1986–87 in English football
The 1986–87 season was the 107th season of competitive football in England.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Star players
- 3 Star managers
- 4 Famous debutants
- 5 Top goalscorers
- 6 Diary of the season
- 7 Deaths
- 8 Honours
- 9 League table
- 10 References
The First Division championship was won by Everton in their final season under the management of Howard Kendall before his departure to Athletic Bilbao. His side overcame a spate of injuries to fight off competition from runners-up Liverpool and David Pleat's Tottenham Hotspur side, who finished in third place. Fourth spot was claimed by George Graham's emerging young Arsenal side, who also won the League cup in his first season in charge. Fifth place went to newly promoted Norwich City, whose manager Ken Brown built a strong squad on a limited budget to achieve a finish which would have been enough to qualify for UEFA Cup had it not been for the ongoing ban on English clubs in European competitions. Wimbledon finished sixth in the First Division in only their tenth season as a Football League club. Dave Bassett's men had led the league for the first two weeks of September.
Aston Villa were relegated to the Second Division just five years after they won the European Cup. Chairman Doug Ellis replaced manager Graham Turner with Manchester City's Billy McNeill in September, but McNeill was unable to stop Villa's decline, and they went down in bottom place. McNeill was subsequently sacked and replaced by Watford's Graham Taylor.
Villa were joined on the way down by Manchester City and Leicester City. In the first season of the relegation/promotion play-offs, Charlton Athletic beat Second Division Leeds United to retain their top flight status.
Manchester United, whose blistering start to the previous season had ended in failure, started the 1986–87 season badly and entered November second from bottom in the league. Manager Ron Atkinson paid for these failings with his job and in came the Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson to replace him. United subsequently edged up the table to finish in a secure 11th place.
Just two clubs were promoted from the Second Division this season. Champions Derby County were promoted for a second successive season, 12 seasons after they were last crowned champions of the First Division. Under the management of Arthur Cox they arrested an alarming slide which had seen them spend their centenary season (1984–85) in the Third Division. The runners-up spot went to Portsmouth, who were also automatically promoted.
The three play-off places were occupied by Oldham Athletic, Leeds United and Ipswich Town. Oldham and Ipswich blew their chances in the semi-finals, while Leeds were defeated by Charlton in the final to miss out on promotion. An FA Cup semi-final defeat had ended their chances of success in the cup competitions.
The relegation/promotion play-offs which operated between the Second and Third Divisions saw Sunderland go down to the Third Division for the first time in their history after losing to Gillingham. Lawrie McMenemy had been sacked by the Rokerites at the end of March and Bob Stokoe, manager of the 1973 FA Cup winning team, was brought in as his successor, but was unable to keep Sunderland clear of the drop. Gillingham were subsequently defeated in a play-off final replay that saw Swindon Town promoted to the second tier. Automatically relegated to the Third Division were Brighton and Grimsby after four and seven years in the Division respectively.
The three promotion places in this division were gained by three clubs who were among the least fancied promotion contenders at the start of the season. Champions Bournemouth were promoted to the Second Division for the first time in their history thanks to the efforts of hard working manager Harry Redknapp. Runners-up spot went to Bruce Rioch's Middlesbrough, who had begun the season on the verge of extinction and had been forced to play their first home game of the season at Hartlepool's Victoria Park because the official receiver had locked them out of Ayresome Park.
The relegation/promotion play-offs between the Third and Fourth Divisions saw Bolton Wanderers go down to the bottom division for the first time. Carlisle United, Darlington and Newport County were also relegated.
The stars of the Fourth Division during 1986–87 were Graham Carr's runaway champions Northampton Town, with young midfielder Eddie McGoldrick being the key player in his side's season of success. Promoted alongside Northampton were Preston, Southend and playoff winners Aldershot.
Down at the bottom end of the division, an injury equaliser for Torquay United kept them in the Football League after a police dog had bitten one of their players. The introduction of automatic relegation to the Conference saw Lincoln City lose their league status in favour of Conference champions Scarborough. Burnley, league champions 27 years earlier, finished third from bottom in the league and only a win on the last day of the season prevented them from going down to the Conference.
Coventry City and Tottenham Hotspur contested the final. Coventry were in the final for the first time, whereas Tottenham had won all seven of their previous appearances and were looking to set a new record of eight FA Cup victories, having equalled Aston Villa's record of seven FA Cup victories in 1982. But a 3–2 win after extra time gave Coventry the first major trophy in their history. Spurs had opened the scoring through Gary Mabbutt, who later scored an own goal, and their other goal came from top scorer Clive Allen, who found the net 49 times all competitions during a season where Spurs challenged to win all three domestic trophies but in the end failed to win any of them.
The ban on English clubs in Europe prevented them from qualifying for the European Cup Winners' Cup.
