Archive for February, 2008

February 29 – Boro Win At Last

WHILE Spurs fans are probably still sobering up after their League Cup triumph against Chelsea on Sunday we have more action from everyone’s favourite second-rate competition today here at OTFD.

It was on this day in 2004 that Middlesbrough won their first ever trophy in their 128-year history when they lifted the Carling Cup after beating Bolton Wanderers 2-1.

Boro were managed at the time by a bloke called Steve McLaren who, after spending millions of Steve Gibson’s cash took the club to the heady heights of 12th, 11th(twice), 7th(fair dos), and 14th in the Premier League, with the League Cup victory the crowning glory of his reign and this sole achievement which the FA thought qualified him to take charge of his country.

The team who were ever the bridesmaids under previous boss Bryan Robson got an early leg up in the final when they went in front inside two minutes from a tap-in by Joseph-Desire Job after a Boudewijn Zenden cross.

It got even better for the Teesiders when the referee awarded them a dodgy-looking penalty just seven minutes into the match which Zenden duly dispatched.

Looking good so far for the boys in red, but, just like the tragicomedy that is Steve Mclaren’s managerial career, the match still had a few calamitous twists and turns to come. In a strange foretelling of Scot Carson’s performance against Croatia last November, Aussie keeper Mark Schwarzer inexplicably allowing a scuffed shot from Kevin Davies to squirm under him and into the net to give the Trotters hope.

But as they say, it’s the hope that kills you and despite a few chances at both ends in the second half, Boro held on to take the win and end their monumental trophy drought.

So McLaren had won the battle of the English managerial titans of the day (him and Big Sam Allardyce) and surely Boro’s life as the also-rans was consigned to history?

Erm, no. They proved they had lost none of that old heroic-failure spirit forged under Robbo (losing two cup finals and getting relegated in the same season surely gives you a certain pedigree) when they made it all the way to the Uefa Cup final in 2006 only to lose 4-0 to Juande Ramos’ Seville side.

Here they are enjoying their moment in the sun at the Millennium Stadium and come back tomorrow as we once again race head-long into the murky world of football’s past.

February 28 – World Cup 1930, RSVP

IF only it was still as easy as it was to qualify for major tournaments as it was in 1930, then England fans would have something to do this summer. Way back then there was none of two-year this qualification lark ending with lots of bad umbrella puns, as FIFA simply invited the football world along. Today in 1930 was the deadline day for the first ever World Cup, with eight teams getting their forms in on time.

Eighty years ago international football wasn’t the beast that it is today. The biggest international tournament was the Olympics, which FIFA recognised as a “world football championship for amateurs”, but when Los Angeles decided that they wouldn’t be featuring any soccer in the 1932 games plans were afoot to create a separate competition to establish the true world champions.

Uruguay beat out Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands and Spain to host Jules Rimet’s brainchild and the thought of two weeks at sea put off much of Europe from attending. England were still of the belief that no-one was as good at their national sport as they were so didn’t lower themselves to applying and rejected the invitation in November 1929.

The only nations that originally applied were Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile, the USA and Mexico, leaving FIFA with a job on their hands recruiting some more teams from further afield to make the tournament more credible. Eventually FIFA and the Uruguayan government would offer to pay travel expenses for any European teams that would be willing to make the trip. This was enough to convince Yugoslavia, Romania, France and Belgium to pack their bags and the thirteen-team tournament was ready to begin. Egypt could’ve changed the course of football history by repeating their 4th-place Olympic from 1928, but they missed the boat. Rubbish.

Montevideo hosted all eighteen matches in three venues, with the final being contested between the same sides as the 1928 Olympic final, hosts Uruguay and Argentina. 93,000 were present in the Estadio Centenario on July 30th to see the Uruguayans come back from a 2-1 win half-time deficit and win 4-2. Meet the gang and watch some grainy footage below and head over here tomorrow for more tales of silverware.

February 27 – The Birth of Bayern

GUTEN Tag and willkommen to another day of OTFD action. Today it’s way back to turn of the century Bavaria, where the German powerhouse Bayern Munich was formed today in 1900.

