English football was in the doldrums in the 1980s. The sport had been tarnished by hooliganism, played on substandard pitches, and saw a drastic drop in its overall quality. The English national team were unceremoniously dumped out of every major tournament they had been in (if they had even managed to qualify) as they were simply unable to keep up with the plethora of world-class players other nations were producing.
It became clear that a massive change was needed if England’s national sport had any hope of surviving. In a rather radical, controversial move, club owners agreed to the creation of a breakaway league that would be separate from the EFL First Division.
Lucrative TV deals were signed, money was pumped in, and stadiums were made safer, stronger, and more visually attractive. Third-party sponsors duly jumped on-board and would provide clubs money they desperately needed to improve facilities and attract the most gifted players and managers from overseas.
Leeds United, winners of the 1991/92 English First Division, became the 93rd and final holders of the original top-flight crown and entered the next season hoping to make history by winning the first Premier League. However, this would be no easy feat as their great rivals Manchester United were rapidly gathering momentum under the then-ridiculed Alex Ferguson - a man who had yet to win a league title with United despite being at the helm for over five years.
1992/93 Season Summary
The inaugural Premier League season kicked off on August 15, 1992, and its first goal was scored by Sheffield’s United Brian Deane in a 2-1 win over, funnily enough, Manchester United. The Red Devils’ opening day defeat wouldn’t have sat too well with their frustrated fans as many of them hoped this would be the season where their agonizing 26-year wait for a league title would finally end. Competition was stiff, however, as several clubs had splashed out on expensive signings.
The most notable was Blackburn Rovers’ purchase of 21-year-old Alan Shearer. The young striker had impressed at Southampton and his potential for growth was noted by virtually all of England’s top clubs - many of which submitted bids for him. Blackburn’s £3.6 million splurge constituted a British record.
Norwich City looked like title favourties for a large amount of the season as they won 10 of their first 16 matches. Aston Villa, too, were full of promise, and the goalscoring exploits of newly-arrived striker Teddy Sheringham worked wonders for Tottenham’s league position.
It was, however, Manchester United who ultimately came out on top and finally gave Alex Ferguson the league title he had wanted so much. The turning point of the season came on April 10, 1993, when Steve Bruce scored two late goals in ‘Fergie time’ to secure a comeback win over Sheffield United. That same day, Aston Villa drew 0-0 with Coventry to lose their spot on the Premier League’s summit. Manchester United would then embark on a seven-game winning streak to finish the season on 84 points, 10 ahead of Villa.
The first Premier League crown would have a profound effect on United’s fortunes as the lucrative prize money they received, combined with the growing presence of televised live games and the Internet, gave them worldwide exposure and turned them into a global presence on-par with the Chicago Bulls and the New York Yankees. Old Trafford would soon be packed to the rafters with fans from all over the world and players like Eric Cantona (who had joined midseason from former champions Leeds United) became icons known to millions.
The first-ever Premier League season may not have been of the highest quality, but it’s considered the crossroads of English football’s destiny. This ambitious, risky, breakaway strategy would either sink or swim and the millions of pounds of investment would either be returned or utterly wasted.
As we know, the decision to form the Premier League paid off handsomely and, within a few years, the division became the most watched and most well-known sports league on planet Earth. The money in our top-flight may seem ludicrous now, but that has only been possible thanks to the overwhelming success of its debut season.
Winners - Manchester United
Runners-up - Aston Villa
Third-place - Norwich City
Relegated - Crystal Palace, Oldham, Nottingham Forest
Golden Boot - Teddy Sheringham (Nottingham Forest, Tottenham Hotspur) - 22 goals
Most assists - Eric Cantona (Leeds United, Manchester United) - 16
PFA Player of the Year - Paul McGrath (Aston Villa)
PFA Young Player of the Year - Ryan Giggs (Manchester United)
FWA Footballer of the Year - Chris Waddle (Sheffield Wednesday)
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