George Graham's return to Arsenal as manager was a success as he guided the North Londoners to glory in the League Cup after an eight-year trophy drought. Arsenal's run included a semi-final tussle with their arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur which they eventually won with a 2–1 replay victory at White Hart Lane. The final against Liverpool was the first time the Merseysiders had lost a game in which Ian Rush had scored. The Welshman gave the Merseysiders a first half lead only for Charlie Nicholas to bag two goals, the first a scrambled effort from a free-kick, and in the second half a low deflected shot past Bruce Grobbelaar after a cross by Perry Groves.
- Tottenham Hotspur striker Clive Allen, who scored 49 goals in all competitions, was voted both PFA Players' Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year – although his prolific goalscoring was not enough to win any trophies for Spurs who had been in the hunt for all three domestic prizes throughout the season.
- 20-year-old Arsenal defender Tony Adams was voted PFA Young Player of the Year for contributing to his side's good progress in the league as well as their League Cup triumph.
- Winger Martin Hayes, 22, was Arsenal's top scorer with 26 goals in all competitions.
- 21-year-old Nigel Clough was Nottingham Forest's joint top league goalscorer with 14 First Division goals.
- Micky Quinn scored 24 league goals to help Portsmouth win promotion to the First Division, despite missing three games in February while he served a prison sentence for disqualified driving.
- Howard Kendall was voted Manager of the Year for guiding Everton to their second league title in three seasons.
- In the First Division, Ken Brown guided Norwich City to a top-five finish just one year after winning promotion back to the top flight.
- Dave Bassett helped Wimbledon achieve a strong sixth-place finish in their first season as a top division club, and only their tenth in the Football League.
- George Graham ended Arsenal's eight-year trophy drought by bringing them silverware in the shape of the League Cup.
- Coventry City's John Sillett brought his club their first-ever major trophy by guiding them to victory over favourites Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup final.
- In the Second Division, Arthur Cox helped Derby County win the Second Division championship one year after they had won promotion from the Third Division.
- Portsmouth's Alan Ball guided his side to the Second Division runners-up spot and helped them win promotion after a long absence from the top flight.
- Joe Royle continued to take Oldham Athletic from strength to strength in the Second Division and they only just missed out on promotion.
- In the Third Division, Harry Redknapp guided Bournemouth to championship glory and brought them Second Division football for the first time.
- Bruce Rioch rescued Middlesbrough from financial oblivion to secure the second promotion place to the Second Division.
- Lou Macari secured Swindon Town's second successive promotion, this time as playoff winners in the Third Division.
- In the Fourth Division, Graham Carr built a strong Northampton Town side which ran away with the championship.
- Neil Warnock led Scarborough to the Conference title. They came the first club to gain automatic promotion to the league.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2009)
- Clive Allen (Tottenham Hotspur) – 33 goals
- Micky Quinn (Portsmouth) – 22 goals
- Andy Jones (Port Vale) – 27 goals
Diary of the season
1 July 1986 – After one season at Everton, Gary Lineker departs to Barcelona of Spain in a £2.75 million deal, where he will play alongside former Manchester United striker Mark Hughes in a side managed by Terry Venables. Ian Rush agrees a £3.2 million transfer to Juventus of Italy in a record fee for a British player, but will remain at Liverpool on loan for a season.
7 July 1986 – Two big First Division clubs buy young players from smaller clubs as they prepare to build for the future. Everton sign 20-year-old winger Neil Adams from Stoke City for £150,000, while Tottenham Hotspur sign 21-year-old defender Mitchell Thomas from Luton Town for £233,000.
25 July 1986 – Ipswich Town, relegated to the Second Division at the end of last season, sell England international defender Terry Butcher to Rangers, managed by former Liverpool midfielder Graeme Souness, in a £700,000 deal – a record for a Scottish club.
29 July 1986 – Middlesbrough are wound up in the High Court due to debts in excess of £1million, but have yet to be expelled from the Football League and may yet be included in the first round draw for the Football League Cup.
30 July 1986 – Wolverhampton Wanderers win a High Court appeal against their winding-up order, enabling them to compete in the Fourth Division campaign – the first time they have played at this level. Meanwhile, Middlesbrough are also reprieved, but the bailiffs have locked them out of Ayresome Park and they are expected to play at least one home game at Hartlepool United's ground.
8 August 1986 – Rival gangs of Manchester United and West Ham United hooligans are involved in violence on a Sealink ferry bound for Amsterdam, resulting in dozens of arrests, sparking fears that the ongoing ban on English football clubs in European competition could be extended to friendlies between English and foreign clubs.