Believe it or not, but Germany’s most successful football club started life as a gymnastics club. They’ve certainly come a long way since the days of roly-polys (no, we’re not talking about Jurgen Klinsmann’s spell at the club), as they can boast of having a trophy cabinet that contains 20 domestic titles, 13 German cups, 4 European Cups, 2 Intercontinental Cups, a UEFA Cup and a Cup Winners Cup. Not too shabby for a club that didn’t really get going until the 1960′s.

Bayern started life in the German regional leagues, where their first taste of silverware came with the 1926 championship of southern Germany. Six years later they won their first national honour when they defeated Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 in the national final, but they never really had the chance to build on this success.

This was down to the fact that Bayern had a Jewish coach and president and were in the wrong country at the wrong time. They both fled Germany following Hitler’s rise to power and Bayern were lambasted as a “Jew’s club” and almost forced out of existence as many players and staff were killed by the Nazi regime.

The immediate post-war era was a struggle for Bayern, as the 1950s saw them flirt with bankruptcy and suffer relegation before industrialist Roland Endler stepped in with some financial muscle. The Bundesliga as we know it today was established in 1963 and although Baryern were denied membership they managed to bag promotion in 1965 and things then got very exciting for the Die Roten faithful.

A young team containing the likes of Gerd Muller, Franz Beckenbauer and Sepp Maier began to start picking up trophies left, right and centre. Their first season in the Bundesliga brought a third-place finish and the German Cup. From then on in they have dominated German football, and also made their mark in Europe, where they matched the legendary 1950′s Real Madrid side and Ajax’s early ’70′s vintage in winning the European Cup three times in a row from 1974-76.

It’s not just a monopoly on trophies that Bayern have had in recent times, as just about every legendary German player has at some point represented the side known among their rivals as FC Hollywood. As well as the axis of Beckenbauer, Muller and Maier, the likes of Stefan Effenberg, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Lothar Matthaus, Michael Ballack and er… Ally McInally have all picked up silverware whilst at Bayern.

These days they can still be found at the top of the Bundesliga, as their star-studded squad attempts to bounce back from last year’s disappointing fourth-place finish. But no one likes a show off, which is why we’re going to show you footage of one of their most infamous European nights, as Norwich City downed them at the Olympic Stadium, back in 1993. More action from distant shores tomorrow, so be there or be square.

February 26 – Pat Jennings Notches Up His 1,000th

WHILST we were watching Sunday’s Carling Cup final here at OTFD Towers, it wasn’t Juande Ramos’ inspired substitutions, Woodgate’s winning goal or Chimbonda’s sulk that impressed us the most. Nope, our eyes were fixated on the corporate seats, where we were amazed to see that Pat Jennings, the legendary Tottenham and Arsenal keeper, still possessed one of the greatest sets of sideburns and heads of hair the game has ever seen. Another of his achievements that impressed your follically-challenged narrator is that today in 1983 he racked up his 1,000 appearance in first-class football, whilst representing the red and white half of north London.

When Jennings first crossed the Irish Sea as a gangly sixteen year-old joining Watford from his home-town side of Newry Town, few thought that he would become one of football’s greatest ever keepers. After an impressive debut season with the Hornets, Tottenham did what they are still good at, buying up young talent, as they got out their chequebook and signed the Irishman for £27,000.

As a youngster, Jennings had never received any proper coaching, relying on a natural, if unorthodox technique that would see him fling his 6ft 2 frame around the goal, making sure that his shovel-like hands kept out more than his fair share of goals. He would guard the Spurs net a total of 591 times, helping them win an FA Cup, UEFA Cup and two League Cups. In the 1967 Charity Shield he also found time to become a goalscoring hero, as he punted the pigs bladder down the field and into the net as it bounced over his stranded opposite number in the Manchester United goal, Alex Stepney. A Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year award in 1973, and similar PFA gong three years later soon followed before Spurs thought that he was coming to the end of the line.

