After the Heysel Stadium disaster English clubs were banned from competing in European competitions indefinitely from season 1985-86. The financial implications for the six clubs who had earned qualification from the previous season were potentially disastrous. English football was going through a difficult time with reduced attendances and more coverage on the front pages than the authorities would prefer.
The end of the 1985-86 season had not been a happy one. 56 fans died in a fire at Bradford City’s Valley Parade stadium and then at the European Cup Final in Brussels, 39 Juventus fans lost their lives when a wall collapsed after a charge by Liverpool supporters. This was the final straw for UEFA and they took immediate action. English clubs were banned from European competition until such time as it was considered they had rid themselves of “the English disease” or violence at football matches. Yet even after that Liverpool would suffer a further three year ban as punishment.
The Football League was keen to come up with a substitute competition for the clubs concerned and so they conceived the idea of a Super Cup. The six clubs were split into two groups with each side playing the other two clubs in their group twice. The top two in each group would then meet in a Semi-Final and Final stage played over two legs. The winners would have to negotiate eight matches to be successful.
The intention was to hold the competition annually for the duration of the ban (which ultimately existed for five years) but the games were poorly attended and the competition just didn’t quite do it when compared to the glamour of European tournaments. To make things worse some of the clubs themselves hardly managed to drum up interest in it and so it would remain a one-off cup.
Perhaps the fact a sponsor was yet to be found right up to kick-off didn’t help. In the end a cable TV channel, ScreenSport, came to the rescue. It had been launched in 1984 and was bought by WH Smith in 1987 and then later by Eurosport before its demise in 1993.
Another hurdle to get over was the clubs were in dispute with BBC and ITV over money and so there was no football on telly until the New Year. At the time there was real concern television would reduce gates, with many in power believing people would just stay at home and watch rather than make their way to the grounds. This meant the brand new competition got off to the worst possible start as people couldn’t watch it on TV.
For the rest of the First and Second Division clubs, the Football League devised their own competition and called it The Full Members Cup.
As if all this turmoil wasn’t enough, behind the scenes there was talk of a breakaway league and by December 1985 plans were in place to reduce the First Division in size and introduce play-offs. Fortunately, a new TV deal was agreed. It seems madness today to think back to a TV deal which included nine First Division and League Cup games from January with a separate deal for the FA Cup and two further live matches, England v Scotland and the European Cup Final. For many supporters now they are used to seeing at least three live games every weekend, but back then football just didn’t trust or understand television and so we had the situation of no football to watch at all for the first six months of the season.
The six clubs to participate in the competition were, Everton (League Champions), Manchester United (FA Cup winners), Norwich City (League Cup winners), and then the three clubs who had qualified for the UEFA Cup, Liverpool, Tottenham and Southampton. The two groups were drawn and consisted of Liverpool, Tottenham and Southampton in Group One, and Everton, Norwich City and Manchester United in Group Two. There were rumours the two biggest clubs in the country at the time, Liverpool and Everton, were kept apart in the draw in a bid to give the competition some credence and try to keep the interest through to the final.
The competition kicked off on 17th September at Anfield where Liverpool took on Southampton. Their League form couldn’t have been more different. Southampton were yet to win away and Liverpool had won every home match. All the goals came in the first half as Jan Molby gave the home side an early lead, with Danny Wallace equalising mid-way through, only for Kenny Dalglish to put Liverpool back in front almost immediately. A good win for Liverpool but concern for the organisers as fewer than 17,000 turned out to watch.
The next night Manchester United took on Everton at Old Trafford. United had started the season off with a bang, having won every one of their eight League matches and were eight points ahead of Everton in 2nd. Everton lead at the break after Kevin Sheedy and Gary Lineker scored to cancel out Bryan Robson’s penalty. Sheedy scored again in the second period with Graeme Sharp adding a fourth. Frank Stapleton’s goal was merely a consolation and United had lost their 100% record in all competitions, although if you include their Charity Shield defeat to Everton then it was their second defeat. Just under 34,000 turned up for the game and although that was more than at Anfield, it was still down on the regular 50,000+ who had been watching the League games at Old Trafford. In his programme notes, United Chairman, Martin Edwards, said he hoped the Super Cup would only last for one season as he hoped the ban on English clubs would only last that long. He got his wish in the end, but only the bit about the shelf-life of the competition rather than the ban.
