Archive for December, 2007

December 31 – Owen’s Out Again

ON this day in 2005 England’s chances of winning the world cup were dealt a massive blow before the squad had even been picked or a ball kicked at the tournament.

The blow was not a bad draw for the group stage or the team being given an ‘unlucky’ hotel to stay in, but an injury to England’s main goal threat over the past decade: Welsh striker Michael Owen.

Owen was playing in a league match for Newcastle against Tottenham Hotspur when he collided with Spurs and England goalkeeper Mr Potato Head lookalike Paul Robinson.

It was confirmed after the match that Owen had suffered one of the dreaded metatarsal injuries that strike down England players with alarming regularity before every major tournament.

From then on Owen faced a race against time to be fit for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Luckily for Lil’ Mickey Sven tended to select his favourites whether they were injured or not as Beckham and Rooney have also proved, and Owen was on the plane to Germany despite having hardly played for six months.

Clearly unfit, Owen started England’s first two matches against Paraguay and Trinidad and Tobago but was substituted in both after failing to score. In the third game he lasted less than a minute of the match before he twisted his knee badly and crawled off the pitch in agony.

Everyone could see at once that he was in serious trouble and a scan confirmed that he had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, and he was out of the world cup, and out of football for nearly a year.

He has since made more comebacks and had more injuries and is currently trying to recover from his latest crock in a bid to finally get his Newcastle career properly up and running.

Here is a look at Owen in happier times scoring the kind of goal he can only dream about now. Oh, and happy new year all, see you in 2008 for more daily football history nuggets.

December 30 – Wrighty Meets Her Maj

WHEN Ian Wright was a struggling plasterer working for £100 a week before Crystal Palace took him on he could not have imagined that he would end up receiving an honour from the Queen.

It was on this day in 1999 that grinning goal machine from London was awarded an MBE by Her Majesty for services to football.

Until Wrighty turned up the only plasterers to have been inside Buckingham Palace were probably those called in to repair the damage caused by Prince Philip trying out his new shotgun in the drawing room.

Despite being renowned for his confidence Wrighty was anxious about meeting the head of state.

After picking up his medal at the palace in July 2000 he said: “It’s quite a humbling experience – it’s the most nerve-racking thing I’ve ever had to do.”

“I told the Queen that I’ve just retired as a professional footballer and I have to say, so far, I’m not missing it,” he said.

“It was the right time for me to retire. I could never emulate the success I had with Arsenal – it was unbelievable for me.”

Not everyone was happy for Wrighty however as four years after receiving his award former sports minister Kate Hoey claimed he did not deserve it and had only been given it as part of a Downing Street initiative to drum up support for the Labour Party.

She said: “Footballers who have trashed dressing rooms or have done things like that should not be given honours.

“But sometimes these particular people are very popular themselves, and they may well be added to the list by Downing Street because they would appeal to what Downing Street would feel were young voters who might be attracted to vote Labour.”

Miss Hoey, who was sports minister from 1999 to 2001, made her comments in evidence to the Commons public administration committee, which was conducting an inquiry into the honours system.

“Ian Wright had trashed dressing rooms and had been involved in quite a huge number of offences in terms of footballing behaviour. I thought it was very wrong that he had been given an MBE.”

Still, Wrighty kept his medal, although if the Queen had seen this clip she might have had second thoughts…

December 29 – Cole on the Move

A LOT of people in football have very short memories, but fortunately we are not among them. We remember a time long long ago in a division far far away (not really) when Graeme Souness was regarded as quite a good manager. Not only that but Andy ahem, sorry, Andrew Cole was thought of as quite the goal-machine.

This day in 2001 saw the two of them united as Souey paid £7.5million to take Cole from Manchester United to Blackburn Rovers.

At the time Cole was no longer first choice up front for United despite six hugely successful years at Old Trafford where he had won trophies galore and formed part of one of the most lethal front lines in football with grinning Tabagan Dwight Yorke.

The arrival of equine-a-like Ruud van Nistelrooy in particular put a large nail in the coffin of Cole’s United career and Alex Ferguson decided to cash in on him.

Meanwhile over in Lancashire Souness had just got Blackburn promoted into the Premier League where they were playing some rather nice passing football with the likes of Matt Jansen, Damien Duff and David Dunn at the centre of it all.

Souey saw Cole as the ideal man to convert some of the many chances the team was creating to cement their place as a top flight force once again.

