All new articles are now appearing in the new blog entitled 2012-13 and there will be no further updates here although all the older content from previous posts is still right here and has not been deleted.
Not that long ago- in a galaxy not that far away (Well Wembley) it is hard to believe right now that just 13 years ago Manchester City were a team playing in the third tier of English football. That season they also failed to get automatic promotion as easy favourites. So they went into the play-offs and reached the final and found themselves trailing 0-2 going into injury time. Its amazing how coincidences sometimes seem to happen!
It has been 20 years since the start of the Premier League and to commemorate the occasion the league – on their web site have a competition running where we can all pick our best team, best goal, best celebration, best save and best match.
In a future podcast (perhaps even the next one which will be #14) we will discuss some of these items and it will be interesting to see how our opinions differ once more. But in this article I am concentrating on the best match. There were ten games to choose from (I can think of some others that did not make the list) and I have had a long and hard think about which from these ten are my personal favourites. Eventually (and somehow!) I managed to whittle it down to a top five and here they in order with some of the reasons.
5th Place - Manchester United v Arsenal 8-2 (2011/12). I know the record books will show this as a right hammering and yes it was! But some of the quality of the United goals was just top notch and at that point in the season you just had to ask who could stop them! (more on that in a moment). I will be honest and admit that there are times when I see a big club get a good pasting even on this occasion when it is another top side doing it to them. Of course Arsenal fans will not want to watch this again and forget that it even happened but as crazy as it sounds it probably did them a favour. Maybe it made Arsene Wenger realise that he could not keep on going with his current players and to continue using the same excuse of “transitional phase” and I am sure on this day especially, Gunners fans must have thought about Henry, Bergkamp, Vierra etc etc and wondered what has happened since.
4th Place – Liverpool v Newcastle United 4-3 (1995/96). I for one really wanted Newcastle to win the league title with this team because I simply thought that they were one of the most exciting and attacking football teams that I had ever seen play the game. It did not matter who were top at the time – I just wanted the title to go to Newcastle and as it happened it was Manchester United that would go on to win the league as the Geordies massive advantage at the top of the table wilted away with this match being the iconic game that most people remember from that era. Strangely Liverpool were the party-poopers here and the way that they played that night (even though they did not really have anything to play for themselves) was typical of why Kevin Keegan had his infamous rant on Sky. Of all the teams out there it would be Liverpool that would gift-wrap the title to their arch rivals and that is why its games like this that annoy me a little. How do some teams find a new level when playing the teams at the top when I am sure in following weeks they fall back into their lacklustre performances which is why they are not doing so well themselves. I could understand it far more if it were a giant-killing or a team battling against relegation – but Liverpool fall in neither of these categories.
3rd Place – Manchester United v Manchester City (2011/12). Just a few weeks after absolutely battering Arsenal – incredibly United had the tables completely turned on them in such a way that has probably never been seen before at Old Trafford. To make matters worse the new kids in town were their cross city neighbours Manchester City. When Jonny Evans was sent off United were still in the game and although Vidic was missing Ferdinand, Evra, Smalling and substitute Phil Jones should have been strong enough to give United a chance defensively especially with Hernandez (on for Nani), Young, Rooney and Welbeck giving them plenty of attacking options as well. But City were on fire back in October and Balotelli (with the “Why always me?” logo on his T-Shirt) had already scored twice and Sergio Aguero had added a third before a late consolation from Darren Fletcher. But in injury time United astonishingly just fell apart and were ripped to shreds by David Silva who scored one and set up two more for that “prolific” finisher (said tongue in cheek) Edin Dzeko. This also proved to be a poignant moment in history in more ways than one as I have never seen so many empty seats at Old Trafford before the final whistle. Even at 3-1 the place looked half empty but when City rattled in three more right at the death the City fans went in complete bliss whilst the remaining United fans snuck away discretely. I guess Roy Keane was right in what he had said years earlier about the prawn sandwich eating fans because thousands of them had gone long before that final whistle sounded.
