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Football in England

From Academic Kids

Football is the unofficial national sport of England, and as such has an important place within English national life. Football as an organised sport first developed in England before being carried throughout the world by its many fans.

Contents

1 Football in different regions of England

2 Seasons in English football

History and development

Football's roots can be found in the ball games often played in English communities in centuries past. However, it was not until the mid-nineteenth century that efforts to develop commonly accepted rules first achieved success. See football for details on the early development of football.

The Football Association

The Football Association, commonly known as The FA, is the governing body of football in England. All of England's professional football clubs must be members, and thousands of semi-professional and amateur clubs also belong.

League system

The Football League, established in 1888, was the first professional football league in the world. Since its founding, however, many other leagues have been founded in England. Over recent years there has been an increasing effort to link all these leagues together in a pyramidal structure allowing promotion and relegation between different levels. The primary motivation for this drive is to maintain the possibility that any club in England may dream of one day rising to the very top, no matter what status they currently hold. For more information, see English football league system.

The FA Premier League

The FA Premier League is the highest league in English football and has 20 member clubs. Winning the Premier League is considered the greatest honour in English football and guarantees qualification for the UEFA Champions League, Europe's elite club competition.

The Premier League was founded in 1992 after England's top clubs broke away from The Football League in a successful effort aimed at increasing their income at the expense of clubs in the lower divisions. Links with The Football League were maintained, and each season the bottom three clubs are relegated from the Premier League and replaced by three from the Football League Championship.

At the top of the Premier League, the second placed club currently qualify for the Champions League, joining the Premier League winners. The third and fourth placed clubs also qualify, but have to win a two-legged preliminary match against another side. This means that although four English teams can be in the Champions League proper, only two are guaranteed places. The fifth placed club qualifies for the UEFA Cup, and the sixth and seventh may also qualify if one of the top four clubs also wins either the FA Cup or League Cup. The number of clubs qualifying for European competition is determined by UEFA and is based on previous years' results.

The Football League

Although the oldest league in the world, The Football League now ranks second in the hierarchy of English football after the split of England's top clubs in 1992 to form the FA Premier League. The Football League has 72 member clubs evenly divided among three divisions: the Football League Championship, Football League One and Football League Two..

The National League System

The National League System covers all the so-called non-league football in England, that is, the football played by clubs below The Football League.

Reserve leagues

Many teams operate reserve teams in separate leagues; in some lower levels of the pyramid, reserve teams play against first teams. The main leagues for reserve teams of professional clubs are the FA Premier Reserve League, the Pontins Central League, and the Pontins Football Combination.

Cup competitions

The two most important cup competitions in England are the FA Cup and the League Cup, but several other national cups are targeted at clubs at different levels.

The FA Cup

The FA Cup is the oldest and most respected national cup competition in the world. It is open to around 600 clubs in the higher levels of the pyramid.

The Football League Cup

The League Cup is England's second major cup competition, and is contested by the 92 clubs in the FA Premier League and The Football League.

Other cup competitions

The Football League Trophy, currently known by its sponsored name of the LDV Vans Trophy, is a competition for clubs in the Football League One and Football League Two, as well as a number of specially invited clubs from the Football Conference.

The FA Trophy is open to leading clubs in the next few levels below the Football League, and the FA Vase to clubs in the next couple of levels below that. These competitions replaced the FA Amateur Cup, which was the leading competition for non-League teams for many years.Representative teams from leagues lower than capable of being competitive in the Vase contest the FA National League System Cup, and the FA Sunday Cup is for Sunday League Football teams.

Other defunct national cup competitions include:

The England national team

The England national football team played in the very first international football match in 1872, but saw its greatest triumph in winning the World Cup in 1966.

Women's football

The first recorded women's football match in England was more than 100 years ago but it is only in recent years that women's football has begun to receive some serious attention, in the form of televised matches (such as the FA Women's Cup final), international games being held at larger stadia and, to a lesser extent, the comedy film Bend It Like Beckham.

Burton Brewers' 57-0 loss against Willenhall Town on March 4, 2001 in the West Midland Regional Women's Football League, Division One North may be a British record for the biggest defeat in a football match [1] (http://www.rsssf.com/miscellaneous/ssa.html).

