Football has a million
and one stories and just as many facts and figures. Here are a few of them
- the record-breaking, unusual and bizarre.
Did You Knows...
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Well, if former World
Footballer of the Year George Weah was to ring you
recommending his cousin - a Senegal international who had played for Paris
St Germain - you would probably listen. Graeme Souness certainly did in
1996 when manager of Premier League Southampton and offered Ali Dia a
one-month trial contract. But it wasn't George Weah who made the call and
Ali Dia was far from being a good footballer. In fact he was hopeless. The
Southampton players soon realised that in training but Souness wasn't
around. He was due to play in a reserve friendly but he got away with that
when the match was called off because of a waterlogged pitch. Amazingly he
then found himself named as a sub for Southampton's home Premier League
fixture against Leeds United on Saturday November 23rd 1996. And you can
guess what happened next! In the 32nd minute England international Matthew
Le Tissier was injured and on went Ali Dia in his place. And then everyone
found out - he couldn't play football, he was hopeless! He lasted just 21
minutes before the substitute was himself substituted, probably the most
embarrassing 21 minutes in the history of the Premier League. Le Tisser
later described the performance -
‘His performance was almost comical. He kind of took my place,
but he didn’t really have a position. He was just wondering everywhere. I
don’t think he realised what position he was supposed to be in. I don’t
even know if he spoke English – I don’t think I ever said a word to him.
In the end he got himself subbed because he was that bad.'
Real Madrid beat Barcelona in April 2011 to win the Copa del Rey, the
equivalent to our FA Cup, celebrations were in order. It was the first
time they had won the competition since 1993 and was the first piece of
silverware won by
José Mourinho as manager of Real Madrid. So,
an open-top bus trip was in order to show the cup off to the jubilant
fans. All went well until defender Sergio
Ramos dropped the cup...from the top of the double-decker bus onto the
road...and the bus ran over it. Ouch!
When an English Sunday
League amateur side arranged a pre-season friendly in West Germany in 1973
they thought they were to play a side of a similar standing. In fact they
had arranged to play Mainz, a senior professional side, who thought they
were to play Wolverhampton Wanderers. The match, played on 15th August
1973, attracted a 'sizeable attendance'. The Germans didn't need a penalty
shoot-out, they won 21-0!
Two other Englishmen probably also
wished that they had a German GCSE between them when they followed England
to the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany. The non-German speakers carefully
wrote down the street they had parked their car in before attending one of
England's matches. Afterwards they couldn't find their car and were a
little surprised at the comical expressions the locals gave when they
showed then the piece of paper the road name was written on. Until someone
translated it for them - 'one-way street'.
London 2012 Olympics proved to be a great success but early problems in
the football competition showed everybody that a knowledge of geography
would prove to be important in the smooth running of the Olympiad. The
football tournaments kicked-off before the opening ceremony and on the
very first day of Olympic competition - Wednesday 25th July 2012 - one
football match almost didn't get started. When the North Korean women were
warming up for the match against Colombia at Hampden Park they noticed
that that the Hampden screens were showing the North Korean team alongside
the South Korean flag - and the two countries aren't the best of mates!
Off they marched in protest and it took some intense negotiations and
apologies - and a change of flag - before the match eventually kicked off
just over an hour late.
But that problem was nothing
compared with what happened when the men's competition started the
following day. In the programme pen pictures for the GB match against
Senegal Welshman Joe Allen was described as being.....English! I'm not
quite sure if the complaints came from the English or the Welsh but hey,
they were representing Britain so why couldn't they all just have been
The Football Supperters'
Association fan zones or 'embassies' were a popular feature of the 2006
World Cup in Germany. One England fan left his ticketless girlfriend with
one of them while he went to a match - but he forget to collect her after
the match. Presumably ex-girlfriend would now be a better description!
watching the Blackburn game on TV on Sunday when it flashed on the
screen that George (Ndah) had scored in the first minute at
Birmingham. My first reaction was to ring him up. Then I remembered
he was out there playing."
Akinbiyi - to think that is one thing, to admit thinking it is
Things never seem to stay the same
in football - except perhaps the disappointment. Tattoos, on the other
hand, are a bit more permanent. So perhaps football fans should 'think
before they ink' or face the inevitable consequences. Back in 2000
Huddersfield Town fans Jez Peel and Carl Longson each had the club badge
tattooed on their legs - days before the club changed the badge! A not too
happy Jez said 'This is not a go at Huddersfield, because we love the
club, but we should have been asked'. Newcastle United fan Robert
Nesbitt held Andy Cole in such high regard that he had a picture of him
tattooed on his leg - a few days later he was transferred to Manchester
United! Down the road at Sunderland in 2007 Scott Lee had a giant portrait
of manager Roy Keane tattooed on his back - and how long do managers last?
