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.
The newest of memorable moments and this one is going to go down as one for especially for Manchester City fans that will never be forgotten. The following video highlights those golden seconds that were difference in the destiny of the title deep in injury time. I have trolled different sources looking for different commentaries and found seven that I have added to this video. What they go to prove is that this was just as a dramatic moment wherever you were in the world - unless of course all of the commentators are just completely nuts. Which commentary is the best - I am not going to select as they all capture the same drama brilliantly and of the languages - I cannot be sure of any of them!
City fans will probably never tire of seeing this goal over and over again either.
Since writing the above article and adding the video I have found even more! Below we have the commentary from Talk Sport and from Iceland (another incredible commentary) plus the reaction to the City goal in amongst the crowd with the Sunderland fans at The Stadium of Light. To cap it off some fantastic amateur footage of numerous fans of both United and City - all filmed whilst watching the games at home in their living room and how they handled what was about to happen.
Its October 2009 and Liverpool manager Rafa Bentitez is coming under increasing pressure as Liverpool's slide continues. What he nor anybody else bargained on though was any opposition getting a helping hand especially not in this way. Sunderland's Darren Bent fires in a shot which would have probably been saved by Pepe Reina - but who would have expected a balloon to be in the path of the ball and do enough to change the route of the ball and deflect it past Reina into the bottom corner of the net for the only and winning goal of the match.
Losing at home to Reading in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup and being eliminated in the group stage of the Champions League by Fiorentina and Lyon did not help Benitez either and by the end of the season finishing seventh in the Premier League was a step too far for the Liverpool board and Benitez found his contract terminated. Just five years earlier he had led the team to Champions League glory but sometimes its just amazing what a turn of events can conjure up and who would have predicted that a balloon would help to put one of the final nails into Benitez coffin at Anfield. Benitez had also failed and probably embarrassed the hierarchy at Anfield with some of his tirades against Alex Ferguson that in the end just made him look dumb and probably speeded up his exit.
By the way - (although I am not absolutely 100% sure) the beach ball goal should not have been allowed. I vaguely remembering hearing that the goal should have been inadmissible because an "infringing foreign object" (or words to that affect) by the laws of the game cannot be used during a match. If this had come out at the time, if I had the FA power to be fair I would probably order the match to be replayed.
Many people will disagree perhaps that this is a memorable moment unless they are wanting to gloat at Manchester United's failure in Europe this season. But I believe when we look back at this in years to come and forgetting the fact that it highlights a United downfall, it will be a case of "do you remember when...." All I am saying is to forget for a moment that United were the opposition and just enjoy the moment as if you were a fan of Athletic Bilbao. The Basque club from northern Spain made all the headlines in England through March due to not one but two victories over Manchester United in the Europa Cup.
There are potentially United fans out that would read this piece thinking that the only reason that it is being written is to the detriment of the club – it is not but the two games did highlight more than any others recently how far perhaps the English league has fallen.
If you believe all the hype – England has the best league in the world! The facts certainly do not suggest that but perhaps do suggest that it is the most entertaining and open league but the standard is not the best overall.
You only have to take one look at this Athletic Bilbao team to understand why. We all know that Spain at the moment is still on an all-time high having won both the European Championships and the World Cup and understandably so. But lets not kid ourselves that their league is as open as the English one. One lookin at the current La Liga table says it all with Real Madrid at the top and Barcelona in second place. Valencia are third and they are nearly twenty points behind Barca.
Bilbao at the time of writing this are down in eighth place and are currently not even in a Europa League spot for next season. However, the league is very tight taking the top two out of the equation as they are only four points behind Levante who are currently fourth and in a Champions League spot for next season.
Some of the other big names in Spanish football are in even a worse predicament right now. Atletico Madrid – winners of the Europa Cup just two years ago are down in tenth, Sevilla who won the UEFA Cup in consecutive seasons in 05/06 and 06/07 are in twelfth, Villareal who qualified for the Champions League just three years ago and have played in the Europa League for the past two seasons are currently fourth from bottom and Deportivo La Coruna (La Liga champions in 2000) and Celta Vigo have both been relegated.
In most leagues you can pick a handful of sides that will contest the league title before a ball has actually been kicked. Rangers (until recent events) and Celtic in Scotland, Porto, Benfica and Sporting Lisbon in Portugal and so on. What has happened though and has become even more paramount in recent times is the gulf between the elite and the rest due to money gained by Champions League entry. So when a club such as Manchester United who year in and year out are in the Champions League and are worth over £1 billion pounds on the Forbes exchange lose to a Bilbao side currently outside of even the European places in La Liga I have to ask what has happened.