22 August 1986 – The Football League confirms that the First Division will decrease to 21 clubs for the 1987–88 season, while the Second Division will expand to 23 clubs, and that in 1988–89 the First Division will have 20 clubs and the Second Division will have 24.
23 August 1986 – On the first day of the First Division season, Wimbledon's first match in the top division ends in a 3–1 defeat to Manchester City. Southampton record the biggest win of the day, 5–1 against Queens Park Rangers. Champions Liverpool beat Newcastle United 2–0, and Arsenal beat Manchester United 1–0.
31 August 1986 – Tottenham Hotspur finish August as First Division leaders under new manager David Pleat, level on points with Liverpool and West Ham United, while the bottom two places in the league are occupied by Manchester United and Aston Villa, who have yet to gain a point this season. Birmingham City and Hull City occupy the top two places in the Second Division, while the next three places are occupied by Oldham Athletic, Crystal Palace and Blackburn Rovers.
13 September 1986 – Bryan Robson makes his first league appearance since April when he returns from a shoulder injury to help Manchester United record their first league win of the season at the fifth attempt as they beat Southampton 5–1 at Old Trafford.
14 September 1986 – Aston Villa sack manager Graham Turner after just over two years at the helm.
16 September 1986 – Gordon Hill, the 32-year-old former Manchester United and England winger, becomes a high-profile new signing for GM Vauxhall Conference side Northwich Victoria, managed by former United striker Stuart Pearson.
20 September 1986 – Leeds United hooligans overturn and immolate a fish and chip van at Odsal Stadium, the temporary home of Bradford City. Nottingham Forest score six for the second League match in succession when they thrash Chelsea 6–2 at Stamford Bridge.
22 September 1986 – Luton Town are banned from this season's League Cup for refusing to lift their ban on away fans. Meanwhile, Aston Villa appoint Billy McNeill as manager from Manchester City, who replace him with Jimmy Frizzell.
24 September 1986 – When Nottingham Forest play Brighton & Hove Albion in a second round League Cup match, Forest defender Stuart Pearce's brother Ray was one of the linesmen. Pearce had no idea that his brother was officiating until he saw him at the start of the match.
28 September 1986 – Manchester United's dismal start to the season continues as they lose 1–0 at home to Chelsea in the league at Old Trafford - their sixth defeat from their opening eight games. After Kerry Dixon gives Chelsea an early lead, the home side have two penalties saved by goalkeeper Tony Godden.
30 September 1986 – Nottingham Forest are First Division leaders at the end of September, two points ahead of surprise contenders Norwich City and four ahead of Liverpool and Coventry City. Aston Villa still occupy bottom place and Manchester United are second from bottom with just four points so far this campaign. In the Second Division, Oldham Athletic and Portsmouth lead the way, followed by Crystal Palace, Leeds United and Sheffield United.
6 October 1986 – Luton Town lose an appeal against their expulsion from the League Cup.
11 October 1986 – Newly promoted Norwich City top the league after a 0–0 away draw with Luton Town.
21 October 1986 – Out of favour Manchester United defender John Gidman joins neighbours City on a free transfer.
29 October 1986 - In the third round of the League Cup, Fourth Division club Cardiff City upset First Division Chelsea while Second Division Ipswich Town are knocked out by Fourth Division team Cambridge United.
31 October 1986 – October ends with Nottingham Forest back on top of the First Division, one point ahead of Norwich city and two ahead of Everton and Arsenal. Manchester United and Aston Villa have both climbed out of the bottom two, ahead of Newcastle United, Manchester City and Chelsea. Portsmouth are now leaders of the Second Division, a point ahead of Oldham Athletic. Leeds United, Plymouth Argyle and Sunderland occupy the playoff places.
6 November 1986 – Ron Atkinson is sacked after five years as manager of Manchester United, who are second from bottom in the First Division and were eliminated from the League Cup 4–1 by Southampton two days ago. Aberdeen's Alex Ferguson is appointed as the new manager. Out of favour West Ham United striker Paul Goddard joins Newcastle United for £450,000.
8 November 1986 – Manchester United lose 2–0 to Oxford United in their first game under the management of Alex Ferguson. Liverpool move to the top of the First Division after a 3–1 win at Queens Park Rangers.
11 November 1986 – England under-21's begin their European Championship qualifying campaign with a 1–1 draw with Yugoslavia at London Road, Peterborough. Their only goal comes from Brighton & Hove Albion striker Terry Connor on his debut at this level.
21 November 1986 – Wolverhampton Wanderers continue their rebuilding process and bid for promotion from the Fourth Division by signing midfielder Andy Thompson and striker Steve Bull from neighbours West Bromwich Albion for £35,000 each.
