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A Moment in Time : Part Nine – 1980, Forest Win European Cup, Again

Nottingham Forest had won the European Cup in 1979 in their first attempt at a European competition. This entitled them to qualify automatically for the following year’s tournament.

After winning the First Division in 1978, they finished 2nd the following season. 1980 would see them finish 5th in the table as Liverpool claimed their 2nd successive title.

As with 1979, both Nottingham Forest and Liverpool were in the draw for the First Round. However, unlike 1979, they wouldn’t meet each other.

English clubs had now won the European Cup in 1977, 1978 and 1979. Nottingham Forest were about to embark on their attempt to keep the trophy in England.

Such was the open nature of European Leagues back then that only 8 of the 32 teams competing in 1980, had qualified for the 1979 trophy.

Here is the list of the qualifiers


As there were 33 qualifiers, a Preliminary Round was played with Republic of Ireland Champions, Dundalk, beating Northern Ireland Champions, Linfield, 3-1 on aggregate.


The draw was made for the First Round. Forest had beaten Swedish side, Malmo, to lift the trophy in 1979, now they were drawn against the next Swedish Champions, Osters IF. This was a golden period for the club as they’d just won the first of three titles in four years. But their first entry into this competition gave them possibly their toughest task. Liverpool were drawn against Dinamo Tblisi. They’d just won only their 2nd Soviet title, beating Dinamo Kiev, the previous season’s winners. Celtic were up against Albanian side, Partizan Tirana.

Defending their title for the first time, Forest were workmanlike in the 1st leg. A goalless first half, but then the deadlock was broken just after the hour as Ian Bowyer gave Forest the lead. Bowyer, then scored his 2nd with 15 minutes remaining and Forest took a useful 2-0 lead to Sweden.

Two weeks later and Forest cruised through to the next round as a 1-1 draw was enough to give them overall victory. Mats Nordgren put the home side in front just into the second half, but Tony Woodcock equalised on the night with just 10 minutes to go, and Forest had successfully negotiated their first hurdle.

1st Leg – 19th September 1979
Bowyer (63, 74)

Shilton; Anderson, Burns, Lloyd, Gray; O’Neill, McGovern, Bowyer, Robertson; Woodcock, Birtles

2nd Leg – 3rd October 1979
Woodcock (79)

Shilton; Anderson, Burns, Lloyd, Gray; O’Neill, McGovern, Mills, Robertson; Woodcock, Birtles

Other Results

Liverpool had been drawn against Soviet champions, Dinamo Tblisi. Tblisi were full of players who would impress on the world stage in Spain in 1982, but were largely unknown in most of Europe. Liverpool won the 1st leg at Anfield, 2-1, but the 2nd leg was a disaster. 3 second half goals for the home side gave them a 3-0 win, and for the 2nd season running, Liverpool were out in the 1st Round of a competition they’d won twice.

Celtic were up against Albanian side Partizan Tirana. Considered one of the real minnows of European football, the Albanians took a shock lead by winning the 1st leg, 1-0. At Parkhead, Celtic defender Alan Sneddon put through his own net, and the Scottish champions were staring down the barrel. Rod McDonald then quickly equalised, with Roy Aitken putting them in front soon after. But Tirana had the away goal. Celtic fans needn’t have worried as goals from Davidson and another from Aitken gave Celtic a 4-1 lead by half-time and the tie was over.

Two of the favourites also cruised through. Real Madrid saw off Bulgarians, Levski Spartak, 3-0 on aggregate. In the 2nd leg, goals from Vincente Del Bosque (future Spanish national manager) and Laurie Cunningham (former West Brom winger and first black player to represent England at any level), were enough to see them progress. Ajax were the most impressive. They travelled to Helsinki to meet HJK. They were 4-0 up by the break, and ended up with a crushing 8-1 win. Goals from players such as Ruud Krol (Dutch captain in 1978 World Cup), Soren Lerby, Simon Tahamata and Frank Arnesen (yes, that Frank Arnesen). For the 2nd leg Ajax were again 4-0 up by half-time. They again won 8-1 with 4 goals from a 19-year old called Ton Blanker.

Irish champions, Dundalk lost 0-1 in Malta against Hibernians, but turned it round with a 2-0 win at home. English fans were also interested in the performance of SV Hamburg, as they included the England captain, Kevin Keegan. Hamburg were up against Valur of Iceland. They won 3-0 in the 1st leg and then 2-1 in the 2nd. 3 of the goals came from Horst Hrubesch who scored twice in the European Championship Final in 1980.

The biggest shock was AC Milan losing to Porto. 0-0 in the 1st leg in Portugal, Milan were then stunned by a 0-1 defeat at home. This was the 2nd successive season the champion club from Italy had gone out at the first hurdle.

Arges Pitesti  3-2 AEK Athens  (3-0,0-2)
Dynamo Berlin 4-1 Ruch Chorzow (4-1, 0-0)
Servette 4-2 Beveren (3-1, 1-1)
Dukla Prague 4-3 Ujpest Dozsa (2-0, 2-3)
Strasbourg 6-1 Start (2-1, 4-0)
Ajax 16-1 HJK (8-1, 8-1)
Omonia 7-3 Red Boys (6-1, 1-2)
Celtic 4-2 Partizan Tirana (0-1, 4-1)
Dundalk 2-1 Hibernians (2-0, 0-1)
Porto 1-0 AC Milan (0-0, 1-0)
Real Madrid 3-0 Levski Spartak (1-0, 2-0)
SV Hamburg 5-1 Valur (3-0, 2-1)
Dinamo Tblisi 4-2 Liverpool (1-2, 3-0)
Vejle 4-3 Austria Vienna (3-2, 1-1)
Hajduk Split 2-0 Trabzonspor (1-0, 1-0)


The draw for the Second Round put Forest up against Romanians, Arges Pitesti. The Romanians had just won only their 2nd national title, and to this day remains their last honour. Celtic would meet Dundalk. Real Madrid were drawn against Milan’s conquerors, Porto, and Tblisi’s prize for knocking out Liverpool was a tie against Hamburg. Ajax were now up against Omonia from Cyrpus

As in the 1st Round, Forest were at home in the 1st leg. 16 minutes in and Woodcock and Birtles had given them a 2-0 lead. The Romanians struggled to make an impact and couldn’t grab an away goal.

This proved crucial as 5 minutes into the 2nd leg and Ian Bowyer scored his 3rd goal of the campaign and Forest were in total control of the tie. John McGovern was a surprise name on the scoresheet (he only scored 6 goals in over 250 games for the club) midway through the first half and Forest were into the Quarter-Finals. Barbulescu got a goal back for the home side, but Forest were never under any real pressure and cruised through to the next round.

