Going Right to the Wire!
1977: City and Liverpool Battle it out for the Title, Sunderland Fight the Drop

Richard Bowdery looks at the last time City and Liverpool were this close in a title race – oh, and it was touch and go at the bottom too!

You have to go back many years to find the last time Manchester City and Liverpool were neck and neck for the League title: 27 in fact.

And while City and Liverpool were vying for the League Champions crown, at the other end of the table ten clubs were battling it out to avoid relegation.

It was the 1976/77 season – Manchester United had appointed Dave Sexton as manager, after Tommy Docherty was sacked following his affair with the wife of the club’s physiotherapist. Don Revie announced his resignation as England manager after three years and headed to the Middle East to fill up his tank. And Wimbledon FC, that season’s Isthmian League champions, were elected to the Football League replacing Workington.

It was Liverpool who edged the title by a single point. Their 57 points from 42 games might not seem much today but remember this was in an era when only two points were awarded for a win.

Liverpool were going for the treble but stuttered in the FA Cup Final which they lost to Manchester United, 2-1.

Four days later order was restored when the Reds defeated West Germany’s Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-1, in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, to become only the second English side to lift the European Cup.

At the other end of the First Division the contenders for demotion had been whittled down to six. They were Bristol City, Coventry, Stoke City, Sunderland, Tottenham, and West Ham United.

Spurs were the first to fall through the trap door but a surprise 2-1 victory for Bristol City over Liverpool kept City’s hopes alive.

Stoke lost to Aston Villa by the only goal of the game to confirm their demotion leaving one vacancy to be filled.

Three teams, Bristol City, Coventry and Sunderland battled for the points to stay up in their last game of the season.

Hunter-BristolC77

Norman Hunter joined Bristol City from Leeds in October 1976 and helped keep them up

In a twist Bristol faced Coventry at the Sky Blues Highfield Road ground, while Sunderland travelled to Everton.

Conspiracy theorists must have had a field day, as the two teams drew 2-2. Though it didn’t matter as Sunderland went down 2-0 to Everton and so occupied the final berth on the ship sailing for Division Two.

The relegation battle that season had one of the closest finishes in the League’s history with five points separating the bottom ten teams. Nails must have been bitten to the quick.

So the parallels between 1976/77 and 2013/14 are eerily similar. Will Sunderland stay up? Will Manchester City get their revenge? All will be revealed over the coming week…

richard@bobbyfc.com

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