30 November 1986 – Arsenal finish November as First Division leaders, while fifth placed Luton Town are putting up an unlikely title challenge. Nottingham Forest, Everton, Liverpool and Norwich City are also all within five points of the leaders. Newcastle United are bottom, with Chelsea also struggling in the relegation zone. Oldham Athletic and Portsmouth continue to lead the way in the Second Division, with Plymouth Argyle and Leeds United still occupying the play-off zone, joined by Derby County.
3 December 1986 – Former Southampton and Republic of Ireland winger Austin Hayes dies of lung cancer at the age of 28, 3 weeks after the illness was diagnosed. He had recently returned from a short spell playing in Sweden, and since leaving Southampton in 1981 had also played for Millwall and Northampton Town.
9 December 1986 - Liverpool play Celtic in an unofficial 'British Championship' match in the United Arab Emirates. After the match finished 1–1 after 90 minutes, Liverpool won 4–2 on penalties to win the first Dubai Super Cup.
14 December 1986 – 18 months after the stadium fire that killed 56 spectators, Bradford City return to a revamped Valley Parade.
23 December 1986 – Tottenham Hotspur sign midfielder Steve Hodge from Aston Villa for £650,000.
26 December 1986 – Manchester United beat Liverpool 1–0 at Anfield. It is United's first away win of the season and Liverpool's first home defeat.
31 December 1986 – The year draws to a close with Arsenal leading the league by four points from Everton. Leicester City are bottom of the table, but are within three points of six other teams. The race for First Division football next season is headed by Portsmouth, while Derby County have moved into second.
6 January 1987 – Ian Snodin joins Everton for £840,000 from Leeds United.
11 January 1987 – Nottingham Forest are surprisingly beaten 2–1 by Crystal Palace in the FA Cup third round.
13 January 1987 – Winger Peter Barnes becomes the second Manchester United player to transfer to neighbours City within three months when he completes his £30,000 return to the club where he started his career more than a decade ago.
23 January 1987 – Liverpool's £250,000 move for West Bromwich Albion defender Derek Statham falls through after the player fails a fitness test.
24 January 1987 – Arsenal lose 2–0 away to Manchester United, their first League defeat since September.
27 January 1987 – Liverpool sign Oxford United striker John Aldridge, 28, for a fee of £750,000 as player-manager Kenny Dalglish ends his search for a new striker ready to take over from Ian Rush, who will leave for Juventus at the end of the season.
30 January 1987 – Out-of-favour Arsenal defender Tommy Caton leaves the club after three years and signs for Oxford United in a £100,000 deal.
31 January 1987 – In the FA Cup fourth round, Coventry City win 1–0 away to Manchester United, while Arsenal put six goals past Plymouth Argyle at Highbury. The Gunners remain top of the First Division as the month ends, with Everton and Liverpool their nearest contenders and Nottingham Forest occupying fourth place. Aston Villa have slipped back into the relegation zone, joining Leicester City and Newcastle United. Portsmouth are still top of the Second Division with Derby County in second place. The play-off places are occupied by Oldham Athletic, Ipswich Town and Plymouth Argyle.
5 February 1987 – Watford winger Nigel Callaghan moves to Derby County in a £140,000 deal.
14 February 1987 – In a thrilling game between one side challenging for the title and the other battling to avoid relegation, Liverpool beat Leicester City 4–3 at Anfield, Ian Rush scoring a hat-trick.
18 February 1987 – Gary Lineker scores all four goals as England beat Spain 4–2 in a friendly in Madrid. England under-21's beat Spain 2-1 in a friendly in Burgos, with goals from 19-year-old Arsenal midfielder David Rocastle and 21-year-old West Ham United striker Tony Cottee.
19 February 1987 – Billy McNeill boosts Aston Villa's battle against relegation by paying Everton £300,000 for striker Warren Aspinall.
21 February 1987 – Wigan Athletic, currently in the Third Division and in only their ninth season as Football League members, reach the FA Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history by beating Hull City 3–0 in the fifth round at Springfield Park.
22 February 1987 – Title-chasing Everton are knocked out of the FA Cup 3–1 in the fifth round by Wimbledon.
24 February 1987 – Liverpool sign midfielder Nigel Spackman from Chelsea for £400,000.
28 February 1987 – Everton finish February as First Division leaders, but only lead on goal difference over second-placed Liverpool. Arsenal are a point behind with a game in hand. Portsmouth, Derby County, Oldham Athletic, Plymouth Argyle and Ipswich Town continue to lead the way in the Second Division.
1 March 1987 – Plans for a merger between Fulham and Queens Park Rangers are scrapped after the Football League vetoed the proposal. Former Arsenal winger Liam Brady returns to England in a £150,000 move to West Ham United from Ascoli of Italy.
3 March 1987 – England winger John Barnes is put on the transfer list by Watford. Liverpool are reported to be interested in the 23-year-old, who has spent his entire career at Vicarage Road.
