MORE THIS &
Retro shirts are very much
in fashion these days but there is one Scottish shirt that you don't often
see accompanying a kilt. At the turn of the 20th Century Lord Rosebery was
an influential figure in Scottish football having been the Prime Minister
as well as President of the FA and Hearts. He was also a famous racehorse
owner with his horses winning the Derby in 1894, 1895 and 1905. He
persuaded the Scottish FA to allow the Scotland team to ditch their
traditional dark blue shirts and play in his racing colours - of primrose
and pink! This they did on at least nine occasions starting in 1881 with
the last time being in 1951 against France. Perhaps the most notable match
in which they wore those colours was a 4-1 victory over England at Celtic
Park in April 1900 when Rosebery told the Scottish captain "I have
never seen my colours so well sported since Ladas won the Derby."
So am I the only one who thinks the
only important match statistic is the number of goals scored? In the
absence of a decent England showing all the news around Euro 2012 seemed
to be based on stats. Spain averaged 626.3 passes a match managed in an
average of 60.03% possession. Is that really possible - who counts these
things? And for those really interested those passes can be split into
long and short passes, successful and unsuccessful ones....and so on. The
860 passes Spain made in the Ireland match (788 completed) was a team
record and Xavi's 136 passes (127 completed) were an individual record.
There were 21.7 shots per match, in their match against Italy England's
most frequent passing combination was between Joe Hart and Andy Carroll,
Wayne Rooney slept for 83.2% of each match he played in (sorry I made that
one up...or did I?).
The commercial interests couldn't
resist facts like those. Players wearing Nike boots scored 60% of the
goals compared with 20% for adidas. Based on time on the pitch, 47% of the
players wore Nike and 38% adidas.
The only stat I will remember is
that England needed to improve 100%.
Herbert Chapman was a brilliant manager and will always be remembered
for his successes at both Huddersfield Town and Arsenal. He was a
deep-thinker - from tactics right through to floodlights, playing kit and
even ground design. He also didn't miss a marketing opportunity. He could
never understand why the underground station next to the Highbury ground
was called Gillespie Road. He saw it as an advertising opportunity missed
and argued that renaming the station Arsenal would benefit both the
football club and the underground's owners, the London Electric Railway.
If the name 'Arsenal' was presented to every user of the underground it
would attract new supporters to the club and additional journeys on the
underground. Not that a change would be easy. As now every map and
timetable would need to be changed but in addition, in those pre-computer
ticket was pre-printed with destination names on them. But as Herbert
brought success to Arsenal the bargaining power they had over the
underground owners grew and on 5th November 1932 the name of the station
was duly changed from Gillespie Road to Arsenal - the Gunners celebrating
that day with a 7-1 First Division victory at Wolves!
In Fulham's 'Inside The Cottage'
programme notes for the visit of Middlesbrough in a Division Three match
at Craven Cottage on Saturday 27th September 1986 the writer gave plenty
of encouragement to the cause for their following home match - against
Liverpool in the second leg of a Littlewoods Cup tie. It was perhaps a
little tongue-in-cheek - Fulham had lost the first leg 0-10!
"Perhaps I shouldn't say it, but I'm maybe a little too intelligent to
be a footballer".
So claimed Joey Barton in a French newspaper
in November 2012. That's the same Joey Barton who was in France after
being banished from the English game after being red-carded and then
attacking two Manchester City players while at QPR. And that's the
same Joey Barton who in 2008 was jailed for 6 months (he served 77
days) for common assault and then given a four months suspended
sentence for a training ground assault on former teammate Ousmane Dabo.
Fulham hit the
headlines in September 1980 when they played Wigan in a 13-a-side
match. Well, it was Rugby League!
had to happen. Clubs in the round ball code were looking for extra income,
particularly from under-utilised grounds, while the professional oval ball
game was looking to expand beyond its traditional boundaries. The
inevitable result was that football clubs and rugby league clubs would
join forces and play from a single ground.
trendsetters were Fulham and unlike what happens currently where football
clubs and rugby union clubs share grounds but remain independent
organisations, Fulham FC formed at Rugby League club in their name and
entered the Second Division of the Rugby League.
first competitive match could hardly have been against
better opposition - Wigan, who were having something of a 'blip' in their
fortunes at the time. In the match played at Craven Cottage on Sunday
September 14th 1980 Fulham won 24-5 and both clubs were to go on to win
promotion in the 1980/81 season.
crowd that day was 9554 which was to be Fulham's rugby clubs' best League gate of the
season (home or away) although they did attract higher attendances at
Craven Cottage in cup matches against Leeds (12,583) and Wakefield Trinity
with the average home attendance being over 6000 - and having gained
promotion - the experiment was considered an initial success.