1st Leg – 24th October 1979
Woodcock (12), Birtles (16)

Shilton; Anderson, Burns, Lloyd, Gray; Mills, McGovern, Bowyer, Robertson; Woodcock, Birtles

2nd Leg – 7th November 1979
Bowyer (5), Birtles (23)

Shilton; Anderson, Burns, Lloyd, Gray (Gunn); O’Hare (Mills), McGovern, Bowyer, Robertson; Woodcock, Birtles

Other Results

Celtic and Dundalk played out a cracking game at Parkhead. McDonald gave Celtic the lead and then midway through the first half, there were 3 goals in 2 minutes as Celtic were now 3-1 up. Mick Lawlor then got a goal back for the Irish which would mean a tricky away 2nd leg. Celtic managed to see out the away leg with a 0-0 draw.

The big game was Real Madrid against Porto. Porto won the 1st leg, 2-1 as Cunningham scored again for Real. At the Bernabeu the home side had to wait till 20 minutes from time before Benito grabbed the only goal of the game and Real were through on away goals.

Hamburg were up against Dinamo Tblisi, and went one better than Liverpool with a 3-1 victory in the home leg. Keegan was on the scoresheet. In the 2nd leg, Gutsaev scored early for Tblisi, but then Keegan equalised. Hrubesch then put the Germans in control with a 2-1 lead. Hamburg ended up 3-2 winners and went through 6-3 on aggregate.

Ajax had won both legs of the First Round, 8-1 and followed this with a 10-0 win over Omonia Nicosia of Cyprus. Their Danish winger, Soren Lerby scored 5 goals. Ton Blanker grabbed his 2nd hat-trick of the competition. The Dutch fans were then expecting further goals in the 2nd leg. There were, but unbelievably they were all for the Cypriots, who won 4-0.

Strasbourg and Dukla Prague played out a dramatic tie as Prague won the 1st leg, 1-0. Strasbourg had equalised the tie, so they needed to play out extra time. With 4 minutes remaining, the French finally scored the winner.

Dynamo Berlin 4-3 Servette (2-1, 2-2)
Strasbourg 2-1 Dukla Prague (0-1, 2-0)
Ajax 10-4 Omonia (10-0, 0-4)
Celtic 3-2 Dundalk (3-2, 0-0)
Real Madrid 2-2 Porto (1-2, 1-0)
Hamburg 6-3 Dinamo Tblisi (3-1, 3-2)
Hajduk Split 4-2 Vejle (3-0, 1-2)


Into the last eight and the four favourites were kept apart. Nottingham Forest got Dynamo Berlin, Ajax had Strasbourg, Hamburg were drawn against Hajduk and Real Madrid were to meet Celtic.

For the third successive round, Forest were drawn at home in the 1st leg. But it was a changed side Brian Clough had put together and the performance suffered. They had just lost to bottom club, Bolton, in the league, and also seen Tony Woodcock move to Cologne. Trevor Francis appeared in his first European tie since his goal won the Final last season, and in midfield Clough included Stan Bowles. Bowles had been signed in the previous December as he’d fallen out with new QPR manager, Tommy Docherty, who was also credited with George Best’s departure from Manchester United a few years earlier. Neither Francis nor Bowles could inspire Forest as East German international, Hans-Jurgen Riediger scored the only goal of the game. Forest had lost a European tie for the first time.

Two weeks later in Berlin and Forest were a much more settled side, although they’d just lost in the League Cup Final to Wolves, with Andy Gray getting the only goal of the game. 16 minutes into the game and Trevor Francis scored, and Berlin’s away goal had been wiped out. 20 minutes later and a good turn and shot from Francis made it 2-0 on the night. With just 5 minutes of the half remaining, Robertson was brought down in the area and he converted the penalty himself and Forest were cruising. Forest eventually won 3-1 to go through relatively comfortably in the end, to yet another Semi-Final.

1st Leg – 7th March 1979

Shilton; Gunn, Burns, Lloyd, Gray; O’Neill, Bowles, McGovern, Robertson; Francis, Birtles

2nd Leg – 19th March 1980
Francis (15, 36), Robertson (pen, 39)

Shilton; Anderson, Needham, Lloyd, Gray; O’Neill, McGovern, Bowyer, Robertson; Francis, Birtles

Other Results

Celtic entertained Spanish giants, Real Madrid for the 1st leg. This was a game that remains in Celtic folklore at George McCluskey and Johnny Doyle scored the goals that gave them a famous 2-0 win. The return leg saw Real score just before half-time through Santillana. 10 minutes into the second period and West German international, Uli Stielike then levelled things on aggregate. As extra time approached, Juanito won it for Real and Celtic had come so close to putting out the 5 times winners of the trophy.

Ajax turned up at Strasbourg having scored 26 goals in 4 games. The French, who included French manager Raymond Domenech, held them to a 0-0 draw. The return leg saw the Dutch knock the goals in again as they won 4-0.

Hamburg had won their 1st leg, 1-0 at home to Hajduk Split. They doubled their lead overall as Hrubesch scored within 2 minutes of the start of the 2nd leg. Vujovic got a goal back for the home side but Hamburg went back in front, before Hajduk scored twice in the second half leaving Hamburg to go through on away goals.

So the big four were all through to the Semis with many predicting an Ajax v Real final.

Ajax 4-0 Strasbourg (0-0, 4-0)
Real Madrid 3-2 Celtic (0-2, 3-0)
Hamburg 3-3 Hajduk Split (1-0, 2-3)


Forest were drawn against Ajax for the Semi-Finals, and as with every other round this season, were at home first. In fact in 8 rounds over two years, Forest had only been away from home first, once. Real would meet Hamburg in the other tie.

Ajax had already scored 30 goals when they arrived at the City Ground, with Soren Lerby scoring 9 and Ton Blanker, 10. Blanker had only played 3 games and wasn’t in the team for either leg of the Semis. On a typical European night in England, the crowd were enthralled as Forest took the game to their opponents. With 10 minutes of the first half remaining and Francis scored from a corner to give Forest the lead. In the second half, Zamborn handled in the area and Robertson stepped up to score the penalty, just as he’d done in Berlin. Forest took a useful 2-0 lead to Amsterdam.

A capacity crowd in the Amsterdam Arena willed the home side on. Ajax had won the European Cup three times in 1971, 1972 and 1973, but only contained Ruud Krol from that side. The goalless scoreline was finally broken in the 65th minute as Soren Lerby headed in from a corner for his 10th goal in the competition. But Ajax were unable to add to that and so Forest had won to go through to their 2nd successive final in only their 2nd appearance in the competition.

