Archive for September, 2007

September 30 – Anything On The Box Tonight?

EVER get the feeling there’s too much football on television? No, neither do we. This is probably why the suits at Manchester United today in 1997 linked up with Granada and BSkyB to create MUTV, a channel where United fans would have all their televisual needs catered for.

Still going strong today, MUTV offers solace for fans who simply can’t live without watching the reserves, youth sides and just about every other kind of Manchester United-related team play week-in week-out. They know their audience, so the commentary is a little biased to say the least, meaning unbalanced analysis and parity and are not the order of the day.

However, for a club-run propaganda machine, MUTV has had it’s fair share of controversy over the years. And it’s no surprise that the channel’s most explosive moments have been provided by a certain Roy Maurice Keane. United’s then-skipper appeared on the channel following a 4-1 defeat to Middlesbrough in November 2005 and laid into a host underachieving players, such as John O’Shea, Alan Smith, Kieran Richardson and Darren Fletcher. Never one to let a soundbite go, his thinly-veiled attack on Rio Ferdinand saw their United legend rant that: “just because you are paid £120,000-a-week and play well for 20 minutes against Tottenham, you think you are a superstar.” Quite right Roy. Described as “explosive even by his standards” by management at the club, the interview was pulled at the 11th hour.

The channel also sped up Keano’s departure from the club, as he admitted during a phone-in that he would be “prepared to play elsewhere” when his contract expired at the end of the season. Within a few days he was north of the border, donning the hoops of Celtic.

While Fergie might not be the biggest fan of the channel, as he has stopped giving them post-match interviews, MUTV remains a nice cash-cow for the club and this has seen a host of other sides such as Liverpool, Chelsea and the Old Firm jump on the bandwagon. If Roy Keane’s comments have got you in a confrontational mood see below and come back tomorrow to look at some pre-Beckham soccer-ball action in the US of A.

September 29 – Happy Birthday to Milan’s Odd Couple

FOOTBALL’S full of unlikely bed-fellows. Take Niall Quinn and Roy Keane living the Premiership dream on Wearside or Avram Grant and coaching qualifications. But have you heard the one about the President of Italy and the Chernobyl survivor-turned best striker in Europe? That’s right, today sees Milan President Silvio Berlusconi share a birthday with his former star player and the man he once considered ‘his son’ Andrei Shevchenko.

For the first half of this decade the Silvio-Sheva axis was blossoming. Serie A titles, European Cups and Golden Boots were all the rage for the Rossoneri as Shevchenko became one of the most prolific strikers in Italian history.

If your only experience of Shevchenko is that of a lost soul, listlessly wandering around the Stamford Bridge penalty area, then think again. His seven-year spell at the San Siro saw him score 127 goals in 208 games against the often-miserly defences of Serie A. The boy who was born today in the Ukraine village of Dvirkivschyna in 1976 has come a long way since his family was caught in the effects of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 and forced to move to the coast to avoid the fallout.

Berlusconi’s story couldn’t be more different. Today in 1936 he was born in Milan into an upper-middle class family and has seen it all in his 71 years. As the leader of the political party Forza Italia he has twice been Prime Minister of Italy, but can also boast of being an entrepreneur, media mogul and Italy’s richest man with an $11 billion fortune. Mafia links and recent money laundering allegations with, somewhat randomly, Tessa Jowell also add to the man’s mystique.

Shevchenko broke up their happy union in 2006 when joined his pal Roman Abramovich for a ‘new challenge’ (or a shed-load of cash as it’s otherwise known) at Chelsea. As Sheva failed to settle, rumours were abound that absence was indeed making the heart grow fonder, as him and Silvio eyed each other up like a pair of fluorescent adolescents at the disco. The Italian lost patience though, and accused Shevchenko of being under-the-thumb as he believed his American wife had forced the move upon him.

“A true Milanista and a real man would not have behaved like this,” he tub-thumped to the Gazzetto dello Sport. “At my home I’m in charge and decide what happens. Instead, when Shevchenko’s wife shouts, he runs under the bed like a lap-dog. His wife ordered him to London with their children, where the fog will do their lungs the world of good.”

You’ve got hate that London fog. It was a problem for Sherlock Holmes and perhaps Berlusconi has found out why Shevchenko has only bagged four goals in the capital and doesn’t appear to be able to run anymore. Here at OTFD we like to remember the good times though, so see Sheva’s highlights for Milan below and come back this way tomorrow for a television first.

September 28 – Arsene About

OK so it’s a person, two words; first word, two syllables, first syllable: sounds like bum? Rear? Bottom? Arse? Yes!

