Archive for October, 2007

October 31 – A Sticky End For Holy Harvey

WE think one of the best things about OTFD is that sometimes we get to feature some of the less celebrated characters in football that may have slipped from the game’s consciousness in recent times.

Today is one of those days, as it was on this day in 1990 that legendary Everton player Colin Harvey proved he wasn’t such a legendary manager when the Toffeemen gave him his P45.

Mention Colin Harvey’s name to any Everton fan of a certain age, and they will go all misty eyed and probably start looking off into the middle distance muttering about the good old days.

Once dubbed ‘the white Pele’ by fans at Goodison Park, Harvey made his Everton debut in daunting circumstances against Internazionale in the San Siro and soon became one third of the fabled midfield trio known as the ‘Holy Trinity’ along with Alan Ball and Howard Kendall. The three of them were the fulcrum of the Everton team that won the first division title in 1970.

He was certainly the least celebrated of the three, perhaps because despite his high level of fitness, tackling and passing ability, Harvey rarely found the net, and despite being a top player, he only ever appeared once for his country, lining up for England against Malta in 1971.

After retiring from playing Harvey began coaching the Everton youth team, and was made first team coach when his old pal Howard Kendall was the top man at Goodison. Kendall and Harvey proved to be just as successful in the dug out as they had on the pitch as their time in charge saw the club win two league titles, the FA Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

When Kendall left for Spain in 1987 Harvey was promoted to gaffer. He guided the team to respectable finishes in the top half of the table and even got to the 1989 FA Cup final which was lost 3-2 to arch rivals Liverpool.

After the glory years under Kendall, Harvey’s three trophy-less in charge were famine for the Everton fans and board, who decided they had it right the first time when they sacked Harvey and reappointed Kendall.

Harvey left the club in 1994 after Kendall had departed a second time, but he was brought back in his old role of youth team coach in 1997 where he oversaw the development of Francis Jeffers and Wayne Rooney before packing in the game in 2003. This brought to an end 40 years with Everton, during which Harvey played, coached and managed at every level of the club.

Here’s Colin in one of his early games in charge, taking on QPR at Loftus Road, and come back tomorrow to see another legendary player turned crap manager getting the boot.

October 30 – The End of El Diego

HE was the greatest footballer of his generation and perhaps of all time, but all good things have to come to an end. Today in 1997 Diego Armando Maradona hung up his boots, bringing his explosive career to a close on his 37th birthday.

There are few stories in the history of football that measure up to that of Maradona. Born in the shantytown of Villa Fiorito on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, the diminutive Boca Juniors fan embarked on a career that saw some the greatest goals ever scored and countless honours bestowed upon him. And that was only the half of it.

For a man who played with such passion and energy on the football pitch it is not surprising that off the pitch he lived a life that can only be described as ‘incident packed.’ Everyone’s got their favourite Maradona moment. There’s the time he shot his rifle at reporters, his post-retirement weight gain and loss or his admiration of Fidel Castro. He battled a cocaine addiction throughout most of his career and never was this more evident than when he scored for Argentina in the 1994 World Cup and headed straight for a TV camera and ranted at it like a deranged extra from Trainspotting.

On the pitch his most famous moment was single-handidly guiding Argentina to the 1986 World Cup, where his brace against England told you more about the man than words ever could. He won titles for Barcelona, Napoli and his beloved Boca Juniors.

He’s had such an impact on football in his homeland that every promising young Argetinian now has to live up to the title of the ‘new Maradona.’ Countless players have failed to live up to the hype, but Leo Messi has recently been giving it a hell of a go at Maradona’s old stomping ground in Barcelona. One of the most recent of these, Athletico Madrid’s Sergio Aguero is rumoured to be dating his daughter. For England’s World Cup chances in 2034 let’s hope that Diego doesn’t become a granddad anytime soon.

Maradona bowed out just the way he wanted to, as he lead Boca to a 2-1 victory over their rivals River Plate. If anyone has seen him rant about how much he dislikes Boca’s cross-town rivals you’ll know he reitred a happy man. There’s action from La Bombonera below and come back tomorrow for a Toffeeman who was feeling the pressure.