6 March 1987 – Everton sign striker Wayne Clarke from Birmingham City for £300,000.
12 March 1987 – Oxford United pay a club record £600,000 for Brighton & Hove Albion striker Dean Saunders in a bid to avoid relegation.
14 March 1987 – Coventry City progress to the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time in their history thanks to a 3–0 away win over Sheffield Wednesday in the quarter-finals. On the same day, Arsenal's hopes of a unique domestic treble are ended with a 3–1 defeat at home to Watford.
15 March 1987 – Tottenham Hotspur move closer to a record eighth FA Cup triumph as they eliminate Wimbledon 2–0 at Plough Lane. Wigan Athletic's dreams are ended with a 2–0 home defeat by Leeds United.
26 March 1987 – Arsenal pay Leicester City £850,000 for 24-year-old striker Alan Smith, and then loan him back to Leicester until the end of the season.
31 March 1987 – Liverpool end March as First Division leaders, but only by a three-point margin over an Everton side who have two games in hand. Arsenal's challenge has faded after a run of six League matches without scoring, but Luton Town continue to defy the odds by occupying third place. Manchester City, Newcastle United and Charlton Athletic are tied on points at the bottom of the table. Portsmouth and Derby County remain at the top of the Second Division, while Oldham Athletic, Ipswich Town and Plymouth Argyle are still in the play-off zone.
9 April 1987 – Fourth Division side Halifax Town become the first Football League members to be run by their local council as part of a rescue package to save the club from bankruptcy.
11 April 1987 – Liverpool lose their third consecutive League match, 2–1 at Norwich City, and Everton pull three points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand.
12 April 1987 – Tottenham Hotspur book their eighth FA Cup final appearance with a 4–1 triumph over Watford at Villa Park in the semi-final. Coventry City reach the final for the first time by defeating Leeds United 3–2 in extra-time in the other semi-final at Hillsborough.
18 April 1987 - Everton and Liverpool overcome Midlands opposition in Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest respectively, while Tottenham Hotspur's 1–0 win over Charlton Athletic keeps alive their hopes of depriving the Merseyside clubs of the title – Spurs are the only side with a realistic prospect of doing so according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The high scorers in the day's Football League action were Crewe Alexandra, who put five past the league's bottom club Stockport County.
30 April 1987 – Scarborough seal the GM Vauxhall Conference title to become the first team to win automatic promotion to the Football League following last summer's abolition of the re-election system. In the First Division, Everton hold three-point lead over Liverpool with game in hand, and are eight points clear of third-placed Tottenham Hotspur. Derby County have overhauled Portsmouth at the top of the Second Division, while Oldham Athletic are the only other team still able to achieve automatic promotion.
4 May 1987 – Everton are confirmed champions of the First Division after beating Norwich City 1–0. Aston Villa are relegated from the First Division just six years after being champions, and five years after winning the European Cup. Oxford United, Charlton Athletic, Leicester City and Manchester City are battling to avoid the remaining two automatic relegation places, and the relegation play-off place.
9 May 1987 – Ian Rush completes his Liverpool career before signing for Juventus by scoring in a 3–3 draw at Chelsea, bringing his goals tally for the season to 40 in all competitions. Manchester City are relegated after losing to West Ham United, and Leicester City join them after a 0–0 draw with Oxford United. Charlton Athletic beat Queens Park Rangers 2–1 to finish in the relegation play-off place.
11 May 1987 – Champions Everton finish their League campaign by beating third-placed Tottenham Hotspur 1–0.
16 May 1987 – Coventry City win the first major trophy of their history with a 3–2 victory after extra time over Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup final. A thrilling game had seen Clive Allen put Tottenham Hotspur ahead in the second minute with his 49th goal of the season, only for Dave Bennett to equalise in the ninth minute. Gary Mabbutt restored Tottenham's lead after 40 minutes, but Keith Houchen's 64th-minute equaliser for Coventry City forced extra time. The winning goal came in the 96th minute, when Gary Mabbutt scored an own goal.
17 May 1987 – Sunderland are relegated to the Third Division for the first time in their history after being defeated on away goals in the Second Division relegation/Third Division promotion play-off semi-final by Gillingham, who will take on Swindon Town later this month to battle for a Second Division place.
18 May 1987 – Graham Taylor resigns after 11 years as Watford manager to succeed Billy McNeill at relegated Aston Villa. During his time at Watford, Taylor took the club from the Fourth Division to the First, finishing league runners-up in their first top flight season and reaching the FA Cup final in their second. Southampton give a free transfer to their longest serving player Nick Holmes, the last remaining player from their 1976 FA Cup winning side.