Was it a fluke? Did United completely outplay Bilbao but were just beaten by goals scored against the run of play? The answer is in both cases is no which deepens the query. The fact is that United were outplayed in both legs – even Sir Alex Ferguson admitted that the better team won through. So are the seventh placed Spanish team now a better team that England's best based on their track record of the past 20 years?
We even saw a right back in Andoni Iraola trying to score what would have been one of the best goals of all time with such audacity that he showed no respect at all for his opponents. In the first game we had United defender Rafael glued to the floor as he let a ten yard advantage disappear to stop Bilbao score their third goal at Old Trafford. Finally I cannot end talking about Bilbao without a word about the truly amazing support their fans gave their team both home and away. If there were United fans in Bilbao they could not be heard on TV at least and in Manchester the Bilbao fans gave the United fans a good run for their money with the sound that they created even though they were probably outnumbered by about ten to one.
Manchester City do not fair any better as far as atmosphere goes if we are to believe what we hear it is like on TV. For the first half of their match against Lisbon it was pretty dead and it was only when City gave themselves a chance of going through did the fans seem to actually wake up as well. City's demise in Europe this season is nearly as spectacular as United's but it is the red half of Manchester than wins this award purely because of their track record whereas City are still trying to prove themselves regardless as to how much money they throw at it. In both cases though and baring in mind that these are the two clubs battling it out for this years title – what do the fans of Bilbao and Lisbon in particular thing of the English Premier League right now? They are both probably thinking that if they were here that they could win it!
The spring of 1989 will be a time in the history of Liverpool Football Club that will never be forgotten. The Hillsborough tragedy during the FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest on 15th April that saw 96 fans crushed to death can never be overshadowed by any football match.
Shortly after its occurrence I did think that Liverpool would not continue to compete for the cup that season in honour of fans that they had lost, but in the end and probably quite rightly too they did play on for the same reason and in the end won the cup against Everton at Wembley on 20th May in the second all Merseyside final in three years.
From around the mid-70's up to the end of the 80's, Liverpool had been even more dominant than we have seen Manchester United being in more recent years. Just a week after the disaster at Hillsborough they were scheduled to play what many considered to be a potential title decider against Arsenal at Anfield; but because of the tragedy the game was postponed and the only other date available meant playing the game nearly a week after the FA Cup final on a Friday night. Liverpool were once again chasing a double having won the cup whilst Arsenal had had a dip in form that had seen them overtaken by Liverpool and going into this last game Arsenal were three points behind with a goal difference four worse than that of their rivals.
So George Graham's team knew exactly what they had to do to it pull off – they had to produce a little bit of a minor miracle inside fortress Anfield. A two goal win would be enough (I almost make it sound easy!) as Arsenal had scored more goals than their rivals but not many gave them any hope of achieving the outcome that they were after.
I was neither a great admirer of either club at the time and went and watched the movie “Cocoon 2” at the cinema that evening leaving the game to tape on the video recorder – just in case something happened that was worth taking a look at. When the film ended it must have been around 10.30pm and upon leaving the cinema I happened to see one or two cars with red and white flags hanging out of the windows with some highly jubilant fans inside. It struck me that they were in fact Arsenal fans and it was at this point I started asking myself the question – no.... it couldn't have really of happened – could it? I quickly watched the game on fast forward and on seeing Arsenal take the lead through Alan Smith on 52 minutes started to think maybe I had not imagined those fans after all.
I will never forget Steve McMahon holding that one finger up to indicate just one minute to go to all his team mates as it was just 60 seconds that separated Liverpool from another title – but those 60 seconds proved to be ones that would go down as some of the seconds that became most immortal in the history of Arsenal football club.
Commentator Brian Moore possibly came out with the most poignant of lines since Kenneth Wolstenholme in the 1966 World Cup Final when he shrieked “It's up for grabs now...” as Michael Thomas scored the last minute goal that sent the title to Highbury. Thomas of course signed for Liverpool just two years later which was a little ironic but he never managed the same heights there as his playing days in North London.
Unlike myself at the movies – my cousin, a dedicated Gooner fan was at Anfield and looking at the scenes of the crowd at that end of the ground I can only imagine how amazing it would have been to have been part of something like that. With Kenny Dalglish now back at the helm at Anfield some 22 years later it sometimes feels as if time has just stood still. A slightly older and greyer Kenny hasn't changed that much and that includes the grimace on his face if his team have not won a game.
Note also that this was just before the pass back to the keeper law was implemented and Liverpool were trying to do it in those last few minutes to run down the clock. Interestingly, the Liverpool captain was Ronnie Whelan and not Alan Hansen - surely the know-all TV pundit would have been the correct choice with all his guile and experience but no. Hansen had missed most of the season with a knee injury but in this match he played the full 90 minutes and I would be wanting Maybe this explains why he took the easy option and not chance his arm at football management.
This proved to be the ultimate in endings to a season and I do not envisage we will ever see the likes again – but never say never.
The teams that night were:-
Liverpool - Grobbelaar, Ablett, Staunton, Nicol, Whelan, Hansen, Houghton, Aldridge, Rush (Beardsley), Barnes, McMahon, Sub unused - Venison
Arsenal - Lucic, Dixon, Winterburn, Thomas, O'Leary, Adams, Rocastle, Richardson, Smith, Bould (Groves), Merson (Hayes)
Tired of watching England get the nations hopes up in a media frenzy and then the team completely letting us down? Tired of watching the Germans, the French, the Italians and all the other usual suspects that get together every four years for the Euro finals?
Well how about this for an idea – lets try and reverse the whole thing and find out which nation is actually the worst in Europe! Qualification is based on the worst qualifying records and for many nations that means zero amount of times. But because the qualifying groups are all seeded we very rarely get to see this hot bed of European talent actually coming face to face against one another.
I have selected the 16 nations across Europe that are pretty much guaranteed to finish pretty much bottom or second bottom of their groups every time and stuck them in together to imagine that they are playing a tournament too next summer – I have even seeded them to try and make sure that the baddest of the bad reach the final! You see in this tournament everything continues to work back to front. Therefore for example the team with the worst record in the group games tops the group. Once you get to the straight knock-out stage then the winners celebrate – and are knocked out! This method should in theory give us a cracking final to see who is going to lose and pick the coveted trophy.
So here are my picks and their groups – it would be riveting stuff!
GROUP A – Malta, Lithuania, Iceland, Albania
GROUP B – San Marino, Luxembourg, Kazakhstan, Macedonia
GROUP C – Andorra, Cyprus, Moldova, Bulgaria, Georgia
GROUP D – Liechtenstein, Faroe Islands, Azerbaijan, Finland
These 16 nations were based on their actual qualifying records from their latest campaign. I decided to exclude both Wales and Northern Ireland for the hell of it as it is just a bit of fun but with apologies especially to Georgia and Finland – it won't matter as none of these teams have got any chance of going far in this competition anyway! The one nation that does stand out in this 16 though is Bulgaria – World Cup semi finalists under 20 years ago and now finishing rock bottom of a qualifying group. But all these teams are looking good in this one as their opposition is that damn bad!
So here goes with my predictions for the quarter final qualifiers.
Malta v Luxembourg
San Marino v Lithuania
Andorra v Faroe Islands
Liechtenstein v Cyprus
Four tough games to call I would admit and I could even see one or two going through after losing a penalty shoot out after a goalless 120 minutes. Having looked again at my seeding I find that Cyprus did have a worse record than the seeded Liechtenstein (my mistake) and now they are meeting – could there be an upset!
Semi-finals – Malta v Andorra, San Marino v Cyprus (Liechtenstein are out!)
These four nations accumulated up an impressive three points between them in reality! That is from a total of 38 matches played by the teams – these semi-finals are going to be interesting!
Final – Andorra v San Marino
Andorra were unlucky to go through but it was Malta's one point in reality that possibly saved them.
As for the other semi-final it was a bit of a rout! Cyprus actually scored two goals and achieved two draws in their campaign and it was an easy win for them to save them from the final.
So the final itself and again we have a clear winner. There may not have been even a draw for either side in qualifying but at least Andorra did score a goal. They did concede 25 though but they are just not in the same league as their opponents who win the trophy again!
San Marino were the pre-tournament clear favourites and they did not fail to let any of us down. Failing to score a single goal and conceding 53 over their ten games in a group that also included the likes of Moldova, Finland and Hungary says it all. 53 goals also meant that they are conceding on average of five a match – over twice as many as Andorra. The flags will be flying and they will be dancing in the fountains in San Marino again tonight – our champions – San Marino! (They also get to keep the trophy having won it three times on the trot).
San Marino have only won one international match in their history – against Liechtenstein 1-0 in 2004. Their overall record is Played 109, Won 1, Drawn 3, Lost 105, Goals Scored 17, Goals Against 464.
Apart from the victory, by far their most famous goal was scored by Davide Gualtieri in 1993. It was scored of course against England in a game in which England kicked off and were 1-0 down in 8.3 seconds – the fastest goal in World Cup qualifying history. Interesting to note that the two teams will be playing one another for the first time since that game in the next World Cup qualifying group.
Gualtieri's goal ranks as my all time number one memory of falling off of my couch whilst watching a game of football. Graham Taylor's England had plummeted to new levels of embarrassment tenfold and it did not matter what the final outcome of that game was going to be – it was San Marino's finest ten seconds of football – probably ever!
2011 - Manchester City - top of the Premier League and apparently the richest club right now in the world. Luton Town - after several years of financial uncertainty which saw deducted points, they suffered three back to back relegations and have ended up in the Conference (now Blue Square Premier).