1st Leg – 9th April 1980
Francis (33), Robertson (pen, 61)

Shilton; Anderson, Burns, Lloyd, Gray; O’Neill,Bowles, McGovern, Robertson; Francis, Birtles

2nd Leg – 23rd April 1980

Shilton; Anderson, Burns, Lloyd, Gray; O’Neill, McGovern, Bowyer, Robertson; Francis, Birtles

Other Result

In the other tie, Real Madrid beat Hamburg, 2-0 in the Bernabeu, as Santillana scored twice to give them a useful lead. In the 2nd leg, Manny Kaltz scored from the spot in the 10th minute, and then Hrubesch made it 2-0 to the Germans to level things up on aggregate. On the half hour and Laurie Cunningham gave the Spanish a crucial away goal, but Kaltz scored again, 5 minutes before the break to give the Germans a 3-1 lead on the night. With Real still leading overall, and half-time approaching, Hrubesch popped up to score again and the West Germans went into the break 4-1 up and also leading on aggregate. The next goal would be crucial and it was the Germans who got it as Memering scored in the 90th minute and Hamburg were through to the final. Real were gutted, especially as the Final was to be played at the Bernabeu.

Hamburg 5-3 Real Madrid (0-2, 5-1)



This Final was keenly anticipated. Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest, all hard work, tough defence and counter attack. SV Hamburg, the new West German darlings with the European Footballer of the Year, Kevin Keegan, in their ranks. They also contained internationals like Manny Kaltz, Horst Hrubesch and Felix Magath. Keegan had been inspirational when Liverpool lifted their first European Cup in 1977, he was aiming to do the same for Hamburg.

Forest were without Trevor Francis, who’d picked up an Achilles injury. The Germans started brighter, and forced an early save from Shilton as Magath went close in the opening 10 minutes. Before the game, Keegan had predicted that Hamburg would keep attacking, and so it proved. But Forest worked hard and were well drilled in defending. 20 minutes into the game and Robertson exchanged passes with Birtles, beat his marker and as he reached the edge of the box, hit a shot that went in off the right-hand post. It was a goal against the run of play, but set the pattern for the rest of the match as Forest just defended their lead. Within a minute Reiman had the ball in the Forest net, but the flag was up for offside.

Keegan tried to inspire his team mates, as he ran and ran, but each chance they had was either saved by Shilton, or repelled by Burns or Lloyd. Forest were clearly tiring towards the end and may have conceded with 5 minutes to go but Buljan managed to put his shot wide from about 5 yards out.

Forest hung on to retain their trophy. They may not have had as much flair as their German opponents, but they were clinical and efficient. Even Clough had to admit the Germans superior technique, but he added “We beat them for application, determination and pride – all the things that portray our football.

He went onto say, “if you have to defend you have to do it well. It’s as important as attacking. At half-time I wondered how we could last. Mills was one of only three players we could have taken off. In fact, Birtles did not have enough strength to remove his shin pads when he came off at the end.”

28th May 1980
Robertson (20)

Shilton; Anderson, Burns, Lloyd, Gray (Gunn); O’Neill, Mills (O’Hare), McGovern, Bowyer, Robertson; Birtles

This was the pinnacle for Nottingham Forest Football Club. When Clough arrived in 1975 they were a struggling Second Division side, eventually winning promotion in 1977. By 1980, they had lifted the League Championship, 2 European Cups and 2 League Cups, the European Super Cup.

This win also meant they became the first club to have won the European Cup more times than their own domestic League title.


A Moment in Time – Part Eight : 1979 When Forest Were Kings of Europe


At the end of the 1976-77 season, Nottingham Forest finished third in the old Second Division (now The Championship).  They had gained promotion back to the First Division.  Twelve months later they were League Champions for the one and only time in their history.  This then qualified them for the European Cup starting in September 1978.

Back then, the European Cup was only for the Champions of European leagues.  32 clubs entered  a knockout competition with each tie played over two legs.  The holders of the trophy automatically gained entry for the following season, and if they weren’t the reigning Champions of their league, that country would then have two clubs in the competition.

This is what happened in 1978-79.  Liverpool had won the European Cup in 1978 and so were automatically entered, but they hadn’t retained their league title, which had gone to Forest, so England had two clubs entered.

Here is the list of the qualifiers

Several things to note about these qualifiers is the political situation in Europe during this time.  This was before the Berlin Wall came down in 1990 and so Germany is separated between West and East.  The Soviet Union has now been broken up into many countries, including Ukraine, Estonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia and Russia.  Yugoslavia has now been broken up into countries such as Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Serbia and Macedonia.

As there were 33 qualifiers, a Preliminary Round was played where Monaco beat Steaua Bucharest, 3-2 on aggregate.


The draw was made for the First Round.  For the first time since 1968-69, England had two clubs in the European Cup.  Unbelievably, this time round they were drawn against each other.  Nottingham Forest would play Liverpool, with the 1st leg at the City Ground.

Over 38,000 packed The City Ground for Forest’s first ever European tie.  But it felt like a league match.  The home side poured forward, looking for the breakthrough and midway through the first half, it came courtesy of Garry Birtles.  22 year old, Birtles had replaced Peter Withe who’d moved to Newcastle after winning his League Championship medal.  Liverpool pushed for an equaliser, something they may not have worried about if they had been playing a continental side, but just couldn’t get passed Peter Shilton.  Then, with three minutes remaining, Forest gained a crucial advantage.  Birtles pounced on a mistake in the Liverpool defence and Colin Barrett found himself free in the area to volley home Tony Woodcock’s knockdown.  Forest had a 2-goal lead to take to Anfield.

When asked about his new goalscorer, Brian Clough said

“Birtles did well.  Two years ago he was laying tiles.  If he doesn’t score again on Saturday, he could be back there.”

One thing Clough had managed to master with this Forest side was the art of defending.  Forest had turned up at Anfield in the final game of 1978 and gained a 0-0 draw.  They managed this again, and so progressed to the next round.  Liverpool, who had won the European Cup for the past two years, were out.

1st Leg – 13th September 1978
Birtles (26)
Barrett (87)

Shilton; Anderson, Burns, Lloyd, Barrett; Gemmill, McGovern, Bowyer, Robertson; Woodcock, Birtles

2nd Leg – 27th September 1978

Shilton;  Anderson, Burns, Lloyd, Clark;  Gemmill, McGovern, Bowyer, Robertson;  Woodcock, Birtles

Other Results

Glasgow Rangers were drawn against Juventus.  The Italians, managed by Giovanni Trapattoni,  contained 9 players who’d just competed in the World Cup in Argentina in the summer.  One of the uncapped players, Virdis, scored the only goal in Turin.  In the return, goals from Alex MacDonald and Gordon Smith won it for the Scots.

