1980–81 in English football
The 1980–81 season was the 101st season of competitive football in England.
Diary of the season
30 August 1980: Newcastle United's Bill McGarry becomes the first managerial casualty of the season, being sacked after a failure to win any of the Second Division fixtures combined with a humiliating League Cup exit at the hands of Fourth Division side Bury. Former manager Joe Harvey takes charge of the club in a caretaker capacity, but quickly distances himself from any thoughts of a permanent return to the manager's job.
31 August 1980: The first month of the Football League season ends with Ipswich Town, Southampton and Aston Villa level at the top of the First Division after four matches. Stoke City, Manchester City and Leeds United occupy the bottom three places. The Second Division promotion race has begun with Blackburn Rovers, Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday occupying the top three places. Cambridge United, in only their 11th season as a Football League team, stand fourth in the division harbouring dreams of the quickest modern day rise from non-league football to the First Division.
7 September 1980: Chesterfield manager Arthur Cox is appointed as Newcastle United's new manager.
28 September 1980: Jimmy Adamson resigns as Leeds United manager, a day after a 4–1 thumping by former club Sunderland, which has left the Yorkshire club second-bottom of the First Division, above Crystal Palace on goal difference alone.
30 September 1980: September draws to a close with Ipswich Town leading the First Division by four points over their nearest rivals Liverpool, Everton and Aston Villa. Crystal Palace have slumped to the bottom of the table and are joined in the relegation zone by Manchester City and Leeds United. The race for a place in the First Division next season is headed by the Second Division top three of Blackburn Rovers, West Ham United and Notts County. Cambridge United's promising start has fallen away and they now stand third from bottom.
2 October 1980: Terry Venables departs Crystal Palace to take over at Queens Park Rangers, who sacked Tommy Docherty earlier that day. Crystal Palace appoint Venables' assistant, Ernie Walley as caretaker manager.
22 October 1980: Bottom of the First Division, Manchester City win their first league match of the season at the thirteenth attempt when they defeat Tottenham Hotspur 3–1.
31 October 1980: Aston Villa, who last won a top division title in 1910, finish October as First Division leaders, though Ipswich Town, still unbeaten, are two points behind them with two games in hand. Liverpool, Nottingham Forest, Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion are a further two points behind. Crystal Palace, Manchester City and Brighton & Hove Albion occupy the relegation places. The race for three places in the First Division next season is being headed by Notts County, West Ham United and Chelsea, with Swansea City, Blackburn Rovers and Sheffield Wednesday in close contention.
11 November 1980: Ipswich Town's unbeaten start to the season ends when they lose their fifteenth match 1–0 to bottom-placed Brighton & Hove Albion.
29 November 1980: Ken Brown makes his first signing for Norwich City by paying Liverpool £100,000 for 19-year-old central defender Dave Watson.
30 November 1980: November ends with Aston Villa still leading the First Division, two points ahead of Liverpool. Ipswich Town are now third, but are three points off top spot with three games in hand. West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal complete the top five. Leicester City prop up the First Division having lost their last four games, and join Crystal Palace and Brighton & Hove Albion in the bottom three. West Ham United, Chelsea and Notts County continue to head the challenge for promotion to the First Division.
6 December 1980: Following a run of just one point in the last month, Crystal Palace reappoint former manager Malcolm Allison. Ernie Walley is offered the chance to continue as first-team manager with Allison in the role of general manager, but opts to leave the club and rejoin Terry Venables at Queens Park Rangers, leaving Allison in sole charge.
31 December 1980: The year ends with Liverpool leading the First Division on goal difference ahead of Aston Villa. Ipswich Town are a point behind the leaders with two games in hand, and Arsenal are a further three points adrift. Crystal Palace and Leicester City remain stranded in the bottom three, but Brighton & Hove Albion have climbed out of the drop zone on goal difference at the expense of Norwich City. FA Cup holders West Ham United lead the Second Division promotion race, joining in the top three by Swansea City (who have never played in the top flight before) and Chelsea (who were last in the top flight two seasons ago). Notts County and Derby County are pushing the top three hard, while the likes of Luton Town and Orient are starting to emerge as possible contenders.