2nd Place – Arsenal v Tottenham 4-4 (2008/09). In October 2008, Harry Rednapp had just taken over as Spurs boss. His predecessor Juande Ramos had seen this Spurs team take just two points from their first eight league games and were of course rock bottom of the table with this being their worst ever start. After beating Bolton for their first league win they now faced the short trip to the Emirates Stadium for the North London derby with Arsenal. The Gunners were in fourth place and once again pushing at the top end of the table and had a squad of players that although many of “The Invincibles” had now gone, still had the likes of Toure, Nasri, Van Persie, Walcott, Adebayor and Farbregas to select from amongst others.
Unlike the other matches in this top 5 selection, many of the ingredients here are missing in the other selections. It was still early in the season and neither team were running away at the top of the table. Being a derby, it would be a game that would have one of the best atmospheres since the Emirates Stadium had been opened. It produced plenty of great goals and finally a fantastic comeback that had fans gasping all the way to the final whistle. I can still remember Phil Thompson beginning to lose his voice whilst watching this on the Sky TV monitors!
1st Place – Newcastle United v Manchester United 5-0 (1996/97). It was a Sunday afternoon that felt like a king had been toppled from his throne. This 90 minutes of football provided some of the most scintillating, attacking play that I had ever seen in this country and for Manchester United to be on the receiving end gives it 100 times more credibility. In a backhanded kind of way lets pay respect to this Manchester United team because they still went on to win the title yet again and in Peter Schmeichel had in my opinion the best goalkeeper that the Premier League has ever seen. The likes of Eric Cantona were not missing from this line-up either so there were no real excuses made by Alex Ferguson for key players being missing – simply, Newcastle were just absolutely magnificent that afternoon and Phillipe Albert's goal – the fifth and final goal of the match was just glorious – to chip Schmeichel in the way that he did – sublime and a standing ovation from my couch.
Manchester United had won the same match between the two sides 1-0 in the previous season – a match that they really had to win. This time around, it was still October so there was plenty of time for things to materialise. For Fergie's team it truly turned out to be an awful period as the very next weekend they were smacked again – this time 6-3 at Southampton where the players famously changed their change kit from grey to blue and white at half time claiming that they were having trouble seeing team mates from the crowd!
For Newcastle though, this period was drawing to its end and Kevin Keegan would be resigning as manager just a few months later. Defeats at Leicester, Coventry and Blackburn were disappointing to say the least and these had been mixed in with performances such as this one with others such as a 7-1 win at home to Spurs over Christmas. Keegan departed and Kenny Dalglish took over the reigns and within two months the team would suffer another 4-3 defeat at Anfield – and with that and a few other loose results the open attacking play that this team of players and fans had enjoyed watching would to a great extent be gone.
To make your own choice for best team, match, goal etc visit - The Premier League Web Site
Regarding the video - I wonder why even though these games were covered by Sky and the BBC - the videos here have commentary supplied by ITV! weird.
January 1979, Ian Dury and the Blockheads "Hit me with your rhythm stick" and Village People's "YMCA" are the biggest selling records of the time. Manchester City are light years away from where they are today and this is of course their old ground Maine Road. They had come to the end of Tony Book's five year reign as manager with Malcolm Allison taking over again and that following summer City went on a spending spree (I will cover that in a forthcoming article featuring Allison, Peter Swales and John Bond). Having finished the previous two years both times in the top four, this season would see them finish in a lowly 15th.
It was far worse for Chelsea as they would finish this season rock bottom of the league and relegated. They had won only three games by Christmas and five by the end of the season. Ken Shellito resigned half way through the season and despite the return of former hero Peter Osgood for a brief swansong on the pitch - the star striker from the early 70's struggled to turn around the clubs fortunes with some goals.Shellito was replaced by Danny Blanchflower but the Irishman was gone by the end of the season followed the confirmation of relegation and a new management team consisting of Geoff Hurst assisted by Bobby Gould was installed in an attempt to get the team straight back up again the following year. Having missed out on promotion, Hurst was sacked the year after and replaced by John Neal and this would prove to be one of the last acts as chairman of Brian Mears. A year later and the club losing money at a rapid rate the Mears family had their long association with Chelsea finally ended for good when the club was bought by Ken Bates for £1.