The previous season’s runners-up, Bruges were up against Polish champions, Wisla Krakow.  They were 2-0 up in the 1st leg, before Kapka got a goal back for the Poles 7 minutes from time.  Early in the second half of the 2nd leg, Jan Cuelemans had wiped out the away goal as the game stood 1-1 on the night.  Into the final 10 minutes, with the Belgians leading 3-2 on aggregate, goals from Lipka and Krupinski surprisingly put Krakow through.  So, both finalists from the previous season’s competition fell at the first hurdle.

Real Madrid  12-0  Progres Niedercorn  (5-0, 7-0)
AEK Athens  7-5  Porto  (6-1, 1-4)
Grasshopper  13-3  Valletta  (8-0, 5-3)
Lokomotiv Sofia  4-3  Odense  (2-2, 2-1)
FC Koln  5-2  IA Akranes  (4-1, 1-1)
Rangers  2-1  Juventus  (0-1, 2-0)
PSV Eindhoven  7-3  Fenerbahce  (1-2, 6-1)
Austria Vienna  4-3  Vllaznia  (0-2, 4-1)
Lillestrom  1-0  Linfield  (0-0, 1-0)
Bohemians  2-2  Omonia  (1-2, 1-0)
Dynamo Dresden  2-2  Partizan Belgrade  (0-2, 2-0), Dresden won 5-4 on penalties
Brno  4-2  Ujpest Dozsa  (2-2, 2-0)
Wisla Krakow  4-3  Bruges  (1-2, 3-1)
Dinamo Kiev  4-1  Haka  (1-0, 3-1)
Malmo  1-0  Monaco  (0-0, 1-0)


Forest were drawn against Greek champions, AEK Athens in the Second Round.  They would be away in the 1st leg.  AEK were managed by Hungarian legend, Ferenc Puskas.  Glasgow Rangers were drawn against PSV and Bohemians Dublin were up against Dynamo Dresden.

Forest went to Athens for the first leg.  AEK contained several players who would appear for Greece in their first international tournament appearance in the European Championships two years later, including strikers, Ardizoglu and Mavros.  But it was Forest who struck first as captain, John McGovern put them in front after 10 minutes.  Right on half-time, Birtles then made it 2-0 and 2 away goals were like gold dust.  Mavros converted a penalty for AEK in the second half but Forest had come away with a magnificent 2-1 win away from home.

The 2nd leg proved to be one of Forest’s finest ever performances in Europe.  Already leading from the 1st leg, Dave Needham then put them further ahead as he scored after just 8 minutes.  Woodcock then doubled the lead on the night, inside the final 10 minutes of the first period.  Three minutes later and Viv Anderson made it 3-0 on the night and 5-1 on aggregate.

Five minutes into the second half and Bajevic got a goal back for the visitors but it was merely a consolation as midway into the half Anderson struck again.  Anderson spent 10 seasons at Forest, scoring just 15 goals, 3 of them in this match as he completed his only ever hat-trick in the 72nd minute.  The win was emphatic and Forest marched on.

1st Leg  –  18th October 1978
McGovern (10), Birtles (45)

Shilton;  Anderson, Burns, Lloyd, Clark;  Gemmill, McGovern, Bowyer, Robertson;  Woodcock, Birtles

2nd Leg  –  1st November 1978
Needham (8), Woodcock (36)
Anderson (39, 66, 72)

Shilton;  Anderson, Needham, Lloyd, Clark (Mills);  Gemmill, Bowyer, Robertson;  O’Hare, Woodcock, Birtles

Other Results

Rangers were drawn away to PSV Eindhoven, who were packed full of internationals who had competed in the World Cup Final in Argentina.  The Dutch had seen off Fenerbahce in the First Round, beating them 6-1 in the 2nd leg.  The 1st leg ended goalless, and Rangers found them a goal down early in the 2nd leg.  MacDonald equalised but then PSV were back in front.  Derek Johnstone equalised for Rangers and then with just minutes to go, Robert Russell made things certain with the 3rd.

Another of the favourites, Real Madrid, also succumbed at this stage.  They were up against Swiss champions, Grasshoppers of Zurich.  These two were the top scorers from the First Round as Real put 12 past Luxembourg side, Progres Niedercorn.  Grasshoppers had put 13 past Maltese side, Valletta, as Claudio Sulser scored 6 over the 2 legs.  Real won the 1st leg 3-1 as Sulser grabbed the away goal.  Sulser then put Zurich in front in the return too.  With just 3 minutes remaining, Sulser scored his 9th of the competition to put the Spaniards out.

Grasshopper  3-3  Real Madrid  (1-3, 2-0)
FC Koln  5-0  Lokomotiv Sofia  (1-0, 4-0)
Rangers  3-2  PSV Eindhoven  (0-0, 3-2)
Austria Vienna  4-1  Lillestrom  (4-1, 0-0)
Dynamo Dresden  6-0  Bohemians  (0-0, 6-0)
Wisla Krakow  3-3  Brno  (2-2, 1-1)
Malmo  2-0  Dinamo Kiev  (0-0, 2-0)


With Real Madrid and PSV out of the way, Forest were hoping to avoid West German champions, Koln.  They did as they were drawn out of the hat against Grasshoppers of Zurich.  Forest would be at home in the 1st leg.

The Swiss champions had put out Real Madrid in the last round.  They were to be feared too, as they’d already hit 16 goals in 4 games.  Striker, Claudio Sulser had already hit 9, including 5 in one match in the First Round.

Sulser, it was who scored first for Grasshoppers and Forest had conceded an away goal.  But the rest of the game was a joy for the home fans as Birtles equalised, and then John Robertson converted a penalty to give Forest the lead early in the second half.  That’s how it looked like it might end until Archie Gemmill grabbed a crucial third goal and then Larry Lloyd gave Forest a vital 4-1 advantage to take to Zurich.

In the 2nd leg, Sulser scored again as he converted a penalty after 33 minutes.  Grasshopper needed 2 more goals to gain the advantage, but then Martin O’Neill wiped out their away goal as he scored 7 minutes before the break.  The Swiss couldn’t break down Forest’s defence and Clough’s men were through to the Semi-Finals.

1st Leg  –  7th March 1979
Birtles (31), Robertson (47, pen)
Gemmill (87), Lloyd (89)

Shilton;  Anderson, Needham, Lloyd, Clark;  O’Neill, Gemmill, McGovern, Robertson;  Woodcock, Birtles

2nd Leg  –  21st March 1979
O’Neill (38)

Shilton;  Anderson, Needham, Lloyd, Barrett;  O’Neill, Gemmill, McGovern, Robertson;  Woodcock, Birtles
Other Results

Rangers dream finally came to an end.  They travelled to Cologne for the 1st leg and the sides was separated by a goal from West German international, Dieter Muller.  Back at Ibrox and Muller was again on target just after half-time.  Rangers now needed to score three times, but could only manage once when Tom McLean scored 4 minutes from time.