Underestimating Jennings’ longevity they sold him, of all places, to Arsenal. Hoping that that’d lumped a piece of deadwood on their most bitter rivals, Tottenham were happy to take the £45,000 Arsenal offered, but how wrong they were. After eight years, 327 appearances and three FA Cup Finals for the Gooners, Jennings called it a day at club-level, having cemented his status as a legend for both of north London’s big boys.

Forty one-year old Jennings had one last trick up his sleeve, as turned out for Northern Ireland for their three group games in the 1986 World Cup. He was powerless to help Norn Iron from an early exit, as Brazil sent them packing 3-0 in Jennings’ 119th and final game for his country.

You won’t see many better saves than the one below, so feast on that head over here tomorrow for some football history Deutschland-style.

February 25 – Worthy Winners?

THERE was a time in the not too distant past when the much-maligned League Cup was the one chance some of the smaller clubs in the land had of bagging some sliverware.

Before it was treated as a chance to get an early trophy under their belts by Chelsea, and a nursery for Arsene Wenger’s youth team, the competition was largely ignored by many of the big hitters as they concentrated on frying the bigger fish of the Premier League, FA Cup and Europe.

On this day in 2001 Division One Birmingham City made it to (what was then called) the Worthington Cup Final where they faced a Liverpool side which had gone six years without honours.

The match, held at the Millennium Stadium, was to be the first cup final in English football to be decided by a penalty shootout.

Liverpool took an early lead through Robbie Fowler and looked set to win until referee David Ellary awarded the Blues a penalty in the second minute of injury time which Darren Purse duly dispatched to send the game into extra time.

As so often seems to be the way extra time did not produce a winner leaving the lottery of the penalty shootout to decide the tie.

Only Dietmar Hamann missed his spot kick for Liverpool as Sander Westerveld saved from Martin Grainger and a young Andy Johnson to hand the trophy to Gerard Houllier’s side.

Houllier said at the time: “They say the first trophy is always the hardest to win,” and just to prove his point he went and won two more that very season as they also lifted the FA and Uefa Cups to complete a sort of poor-man’s treble.

Meanwhile Birmingham City were left to ponder the misfortune of losing out on penalties in their first chance of a major trophy since 1963.

Birmingham City manager Trevor Francis was in tears after the match. He said: “I thought we were going to win it. We were hungrier, stronger. Maybe their recent schedule had taken it out of their legs, but we were the dominant force.

“I said before the game that if we came off the field without any regrets I would be satisfied, and in that sense I am, but we’re all bitterly disappointed to have lost on penalties.”

The Blues would be back in Cardiff the following season under Steve Bruce where this time the penalty shootout was their friend as they beat Norwich in the play-off final to secure promotion to the Premiership.

After waiting so long for a penalty-decided cup final, English football would not have to wait too long for the second which arrived in the form of an FA Cup final in 2005 in which Arsenal defeated Manchester United on pens after the Red Devils had largely dominated the game.

As ever, more from us tomorrow sports fans so log on, tune in and cop out then.

February 24 – Hayter’s Hamazing Hat-trick

ANYTHING Robbie Fowler can do James Hayter can do better.

While the Scouse cheeky chappie holds the record for the fastest Premier League hat-trick at four minutes and 33 seconds, League 1 striker Hayter scored the fastest hat-trick in football league history on this day in 2004.

He managed the feat playing for Bournemouth in a 6-0 victory over Wrexham at Dean Court. He fired in his three goals in just two minutes and 20 seconds making Fowler’s effort look somewhat sedentary and his record is even more remarkable as the young forward was brought on with only six minutes left on the clock.

While the Cherries fans were rejoicing in their player’s record-breaking achievement his family showed they had all the timing of a Paul Scholes tackle as they missed the entire thing, having left the ground ten minutes before the final whistle to catch the ferry back home to the Isle of Wight.

Parents Mary and Richard and his brother Ben were as sick as a prattle of parrots (what a great collective noun – don’t say we never teach you anything) afterwards.

Ben said at the time: “I’m delighted for James but we’re all gutted that we missed it.

“We decided to leave because we didn’t think James was going to get on. We heard a cheer just as we were getting in the car and we turned on the radio and found out James had come on and scored.”

