If you’ve read any of my stuff before you’ll know I love a good end of season drama. Relegation battles are especially tempting. Here is the story of possibly the daddy of them all.

1993-94 was the second season English football’s top tier had been known as The Premier League. Nothing was all that different from when it was the First Division, except most of the football was on SkyTV.

One important innovation was the introduction of a Final Day. This is where all sides kick off at the same time on the same day for their final fixture.

It was hoped this would build up the drama. For the watching fan on their sofa, they could see the drama unfold, with teams vying for places as they desperately grabbed at the ledge of safety where others slipped into the pit of relegation.

In just its second season Sky had one humdinger of a final day – here is the story of how it all unfolded.

1993-94

Firstly, some of the main features had been decided. Manchester United had been confirmed as League Champions, retaining the title they won the year before. They had finished eight points clear of Blackburn Rovers in second. Blackburn were themselves seven points ahead of Newcastle United in third with Arsenal a further six points back in fourth. Newcastle had only come up the season before so their performance was particularly impressive.

At the bottom, Swindon Town were relegated. This was their first season in the top flight and they had only won five of their 42 matches, conceding 100 goals.

It was the bottom of the table which caught the attention, though.

Above Swindon, five clubs were going into the final day nervous of the outcome.

Southampton, Sheffield United, Ipswich, Everton and Oldham.

Mathematically, Manchester City were not certain of safety, but their goal difference was such that it would take an unbelievable result to overturn a difference of 11 goals.

7th May 1994

Here is how the table looked on the morning of the final day.

PosTeamPldPtsGD
16Manchester City4144-11
17Southampton4142-17
18Sheffield United4142-17
19Ipswich Town4142-23
20Everton4141-22
21Oldham Athletic4139-26
22Swindon4130-48

 

The fixtures in focus were:

Blackburn RoversvIpswich Town
ChelseavSheffield United
EvertonvWimbledon
Norwich CityvOldham Athletic
West Ham UnitedvSouthampton

 

Ipswich looked to have the hardest task, away to second-placed Blackburn. But Blackburn had failed in their title challenge due to a run of one win in four matches leading to the final day. Ipswich’s form was worse as they hadn‘t won since mid-March – 11 matches – picking up just four points. Ipswich had won the previous meeting back in November, 1-0.

Oldham’s chances seemed the most remote. They had to beat Norwich and hope to overturn a goal difference of -3 if Ipswich lost, or -9 if Southampton or Sheffield United lost. This was to be Oldham’s fourth game in a week. They’d drawn at home to both Sheffield clubs but then lost at Tottenham. They’d taken Manchester United to an FA Cup semi-final replay, and the fixture pile-up had seen them play eight matches during April alone. Their opponents on the final day, Norwich City, weren’t in great form themselves. They’d won just one of their last eight, picking up just five points. That win, though, was when they spoilt the party at Anfield in the final game there of The Kop being standing only. Oldham had won the corresponding fixture 2-1.

Southampton knew a point could keep them up, but it was conceivable defeat would not put them down, as long as their result was no worse than Sheffield United’s. They travelled to West Ham, with a record of three wins in their last five matches. West Ham, with nothing to play for, had lost three times in their last six matches. West Ham had won the previous meeting, 2-1.

Sheffield United were in a similar position to Southampton, knowing they probably only needed a draw, and defeat may not result in the drop. Remarkably, they had lost just once in their last 12 games, although they’d only won four of those. They were away to Chelsea, who had only won one of their last seven. They had beaten Chelsea 1-0 in the previous meeting.

Everton were judged to be in a perilous position. Just one win in their last 10 matches had seen them face the real possibility of dropping out of the top division for the first time since 1954. They’d picked up just one point from their last three matches and things were looking really bleak. They were up against a Wimbledon side in great form. Unbeaten in their last nine, conceding just seven goals, they had won three in a row. The two clubs had drawn the previous meeting, 1-1.

Kickoff

4 minutes – GOAL!!!

EVERTON   0   –   1   WIMBLEDON

Barely had everyone settled down before Dean Holdsworth gave Wimbledon an early lead from the penalty spot at Goodison Park. The worst possible start for Everton. It was Holdsworth’s 17th of the season, and his sixth in the last four matches.