24 January 1981: Manchester City defeat Norwich City 6–0 in the FA Cup fourth round tie at Maine Road, just two months after John Bond's move between the two clubs as manager. Everton knock out Merseyside rivals Liverpool with a 2–1 victory at Goodison Park, and Nottingham Forest beat Manchester United 1–0.
31 January 1981: January draws to a close with Ipswich Town back on top of the First Division, ahead of second placed Aston Villa on goal difference with a game in hand. Liverpool are beaten 2–1 at home by Leicester City and are now four points off the top. Southampton and West Bromwich Albion complete the top five, while Manchester United, with fifteen draws already this season, have fallen to ninth in the table. Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Norwich City remain in the bottom three. West Ham United continue to lead the race for promotion, with Notts County and Chelsea completing the top three. Liverpool's 85-match unbeaten home run in all competitions is ended by a 2–1 home defeat to struggling Leicester City in the league, Their last home defeat was in February 1978.
3 February 1981: New Crystal Palace owner Ron Noades sacks Malcolm Allison and appoints Wimbledon manager Dario Gradi as Palace's fourth manager of the season. Wimbledon in turn appoint coach Dave Bassett as their new manager.
28 February 1981: Having won five League matches in a row, Ipswich Town remain top of the First Division at the end of February, with Aston Villa two points behind them. Liverpool's challenge is effectively over after taking just four points from four League games this month. Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Norwich City still occupy the relegation zone. West Ham United remain top of the Second Division, followed closely behind by Notts County and joined in the top three by Sheffield Wednesday at the expense of Chelsea, who have slumped to seventh. Grimsby Town have emerged as surprise promotion contenders alongside larger clubs like Blackburn Rovers and Derby County.
7 March 1981: Exeter City's FA Cup run finally ends when they lose 2–0 away to Tottenham Hotspur in the quarter-finals. At the City Ground, Ipswich Town go 2–0 up before Nottingham Forest score thrice to take the lead; the match finishes honours even at 3–3 after Frans Thijssen sends the match to a replay.
12 March 1981: Ken Brown continues to build for the future of First Division strugglers Norwich City by paying Queens Park Rangers £225,000 for 22-year-old goalkeeper Chris Woods. Meanwhile, Liverpool sign 23-year-old Vancouver Whitecaps and Zimbabwe goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar for £250,000.
31 March 1981: Ipswich Town lose 3–0 away to Leeds United but remain one point ahead of second placed Aston Villa at the top of the First Division. West Bromwich Albion have moved into third, but are a distant six points behind Aston Villa. Crystal Palace, Norwich City and Leicester City remain in the bottom three places. West Ham United and Notts County continue to head the Second Division promotion race, joined in the top three by Grimsby Town at the expense of Sheffield Wednesday, who are now eighth.
4 April 1981: Crystal Palace are relegated from the First Division with five matches of the season remaining.
8 April 1981: Aston Villa move three points clear at the top of the First Division after winning the derby against third-placed West Bromwich Albion 1–0.
10 April 1981: Following a disastrous run of form which has turned an initially promising season into a struggle against relegation, Everton announce that manager Gordon Lee will not be offered a new contract, and will leave the club at the end of the season. Blackburn Rovers manager Howard Kendall is considered the overwhelming favourite to succeed Lee for the following season.
11 April 1981: Ipswich Town's treble bid is ended with a 1–0 extra-time defeat by Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park. In the final, they will face either Tottenham Hotspur or Wolverhampton Wanderers, who draw 2–2 in the other semi-final at Hillsborough.
14 April 1981: Ipswich Town return to Villa Park for a crucial League match against First Division leaders Aston Villa, and win 2–1 to move within a point of their opponents with a game in hand.
18 April 1981: Aston Villa take a decisive step towards the First Division title by beating Nottingham Forest 2–0 on the same day that Ipswich Town lose 2–0 at home to Arsenal.
25 April 1981: Aston Villa defeat Middlesbrough 3–0 at Villa Park, meaning they only need a draw from their final game of the season to seal their first league title since 1910. Leicester City are relegated.