Initially the deal seemed to work out well for all parties as Blackburn reached the league cup final in February 2002 where Cole scored the winner. Victory was all the sweeter for Cole as it was over a Tottenham side managed by Glenn Hoddle who had always been less than complimentary about the striker. In your face Glenda.

In 2002 Souness went out of his way to make Cole feel at home by signing his former strike partner Dwight Yorke from United.

The duo could not repeat the success they had had at Old Trafford though and after two years of so-so performances and scoring rates, both men left Blackburn.

These days Cole and Yorke have been reunited yet again at Sunderland by former United teammate Roy Keane, although, with the Mackems languishing in the bottom three of the Premiership it does not appear to be going that well.

Here’s Coley sticking the ball in the back of the old onion bag, and come back tomorrow for more from the vaults of football’s past . . .

December 28 – Dodgy At The Back

HOW have those Christmas hangovers been? For us here at OTFD the last thing we want to do today is pull on the boots and run around in the rain. And perhaps that was what was going through the minds of First Division defenders today in 1963, as they conceived to let in a whopping 66 goals over the ten matches played.

As we’re only young pups here at OTFD we can only speculate to what the 1963 version of Jeff Stelling’s Soccer Saturday made of it, but we imagine that a Chris Kamara-ite would’ve been telling us it was ‘unbelievable Jeff!!’ as he leapt around the gantry at Craven Cottage when Fulham, the day’s highest scorers, bagged their tenth goal against an Ipswich side that had won the title only 18 months earlier. Props too to Blackburn who hit eight away from home at the Boleyn Ground in an 8-2 win against West Ham.

All those depressed Hammers and Tractor Boys didn’t have too long to wait to get their own back though, as the fixtures were reversed two days later and the tables were turned as Ipswich won 4-2 and West Ham’s revenge was served in a 3-1 shaped dish.

Have a gander at the comedy set of results in full below and come back tomorrow for more tales of footballing history.

Blackpool 1 Chelsea 5
Burnley 6 Man Utd 1
Fulham 10 Ipswich 1
Leicester 2 Everton 0
Liverpool 6 Stoke 1
Nottingham Forest 3 Sheff Utd 3
WBA 4 Spurs 4
Sheff Wed 3 Bolton 0
Wolves 3 Aston Villa 3
West Ham 2 Blackburn 8

December 27 – We Woz Robbed!

Ahh, Christmas, the time for giving. That is unless you’re part of the Merseyside crime syndicate that have a grudge on the Red half of Liverpool. Today in 2005 saw the scallywags get their plunder on at the Liverpool museum, stealing the eight pennants that the club received during their victorious Champions League run earlier in the year.

In an effort to ensure that Liverpudlian stereotypes are kept up, Rafa Benitez’s men have found themselves on the wrong end of the law more than most over the last couple of years, and it’s not just car stereos that have gone missing. The full list of players who have been caught out when they were playing away is: Jerzy Dudek, Pepe Reina, Daniel Agger, Dirk Kuyt, Peter Crouch and more recently, Steven Gerrard.

Before you begin to suspect a bitter Evertonian at the crux of the crime spree it’s worth remembering the Andy van der Meyde dog saga – that was when his pedigree dog Mac was held hostage, and nothing to do with Stan Collymore.

The club offered a handy post-Christmas cash reward for the pennants safe return but they were nowhere to be found and this part of the club’s history was lost to the Scouse criminal underworld. In fact, the only pennants to be found round Anfield way these days are crocked ex-con Arsenal rejects.

If you fancy getting your Sherlock Holmes hat on, we’re sure the club would love to hear from you, but we’re too busy eating leftover turkey to bother. We will however, be back for some lighter fare tomorrow as it’s goals galore, but until then all you Liverpool fans can re-live Istanbul, pennants and all.

December 26 – The United Nations of Chelsea

AS the whole nation picks gloomily over the wreckage of England’s Euro 2008 qualifying campaign everybody from Sir Trevor Brooking to Uncle Tom Cobley is partly blaming the influx of foreign players into the Premiership for the Three Lions failure to qualify for the finals.

Arsene Wenger has been blamed for the demise of the England national team because his slick and exciting team contains barely a sniff of an Englishman, and he regularly sends out entire teams with no English players in them.

On this day in 1999 we had a glimpse of this all-foreign future when Chelsea sent out a team that contained not one single British player for their match with Southampton at the Dell.

