DID YOU KNOW..... 9
     
 

 

 

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.

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IT'S NEVER OVER UNTIL THE FAT LADY SINGS...

The first Premier title to be decided on goal difference was always going to be hyped-up in the media, but perhaps with good reason. It turned out to be an amazing finish. The battle was not just between two clubs but between Manchester United - the masters - and Manchester City - the young pretenders who were after their first title in 44 years. The maths for the last day of the season - Sunday May 13th 2012 - were simple. Equal on points, City far the better goal difference, both clubs needed to win. United had a toughie at Sunderland, City the easier match at home to Queens Park Rangers. QPR, managed by former City boss Mark Hughes, themselves needed a win to guarantee them safety from the drop but City had 17 wins and a draw in their previous home Premier matches that season. City were certainties - this is how the afternoon unfolded -

20 minutes - Wayne Rooney scored for United at Sunderland, as it stood United were two points clear in the title hunt.
39 minutes - Pablo Zabaleta puts City 1-0 up, City have the title on goal difference.
48 minutes - Djibril Cisse scores an equaliser for QPR and United are top again.
55 minutes - QPR are down to 10 men when Joey Barton was sent off - City are certainties now!
66 minutes - the impossible happens, Jamie Mackie gave QPR the lead. United are going to win it.
92 minutes - Many City fans couldn't cope with the pressure and had left the Etihad Stadium but in the second minute of extra time Edin Dzeko scores the equaliser for City. But surely just a consolation goal, the title is still with United.
94 minutes - the whistle had gone at the Stadium of Light and United had won but amazingly - and you can re-run it as many times as you like and it really happens - Sergio Aguero scores the winner for City in the 4th minute of extra time. The title goes to City!

It was the first time that the title had been decided on goal difference since 1989 when Arsenal pipped Liverpool in a last match decider. That finished inspired a film - perhaps we will be seeing a sequel!

PS - A year to the day after Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini celebrated that success he was sacked by the club. And just to prove a year is a long time in Premier League football by the time that year was up Sir Alex had announced his retirement after Manchester United had regained the title, Sunderland had replaced Martin O'Neill as manager with Paolo Di Canio and QPR had sacked Mark Hughes as manager and replaced him with 'Arry Redknapp. Yep, and I'm deeper in debt!

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Prior to the end of the 2011/12 Premier League season it was the conclusion to the 1988/89 campaign that was considered to be the closest title race on record, the champions not being decided until the last minute of the final match of the season.

Liverpool had been due to play Arsenal at Anfield in the old First Division on Sunday April 23rd 1989 but the fixture had been postponed in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster. When the two clubs finally met it was on Friday May 26th, the last match of the season and was between the only two clubs who could take the title. The maths were easy - Liverpool topped the table and were two points ahead of Arsenal (only two points for a win in those days) and had a 4 goal advantage in goal difference. An Arsenal win by 2 clear goals would level the goal difference and give the Londoners the title on goals scored, an Arsenal win by 3 or more clear goals would see the title go to Arsenal on goal difference - any other result and the title would go to Liverpool.

Having won the FA Cup Liverpool were the strong favourites to record a double. They had won all their previous nine home League matches and the Daily Mirror summed up the general feeling outside the red half of Merseyside with the headline '
You Haven't Got A Prayer, Arsenal'. And it looked that way as the match progressed with the first half goalless. Then in the 52nd Arsenal scored through Alan Smith but by the time 90 minutes were up that proved to be the only goal. Then in the second minute of injury time Michael Thomas scored that all-important second goal for the visitors and with less than 30 seconds left after the restart Arsenal held on for a memorable victory and the League title.


 

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Amazing finishes to the season aren't exclusively for the top division though. Going into the last day of the 2012/13 League 1 season (Saturday April 27th 2013) Bournemouth were guaranteed an automatic promotion spot and were favourites for the title - a win would do it and after 8 League wins on the trot they looked set for the title. The second automatic spot was between Brentford and Doncaster and the script had it they they met at Griffin Park on that last Saturday. The maths were simple - a win for either side would ensure promotion while an draw would favour Doncaster. By the time the 94th minute arrived the score was 0-0 and so Doncaster were looking good. Then a penalty was awarded to Brentford and if they scored from it the Londoners would be promoted. But Marcello Trotta hit the bar with the penalty and on the break James Coppinger amazingly scored the winner for Doncaster to ensure them both promotion and the title (Bournemouth only managed a draw). Amazing!

