Geoff Wallis recalls the 1993-94 Division Two season when Reading cruised to the title
The long-term significance
Reading became the first side to win the championships of the Second, Third, Third (South) and Fourth Divisions (a feat Brighton would later match). The momentum continued almost throughout 1994-95, when they would finish just behind First Division champions Middlesbrough, but fail to be promoted because the Premiership was cutting its size. An extra-time 4-3 play-off final defeat by Bolton would rub further salt in their wounds. Chairman John Madejski would soon move the team to its new Madejstic stadium. This was also the last season when all Football League sides wore shirts numbered up to 11, as squad numbering became permissible for the following season.
Story of the season
Fired by 55 goals from Jimmy Quinn and Stuart Lovell and largely unaffected by injuries or suspensions, Reading assumed the leadership from Stockport in late November and did not budge thereafter. County hung on to a play-off position while Plymouth occupied the other automatic promotion spot until a late Port Vale surge (eight wins in the last nine games) saw the Potteries side grab second after missing out by just one point the previous year. York and Burnley filled the remaining play-off positions and the latter beat nine-man Stockport 2-1 in the final.
At the bottom, newly promoted Barnet found themselves outclassed by just about everybody, lost their opening ten games and had just ten points by mid-January. By then Hartlepool had firmly gripped 23rd position while Exeter (who used 37 players) were soon to take up residency at 22nd. Fulham toyed with the remaining place until a dramatic decline by Blackpool (fourth in October) saw all resting on the season’s final game. Blackpool beat Orient 4-1 and Fulham’s 2-1 defeat at Swansea left them facing a spell in the bottom division for the first time.
For the record books
Jimmy Quinn top-scored with 35, followed by Wrexham’s Gary Bennett (32). Plymouth’s last-day 8-1 away thumping of Hartlepool remains their equal-record League victory. Rotherham also thrashed The Pool 7-0 (Shaun Goater scoring four) and Cambridge embarked on an end-of-season goal spree. Steve Butler notched all five against Exeter, following a hat-trick against Orient two days earlier, and five days of April madness saw United lose 4-5 at home to Huddersfield and win 7-2 at Cardiff (with Butler scoring first two goals and then another trio). Turf Moor hosted the season’s highest attendance (18,165) for the derby with Blackpool, though a mere 1,077 witnessed a rare home win for Hartlepool (3-0 over Cardiff).
Same place today
Blackpool, Bournemouth, Brentford and Wrexham have spent ten of the past 11 seasons in this division.
Moved furthest away
Barnet and Exeter are still in the Conference following relegation in 2001 and 2003 respectively, and were joined by York at the end of last season. Fulham slipped to 17th in Division Three in 1995-96, but three subsequent promotions account for their current lofty status. Bradford are the only other team to have “enjoyed” interim seasons in the Premiership.
Went on to greater things
Dean Windass ~ Still at Hull, but the striker was about to embark on his single-minded campaign to play for every club in Yorkshire.
Shaka Hislop ~ Played his first full season for Reading, though still called “Neil” by Rothmans.
Sam Allardyce ~ Took over at Blackpool in May.
Noel Blake ~ Scored Cardiff’s FA Cup winner against Manchester City in January, was sold to Sheffield United in February and made his Wales debut in March.
Marcus Gayle ~ Was snapped up by Wimbledon from Brentford for £250,000 in March.
Disappearing from view
Frank Stapleton ~ Was sacked as Bradford manager in May after City failed to reach the play-offs.
Jimmy Case ~ The former Liverpool midfielder left Sittingbourne of the Beazer Homes League for a final playing stint at Brighton, aged 39.
Pre-match pitch invasions ~ Hundreds of opposing Cardiff and Swansea fans engaged in a literally pitched battle, delaying the December derby’s kick-off by 40 minutes.
Brian Marwood ~ Now a Sky pundit, then given a free transfer by Barnet five years after his solitary England cap while with Arsenal.
From WSC 218 April 2005. What was happening this month