With Graeme Le Saux injured, Chris Sutton suffering from flu, and Dennis Wise’s wife due to give birth, manager Gianluca Vialli (also foreign) started with De Goey, Ferrar, Babayaro, Thome, Leboeuf, Petrescu, Poyet, Deschamps, Di Matteo, Flo and Ambrosetti.

In another, even more depressing glimpse of the future, Vialli’s foreign legion won the match 2-1 – Chelsea’s first away win in the Premier League for three months.

For the record Saints’ starting XI contained seven British players: Paul Jones, Jason Dodd, Dean Richards, Francis Benali, Matt Le Tissier, Matt Oakley and James Beattie, and an eighth, Kevin Davies came on as well.

At the time Chelsea’s all-foreign team caused waves in the English game and sparked many of the same proclamations that we seem to be hearing now about it all being a very sad indictment for English football. It also brought up all the questions that seem to be posed in every newspaper column about how to remedy the problem.

Should we have a quota of English players in each squad? Should we re-think the academy system? Should we employ different coaching methods with the kids? Well, we are not going to give you the answers, mainly because we don’t have them.

What we do have is more mildly interesting football nostalgia, and it will be right here at the same time tomorrow so check it out.

December 25 – The Guns Fall Silent for Christmas

MERRY Christmas everyone, and we hope Santa brought you everything you wanted, unless you wanted a Nintendo Wii in which case we hope he brought you your second choice.

On this day in 1914 one of the most amazing events in human history occurred in the World War I trenches in France when the British and German soldiers downed their guns, came out of their trenches and had a kick about.

In the years since there have been many versions of events on what really happened that day but legend has it the Germans began signing Christmas carols.

Upon hearing Silent Night drifting across no man’s land the Brits then responded with carols of their own. Eventually both sets of soldiers emerged from their respective trenches and exchanged gifts before the international language of football took over.

Again there are many accounts of the most famous match in the history of the world with some claiming it was simply a kick about, while others say it was a proper match which the Germans (naturally) won 3-2.

Other reports claim it was not simply one match but a string of games played up and down the many miles of no man’s land that existed between the two sets of trenches.

At the end of the day the troops climbed back into their respective trenches to end this historic and unofficial truce. The following day the guns started up again and the war would rage for another four years.

Still, for one day the troops decided they were people away from home at Christmas first, and soldiers second.

So Happy Christmas all, we hope you had a great day. More tomorrow from us here at OTFD so come back then if you just can’t face The Great Escape again.

December 24 – Deck The Halls With Milan Baros

IN 2001 Gérard Houllier had already been something of a Santa figure when he delivered three trophies for Liverpool fans before he succumbed to a serious heart problem which put him in hospital.

It was on this day that same year that Houllier managed to complete his last-minute Christmas shopping despite being confined to his sick bed.

While everyone else was rushing around the shops looking for that special something for their loved ones ho ho ho Houllier was opening the Anfield cheque book to sign girl lookalike Milan Baros from Czech side Baník Ostrava.

The Reds’ front line at the time consisted of pocket rocket Michael Owen and Emile Heskey, after the departure of Robbie Fowler to Leeds. With Owen having to shoulder the entire goal scoring burden for the team Houllier obviously thought he needed help.

Baros would only play once that season in a Champions League tie with Barcelona but the following season he scored 12 goals for the Anfield team.

The 2003/04 season would prove to be disappointing for Baros after a leg break restricted his appearances. He would make up for it at Euro 2004 however where he picked up the tournament golden boot award for his five goals as the Czech Republic made it to the semi finals before being knocked out by eventual winners Greece.

By this time Houllier had been relieved of his duties and Rafa Benitez installed in his place and under the Spaniard Baros was part of the team that won the Champions League.

He left Merseyside soon after for Aston Villa before swapping the Midlands for Lyon to link up with his old mate Gerard Houllier.

Here is a little compilation of Milan’s exploits at Anfield and all that remains is for us here at OTFD to wish you all a very Merry Christmas indeed.

If you have had enough of turkey and Noel Edmunds tomorrow fear not, for we will be here with a Christmas entry about one of the most amazing events in human history.