Although Hayter’s effort was faster than Fowler’s and is certainly the record in English football, it is not the fastest ever recorded.

As usual with these things there is some dispute as to who holds the actual record. It was held for a long time by James O’Connor, of Shelbourne, in Dublin, who completed his treble in 2min 14sec against Bohemians on November 19, 1967.

However some two months after Hayter wrote his name into the history books in 2004, a long forgotten man from the north of Scotland was finally having his name entered in the Guinness Book of Records, forty years after his hat-trick heroics.

On November 28, 1964, as an 18-year-old outside right for Ross County in the Highland League, Tommy Ross scored three times in 90 seconds against Nairn County.

O’Connor’s record would never have stood had Ross entered his effort at the time, but he did not enter it because he believed there had to be two official timekeepers for it to stand. On the day of the match against Nairn County at Dingwall, the referee was the only timekeeper.

“This has been going on for 40 years,” Ross said from his home in Nairn, near Inverness in 2004. “Other people have been scoring hat-tricks and I have been sitting there knowing I did it in 90 seconds. This sets the record straight at last and I am totally delighted.”

Ross does not think his record will ever be beaten because of the time taken up these days by overly elaborate goal celebrations such as Carlos Tevez producing a baby’s dummy from his pants and Emile Heskey’s rarely-seen range of golf and dj based-creations.

“There was no kissing in those days,” Ross said. “When you scored, you just ran back to the halfway line, the captain patted you on the head and said, ‘well done, son’, and you got on with it. This will prob ably be very difficult to beat because the celebrations now take at least a minute and a half.”

We could not find any footage of Hayter’s three-goal feat but we have found James O’Connor scoring what he thought was a record-breaking hat-trick in 1967.

Come back this way tomorrow for a tale of David verses Goliath, except Goliath won.

February 23 – The Wizard of the Dribble

HOW many 50-year-old vegetarians have we got playing in the Premier League at the moment? Even David James, Mr. Longevity himself is still twelve years away from that. It takes a special kind of player to still be playing at the highest level when you hit your half-century, especially if you’re one of the those protein-dodging veggies. But that’s exactly what Sir Stanley Matthews, who died today in 2000, was.

For those of us too young to have seen Matthews in action, we were always told that he was the greatest footballer England has ever produced. Matches such as the ‘Matthews Final’ of 1953, where Sir Stan was at the heart of a Blackpool FA Cup Final comeback from 3-1 down with thirty minutes to go have passed onto English folklore. And quite right were those who sang his praises onto the next generation, as Matthews is arguably the greatest ever attacking player the British game has seen.

He was born in 1915, the son of a Stoke boxer who went by the fantastic nickname of ‘The Fighting Barber of Hanley’, but young Stanley would never be found throwing a punch on the pitch, as throughout his 700-odd game career he was never booked. Matthews started out at his home-town club of Stoke in 1932, where he would enjoy a fifteen year spell either side of World War II before spending fourteen years by the sea in Blackpool. His body kept on ticking until 1965, when he finally bowed out of English football, thirty-three years after his debut.

As well as being the oldest player to grace the top flight and represent the Three Lions, Matthews was also the first ever player to be knighted, when the Queen invited him to her gaff in 1965.

Sir Stanley was the most high-profile player of his day, helping the game develop into a mass spectator sport following the war. The only blot on his career is the lack of honours; Matthews could boast of just a solitary FA Cup win in 1953 and a second division title in 1963. But when you’ve got the likes of Pele queuing up to tell the world that Matthews was “the man who taught us the way football should be played”, then you know he was doing something right.

Check out some grainy footage of the man they called “The Wizard of the Dribble” here and make sure you hot-foot it this way tomorrow as, like Paul Gascoigne and tabloid headlines, we’ll be back tomorrow.

February 22 – King Kenny Throws in the Towel

FOR the benefit of our younger readers, believe it or not, but Liverpool used to be a very well run club, with the ‘Liverpool Way’ acting as a shining example of how to run a football club. There was none of this going-behind-their-back-and-talking-to-Germans lark, as they just let the gaffer get on with it. Despite this relative harmony, Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish decided enough was enough today in 1991, as he announced his unexpected retirement following the 4-4 FA Cup draw with Merseyside rivals Everton.