Perhaps the most optimistic of fans are those of Manchester City. When
City put in
a £100 million offer for Kaka City fan Chris Atkinson thought he would get
in first and had the Brazilian stars' name tattooed on his chest. Kaka
signed for AC Milan! At the start of the 2009/10 season another City fan,
Kirk Bradley, was so convinced that Manchester City would qualify for the
Champions League that season and win it in 2010/11 he was tattooed with
the predicted victory. They didn't win it, they didn't even qualify for
the Champions League that season but it came close to being worse still -
Manchester United were the beaten finalists! Still, with a slight
amendment he could get it to work in 2014, or 2017 or....
The last word
has to go to David Beckham. Wishing to mark his devotion to Victoria he
had her name tattooed on his arm. To add a touch of class is was written
in Sanskrit - which translated back into English as Vihctoria, bless him.
Spelling mistakes have
always been a fact of life in programmes
as they are in any printed publication. But the proof reader of the
programme for First Division match between Fulham and Nottingham Forest at
Craven Cottage in 1960 must have been particularly embarrassed by the
mistake that was missed on the cover!
When Middlesbrough played
their first ever European competition match in September 2004 against
Banik Ostrava fans must have wondered if Middlesbrough were 'going posh'.
Printed on the tickets was "It is a condition of entry that
gentlemen wear a jacket, collar and tie. Jeans, tracksuits and trainers
are not permitted". It was another misprint - the wording should
have been only used on tickets for the hospitality boxes but had been
included on many of the tickets on general sale.
Birmingham City fans have long
had to endure the chants of opposing fans that they have never won a major
trophy. And they have a long history, having been formed in 1875.
Many fans had wondered if the
lack of success was down to a curse put on the club in the early 20th
century. In the early 1900s Birmingham (who were known at Small Heath
until 1905) had outgrown their Muntz Street ground and were looking to
build a new, larger stadium. The area where St Andrew's now stands was
identified as the best potential site and a Birmingham director, Harry
Morris, convinced the board that a new ground should be built there. At
the time it was wasteland and before building could start a band of
gypsies had to be evicted from the site and it was they who reputedly put
a 100-year curse on the St Andrew's ground.
Things went wrong at St
Andrew's right from the start and the first match at the new ground - a
First Division match against Middlesbrough on Boxing Day 1906 - almost
suffered a postponement due to a heavy snowfall. The kick-off had to be
delayed for an hour while the pitch was cleared of snow with the 32,000
present eventually witnessing a 0-0 draw.
The club were relegated at the
end of their first full season at the new ground and there were never to
enjoy a consistent run of success. A number of attempts were made to
counter the curse by club managers. Ron Saunders tried putting crucifixes
on each of the floodlight pylons and later Barry Fry tried urinating in
each of the four corners of the ground (well he said it was to try to get
rid of the curse!). Nothing worked.
If there was a 100-year curse
that surely would have ended on Boxing
Day 2006, a century after their first match at St Andrews, and then
Birmingham City could start winning things. Strangely that seemed to
happen. Bluenose fans who had been given a 2007 Club Diary as a Christmas
present must have had a shock when they looked at the Club honours page.
In place of winning the Leyland Daf Cup and Auto Windscreens Shield was an
impressive array of honours which included winning the European Cup,
European Super Cup, seven League championships and another seven FA Cups.
Perhaps there really had been a curse but instead of it stopping
Birmingham winning honours it had just made their fans, well, a tad
The reason was less
supernatural than human. A mistake had been made by the diary printers and
the honours won by near-neighbours and great rivals Aston Villa had ended
up on the Birmingham City honours page. Embarrassment and apologies
all-round but just to make sure things were clear Birmingham City
announced, "We would also like to make it clear that
Birmingham City Football Club has never won the European Cup." Now
Birmingham story dates from the Second World War when they had a stand
destroyed. But not from enemy action, although St Andrews's was regularly
hit by bombs during the blitz. In January 1942 the stand was an auxiliary
fire station and a fireman who wanted to put out a brazier used for
heating used what he thought was water - but it was petrol. Goodbye stand!
Selhurst Park faithful had a new chant at the start of the 2004/05 Premier
League season - 'There's only one h in Palace'. Amazingly Diadora -
Palace's shirt manufacturer - had supplied the club with a batch of shirts
with a badge that had the club name printed as Chrystal Palace!