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea0:0Sheffield United
Everton0:1Wimbledon
Norwich City0:0Oldham Athletic
West Ham United0:0Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Southampton4243-17
18Sheffield United4243-17
19Ipswich Town4243-23
20Everton4241-23
21Oldham Athletic4240-26

 

11 minutes – GOAL!!!

WEST HAM UNITED   1   –   0   SOUTHAMPTON

Danny Williamson was making his home debut for West Ham and after just 11 minutes he fired them in front at Upton Park. Southampton now dropped perilously close to the relegation zone.

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea0:0Sheffield United
Everton0:1Wimbledon
Norwich City0:0Oldham Athletic
West Ham United1:0Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Sheffield United4243-17
18Ipswich Town4243-23
19Southampton4242-18
20Everton4241-23
21Oldham Athletic4240-26

 

14 minutes – GOAL!!!

NORWICH CITY   0   –   1   OLDHAM ATHLETIC

Mark Brennan’s shot hit Sean McCarthy, but the Oldham striker kept control of the ball and fired it into the net to give Oldham hope of staying up at Carrow Road. They would need a few more, and also need Ipswich to lose, but there was hope.

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea0:0Sheffield United
Everton0:1Wimbledon
Norwich City0:1Oldham Athletic
West Ham United1:0Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Sheffield United4243-17
18Ipswich Town4243-23
19Southampton4242-18
20Oldham Athletic4242-25
21Everton4241-23

 

20 minutes – GOAL!!!

EVERTON   0   –   2   WIMBLEDON

Further misery for Everton as they failed to clear the ball in the area. Andy Clarke fired at goal where former Liverpool defender, Gary Ablett, inadvertently put through his own net. Everton were now staring down the barrel of Second Division football. They were 0-2 down and only had 70 minutes to try and save their skin. Things were looking bleak.

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea0:0Sheffield United
Everton0:2Wimbledon
Norwich City0:1Oldham Athletic
West Ham United1:0Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Sheffield United4243-17
18Ipswich Town4243-23
19Southampton4242-18
20Oldham Athletic4242-25
21Everton4241-24

 

24 minutes – GOAL!!!

EVERTON   1   –   2   WIMBLEDON

Another penalty at Goodison and this time it was awarded to the home side. Graham Stuart stepped up and calmly slotted it home. The Everton fightback had begun. They still needed to score at least twice more, as a draw wasn’t enough. But the home fans could at least see they were trying.

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea0:0Sheffield United
Everton1:2Wimbledon
Norwich City0:1Oldham Athletic
West Ham United1:0Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Sheffield United4243-17
18Ipswich Town4243-23
19Southampton4242-18
20Oldham Athletic4242-25
21Everton4241-23

 

29 minutes – GOAL!!!

CHELSEA   0   –   1   SHEFFIELD UNITED

Chelsea failed to clear a ball into the box and it bounced for Jostein Flo to turn it in and give Sheffield United the lead at Stamford Bridge. If they could hold onto this lead they were safe. With the results going the way they were, a draw would be enough.

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea0:1Sheffield United
Everton1:2Wimbledon
Norwich City0:1Oldham Athletic
West Ham United1:0Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Sheffield United4245-16
18Ipswich Town4243-23
19Southampton4242-18
20Oldham Athletic4242-25
21Everton4241-23

 

45 minutes – GOAL!!!

WEST HAM UNITED   1   –   1   SOUTHAMPTON

A nervous 15 minutes where nothing else developed, but then Matt Le Tissier equalised at Upton Park. It was a trademark free-kick from just outside the area and Southampton were now in the position they needed to be to stay up.

HALF-TIME

At the half-time stage, this is how things stood.

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea0:1Sheffield United
Everton1:2Wimbledon
Norwich City0:1Oldham Athletic
West Ham United1:1Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Sheffield United4245-16
18Southampton4243-17
19Ipswich Town4243-23
20Oldham Athletic4242-25
21Everton4241-23

 

Everton would stay up if they could overturn their 1-2 deficit. For Oldham they were already leading, so they needed results to go their way elsewhere. If Ipswich were to go behind at Blackburn, Oldham would still need to score again, or hope Blackburn could score twice.

SECOND HALF

52 minutes – GOAL!!!

WEST HAM   1   –   2   SOUTHAMPTON

Spectators had barely had time to digest the half-time pies and prawn sandwiches, when Neil Maddison turned things round for Southampton heading in a left-wing cross. They now lead at West Ham. They had been a goal down too. Could they start to relax?

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea0:1Sheffield United
Everton1:2Wimbledon
Norwich City0:1Oldham Athletic
West Ham United1:2Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Sheffield United4245-16
18Southampton4245-17
19Ipswich Town4243-23
20Oldham Athletic4242-25
21Everton4241-23

 

58 minutes – GOAL!!!

CHELSEA   1   –   1   SHEFFIELD UNITED

Jakob Kjeldberg equalised for Chelsea against Sheffield United. It was his first goal of the season but United were still safe, unless Everton could overturn their deficit against Wimbledon.

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea1:1Sheffield United
Everton1:2Wimbledon
Norwich City0:1Oldham Athletic
West Ham United1:2Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Southampton4245-16
18Sheffield United4243-17
19Ipswich Town4243-23
20Oldham Athletic4242-25
21Everton4241-23

 

60 minutes – GOAL!!!

CHELSEA   1   –   2   SHEFFIELD UNITED

Sheffield United were pegged back for just two minutes, as Glynn Hodges put them back in front to calm the nerves. Chelsea had an FA Cup Final to look forward to. Would they have an incentive to come back at United?

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea1:2Sheffield United
Everton1:2Wimbledon
Norwich City0:1Oldham Athletic
West Ham United1:2Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Sheffield United4245-16
18Southampton4245-16
19Ipswich Town4243-23
20Oldham Athletic4242-25
21Everton4241-23

 

62 minutes – GOAL!!!

WEST HAM   2   –   2   SOUTHAMPTON

At Upton Park, Trevor Morley jinked his way into the area and his shot was parried by Dave Beasant. But it fell to Martin Allen who scored to level things at Upton Park. Southampton were still safe, as long as things stayed as they were at Goodison Park.

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea1:2Sheffield United
Everton1:2Wimbledon
Norwich City0:1Oldham Athletic
West Ham United2:2Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Sheffield United4245-16
18Southampton4243-17
19Ipswich Town4243-23
20Oldham Athletic4242-25
21Everton4241-23

 

65 minutes – GOAL!!!

WEST HAM   2   –   3   SOUTHAMPTON

Southampton were only pegged back for three minutes when they got a penalty. Matt Le Tissier scored his second of the game, and Southampton hit back straight away to go back in front at West Ham. West Ham were a goal up, then Southampton lead 2-1. Now the visitors were back in front.

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea1:2Sheffield United
Everton1:2Wimbledon
Norwich City0:1Oldham Athletic
West Ham United2:3Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Sheffield United4245-16
18Southampton4245-16
19Ipswich Town4243-23
20Oldham Athletic4242-25
21Everton4241-23

 

67 minutes – GOAL!!!

EVERTON   2   –   2   WIMBLEDON

Now came the moment when things turned against several clubs, and many more supporters started to get a bit edgy. Barry Horne was first to anticipate a bouncing ball in midfield. As he brought the ball under control he fired an unstoppable shot past Segers into the top right-hand corner of the net to equalise for Everton. They had a lifeline but needed another goal. Southampton and Sheffield United were safe as long as they were winning, but both lead by just one goal each. It was time now for Ipswich to get nervous. A goal for Blackburn or another one for Everton, and they were in trouble.

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea1:2Sheffield United
Everton2:2Wimbledon
Norwich City0:1Oldham Athletic
West Ham United2:3Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Sheffield United4245-16
18Southampton4245-16
19Ipswich Town4243-23
20Everton4242-22
21Oldham Athletic4242-25

 

72 minutes – GOAL!!!

NORWICH CITY   1   –   1   OLDHAM ATHLETIC

Norwich’s Rob Ullathorne grabbed an equaliser against Oldham, and their slim hopes of survival now appeared lost. They were relying on results elsewhere, and they needed to score twice and hope Blackburn could score against Ipswich.

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea1:2Sheffield United
Everton2:2Wimbledon
Norwich City1:1Oldham Athletic
West Ham United2:3Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Sheffield United4245-16
18Southampton4245-16
19Ipswich Town4243-23
20Everton4242-22
21Oldham Athletic4240-26

 

76 minutes – GOAL!!!

CHELSEA   2   –   2   SHEFFIELD UNITED

Mark Stein scored an equaliser for Chelsea and now Sheffield United had to be really careful. A goal for either Ipswich or Everton and United were down. If they conceded again, then Ipswich wouldn’t have to worry.

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea2:2Sheffield United
Everton2:2Wimbledon
Norwich City1:1Oldham Athletic
West Ham United2:3Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Southampton4245-16
18Sheffield United4243-17
19Ipswich Town4243-23
20Everton4242-22
21Oldham Athletic4240-26

 

81 minutes – GOAL!!!

EVERTON   3   –   2   WIMBLEDON

Now the moment when the whole day just turned around. The final 10 minutes of any game is a nervous point, but none more so than at Goodison. A neat move on the left and Graham Stuart played a one-two with Cottee and beat Segers at his near post. Cue mass celebrations at Everton, with Ipswich now needing to break the deadlock at Ewood Park. Sheffield United could breathe, although they needed to score again to make sure.

It had taken 81 minutes but finally, Everton were out of the bottom three.

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea2:2Sheffield United
Everton3:2Wimbledon
Norwich City1:1Oldham Athletic
West Ham United2:3Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Southampton4245-16
18Everton4244-21
19Sheffield United4243-17
20Ipswich Town4243-23
21Oldham Athletic4240-26

 

89 minutes – GOAL!!!

WEST HAM UNITED   3   –   3   SOUTHAMPTON

A cross to the far post came in from John Moncur and Lee Chapman got up amongst a crowd of players to head it in. The game was back level again at Upton Park. An exciting game which meant only goal difference was keeping Southampton up. If West Ham scored again, Southampton were down. If both West Ham and Chelsea scored, then Southampton would stay up by virtue of scoring more goals than Sheffield United. Ipswich needed a goal themselves, or from Chelsea or West Ham. If Wimbledon leveled things at Goodison Park, then Everton would be back in the mire.

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea2:2Sheffield United
Everton3:2Wimbledon
Norwich City1:1Oldham Athletic
West Ham United3:3Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Everton4244-21
18Southampton4243-17
19Sheffield United4243-17
20Ipswich Town4243-23
21Oldham Athletic4240-26

 

90 minutes – GOAL!!!

CHELSEA   3   –   2   SHEFFIELD UNITED

A goal! But not at Everton, Blackburn or West Ham. A cross from the left by Dennis Wise was not cleared and found Mark Stein at the far post to score his second for Chelsea. Now all of a sudden, Sheffield United were in the relegation zone for the first time all day – heartbreak for Blades fans. They were leading on the hour, yet now they were losing with barely any time to come back.

Blackburn Rovers0:0Ipswich Town
Chelsea3:2Sheffield United
Everton3:2Wimbledon
Norwich City1:1Oldham Athletic
West Ham United3:3Southampton

 

PosTeamPldPtsGD
17Everton4244-21
18Southampton4243-17
19Ipswich Town4243-23
20Sheffield United4242-18
21Oldham Athletic4240-26

 

The Final Whistle

And that was that. The end of a remarkable day of contrasting fortunes and sweeping emotions. Oldham and Sheffield United joined Swindon in being relegated. Everton, who had been in the bottom three for all but nine minutes of the day and were losing for 63, had managed to haul themselves to safety.

Sheffield United had been leading after an hour, and even when they were level with under 15 minutes to go, they were still safe. The final 10 minutes changed everything for them. Ipswich had to endure a goalless game against runners-up Blackburn, which was probably worse for them. As the game progressed they knew a goal from the home side could be so much harder to come back from, the less time there was left. As it was, they weren’t so fortunate the following season as they finished bottom.

You can watch the drama from the final day of the 93/94 season in the clip below.

It was a truly remarkable final day, well worth following again. Will we have the same sort of drama this season?