1983 - 28 years ago and both teams are battling against relegation from top flight football going into the final game of the season. City have been living off of past glories whilst Luton were trying to survive in their first season since promotion.
In this last match of the season, City were one point ahead of Luton. Swansea and Brighton were already doomed but with this head to head confrontation on the final day City - also with home advantage only needed a draw to stay up.
With just five minutes to go the scoreline was still 0-0 in a match that City would claim that they should have put to bed. Ageing stars such as Dennis Tueart and Asa Hartford were included in the City line-up and both along with big money signing Kevin Reeves had failed to convert any of the chances that they had created.
It was with five minutes to go that the atmosphere of Maine Road would change dramatically thanks to a much lesser known player - the Yugoslav (Serbian) Raddy Antic. His goal would be decisive and send Manchester City down to Division 2 and produce an infamous and uncontrollable dance of joy and emotion from Luton manager David Pleat at the final whistle.
Antic - already in his mid-30's would stay just one more season at Kenilworth Road before retirement but it was in management he would really make his name. Nearly all of his managerial career has been in Spain and he has been the boss at just about all of the big clubs including both Real Madrid and Barcelona and three spells at Atletico Madrid. In 2008 he took over the reigns as the Serbian national coach and led them to the World Cup Finals in South Africa. However, a disappointing finals display saw the Serbs eliminated early and Antic was soon gone too.
It was the final day of the 1998-99 football league season and it was not at the top where the real drama was unfolding. Carlisle United and Scarborough were the two teams battling to save their place in the bottom division at the time (only one went down back then) and it would be on loan goalkeeper Jimmy Glass coming upfield for a last minute Carlisle corner that would make him an automatic legend in Cumbria.
Ironically, this would be his very last touch playing for Carlisle and he only actually made 3 appearances for them. Once he finally left Swindon Town he would have short spells with both Oxford United and Brentford and some other non-league clubs before retiring and starting his own taxi business. He has even written an autobiography naturally entitled "One Hit Wonder".
A year earlier whilst playing for Bournemouth, Glass had become only the second goalkeeper ever to score an own goal in a Wembley final (Bruce Grobbelaar was the first). But on May 8th, 1999 Glass would score the goal which even ranks in The Times newspaper in the top ten of the most important goals in football history.
Looking at this video it also interesting to note a few other things. First of all poor Scarborough who suffered relegation because of this goal and went down to the Conference and never did come back. They were eventually wound up in 2007 with debts of nearly 3 million pounds. Also note Wimbledon playing in the Premier League and Manchester City down in what is now League 1 and they were playing York City - how those two sides have gone in opposite directions in the past ten years!
It does give all of us a little hope though that if we follow a team that is struggling right now that maybe in ten years time our team might have risen through the ranks. Carlisle did eventually get relegated but they bounced back and are now an established League 1 club. Swansea, Burnley, Reading, Hull and Blackpool are just a few of the real success stories these past few years with fortunes not going so well for the likes of Bradford City, Luton, Charlton Athletic, Grimsby Town and Sheffield United just to name a few that have all found themselves heading the wrong way. Who knows where they will all be in another ten years from now.
In 1984 Nottingham Forest signed Dutchmen Johnny Metgod from Real Madrid. In 116 games for the club, the big defender became a legend and was known for his speciality free kicks. He ended up scoring 15 goals for Forest and here we have two of the most memorable ones.
The first one has sparked many a debate to this day as to whether or not Metgod actually just toe punted the ball or not. Whatever the answer - the result was one of the most powerful free kicks that you will ever see that blitzed through the West Ham defence with Metgods boot acting like a rocket launcher. Hammers keeper Phil Parkes either just did not see it coming or actually ducked out of the way of it in fear that the ball might take his head off! You could hardly blame him if the latter was true.
The second goal that we see would prove to be an injury time winner against Manchester United. Gordon Strachan had hit a brace to put United two up but in the mid 80's under Brian Clough, Forest were still one of the top teams and although they were no longer winning league titles or European Cups they could not be underestimated.
Metgod left Forest in 1987 to have a year at Tottenham that was compromised by injury. He had started his career in his homeland and had made a name for himself with the successful AZ67 Alkmaar team of the early 80's and had pitched in with 26 goals. He would also end his playing career back in Holland but this time with Feyenoord for whom he would play for until 1994. Metgod would stay in Holland until 2008 in various coaching roles until he returned to England to become first team coach at Portsmouth before joining up with ex-team mate Nigel Clough in the same role at Derby County.
Dean Saunders in his Blades days scores a goal that is genius but is also more likely to be seen in the local parks than in the professional game. I am sure that if a player was to try it again today that he would be booked for ungentlemanly contact - so we may never see the likes again.