19 May 1987 – Mel Machin is named as the new manager of relegated Manchester City, with his predecessor Jimmy Frizzell remaining at the club as his assistant. Aston Villa begin rebuilding following relegation with the sale of defender Tony Dorigo to Chelsea for £450,000.
10 June 1987 – Liverpool sign John Barnes from Watford for £800,000.
13 June 1987 – England under-21's progress from the second stage of the Toulon Tournament by being Turkey on penalties after a goalless draw.
15 June 1987 – Despite guiding Luton Town to their best ever finish of seventh in the First Division in his only season as manager, John Moore resigns to be succeeded by his assistant, the former Fulham manager Ray Harford.
19 June 1987 - Tottenham tie up two deals in one day: England U21 Chris Fairclough signs from Nottingham Forest while Gary Mabbutt – a Manchester United transfer target – signs a "new long-term contract".
21 June 1987 – Glenn Hoddle leaves Tottenham Hotspur in a £750,000 move to AS Monaco.
24 June 1987 – England goalkeeper Peter Shilton leaves Southampton for newly promoted Derby County in a deal reported to be worth up to £1million – the highest fee for a goalkeeper in British football.
25 June 1987 – Chelsea boost their attack with a £335,000 move for Ipswich Town and Northern Ireland striker Kevin Wilson.
30 June 1987 – Liverpool break the British transfer fee record by paying £1.9 million for Newcastle United and England forward Peter Beardsley.
- 18 July 1986 - Sir Stanley Rous, 91, was Football Association Secretary from 1934 to 1962 and president of FIFA from 1961 to 1974.
- 28 August 1986 - Cyril Trailor, 67, Welsh born former Tottenham Hotspur and Orient wing-half, played 50 Football League games between 1938 and 1950.
- 1 September 1986 - Ivor Guy, 60, played more than 400 games for Bristol City as a full-back between 1945 and 1957.
- 17 September 1986 - Albert Titley, 74, played four league games for Port Vale in the 1930s, having failed to break into the first team at West Bromwich Albion.
- 21 September 1986 – Jamie Baker, 9, was mascot for Everton in their fixture against Manchester United, and died hours later from leukaemia.
- 29 September 1986 - Billy Bottrill, 83, played 326 league games and scored 112 goals between 1922 and 1934 as a forward for a host of clubs, peaking in the early 1930s when his goals helped Wolverhampton Wanderers win promotion to the First Division.
- 1 October 1986 - John Potts, 82, kept goal in a total of 329 league appearances during the interwar years for Leeds United and Port Vale.
- 2 October 1986 - Bernard Radford, 78, was a prolific goalscorer for Nelson near the end of their Football League membership in the late 1920s, and also turned out for Sheffield United and Northampton Town before dropping into amateur football in his mid twenties.
- 14 October 1986 – Barry Salvage, 38, a former QPR and Fulham midfielder, died of a heart attack after collapsing at Eastbourne during a charity run.
- 16 October 1986 – Ted Sagar, 76, was a goalkeeper for Everton from 1929 until 1954. His teammates included Dixie Dean and Tommy Lawton.
- 31 October 1986 - Bob Hardisty, 64, played six league games for Darlington in the early postwar years, and later played for non-league Bishop Auckland. He appeared six times for the Great Britain national football team in 1948, 1952 and 1956, having spent most of his playing career as an amateur. He was signed by Manchester United as an emergency squad member in the aftermath of the Munich air disaster, but never played a first team game, although he was retained by Matt Busby as a member of the coaching staff.
- November (undated) - Jimmy Cunliffe, 74, scored 73 goals in 1974 league games for Everton in the six seasons preceding the outbreak of World War II, and was capped once for England.
- 7 November 1986 - Charlie McGillivray, 74, played eight league games for Manchester United when they were a Second Division side in the first half of the 1930s. He spent most of his playing career in his native Scotland.
- 19 November 1986 - Jackie Arthur, 68, played more than 200 games for Stockport County, Chester and Rochdale between 1938 and 1953 in a career which was disrupted by the war. He also had two spells with Everton but did not play a first team game for them.
- 26 November 1986 - Fred Obrey, 74, played at centre-half for Port Vale Tranmere Rovers in the 1930s before the war halted his professional career.
- 1 December 1986 - Reg Attwell, 66, began his career as a wing-half with West Ham United before joining Burnley in 1946 and making more than 250 appearances for the club in the next eight years before completing his career at Bradford City.
- 3 December 1986 – Austin Hayes, 28, died of lung cancer just 3 weeks after the illness was diagnosed. He had been on the losing side for Southampton against Nottingham Forest in the 1979 League Cup final and was capped by Éire in the same year. He later turned out for Millwall and Northampton Town, and just before his death had a brief spell playing in Sweden.