17th September 1985, Anfield, 16,189
LIVERPOOL (2) 2 (Molby, Dalglish)
SOUTHAMPTON (1) 1 (Wallace)
Liverpool: Grobbelaar; Nicol, Lawrenson, Hansen, Beglin; Johnston, Lee, Molby, McMahon; Walsh, Dalglish
Southampton: Shilton; Golac, Bond, Wright, Dennis; Curtis (Lawrence), Townsend, Whitlock, Armstrong; Wallace, Jordan
18th September 1985, Old Trafford, 33,859
MANCHESTER UNITED (1) 2 (Robson pen, Stapleton)
EVERTON (2) 4 (Sheedy 2, Lineker, Sharp)
Man Utd:Bailey; Duxbury, McGrath, Moran, Albiston; Strachan, Robson, Whiteside, Barnes; Hughes, Stapleton
Everton: Southall; Stevens, Ratcliffe, Marshall, Van den Hauwe; Steven, Harper, Bracewell, Sheedy; Lineker (Heath), Sharp
At the beginning of October barely 10,000 could be bothered to get to Goodison Park to see Gary Lineker score the only goal of the game as Everton beat Second Division Norwich City to virtually confirm their passage to the next stage. The vibe around Goodison was so poor that Everton manager, Howard Kendall, later admitted his team talk consisted of the following phrase “what a waste of time this is – out you go”.
At White Hart Lane two first half goals from Mark Falco were enough to see off Southampton despite Steve Moran’s reply in the second period. Southampton were lying in the relegation zone in the League and their participation in this competition was now in doubt with a second defeat.
2nd October 1985, White Hart Lane, 11,549
TOTTENHAM (2) 2 (Falco 2)
SOUTHAMPTON (0) 1 (Moran)
Tottenham: Clemence; Thomas, Perryman, Roberts, Hughton; P Allen, Hoddle, Ardiles (Mabbutt), Waddle; Falco, C Allen (Chiedozie)
Southampton: Shilton; Baker, Wright, Bond, Armstrong; Case, Townsend, Curtis; Wallace (Lawrence), Jordan, Moran
Goodison Park, 10,329
EVERTON (0) 1 (Lineker)
NORWICH CITY (0) 0
Everton: Southall; Stevens, Ratcliffe, Marshall, Van den Hauwe; Steven, Harper, Bracewell, Sheedy; Lineker, Sharp
Norwich: Woods; Haylock, Bruce, Spearing, Phelan; Barham (Brooke), Mendham, Williams, van Wyk; Drinkell, Rosario
By the time Liverpool visited Southampton for their return fixture they had moved into second place in the League, still ten points behind the leaders Manchester United. Southampton had moved up a couple of places themselves and put up a better fight than at Anfield as David Armstrong’s goal was cancelled out by a late Paul Walsh goal and the points were shared. The next night at Carrow Road, Norwich City pulled off a shock as Peter Mendham’s goal beat the League Champions, Everton. The attendance for this game was only slightly down on their League matches and the win opened up the group. Norwich City had been looking forward to, what would have been, their first ever foray into European Competition after they lifted the League Cup back in April beating Sunderland who then joined Norwich in being relegated from the First Division.
22nd October 1986, The Dell, 10,503
SOUTHAMPTON (0) 1 (Armstrong pen)
LIVERPOOL (0) 1 (Walsh)
Southampton: Shilton; Baker, Whitlock (Townsend), Wright, Holmes; Case, Cockerill, Puckett, Armstrong; Wallace, Moran
Liverpool: Grobbelaar; Neal, Lawrenson, Hansen, Beglin; Nicol, Johnston, McMahon, Molby (MacDonald), Whelan; Walsh
23rd October 1986, Carrow Road, 12,196
NORWICH CITY (0) 1 (Mendham)
EVERTON (0) 0
Norwich: Woods; Culverhouse, Bruce, Watson, Phelan; Barham, Mendham (Brooke), Williams, van Wyk; Drinkell, Biggins
Everton: Southall; Stevens, Ratcliffe, Harper, Van den Hauwe; Steven, Heath, Bracewell, Sheedy; Lineker (Richardson), Sharp (Wilkinson)
Manchester United’s 100% record in the League had gone but by this stage they were still unbeaten and nine points clear of Liverpool in second. Norwich had begun to get some sort of momentum going in Division Two after a poor start and after playing in front of crowds of around 10,000 they seem galvanised despite Old Trafford being less than half full. Wayne Biggins had scored his first goal of the season at Brighton the previous weekend, and he opened the scoring here as well. Norwich lead at the break but a Norman Whiteside penalty
6th November 1985, Old Trafford, 20,130
MANCHESTER UNITED (0) 1 (Whiteside pen)
NORWICH CITY (1) 1 (Biggins)
Man Utd: Turner; Gidman, McGrath, Hogg, Albiston; Blackmore, Whiteside, Olsen, Barnes (Strachan); Hughes, Brazil
Norwich: Woods; Culverhouse, Bruce, Watson, Phelan; Barham, Mendham, Williams, van Wyk; Drinkell, Biggins
By the time December came along, Liverpool had hunted down United’s lead at the top of the League to reduce the deficit to just two points. In the Super Cup they made it two wins out of two as Kevin MacDonald and Paul Walsh scored first half goals which ultimately saw off any challenge Spurs might have been able to muster.
