Football League Centenary Trophy

This is a good article. Click here for more information.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Football League Centenary Trophy
Dates29 August – 9 October 1988
Runners-upManchester United
Matches played7
Goals scored17 (2.43 per match)
Attendance130,025 (18,575 per match)
Top goal scorer(s)Brian Marwood
(2 goals)

The Football League Centenary Trophy (also known as the Mercantile Credit Centenary Trophy for sponsorship reasons) was an English football tournament held during the 1988-89 season to celebrate the 100th birthday of The Football League. The competition was played on a knockout basis between the top eight sides from the Football League First Division the previous season, with the final between Arsenal and Manchester United taking place at the birthplace of League football, Aston Villa's home ground, Villa Park on 9 October 1988.

Goals from Paul Davis and Michael Thomas gave Arsenal a 2–1 victory, with Clayton Blackmore the scorer for United.[1] Despite most of the country's leading clubs being involved, crowds for the Centenary Trophy were generally disappointing and only the semi-final match between Arsenal and Liverpool attracted more than 25,000.[2]


The Football League marked its centenary during the 1987–88 and 1988–89 seasons with a number of events; an exhibition game between a Football League XI and a World XI in August 1987,[3] followed by a Centenary Friendly Tournament eight months later.[2][4] The final centrepiece was the Football League Centenary Trophy, a one-off tournament which commenced at the start of the 1988–89 season.[2] The clubs which qualified for the tournament were the previous season's top eight, as follows:[2]

First Division table[5]
Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Liverpool 40 26 12 2 87 24 +63 90
2 Manchester United 40 23 12 5 71 38 +33 81
3 Nottingham Forest 40 20 13 7 67 39 +28 73
4 Everton 40 19 13 8 53 27 +26 70
5 Queens Park Rangers 40 19 10 11 48 38 +10 67
6 Arsenal 40 18 12 10 58 39 +19 66
7 Wimbledon 40 14 15 11 58 47 +11 57
8 Newcastle United 40 14 14 12 55 53 +2 56



The quarter-finals were staged over three days in August 1988. Liverpool recorded the biggest win of the round, defeating Nottingham Forest 4–1 at a half-capacity Anfield.[6] The home side rested striker John Aldridge and started Ian Rush who player-manager Kenny Dalglish said "...needed some matches. We might as well get him as fit as we can, as quickly as we can."[6] All of Liverpool's four goals came in the second half; Barry Venison set them on their way to victory with a well-hit shot in the 50th minute.[6] Manchester United meanwhile secured a place in the semi-finals with a 1–0 win against Everton.[7] Gordon Strachan scored the game's only goal in the second half, heading in at the far post.[7] It was his first goal for the club, much to the delight and amusement of manager Alex Ferguson: "You're waiting for your first goal of the season, you've got people like [Brian] McClair and [Mark] Hughes on the park and it comes from Gordon Strachan's head!"[7] Newcastle United needed extra time to overcome their opponents Wimbledon; the tie was settled by Michael O'Neill's goal in the 109th minute.[8] Arsenal completed the semi-final line up with a 2–0 win away at Queens Park Rangers.[9]

Liverpool4–1Nottingham Forest
Venison 50'
Mølby 70' (pen.)
Houghton 75'
Barnes 84'
[11] Webb 90'
Anfield, Liverpool
Attendance: 20,141
Referee: G.Tyson (Sunderland)
Manchester United1–0Everton
Strachan 66' [7]
Old Trafford, Manchester
Attendance: 16,439
Referee: G. Alpin (Westmorland County)
Newcastle United1–0 (a.e.t.)Wimbledon
O'Neill 109' [8]
St James' Park, Newcastle
Attendance: 17,141
Queens Park Rangers0–2Arsenal
[9] Adams 3'
Marwood 76'
Loftus Road, London
Attendance: 10,019


The semi-finals were played over two days in September 1988. Arsenal faced Liverpool at their home ground, Highbury.[13] Injuries to eight first-team players, notably goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, defender Alan Hansen, and winger John Barnes meant the visitors fielded an unfamiliar side, one which required the involvement of Dalglish towards the end of the tie.[13] Arsenal took the lead just after the half-hour mark when a corner was flicked on by Alan Smith and Perry Groves was in space to nudge the ball past Mike Hooper.[13] Liverpool equalised in the second half through Steve Staunton, but Brian Marwood's volley restored Arsenal's lead and they held on for a place in the final.[13]

The second semi-final tie, between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old Trafford was decided in extra time.[14] A audience of just under 15,000 – "one of the smallest crowds to gather at Old Trafford for a senior fixture in many years" – saw two halves of insipid attacking football but stout defending.[15] Newcastle came close to scoring the winner two minutes before normal time was up, only for substitute Mirandinha to miss.[15] Defender Steve Bruce scored inside 44 seconds of extra time, and ten minutes later McClair headed in to give United a 2–0 win.[14]