- 31 December 1986 - Jack Bailey, 65, served Bristol City as a full-back between 1944 and 1958, making more than 350 appearances.
- 16 January 1987 - Jimmy Wilson, 62, scored 12 goals in 49 league games as an inside-forward and wing-half for Watford in the 1950s.
- 27 January 1987 - Roy Brien, 56, made his only Football League appearance in April 1954 as a half-back for Port Vale in the Third Division South.
- 8 March 1987 - Eddie O'Hara, 60, spent most of his career in his native Ireland but played six First Division games for Birmingham City in the early postwar years and had two spells with Hereford United when they were still a non-league club.
- 12 March 1987 - Arthur Briggs, 86, played for Hull City, Swindon Town and Tranmere Rovers as a centre-half during the interwar years.
- 13 March 1987 - Jack Haines, 66, scored twice for England in a 6-0 win over Switzerland in his only senior game for the country in 1948. His Football League career spanned from 1946 to 1956 and took in 91 goals for Swansea Town, Leicester City, West Bromwich Albion, Bradford Park Avenue, Rochdale and Chester. He also played for several non-league clubs.
- 13 March 1987 - Jim Kelso, 76, played in England and his native Scotland for clubs including Dumbarton, Port Vale and Cardiff City before his career was cut short by the Second World War.
- 2 April 1987 – Trevor Hockey, 43, died of a heart attack while participating in a five-a-side football tournament for charity. He was a former Welsh international footballer who also played for clubs including Bradford City and Aston Villa.
- 5 April 1987 - Jack Howe, 71, was capped three times for England in the late 1940s and played 276 league games between 1934 and 1951 in a career which began at Hartlepool United, took him to Derby County (where he collected an FA Cup winner's medal) and finished at Huddersfield Town before continuing playing at non-league level until the late 1950s.
- 6 April 1987 - George Payne, 65, kept goal 467 times for Tranmere Rovers between 1946 and 1961 and also played non-league football for Northwich Victoria in the 1960s.
- 9 April 1987 - Bert Flatley, 67, was an inside-forward who make his league debut in 1938 for York City before transferring to Port Vale a year later, only for his career to be disrupted by the outbreak of war after just two games. His only further taste of league action came in the early 1950s, when he made eight appearances for Workington in their first two seasons as a Football League club.
- 19 April 1987 - Stan Richards, 70, was capped once at senior level for Wales and scored well over 200 goals for Cardiff City, Swansea Town and Barry Town between 1946 and 1955.
- 22 April 1987 - Bill Hayes, 71, Irish born defender, played 184 league games for Huddersfield Town during two spells between 1934 and 1950 before completing his career at Burnley.
- 22 June 1987 - William Price, 83, was a winger for Port Vale in the late 1930s
Notes = Number in parentheses is the times that club has won that honour. * indicates new record for competition
Despite the pre-season departure of Gary Lineker and the loss of several players for significant periods through injury (including Paul Bracewell for the entire season), Everton won their second league title in three seasons with a nine-point lead over Merseyside rivals Liverpool, who were also on the losing side in the League Cup to Arsenal.
Tottenham Hotspur made a challenge for all three domestic honours, but ended the season with nothing. They finished third in the league, lost to Arsenal in the semi-finals of the League Cup, and suffered a shock defeat to Coventry City in the FA Cup final. Fourth placed Arsenal led the league for much of the winter but compensated for a subsequent collapse in league form by lifting the League Cup for the first time, ending their eight-year trophy drought. Fifth place went to newly promoted Norwich City, who performed well and along with Everton were the hardest team in the division to beat all season. Wimbledon's first season in the First Division and their tenth in the Football League was a great success, as they briefly topped the table early in the season and finished sixth. Luton Town achieved the best season of their history by finishing seventh.
The pressure was on Ron Atkinson after Manchester United's failed title challenge the previous season, and after a heavy defeat at Southampton in a League Cup replay early in November, Atkinson was gone and his job was given to Alex Ferguson, who had achieved great success north of the border at Aberdeen. Despite not buying any new players during the season, Ferguson was able to steer United to a secure 11th-place finish in the final table, six months after they had been in the relegation places.
A mere five years after lifting the European Cup, Aston Villa finished bottom of the First Division and were relegated. They went down along with Manchester City and Leicester City, but Charlton Athletic kept their First Division status after triumphing over Second Division opposition in the new playoffs.
Chelsea and West Ham United struggled at the wrong end of the First Division a season after being title contenders, but managed to avoid relegation.