League hadn't had a home in London since the 1930s so Fulham offering a
home for the sport was a major coup for the Rugby League authorities.
However they were not alone and both Cardiff City and Carlisle followed
their lead in the 1981/82 season. But while London still has its Rugby
League side (which has descended from Fulham although no longer part of
Fulham FC) that particular experiment did not prove to be a long-term
Clough, a character you
either loved or hated but I'm sure one you miss. A brilliant
manager, he took Derby to the top and Forest to the very top
and without him they have hardly gone past being ordinary. As
an England manager? Well, he certainly wouldn't have been any
worse than we are used to, probably a lot better, certainly
very entertaining. But we can still be entertained by the man,
the things he said are still with us and I'm sure they will
still make us laugh, make us wonder or make us angry.....
'The River Trent is
lovely. I know because I've walked on it for 18 years.'
'I wouldn't say I was the
best manager in the business....but I was in the top one.'
one of his regrets:
entire world and his dog how good a manager I was. I knew I
was the best but I should have said nowt and kept the pressure
off because they’d have worked it out for themselves.'
About how he dealt with
anyone bold enough to disagree with him:
'We talk about it for 20 minutes
and then we decide I was right.'
importance of playing on the deck
'If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds he would
have put grass up there.'
About what he was going to call new signing Teddy Sheringham:
'I’m calling you Edward because that’s what it says on your
'Ah yes. Frank Sinatra. He
met me once you know!'
About dealing with Roy
'I only ever hit Roy the once. He got up so I couldn't have
hit him very hard.'
job he should have had:
'I’m sure the England selectors thought if they took me on and
gave me the job, I’d want to run the show. They were shrewd
because that’s exactly what I would have done.'
getting his England job:
'At last we’ve appointed a manager who speaks English better
than the players!'
is a handsome young man but he spends too much time looking in
his mirror rather than at the ball. You can't keep goal with
hair like that.'
'Telling a player to get
his hair cut counts as coaching as far as I’m concerned.'
About the offside rule:
'If any one of my players isn't interfering with play
they're not getting paid.'
'Rome wasn't built in a
day...but then again I wasn't on that particular job.'
Cantona's kink-fu attack on a fan at Crystal Palace :
'I'd have cut his balls off.''
'Walk on water? I know most people out there will be
saying that instead of walking on it, I should have taken more
of it with my drinks. They are absolutely right.'
'When I go, God's going to
have to give up his favourite chair.'
'I want no epitaphs of
profound history and all that type of thing. I contributed. I
would hope they would say that, and I would hope somebody
We certainly did
They say that the one day of the
footballing calendar that sees most dreams shattered is the first day of
the League season. Before the 2012/13 season started a Liverpool fan bet
£44,000 that his side would win the Premier League title. The 25/1
each-way bet with William Hill was set to win him £777,333.33 if they won
the title or £205,333.33 if they finished second. Then Liverpool played
their first League match - a 3-0 walloping at WBA with West Brom also
missing a penalty. Dream over?
Paul Merson once said of Dimitar
Berbatov 'Berbatov's not what they call a runarounder.' In an
article in the Daily Mirror at the end of November 2013 the same sort of
thing was said, but in a few more words -
Berbatov is sloth cause for Cottage
New Fulham No. 2 Rene Meulensteen used to tell his
players at Brondby to imagine they were animals on the pitch. Some
pretended to be tigers, other lions - at Craven Cottage Dimitar
Berbatov has volunteered as a sloth.
The Bulgarian is so lazy he has moss growing. If he
could live his life all over again, he'd ask someone else to do it for
him. As a kid, he watched Maradona on TV and knew then what he wanted
to do for the rest of his life. Watch TV. Things aren't working out at
Fulham - I'd bet serious money that neither is he - and word is he'll
hand in a transfer request as soon as he can summon up the energy.
Berba likes to get the ball do the work - at home, it even takes out
the rubbish for him.
The relaxaholic striker is 3-1 with Corals to leave
Fulham in the January window and I'm all over that like Berba's
comfort blanket. Meulensteen is 3-1 with 888sport to be Fulham No. 1
by the end of the year.
A great piece of writing and accurate in its
predictions. Just a week later Meulensteen replaced Jol as Fulham manager
and just before time was called on the January 2014 transfer window
Berbatov was shipped out to Monaco on loan.
