With the resumption of Premier League football on 17 June, the BBC will air live top-flight football matches for the first time since the 1987/88 season. 32 Years. It is a long time. Most of today’s Premier League players weren’t born back then. Even some of their dads weren’t!
So, what was happening in the Premier League in 1987/88?
Well, for a start it wasn’t called the Premier League; it was the First Division. Like today, though, Liverpool sat comfortably at the top of the league table, finishing nine points clear of their nearest rivals, who were Manchester United in Alex Ferguson’s first full season as manager.
The league still consisted of many habitual top-flight names––Everton, Arsenal, Tottenham––but there were some surprises, too; some teams, which haven’t graced the Premier League for a goodly number of years––Wimbledon, Luton Town, Coventry, Charlton. Nottingham Forest finished a very respectable third in the final league table in 1987/88; QPR were fifth; and relegated teams included Oxford United, Watford, Portsmouth and… Chelsea, who lost a relegation play-off to Middlesbrough. And Manchester City? Nowheresville. They were 9th in Division Two, behind Millwall, Bradford City and Ipswich.
In the same season, Wimbledon, famous at the time as the Crazy Gang, won the FA Cup with a 1-0 victory over Liverpool; and Luton won the League Cup, defeating Arsenal by three goals to two.
John Aldridge of Liverpool was top scorer with 26 goals and he also won the BBC Goal of the Season competition for a strike against Nottingham Forest. Other notable players from the time included Charlie Nicholas, Chris Waddle, John Barnes, Brian McClair and Vinnie Jones! And Gary Lineker? He wasn’t playing in the First Division at the time; he’d buggered off to Barcelona.
Football hooliganism was still a largely untackled problem on the terraces and racism was rife, although officially unrecognised.
One anomaly of the 1987/88 season was that the league comprised an odd number of clubs – 21. This meant that every week one team had to ‘sit out’ from the regular schedule of fixtures.
And Fantasy Premier League?
“Never heard of it, son.”
However, there is one thing that is shared between the 2019/20 Premier League and the 1987/88 First Division. With the closure of barbers and hairdressers because of the coronavirus lockdown, the mullet is back.
© Donnie Blake
Donnie Blake has a long memory.
For a further trip into football nostalgia, check out Donnie’s football fiction: Artie Yard and a Very English Pickle and Artie Yard and the Bogotá Bracelet.