October 29 – A Punishment Not To Be Sniffed At

WE’RE coming over all Bram Stoker on you today, as we’ve got a tale of an (alleged) bloodsucker from Transylvania. Romanian misfit Adrian Mutu was fired by Chelsea today in 2004 following his failed drugs test.

When the Tinkerman Claudio Raniari started splashing the roubles following Abromovich’s takeover he made the eccentric Romanian one of his first purchases. Mutu had an immediate impact, scoring four goals in his first three games, including a brace against Spurs which made him a big hit with the fans.

As the season went on the goals dried up and Red Roman bought in a certain Special One, who didn’t see eye-to-eye with our protagonist. A row broke out between the two when they both accused the other of lying about whether Mutu was injured for one of Romania’s World Cup qualifying games. Rumours were also beginning to fly around concerning Mutu’s private life as him and his TV presenter WAG were rumoured to be going through a rough patch.

Mutu’s mood wouldn’t have cheered up when he went to buy the Sunday papers in September 2004, and saw some textbook tabloid love-rat stories about his various off the pitch antics. If you believe what Fleet Street’s finest had to say, Mutu began his coked-up romps by sucking the blood of his lucky lady. Crikey. And all this from the man that his former coach Alberto Malesani described as “one of the most intelligent young men I have ever met and I’m not just talking about footballers. He’s the kind of guy I would want my daughter to marry.”

An inevitable drugs test soon came and when Mutu’s sample didn’t make the grade Chelsea were quick to ditch their £15.8 million striker. Mutu admitted to taking cocaine “to improve my sexual performance” and had a spell in Tony Adams’ Sporting Chance clinic. The FA handed out a £20,000 fine and a 7-month ban, which was 2 months shorter than Rio Ferdinand’s ban for going shopping while he was supposed to be peeing in a cup. More common sense from the men who thought that Steve McLaren was the man to end England’s trophy drought.

Showing some impressive bounce-back-ability Mutu soon kicked the drugs, got back with the Mrs and signed for Juventus and is now playing a big part in Fiorentina’s impressive start to Serie A this season. To see him scoring (on the pitch this time) have a gander below and point your browser this way tomorrow for an even bigger hell-raiser than Mutu.

October 28 – The Angel With Bent Legs

ASK anyone around the world who the best ever Brazilian to play the game was and they’ll usually say Pele. Head into Brazil though, ask the same question and any self-respecting passionate follower of the beautiful game will tell you all about a bow-legged right-winger who holds a dearer place in their hearts than everyone’s favourite viagra salesman. That man was Garrincha, who was born today in 1933.

When baby Garrincha was born into the world with a left leg that curved outwards and a right leg that was bent inwards it was fair to assume that as a career path, World Cup winning footballer was a long shot, but stories soon circulated about a boy “who lived in the woods with bent legs and who could dribble like the devil.”

And dribble he could. Due to his wonky legs Garrincha was able to dart off in unpredicatable directions and had an almost unnatural turn of pace leading to many describing him as the greatest dribbler ever to grace the world of football. Playing most of his career at Botafo, he soon became Brazil’s most pivitol player, leading them to their first World Cup when Garrincha, alongside a 17-year old Pele lead Brazil to glory in 1958.

Four years later he was the player of the tournament in Chile as Brazil were starting to get in the winning habit, taking the trophy home again. In fact the boys from Brazil never lost a game when Garrincha and Pele played together.

By the mid-60′s Garrincha’s misshapen body was beginning to feel the effects. The cartilage in his knee was being wrecked and this eventually lead to his retirement, which bought about a whole new set of problems. Name a vice and the ‘Little Bird’ as he was known, probably went in for it. Women and booze proved to be his achilles heel, as fathered 13 children (at least) and eventually died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1983.

Whereas his old team-mate Pele made his name a registered trademark and had as big a zeal for making money as he did for playing football, Garrincha’s naivety with money left him in severe financial problems as was tricked into signing blank contracts where directors would pay him minimum wage. During his playing career he lived in a slum, with cash rotting away in cupboards and behind furniture.

Even after his death, stories of his womanising hit the Brazilian news. His biographer Ruy Castro was sued for libel by Garrincha’s family for writing that his penis was 25cm long. The judge took the view that most men would, when he dismissed the case, saying “it should be noted that it is a matter of pride, at least in this country, to have a large member.”

On that bombshell, we’ll say rest in peace Garrincha, and come back tomorrow for more footballers behaving badly.

October 27 – Hoddle Arrives

THE year is 1957. In Italy the Treaty of Rome is signed establishing the European Economic Community; in the USA Elvis Presley buys Graceland; and on this day in Hayes, Middlesex, Glenn Hoddle was born.

Before he became a promising young manager, then a mediocre middle-aged manager, and now an unemployed old manager, young Glenn was pretty nifty on the pitch.

Jasper Carrot once said: “I hear Hoddle’s found God. That must have been one hell of a pass.” Such was his skill, ball control and range of passing, you wouldn’t have put even that heavenly move past young Glenn in his pomp.

After coming through the ranks at Tottenham he wowed the White Hart Lane and England fans with his midfield play for 12 years before heading across to the continent to try his luck there.

In a Monaco team managed by Arsene Wenger, Hoddle’s flair and skill were able to thrive, and were appreciated by the whole country when he was voted the best foreign player in France in 1988 as Monaco won the league.

By 1991 Hod was 33 and decided to return to England to become player/manager at lowly second division Swindon Town.

It was here that he achieved his best (and only!) success as a manager by winning the (by now) first division play-offs to take Swindon into the Premiership.

Rather than hang around to see if he could keep them up, Hoddle jumped ship to more fashionable digs at Chelsea where he won nothing.

Perfect preparation for the England job then, which he took up in 1996.

Following one good game where England held the Italians to a 0-0 draw in Rome, Hoddle’s England qualified for the 1998 world cup in France, only to go out to Argentina in the second round. Even Hoddle’s faith healer Eileen Drewery was powerless to stop Beckham losing his cool, and England losing the match.

Infamously, Drewery was not fated to be the most controversial thing about Hoddle’s England tenure. In an interview in The Times Hoddle appeared to suggest disabled people were paying for sins in a previous life. You have to wonder how he even got onto that subject in the first place – wasn’t he supposed to be talking about football?

Anyway, Hoddle didn’t even have to wait until the next life for his comments to go all karma on his ass, and the FA sacked him before he could say ‘reincarnation’.

Hoddle served out his rehabilitation into society on the south coast where he made a good fist of managing Southampton before his spiritual home Spurs came-a-calling.

It was a dream homecoming: the legendary player coming back to lead the club back to the top. Well that was the plan, but sadly for Glenn, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy showed that putting pressure on his managers is ‘just what he does’, and after giving him £11m to spend, promptly sacked him six games into the new season.

A brief spell at Wolves followed for Hoddle, where he failed to get them promoted before walking out on the club days before the start of a new season.

A supremely gifted player, and probably quite a good manager if he could only leave his own ego outside the training ground, Hoddle is famously self-absorbed. Tony Cascarino once said if him: “He was completely besotted with himself. If he had been an ice cream, he would have licked himself.”

Here is Glenn showing he had skills to pay the bills for Spurs against Watford, and pop back tomorrow for more football history shenanegins.

October 26 – Ezer is a geezer who likes to muscle in

IT all sounds so Dickensian: a cold, foggy autumn night in Victorian London, the Freemason’s Tavern in Great Queen Street, and the protagonist, Ebenezer Cobb Morley.

No this is not the beginning of Great Expectations or David Copperfield; this is the beginning of the Football Association.

As I wasn’t there I can only speculate at to the temperature or fogginess of the evening but what is certain is that it was on this day in 1863 that the first meeting of what would become the FA was held.

Up until then the rules of football differed at every school it was played at, and differed again up in Yorkshire where the Sheffield rules were used.

In the 1840s some boffins at Cambridge University had created a set of standard rules they thought should apply to everyone, and these formed the basis of the laws that the new association would adopt on that night in the Freemason’s.

Led by Ebenezer Cobb Morley eleven clubs and schools from the London agreed to a set of 14 laws under which they could all play, and football as we know it finally had a proper set of rules which everyone agreed on.

Well, nearly everyone. A twelfth club present on that first night, Blackheath, later withdrew from the FA after the rest agreed there should be no running with the ball in hand, or hacking down of players by the shins.

