Sport · Trivia

More about teams in blue and teams in red

At the end of April, as the English football season was coming to an end, I wrote this piece (“Blue is the colour, five years in a row”) about trophy-winning teams and the colours that they wear. At the time we already knew that Manchester City were Premier League Champions. They had also won the League Cup (sponsored by Carabao this season), and they play in blue. The FA Cup Final was on 19 May, between Chelsea (in blue) and Manchester United (in red). Chelsea won, meaning that the three major domestic trophies were won by teams playing in blue. This has happened once before, in 1970. In the intervening decades, in 8 different seasons, all three trophies have been won by teams playing in red.

Back in April I hadn’t worked out how long it has been since a team in red failed to win any of the major competitions, but now that the season is over I have gone back to the lists at the end of my earlier piece to find out. 1975 was the last time it happened. Derby County (wearing white shirts) were Champions, West Ham (in claret and blue) won the FA Cup and Aston Villa (also in claret and blue) won the League Cup.

You have to go back nearly that far (to 1978) to find a year when the three most successful teams of the last 40 years (Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool, who all play in red) went through a whole season without winning a domestic trophy between them. That year Nottingham Forest (in red) won both the Football League and the League Cup, and Ipswich (in blue) won the FA Cup, beating Arsenal 1-0 in the final. Chelsea beat Manchester United by the same score this year. At least in 1978 Liverpool had the consolation of winning the European Cup, for the second year in a row. This year they lost to Real Madrid in the final of the same competition (the Champions League as it has been known since 1993).

Not for the first time, I have gone further with my speculation about teams, colours and sequences. Before 1978, when did Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool finish the season without a domestic trophy between them? It happened in 1975 (as noted above), 1972 and the three seasons finishing in 1968, 1969 and 1970. In both 1968 and 1969 Arsenal made it to the League Cup Final but lost to Leeds (in white) one year and Swindon (in red) the next. In two of those seasons, as for Liverpool in 1978, there was the consolation of a European trophy for one of the teams: Manchester United’s European Cup win in 1968 and Arsenal’s Inter-City Fairs Cup title in 1970.

This all means that since 1962 the three teams in question have not gone two seasons in a row without winning at least one trophy between them, either in England or Europe. Will they also go through next season without winning any silverware (as the commentators on TV like to call it)? I doubt it, but if they do it will be first time in my lifetime, and the first time since Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister. Back then, of course, televised football couldn’t show you whether teams were wearing red or blue. It was all black and white.

 

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