They did well on ebay!
It is more normal to 'drop
the aitch' and that is what happened on the shirt that David Beckham wore
at Wembley for the 1997 Charity Shield match against Chelsea. His name was
spelt Beckam! Beckam - sorry Beckham - said 'I thought the lads
were winding me up. Then I saw it for myself. It was too late to do
anything about it, so we all had a laugh instead.'
malfunctions' include David Bentley becoming
Betnley when playing for Blackburn against Manchester United in
November 2007 and John O'Shea becoming S'hea when playing for
Manchester United against Real Madrid in a Champions League tie. So it
only happens in low-profile matches then!
the difference between the two Spurs players at the 1987 FA Cup Final
against Coventry. Shirt sponsors pay a lot of money to have their name
seen on TV at the high profile matches and for brewers Holsten there was
no more high-profile match that a Wembley cup final. Kit suppliers Hummel
supplied Spurs with new kit for the final but a manufacturing problem
meant that the Holsten logo was missing from some of the shirts. The
problem was discovered too late and with no plan B half the Spurs players
played with Holsten on their shirt front and half had the name missing.
Holsten were not amused! Spurs lost the match.
A wrong shirt also caused a problem
at the 1970 FA Cup Final. David Webb's extra time goal won Chelsea the FA
Cup in the replay against Leeds at Old Trafford but he made the mistake of
exchanging his shirt with a Leeds player before the medal presentation. As
officials believed him to be a Leeds player he was not allowed to
accompany his Chelsea team-mates to the medal presentation.
Fast forward to the 1992 FA Cup
Final when everybody was presented with a medal - but the wrong ones!
Victors Liverpool were handed the losers medals while beaten Sunderland
players were handed the winners medals. The players later changed them.
Norbert Peter Stiles - probably better known as Nobby Stiles! -
played 28 times for England including that match in 1966 when England beat
Germany. A great player and popular character he was also famously very
short-sighted. He made his England debut against Scotland at Wembley on
April 10th 1965 and after the match he and the other England players went
to the Café Royal
in London for the traditional after-match banquet. Not wearing his glasses
he got lost in the corridors there before finding a busy dining room and
sitting down in it. He started to wonder were his team-mates were and then
a fellow diner lent over and asked him a question - "So, do you know
the bride or the groom?" Whoops!
United didn't enjoy the best of fortunes in the 2021/22 season but when on
the morning of May 24th 2022 the BBC announced that 'Manchester United are
rubbish' it came as a bit of a shock to most of the the viewing public.
The text announcing that opinion popped up on the news ticker at the
bottom of the screen during a tennis update that morning. Later that day
the BBC apologised to any United fans who might have been offended by the
comment. They said that someone learning how to operate the ticker -
presumably a Man City fan - had been writing 'random things' and a
technical problem had seen that test ticker appear on the live screen for
a short period. Whoops!
On Saturday 14th December 2019 Derby lost 0-1 at home to Millwall in
the Championship. The Rams' disappointment at that defeat was soon
forgotten though as according to the Sunday Times the attendance at Pride
Park was a new world record - 262,072. It must have been a tight
squeeze as that's over 60,000 more than the previous record achieved at
the Maracana Stadium in Brazil for the 1950 World Cup Final. Sadly it
didn't make The Guinness Book of Records though as it proved to be a
misprint in the Sunday Times. It should have been 26,272!
There was a time when I
thought that Brian Clough must have been the most famous person in the
world, but perhaps not so. In seems that back in 1972, shortly after
leading Derby County to the League title, Cloughie was dictating a letter
to a temp secretary in her first day at the Baseball Ground. Dictation
finished, he asked her to add his name to the end of the letter. 'And who
are you' was her response!
Ever been tempted to buy a restricted
November 1999 The Times printed an exclusive about
Liverpool wanting to sign Didier Baptiste, the left-back of Monaco and the
French Under-21 side with a £3.5m bid being on the cards. They had picked
up the 'exclusive' from the Liverpool Clubcall line who in turn had
taken it from the News of the World. Bless 'em, none of them had
checked the facts. Didier Baptiste only existed as a fictional character
who played for Harchester United in Dream Team, a football-based
soap on Sky TV. The Times had to make a correction and those newspapers
who had not run the exclusive had their own - accurate - headlines. The
Guardian reported 'Dream £3.5million Liverpool transfer for a player
who doesn't exist' and the Independent 'Paper links Liverpool to
player who doesn't exist.' I bet they loved it!
Our friends Birmingham were on the
wrong end of yet another embarrassment in the 1921/22 season when they didn't play in
the FA Cup - they didn't get their entry in on time! Not that they are
alone with several other League clubs also missing out on playing in the
FA Cup for the same reason - Clapton Orient in 1906/07, QPR in 1927/28 and
Nelson in 1928/29.
Brighton & Hove Albion
did get their FA Cup entry in in the 1932/33 season but didn't tick the
box that gave them exemption from the qualifying rounds. As a result
rather than start the campaign in the 1st Round proper they started in the
First Qualifying Round. Mind you, perhaps that mistake was a forgiveable
one with the club scoring 32 goals in their four qualifying round matches (full
"We all have bad
days, but he was still brave enough to take the penalty which is
what he is all about".
Stoke manager Tony Pulis in January 2013 after his player Jonathan
Walters had scored two own goals - and missed that penalty. Stoke
lost 0-4 at home to Chelsea to end an 17 match unbeaten home Premier
When David Beckham attended the
wedding of an Aston Villa supporter in April 2011 he made a fashion
blunder which hit the national headlines. Flies undone? White socks?
Evidence of breakfast on his tie? No, he wore his OBE medal on the wrong
lapel of his suit! Now that's something I have never done and I bet you
haven't either. The Muppet! (The wedding he ruined was between Prince
William and Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey).
Obviously not making enough money
from the sale of their current replica strip a bright spark at Old
Trafford thought they could make a bob or two more by selling a replica or
the kit worn by United in their European Cup final of 1968. A
never-to-be-forgotten night at Wembley when they won the European Cup for
the first time. So the red replica kit went on sale - until an even
brighter spark realised that they had played in blue that evening. It was
withdrawn from sale.
must often wish that they thought before speaking (Colemanballs)
but even 'considered' opinions can backfire on them. When Match of the
Day commentator Alan Hansen watched Manchester United lose their
opening-day Premier League fixture 1-3 at Aston Villa on Saturday August
19th 1995 he said 'you'll never win anything with kids'. The kids
in question included David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Gary
Neville and United went on to win a League and FA Cup double that season.
And those words were immortalised on T Shirts, mugs, mouse mats.......
Ron Atkinson's first match
in his short spell in charge of Nottingham Forest was in January
1999 against Arsenal at the City Ground. He might well remember his warm
welcome with some pleasure but that was then followed by an embarrassing
moment - he went and sat in the Arsenal dug-out!
In October 1997 Spurs kicked off the
second half of their Premier League match at Newcastle with just nine
players - Les Ferdinand and Ruel Fox were both still in the toilet having
lost track of time!
It can be handy to know the rules
In a 4th Round Capital One Cup match in October 2012 Arsenal fought back
from 4-0 down at Reading to finish the 90 minutes level at 4-4. Elated at
the comeback and the prospect of a replay Arsenal's Olivier Giroud and
Francis Coquelin celebrated by throwing their shirts into the jubilant
Arsenal support. Then they were told there wasn't a replay and they would
be playing extra time - and they had to ask for their shirts back!
(It's never over....)
It can be handy to know the rules
(2). When Bath City kicked off their FA Youth Cup match at Newport
County in September 2011 I'm guessing none of their players expected to
have blanket coverage of the match in the national daily newspapers -
because of the colour of their underpants! The rules state that if thermal
undershorts are worn they have to be the same main colour as the shorts.
Referee Darren Adie noticed that the cycling shorts worn under the red
shorts of two Bath players weren't the regulation red with one wearing
black and the other white. Both were ordered to change. One of them didn't
have anything else to change into and so had to play commando and if that
prospect wasn't bad enough Newport scored their first goal before the two
got back onto the pitch. That led to words between the ref and Bath
manager Billy Clark which resulted in the manager and non-playing sub
Ciaran Rogers being red-carded by the ref for dissent. By full-time Bath
had four players sent off - Billy Cooper, Zemell Burton, Ben Bicknell and
goalkeeper Lewis Pierre - with their seven players losing 6-0. It's a
funny old game!