Dalglish is a bone fide Liverpool legend. Bob Paisley signed the Scotsman in 1977 for a record £440,000 to replace another of our OTFD faves Kevin Keegan. After scoring 167 goals in 269 games for the Bhoys Kenny was hot property and didn’t take long to settle in at Anfield. By the end of the first season he had netted 31 times, including the winner in the 1978 European Cup final, so he was soon hero-worshipped on the Kop.

All manner of medals and individual awards followed as King Kenny established himself as the fulcrum of one of the greatest club sides ever seen. Then came the Heysel disaster in 1985, prompting the resignation of manager Joe Fagan. Dalglish stepped up to become player-manager and after a trophy-less season in 1985/86 he set about building a new squad, signing the likes of Peter Beardsley, John Barnes, Alan Hansen and John Aldridge. Under Dalglish’s stewardship Liverpool romped to the 1987/89 title, going 37 matches unbeaten at the start of the season. A double was denied by Lawrie Sanchez and the Crazy Gang as Wimbledon pulled off on of the biggest FA Cup upsets of all-time.

Although Kenny lead the ‘Pool to their last league title in 1990, the strains were beginning to show. He hung up his boots at the end of this season but the stress of being in charge of the club following the Hillsborough disaster was evident and a nerve-wracking 4-4 draw with Everton proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. His departure rocked Liverpool, much like when Shankly called it a day in 1974. It was with a heavy heart that he threw in the towel, but he left as League Champions and among his finals acts was signing Jamie Redknapp and promoting the likes of Steve McManaman and Mike Marsh from the youth club’s youth side.

Despite going into ‘retirement’ Kenny soon got back into the management game, as Blackburn owner Jack Walker waved some of his hard-earned under the Scotsman’s nose and within four years he had taken Rovers from the Second Division to winners of the Premier League, albeit with the help of the chequebook. This was Dalglish’s ninth title as either player or manager, not too shabby.

In 1997, like a moth to a flame, Dalglish was drawn to the Newcastle job, the poor fool. Obviously, with St. James’ being the graveyard of many a-competent manager this didn’t turn out well and he was sacked after only twenty months. His last job was to pick up the pieces from the mess that John Barnes had made of Celtic in 2000, where he filled a gap for half a season before Martin O’Neil came in and started leaping around the touchline.

Despite getting linked with the occasional job every so often, Dalglish has resisted the call to tarnish his record further. See King Kenny in his pomp being fawned over below and don’t go changing as we’ll be right back here tomorrow.

February 21 – Duncan Edwards Passes Away

TWO weeks ago we brought you the story of the Munich air disaster, a tragedy that killed seven Manchester United players instantly. The shining light of that team was Duncan Edwards, United’s twenty one year old wing-half who died from his injuries today in 1958, 15 days after the crash.

Ask anyone of a certain age and they will tell you that Duncan Edwards would have undoubtedly been one of the greatest players England has ever produced. “George Best was something special, as was Pele and Maradona, but in my mind Duncan was much better in terms of all-round ability and skill,” said Tommy Docherty years later.

Born in Dudley, Edwards quickly rose through the ranks, representing his local and district teams, as well as finding time to be an integral part of his school’s morris dancing team. We don’t imagine that many of United’s current line-up shared Big Dunc’s extra-curricular activities. He soon became captain of the England schoolboy team and attracted the attention of the big clubs of the day such as United, Wolves and Aston Villa. Matt Busby went to visit a 15-year old Edwards at his home and convinced the youngster to sign on as an amateur for the Old Trafford side.

Edwards quickly settled in, becoming a staple of the youth team that won the first ever FA Youth Cup in 1953, also making his first-team debut that season when he became the youngster ever player to play in the English top-flight. Two more FA Youth Cups followed as Busby began to integrate this successful group into his aging first-team squad and they were soon to be known as the ‘Busby Babes’.