Going to every home match in a
season is quite an achievement even if you have a season ticket. Life just
gets in the way at times, but seemingly not so for Wolves fan Peter Abbott
who made the headlines in October 2013. His amazing record was not to have
missed a home Wolves match since March 1976 which is more amazing still as
Peter's home was in Ipswich, a round trip of over 300 miles to
Wolverhampton! During that time he had missed only one away match, a 3-0
defeat at Blackburn on the last day of the 1984/85 season. But he could be
forgiven for that - the train taking him there broke down! Then life
intervened. His stepdaughter got married on October 19th 2013 in deepest
Suffolk. Yes, that was a Saturday and no, there could be no getting out of
it - he had to miss the League 1 match against Coventry at Molineux. The
first time he had missed a home match in 37 years. But Wolves made the
pain easier to bear by sending along a surprise wedding guest - Wolves
legend Steve Bull. I'm not sure if the bride felt a bit upstaged by all of
this - I guess her new husband found out the first time he asked to be let
off household duties to go to a football match!
two-legged European tie with attendances totally over 180,000 - seems
unlikely but it did happen in April 1970. Leeds drew Celtic in the
semi-finals of the European Cup and in the first leg at Elland Road a very
respectable 45,505 witnessed the Scots winning 1-0. The second leg was
played at Hampden Park and an amazing 136,505 turned up for that one, a
record for a match in a European Club competition. Celtic won that one as
well, 2-1, to progress to the final where they lost to Feyenoord, the
first time a Dutch club had won the competition.
Despite those attendances not
everyone was over-awed by the occasion. The Yorkshire Post reported
on one Celtic supporter who arrived at the Elland Road turnstiles with
ticket in hand. The police searched him and found he had a bottle of
whisky and he was asked to drop in into a box so he could enter the
ground. He thought about it, he really thought about it...and then walked
away with the whisky and the unused match ticket!
"We are at a club where we
can't deal in the top bracket of players we would like to bring here.
We are not at Crufts, we are at Battersea Dogs Home. We are looking
for strays. We are looking for people who have gone astray with the
aim of bringing them back".
What Stoke manager Tony Pulis had to say after signing Matthew
Etherington in January 2009. Perhaps not the greatest of welcomes!
Coventry City shirt sponsors Peugeot got their moneys
worth when Chelsea visited Highfield Road for a Premier League match in
April 1997. Chelsea only took their home kit with them and that clashed
with the Coventry home kit so the Londoners were forced to borrow
Coventry's red and black check away shirts. Sadly for the Sky Blues
it was the only way to get the likes of Zola, Vialli, Di Matteo and
Leboeuf to play in the Premier League in their colours!
Looking back on life it is amazing
how seemingly small things have had an dramatic affect on the careers of
players and perhaps the history of clubs...
When teenager Roy Sutcliffe had a
trial with Manchester United in 1950 he thought he had done enough to
impress the club coaches. But as the weeks went by and he heard nothing
from Old Trafford his dreams of playing for Manchester United faded and he
got on with living his life. Then in 1997 his mother cleaned out a drawer
at home and found an unopened letter that she had forgotten to give to her
son when it was delivered in 1950. The then 67-year-old Roy discovered
that the letter was from Jimmy Murphy, Matt Busby's talent scout, asking
him back to Old Trafford for another trial. He said later "I
was a little upset at first. I was annoyed when I thought about what might
have been. A place at United might have led to all sorts of amazing
things. But I have realised what has to be has to be."
What might have been? Well instead of fame and fortune
as a Busby Babe his football career got no better than as a part-timer for
Glossop, and he became a Manchester City supporter. Mind you, had he
opened that letter fate might have put him on that plane at Munich in
Denis Law made a name for himself at
his first League club, Huddersfield Town. In 1960 he was about to make his
first move and he was set to join Arsenal. Tommy Docherty, an Arsenal
player and a fellow Scottish international, had shown him around Highbury
and he was mighty impressed with the set-up there which included
underfloor heating in the dressing-room! But when it came to negotiating a
move Arsenal only sent their assistant manager, Ron Greenwood, to talk to
Law rather than the manager himself, George Swindin. Taking that as a
slight Denis Law moved to Manchester City rather than Arsenal. I wonder
how the career of Law, also well as the histories of Arsenal, Manchester
City and Manchester United, would have been different had George Swindin
found time to talk to the 'King' and Law had signed for Arsenal?
Barry Fry is one of those football
personalities you love or hate, but you can never criticize his passion
for the game. While manager of Barnet he was once found by police mowing
the Underhill pitch by moonlight 4am one Saturday morning. He said that he
couldn't sleep thinking about the match later that day so decided to get
up and do something useful. On another occasion he re-mortgaged his home
to pay off the clubs' debts. How many other managers would do that?
