1971–72 in English football
The 1971–72 season was the 92nd season of competitive football in England.
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 to win a four-horse race also contested with Liverpool and Manchester City. It was a tight race, and by the time Manchester City played their last game of the season, they were actually top of the league but had no chance of actually being champions due to the narrowness of the gap at the top and the fact that Derby County and Liverpool soon had a game together.
There were later bribery allegations from The Sun newspaper regarding Leeds manager Don Revie, who stood accused of attempting to bribe Wolverhampton Wanderers on the final day of the season 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.
Manchester United started the season well under new manager Frank O'Farrell and topped the league for a while, but then lost eight league games in a row and finished eighth in the final table. Troubled winger George Best was dropped from the team towards the end of the season after failing to turn up for training, the latest controversy to surround the hugely popular Northern Irish star, whose excellent early season form had fuelled United's title hopes.
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 top flight to date, and within a few seasons they would be in the Fourth Division – most of their existence since 1972 has been spent in the league's third tier, with seventeen seasons being spent in the second and six in the bottom.
|14||West Ham United||42||12||12||18||47||51||0.922||36|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||42||12||11||19||42||54||0.778||35|
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.
|4||Queens Park Rangers||42||20||14||8||57||28||2.036||54|
|18||Preston North End||42||12||12||18||52||58||0.897||36|
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.
|2||Brighton & Hove Albion||46||27||11||8||82||47||1.745||65|
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.
P = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; F = Goals for; A = Goals against; GA = Goal average; Pts = Points |}
1971–72 marked the centenary of the FA Cup. Non-League 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.
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 
Diary of the season
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
26 April 1972: Derby County win the Texaco Cup by beating Airdrieonians 2–1 on aggregate. 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.
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.
11 May 1972: The First Division season ends when Tottenham Hotspur beat Arsenal 2–0 in the North London derby at Highbury.
- Gordon Banks was voted FWA Footballer of the Year by the FWA 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.
- 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.
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.
|First Division||Derby County (1)||Leeds United|
|Second Division||Norwich City||Birmingham City|
|Third Division||Aston Villa||Brighton & Hove Albion|
|Fourth Division||Grimsby Town||Southend United|
|FA Cup||Leeds United (1)||Arsenal|
|League Cup||Stoke City (1)||Chelsea|
|Charity Shield||Leicester City||Liverpool|
|Home Championship||Shared by England and Scotland|
Notes = Number in parentheses is the times that club has won that honour. * indicates new record for competition
- "FA Cup Final 1972". Fa-cupfinals.co.uk. Archived from the original on 8 June 2008. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
- "1972 UEFA Cup Final". Spurs Memorabilia. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
- Miller, Nick (4 August 2016). "The forgotten story of … Leicester City winning the 1971 Charity Shield". theguardian.com. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
- Ley, John (10 November 2010). "Top 10: Manchester derbies". Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-04-09.
- "Best kicks three goals". The Sydney Morning Herald. 29 November 1971. p. 17. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
- "Stoke City earn Cup replay". The Age. Melbourne. Australian Associated Press; Reuters. 17 December 1971. p. 26. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
- Smailes, Gordon (2000). The Breedon Book of Football Records. Derby: Breedon Books. ISBN 1859832148.
- "Disputed penalty decision robs Airdrie of cup". The Herald. Glasgow. 27 April 1972. p. 9. Retrieved 26 September 2014.