Off the pitch, Edwards was a very private individual, although he did find time to write a book entitled “Tackle Soccer This Way” and appeared in adverts for Dextrosol energy tablets. He was however, he was once fined two weeks wages by his club, but not for antics like last year’s United Christmas party, as in those days riding your bicycle without lights was just about the worst thing that footballers got up to.

By the end of the 1956/57 season Edwards had already racked-up 100 league appearances for United and had two Championship and an FA medal to his name. His physical presence, versatility and level of authority on the pitch showed a maturity beyond his years and lead to him becoming a regular in the England team and the favourite to replace Billy Wright as captain of the Three Lions.

In a perfect world we’d like to go on and tell you about his commanding role in England’s 1958 World Cup triumph, or Edwards leading out the national side at Wembley in 1966 as English football formed a dynasty with Edwards and the ‘Busby Babes’ at the heart of it, but alas, we cannot. Edwards survived the initial crash with multiple leg breaks, fractured ribs and severely damaged kidneys. As he clung to life he kept a sense of humour, asking assistant manager Jimmy Murphy: “What time is the kickoff against Wolves, Jimmy? I mustn’t miss that match”. In the end his kidneys failed and English football had lost one of it’s future greats. In the words of his friend and team-mate Bobby Charlton his death was “the biggest single tragedy ever to happen to Manchester United and English football”.

See the big man for yourself here and come back tomorrow another footballing history lesson.

February 20 – George is all Bunged Up

TODAY folks we are talking dodgy exchanges between people in motorway services car parks. No, it’s not Stan the man Collymore again, but that scourge of modern football that has been so hard to pin down: bungs.

We have already told you about the BBC’s half-arsed attempts to uncover a widespread culture of corruption – the only tangible result of which is that we have to make do with Joe Jordan’s post match thoughts on Match of the Day as ‘Arry won’t talk to the Beeb anymore. Obviously Big Sam Allardyce was operating a similar policy until Mike Ashley forced him to adopt a ‘not-having-a-job-anymore’ policy in January.

It was in this day in 1995 that the first bung scandal to hit English football kicked off when it emerged a Premier League enquiry had found Arsenal manager George Graham guilty of accepting a bung from Rune Hauge, a Norwegian agent.

The enquiry said Graham had received £425,000 in illegal payments in the transfers of Pal Lydersen and John Jensen to Arsenal.

Despite having led the club to a hat full of trophies including two league titles and the European Cup Winners’ Cup the Gunners board did not hesitate to sack Graham the day after the enquiry released its findings.

The board even discussed prosecuting their erstwhile manager but decided against it, instead leaving his punishment to the FA. Five months later they found him guilty of misconduct and gave him a world-wide year-long ban on working in football.

Despite being the only man to have been found guilty of taking illegal bungs in the history of the game, Graham did not find work hard to come by when his ban ended on June 30 1996 and Leeds snapped him up as their new boss after sacking the impossibly dull Howard Wilkinson.

At Elland road he proved he may have lost his integrity but not his managerial ability as he steered the club away from relegation danger and finished a very respectable fifth in his second season in charge.

Then he shocked the football world when he walked out on Leeds to take the reigns at Arsenal’s arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur in October 1998. Despite winning the League Cup just five months after he arrived at White Hart Lane the Spurs fans never took to him because of his Arsenal connections, and the Arsenal fans could not forgive him for taking the Spurs job in the first place, meaning he was now hated by both North London teams.

After a while Spurs chairman Daniel Levy wasn’t that keen on him either and after three years of failing to get the team a top-ten Premiership finish he was given the boot in 2001.

Despite being linked with a host of high profile jobs since then he has instead spent his Sunday afternoons offering expert analysis for Sky Sports and looking bored out of his face while doing it.

Graham remains the only man to have ever been found guilty of taking a bung despite rumours and investigations aplenty about many other well known names in the game. As entirely uncontroversial media-shy recluse Mike Newell said in 2006: “If George Graham is the only one guilty of taking a bung in the last 10 years, I would be absolutely amazed.”

And we had better leave it there or ‘Arry Redknapp and Big Sam will stop talking to us, but swing by this way tomorrow for more footballing blasts from the past.