Swedish champions, Malmo were a goal up away to Wisla Krakow, but lost the 1st leg, 1-2.  Their away goal advantage was then wiped out halfway through the second period in the return leg.  Then Andras Ljungberg then hit a hat-trick, which included 2 penalties, to help the Swedes to a 4-1 win.

Austria Vienna were the other qualifiers, as they saw off Dynamo Dresden of East Germany.  The Germans went 1-0 up in the 1st leg in Vienna, but then the Austrians came back with 3 goals included two from Austrian World Cup star, Walter Schachner.  The Germans won the 2nd leg 1-0, but it was not enough and the Austrians joined Forest, Koln and Malmo who were all in their first ever European Cup Semi-Final

FC Koln  2-1  Rangers  (1-0, 1-1)
Austria Vienna  3-2  Dynamo Dresden  (3-1, 0-1)
Malmo  5-3  Wisla Krakow  (1-2, 4-1)


Forest looked to get the tougher draw as they were up against the West German champions FC Koln.

Koln had won their 3rd Bundesliga title on goal difference from Borussia Monchengladbach.  To this date, like Forest, it remains their last success at that level.  They were packed with internationals, such as Harald (Toni) Schumacher in goal, Herbert Zimmerman, Bernd Schuster, Dieter Muller, Herbert Neumann, Roger van Gool (Belgium) and the first Japanese to play in Europe, Yasuhiko Okudera.

The first leg at City Ground saw Koln take the lead early on as van Gool gave them an important lead in the 6th minute.  20 minutes in and then Dieter Muller made it 2-0 to the visitors and Forest’s dream had just started to fade a little.  Birtles then grabbed a goal back and they went into the break 1-2 down.  8 minutes after the re-start and Ian Bowyer equalised.  10 minutes later and John Robertson had the home fans in raptures as he completed their comeback to put them 3-2 up.  Koln brought on Okudera as sub for the final few minutes and he scored a crucial goal to level it up on the night.

Forest travelled to Cologne for the 2nd leg, knowing they would have to defend like demons to progress.  Koln had Heinz Flohe back, although only on the bench, and they were confident of reaching their first European final.  No score at half-time and the game was finely poised.  Then Ian Bowyer scored a vital goal in the 65th minute and Forest managed to hold the Germans off to progress to the Final.

1st Leg  –  11th April 1979
Birtles (28), Bowyer (53)
Robertson (63)

Shilton;  Barrett, Needham, Lloyd, Bowyer;  O’Neill, Gemmill (Clark), McGovern, Robertson;  Woodcock, Birtles

2nd Leg  –  25th April 1979
Bowyer (65)

Shilton;  Anderson, Burns, Lloyd, Clark;  O’Neill, McGovern, Bowyer, Robertson;  Woodcock, Birtles

Other Result

Malmo  1-0  Austria Vienna  (0-0, 1-0)



Both clubs were appearing in their first ever European final.  For Malmo, they still remain the only Swedish club to reach this far.  They were managed by an Englishman, Bobby Houghton.  Houghton had a brief playing career at Fulham and Brighton and had coached at non-league level before taking up the post at Malmo in 1974.  He had taken them to three Swedish League titles by the time they turned up at the Final in Munich.

Forest manager, Brian Clough, had surprised many by leaving out Martin O’Neill and Archie Gemmill.  He brought in Britain’s first £1m footballer, Trevor Francis, and Ian Bowyer.  This would be Francis first European tie and this proved to be a masterstroke from Clough.  Clough had bought Francis from Birmingham in February 1979.  UEFA rules meant he couldn’t play in a European match for three months and so the first game he was eligible for was…..the Final.

A fairly dull game, finally burst into life just before the break as John Robertson took on the Swedish defence down the left.  His cross to the far post was met by a diving Francis for the only goal of the game.  Malmo created little for Forest to be worried about and, in the end, it seemed a fairly easy win.  Nottingham Forest had made sure the European Cup stayed in England for a 3rd successive season.

30th May 1979
Francis (45)

Shilton;  Anderson, Burns, Lloyd, Clark;  McGovern, Bowyer, Robertson;  Francis, Woodcock, Birtles


As Liverpool lifted the League Championship, England would again have two clubs in the following season’s competition.

A Moment in Time – Part One : When QPR Almost Won The League

When QPR almost won the League Title

The season is 1975-76, and QPR are about to embark on their most remarkable season in their 93 year history (to that date).

Promoted to the First Division in 1973 when they finished 2nd to Burnley, they ended 8th in season 73-74, and 11th in 74-75.

They were positive about their prospects under manager, Dave Sexton

After a career that involved clubs like West Ham, Luton, Crystal Palace and Brighton, Sexton embarked on a management career. After a position as first team coach at Arsenal, he joined Chelsea as manager in 1967. In 1970 he guided Chelsea to the FA Cup and then the European Cup Winners Cup a year later. Sexton was sacked by Chelsea and then took over at Loftus Road in 1974.

QPR had a tough start to the season with a home fixture against Liverpool and also a trip to Derby County in their first three matches.

Liverpool had finished 2nd to Derby County in the previous season, and 2nd to Leeds the year before that. In 72-73, they were champions. Derby were champions in 74-75 and 3rd in 73-74.

Sexton had assembled a playing squad that was a mixture of youth and experience.

Phil Parkes (age 26), Goalkeeper
Parkes was one of several keepers around in the 70’s who would’ve played many more internationals had Shilton and Clemence not been around. After a couple of years as Walsall, he made his debut for QPR at the start of the ’70-71 season. Parkes went onto make 344 appearances for QPR and then went onto make a similar amount for West Ham, but only won 1 England cap.

Dave Clement (age 27), Right Back
Clement made his debut for QPR in ’67, he eventually moved on in ’79, having made 472 appearances.

Ian Gillard (age 25), Left Back
Gillard started out in Spurs youth team before moving to QPR and making his debut in ’68.

John Hollins (age 29), Centre-Back, Midfield
Hollins, was another player who’d spent time at Chelsea. He’d made 436 appearances in 12 years, he’d joined QPR during the summer of ’75.

Frank McLintock (age 36), Centre-Back
McLintock had spent most of his career at Arsenal where he was captain when they won the double in 1971. He played for Arsenal for 9 years, he’d previously spent 7 years at Leicester before that. He joined Rangers at the start of the ’74-75 season

Dave Webb (age 29), Centre-Back
Where McLintock had been a stalwart at Arsenal, Webb had been an integral part of Chelsea’s defence for 6 years, before joining QPR at the same time as McLintock. The two were to form an important partnership at the back for The Hoops.

Dave Thomas (age 25), Left Winger
Thomas was a typical 70’s winger. Every team seemed to have one. He spent 6 years at Burnley before joining QPR in ’72.

