1976–77 in English football
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- 1 Overview
- 2 Star players
- 3 Star managers
- 4 Top goalscorers
- 5 Diary of the season
- 6 Honours
- 7 League table
- 8 Deaths
- 9 References
The Football League revamped the tie-breaking criteria for teams level of 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.
After a season long neck and neck battle with Manchester City that came down to the final game, Liverpool retained their league championship trophy and won their first European Cup to confirm Bob Paisley as a successful replacement for Bill Shankly in his third season at the helm. 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, Coventry City and Bristol City played out a controversial 2–2 draw, with play virtually stopping when it was heard that Sunderland had lost to Everton. Both clubs survived while Sunderland was relegated.
After Manchester United manager Tommy Docherty had admitted his affair with the wife of the club's physiotherapist, the club's directors decided that he had broken their moral code and he was sacked.
Wolverhampton Wanderers, Chelsea and Nottingham Forest gained promotion to the First Division. Brian Clough's Forest would achieve success beyond the dreams of most supporters over the next few seasons. Carlisle United, Plymouth Argyle and Hereford United occupied the three relegation places. Hereford became the first club to finish bottom of the Second Division after winning the Third Division the previous season.
Mansfield Town, Brighton & Hove Albion and Crystal Palace were the three teams promoted to the Second Division. Palace's manager was a certain Terry Venables who would enjoy more success at Palace and elsewhere over the next 20 years. Going down were Reading, Northampton Town, Grimsby Town for admin entrance and York City.
Cambridge United, Exeter City, Colchester United and Bradford City occupied the four promotion places in the league's lowest division. 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.
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.
- Aston Villa's exciting young striker Andy Gray finished the season with a League Cup winners medal as well as being voted Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year by the PFA.
- Liverpool captain Emlyn Hughes added the FWA Player 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, Lou Macari and Arthur Albiston.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2 December 1976: After over a month without a permanent manager, Sunderland announce former Burnley manager Jimmy Adamson as Bob Stokoe's successor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
8 March 1977: Holders Southampton are knocked out of the FA Cup 2–1 by Manchester United in their fifth round replay.
12 March 1977: The League Cup final ends in a 0–0 draw between Aston Villa and Everton at Wembley. Arsenal's 2–1 loss to Queens Park Rangers is their seventh consecutive League defeat, a club record.
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.
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.
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. 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. At Hillsborough, Manchester United beat Leeds United 2–1 to reach the final for the second consecutive year.
27 April 1977: Liverpool beat Everton 3–0 in the semi-final replay to reach the FA Cup final.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 phsyiotherapist Laurie Brown. 
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.
Notes = Number in parentheses is the times that club has won that honour. * indicates new record for competition
|7||West Bromwich Albion||42||16||13||13||62||56||+6||45|
|14||Queens Park Rangers||42||13||12||17||47||52||−5||38|
|17||West Ham United||42||11||14||17||46||65||−19||36|
|2||Brighton & Hove Albion||46||25||11||10||83||40||+43||61|
|6||Preston North End||46||21||12||13||64||43||+21||54|
Administration entrance= Grimsby Town
P = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; F = Goals for; A = Goals against; GD = Goal difference; Pts = Points
- 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.
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