Well if you thought that was a once-in-a-lifetime finish to a match you would have had to think again with the same happening just over a fortnight later. In the 96th minute of the second leg Championship play off semi between Watford and Leicester on Sunday May 12th 2013 the aggregate scores were level at 2-2. Leicester were then awarded a debatable penalty and if they scored they would be one step closer to the ultimate prize of Premier League riches. But Anthony Knockaert had his penalty kick saved and 20 seconds later Troy Deeney scored Watford's aggregate winner and the full time whistle followed soon after. Amazing!

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The most amazing League match ever? At half time in the Second Division match between Charlton Athletic and Huddersfield Town on Saturday 21st December 1957 things looked bleak for the home side. Charlton were down to 10 men with centre-half Derek Ufton suffering a dislocated shoulder after 17 minutes - no substitutes in those days - and were behind with goals by Les Massie and Alex Bain for the visitors. Johnny Summers pulled one back for Charlton two minutes after the re-start but in the 49th minute Alex Bain scored again for the visitors as did Bill McGarry from the penalty spot after 51 minutes and Bob Ledger added a fifth 11 minutes later.

So with Charlton 1-5 down and one man down with less than half an hour remaining many Charlton fans in the 12,535 crowd took the opportunity for some last-minute Christmas shopping. They missed a Christmas miracle. Two minutes after Huddersfield's fifth goal it was back to 3-5 with goals from Buck Ryan and Johnny Summers. Summers then added three more in eight minutes to put Charlton 6-5 ahead. With four minutes remaining Stan Howard equalised for the Yorkshiremen before Buck Ryan hit the winner for the home side with seconds remaining. An amazing 7-6 victory for Charlton - the only time that scoreline has been recorded in the Football League.

Mind you, Charlton were no strangers to amazing scorelines at around that time. On Saturday October 22nd 1960 they drew 6-6 with Middlesbrough at the Valley - only the second time that scoreline has been recorded in the Football League. Three weeks previous to that Johnny Summers hot another five goals in the 7-4 home victory over Portsmouth. In November 1959 they suffered their worst-ever League defeat - 1-11 at Aston Villa - while six weeks before that they had lost 4-6 at Plymouth. Amazingly the following season two more 6-4 results against Plymouth - winning the home match on Boxing Day 1960 6-4 but losing the return match played a day later at Home Park 4-6. Those were the days!

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You certainly got your money's worth at the Madejski Stadium at the end of October 2012. On Saturday October 27th Reading entertained Fulham in the Premier League and with five minutes remaining the Londoners were 2-1 up. Reading then scored an equaliser, Fulham took the lead again in the 88th minute before Reading equalised again in the last minute. That fixture only proved to be a warm-up match for Reading's next home game, against Arsenal in the Capital One Cup three days later. By the 37th minute Reading had taken a 4-0 lead and despite Arsenal fans singing 'We're going to win 5-4' Arsenal looked to be going out of the League Cup before the quarter-final stage for the first time since 2002/03. Arsenal pulled a goal back on the stroke of half-time and another in the second half but in the 89th minute Reading had a 4-2 lead. Amazingly Arsenal then scored a third with the equalizer coming in the fifth minute of added time. Then came 30 minutes extra time and Arsenal took the lead for the first time before Reading equalised. With the score at 5-5 and penalties looming the Gunners scored twice in the closing minutes to win an amazing match 7-5. What did they once say - Boring, boring Arsenal!

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Another League Cup tie with an unexpected ending was the Second Round tie between Second Division Watford and First Division Southampton in the 1980/81 season. After Southampton had won the first leg 4-0 at The Dell the odds were heavily against Watford in the second leg despite Kevin Keegan being absent from the Saints' side due to injury. But Watford had other ideas! The Hornets were 2-0 up at half time and 5-1 in the lead at the end of 90 minutes with even the one Southampton goal being scored by an og by a Watford player! Extra time followed with Watford scoring two more to win 7-1 on the noght and 7-5 on aggregate.

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Another amazing fight-back in the Second Division in the 1957/58 season. With six matches of the League season left Lincoln City looked certs for relegation - they were bottom of the table, five points adrift of the club above them (with only 2 points for a win) and had only won five league matches all season. In fact they had lost their last nine matches and it it was 18 league matches since they last won but remarkably they won their last six matches of the season to escape the drop by a single point. Lincoln's results that season.

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Some 2500 Peterborough United fans headed home at half time when the home side ended the half  0-4 down to Cardiff City on Boxing Day 2009 in a Championship match. They missed the come-back of the century with the match finishing 4-4.

