Archive for April, 2008

April 30 – Sir Alf Sacked

FOOTBALL, as we all know is a fickle game. One moment you can be on top of the world, the next down and out. Today in 1974 it was the turn of Sir Alf Ramsey to hit rock bottom, as the FA sacked the man who had brought the World Cup home.

Since Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966, Sir Alf didn’t have the best of times with the national side. The Auld Enemy ensured that any world champion bragging rights were ended when Scotland defeated the Three Lions 3-2 at Wembley in 1967 and a mixture of injured goalies, stolen bracelets and German efficiency put paid to any hopes of defending their crown in Mexico in 1970.

The Ramsey regime was starting to look a little shaky by the time the 1974 World Cup qualification campaign took place. England limped their way to a last-game showdown with Poland in October 1973, where only a win would be enough for them to book their place at the big show.

As we’ve previously told you, Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomawzewski had a career-defining match, and the Ramsey Out! campaign got into full swing.

The seeds of Ramsey’s departure however, had been planted long before that fateful night at Wembley. Sir Alf had annoyed the old school elements of the FA by abolishing the archaic International Selection Committee when he took charge, giving him more power in the role than any of his predecessors.

During his ten-year spell in the job Ramsey had also developed a bad relationship with the press, especially after the ‘animals’ incident against Argentina in the 1966 World Cup. This, coupled with his perpetually solemn demeanour, didn’t make him too many friends amongst his bosses, with FA vice-Chairman Sir Harold Thompson particularly having it in for him.

Thompson had written a confidential report on the future of the England team in 1972 that slagged Ramsey off and he was at it again in February 1974, when he convened a five-man FA subcommittee “to consider our future policy in respect of the promotion of international football.” This was a nice way of saying ‘thanks for the memories Sir Alf.’

After he received the boot Sir Alf had admiring glances thrown his way from the likes of Athletic Bilbao, Ajax and Aston Villa, but didn’t return to football until January 1976, when he joined the Birmingham board, but by after a couple of years he left and was done with football. He spent the rest of his days in Ipswich, where he died in 1998.

Here at OTFD we feel sorry for the man who delivered England’s only major trophy, so we’ll show some cracking Pathe footage of the famous day in the sun at Wembley in 1966. Enjoy that, and come on over tomorrow for more reminiscing.

April 29 – Got Your Number

IN the playground or the park, jumpers for goalposts, everyone always wants to be the Number 9 when they have a bit of a kick about.

Fans in the early part of the last century and before would have had no such numerical preference because it was on this day in 1933 that the first match took place with all players wearing numbers on their backs.

The idea of allocating players numbers had been around since the mid 1920s when both Arsenal and Chelsea had toyed with the format on an informal basis but there were concerns that numbers would spoil the club’s strip.

By the 1930s the FA were getting on board with the idea as identifying players for both officials and spectators was becoming more important.

They chose the 1933 FA Cup final at Wembley to experiment with the plan and duly issued the Everton and Manchester City players a number each.

Although the notion of certain positions being assigned certain numbers was already around the FA went slightly left field here and gave each player on the field a different number. Everton were given numbers 1 to 11, with Man City wearing 12 to 22.

Two goals from Dixie Dean and another from Jimmy Stein gave Everton a 3-0 win over a Man City side featuring a young Matt Busby.

The experiment was deemed a success and formally adopted by the Football League Management Committee in 1939 and the system went international for the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland where each member of the squad was assigned a number, 1 to 22.

Since the inception of shirt numbers almost every team and squad have based their allocation on playing positions so a goalkeeper will always have number 1, a striker number 9 and so on. A notable exception to this convention is the Argentine national team of the 1978 and 1982 World Cups who distributed their numbers alphabetically resulting in Ossie Ardiles wearing number 1 at the 1982 competition.

A couple of numbers are of course sacred because of the players associated with them, Johan Cruyff with number 14 and Maradona with number 10. As far as we have been able to establish, only one player has ever worn number 0 on his shirt: Hicham Zerouali was a Moroccan footballer who played for Aberdeen from 1999 who was nicknamed ‘Zero’ by the Dons fans.