Second syllable, sounds like: oh never mind. It’s Arsene Wenger, and it was on this day that cerebral old Arsene was appointed manager of the club which so nearly shares his name.

Word on the footballing streets is that Wenger got the nod from the Arsenal board after former Gunners big mouth David ‘I’m so desperate to be chairman it physically hurts’ Dein had seen him playing charades.

Dein said: “I was convinced Arsene would become our manager from the first day I met him.

“It was during the 1989- 90 season. He was not only charming and highly intelligent, but clearly able to adapt as well.

“On the day we first met we went for dinner at the home of some of my friends.

“After the meal we played charades. It was not easy for Arsene, as he did not speak English as well as he does now.

“But he played the game at full tilt, and made himself understood. At that point I realised that he was no ordinary person.”

Nothing like my experiences of job interviews where you are forced to answer no-win questions like ‘what would you say are your biggest weaknesses?’

Wenger came in and transformed the north London club into a truly top team, not only winning titles and cups aplenty, but doing it in a style that makes Arsenal more pleasing on the eye than .

All this and Wenger has still found time to develop some of the best players in the world such as Henry, Viera and Fabregas, personally help design the new stadium and go a whole season unbeaten. All with a fraction of the financial outlay of Arsenal’s rivals. No wonder the Gooners chant ‘In Arsène We Trust’ at every opportunity.

So, he may look like a deputy headmaster and have worse vision than PJ after that fateful paint-balling accident when it comes to his own players conduct, but he clearly knows a thing or two about this management lark. He’s could still do with a few lessons on comedy timing as this clip demonstrates. It’s the way you tell ‘em Arsene…

September 27 – Make Your Mind Up Dave

OVER the years there have been numerous footballers that have played for national teams which might not have been their first choice; London-born Muzzy Izzet turning out for Turkey for instance, or more recently, Freddy Eastwood from Basildon in Essex scoring for Wales.

In most cases players use ‘the grandmother’ clause meaning they can play for any country in which any one of their grandparents were born.

Normally players make their decision and stick to it – indeed, once they have played a full international they have no choice – their colours are nailed to whichever flag they have chosen, although some are not quite so decisive.

It was on this day that David Johnson, formerly of Ipswich and Nottingham Forest, was called up to the Wales squad in 1999, the third national squad he had been involved with.

Incredibly, less than a month after being called up for Wales, Johnson decided he was more thistle than daffodil, and publicly committed himself to Scotland instead.

Johnson was born in Jamaica, and turned out for them twice in friendly matches, but as he also had a British passport he was also eligible to play for any of the home nations.

First he tried out the Three Lions, coming on as a substitute against Russia for an England B team in 1998.

Mark Hughes then called him up for Wales, but neglected to play him, meaning Johnson was still free to turn out for whoever he liked.

Craig Brown was the next international manager to cast his eye in Johnson’s direction (seemingly that was all he needed to do), and the striker was och-ayeing and tossing the caber like his wee life depended on it.

With something of an understated style Johnson said at the time: “Questions have been asked about my links with other countries and why Scotland now. The answer is that I was only invited to consider Scotland last week.”

That clears that up then.

As with Wales, Johnson was not selected to play for the Tartan Army, but before he could start learning the words to Danny Boy and getting in an extra big round of Guinness to complete his home nations set, he decided, just like a woman who is late for a party and has tried on every outfit in the wardrobe, that his first choice was actually the best after all, and went back to playing for Jamaica, man.

Johnson was more at home at club level, particularly with Nottingham Forest so here’s a collection of his goals to illustrate just why so many international managers were making eyes his way. It is quite long though, so don’t worry if you don’t watch it all, we won’t tell. Even if you don’t, come back tomorrow to see which popular English family game would lead to one of the most important appointments of modern times.

September 26 – Pushy Paolo

There are many instructions a manager might give his players before a game. “Keep it tight for the first 20 minutes or so lads,” or “keep an eye on their right winger,” or “just get balls into the box.” One thing he probably would not expect to have to say is, “Don’t, whatever you do, assault the ref.”

Perhaps Sheffield Wednesday’s former manager Danny Wilson wishes he had written that one up on the chalkboard in the dressing room at Hillsborough before his team’s match with Arsenal on this day in 1998.

Seemingly unable to work that one out for himself, the man universally known as controversial Italian forward Paulo di Canio went and did the unthinkable and shoved ref Paul Alcock after the man in black (the ref, not Johnny Cash) had just shown him a red card.