Well, if you think the fans of
Carlisle United or Plymouth Argyle have a tough time when it comes to
travelling to away matches spare a thought for Russian fans when
Luch-Energiya were members of the Russian Premier League. While most of
the members of the League were in the Moscow area Luch-Energiya were from
Vladivostok on the eastern Pacific coast of the country. That is 4,000
miles from Moscow as the crow flies or over 6,000 miles by road, avoiding
Mongolia and China! After one trip to Luch-Energiya CSKA Moscow goalkeeper
Igor Akinfeev complained that the club 'should play in the Japanese
League' and he was just complaining about the seven hour flight (and a
4-0 defeat!). He only had to make the journey once a year - Luch-Energiya
players and supporters had to do it every other week. When Zenit St
Petersburg visited Vladivostok in 2006 three intrepid fans - Aleksandr
Zaraysky, Evgeny Stepanov and Veronika Davidova - decided to make the
12,000 + miles round trip by car to support their club. They got to
Vladivostok but then the car decided enough was enough and gave up the
ghost stranding the trio in darkest Siberia. It took them a six-day train
trip on the Trans Siberian Railway to get them back to St Petersburg. But
thankfully there was a happy ending. To mark their
loyalty Zenit presented the trio with a new car - and two years later
Luch-Energiya were relegated!
What did we ever do for humour
before Photoshop came along?
thinking of the matches Wembley Stadium has staged thoughts immediately go
to the Cup Finals and internationals rather than Clapton Orient in the
Third Division (South)! But it happened.
Clapton Orient - now Leyton Orient - moved
to their Millfields Road ground in 1900. All was well at the ground - which
had a record attendance of 31,400 against Newcastle in 1926 - until 1927
when a greyhound racing syndicate bought the ground from the local
council. Relations between the greyhound and football fraternities were
soon strained with the O's being banned from using the ground for training
or the boardroom on match days. A new ground was needed and this they
found just half a mile away at Lea Bridge Road.
The oval-shaped ground had been used for
speedway and had a wooden fence around the perimeter. The first League
match at the ground was on the afternoon of Thursday September 4th 1930
(no floodlights in those days) with 5505 specators witnessing them defeat
Newport County in Division 3 (South). A couple of months later when the
O's had beaten Torquay United 4-0 the visitors complained that the wooden
fencing was too close to the pitch and affected their play. As a result
the Football League closed the ground for alterations to be made.
While those alterations were being made
Clapton Orient played their two home League matches at Wembley Stadium. On
Saturday November 22nd 1930 the Third Division South match against
Brentford was staged at the famous Stadium and 8319 fans witnessed a 3-0
'home' win. Two weeks later on Saturday December 6th the O's defeated
Southend United 3-1 at their temporary home although terrible weather cut
the attendance to 1916.
Between those two matches - on Saturday
November 29th - a 'home' FA Cup First Round replay against Luton Town was
staged at Arsenal's Highbury stadium. An attendance of 8021 witnessed a
4-2 victory for Luton.
With the works at Lea Bridge Road completed
Clapton Orient played at that ground until their move to their present
Brisbane Road ground. Their last match at Lea Bridge Road was in April
1937 with the O's taking over Brisbane Road from Leyton Amateurs at the
start of the following season.
2011 when Juventus moved from their old Stadio delle Alpi ground in
Turin to their new Juventus Stadium any club in the world would probably
have been happy to provide the opposition in the official opening of the
new ground. So who did they invite - Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester
United? No....Notts County from League 1 of the Football League! So on
September 3rd 2011 Notts County beat Bournemouth 3-1 at Meadow Lane in a
League 1 game, they then jetted out to Turin to play the Italian giants on
the Thursday and two days later they were back at Meadow Lane when they
beat Walsall 2-1 in another League 1 fixture.
Why Notts County? The historical link between the two clubs dates back to
1903 when Juventus decided to change the shirt colour they had been
playing in since they were founded - pink! They asked an English team
member, John Savage, for help and he in turn contacted a friend in
Nottingham to send out a set of shirts to Turin. As a Notts County
supporter the shirts he sent were inevitably black and white stripes. Had
he been a Forest supporter perhaps Juventus would have found themselves in
red shirts but as it was the iconic shirts of Juventus were black and
white stripes and the historic link with Notts County, the oldest
professional football club in the world, was forged. It was an amazing
gesture for Juventus to invite Notts County to do the honours at the
ground opening and the visitors were not overawed with Luca Toni and Lee
Hughes scoring the goals in a 1-1 draw.
On Saturday December 12th
1896 Arsenal - then Woolwich Arsenal - had to play two matches, one in the
Football League and one in the FA Cup. The reserves played at home to
Leyton in the FA Cup and won 5-0 but the first team travelled to mighty
Loughborough and lost 0-8 in a Second Division match which is still their
record League defeat. Match
report of that match.