In the other group, Manchester United’s poor overall form continued. Since their last game against Norwich they had yet to win a match of any sort, and there was a kind of irony in Everton’s winning goal coming from one of their own players, Frank Stapleton, who put through his own net. The defeat for United meant they could only qualify for the Semi-Finals if they beat Norwich by two goals in the last group game.
3rd December 1985, Anfield, 14,855
LIVERPOOL (2) 2 (MacDonald, Walsh)
TOTTENHAM (0) 0
Liverpool: Grobbelaar; Nicol, Lawrenson, Hansen, Beglin; Johnston, Lee, Molby (Wark), MacDonald; Walsh, Rush
Tottenham: Clemence; Stevens, Perryman (Thomas), Mabbutt, Hughton; P Allen (Ardiles), Roberts, Hoddle, Waddle; Falco, C Allen
4th December 1985, Goodison Park, 20,542
EVERTON (0) 1 (Stapleton og)
MANCHESTER UNITED (0) 0
Everton: Southall, Harper (Pointon), Ratcliffe, Stevens, Van den Hauwe; Steven, Bracewell, Richardson; Heath, Lineker, Wilkinson
Man Utd: Turner; Gidman, McGrath, Blackmore, Gibson; Strachan, Whiteside (Dempsey), Olsen; Stapleton, Hughes, Brazil
When Norwich and United met at Carrow Road to decide the other qualifier from this group, their respective League form was poles apart. Norwich were unbeaten in their last nine, having won three in a row. United had just beaten Ipswich, to end a run of four without a win. The biggest crowd of the season at Carrow Road saw David Williams give the home side a half-time lead, but Colin Gibson equalised in the second half for the visitors. Norwich then just saw out the game to earn a draw and a place, alongside Everton, in the Semi-Finals.
11th December 1985, Carrow Road, 15,449
NORWICH CITY (1) 1 (Williams)
MANCHESTER UNITED (0) 1 (Gibson)
Norwich: Woods; Culverhouse, Bruce, Watson, Phelan; Barham, Mendham, Williams, van Wyk; Drinkell, Biggins
Man Utd: Bailey; Gidman, McGrath, Garton, Gibson; Strachan, Dempsey, Blackmore,Whiteside; Stapleton, Brazil
With Liverpool already having confirmed their progression to the Semis, these two were fighting to join them. It was Southampton’s final group game and anything other than a win would see the end of their participation. Southampton had already beaten Spurs when the two met at The Dell in the League a month earlier, but this time Spurs would get their revenge. Mark Falco and Clive Allen put the visitors in front in the first half. Despite Danny Wallace getting a goal back for the home side, David Leworthy made certain of the points for Spurs and Southampton were out.
17th December 1985, The Dell, 4,680
SOUTHAMPTON (0) 1 (Wallace)
TOTTENHAM (2) 3 (Falco, C Allen, Leworthy)
Southampton: Kite; Forrest, Wright, Bond, Dennis; Case (Townsend), Cockerill, Holmes, Armstrong (Puckett); Moran, Wallace
Tottenham: Clemence; Thomas, Perryman, Mabbutt, Hughton; Stevens, Roberts, Ardiles (Leworthy), P Allen; Falco, C Allen (Cooke)
Group One was already decided when Liverpool visited White Hart Lane. For Tottenham this came in the middle of a six game run without a win, and a measure of how they rated this particular competition could be evidenced in calling up forty one year old former legend, Pat Jennings to give Ray Clemence a rest. During a goalless first half, Kevin MacDonald broke his arm in a collision with Steve Perryman and had to be replaced. Ian Rush scored early in the second half, and then again just after Mark Lawrenson had made it 2-0. Three goals in twelve minutes finished off the hosts and Liverpool marched on having dropped just two points.
14th January 1986, White Hart Lane, 10,078
TOTTENHAM (0) 0
LIVERPOOL (0) 3 (Rush 2, Lawrenson)
Tottenham: Jennings; Perryman, Stevens, Miller, Hughton; Chiedozie, Roberts, Mabbutt, P Allen, Galvin (Cooke); C Allen
Liverpool: Grobbelaar; Nicol, Lawrenson, Hansen, MacDonald (Gillespie); Lee, McMahon (Wark), Molby, Whelan; Walsh, Rush
There were already noises being made about fixture pile-up by the time the Semis arrived. Liverpool had already made it into the Semi-Finals of the League Cup and were still in the FA Cup, which had reached the Fifth Round stage. Everton and Tottenham were due to meet in the FA Cup so they had other matters to concentrate on. Everton were sitting top of the League with Liverpool in fourth and so this competition was viewed as little more than an inconvenience.
At a snowy White Hart Lane just 7,548 bothered to turn up for the game where Everton fielded only three first team regulars. The game ended goalless and was largely a forgettable affair.
At Carrow Road Norwich took on Liverpool. Norwich were unbeaten in their last seventeen in the League and had just come off a run of ten wins on the spin. Liverpool were fourth in the League, three points behind leaders, Everton. They’d already faced Norwich this season when they thumped them 5-0 in the FA Cup Third Round at Anfield. Norwich’s top scorer, Kevin Drinkell broke the deadlock in the second half but player-manager, Kenny Dalglish, equalised for the visitors ten minutes from time and the game ended level.
5th February 1986, White Hart Lane, 7,548
TOTTENHAM (0) 0
EVERTON (0) 0
Tottenham: Clemence; Perryman, Mabbutt, Miller, Stevens; Chiedozie, Roberts (Hughton), Crook, Waddle; Falco (P Allen), C Allen
Everton: Southall; Stevens, Van den Hauwe, Marshall, Pointon; Steven, Reid, Billinge, Richardson; Coyle, Wilkinson
Carrow Road, 15,313
NORWICH CITY (0) 1 (Drinkell)
LIVERPOOL (0) 1 (Dalglish)
Norwich: Woods; Culverhouse, Bruce, Watson, Phelan; Barham, Mendham, Williams; Drinkell, Deeham, Biggins
Liverpool: Grobbelaar; Nicol, Lawrenson, Gillespie, Beglin; Johnston, Lee, Molby, Whelan; Walsh, Dalglish
The fixture schedule only allowed one of the Semi-Finals to be played before the end of the season. At Goodison Park, if Howard Kendall thought the whole competition a waste of time, he found his players were keener on it as they swept Tottenham aside. Everton were three points ahead of Liverpool at the top of the First Division, unbeaten in eleven and just had a six-game winning run ended when they were held at Chelsea. Tottenham were mid-table, having lost six of their last ten. Adrian Heath put Everton in front but Mark Falco equalised and with both sides still level after ninety minutes, the game went into extra time. Goals from Derek Mountfield and Graeme Sharp won it for Everton and they were through to the Final.
19th March 1986, Goodison Park, 12,008
EVERTON (0) 3 (Heath, Mountfield, Sharp)
TOTTENHAM (0) 1 (Falco)
Everton: Southall; Billinge (van den Hauwe), Marshall, Mountfield, Pointon; Harper, Heath, Richardson, Sheedy; Wilkinson (Sharp), Coyle
Tottenham: Clemence; Thomas (Bowen), Stevens, Miller, Hughton; Chiedozie, P Allen, Mabbutt, Galvin; Falco, Waddle
But the identity of their opponents was not known for almost three weeks as Liverpool were chasing trophies on three fronts. They’d just fallen at the final hurdle in a bid to get to yet another League Cup Final when a late goal against QPR knocked them out in the Semis. Two days before the other Semi-Final in this competition, they overcame Watford in a replay of their Sixth Round FA Cup encounter. By the time they found space in the calendar for this tie they’d booked their place in the FA Cup Final and three days before this game Kenny Dalglish had scored the winner against Chelsea to claim another League title, and his first in his first year in charge of the team.