Strange as it sounds but there are many fans of both of these teams that still look back at this era with fond memories of how English football used to be. I am not talking about the fact that both teams were not the forces that they are today but this was still a period when football was still real to a lot of people. No Premier League, no Champions League, all Saturday games played at 3pm and no Sunday matches. Match of the Day on a Saturday night and ITV regional shows on a Sunday afternoon. Only the odd foreign name to worry about in the line-ups and starting shirts numbered 1-11. Snow covered pitches hiding the mud and the old terraces filled with the smell of old-man's pipe smoking tobacco.
I am a firm believer that the first time you achieve something it is always the best. There is always a chance that in the emotion of the moment you may not quite remember it the way that you would wish and perhaps enjoy winning something a second or a third time because you have a more vivid memory of it but with the help of TV cameras at least the top professionals can get to see something once again that flashed past them the first time around.
In 1977, Liverpool reached their first European Cup Final and of course since then they have gone on to win it five times (once as the Champions League). This Liverpool team from the mid-70's were arguably the most dominant team in modern times to dominate a league for over a decade. They were chasing the infamous treble and had already won the league championship but were pipped in the FA Cup Final by Tommy Docherty's Manchester United. The European Cup Final was just five days after the trip to Wembley so for many Reds fans it was straight from London to Rome using whatever transport they could get as is mentioned and seen in the video below.
Manchester United's FA Cup win had just about been deserved in a very close game and perhaps Liverpool had under-performed in that game. In Rome they were certainly back to their best against Bundesliga Champions Borussia Moenchengladbach. Terry McDermott gave the Reds the lead just before the half an hour but Dane Allan Simonsen (who two years later joined Barcelona and three years later had a year at Charlton Athletic) levelled the scores at 1-1 seven minutes into the second half.
Liverpool legend hard man Tommy Smith headed his team back into the lead six minutes later. Smith who had been at the club since 1962 had one more season at Anfield and missed the following years European Cup success after a DIY accident at home. He ended his career with short spells as Los Angeles Aztecs and Swansea City before retiring in 1979. With eight minutes remaining Liverpool put the game out of sight after Kevin Keegan's run into the penalty area saw him brought down by future Scotland manager Berti Vogts. Phil Neal scored from the spot - one of 41 goals he scored for the club of which a large percentage had come from penalties.
For Kevin Keegan it was his last game for Liverpool so what a way to bow out as he moved that summer to SV Hamburg. He won European Footballer of the Year with the club two years running in 1978 and 1979 - a time that also saw them win the Bundesliga. Ironically Keegan's final game for Hamburg would also be in the European Cup Final in 1980 against Nottingham Forest. They lost 1-0 to a John Robertson goal and Keegan completed a move back to England that summer and joined Southampton.
Liverpool have lifted the top European trophy five times - 1977,1978 (1-0 vs Club Brugge), 1981 (1-0 vs Real Madrid), 1984 (1-1 and then a penalty win vs Roma) and then of course in 2005 against AC Milan - but that is for another article!
A season earlier when these two sides met at Highbury, George and I were on a plane heading back from Canada at the time the match was taking place. Having cleared customs at Gatwick Airport we finally saw a TV screen and the half time scores just happened to be showing. George quickly noticed that Charlton were winning 3-2 and could not believe it - this was their first season in the Premier League and they had started the season really well with a 4-0 home win against Manchester City (also promoted) at The Valley.
We boarded a train to take us home and as it passed into London we were suddenly joined by many Arsenal fans as the game had now ended. Eagerly George asked them for the final score but was dismayed to hear that his team had in the end lost the game 5-3. A year later and here we have Charlton's next trip to Highbury and in another high scoring encounter - this time they came out on top!
The two players interviewed at the end - Steve Brown left Charlton for Reading after 12 years at the club. He now works for Radio Kent commentating on Charlton matches. Mark Kinsella left Charlton for Aston Villa in 2002 and then had other brief spells at both West Bromwich Albion and Walsall. He became manager of Daventry Town in the Southern League earlier this year.