December 23 – Darlo’s Dodgy Dealer

FOOTBALL chairmen are a strange breed of people, and they don’t come more eccentric than former safe-breaker George Reynolds who used to rule the roost at Darlington. During his five-year tenure as chairman he gave the club more headlines and headaches than they’d seen in their 125-year history. But today in 2003 it starting to go horribly wrong, as the club was issued with a winding-up order and the end was nigh for Reynolds.

Reynolds story is a traditional rags-to-riches-and-back-to-rags affair. Orphaned as an eight year old he grew up on the gritty streets of the East End of Sunderland, often competing in bare knuckle fights and had a hat-trick of prison sentences under his belt at an early age. Whilst in prison he taught himself how to read and by hook or by crook (mainly crook) he found himself worth £260m and clocking in at 112 on the 2000 Sunday Times Rich List after establishing a series of businesses.

As so often happens, the beautiful game seems to attract such nefarious characters, and Reynolds took over the Quakers in 1999, promising Premiership football and a shiny new stadium. “One day we will be in the Premiership with millions in the bank and others will be wondering how we’ve done it” he claimed in 1999. Needless to say, it didn’t take too long for everything to go wrong. The new stadium came at a price of £25m and was grandly named the Reynolds Arena. However, the average crowd of 5,000 tends to look a bit lost in the flat-pack 26,000-capacity stadium.

Other comedic promises made by ol’ Georgie boy were the signings of Gazza and Columbian striker Faustino Asprilla and there’s also the time where he ‘outed’ a north-east DJ and made a series of threats to local journalists. “People are all right until you knock on their front door at 20 past two in the morning,” Reynolds explained. “Nobody has a go at me. I find out where they live and go and knock on their door.” Lovely chap.

It was obvious that the club were living beyond their means and when even more skeletons came out of Reynolds’ closet he was out of the club. His Direct Workshops company soon went out of business with £4.7m of debt mysteriously disappearing and Reynolds was back in the slammer on a tax evasion charge. Sighs of relief broke out amongst the Darlo fans who ended up putting their money where there mouth was as it was the Supporters’ Trust who saved the club from extinction.

See some footage from happier days as Darlo romped to the Division 4 title back in 1991 and once you’ve got all your Christmas shopping done head over here again for more tales from the days of yore.

December 22 – Hark The Herald Angel

BACK in 2000 the English Premier League was not the plaything for international investors that it is now, with no sugar-daddies waiting in the wings to splash their petro-dollars. Nowhere was this more evident than at Villa Park, where Aston Villa fans were used to their chairman ‘Deadly’ Doug Ellis failing to open the chequebook. But today in 2000 he put his money where his mouth was, breaking the club transfer record to sign Juan Pablo Angel.

Columbian-born Angel made his name at River Plate where he replaced the Italy-bound Hernan Crespo and soon won over the fans who would attend El Monumental wearing angel wings. His form for River saw him earn a £9.5 million move to Europe where he would end up in sunny Birmingham when John Gregory persuaded Deadly Doug to stump up the cash. His six-year spell at Villa was a hit and miss affair, scoring 66 goals in 205 games. The arrival of John Carew and Ashley Young last January saw his chances become limited so Angel sought pastures new.

Angel therefore decided to get his trailblaze on, and jumped aboard the good ship MLS, paving the way for Beckham and the likes as he signed for New York Red Bulls. And instead of sitting around on the treatment table he’s taken the league by storm, scoring 19 goals in his first season and seen by many as MLS’s best player.

In 2004 Angel hit the headlines when the Premier League sought to commission a ‘Chant Laureate’ and the winning chant was an ode to the Columbian from Jonny Hirst, a Birmingham City fan caught sleeping with the enemy. If you fancy a sing-song, we’ve included the lyrics here for you. Be warned, you’ll have to go all Barry Manilow on us as Hirst’s ditty was composed to the tune of Copacabana. More tomorrow, as we look at some players who weren’t up for putting the hours in over the festive period.

His name is Angel,

And he’s a show boy,

An Alice band keeps up his hair,

Juan Pablo from Col-om-bi-air

He came to Villa,

To be a winner,

He succeeded overnight,

Our very own Angel Delight

Just hear the Villa roar,

With each Juan Pablo score,

We’ve got him on a four-year deal,

But we still want more

At the Villa, at Aston Villa,

The greatest club west of Manila,

At the Villa, at Aston Vi-lla,

Football and passion
All ranges of fashion,

At the Villa, we have it all,

La-la, Aston Vil-la-la,

Aston Vil-la-la-la,