Several other fledgling clubs agreed with Blackheath which led to the creation of the Rugby Football Union in 1871.

Since that night in London, the essential laws of football remain largely unchanged, except for Sepp Blatter’s occasional tinkering with the offside rule and back-passes.

Pleased with what they had achieved, the new FA thought the best way to celebrate was to have a match of association football played under their new rules.

Morley (him again) brought along his Barnes team to play Richmond in mid-December. The game was hardly an advert for the new exciting game and ended 0-0. Richmond were so unimpressed they decided to change codes altogether and headed over the hill and yonder to the join the Rugby lot in 1871 – changing codes just because they didn’t win, imagine the sulk they would have been in if they lost.

Despite Richmond’s lack of enthusiasm, the game would never look back and clubs sprang up all over the country playing the new rules, while Ebenezer Cobb Morley went on the be the first ever FA secretary, and later its president.

Come up and see us tomorrow, and make yourself smile by reading about one of the smuggest men in the game.

October 25 – Cilla Fights Back

FOOTBALL has managed to upset a lot of people over the years – it has even been the cause of wars, but it was on this day in 2000 that the beautiful game crossed swords with a national treasure, and lost.

National big mouth Chris Evans (don’t worry – he’s not the aforementioned national treasure) stunned listeners of his Virgin Radio breakfast show by revealing ITV’s plans for the Premier League highlights show – the rights to which they had swiped from the BBC.

Evans claimed that he had spoken to Brian Barwick, then head of ITV sport and now blundering chief exec of the FA, who revealed in the strictest confidence that they would be showing their version of Match of the Day at 7pm on a Saturday night.

One can only imagine tirade of expletives that came out of Cilla Black’s mouth when she heard the news that her Blind Date show, the rightful owner of the prime time Saturday night slot, was being bumped for football.

Despite all the usual denials and non-committal press releases coming out of ITV at the time, Evans was spot on and when it aired in 2001 their new show The Premiership was screened at 7pm… for a bit.

Not even the acquisition of Des Lynam as anchor could woo any viewers to the new slot and after two months of getting half the ratings Cilla and ‘Our Graham’ used to pull in, one of the bosses in the ITV command bunker looked over grimly at a lowly subordinate and uttered in a gravely voice: “Make the call.”

No doubt Cilla had a lora lora laughs after the powers that be were forced to grovel to her to return to her rightful time. Still, the main thing was Blind Date was back on at seven, the football was back at 10.30, and balance was brought back to the world of television schedules.

Tomorrow we will be going right back to 1863 to see what the happy-happs were then in the world of football, and no, it wasn’t Jimmy Hill’s debut.

October 24 – The Oldest Club in the World

WHEN your team’s nickname is simply ‘The Club’, you’ve got to have a bit of history to back it up. And history is one thing that Sheffield FC have more of than anyone else, as they are the world’s oldest club, established today in 1857.

A hundred and fifty years ago today Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest founded the club and a set of rules by which they played, known as the ‘Sheffield Rules’. Back in the mid-19th century there was no established set of laws in the game, the two Old Harrovians decided that they’d be none of that offside nonsense, pushing players was fine and if you caught the ball you’d get a free kick. Perhaps Liverpool and Everton were playing these rules last Saturday in the Merseyside Derby.

Early Sheffield FC games pitted members of the team against one another, in contests such as ‘Married v Singles’ before rivals Halam were formed in 1860. In what is the world’s oldest ever derby, the two sides still do battle to this day.

Their 150 years of history have seen a few trophies head over to the Bright Finance stadium (known to fans as the Stadium of Bright) as they’ve won a host of local cups and titles, with their biggest ever success was an FA Amateur Cup win in 1904. A Wembley appearance in the 1977 FA Vase Final has been as good as it’s got in the modern era, where they lost in a replay to Billericay Town.

Today Sheffield FC dwell in the Northern Premier League Division One South, and have recently been recognised by FIFA as being officially the oldest club in the world and given the FIFA Order of Merit, joining Real Madrid as the only recipients of the award. They can also boast of having the likes of Michael Vaughan, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Sepp Blatter as members.

See footage of their birthday match against local big-boys Sheffield United from a couple of weeks ago here and join us again tomorrow for a ginger man introducing a very bad idea to the world.