If di Canio’s actions were shocking, Alcock’s comedy stumble and fall was even worse. He stumbled backwards before eventually going over in a fall that would have embarrassed the captain of the Walton-on-the-Naze girls under-eight netball team.

Di Canio claimed Alcock had deliberately gone to ground in order to get the striker in more trouble with the FA. Whether this was the case or not, Pushy Paolo was banned for eleven months and left Wednesday for West Ham in January 1999 where he played out the rest of his career in a quiet and entirely uncontroversial way. Not.

September 25 – Ian Wright Wright Wright

FOR the thousands of non-league footballers who ply their trade every week on cut-up mud baths that pass for pitches there is always the hope, however small, at the back of their minds that one day they might make it big.

For the vast majority of them this will always just be a dream, but every once in a while it does happen.

This was exactly what happened to today’s subject Ian Wright who was playing for non-league Greenwich Borough and working as a plasterer when he was spotted by a scout from Crystal Palace and signed as a professional in 1985 at the age of 22.

After six prolific years with the Eagles as one half of the Wright/Bright strike duo (the other half being Mark Bright obviously), Wrighty was on the move again, this time in vastly different circumstances to his move to Palace.

Arsenal boss George Graham paid a then club record fee of £2.5m to take the forward to Highbury and it was on this day in 1991 that Wighty marked his Gunners debut with a goal, popping up with their only goal in a 1-1 draw with Leicester City at Filbert Street in a League Cup tie.

He clearly started as he meant to go on as he bagged a hat-trick in his league debut against Southampton, and went on to win the Golden Boot in his first season with 29 league goals.

In the next seven years Wright scored 185 goals for the club to become their record scorer – a record he would keep until a certain Frenchman va-va-voomed his way to the record some years later.

In 1998 Wright left his beloved Arsenal and wound down his professional career at West Ham, Nottingham Forest, Celtic and Burnley, before finally hanging up his boots in 2000 – he had scored 323 club goals in all competitions.

Wrighty now spends his time cluttering up the pundits sofa on the BBC’s England match coverage Match of the Day pleading with Steve McClaren to play his adopted son Shaun Wright-Phillips in every game.

Here is a selection of Wrighty’s best moments and come back tomorrow to read about the player who has been involved in so many contentious incidents we think his name actually begins ‘controversial Italian forward’.

September 24 – Camp Nou Turns 50

IT’S seen countless cup finals, the world’s best players, a host of wonder goals and what Clyde Tyldesley will forever describe as ‘that wonderful night in Barcelona’ thirty times in every Champions League’s match he’ll ever commentate on. Today Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium hits it’s half century.

Back in the 1950′s Barcelona had outgrown their Camp de Les Corts ground, so set about creating one of the world’s finest football stadiums. And architects Francesc Mitjans-Miró, Lorenzo García Barbon and Josep Soteras Mauri nailed it, as they built what is still Europe’s biggest stadium and one of the best places to watch the beautiful game in full-effect. And all it took was three-and-a-half years and 288 million pesetas.

The first game played at Camp Nou pitted Barca against Legia Warsaw, and in-case it ever comes up in a pub quiz, the first goal was bagged by Eulogio Martinez in a 4-2 win for the Catalan side. Over the years Camp Nou has seen it’s fair share of big games, such as a host of European finals, a World Cup opener in 1982 and an Olympic final in 1992. There’s also the small matter of Europe’s biggest derby once a year when Real Madrid come the place where Johan Cruyff and Diego Maradona used to call home.

It’s not just footy at Camp Nou though, as pop stars such as Michael Jackson, U2 and Bruce Springsteen have all (probably) uttered the words ‘good evening Barcelona, are you ready to rock?’ on the hallowed turf. Pope John Paul II also got in on the act in 1982 as he took a mass infront of 120,000 god-fearing Spaniards.

As a birthday present the Bacra big-wigs have just announced a €250 million facelift that will seen Sir Norman Foster adding a mosaic of coloured tiles to envelope the stadium. Celebrations were held this weekend to mark the anniversary, with Leo Messi making sure a happy birthday was had by all with a brace against Sevilla in a 2-1 win for Barca which can be seen below if you can stand to look at Sevilla’s new away kit for too long. Join us tomorrow to see where it all began for one of the BBC’s more reserved pundits.

September 23 – The Reds Score a Hat-full

THESE days whenever a big Premier League club is paired with a League 2 minnow in an early round of one of the cups, the manager of said Premier League team will spout off about the match not being a foregone conclusion, and that their lowly opponents must still be treated with respect.

“They’re a good side,” the manager will say, “It won’t be a walk in the park, that’s for sure.”

