The inaugural Premier League campaign was an overwhelming success and brought much-needed prestige back to English football. The safer stadiums, higher-quality players, and number of live televised games paid off dividends and proved to be a risk well worth taking.
However, it was still early days for the Premier League and there was every chance the highs of last season were merely down to the novelty factor. It was entirely possible for the viewership and attendances to tail off considerably as the ‘X factor’ of the debut campaign wore off. Furthermore, the Premier League was yet to acquire a main sponsor - something it desperately needed to help keep its enormous finances afloat.
Manchester United reaped the benefits of winning the previous Premier League by signing highly-rated Irish midfielder Roy Keane from Nottingham Forest for an English record of £3.75 million. Keane had been voted into the PFA Team of the Year the previous season despite Forest’s relegation. Other notable acquisitions included Southampton’s Tim Flowers joining Blackburn Rovers for £2.5 million (big money for a goalkeeper at the time) and David Rocastle joining Manchester City from Leeds United.
Both Norwich City and Aston Villa had enjoyed successful Premier League campaigns in 1992/93 and both clubs were hoping to continue their ascents to the top of the table. However, they would have been aware that Blackburn Rovers, Arsenal, and the newly-promoted Newcastle United all posed tough competition.
The 1993/94 Season Summary
Hope for a close title race quickly vanished due to the sheer quality of Manchester United, who lost only once in 29 games to steamroll to the trophy. Though they had been impressive last season, the quality of football on display during this campaign was simply on another level and the Red Devils’ strength in depth proved to be too much for their competitors to handle.
Andrew Cole claimed bragging rights over the Golden Boot, however, as the Englishman bagged 34 league goals to help propel Newcastle to third place. Galvanized by Kevin Keegan, the Magpies ended their debut Premier League season with 77 points and UEFA Cup qualification - not bad for a club whose away days featured trips to Tranmere Rovers and Oxford United the season before.
Blackburn Rovers also impressed, with their points total of 84 points enough to claim the runners-up spot. Shearer's 31 goals were highly impressive, but Rovers never gathered enough momentum to threaten Manchester United in any meaningful way.
Fortunes were much different at the other end of the table as Southampton, Ipswich Town, Sheffield United, Oldham Athletic, and Swindon Town were deep in the throes of a relegation battle. Everton, too, were in trouble and their unbroken 40-year stay in the top-flight was in serious jeopardy. The Toffees found themselves 2-0 down at Wimbledon on the final day of the season before a heroic comeback win secured their Premier League status.
Southampton were poor virtually all season but a period of impressive form at the end of the season helped them reach survival.
Swindon, the proverbial whipping boys of the Premier League, were dead and buried by the final game day and the 100 goals they conceded throughout the campaign remains a record. They were to be joined by Oldham Athletic and Sheffield United in the Football League First Division the next season. Whilst the Blades have come and gone from the Premier League over the years, neither Swindon or Oldham have ever resurfaced.
One could argue that the 1993/94 was far more exciting at the bottom of the table than at the top. Nevertheless, the hegemonic powers of Manchester United were further consolidated during this campaign and by the end of the season, rival club owners knew that it would take serious investment to take them on.
As the 1994/95 season appeared on the horizon, people wondered who could possibly stop the Red Devils and their quest to conquer English football.
Season Statistics (Team)
Winners - Manchester United
Runners-up - Blackburn Rovers
Third-place - Newcastle United
Relegated - Swindon Town, Oldham Athletic, Sheffield United
Season Statistics (Individual)
Golden Boot - Andrew Cole (Newcastle United, 34 goals)
Most Assists - Andrew Cole (Newcastle United, 13 assists)
PFA Player of the Year - Eric Cantona (Manchester United)
PFA Young Player of the Year - Andrew Cole (Newcastle United)
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