A few other older notable fight-backs in the League....

Syd Reid had scored 4 goals to help Luton Town to a 5-1 half-time lead in the Third Division (South) match at the County Ground against Northampton Town on Boxing Day 1927. But at the final whistle Northampton were the victors 6-5.

Sunderland were 1-5 down at home to Liverpool at half-time in a First Division fixture on Saturday January 19th 1907 but fought back to draw 5-5.  Two years later on Saturday 4th December 1909 it was Liverpool who were on a hiding, losing 2-5 at half-time at home to Newcastle United. But at the full-time whistle they had turned it round to a 6-5 victory.

Hull fans were streaming out of Boothferry Park on Boxing Day 1970 when the Tigers were 1-4 down to Sheffield Wednesday with just 8 minutes to play of a Division 2 fixture. Hull fought back to draw 4-4 - and they hit the woodwork in the last minute.

On QPR's artificial pitch at Loftus Road visitors Newcastle United were 4-0 at half-time in a First Division fixture on Saturday September 22nd 1984. By the time of the final whistle it was 5-5.

At Fratton Park on New Years Day 1985 Portsmouth took a 4-0 half-time lead over Fulham before the Londoners fought back to draw 4-4.

In an amazing match at Elland Road on Saturday April 13th 1991 Liverpool had a 4-0 half-time lead over Leeds but the final score was Leeds 4 Liverpool 5. Lee Chapman scored a hat-trick for Leeds and had another disallowed for a foul on the keeper.

At St Andrews on Easter Monday (April 12th) 1993 Birmingham City led Swindon Town 4-1 in a First Division fixture with just 30 minutes remaining - but Swindon were 6-4 winners at the final whistle.

At Villa Park on Wednesday February 22nd 1995 Aston Villa led Leicester City 4-1 with just 13 minutes remaining of the Premiership match but the visitors fought back to draw 4-4.

In a First Division fixture on Saturday March 9th 1996 Barnsley were beating Ipswich Town 3-0 with just 6 minutes of the match remaining - but the visitors fought back to draw 3-3.

Spurs had a 3-0 half time lead against Manchester United at White Hart Lane in a Premier League fixture on Saturday September 29th 2001. At the full-time whistle it was Tottenham 3 Manchester United 5.

When Arsenal visited Newcastle for a Premier League match on Saturday 5th February 2011 they looked set for a cricket score. One-nil up in the first minute and four-nil to the good in 26 minutes it was a case of how many more could they score. But in the second half Arsenal had a player dismissed and conceded two penalties and amazingly at full time it was 4-4.

On 24th January 2015 Championship bottom club Blackpool looked set to record a surprising first away win of the season at promotion-chasing Watford when they were 2-0 up at the break. By the time the full-time whistle had blown normal service was resumed - Watford had won 7-2 with Odion Ighalo having scored four of them!

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There was a time when you needed to win a qualifying group to reach the Euro finals, second place meant booking your summer holidays. When Denmark finished second to Yugoslavia in their qualify group for Euro 92 that's exactly what their players did. But with less than two weeks to go before the start of the tournament in Sweden Yugoslavia were suspended by UEFA because of the Balkan wars. Denmark accepted an invitation to replace Yugoslavia, manager Richard Møller Nielsen cancelled plans to fit a new kitchen at his home and the Danish players were called back from various Mediterranean beaches - except Michael Laudrup who stayed on his deck-chair! They were only making the numbers up in the eight-team tournament and didn't make the best of starts in their group, drawing with England and losing to Sweden. But a victory over favourites France saw them qualify for the semis where they defeated holders Holland and in the final they had a 2-0 victory over Germany. Yes, they had won it!

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European ties have seen some great fight-backs, the greatest of which have been by English sides in Champions League finals. In May 1999 Manchester United went a goal behind to Bayern Munich after just 6 minutes in the Champions League final at the Nou Camp, Barcelona. Without the suspended Paul Scholes and Roy Keane United couldn't find a way to score against the Germans and Bayern were still 1-0 up when the fourth official indicated three minutes of added time at the end of 90 minutes. Then in the first minute of extra time United sub Teddy Sheringham scored the equaliser and a minute later the second United sub, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, hit the winner. Disbelief all round, but the treble was Manchester United's!