29 April 1981: England draw 0–0 with Romania in their World Cup qualifying game at Wembley.
30 April 1981: Manchester United sack Dave Sexton after four trophyless seasons as manager.
2 May 1981: Aston Villa seal their first league title for 71 years despite losing their final game of the season 2–0 to Arsenal as Ipswich Town lose 2–1 to Middlesbrough, their third League defeat in four matches. Norwich City are relegated after a 3–2 home defeat to second-bottom Leicester City. Newly promoted to the First Division for next season are West Ham United after a three-year exile, Notts County after 55 years away, and Swansea City for the first time ever.
9 May 1981: In the FA Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City's Tommy Hutchison scores for both teams, first putting Manchester City 1–0 but later scoring an own goal to bring the match to a replay.
14 May 1981: Tottenham Hotspur lift the FA Cup, defeating Manchester City 3–2 in the replay.
20 May 1981: Ipswich Town win the UEFA Cup 5–4 on aggregate despite losing 4–2 to AZ Alkmaar in the second leg of the final.
8 June 1981: Having failed to save Crystal Palace from relegation, Clive Allen drops down a division to return to Queens Park Rangers in a £400,000 deal.
9 June 1981: After a month of searching for a new manager, Manchester United appoint Ron Atkinson from West Bromwich Albion.
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English clubs continued their dominance of European football. Liverpool won the European Cup, beating Real Madrid 1–0 in the final and ensuring that the trophy remained in English hands for the fifth year running. Bobby Robson proved his managerial credentials by bringing UEFA Cup glory to Ipswich Town, who beat AZ Alkmaar 5–4 on aggregate in the final.
Inspired by Ricardo Villa and Osvaldo Ardiles, World Cup winners with Argentina in 1978, Tottenham Hotspur overcame Manchester City in the FA Cup final replay to lift their first major trophy under the management of Keith Burkinshaw.
A fiercely-contested First Division title race went right to the wire between Aston Villa and Ipswich Town, as challenges from the likes of Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool fell away during the season's closing stages. The title was finally won by Villa for the first time since 1910, while Ipswich did manage to win the UEFA Cup. Liverpool slipped into fifth place but compensated for this downfall by lifting the European Cup for the third time and their first-ever League Cup. Manchester United failed to make the top five and this shortcoming cost Dave Sexton his manager's job.
Manchester United endured a disappointing season, finishing eighth. Their manager Dave Sexton had come under increased pressure over the disappointment of record signing Garry Birtles, who failed to find the net for United after his late autumn signing from Nottingham Forest in a million-plus transfer. At the end of the campaign Sexton was replaced by Ron Atkinson, who had just finished fourth in the league and reached the UEFA Cup quarter finals with an impressive West Bromwich Albion side. United's cross-city neighbours had also changed their manager, when dismissing Malcolm Allison in October to replace him with Norwich's John Bond, who pulled them up from the foot of the table to finish 12th in the league and reach the FA Cup final, where they took Tottenham to a replay before losing 3-2.
Crystal Palace endured a dreadful season with just six wins. They were joined in the Second Division by Norwich City and Leicester City. The Eagles' stay in the top flight had lasted just two years, while The Canaries' relegation brought to an end their six years in the limelight. The Foxes, however, were relegated after just a single season in the First Division.
|Pos||Team||Pld||W||D||L||GF||GA||GD||Pts||Qualification or relegation|
|1||Aston Villa (C)||42||26||8||8||72||40||+32||60||Qualified for European Cup 1981–82 First round|
|2||Ipswich Town||42||23||10||9||77||43||+34||56||Qualified for UEFA Cup 1981–82 First round|
|4||West Bromwich Albion||42||20||12||10||60||42||+18||52|
|5||Liverpool||42||17||17||8||62||42||+20||51||European Cup 1981–82 First round[a]|
|6||Southampton||42||20||10||12||76||56||+20||50||Qualified for UEFA Cup 1981–82 First round|
|10||Tottenham Hotspur||42||14||15||13||70||68||+2||43||UEFA Cup Winners' Cup 1981–82 First round|
|19||Brighton & Hove Albion||42||14||7||21||54||67||−13||35|
|20||Norwich City (R)||42||13||7||22||49||73||−24||33||Relegated|
|21||Leicester City (R)||42||13||6||23||40||67||−27||32|
|22||Crystal Palace (R)||42||6||7||29||47||83||−36||19|
(C) Champion; (R) Relegated.
FA Cup holders West Ham United clinched the Second Division title by a wide margin to end their three-year absence from the First Division. They were joined by runners-up Notts County and a Swansea City side whose third-place finish gave them First Division football for the first time in their history and also completed a record of three promotions in four seasons. Blackburn Rovers missed out on promotion on goal difference, but their achievements did not go unnoticed by First Division clubs, as their manager Howard Kendall was then appointed manager of Everton.
Both Bristol City and Bristol Rovers were relegated from the Second Division, and they were joined in the relegation zone by Preston North End. The Robins were suffering their second consecutive relegation, having been relegated from the top flight just 12 months previously, having not fallen as low as the Third Division for 16 years. Their close rivals, Bristol Rovers, on the other hand, returned to the Third Division after seven years in the second. However, Preston North End's stay in the second division was even shorter, The Lilywhites having only been promoted three years previous.
|Pos||Team||Pld||W||D||L||GF||GA||GD||Pts||Promotion or relegation|
|1||West Ham United||42||28||10||4||79||29||+50||66||Division Champions, promoted|
|3||Swansea City||42||18||14||10||64||44||+20||50||Promoted and qualified for UEFA Cup Winners' Cup 1981–82 First round as Welsh Cup winners.|
|8||Queens Park Rangers||42||15||13||14||56||46||+10||43|
|20||Preston North End||42||11||14||17||41||62||−21||36|
Ian Porterfield, the scorer of Sunderland's winning goal in their famous FA Cup triumph of 1973, achieved the first success of his managerial career by guiding Rotherham United to the Third Division title and a place in the Second Division. Runners-up in the Third Division were another South Yorkshire side, Barnsley, now managed by the former Leeds United defender Norman Hunter. The final promotion place was snatched by Charlton Athletic, who finished three points ahead of a Huddersfield side looking to win a second successive promotion.
Sheffield United and Blackpool both fell into the Fourth Division for the first time, and were joined by Hull City and Colchester United.
Despite falling out of the Third Division this season, Sheffield United remarkably managed to lure Ian Porterfield from a Rotherham side who had just reached the Second Division, offering him a five-year contract and making the resources available to him to get the Blades back into the First Division by 1986.
|Pos||Team||Pld||W||D||L||GF||GA||GD||Pts||Promotion or relegation|
|1||Rotherham United||46||24||13||9||62||32||+30||61||Division Champions, promoted|
Southend United won the Fourth Division title to clinch a place in the Third Division. They were joined by runners-up Lincoln City, third placed Doncaster Rovers and fourth placed Wimbledon.
There were no movements between the Fourth Division and the Alliance Premier League as the re-election system went in favour of the league's bottom four clubs, although bottom-placed York City came perilously close to being replaced by Alliance champions Altrincham, surviving by just two votes.
|1||Southend United||46||30||7||9||79||31||+48||67||Division Champions, promoted|
The divisional champions of the major non-League competitions were:
|Alliance Premier League||Altrincham|
|Isthmian League||Slough Town|
|Northern Premier League||Runcorn|
|Southern League||Midland Division – Alvechurch|
Southern Division – Dartford
|FA Trophy||Bishop's Stortford|
- High scoring defensive midfielder John Wark was credited for his achievements at UEFA Cup Winners Ipswich Town as PFA Players' Player of the Year.
- Aston Villa's forward Gary Shaw added the PFA Young Player of the Year award to his league championship medal.
- Ipswich Town's Dutch midfielder Frans Thijssen was voted FWA Footballer of the Year.
- Ron Saunders ended Aston Villa's 71-year wait for the league championship trophy by pipping Ipswich Town at the post.
- Bob Paisley made up for Liverpool's disappointing league form with success in the European Cup and League Cup.
- Bobby Robson couldn't quite bring the league championship trophy to Ipswich Town but compensated by bringing them the UEFA Cup.
- Keith Burkinshaw completed his rebuilding programme at Tottenham Hotspur by yielding an FA Cup triumph.
- John Lyall had another successful season with West Ham United as they won promotion to the First Division a year after winning the FA Cup.
