BY STEVE MITCHELL

After a dramatic campaign last term, the curtain is about to come up on the 1978-79 football season with Nottingham Forest having shocked everyone in May by lifting their first ever league title – after just one season back in the top-flight. Now Brian Clough’s entertainers are ready to be shot at and it’s a more familiar name that we associate with being top of the tree in England that leads the chase.

After finishing seven points behind Forest, Liverpool are determined to win back the trophy that has almost become theirs by right in recent seasons. Having retained the European Cup at Wembley in May by overwhelming Belgian side Club Brugge, manager Bob Paisley has set his sights on winning back the domestic crown.

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In a cruel twist of fate, Forest will face Liverpool (who they beat in last season’s League Cup Final) in round one of this season’s European Cup next month and it will be interesting to see if Clough’s team cam compete on two fronts this year.

With Scottish international Kenny Dalglish taking the First Division by storm last season, most Kopites have forgotten about the departure of Kevin Keegan last summer to Hamburger SV and have a new king to worship at Anfield.

THE OTHER CONTENDERS:

Across Stanley Park, there’s a small revolution taking place at Goodison Park with Everton (who finished just two points behind their Merseyside rivals last term) being many pundits outside bet to claim English football’s biggest prize.

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Having brought in Mickey Walsh from Blackpool to partner 30-goal marksman Bob Latchford in attack, manager Gordon Lee will hope that the Toffees do not “blow up” in the same spectacular fashion as last year when it had seemed at one stage as though they were edging towards the championship. Having hopefully learned from that experience, Lee is confident his team can gate-crash the expected two-way tussle between Forest and Liverpool at the summit.

Down the East Lancs road, big-spending Manchester City are also fancied to be in the final shake-up. Boss Tony Book has been splashing the cash again this summer, which includes the arrival of highly-rated defender Paul Futcher, to try to bring the league title back to Maine Road and with a mixture of youth, experience and strength in depth, the club’s loyal supporters are ready to dream of finally stepping out of the shadow of their more illustrious neighbours.

THE NEW BOYS:

Of the three newly promoted sides, Tottenham Hotspur look the best equipped to secure their First Division status come next May. Keith Burkinshaw’s acquisition of two of Argentina’s World Cup winning stars, Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa, along with the silky skills of England youngster Glenn Hoddle means that the North London club could surprise many people this term. They start their campaign with a trip to the City Ground to face champions Nottingham Forest.

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Last season’s Division Two champions Bolton Wanderers will be looking to England striker Frank Worthington to get the goals that will keep them in the top-flight and he will have to lead by example alongside youngsters such as centre-half Sam Allardyce and combative midfielder Peter Reid.

Another player with bags of experience, World Cup winner Alan Ball, will be at the heart of Lawrie McMenemy’s Southampton side that impressed many last year by playing some attractive football down on the south-coast. The tactician is in high demand and almost replaced Tommy Docherty at Manchester United last summer. If he keeps the Saints in the top-flight, expect other big name clubs to come calling.

FOLLOW THE WHOLE 1978-79 SEASON IN THE ENGLISH FIRST DIVISION WITH STEVE MITCHELL HERE ON THE FOOTBALL PINK. FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER @barafundler

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