Over the years many an animal has found itself on a football pitch - dogs,
chickens, squirrels, foxes and Vinnie Jones to name a few!
Burton Albion lost an FA Cup Third Round replay in January 2006 5-0 at
Manchester United they complained that they hadn't just been sharing the
Old Trafford pitch with their opponents but also with some unexpected
visitors - mice. Most grounds have the occasional rodent problem in the
spectator areas as a result of large amounts of discarded food waste but
it is a tad unusual to find them invading the pitch during a match.
United's next match at Old Trafford was against Liverpool four days later
and as one United fan said 'Rafa Benitez may think he’s the big
cheese but I still think Fergie’s boys can squeak through'.
But perhaps the
strangest creature to be rescued from a football pitch was a....fish! Back
in January 2005 Carlisle United's Brunton Park ground was drying out after
severe flooding but just before the pitch was finally cleared of water a
goldfish was found swimming around the goalmouth. Apparently it had found
its way to the ground after escaping from its bowl in a nearby flooded
house. Nicknamed Billy after the half-human, half-fish creature who was
Fulchester United's goalkeeper in the Viz comic, it was rescued and
put in a tank. It proved to be a lucky mascot for the Cumbrian club who
were in the Conference at the time. A Carlisle spokesman was later to say
about Billy - 'It’s fair to say that the good luck tag has been an
appropriate one for Billy. From the comfort of a fish tank in the
Park he has overseen United’s return to the Football League, the League
Two title triumph, trips to the Millennium Stadium and the new Wembley
Stadium and even a club record run of 14 consecutive home victories in the
2007/08 season.' Rumour has it that rather than sack unsuccessful
managers for a while club chairman took the cheaper option of buying a
tank of fish!
With 366 possible dates for a birthday its a bit of a coincidence when
two Premier League managers share the same birthday. But what are the odds
of those two managers up against each other for the first time - on the
day of their birthdays? It happened in 2013. Queen's Park Rangers manager
Harry Redknapp and Mauricio Pochettino of Southampton were both born on
March 2nd and on March 2nd 2013 their opposing sides met each other in a
Premier League match at St Mary's. With 'Arry having had a bit of
'history' at Southampton the home fans made his return to the South coast
more than a little uncomfortable but he ended up with the main birthday
present - 3 points - with QPR winning 2-1.
When Arsenal recorded a 3-0 Premier
League victory over Sheffield United back in the 2006/07 season remarkably
all three goalscorers shared the same birthday. The first goal came from
William Gallas and the third from Thierry Henry (both born on 17th August
1977) and in-between them Sheffield United's Phil Jagielka (born 17th
August 1982) scored an own goal. The perfect conclusion would be to say
the match was played on 17th August but sadly no - September 23rd 2006.
Two of the greats of European
football - Ruud van Nistelrooy and Patrick Kluivert - were born just a
little over 50 miles apart in the Netherlands on the same day, 1st July
many clubs can boast that one
of their finest hours was in the Anglo-Scottish Cup, but Chesterfield can.
They won the competition in its final season, 1980/81, but it is perhaps
not the winning of the trophy but one of the ties that is best remembered.
The only Scottish club they played was the mighty Rangers at the
quarter-final stage and they beat
them 4-1 on aggregate. The clubs drew 1-1 at Ibrox before 14,000 fans and
then on Tuesday October 28th 1980 Chesterfield beat Rangers 3-0 at
Saltergate before 13,914 fans.
After having progressed from a qualifying
group that put them up against Grimsby, Hull and Sheffield United the
Spireites then eliminated Rangers before getting the better of Bury in the
two-legged semi-finals. The final was against near neighbours Notts County
who were beaten 2-1 on aggregate with 23,000 fans watching the two ties.
||I always thought that it was a given
that Liverpool were going to have a new stadium. Not so from what one of
the clubs' owners, John W. Henry, said in June 2012 -
“Whatever the reason, a belief has
grown that Liverpool must have a new stadium to compete with United,
Arsenal and others. Nobody has ever addressed whether a new stadium is
rational. The difference [with Chelsea, Arsenal and others] stems as
much from revenue per seat as the number of seats. Even if Liverpool
had 60,000 seats, there would have to be an increase from £900 to
£1,550 in revenue per seat as well to catch Arsenal. Can Liverpool as
a community afford Chelsea or Arsenal prices? No. Our future is based
building a strong club that can compete with anyone in Europe. This
will be principally driven financially by our commercial strength
I think what he was saying was he
would rather take money out of the coffers than put it in!