English clubs · English football · English league · Esoteric · Records & statistics

Alternating English Titles

Incidences of English clubs retaining the title are fairly well-documented and easily listed.

Not so easy so spot are periods where 2 clubs alternated in winning the title. It includes the last 4 seasons (including the one just concluded), with the two Manchester clubs alternating.

Below is a listing of every case where a club retained the title.

Season Champions
1888-89 Preston NE
1891-92 Sunderland
1895-96 Aston Villa
1898-99 Aston Villa
1902-03 Sheffield Wed
1921-22 Liverpool
1923-24 Huddersfield
1928-29 Sheffield Wed
1932-33 Arsenal
1948-49 Portsmouth
1955-56 Manchester Utd
1957-58 Wolverhampton
1975-76 Liverpool
1978-79 Liverpool
1981-82 Liverpool
1992-93 Manchester Utd
1995-96 Manchester Utd
1998-99 Manchester Utd
2004-05 Chelsea
2006-07 Manchester Utd

Below is a listing of every period when 2 clubs alternated in winning the title:

  • Aston Villa and Sunderland, over 4 seasons from 1893 to 1896.  Additionally, it started with Sunderland retaining the title (1892 and 1893) and was followed by Aston Villa retaining the title (1896, 1897) .
Year Champions
1891-92 Sunderland
1892-93 Sunderland
1893-94 Aston Villa
1894-95 Sunderland
1895-96 Aston Villa
1896-97 Aston Villa
  • Liverpool and Manchester United, over 4 seasons, from 1964 to 1967.
Year Champions
1963-64 Liverpool
1964-65 Manchester Utd
1965-66 Liverpool
1966-67 Manchester Utd
  • Liverpool and Everton, over 5 seasons, from 1984 to 1988.  1984 also saw Liverpool win their third title in a row.
Year Champions
1981-82 Liverpool
1982-83 Liverpool
1983-84 Liverpool
1984-85 Everton
1985-86 Liverpool
1986-87 Everton
1987-88 Liverpool
  • Liverpool and Arsenal, over 4 seasons from 1988 to 1991.  Liverpool’s 1988 title win overlaps with the alternating titles with Everton, above.
Year Champions
1987-88 Liverpool
1988-89 Arsenal
1989-90 Liverpool
1990-91 Arsenal
  • Manchester United and Arsenal, over 4 seasons from 2011 to 2014.  As was the case with Liverpool in 1984 in their alternating with Everton (above), the first of Manchester United’s title win in their alternating with Arsenal in 2001 was their third in a row.
Year Champions
1998-99 Manchester Utd
1999-2000 Manchester Utd
2000-01 Manchester Utd
2001-02 Arsenal
2002-03 Manchester Utd
2003-04 Arsenal
  • Manchester United and Manchester City, over 4 seasons from 2011 to 2014.
Year Champions
2010-11 Manchester Utd
2011-12 Manchester City
2012-13 Manchester Utd
2013-14 Manchester City

The above instances of alternating titles excludes instances where a title win by another club interrupts or breaks two or a string of title wins by another club (which I will refer to as “sandwich titles”).

If Liverpool’s title win in 1988 is only counted once, in the alternating with Arsenal from 1988 to 1991, and is excluded from the earlier alternating with Everton (1984 to 1987), then every instance of alternating was over 4 seasons.

Of the five post-war instances of alternating titles, the first three involve Liverpool, while the last two (including the current one) involve Manchester United.  Furthermore, the first post-war instance was between Liverpool and Manchester United, a coincidental precursor to the almost identical records for their respective period of domination since 1974.  Arsenal were involved in both the third and the fourth post-war instances.

Two of the instances involve local rivalries – Liverpool and Everton between 1984 and 1987, and Manchester United and Manchester City, between 2011 and 2014.

Apart from the above alternating titles, “sandwich” titles are set out below:

  • Aston Villa’s run of four titles between 1896 and and 1900 was interrupted by Sheffield United in 1898.  Aston Villa finished sixth that season.  The first two titles of this run were the same two referred to in respect of the alternating titles between Sunderland and Aston Villa between 1893 and 1896 (above).
Year Champions
1895-96 Aston Villa
1896-97 Aston Villa
1897-98 Sheffield Utd
1898-99 Aston Villa
1899-1900 Aston Villa
  • Newcastle United’s run of three titles between 1905 and 1909 was  interrupted twice, first by Liverpool in 1906, then by Manchester United, in 1908.  On both occasions, Newcastle finished fourth.
Year Champions
1904-05 Newcastle Utd
1905-06 Liverpool
1906-07 Newcastle Utd
1907-08 Manchester Utd
1908-09 Newcastle Utd
  • Blackburn Rover’s run of three titles between 1912 and 1914 was  interrupted by Sunderland in 1913.  Blackburn finished fifth that season.
Year Champions
1911-12 Blackburn R
1912-13 Sunderland
1913-14 Blackburn R
  • Arsenal’s run of five titles between 1931 and 1935 was interrupted by Everton in 1932.  That season, Arsenal finished runners up.
Year Champions
1930-31 Arsenal
1931-32 Everton
1932-33 Arsenal
1933-34 Arsenal
1934-35 Arsenal
  • Liverpool’s run of seven titles between 1976 and 1984 was interrupted twice, first by Nottingham Forest (as a newly promoted club, with Liverpool finishing runners up) in 1978, and then by Aston Villa in 1981 (with Liverpool finishing fifth).   The last three of the titles, between 1982 and 1984, were referred to above in the alternating with Everton between 1984 and 1987.
Year Champions
1975-76 Liverpool
1976-77 Liverpool
1977-78 Nottingham F
1978-79 Liverpool
1979-80 Liverpool
1980-81 Aston Villa
1981-82 Liverpool
1982-83 Liverpool
1983-84 Liverpool
  • Manchester United’s run of seven titles between 1993 and 2001 was also interrupted twice, first by Blackburn Rovers in 1995, then by Arsenal in 1998.  On both occasions, Manchester United finished runners up.  The last three of the titles, between 1999 and 2001, were referred to above in the alternating with Arsenal between 2001 and 2004.
Year Champions
1992-93 Manchester Utd
1993-94 Manchester Utd
1994-95 Blackburn R
1995-96 Manchester Utd
1996-97 Manchester Utd
1997-98 Arsenal
1998-99 Manchester Utd
1999-2000 Manchester Utd
2000-01 Manchester Utd
  • Manchester United’s run of four titles between 2007 and 2011 was interrupted by Chelsea in 2010, with Manchester United also finishing runners up that season.  The last of the four titles, in 2011, was the first of the alternating with Manchester City between 2011 and 2014 referred to above.
Year Champions
2006-07 Manchester Utd
2007-08 Manchester Utd
2008-09 Manchester Utd
2009-10 Chelsea
2010-11 Manchester Utd

A simple, three layered “sandwich”, like that which occurred when Sunderland interrupted Blackburn Rovers between 1912 and 1914, has only occurred once. The other examples of “sandwich” titles are all multi-layered!

Further, in the early years, the club interrupted finished between fourth and sixth in the interrupted season.  However, in every instance since Arsenal in 1932, the interrupted club finished runners up, except in 1981, when Liverpool finished fifth.


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