Football League Centenary Tournament
The Football League Centenary Tournament (also known as the Mercantile Credit Football Festival) was held from 16 to 17 April 1988 at Wembley Stadium to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Football League. Qualifying was based on clubs' records in a given set of matches during the season.
Despite the hopes of the Football League, the attendances of 41,500 on the first day and 17,000 for the finals meant there was plenty of open spaces to be found around Wembley. The attendance situation was not helped by leading London clubs such as Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Chelsea all not appearing in the tournament.
The tournament was won by First Division Nottingham Forest, who beat Sheffield Wednesday in the final on penalties. Their success was achieved despite manager Brian Clough not attending the Saturday. Arguably the biggest success story was Division Four side Tranmere Rovers, who a year earlier had almost been relegated out of the Football League. They stunned top-flight sides Wimbledon and Newcastle United, before taking Forest to a penalty shoot-out in the semi-finals.
The following teams participated in the tournament:
Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers, Crystal Palace, Everton, Leeds United, Liverpool, Luton Town, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday, Sunderland, Tranmere Rovers, Wigan Athletic, Wimbledon, Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Saturday 16 April, 1988
The first day of competition consisted of the Opening rounds and Quarter Finals and were 40-minute matches. Owing to the limited time, 5 of the 12 matches ended up goalless and required a sudden-death penalty shootout.
Tranmere Rovers 1 Wimbledon 0
Leeds United 0 Nottingham Forest 3
Luton Town 0 Manchester United 2
Aston Villa 0 Blackburn Rovers 0 (Aston Villa won on pens)
Everton 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 (Everton won on pens)
Crystal Palace 0 Sheffield Wednesday 0 (Sheffield Wednesday won on pens)
Wigan Athletic 0 Sunderland 0 (Wigan Athletic won on pens)
Liverpool 0 Newcastle United 0 (Newcastle United won on pens)
Newcastle United 0 Tranmere Rovers 2
Nottingham Forest 0 Aston Villa 0 (Nottingham Forest won on penalties)
Everton 0 Manchester United 1
Sheffield Wednesday 1 Wigan Athletic 1 (Sheffield Wednesday won on pens)
Sunday 17 April, 1988
The Semi-finals and Final were played on the Sunday. Matches were 60 minutes long.
The centenary of the Football League was marked with numerous events between mid-1987 and 1988, as well as the above tournament. Other occasions included a match at Wembley between a Football League XI and a Rest of the World XI (featuring Diego Maradona and Gary Lineker) in August 1987; Football League champions Everton facing Bayern Munich in a mid-season challenge match (at a time when English clubs were banned from UEFA competitions) with Everton winning 3-1; and the Mercantile Credit Centenary Trophy between leading teams early in 1988-89 (the final was won by Arsenal against Manchester United in October 1988). The celebrations were all sponsored by Mercantile Credit.