double are ended when they lose 4–3 after extra time to Crystal Palace in the semi–finals of the FA Cup at Villa Park. Manchester United draw 3–3 with Oldham Athletic in the other semi–final at Maine Road.
11 April 1990 – Manchester United beat Oldham Athletic 2–1 after extra time in the FA Cup semi–final replay. The game is however marred by controversy after referee Joe Worrall fails to award Oldham an early goal after Nick Henry's shot clearly crosses the line. In the league, Liverpool move closer to their 18th league title with a 4–0 away win over struggling Charlton Athletic, in which on–loan striker Ronny Rosenthal scores a hat–trick. Aston Villa keep up their challenge by winning 1–0 away to Arsenal.
14 April 1990 – Millwall are relegated to the Second Division after losing 2–0 at Derby County.
17 April 1990 – 20–year–old striker Mark Robins scores twice in Manchester United's 2–0 home league win over Aston Villa – a result which puts the opposition's title hopes into serious doubt. Charlton Athletic lose 2–1 at home to Wimbledon and are relegated.
28 April 1990 – Liverpool seal their 18th top division title with a 2–1 home win over Queens Park Rangers as Aston Villa draw 3–3 at home to Norwich City. Chester City play the final Football League game at their Sealand Road home of 84 years – a 2–0 win over Rotherham United.
30 April 1990 – The month ends with Liverpool confirmed as First Division, and Aston Villa sure of second place. Luton Town trail Sheffield Wednesday by three points with one game remaining in the fight to avoid the last relegation place. The Second Division promotion race is still wide open. Leeds United (top), Sheffield United (second) and Newcastle United (third) are fighting it out for automatic promotion. Swindon Town, Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland complete the top six, but West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Ipswich Town and Oldham Athletic still have a mathematical chance of breaking into the playoffs.
5 May 1990 – Sheffield Wednesday are relegated on goal difference behind Luton Town, who win their final game of the season 3–2 at Derby County while the Hillsborough club lose 3–0 at home to Nottingham Forest. Liverpool's season ends in style with a 6–1 away win over Coventry City, and Tottenham Hotspur pip Arsenal to third place by one point. Sheffield United seal promotion back to the First Division after 14 years away. Dave Bassett achieves the sixth promotion of his career with a Blades side who finished level on points with champions Leeds United. Leeds United's promotion celebrations are marred when their fans riot in Bournemouth in the aftermath of the promotion clinching game against AFC Bournemouth, who were relegated by the result.
12 May 1990 – Manchester United and Crystal Palace draw 3–3 in the FA Cup final, forcing a replay. Mark Hughes is on the scoresheet twice for United and Bryan Robson once. Substitute Ian Wright scores two of Palace's goals, the other goal coming from Gary O'Reilly.
17 May 1990 – A Lee Martin goal gives Manchester United the FA Cup in a 1–0 replay victory over Crystal Palace.
18 May 1990 – David Seaman becomes Britain's most expensive goalkeeper when he agrees to join Arsenal in a £1.3 million move from Queens Park Rangers.
21 May 1990 – 34 Bolton Wanderers hooligans who were convicted of taking part in attacks on police officers and rival supporters are banned from travelling to Italy for the duration of the World Cup by the Italian government.
19 May 1990 – Chelsea sign Irish midfielder Andy Townsend from Norwich City for £1.5 million.
28 May 1990 – Swindon Town win the Second Division playoff final by beating Sunderland 1–0, but their place in the First Division remains in doubt over the alleged tax scandal, over which Colin Calderwood has now been cleared but Lou Macari, Brian Hillier and Vince Farrar have been charged.
31 May 1990 – Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis gives the Football Association permission to interview manager Graham Taylor for the England manager's job. Other names linked to the vacancy included Howard Wilkinson of Leeds United, Terry Venables of Tottenham Hotspur, Howard Kendall of Manchester City and the surprise candidate Joe Royle of Oldham Athletic, who has yet to manage in the top division.
1 June 1990 – The Football League votes to revert to a 22–club First Division for the 1991–92 season, while the Fourth Division will have 23 clubs in 1991–92 and 24 clubs in 1992–93, with no relegation to the GM Vauxhall Conference for the next two seasons.
5 June 1990 – Leeds United prepare for their First Division comeback with a £1million move for Gary McAllister of Leicester City. Three England fans receive 20–day prison sentences imposed by a court in Sardinia after being found guilty of theft and criminal damage.
7 June 1990 – Swindon Town are found guilty on 34 charges of financial irregularities at a Football League hearing. They are relegated to the Third Division as a punishment. Wimbledon pay Maidstone United £300,000 for defender Warren Barton.
11 June 1990 – England open their World Cup campaign with a 1–1 draw against Republic of Ireland.
16 June 1990 – England draw 0–0 with the Netherlands in their second World Cup group game, leaving them needing to win the final group game against Egypt in five days to reach the Second Round.
21 June 1990 – England clinch qualification for the World Cup Second Round by beating Egypt 1–0 in their final group game.
26 June 1990 – England reach the quarter–finals of the World Cup with a second round 1–0 victory over Belgium.
2 July 1990 – Swindon Town win an appeal against their relegation to the Third Division, but miss out on promotion to the First Division and remain in the Second Division. Their place in the First Division goes to Sunderland.
4 July 1990 – England's hopes of World Cup glory are ended after they lose penalties to West Germany in the semi–finals after a 1–1 draw.
7 July 1990 – England lose 2–1 to host nation Italy in the World Cup third place play–off.