Beyond organised football

Football in England is not just a spectator sport or the preserve of official leagues and clubs, but a sport attracting mass participation at many different levels and in a wide variety of forms.


Football in different regions of England

The most successful footballing sides in England tend to hail from the big cities, although some teams from smaller cities and towns have achieved success in the past.


London

London is currently the footballing capital of England, with Chelsea being Premiership champions (with a record 95 points and just 15 goals conceded) and runners-up Arsenal achieving glory in the F.A Cup. As an added bonus, West Ham United have won promotion to the Premiership after winning the Football League Championship playoffs. There have been many strong performances from London teams in the past. Earlier in the current decade, Arsenal lifted the Premiership title twice (once unbeaten) and have won the F.A Cup three times in the last four years.

During the 1990's, Arsenal were league champions twice. They lifted the First Division (now Premiership) title in 1991 with just one defeat from 38 league fixtures, won both domestic cup finals in 1993, achieved continental glory with the Cup Winners Cup in 1994 and were Premiership/F.A Cup double winners in 1998. Chelsea also started to perform well towards the end of the decade, being F.A Cup winners in 1997 and winning the Cup Winners Cup and the League Cup a year later. In 2000 they won the first F.A Cup of the 21st century, and the last final at Wembley before the old stadium was rebuilt. Tottenham also had some success in the 1990's, being F.A Cup winners in 1991 and League Cup winners in 1999.

The most successful London team of the 1980's were Tottenham Hotspur, who achieved F.A Cup success in 1981 and 1982 as well as gaining a UEFA Cup victory in 1984. Arsenal won their first-ever League Cup in 1987 and followed this up two years later with their first league title in 18 years - snatched in the final seconds of the league campaign when they beat Liverpool to take the title on goal difference. West Ham United also made their mark on football in the 1980's, by securing an F.A Cup success in 1980 - they are still the most recent team from outside the top division to win the F.A Cup. But the most famous success by a London club during the 1980's was Wimbledon's shock 1-0 win over Liverpool in the 1988 F.A Cup final, which was achieved in their eleventh season as a league club and only their second in the top division. They robbed league champions Liverpool of their chance to complete a then-unique repeat of the league title and F.A Cup double.

The 1970's also brought a fair amount of success for London clubs. Arsenal became only the second team of the 20th century to win the league title/F.A Cup double when Bertie Mee's side roared to success in the two most prestigious domestic competitions. The Gunners had more success in 1979 when they won the F.A Cup, but by the end of the decade they had fallen behind the very best of English and European teams. Tottenham's successes of the 1970's were the 1971 UEFA Cup and 1973 League Cup, but they soon started to slump and fell into the Second Division in 1977 - although they won promotion the following year and since then have had an unbroken run of top division membership. West Ham United were successful during the 1970's, beating another London club - Fulham - to triumph in the 1975 F.A Cup final. Chelsea began the decade on a high as F.A Cup winners in 1970 and Cup Winners Cup winners in 1971, but towards the end of the decade they almost went out of business due to mounting debts and relegation to the Second Division.

Tottenham Hotspur ruled London football during the 1960's. In 1961 they lifted the league title and F.A Cup to become the first team of the 20th century to achieve such a feat. They retained the F.A Cup the following season and went on to win the Cup Winners Cup in 1963. Another F.A Cup triumph followed in 1967 and by the end of the decade, Bill Nicholson's side were regarded as one of the best English sides of all time. The only other English club to have any significant success in the 1960's was West Ham United, who lifted the F.A Cup in 1964 and the Cup Winners Cup in 1965. Their captain Bobby Moore went on to skipper England's World Cup Winners of 1966.

Tottenham Hotspur achieved the first of their two league titles in 1950's when they topped the league in 1951. Chelsea also secured the league title in 1955, but there was little more success for London sides during this period.


Central England

The teams playing in central England have had varied success over the years.