Groves 33'
Marwood 82'
[17] Staunton 80'
Highbury, London
Attendance: 29,135
Referee: John Martin (Wessex)
Manchester United2–0 (a.e.t.)Newcastle United
Bruce 91'
McClair 101'
Old Trafford, Manchester
Attendance: 14,968
Referee: John Key (South Yorkshire)


The tournament reached its climax on 9 October 1988, when Arsenal competed against Manchester United. The match was held at Villa Park, considered the birthplace of the Football League. Before the match United captain Bryan Robson told a reporter there was "not so much pressure" on his teammates to win the competition, but noted the incentive of beating Arsenal as the winners stood to receive £50,000.[19] The first half, played under drizzle, saw Arsenal score twice in four minutes to take a commanding lead before the break.[20] Paul Davis broke the deadlock, before he turned provider and set Michael Thomas up to score their second.[21] Once the rain stopped and United introduced Strachan on to the field, both sides played at a frantic pace.[20] United ended the half strongly, and scored with six minutes of normal time remaining through Clayton Blackmore.[20] Strachan almost equalised but for Lee Dixon's intervention on the goal line.[20]

Journalist Ian Ridley praised the end-to-end nature of the final and felt it showcased the best of English football, writing in The Guardian: "[It] illustrated perfectly the major development in the modern game; the swiftness that English supporters demand and that excites overseas viewers."[21] In his match report, Steve Curry of the Daily Express summarised: "The League’s centenary celebrations have, overall, been a shambles, but this rousing finale at least left one worthwhile memory."[2]

Arsenal2–1Manchester United
Davis 36'
Thomas 40'
[20] Blackmore 84'
Villa Park, Birmingham
Attendance: 22,182


John Barnes (pictured in 2012), scored his only goal of the tournament for Liverpool against Nottingham Forest.
Rank Name Team Goals
1 England Brian Marwood Arsenal 2
2 England Tony Adams Arsenal 1
England John Barnes Liverpool
Wales Clayton Blackmore Manchester United
England Steve Bruce Manchester United
England Paul Davis Arsenal
England Perry Groves Arsenal
Republic of Ireland Ray Houghton Liverpool
Scotland Brian McClair Manchester United
Denmark Jan Mølby Liverpool
Northern Ireland Michael O'Neill Newcastle United
Scotland Gordon Strachan Manchester United
England Michael Thomas Arsenal
England Barry Venison Liverpool
England Neil Webb Nottingham Forest



  • Rollin, Jack (1989). Rothmans Football Yearbook 1989–1990. London: Queen Anne Press. ISBN 0-356-17910-9.


  1. ^ Rollin (1989), p. 604.
  2. ^ a b c d e Pye, Steven (4 January 2017). "How Arsenal won the Centenary Trophy, the least celebrated title in their history". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 May 2017.
  3. ^ When the Football League took on the world…, England Memories, 7 August 2015
  4. ^ What on earth was the Mercantile Credit Football Festival?, The Guardian, 10 June 2015
  5. ^ "English Division One (old) table". Statto Organisation. Archived from the original on 3 April 2016. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Bateman, Cynthia (30 August 1988). "Rush in and out of luck". The Guardian. London. p. 10.
  7. ^ a b c d Ball, Peter (30 August 1988). "United's comfort drawn from an unlikely source". The Times. p. 33.
  8. ^ a b Lacey, David (30 August 1988). "O'Neill swings the balance back in Newcastle's favour". The Times. p. 33.
  9. ^ a b Lacey, David (1 September 1988). "Arsenal stay in credit". The Guardian. London. p. 14.
  10. ^ a b c "Today's fixtures". The Times. 29 August 1988. p. 29.
  11. ^ "Matchdetails from Liverpool – Nottingham Forest played on Monday 29 August 1988". Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  12. ^ "Today's fixtures". The Times. 31 August 1988. p. 32.
  13. ^ a b c d Jones, Stuart (21 September 1988). "Arsenal chase away the pale shadow of League champions". The Times. p. 44.
  14. ^ a b c Bateman, Cynthia (22 September 1988). "Bruce at the second try". The Guardian. London. p. 18.
  15. ^ a b Ross, Ian (22 September 1988). "Late reward for the diehards". The Times. p. 44.
  16. ^ "Today's fixtures". The Times. 20 September 1988. p. 44.
  17. ^ "Matchdetails from Arsenal – Liverpool played on Tuesday 20 September 1988". Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  18. ^ "Today's fixtures". The Times. 21 September 1988. p. 44.
  19. ^ Rosenthal, Jim (presenter), Moore, Brian (commentator) (9 October 1988). Soccer Highlights: Mercantile Credit Trophy Final (Television production). ITV. See also YouTube footage, from 40 seconds in.
  20. ^ a b c d e Jones, Stuart (10 October 1988). "Davis the villain departs the stage as a centenary hero". The Times. p. 40.
  21. ^ a b Ridley, Ian (10 October 1988). "Arsenal end League party with style and grace". The Guardian. London. p. 14.
  22. ^ "Tomorrow". The Times. 9 October 1988. p. 54.