October 23 – The Stars Come Out For The FA’s Centenary

HOW are your birthday plans coming on for this year? Night out on the town? Dinner party? Bet it won’t be as grand as when the FA celebrated reaching the grand old age of 100, as Sir Alf Ramsey’s England team took on the best of the rest at Wembley Stadium, today in 1963.

When the FA’s founding fathers such as Ebenezer Cobb Morley and F. M. Campbell sat in smoky rooms back in 1863, bringing together the nations leading clubs and devising a universal set of rules, they surely couldn’t have imagined where the game would be a hundred years down the line. This was the end of regional leagues, where the likes of Barnes (not John), Wanderers, Forest of Leytonstone and the cryptically named No Names Club did battle, and the start of football becomming the world’s favourite past-time.

So what better excuse for a party? Sir Alf sent out a strong England line-up, the spine of which included Bobby Moore, Gordon Banks and Bobby Charlton, who were only three years away from that defining moment of English football in 1966. And Ramsey needed all the talent he could call upon, as the Three Lions were measuring up against a venerable who’s who of international talent. Home nation stars such as Denis Law and Jim Baxter were mixing it with the likes of legends Alfredo Di Stefano, Eusebio, Ferenc Puskas and and Uwe Seeler. It was the kind of line-up that these days would only be seen on Nike advert (other sportswear is available, legal fans).

Making sure that the 100,000 at Wembley went home happy, England managed a 2-1 win with Jimmy Greaves grabbing a late winner after Denis Law had cancelled out Terry Paine’s opener. Most of the plaudits however, went to the Russian goalkeeper Lev Yashin who had one of the games of his life, pulling off a string of world-class saves to stop England form running away with the match.

Their telegramme from the Queen appeared and lots of backslapping ensued, as the top dogs of English football congratulated themselves on a sucessful hundred years, that soon got better when Jules Rimet was gleaming in the England trophy cabinet shortly after. As for the FA itself, plenty has changed since. Nowadays it’s a buearocratic behemoth, money-driven and not even in charge of the top flight of Englsish football. What would old Ebenezer make of that?

As he scored the winner, we’ll show you one of Greavsies finest moments on the football pitch and make sure you get back in the Delorean that is OTFD tomorrow to be taken even further back in time.

October 22 – The Man in Black

SO who’s the greatest goalkeeper ever to play the game? Schmeichel? No, his nose was too red and he was rubbish on Strictly Come Dancing. Dino Zoff or Gianluigi Buffon? Nope, even you’d look good behind those Italian defences. Our vote goes to the Russian Lev Yashin who was born today in 1929.

Nicknamed the Black Spider, after his penchant for wearing an all-black kit and seeming to have eight legs to stop the ball with, Yashin ticked all the boxes that a great keeper should. His imposing physique, supreme athleticism and lightening reflexes meant that he is the only keeper ever to win the European Footballer of the Year award, back in 1963.

Yashin’s story is a textbook rags to riches tale. In 1942 a young Yashin got involved with the war effort, helping out in a metal workshop. By the end of the decade he was snapped up by his local club, Dynamo Moscow, but couldn’t force his way past ‘Tiger’ Khomich, Dynamo’s legandary keeper. This meant that he turned his attention to the Dynamo ice hockey team, winning a couple of USSR ice hockey cups before the football bosses cottoned on to his talents.

Once he got in the team, Yashin set about making history between the sticks. His career statistics are freakishly good – in 812 games he managed 270 cleans sheets and saved over 150 penalties. Not too shabby. His personal trophy cabinet reflected this, with five league titles and three USSR Cups for Dynamo, whilst also picking up an Olympic Gold Medal and a European Championship for the Soviets.

His commitment for his country lead to Yashin being rewarded with the Order of Lenin, the second highest award that the Politburo could give out. Summing up his patriotism, he said that “the joy of seeing Yuri Gagarin flying in space is only superseded by the joy of a good penalty save.” What he’d have made of Paul Robinson’s performance in Moscow last week is anybody’s guess.

Tomorrow we’ll look back at a star-studded night at the old Wembley Stadium, but in the meantime check out a few wonder-saves from the Black Spider.