Aston Villa were the second club in history to complete the double of league title and F.A Cup, they achieved this success in 1897 and no other English clubs could repeat it for more than 60 years afterwards. Villa have often been the most successful of the football clubs in central England, although that is not saying much considering they were the only midlands club to play top division football for much of the 1990's as well as the later part of the 1980's. Since 2002 they have been in the Premiership with Birmingham City, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Villa have won the F.A Cup seven times, the last time in 1957 - this was a record number of wins until Tottenham equalled the record in 1982 and surprassed it in 1991. Villa's biggest success in modern times came in the early 1980's when they were crowned league champions in 1981 and won the European Cup a year later, but a decline set in and they were relegated in 1987. Villa regained their First Division place after just one season and have been in the top division ever since. They were runners-up in the first season of the Premier League (1992-93) and were League Cup winners twice during the 1990's, but have mostly finished mid-table during their Premiership career.

West Bromwich Albion are one of the most famous clubs in English football, but they have spent most of the last 25 years outside the top division. During the late 19th century, Albion were F.A Cup winners twice. They added three more F.A Cups during the 20th century - in 1931, 1954 and 1968 - and were league champions in 1920 for the only time in their history. There was also a League Cup victory in 1966. Albion have been trophyless since 1968, but they were briefly recognised as a top class side in the late 1970's and late 1980's under the management of Ron Atkinson. Albion finished fourth in the league in 1980 and reached the UEFA Cup quarter-finals a year later, but Atkinson was then lured to Manchester United and Albion's fortunes soon plummeted to an all-time low. By 1991 they had been relegated to the Third Division for the first time in their history, but won promotion via the new Division Two playoffs in 1993. They spent the next nine seasons in Division One before securing promotion to the Premiership as Division One runners-up in 2002. Their return to the top flight after almost 20 seasons absent ended in relegation with just six wins from 38 Premiership games, but they won promotion at the first attempt and former player Bryan Robson returned as manager soon afterwards to make sure that Albion survived relegation on the last day of the 2004-05 season. With just 34 points, they have achieved the fewest points by any team to avoid relegation under the 3 points for a win system. With just 6 wins, they have won fewer games than any other club to avoid relegation under the 3 points for a win system. Bryan Robson will now be looking to strengthen his squad to make sure they do better in 2005-06.

Wolverhampton Wanderers, like their near neighbours and deadly rivals West Bromwich Albion, are a famous football club but have had a difficult time during the last quarter of a century. Their golden era was the 1950's, when a dominant side managed by Stan Cullis and captained by Billy Wright won three league championships and one F.A Cup as well as reaching the European Cup semi-finals twice. Wolves went on a 14-year trophyless run from 1960, which ended with a League Cup success in 1974. They won the League Cup again in 1980, but have been trophyless since then and have spent just three seasons in the top division. Wolves were relegated from the First Division in 1981 and regained their top division place two seasons later, only to lose it again after just one season. From 1984, Wolves became only the second team to suffer the humiliation of three successive relegations which took them from the (old) First Division to the Fourth Division. During that time they narrowly escaped bankruptcy twice. But a takeover by lifelong supporter Sir Jack Hayward, and the goals of striker Steve Bull, reversed this decline rapidly. By 1989 they were back in the Second Division after two successive promotions, but would spend the next 14 seasons stuck in the second tier of the English league. Playoff defeats in 1995, 1997 and 2002 meant that Wolves narrowly missed out on promotion to the Premiership, but they finally gained promotion back to the Premiership in 2003 after almost 20 years of trying to regain their place in the top division. Their stay in the Premiership lasted just one season, and in 2004-05 Wolves drew 21 out of 46 Championship fixtures which was good enough for only a ninth place finish. Under the management of Glenn Hoddle, they should achieve at least a playoff place next season, if not automatic promotion.

Birmingham City are one of the biggest football clubs in central England, with a huge fan base and currently being owned by one of Britain's richest men David Gold. But they have often lived in the shadow of their deadly rivals Aston Villa and sometimes even the likes of Albion and Wolves. 'The Blues' have only ever won one major trophy - the League Cup in 1963, and have occupied every final position in the top division except the top six. In 1986 they began a 16-year exile from the top division, and suffered relegation to the Third Division for the first time in 1989. They spent three seasons at this level before winning promotion to the new Division One in 1992. The Blues were relegated again in 1994, but regained their Division One status at the first attempt and have not looked back since. After seven years of trying they finally won promotion to the Premiership, and manager Steve Bruce has kept them there ever since. In 2003 they were the highest-placed of all the football clubs in the midlands, the first time they had achieved this since the 1970's.

Coventry City, though in the West Midlands country, are not often considered as a midlands team. But they have had a considerable contribution to English football, especially in the last 40 years. They won the Second Division championship in 1967, and defied the odds by staying in the top division for the next 34 years. The 'Sky Blues' were never one of the strongest teams in the league - never finishing higher than sixth - but they did surprise all the observers in 1987 by beating Tottenham 3-2 to win the F.A Cup. It was Coventry's first - and only - appearance in an F.A Cup final, and up till then Tottenham had won all seven of the F.A Cup finals they had appeared in. Coventry were founder members of the new Premier League in 1992, and stayed there for nine seasons. But they never finished higher than 11th and in 1997 only avoided relegation because Middlesbrough had been deducted three league points, their luck finally ran out when they slipped out of the Premiership at the end of the 2000-01 season. Coventry have been in the second tier of the English league (now called the Football League Championship) ever since and have yet to mount a serious promotion challenge. Coventry relocated to the new 32,500-seat Ricoh Arena for the 2005-06 season, and will be up to manager Micky Adams and his playing staff to bring Premiership football back to Coventry as soon as possible.

Manchester

The city of Manchester is one of the strongest footballing cities in England, if not the world. And almost all of the classic footballing moments in Manchester have been performed by Manchester United.

Manchester United won their first major trophy in 1908, on lifting the football league title. An F.A Cup success followed in 1909 and there was another league title in 1911, but then began a 37-year trophy drought. United spent the interwar years drifting between the First and Second Divisions, constantly troubled with debt. There was no sign of the situation changing until 1945, when Matt Busby was appointed manager. Since then, Manchester United have had an almost unbroken run of success as one of England's, and often Europe's, top teams. Busby's first great United side was made up of some of his own recruits as well as a handful of players remaining from the late 1930's, and their trophyless spell finally ended in 1948 when they won the F.A Cup. Their run of success continued into the 1950's and United were crowned league champions in 1952, but by then the side captained by Johnny Carey was beginning to show its age and a new set of players had to be found. Instead of splashing out huge sums of money on big names, Matt Busby replaced his ageing stars with young players who soon became known as the 'Busby Babes'. This legendary side won the league title in 1956 and retained it the following year, but their dreams of more success were shattered by the events at Munich on 6th February 1958. Eight players died and two others had their careers ended by injury when an aeroplane flying the team home from a game with Yugoslavia's Red Star Belgrade team crashed on take-off in a blizzard at Munich Airport. Busby was in hospital for two months but was well enough to return to his duties that summer. He built a new United team around some of the Munich Disaster survivors and the rebuilding process was completed in 1963 when United won the F.A Cup. They added two more league titles (1965 and 1967) before lifting the European Cup in 1968 - making them the first English team to win the trophy. Busby retired the following year and his triumphant side soon split up, with the likes of Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes retiring while George Best's career went on a downhill spiral due to his struggle with alcoholism. In 1974, Manchester United were relegated to the Second Division for the first time since the 1930's - their fate was ironically sealed when former player Dennis Law scored the winning goal against United for neighbours Manchester City. Luckily, United regained their First Division place at the first attempt under a new team managed by Tommy Docherty. United won the F.A Cup in 1977 but Docherty was sacked a month later for having an affair with the wife of the club's physiotherapist. His successor Dave Sexton spent four years at the helm but failed to win a major trophy and was sacked in 1981. Sexton's successor Ron Atkinson was more successful, managing United to F.A Cup success in 1983 and 1985 before finally losing his job in 1986. Since then, Manchester United have achieved an unmatched run of success under Alex Ferguson (who is now Sir Alex Ferguson). This run has been going since 1990 when United won the F.A Cup, and they marked the post-Heysel return of English clubs to European competition by winning the following season's Cup Winners Cup. 1992 saw United come close to winning their first league title since 1967, but they lost out to Leeds United and had to settle for a League Cup triumph. Since the creation of the Premier League in 1992, United have been league champions eight times. They also won the Premiership/F.A Cup double in 1994 and 1996, but their biggest success so far came in 1999 when they won the unique treble of the Premiership title, F.A Cup and European Cup - a feat which earned Alex Ferguson a knighthood. Manchester United have now 15 league titles, 11 F.A Cups, 2 European Cups, 1 Cup Winners Cup and 1 League Cup - a total of 30 major trophies which only Liverpool have surprassed.

Although Manchester City have normally played second fiddle to neighbouring United, they have had their moments of success. They have won two league titles, three F.A Cups, one Cup Winners Cup and one League Cup. Their last success came in the 1976 League Cup, and they have lived in the shadow of their neighbours ever since. In recent years they have developed a reputation as a team notorious for going up and down. They spent the 1980's hovering between the First and Second Divisions after reckless spending by a succession of different managers failed to translate into success. City began the 1990's as a top-ten team in the top division, but soon turned into relegation battlers and lost their battle to stay in the Premiership on the last day of the 1995-96 season. Two seasons later they slipped into Division Two and found themselves in the third tier of the English league for the first time. But two successive promotions saw them back in the Premiership for the 2000-01 season, although they were relegated straight back to Division One they regained their Premiership status at the first time of asking and have remained in the top flight ever since. Manchester City's current manager is Stuart Pearce.


Liverpool

Liverpool is the strongest footballing city in England, having staged top division football through either or both of its teams every seasons since the Football League was created in 1888.

Liverpool F.C are the most successful club in English football - their fortunes began to rise in 1959 when Bill Shankly was appointed as manager. Since then Liverpool F.C have reached a level of fame in Liverpool which only The Beatles can match, although they had previously been league champions five times. Liverpool won their first F.A Cup in 1964, and by the time Shankly retired in 1974 he had guided Liverpool to four league titles, two F.A Cups and one UEFA Cup. Shankly's successor Bob Paisley fared even better, his nine-year reign yielding six league titles, three League Cups, a UEFA Cup and three European Cups - a record which was not emulated until 2001 by Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson. Paisley retired in 1983 and his successor Joe Fagan retired after just two seasons in charge, but not before he had completed a unique treble of the league title, European Cup and League Cup in his first season as manager. Fagan retired on a sad note as Liverpool surrendered their league title to neighbours Everton, but that was nothing compared to the events in the immediate prelude to their European Cup defeat against Juventus at Heysel Stadium. Rioting on the terraces resulted in the death of 39 Juventus fans and led to a 5-year ban from European competition for English clubs, with Liverpool having to serve an extra year when the ban was lifted in 1990. Despite the European ban, Liverpool did well on the domestic scene under Fagan's successor Kenny Dalglish - who on his appointed was the club's 33-year-old player-manager. Dalglish guided Liverpool to the league championship/F.A Cup double in his first season in charge, adding a league title in 1988, an F.A Cup in 1989 and another league title in 1990 before suddenly resigning in February 1991. He was replaced by another former Liverpool player, Graeme Sounness, whose three-year reign as manager yielded just one trophy - the 1992 F.A Cup - before he was dismissed in January 1994. The next Liverpool manager was Roy Evans, who had been on the club's coaching staff since the 1970's. He guided them to League Cup glory in 1995, but was replaced by Frenchman Gerard Houllier in 1998 having failed to present Anfield with the elusive league title. Houllier's six-year reign as manager brought considerable success - but not the league title which had been absent from Anfield since 1990. Liverpool are now managed by Spaniard Rafael Benitez, who guided them to a fifth European Cup triumph in 2004-05 (his first season as manager) and because Liverpool finished fifth in the Premiership (a UEFA Cup qualifying spot) England will be entering a record of five enterants into the Champions League for the 2005-06 season.

Everton had often been eclipsed by their neighbours Liverpool, who play just a few hundred yards away at the other side of Stanley Park. Everton did play at Anfield until 1892, when a dispute with their landlord saw the club relocate to Goodison Park while the newly-formed Liverpool Football Club moved into Anfield. Everton won a succession of league titles and F.A Cups during the 1920's, 1930's and 1960's, and are the only football team to have played a total of 100 seasons in the top division. The most recent glory days at Everton were the 1980's, when Goodison was one of the most feared grounds in England. Manager Howard Kendall guided a top class side to the league title and Cup Winners Cup in 1985, and only an F.A Cup defeat against Manchester United denied them treble glory. They were denied a place in the European Cup for 1985-86 due to the ban on English clubs in European competition arising from the Heysel Disaster, although they did achieve another title success - their most recent to date - in 1987. Everton have won only one major trophy since then, the F.A Cup under Joe Royle in 1995. In 2004-05, they finished fourth in the Premiership under David Moyes to achieve Champions League qualification. They finished ahead of their neighbours Liverpool for the first time in nearly 20 years.


The North-East

The north-east of England has experienced some exciting times in football, but most of that excitement was an age ago.

Newcastle United are perhaps the biggest club in the north-east of England. They last won the league championship in 1927, although they were strong title contenders in the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons and finished runners-up both times - in 1995-96 they led for most of the season by a comfortable margin before being overhauled by Manchester United. The last major trophy to grace the St James's Park boardroom was the 1969 UEFA Cup, and no domestic trophies have been lifted by the club since the 1955 F.A Cup. However, Newcastle have been continuous members of the top division since 1993 and have fielded some of the game's finest players during that time, including Alan Shearer, David Ginola, Les Ferdinand, Faustino Asprilla and Jermaine Jenas. In 1996, Newcastle broke the world transfer fee record when they paid Blackburn Rovers 15million for Alan Shearer.

Sunderland are another big club in the north-east. They have five league titles to their name, although the last was way back in 1935. From 1888 to 1958, Sunderland were continuous members of the First Division before finally suffering relegation to the Second Division. Since then they have had mixed fortunes, and while a Second Division side in 1973 they sparked one of the biggest F.A Cup upsets by beating Leeds United 1-0 in the F.A Cup final. This triumph made Bob Stokoe one of the best-known managers of the 1970's. Sunderland's worst season was 1986-87, when they finished third from bottom in the Second Division and lost in the Second Division relegation/Third Division promotion playoffs to suffer relegation to the Third Division for the first time ever. Luckily they regained their Second Division place at the first attempt and two years later won promotion to the First Division in place of Swindon Town, who had beaten them in the playoff final but had then been denied promotion because of financial irregularities. Sunderland went down after one season, and despite an F.A Cup final runner-up spot in 1992 the first part of the 1990's was a difficult time for Sunderland, with several unsuccessful managers coming and going within a short time of eachother. Peter Reid took them into the Premiership as Division One champions in 1996, but they went back down after just one season only to go back up again two years afterwards - again as Division One champions. This time Sunderland made a good start to their Premiership life, finishing seventh in 2000 and 2001. But a decline set in and they finished one place above the relegation zone in 2002, and went down the following year - statistically as the worst Premiership team ever with just 4 wins, 21 goals and 19 points. By then, Reid's long reign as manager had come to an end and Howard Wilkinson had come and gone in the space of five months. Since March 2003, Sunderland have been managed by Mick McCarthy. He has rejuvenated a demoralised side and his hard work paid off in 2005 when they returned to the Premiership as champions of the newly-named Football League Championship (previously Division One). From 1899 to 1997, Sunderland played at Roker Park - which became one of the most historic football grounds in England. They now play at the Stadium of Light, which on its completion was the largest new football stadium in England to be built since Manchester City's Maine Road in 1923.

Middlesbrough F.C are the last but not least of the north-east's three big clubs. Their career as a league club has been mostly spent in the top two divisions of the English league. In 1986 Middlesbrough slipped into the Third Division for the first time and almost went out of business. But the club was saved by a new owner who set the foundations for a new era on Teesside. Within months of bankruptcy, Middlesbrough were promoted back to the Second Division and the following year were promoted again, this time to the First Division. Although they were relegated after just one season, it was a remarkable rise from the ashes at Ayresome Park. Middlesbrough were founder members of the Premier League in 1992 but were relegated at the end of its first season. They returned in 1995 after being crowned champions of the new Division One, in their first season under the management of Bryan Robson. It was a fitting end for Middlesbrough's 92-year residence at Ayresome Park, as they relocated to the new Riverside Stadium for the 1995-96 season. Robson was able to attract high profile international stars to the club, including three Brazlians - Branco, Emerson and Juninho. Italian striker Fabrizio Ravanelli was another expensive, high-profile signing. However, the efforts of these quality players could not stop Middlesbrough sliding out of the Premiership at the end of 1996-97 - this was down to a 3-point deduction by the F.A which had been imposed when the club postponed a December fixture with Blackburn at short notice, blaming an injury and illness crisis among the players. In the same season, Middlesbrough were on the losing side in both domestic cup finals - thus managing to finish in the last two of all three major domestic tournaments. Middlesbrough regained their Premiership place in 1998 and haven't looked back since, although Robson quit in 2001 to make way for Steve McClaren. 'Boro have progressed further under McClaren's management, winning the League Cup in 2004 and with it securing Middlesbrough's first-ever major trophy and a UEFA Cup place. A seventh-place finish in the 2004-05 Premiership means that Middlesbrough will be playing in the UEFA Cup for the second season running. Middlesbrough's future is looking brighter than ever.


Successful Small Town Clubs

Blackburn Rovers, from Blackburn in Lancashire, are one of the most famous clubs in the history of English football. In the late 19th century and leading up to the Great War, Rovers were regular winners of the league title and F.A Cup. They managed another F.A Cup triumph in 1928, but this was the closing of a chapter rather than a new beginning. Rovers spent the next 40 years bouncing between the First and Second Divisions without making a serious threat to win a major trophy, although they did reach the F.A Cup final in 1960. During the 1970's, Rovers bounced between the second and third tiers of the league and were a Second Division club for the entirity of the 1980's. Then, in 1991, the club was taken over by local steelworks owner Jack Walker and a new era had begun. Walker promised former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish an open cheque book if he returned to management, and within a couple of years Rovers were in the new Premier League with a squad full of top class players including Graeme Le Saux, Alan Shearer, Chris Sutton and Stuart Ripley. The dream came true in 1995 when Blackburn were Premiership champions - their first league title since 1914. But this success was not followed up under Dalglish's successor's Ray Harford, Roy Hodgson and Bryan Kidd, and Rovers slipped out of the Premiership in 1999. They came back up two seasons later under Graeme Souness, and marked their return to the Premiership with a League Cup triumph. Souness moved to Newcastle United in 2004 and Rovers are now managed by Mark Hughes.

Ipswich Town, from Ipswich in Suffolk, had the best-ever top division debut after winning promotion to the First Division under manager Alf Ramsey in 1961. They won the 1961-62 First Division championship and surprised all observers who had tipped a more established club to lift the trophy. But Ramsey then moved on to take charge of the England team, and while he led them to World Cup success, Ipswich slipped back into the Second Division. By the 1970's, however, they had been taken back to the First Division by another future England manager - Bobby Robson. Ipswich lifted their first F.A Cup in 1978 and were UEFA Cup winners in 1981, but Robson took charge of the England team in 1982 and as had happened 20 years earlier, a decline set in. Ipswich lost their top division status in 1986 and regained it six years later, on winning promotion to the newly-formed Premier League. Ipswich slipped back down again in 1995, only to retain their status in 2000 via the playoffs - the team managed by George Burley had suffered playoff failures in the three seasons preceeding their triumph. 2000-01 was a successful season for Ipswich, who defied all odds to finish fifth in the Premiership and qualify for the UEFA Cup - an achievement which saw manager George Burley receive Manager of the Year Award. But Ipswich were unable to succeed in 2001-02 and were relegated on the last day of the season. Burley was sacked soon after and replaced by Joe Royle, who has so far had to endure two more playoff failures in his quest to return Premiership football to Ipswich.