Gerry Francis (age 25), Midfield
QPR was Francis’ first club, in an impressive career that saw him return to Loftus Road in ’81 and then with 2 stints as manager in the ‘90’s

Don Masson (age 29), Midfield
Masson, a Scot, had begun his career at Middlesbrough in ’64. He moved to Notts County in ’68 and then onto QPR in December ‘74

Stan Bowles (age 27), Midfield, Forward
For many QPR fans, Bowles is the finest player to have ever worn the blue & white hoops. A mercurial talent, of which there were plenty around in the ‘70’s, he started at Man City in ’67, before brief stints at Bury, Crewe and Carlisle. He joined QPR at the start of their promotion season in ’72 and was an important part of their successful campaign that year.

Don Givens (age 26), Forward
Irish international, Givens played just one season at Man Utd in ’69, before spending a couple of seasons at Luton. It was QPR where he made his name, though, joining at the same time as Bowles

Mick Leach (age 28), Midfield
Mick Leach was QPR through and through. Making his debut in ’65, he eventually spent 13 years at Loftus Road

Ron Abbott (age 22), Centre-Back, Forward
Abbott never advanced beyond a fringe-player after making his debut in 1973

Tony Tagg (age 17), Centre-Back
Youngster, Tagg, only played 4 times for QPR before moving onto Millwall at the end of the 75-76 season

QPR opening fixtures for ’75-76

Liverpool (H)
Aston Villa (H)
Derby County (a)
Wolves (a)
West Ham (H)

Date: 16th August 1975
Venue: Loftus Road
Visitors: Liverpool

QPR had never beaten Liverpool before. Liverpool finished 2nd in the league in the past two seasons. They were in their 2nd season under Bob Paisley, who’d taken over from the legendary, Bill Shankly.

QPR were embarking on their 3rd successive season in the top flight, after promotion in 1973. Over 27,000 packed into the West London ground, eager for the start of a new season.

QPR were scintillating that day. They took the lead through a wonderful goal from Gerry Francis

That goal was later voted Match of the Day goal of the season.

Mick Leach, a 2nd half substitute for debutant John Hollins (Chris’s dad), then doubled the lead and QPR ran out 2-0 winners. A cracking start and Rangers fans were soon to get used to a free-flowing passing brand of football they kept producing that year.

Newly promoted, Aston Villa, were the visitors to Loftus Road, three days later, and Gerry Francis was again on strike but the spoils were shared in a 1-1 draw.

The following Saturday, Rangers were at the home of the champions, Derby County. Derby had beaten West Ham to win the Charity Shield (now Community Shield), 2-0 at Wembley just a fortnight earlier, but drawn their opening two league matches.

QPR were forced to make changes as their 2 central defenders, McLintock and Webb, were both out injured. With a combined age of 65, the two stalwarts were replaced by Ron Abbott and Tony Tagg who had a combined age of just 39. They were up against the formidable Kevin Hector and Francis Lee, as well as players like Charlie George, Archie Gemmill and Bruce Rioch. Derby also boasted one of the best defensive pairings the First Division has ever seen in Roy McFarland and Colin Todd.

QPR exploded out of the traps as talisman, Stan Bowles scored a first half hat-trick, including one from the spot. Just before the break, McFarland grabbed a goal back for the home side, but Rangers carried on in the 2nd half with further goals from Dave Thomas and Dave Clement and QPR celebrated a famous 5-1 win away to the champions.

These were indeed, heady times.

QPR finished off the month with a 2-2 draw at Wolves and a 1-1 draw at home to West Ham. Don Givens scored all 3 goals for ‘the hoops’.

5 games in and QPR were sitting in 3rd place.

Into September and a Dave Thomas goal saved a point away to Birmingham in a 1-1 draw. They then travelled to 3rd Division, Shrewsbury in the 2nd Round of the League Cup. 0-1 down at half-time, QPR responded with goals from Webb, Masson, Thomas and Leach in the 2nd half, and went through 4-1 winners.

Back in the league, and a season record crowd of over 29,000 witnessed the visit of Manchester United. United, promoted from the 2nd Division the previous season, were sitting at the top of the table in their first season back, but they too succumbed as Dave Webb scored the only goal of the game, as QPR won 1-0.

This was the start of a 4-game run where Phil Parkes was unbeaten in the Rangers goal. A 0-0 draw in Middlesbro was followed by two 1-0 home wins against Leicester and Newcastle. Mick Leach scoring both goals.

At the end of September, QPR had hit the top, and were still unbeaten.


October, and QPR travelled to Elland Road to play 4th placed, Leeds United. A Stan Bowles penalty wasn’t enough to avoid Rangers first defeat of the season as they went down, 1-2. QPR were then in action in the League Cup as Charlton were the visitors to Loftus Road, and they again had to come from behind as Bowles equalised for a 1-1 draw.

October 11th saw Everton visit Loftus Road. QPR again put together an impressive performance as they thoroughly overran their more illustrious opponents. Givens put the home side in front and then a pile-driver from Masson gave QPR a 2-0 lead at the break.

In the 2nd half, 2 goals from Francis and another from Thomas saw QPR round off a fine 5-0 win. Now top scorers in the division, they were also the only side whose goals against was still in single figures.

The trip to Charlton for the League Cup replay, saw QPR progress to the 4th Round as they won 3-0, with goals from Thomas, Masson and Bowles.

When they travelled to Burnley, QPR’s progression this season was in comparison. When they came up from the 2nd Division in 1973, Burnley finished above them as champions. Now in 18th, Burnley were desperate for the points and won 1-0.

At the end of October, they entertained bottom club Sheffield United. Surprisingly, they proved tougher opponents than was expected but a Don Givens goal in the end, made all the difference as QPR won 1-0.

QPR went into November, still top of the table, although only on goal average from Manchester United and West Ham, with champions, Derby County, just 1pt behind.


November was a busy month for the boys from Loftus Road. 6 games, including the 4th Round of the League Cup.

They started with a trip to Coventry. A 1-1 draw saw them drop to 3rd in the table as Man Utd beat Norwich, 1-0 to go top. West Ham moved into 2nd as they thumped Birmingham, 5-1 at St.Andrews. The following weekend, their stuttering form continued as Tottenham came to visit and walked away with a 0-0 draw. It was the first time this season the Loftus Road faithful had not seen their side score at home.

During the week they entertained Newcastle at home in the League Cup and went out losing 1-3. As they then drew 1-1 at Ipswich, the early season ambitions looked a long way off. 1 win in 6 matches in all competitions, and they’d yet to score more than once in a game during that period.