You may not have recognised Bob
Colston if you saw him but if you watched ITV on a Saturday afternoon
between 1972 and 1999 you would have recognised his voice as the reader of
the classified football results. On one occasion just before he was due to
read the results he had a coughing fit and at very short notice a
'substitute' reader had to be found. Unfortunately his replacement knew
nothing about football, even to the extent that Division was not
the name of a football club! So the first result he read was - Division
1 Arsenal 2.
In January 2009 when
Bishop Auckland heard of the death of one of their former players, Tommy
Farrer, they did all the respectful things. Tributes were made in the
club programme and local newspaper to a former player who had played in
three Wembley FA Amateur Cup finals for the County Durham club as well as
being capped for England at amateur level and playing for Great Britain at
the 1956 Olympics. A minute's silence was also held before Bishops
Northern League game against Newcastle Benfield. It was only when a
club official rang his 'widow' to pass on his condolences that they found
out that Tommy was still very much alive and kicking at his home in
term 'Baby-Faced Assassin' is used in a complimentary way - we would
probably think of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in his days at Manchester United.
The same sort of phrase is used abroad, which is fine if we all use the
language we understand and try not to be too clever. A Mexican newspaper,
The Record, did try to be too clever when one of their countrymen,
Javier Hernandez, scored the winning goal for Manchester United against
Valencia in a Champions League match in September 2010. Thinking they were
converting the Spanish version of the phrase to the English version they
called him a 'Baby Killer' instead - on the front page! I'm not sure if
the 'Baby Killer' sued for libel!
There was a bit of a
diplomatic incident after the Czech Republic played a friendly in Prague
in May 2008. The programme had the Latvian team picture with all the right
names printed and the Latvian flag with all the right colours. There was a
perfect rendition of the Latvian national anthem before the match. But
they were playing Lithuania!
Earl Spencer's daughter,
Kitty Spencer, and a friend had tickets for the Easter Sunday fixture
between Chelsea and Arsenal in March 2008. When the taxi arrived at the
family pile at Althorpe House in Northamptonshire the sat-nav was set to
Stamford Bridge, but not the one you would have expected. Instead of
travelling south to one of the most famous grounds in the country in one
of the largest cities in the world the taxi drove north to the small
village of Stamford Bridge near York! You would have thought that two keen
Chelsea fans would have noticed (Lady Kitty is a blonde) but the taxi firm
took the blame. Paul Achiampong, the owner of Mayfair Taxis said 'Mistakes
do happen now and again. But I admit this is a big one.' Yep!
You would have thought that Michael
Knighton would have been wary of people over-stretching themselves after
his abandoned £20 million bid for Manchester United in 1989. He later
bought Carlisle United but by 2001 the Cumbrians had hit hard times and
looked to be heading out of the League. Knighton introduced the 'saviour'
of the club at a press conference, Stephen Brown had agreed to buy a 25%
stake in the club after selling a Spanish hotel for £6 million. Sadly it
wasn't to be. The successful hotelier in fact worked in an Indian
restaurant, lived in sheltered accommodation and drove an H reg Vauxhall
Cavalier. Knighton said 'This man has caused horrendous embarrassment
to me and this club. I have never been hoodwinked in my life.' Well,
not until then anyway!
A report in the Observer
"With seven minutes gone the packed terraces erupted as Butler
struck the ball into Liverpool's net, but the linesman's fag was
aloft indicating offside."
When Northern League
referee Russell Tiffin entered hospital for a vasectomy he thought it
would be a quick in-and-out procedure which could be kept private. But
after the operation he made the
mistake of inspecting the surgeons' handywork but on seeing some blood he
fainted, hit his head on a basin and spent the next three days in hospital
with concussion. And the publicity followed!
Brighton v Nottingham Forest -
Littlewoods Cup 2nd Round 1st leg match played at the Goldstone ground on
Wednesday 24th September 1986. The team page is printed below - any ideas
of the problem that arose?
Check the surnames. Stuart Pearce
and the linesman RD Pearce - who were brothers. Stuart claimed that he had
no idea that his brother Ray was running the line until he saw him as he
ran out on the pitch. They kept quiet about the family connection and
luckily there were no controversial decisions needed to be taken by Pearce
the linesmen. Even the ref didn't know of the family connection until
Stuart gave his brother a birthday present in the officials' changing room
after the match. So Stuart didn't know his brother was officiating but
just happened to have his birthday present with him. Mmmm...makes you
wonder! Anyway the two brothers next met up on the pitch less
controversial circumstances when Ray refereed his brothers' testimonial
match, Nottingham Forest v Newcastle in 1996.
imagine yourself at Anfield at the half-time break against Newcastle in
November 2012. Liverpool had won only once in the League at Anfield that
season, had gone behind against Newcastle just before the break and it was
freezing cold. Couldn't get any worse you might think. Then a sprinkler
malfunctioned and soaked those in the first 20 rows or so of a stand. Life
can be a bitch!