The end of the 1986-87 season saw extensive activity by First Division club in the transfer market. Liverpool were faced with a future without Ian Rush following his move to Juventus, but used the windfall to sign Peter Beardsley from Newcastle United for a national record fee of £1.9million, and pay nearly £1million for Watford and England winger John Barnes. The Reds had also prepared for life without Rush with a mid-season move for Oxford United stirker John Aldridge. Midfield star Glenn Hoddle, 29, who had spent all of his career at Tottenham, became the latest player to leave the English First Division for another nation when he signed for AS Monaco. Arsenal strengthened their ranks by paying £850,000 for Leicester City striker Alan Smith. Alex Ferguson paid Celtic £850,000 for prolific striker Brian McClair, who was originally valued at £2million, and bolstered his defence with a £250,000 move for Arsenal and England defender Viv Anderson.
|15||West Ham United||42||14||10||18||52||67||–15||52|
|16||Queen's Park Rangers||42||13||11||18||48||64||–16||50|
|20||Leicester City (R)||42||11||9||22||54||76||–22||42|
|21||Manchester City (R)||42||8||15||19||36||57||–21||39|
|22||Aston Villa (R)||42||8||12||22||45||79||–34||36|
P = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; F = Goals for; A = Goals against; GD = Goal difference; Pts = Points
Derby County's revival continued with a second successive promotion and the Second Division title. They were joined by a Portsmouth side whose last taste of First Division action was in the late 1950s.
The first team to miss out on automatic promotion from 3rd place under the new play-off system was Oldham Athletic, seeking top-flight football for the first time since 1923, which then lost to 4th place Leeds United on a last-minute aggregate-equalizer and deciding away goal. Billy Bremner enjoyed a good first full season as manager of the Leeds United side he had once captained as a player, taking them to the FA Cup semi-finals as well as the playoffs, where only a defeat to Charlton Athletic in the final prevented them from reclaiming the First Division place they had last held in 1982. Charlton, 20th-place finishers in Division 1, had ended 5th-place Ipswich Town's hopes of an immediate return to the First Division in the semi-finals.
Financially troubled Grimsby Town were unsurprisingly relegated to the Third Division, but it was perhaps more surprising to see Brighton lose their Second Division status after the three secure finishes that had followed the loss of their First Division status in 1983 – the year where they had almost won the FA Cup. The final relegation place went to Sunderland, who fell into the Third Division for the first time in their history after failing in the playoffs.
|1||Derby County (C, P)||42||25||9||8||64||38||+26||84|
|15||West Bromwich Albion||42||13||12||17||51||49||+2||51|
|21||Grimsby Town (R)||42||10||14||18||39||59||–20||44|
|22||Brighton & Hove Albion (R)||42||9||12||21||37||54||–17||39|
P = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; F = Goals for; A = Goals against; GD = Goal difference; Pts = Points
Former West Ham United player Harry Redknapp managed Bournemouth to the Third Division title and secured them a place in the Second Division for the very first time, while Middlesbrough thrived under new ownership after almost going out of business and their impressive young team were promoted straight back to the Second Division as runners-up in the Third. The final promotion place went to Swindon Town, whose success in the playoffs gave them a second consecutive promotion.
Newport County's mounting debts and the gradual breakup of the team that had almost reached the Second Division in 1983 culminated in inevitable relegation to the Fourth Division, with Darlington and Carlisle United following them down. The fourth and final relegation place went to Bolton Wanderers, the second illustrious Football League side this season to reach its lowest ebb as victims of the new playoffs.
|1||Bournemouth (C, P)||46||29||10||7||76||40||+36||97|
|3||Swindon Town (P)||46||25||12||9||77||47||+30||87|
|21||Bolton Wanderers (R)||46||10||15||21||46||58||–12||45|
|22||Carlisle United (R)||46||10||8||28||39||78||–39||38|
|24||Newport County (R)||46||8||13||25||49||86||–37||37|
P = Matches played; W = Matches won; D = Matches drawn; L = Matches lost; F = Goals for; A = Goals against; GD = Goal difference; Pts = Points
Northampton Town's excellent season brought them 103 goals, 99 points, the Fourth Division title and a place in the Third Division. A season after having to apply to stay in the Football League, Preston North End enjoyed a fantastic turnaround in fortunes and won promotion from the Fourth Division as runners-up under new manager John McGrath. The last automatic promotion place went to Southend United, while Aldershot triumphed in the playoffs at the expense of their illustrious rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Lincoln City became the first team to suffer automatic relegation from the Football League, as a result of failing to win their final game of the season while Burnley (league champions as recently as 1960) won their last game and Torquay United who drew their last game with an injury-time goal after an injured player was bitten by a police dog.
|1||Northampton Town (C, P)||46||30||9||7||103||53||+50||99|
|2||Preston North End (P)||46||26||12||8||72||47||+25||90|
|3||Southend United (P)||46||25||5||16||68||55||+13||80|
|24||Lincoln City (R)||46||12||12||22||45||65||–20||48|
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