Burnley, from Burnley in Lancashire, were crowned champions of the Football League in 1960 but have been outside the top division of English football since the 1970's. They endured their blackest spell in the 1980's, when suffering relegation to the Fourth Division in 1985 and narrowly holding onto their league status for the next two seasons. They escaped the basement division of the league in 1992 when winning the Fourth Division championship, joining Wolves as one of two clubs to be crowned champions of all four divisions of the Football League. Burnley spent seven of the next eight seasons in Division Two, before winning promotion to Division One in 2000. They have remained there ever since, first managed by Stan Ternent and now managed by Steve Coterill. Promotion to the Premiership is a realistic target for Burnley in 2005-06, and the current squad looks perfectly capable of achieving it.

Wigan Athletic, from Wigan in Lancashire, are owned by JJB tycoon Dave Whelan - a former Blackburn Rovers player. They have recently reached new heights which have never been reached before at the club. Wigan joined the Football League in 1978 and spent the next 25 years bouncing between the lower tiers of the English league, before finally gaining promotion to Division One in 2003 after winning the Division Two title. Wigan, managed by Paul Jewell, have now achieved promotion to the Premiership after finishing runners-up in the Football League Championship.

Seasons in English football

1870s: 1871-72 - 1872-73 - 1873-74 - 1874-75 - 1875-76 - 1876-77 - 1877-78 - 1878-79

1880s: 1879-80 - 1880-81 - 1881-82 - 1882-83 - 1883-84 - 1884-85 - 1885-86 - 1886-87 - 1887-88 - 1888-89

1890s: 1889-90 - 1890-91 - 1891-92 - 1892-93 - 1893-94 - 1894-95 - 1895-96 - 1896-97 - 1897-98 - 1898-99

1900s: 1899-1900 - 1900-01 - 1901-02 - 1902-03 - 1903-04 - 1904-05 - 1905-06 - 1906-07 - 1907-08 - 1908-09

1910s: 1909-10 - 1910-11 - 1911-12 - 1912-13 - 1913-14 - 1914-15 - 1915-16 - 1916-17 - 1917-18 - 1918-19

1920s: 1919-20 - 1920-21 - 1921-22 - 1922-23 - 1923-24 - 1924-25 - 1925-26 - 1926-27 - 1927-28 - 1928-29

1930s: 1929-30 - 1930-31 - 1931-32 - 1932-33 - 1933-34 - 1934-35 - 1935-36 - 1936-37 - 1937-38 - 1938-39

1940s: 1939-40 - 1940-41 - 1941-42 - 1942-43 - 1943-44 - 1944-45 - 1945-46 - 1946-47 - 1947-48 - 1948-49

1950s: 1949-50 - 1950-51 - 1951-52 - 1952-53 - 1953-54 - 1954-55 - 1955-56 - 1956-57 - 1957-58 - 1958-59

1960s: 1959-60 - 1960-61 - 1961-62 - 1962-63 - 1963-64 - 1964-65 - 1965-66 - 1966-67 - 1967-68 - 1968-69

1970s: 1969-70 - 1970-71 - 1971-72 - 1972-73 - 1973-74 - 1974-75 - 1975-76 - 1976-77 - 1977-78 - 1978-79

1980s: 1979-80 - 1980-81 - 1981-82 - 1982-83 - 1983-84 - 1984-85 - 1985-86 - 1986-87 - 1987-88 - 1988-89

1990s: 1989-90 - 1990-91 - 1991-92 - 1992-93 - 1993-94 - 1994-95 - 1995-96 - 1996-97 - 1997-98 - 1998-99

2000s: 1999-2000 - 2000-01 - 2001-02 - 2002-03 - 2003-04 - 2004-05 - 2005-06 - 2006-07

Museums


See also

Football in England

League competitions

The FA

Cup competitions

FA Premier League FA Cup
The Football League (Champ, 1, 2) England
(men)
League Cup
Football Conference (Nat, N, S) FA Community Shield
Northern Premier League (Prem, 1) (women) Football League Trophy
Southern League (Prem, 1W, 1E) List of
clubs
FA Trophy
Isthmian League (Prem, 1, 2) FA Vase
English football league system Records FA NLS Cup

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