Fast forward 6 years to the Champions League final of 2004/05 between Liverpool and AC Milan at the Atatürk Stadium in Istanbul. Favourites Milan took the lead in the first minute through Paolo Maldini and by half time Hernan Crespo had added two more to give the Italians a 3-0 interval lead. It was genuinely embarrassing, Liverpool were going to be on the wrong end of a cricket score and I guess like many others I considered switching off the television rather than witness the spectacle. Thankfully I persisted. In six second half minutes Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso all scored goals for Liverpool to level the score. Extra time came and went and inevitable the drama of the evening went to penalties. Liverpool won 3-2 in the shoot-out to complete the 'Miracle of Istanbul'.

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When you support a club like Fulham it's easy to get an inferiority complex - it's not usually about winning anything but survival. Then in the 2009/10 season Fulham found themselves in the Europa League, and they got their properly by finishing 7th in the Premier League the previous season. The qualifying rounds were survived. The Group stage was got through. Progress was made through the first knock-out round and then Juventus were drawn in the Round of the Last 16. Fulham v Juventus in Europe - it was a dream, surely.

But then reality took over and Fulham lost 3-1 in Turin. But we had that away goal. Then in the return at Craven Cottage on Thursday March 18th 2010 those dreams were soon ended when David Trezeguet scored for the Italians after just two minutes. Match over - Juventus were 4-1 up on aggregate and Fulham had lost their away goal advantage. What was I missing on telly I wondered! Then seven minutes later Bobby Zamora made it 1-1 - hey, a draw against Juventus on the night wouldn't be a bad result. Then in the 26th minute the visitors' Fabio Cannavaro's was sent off for a professional foul on Zoltan Gera with the Hungarian putting Fulham 2-1 ahead shortly before half-time. Winning the lottery must be like this - one number uncovered at a time - but then who do you know who has ever got past three numbers? But then the next number came up when Gera scored from the penalty spot four minutes after the restart. 3-1 on the night, 4-4 on aggregate - surely Fulham wouldn't get beaten now until extra time! Then unreality really took over when Clint Dempsey scored the fourth in the 82nd minute. Another Italian was sent off in the three-week wait for the final whistle but the unbelievable had happened - Fulham had won 4-1 on the night and 5-4 on aggregate. Amazing!

And the dream didn't end there. Fulham went on to reach the final in Hamburg where they ran out of steam in what was their 19th European tie of the season. A 2-1 defeat against Atletico Madrid but Fulham had reached a European final and that's something I still need a daily glance at the special souvenir Europa League final fridge magnate to believe. I bet if you ever hear someone moaning about the Europa League being a second-rate competition it's not a Fulham supporter doing the talking!

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When Yeovil came up against Nottingham Forest in the 2007 League 1 play-off semis was I the only one who thought along the lines of European Cup winners v non-leaguers? Certainly the first leg seemed to go along those lines with Forest winning 2-0 at Huish Park. But the second leg at the City Ground had a different script with a 27,819 crowd witnessing a 5-2 victory for Yeovil after extra time, the Somerset side reaching the Wembley final 5-4 on aggregate. Forest manager Colin Calderwood said '
The better side won. Tremendous credit to Yeovil because they put in an excellent performance, even though we had really bad game'. Yeovil lost to Blackpool in the final.


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A giant-killing act looked on the cards at Brisbane Road in December 2010 when non-leaguers Droylsden had a 2-0 lead over Leyton Orient in an FA Cup Second Round replay with less than 15 minutes left - and Orient were down to 10 men. But as the front cover of their programme stated, Leyton Orient were the come-back kings. At the end of normal time the score was 2-2 with the equaliser coming in the 89th minute. Amazingly during the 30 minutes of extra time Leyton Orient scored another six goals without replay with hat-tricks from Jonathan Tehoue and Scott McGleish. So Leyton Orient won 8-2 with both sides ending the match with just 9 players each.

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Manchester United's 'Busby Babes' youth side won the first five FA Youth Cup competitions but Chelsea must have fancied their chances of winning the 6th final. They beat Wolves 5-1 in the first leg of the final - but lost 1-6 in the second leg! FA Youth Cup Finals.

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'
It's never over until the fat lady sings' is a proverb which means that no outcome should ever be assumed. It dates back to the 1874 opera Gotterdammerung by Richard Wagner. The 'fat lady' is Brunnhilde and her aria is the end of a 15 hour suite. It is believed that it was first used in a sporting context in the United States in 1976. Now that's going to be the only mention of opera in this website.... I think!

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Question:
'Wayne Rooney's on a hundred grand a week. Mind you, so was I until the police found my printing machine.' That's a favourite after-dinner joke given by a former Welsh international who played for Manchester United in an FA Cup final before being sentenced to 18 months in prison for his part in a counterfeit currency scam. Who?

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