- John Toshack completed the quickest rise through the Football League with Swansea City, who climbed from the Fourth Division to the First Division with three promotions in four seasons.
- Ron Atkinson took West Bromwich Albion to fourth place in the league to attain their second UEFA Cup place in three seasons.
- Terry Neill guided Arsenal to third place in the league to ensure UEFA Cup qualification.
- Jimmy Sirrel took Notts County into the First Division for the first time in nearly 60 years.
- Norman Hunter attained promotion to the Second Division with Barnsley.
6 September 1980: Joe Bradford, 79, scored a club record 267 goals in all competitions for Birmingham City between 1920 and 1935, completing his career with five games and one goal for Bristol City. He was capped 12 times for England, scoring seven goals.
20 December 1980: Tom Waring, 74, scored 159 league goals from centre-forward for Aston Villa between 1928 and 1935, though he failed to win a major trophy with them. He had previously scored 23 goals in 24 league games for Tranmere Rovers, and after leaving Villa Park he turned out for Barnsley and Wolverhampton Wanderers before returning to Tranmere for two years and finishing his career at Accrington Stanley. By the time of his last senior game in 1938, he had scored 244 league goals. He was capped five times by England in the early 1930s and scored four goals.
30 December 1980: George Beel, 80, scored a club record 178 league goals for Burnley between 1923 and 1932. His career spanned from 1919 to 1933 and took in a total of 243 league goals. He also turned out for Lincoln City (twice), Merthyr Town, Chesterfield and Rochdale.
3 February 1981: Sammy Crooks, 73, played 408 league games on the right wing for Derby County between 1927 and 1947 after signing from Durham City. He played for the Rams in the first five rounds of the FA Cup in 1946 but a knee injury prevented him from playing in the final. He managed Shrewsbury Town in their first four seasons in the Football League and also managed four different non-league sides. He was capped 26 times by England in the 1930s and scored seven goals.
4 February 1981: Joe Jacques, 36, made more than 300 league appearances in defence for Lincoln City, Darlington, Southend United, Gillingham and Hartlepool United between 1964 and 1976. He began his professional career in 1959 with Preston but failed to make a league appearance for them in five years.
6 April 1981: Des Harlock, 58, played 150 league games for Tranmere Rovers as a right-winger between 1946 and 1954 after signing from Liverpool in 1945, his league debut delayed until his 24th year due to the war.
20 June 1981: Billy Charlton, 80, scored 103 league goals as a left-winger for South Fields, West Ham United, Newport County, Cardiff City and finally Tranmere Rovers, 72 of those goals coming for his final club.
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- West Ham United FC News – Hammers Mad. Westhamunited-mad.co.uk (30 August 1980). Retrieved on 23 March 2011.
- Payne, Mike (1993). England: The Complete Post-War Record'. Derby: Breedon Books. ISBN 1873626398.
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- West Ham United FC News – Hammers Mad. Westhamunited-mad.co.uk (29 November 1980). Retrieved on 23 March 2011.
- West Ham United FC News – Hammers Mad. Westhamunited-mad.co.uk (27 December 1980). Retrieved on 23 March 2011.
- Smailes, Gordon (2000). The Breedon Book of Football Records. Derby: Breedon Books. p. 235. ISBN 1859832148.
- West Ham United FC News – Hammers Mad. Westhamunited-mad.co.uk (31 January 1981). Retrieved on 23 March 2011.
- "Season 1980–81". Liverweb. Retrieved 23 July 2012.
- West Ham United FC News – Hammers Mad. Westhamunited-mad.co.uk (28 February 1981). Retrieved on 23 March 2011.
- "Classic matches: Forest v Ipswich". nottinghamforest.co.uk. Nottingham Forest F.C. 5 May 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
- Smailes, Gordon (2000). The Breedon Book of Football Records. Derby: Breedon Books. p. 259. ISBN 1859832148.
- West Ham United FC News – Hammers Mad. Westhamunited-mad.co.uk (28 March 1981). Retrieved on 23 March 2011.
- "1981 FA Cup Final". Spurs Memorabilia. Retrieved 23 July 2012.
- Smailes, Gordon (2000). The Breedon Book of Football Records. Derby: Breedon Books. p. 138. ISBN 1859832148.