I am not going too far back in time with this one but the question I ask is was there that many really good games played in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa? Maybe as time passes memories of older games turn them into classics and this is certainly true when it comes to the World Cup. If I was asked what are the top ten best games that I have ever seen live played at a world cup finals I would doubt that there would be any that would make it onto the list from as many as the last three finals.
As I write this, the European Championship finals draw was made just a few days ago and it planted the seeded Dutch into "a group of death" (that phrase is getting to be over used these days) against Portugal, Denmark and Germany.
When we think about the Dutch, we tend to think of past heroes from the 70's (Cruyff, Neeskens, Rep) from the 80's (Gullit, Rikjaard, Van Basten) and maybe even from the 90's (Kluivert, Davids, Bergkamp). But can we honestly say and build up recent Dutch teams to be anywhere near as good as their predecessors? Some may argue that on paper this team has been more successful than many others but like I said to begin with - was their really a truly outstanding team in the last World Cup or were the Dutch just one of the more luckier ones out of a poor bunch?
Never the less, history will show that this team did reach the final in 2010 and really should have won the match if Robben had not forgotten his goal scoring boots that day. In this clip we see them in action in the semi-final against the normally under achieving Uruguay.
It had been six years since Diego Forlan had left Manchester United and at his time at Old Trafford he has always struggled to get into the team yet whenever he did play he had the knack of scoring quite a few important goals for the club. Despite that, United and Forlan parted company and he moved to Spain to play for Villarreal in Spain where he scored 54 goals in 3 years and then another 74 for Atletico Madrid until he was signed for Inter Milan this year.
At the World Cup 2010 he picked up the Golden Ball award for best player at the tournament and a year later was instrumental in leading his country to success in winning the Copa America. Since 2002, Forlan has scored 32 goals over 84 games for his national side.
The 1962 World Cup Finals and a match between the hosts Chile and Italy which would become much known as "The Battle of Santiago". Yes this game is going way back in time but it could also have been added to memorable moments and brutal/violent blog as well as it covers all categories.
A very young looking David Coleman suggests that it is the worst thing that he has ever seen - well, it certainly is not the same as watching an English game of cricket on a Sunday afternoon with a glass of wine in one hand and a cucumber sandwich in the other and cheering "bravo" after each shot.
It was probably because of the media coverage that this game had worldwide that made it stand out as I am sure there were many other flash points even back then and further back. But being a World Cup game and all the hype around it this is the game that shocked the world and we entered into an era of new found violence on the pitch that at times is still found today.
After my previous post, I thought it only right to show West Brom on one of their better days and in this case one of their most memorable. "Kick-Off" was the football show for ITV Granada (covering the north-west region) and was presented by Gerald Sinstadt for many years. This game was played at the end of 1978 and I bumped into Cyrille Regis a few years ago and we got talking about this game as he still remembered as one of the most memorable.
It is interesting to note right at the end of the clip that the two managers are interviewed regarding their man of the match. How can Man Utd boss Dave Sexton possibly still choose a United player? Also - note how then Albion boss Ron Atkinson boss refers to Regis and Laurie Cunningham as the "Coloured front people" - shame he did not remember that phrase (although still a long way from perfect) quite a few years later when talking about Marcel Desailly!
Back in the 70's - when ITV was much more split into regions around Britain, where I grew up we were classified in the Anglia region - even though both Norwich and Ipswich were twice as far away than London! It meant that on a Sunday afternoon we were stuck with Gerry Harrison presenting "Match of the Week" and the format would normally mean most of the show covering Norwich/Ipswich and even now and again the feature game would be something like Colchester v Rochdale - gripping stuff I am sure for fans of those teams but for the rest of us?
To really compound matters, Liverpool might be playing Manchester United the same weekend of which we would be lucky to get 2 minutes of action at the end of the show. The following clip features a rare weekend when the featured game was one worth watching as Ipswich Town took on West Brom. Still looking back at this today you can see there were some really great goals and this Ipswich side were right up there as one of the elite teams of the time. Bobby Robson's team at this time would win both the FA Cup and UEFA Cup and were regularly challenging for the league title - and you can see why below.