Four days before the FA Cup Final Liverpool lined up at Anfield for the visit of Norwich City, and began by parading the League Championship trophy. With the tie level, former Tottenham midfielder, Gary Brooke, gave Norwich an early lead. They had already won the Second Division title, having lead since mid-December and were in buoyant mood. Liverpool didn’t come back into it until ten minutes into the second half when Kevin On seventy two minutes, Jan Molby converted a penalty and then soon after Craig Johnston completed the scoring and Liverpool’s 3-1 win matched that of Everton’s in the other Semi-Final.
6th May 1986, Anfield, 26,696
LIVERPOOL (0) 3 (MacDonald, Molby pen, Johnston)
NORWICH CITY (1) 1 (Brooke)
Liverpool:Grobbelaar; Nicol, Gillespie, Lawrenson, Beglin; Johnston, Lee, MacDonald, McMahon, Whelan (Molby); Walsh
Norwich: Woods; Culverhouse, Bruce, Watson, Phelan (Haylock); Clayton, Brooke, Williams, van Wyk; Drinkell, Deehan
Liverpool and Everton, due to meet in the FA Cup Final, were paired again in another Final but when it would be played was highly doubtful. With the World Cup looming and England, Scotland and Northern Ireland all booked to appear, the authorities were keen to allow players as much time off beforehand. As it was there was no time to play the Final before the start of the following season, so we had the unusual aspect of a Final of a competition being played four months after the finalists were known. For Everton the gap for them was six months between their Semi-Final win and the Final.
This was the third successive trophy on offer to English clubs which had been contested by Liverpool and Everton. Liverpool won the FA Cup in May, the two shared the Charity Shield in August and here they were contesting the, seemingly unwanted, Super Cup. By the time of the first leg the two clubs were again in the top three in the League, with Everton unbeaten. Ian Rush put Liverpool in front after just six minutes and they held the lead until former Liverpool player, Kevin Sheedy, equalised five minutes before the break.
After the turnaround, Steve McMahon restored Liverpool’s lead ten minutes into the second period and then midway through the half, Ian Rush scored his second and Liverpool had a useful lead to take to the second leg.
16th September 1986, Anfield, 20,660
LIVERPOOL (1) 3 (Rush 2, McMahon)
EVERTON (1) 1 (Sheedy)
Liverpool: Hooper; Venison, Lawrenson, Gillespie, Beglin; Nicol, MacDonald, McMahon, Whelan (Molby); Rush, Dalglish
Everton: Mimms; Billing, Ratcliffe, Marshall, Power; Steven, Adams, Langley, Sheedy (Aspinall); Wilkinson, Sharp
Just 26,068 turned up at Goodison Park for the second leg as Liverpool took their two goal advantage there. Two soon became three when Ian Rush was again on target after ten minutes. He scored again just before the half-hour to give the visitors a lead at the break. Just after the hour Trevor Steven missed a penalty for Everton when he hit the post and then Stevie Nicol scored almost immediately and the game was all over as a contest. There was still time for Rush to complete his hat-trick with Graeme Sharp getting no more than a consolation goal as Liverpool ran out comfortable winners, 4-1 on the night and 7-2 overall.
Liverpool lifted the new trophy for the one and only time and there were also tankards for the players, which seemed odd as there was a lot of fuss about choosing a brewery as a sponsor for the competition. As the tournament was only taking place due to the European ban on English clubs after the Heysel tragedy, it was thought that as heavy drinking had clearly played a part in the events of that evening, a brewery would not be a suitable sponsor.
30th September 1986, Goodison Park, 26,068
EVERTON (1) 1 (Sharp)
LIVERPOOL (2) 4 (Rush 3, Nicol)
Everton: Mimms; Billinge, Ratcliffe, Mountfield, Power; Steven, Adams, Heath, Sheedy (Aspinall)(Pointon); Wilkinson, Sharp
Liverpool: Grobbelaar; Gillespie, Hansen, Lawrenson, Beglin; Nicol (Venison), Molby, McMahon (Walsh), Whelan; Wark, Rush