So when Stan Bowles grabbed the only goal of the game at home to Burnley towards the end of November, the QPR fans were greatly relieved. Despite recent form, they were lying in 2nd, just 1pt behind leaders, Derby. In fact, just 1pt separated the top 4 and it was clear the season would be close.

November ended with QPR returning to their free-flowing attacking play as Stoke were the visitors and QPR won 3-2, with goals from Masson, Clement and Webb. As Derby had beaten Middlesbro by the same score, QPR remained 2nd going into the final month of 1975. It may have been a frustrating month, but QPR’s only defeat was in the League Cup, and after the 2 league defeats in October, this was vital.


December was often a real test for sides during the ‘70’s. Back then, Christmas and Easter were crucial periods as 3 games were often squeezed into a few days. It wasn’t that many years ago that some clubs played twice on the same day, and playing games on consecutive days was not uncommon. A great viewing spectacle as there were plenty of matches going on, but for small squads, it meant many players just played through pain that would eventually catch up with them, come May.

A trip to Maine Road to meet Man City was first up in December, and another draw, 0-0. Then December 13 was the big one. That point against City had propelled QPR back to the top of the table as Derby lost at Birmingham. Now 1pt separated 6 clubs, but QPR’s goal average was worth a point at that stage. Hot on their heels were Derby, Leeds, Man Utd, Liverpool and West Ham.

December 13, QPR v Derby. 1st v 2nd. QPR were hopeful after their 5-1 demolition of County back in August, but it was a tight encounter this time which ended 1-1 and was most memorable for the first ever goal for Phil Nutt, who’d come on as a second half substitute for Rangers and was making only his 2nd appearance for the club.

Into the Christmas period and QPR had 3 games in a week, including a trip to Anfield on the 20th, a home game with Norwich in Boxing Day and then a trip to Arsenal a day later.

The trip to Liverpool was another 1st v 2nd, as the top 4 clubs were all on 28pts. Rangers couldn’t repeat their performance on the opening day of the season and goals from John Toshack and Phil Neal gave the home side a 2-0 win.

That ended an 8-game unbeaten run for QPR in the league, but they responded well as Masson and Bowles gave them a 2-0 win over Norwich on Boxing Day. The Christmas spirit didn’t last onto the next day as a trip to Highbury saw QPR beaten 0-2.

Liverpool’s form over Christmas had seen them hit the top, above Man Utd on goal average. Leeds and Derby were 1pt behind and now QPR were 3pts behind the leaders.

QPR were still unbeaten at home, but had picked up just 1 win on the road. 1976 was going to be a crucial year.


January 1976

1976 was a big year for Queen’s Park Rangers Football Club. They put their league aspirations aside to compete in the FA Cup. The Third Round is often the most anticipated date on the football calendar, and QPR looked forward to entertaining Newcastle. Unfortunately the game was a tight affair with no goals. Back then, replays were held the following Wednesday. QPR travelled up to St.James’s Park, but were beaten 1-2, and that would be the end of their cup dreams.

On the plus side, it allowed them to fully concentrate on the league.

Following their FA Cup exit they travelled to Old Trafford. United went top of the table with a 2-1 win. Sammy McIlroy and Gordon Hill scoring either side of Don Givens goal.

Since beating Stoke, 3-2 at the end of November, QPR had won just 1 of the following 8 matches they’d played in all competitions. That win had taken them to the top of the table, but now they were down in 5th, 5pts behind the leaders, United.

They then hosted Birmingham at Loftus Road and seemed to get themselves back on track as two Don Masson goals gave them a 2-1 win. They weren’t completely back in form as they went to West Ham and lost 0-1.

That was their 6th defeat of the season and the 4th in their last 6 league matches. But that was the time when it all changed for Rangers. They wouldn’t lose again until mid-April. 12 games unbeaten with 7 clean sheets, 27 goals scored. Many who remember this season fondly, will point to this period as being probably one of the best times to be a QPR fan.

January ended with a 2-0 win away to Aston Villa. Second half goals from John Hollins and Gerry Francis gave QPR, 2 valuable points, on the same day that Man Utd, Liverpool and Derby all won. QPR were still 4pts behind Man Utd, and had played a game more. More consistency would be needed in February.



QPR were just about to hit a rich vein of form. Wolves were the visitors on 7th February and a 2-1 lead became a 4-2 win for the Hoops. Givens (2), Thomas and Francis (pen) were the scorers.

QPR moved up to 2nd with that win, as Leeds and Derby both lost. Liverpool hit the top with their win over Leeds.

A week later and they made the short journey to North London to take on Tottenham. A 3-0 win showed the gulf between the two sides. Givens and Francis (2) again were the scorers. Francis had now scored 4 goals in his last 3 games, Givens 3 in his last 2. Rangers were now 1pt behind Liverpool and Man Utd, but had played 2 games more at that stage.

By the time Ipswich came to Loftus road in mid-Feb, QPR were in full flow and saw them off 3-1.

Man Utd lost to Villa, so QPR were back up to 2nd place, just 2pts behind Liverpool and one of 3 teams on 40pts with Man Utd and Derby.

When Dave Thomas scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win over Leicester, QPR were now level with Liverpool who were beaten at Arsenal. This was now QPR’s 5th straight win and they were the form side in the league. They also only conceded in 2 of those games and their defence bore comparison with Liverpool.

Their final game of February was against the bottom club, Sheffield United. United were in a dire situation. 10pts from safety with just 10 games to go, and with only 2pts for a win, they seemed doomed. They managed to galvanise themselves to hold QPR to a 0-0 draw.

With Liverpool suffering a surprise 0-2 defeat at home to Middlesbro, QPR ended the month level on points with Liverpool and Man Utd, although they’d played a game more.



If QPR fans thought February was good, 5 wins and a draw, March was out of this world. 4 games, 4 wins, 8 goals scored and just 1 conceded.

Coventry scored the only goal against Phil Parkes in March, but that was hardly any consolation as Thomas, Francis, Givens and Masson gave QPR a 4-1 at Loftus Road on 6th March.

That win took Rangers back to the top of the table, and by this time they were flying. They travelled to Merseyside next, to Everton, who were keen to avenge their 0-5 mauling at Loftus Road. It wasn’t to be and Stan Bowles and Mick Leach scored in each half to give QPR a 2-0 win. Liverpool, Man Utd and Derby all won too, and they were all on 45pts, just 2 behind QPR who’d played a game more than Liverpool & Derby and two more than United.

It was clear Rangers would need to keep this run going, as United then drew at Norwich in one of their games in hand, to move into 2nd just 1pt behind QPR with a game in hand. On 20th,Man Utd were involved in an exciting 4-3 win at Newcastle, Liverpool went to Norwich and won 1-0 and Derby won 2-0 at Middlesbro. QPR were at Stoke and Dave Webb scored the only goal of the game to give QPR a 1-0 win, and a 3rd successive win at that. Derby were then held at home by Stoke, and moved into 3rd place, 1pt behind QPR but no longer having a game in hand.