They say all this, despite everyone else wondering just how many the top strikers will stick past the hapless ‘keeper in the Smallfry FC goal, because they are covering their own backs just in case something goes wrong, and the plucky little semi-pros pull off a draw or even a win.

We are getting used to this happening now, I’m thinking of Manchester United in particular and certain embarrassments they’ve endured at the hands of the likes of Exeter, Burton Albion and so on.

There was a time, a simpler time, when these ‘sure things’ were exactly that. A big day out for the part-timers to a proper stadium, and little more than a training match for the big boys, in which they would often net a good few goals.

It was on this day in 1986 that this happened and Liverpool get to double figures against a very pre-Mohammed Al Fayed Fulham side.

To set the scene, it is the second round of the League Cup, and third division Fulham, managed by Ray Lewington, were drawn against the mighty reds.

To use a classic football cliche, it was men against boys as the scousers tore their London opponents to shreds. The Cottagers manfully rallied in the second leg at Craven Cottage, managing to only lose 2-3 but the result still stands as a League Cup record for the biggest defeat.

Despite their utter dominance of this tie, Liverpool did not go on to lift the trophy as they eventually lost 2-1 to Arsenal in the final. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all.

That’s all for now folks, but log on tomorrow to see which massive Spanish club that isn’t Real Madrid were moving into a shiny new home back in the fifties.

September 22 – Marseille Stripped of Ligue 1 Title

MOST people agree that for world-class match-fixing, Italy’s the place to be. But on this day in 1993 Olympique Marseille showed that they were more than capable, as they had the Ligue Un title taken away in what was to be dubbed the “affaire VA-OM.”

As they entered the 1993 season Marseille were sitting pretty. Having won their record tenth title and becoming the first French side to win the European Cup, it was a good time to be a fan of France’s biggest club. This was until they found out what their flamboyant club president Bernard Tapie had been up to. A jack of all trades, Tapie can boast to be a businessman, politician, actor, singer, TV host and fervent socialist, but by the time the authorities were done with him over this episode of his life, he was also known as a convict.

Earlier in 1993 when Marseille were looking forward to meeting Milan in the Champions League final in Munich, Tapie didn’t want to risk a number of first-team players against the lowly Valenciennes so he got his midfielder Jean-Jacques Eydelie to get in contact with Jacques Glassmann, Jorge Burruchaga and Christophe Robert of Valenciennes and bribe them so they would let Marseille win and make sure none of their players were injured.

The bribery worked and they were dancing in the streets of Marseille. But not for long. When the shit hit the fan, things went downhill fast for l’Ohème. They were stripped of their league title and banned from defending their Champions League crown and barred from the Intercontinental Cup. A series of FIFA bans for players and staff were overshadowed by Tapie’s eventual 2-year prison sentence for complicity of corruption and subornation of witnesses.

The impact of the scandal on Marseille’s fortunes was massive and it’s only been in the last couple of seasons that they have really recovered. Financial irregularities meant that they suffered a forced relegation to Ligue 2 and the only silverware that they have picked up since is a Ligue 2 title and a couple of Intertoto Cups. This season has seen them return to the Champions League for the first time since the whole sorry Affaire VA-OM began.

If you want to see some action from the 1993 Champions League final have a gander below, but turn your volume down, because it features some horrible Europop nonsense on the soundtrack. Come back tomorrow for goals, goals, goals.

September 21 – England Lose, A Habit Is Born

THE English have made something of a habit of inventing new sports, enjoying a short period of dominance, and then watching helplessly as other nations proceed to get much better at it than them. Today in 1949 was the day that very scenario happened with football.

The ‘facts’ of the case are that it was on this day that England first lost a home game to a visiting team from outside the UK. Now this particular story is slightly complicated as it was the Republic of Ireland that beat England 2-0 at Goodison Park that day.

England had of course already been beaten by Ireland, notably in the Home Championship in 1914, when a united Ireland were champions, but the 1949 loss came after Ireland had been divided, and the Republic was now classed as a team from outside the UK.

So something of a political technicality admittedly, but we still thought you might be interested. If you are, you may also be interested to know that the England team were captained that day by Wolves legend Billy Wright, and also featured players from Derby County, Stoke City and Portsmouth. How times have changed.

A year later England took part in their very first world cup, where they would suffer another famous defeat by a young upstart nation, losing 1-0 to a semi-professional USA team, forcing the English to accept they were no longer top banana in world football.

In the absence of any footage of the match at Goodison in 1949, have a look at this oft-forgotten match between Greece and Germany: