Rovers’ Time to Shine
The 1994-95 top-flight season in England was the third Premier League campaign. Manchester United had won the first two, but there was a new name on the trophy this season. Kenny Dalglish’s big-spending Blackburn Rovers caused a major upset when they won the league with 89 points, pipping Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils to the crown by just one point after an exhilarating title race and a brilliant final day of the season.
This was the last time that the Premier League had 22 teams, as it was reduced to 20 for the start of the 1995-96 season and beyond. This meant that four teams suffered the dreaded drop this year, with Ipswich Town finishing rock bottom. Leicester City, Norwich City and Crystal Palace were the other clubs to be relegated. After winning promotion, Nottingham Forest finished their first season back in the Premier League in third place, a stunning achievement.
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Blackburn Edge Incredible Title Race
Blackburn won their first English title since 1914, beating Man United in the championship race by a single point. Dalglish’s men made a solid start, winning five and drawing two of their opening seven before suffering their first league loss of the season against Norwich City on 1st October. Three weeks later, Blackburn were beaten 4-2 at home by Man United and many thought this may be a sign of things to come with the established power firmly putting the new boys in their place.
However, Rovers recovered incredibly well from that setback against the Red Devils, taking an astonishing 34 points from a possible 36. They then lost to Man United for a second time, with Eric Cantona scoring the only goal of the game at Old Trafford. Blackburn would struggle in the final stages of the season though and they almost blew it when they lost three of their last five. However, despite a 2-1 reverse to Liverpool at Anfield on the final day, in a game that many thought the hosts might gift to their former player and manager, the underdogs held on and claimed the title. Man United needed to win on the final day but despite peppering Luděk Mikloško in the West Ham goal and creating countless chances, they could only manage a 1-1 draw with the Hammers, which handed the title to Rovers.
Big Year of Transfers
Before the start of the 1994-95 season, Blackburn broke the English transfer record when they paid £5m to Norwich for young striker Chris Sutton. Sutton would go on to have a fine season alongside Alan Shearer, scoring 15 Premier League goals as part of the famous “SAS” (Shearer and Sutton) strike partnership.
The Sutton transfer fee was broken in January, as Man United paid Newcastle United £6m for Andy Cole, much to the outrage of fans in the North East, with the ever-emotional Kevin Kegan coming out in person to publicly defend his decision to the fans. The deal saw Keith Gillespie move in the other direction. Cole had an excellent campaign in front of goal, scoring 21 goals for Newcastle and Man United combined. Vinny Samways, John Scales, Paul Kitson, David Rocastle and Jurgen Klinsmann were also involved in big-money moves this season.
Five Goal Cole
Andy Cole settled quickly at Old Trafford and whilst his link-up play and all-round game may not have been truly world class, nobody could question his ability as a finisher. He helped make history on the 4th March when his five goals helped United to a 9-0 rout over Ipswich. No player has ever scored more his five goals in a single Premier League game.
Cantona’s Infamous Kung Fu Kick
The 1994-95 Premier League season was littered with incidents and controversaries and perhaps the most infamous of them all involved Man United’s talisman Eric Cantona. In January ’95, one of the most shocking moments in Premier League history occurred in a game between Crystal Palace and Man United. On his way to the dressing room after a red card Cantona was racially abused by a fan. Not one to shy away from confrontation or address perceived wrongdoing, Cantona jumped into the Selhurst Park crowd and Kung Fu-kicked the Palace supporter. The incident saw him banned from football for eight months and fined £20,000.
Shocking and wrong though it was, no doubt many felt the Frenchman had done a good service to the game, with such abuse a vile stain on the game. Cantona recently said that he regrets not kicking the fan harder! Whilst Matthew Simmons claims to have shouted “it’s an early bath for you Cantona” it is widely accepted that he insulted the player’s heritage and ancestry. Whatever you think of the incident, it is certainly one of the PL’s most memorable.
In the same season, Dennis Wise was convicted of criminal damage and assault after a fight with a London taxi driver. In a sorrier story, one-time Arsenal hero Paul Merson admitted to an alcohol, drug and gambling addiction. Merson went on a three-month rehabilitation programme. Chris Armstrong also went into rehab after failing a drugs test. As if that was not enough off-pitch incident, Arsenal manager George Graham was sacked by the club in February 1995 after being found guilty of accepting illegal payments for foreign players a few years earlier.
Superb Shearer Wins Golden Boot
Shearer was in red-hot form for Blackburn this term, with his incredible tally of 34 goals helping Rovers to the Premier League trophy. Sutton chipped in with 15 and finished in the top 10 of the scoring charts. Robbie Fowler had another outstanding season at Anfield, scoring 25 times in the league.
Les Ferdinand finished in third place with 24 goals to his name, while Stan Collymore scored 22 for an impressive Nottingham Forest side. Matt Le Tissier and Teddy Sheringham ended their seasons with 19 and 18, respectively. Jurgen Klinsmann quickly found his feet at Spurs and was an instant hit, registering 21 league goals alongside Sheringham, with fellow German Uwe Rosler netting 15 for Man City.
Relegations & European Qualifications
For the final time in the Premier League, four clubs suffered relegation this season. Aston Villa had a dreadful campaign, only surviving by three points in the end. Ipswich, Leicester, Norwich and Crystal Palace were the unlucky ones.
Everton finished way down in 15th, but their FA Cup success earned them a place in the 1995-96 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. Amazingly, as of 2020-21, only one other English manager has lifted the famous trophy since Joe Royle did so with the Toffees. Man United, Forest, Liverpool and Leeds United all booked their spots in the UEFA Cup. After winning the league, Blackburn secured UEFA Champions League football.
Which Teams Were Relegated?
Ipswich were beaten 29 times in a tough season in the Premier League. John Lyall resigned in December, with Paul Goddard taking over on an interim basis. George Burley became Ipswich’s permanent manager shortly after. However, the damage was already done, and the Suffolk club finished bottom on 27 points.
Leicester were also well out of their depth this season. The Foxes finished just two points ahead of Ipswich and 19 points away from safety. City picked up the fewest number of wins in the Premier League and suffered 25 defeats. Brian Little, Kevin MacDonald and Mark McGhee were all in charge at one point in a season of disappointment and instability.
Norwich finished 14 points above Leicester but still went down with 43 points to their name. A woeful run of seven straight losses from April cost them dearly in the end. The Canaries had a decent first half to their season but picked up just one Premier League win after the turn of the year.
The last team to be relegated from the Premier League this season was Alan Smith’s Crystal Palace. The Eagles still had every chance of surviving with a month of the season left to play, but five defeats from their last six saw them go down on 45 points. They were the last club to finish fourth from bottom in the Premier League and be relegated and must consider themselves very unlucky to go down with so many points.
Which Teams Qualified For Europe?
Blackburn won the Premier League title and qualified for the European Cup for the first time in their history.
In the days prior to expansion and the Champions league, outgoing champions Man United had to settle for a place in the UEFA Cup after finishing a point behind in second.
Nottingham Forest and Liverpool also qualified for the UEFA Cup, as did Leeds, who were awarded the place through the UEFA Fair Play route.
After edging past Man United in the FA Cup final, Everton went into the Cup Winners’ Cup. Liverpool were the League Cup winners this season, beating Bolton Wanderers in the final.