At the end of March, the top 4 clubs were all at home, Derby beat Birmingham 4-2, Man Utd beat Middlesbro 3-0, and Liverpool beat Burnley, 2-0. QPR entertained Man City and again Dave Webb scored the only goal of the game.

QPR ended March having won every game they could, yet were still just 1pt ahead of Man Utd and Derby and 2pts ahead of Liverpool. Both Man Utd and Liverpool had a game in hand on Rangers too. As April approached, QPR, still unbeaten at home, could look forward to 3 of their last 5 games at Loftus Road. They were now in pole position, 10 games unbeaten and had only conceded goals in 3 of those 10 games.


Things were finely poised

The final month, and the final push. 4 clubs were in with a chance of the title. QPR, Man Utd, Liverpool and Derby. QPR lead by 1pt from Man Utd and Derby, with Liverpool a further point behind. QPR and Derby only had 5 games left, Man Utd and Liverpool, 6.

Liverpool still had the Merseyside derby at Anfield to come, Man Utd had the Manchester derby at Old Trafford to look forward to. Derby had both Man City and Everton to play, as well as an FA Cup Semi-Final against Man Utd to go as well. Liverpool were also heavily involved in the UEFA Cup (now the Europa League) and had reached the Semi-Finals. For QPR, only their final game against Leeds would see them meet an opponent in the top 9. They were on a run of 19pts from a possible 20 from their last 10 games.

Saturday, April 3 1976

QPR travelled to Newcastle. Mick Leach had scored the only goal of the game at Loftus Road last September, but Newcastle had put QPR out of both the League and FA Cups. Newcastle scored first but McLintock and Bowles gave Rangers a crucial 2-1 away win.

On the same day, Liverpool beat Everton 1-0 with a late goal from supersub, David Fairclough. Man Utd and Derby played in the FA Cup Semi-Final, which Utd won 2-0.

Tuesday, April 6

Liverpool beat Leicester 1-0 at Anfield with a goal from Kevin Keegan

QPR and Liverpool were now equal on 53pts from 38 games.

Saturday, April 10

Liverpool travelled to Villa Park and were held 0-0. Man Utd went to Portman Road and were beaten 0-3 by Ipswich. Derby were involved in a cracker with Man City at Maine Road. City won 4-3.

QPR had a crucial game at home to Middlesbro. No score at half-time and locals could be forgiven for getting nervous. Their mood wouldn’t have improved when Phil Boersma (fomer Liverpool player) gave the visitors the lead early on in the second half. But Don Givens, Stan Bowles and 2 from Gerry Francis (1 from the spot) gave QPR a 4-2 win

QPR 39-55
Liverpool 39-54
Man Utd 37-50
Derby 38-50

Those results probably put paid to the title hopes of Derby and Man Utd, so it would become a two-horse race,

Saturday, April 17

Man Utd bounced back from their Ipswich defeat by beating Everton, 2-1. Derby drew 2-2 at home to Leicester and Liverpool won a thriller when they beat Stoke, 5-3.

QPR were away to Norwich. They were hopeful, after their 2-0 win on Boxing Day, and were also in great form. 6 straight league wins, and unbeaten in 12, winning 11 of those. But this was just one game too far for a QPR side who finally looked to be getting tired. Norwich took the lead, QPR equalised with a good goal from Dave Thomas, but Norwich then scored twice, although Phil Boyer looked offside. QPR managed a goal back when Powell lobbed his own keeper, but the defeat hurt.

Liverpool were now top by 1pt, and QPR needed them to slip up against either at Man City or at Wolves.

Monday, April 19

The Easter programme in the ‘70’s was a busy affair with 2 games in 3 days. QPR were back at home for the visit of Arsenal. Still unbeaten at home, Rangers were keen to avenge their defeat at Highbury in late December. Goals from Frank McLintock and another penalty from Gerry Francis, gave QPR a 2-1 win.

Liverpool had to go to Maine Road and play Man City. Heighway and 2 more from David Fairclough, sealed a 3-0 win for Liverpool. Man Utd won 1-0 at Burnley and were still in with a chance, although a slim one.

Liverpool 41-58
QPR 41-57
Man Utd 39-54

QPR had just one game left, a home match against Leeds, who were 4th. Liverpool’s final match was away to Wolves, who were battling relegation. Because of UEFA Cup fixtures, there would be an anomaly to the schedule. These days the final matches are played all on the last day. Back in 1976 QPR played their final match on 24th April, and Liverpool wouldn’t go to Wolves until 10 days later on the 4th May.

Before that, Man Utd were at home to Stoke and saw their feint hopes of a title vanish in a 0-1 defeat.

Saturday 24th April

QPR at home to Leeds. A goalless first half was interrupted by Dave Thomas opening the scoring midway through the second half. Suddenly, QPR seemed to play much more confidence and less nervy. Then the moment that every QPR fan had wanted, a breakaway saw Stan Bowles in acres of space and he finished calmly and with less than 10 minutes to go, QPR had confirmed victory with a 2-0 win. Queue celebrations. QPR were 1pt ahead of Liverpool and needed Wolves to win in their match in 10 days time.

Many QPR fans will point to them being champions for the next 10 days.

Anyone recognise themselves in that crowd?

Tuesday, May 4th

Liverpool had just won the first leg of the UEFA Cup Final, 3-2 against Bruges. Southampton had beaten Man Utd in the FA Cup Final, and now attention turned to the final match of the season. You’d never have it happen now, but the championship decider was played the same night at the Manchester derby. United won 2-0.

Wolves v Liverpool

Wolves were 3rd from bottom and a win would see them safe. Liverpool just needed a draw.

Steve Kindon put the home side ahead in the first half. 15 minutes left and then Kevin Keegan put away a Toshack header. Then Toshack, himself made it 2-1, before the best finish of the night as Ray Kennedy gave Liverpool a 3-1 victory.

2 years after taking on the ‘impossible job’, Bob Paisley had won the League Championship for Liverpool. He would go onto win more trophies per season than any other manager in the English game (but that’s for another story)


QPR were left to dream about what might have been. Their form in December and early January probably cost them the title, as did the defeat to Norwich, with just 2 games left. After they lost to West Ham at the end of January, they played 15 games, won 13, drew 1, lost 1, scored 31, conceded 11.

Several players were capped by their countries, with Clement, Gillard, Thomas, Bowles and Francis all playing for England. Don Masson became a Scotland international. Don Givens became a regular in the Republic of Ireland squad.

They have yet to come anywhere near emulating this. Maybe with the money they now have they could at least consider a European place, but for now 1975-76 will go down as their greatest ever season.

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