Tragically Zerouali was killed in a car crash in December 2004 aged just 27 and the club have since retired the number 0 in his honour.

Meanwhile Milan offered to retire Paolo Maldini’s number 3, but he has given consent for his sons to adopt the number 3 shirt if either of them play professionally for the club.

Well that was all a bit numberwang but tomorrow we will be back with the demise of England’s football equivalent of Winston Churchill.

April 28 – White Horses Couldn’t Drag Me Away

WHEN the new Wembley Stadium opened (eventually) last year it was a pretty civilised affair; England versus Brazil on a Friday night and a good time was had by all. This contrasts greatly to the scenes of today in 1923, when Wembley hosted it’s first ever match. In what would be known as the White Horse Final, chaos ensued, but one of English football’s most iconic figures would save the day.

What used to be known as the Empire Stadium was built with one eye on the 1924 British Empire Exhibition and the other on football’s recent surge in popularity. Thousands of fans had complained that they had been able to see much of the 1913 FA Cup final after they had packed into the Crystal Palace stadium, so the Twin Towers were constructed at a cost of £750,000 and finished four days before the 1923 final where Bolton took on West Ham.

Wembley had a capacity of 127,000 but two hours before the game the terraces were full, with thousands still flooding through barriers and into the stadium. When King George V rocked up at 2.45pm, it was estimated that around 300,000 of his loyal subjects were squeezed into the ground, covering every blade of grass on the pitch.

There’s not many other places in the world where an unruly mob would manage to compose themselves to stand and sing the national anthem, but 1920′s London managed exactly that. The next task was to clear the pitch and get on with the game, which is where our hero comes in.

Billie, contrary to the apocryphal tale that has ensued, was in fact a grey horse, ridden by PC George Scorey. Poor old George was actually supposed to be enjoying his day off, but like all good heroes he took the call when word got out about the events in north London.

On the grainy black and white footage from the day, Billie stands out like an almost mythical stallion, dispersing the crowd as the game got ready to kick off, only 45 minutes late.

Fans packed in pitchside as Wembley’s first cup final kicked off and it didn’t take long for the first goal to go in. After two minutes a West Ham player had to delve into the crowd to fetch a misplaced pass and ended up getting swallowed up by the mob. As he fought his way out, Bolton forward David Jack was scoring the first ever goal at the Twin Towers, putting Bolton 1-0 up, with a shot that actually knocked out a spectator that was leaning against the goal net.

Both sides had to stay on the pitch at half-time, as trying to reach the tunnel would have involved twenty minutes of ‘excuse me, kind sir’ while they battled through the crowds. Jack Smith put the game to bed for Bolton early in the second half, but this goal was also subject to intervention from the crowd, as many eye-witnesses saw a boot from the huddled masses keep the ball in play in the lead up to the goal.

Following the madness of that famous day, the FA decided that all future cup finals should be all-ticket affairs and in 2006 the footbridge that leads to the rebuilt Wembley Stadium was named the White Horse Bridge in honour of football’s most famous horse. Watch scenes from that fateful day below and come back here tomorrow for some more retro cup action.

April 27 – KK Goes Bonkers

He would have loved it if they’d beaten them, loved it. Yes it was on this day in 1996 that surely the best moment on Sky Sports television occurred when Kevin Keegan went bonkers live on TV after his Newcastle team had just beaten Leeds.

In what has since become footballing legend, KK lost it in response to comments made by Manchester United manager Sir Alex ‘mind game’ Ferguson, who had suggested that other teams might not try as hard when playing Newcastle as they did against United.

Keegan’s outburst came in the context of a close battle for the Premiership title between his Newcastle side, and Ferguson’s United team.

Seemingly holding back the tears, Kevin ‘wears his heart on his sleeve’ Keegan responded to Ferguson’s comments:

“When you do that with footballers like he said about Leeds… I’ve kept really quiet, but I’ll tell you something: he went down in my estimation when he said that – we have not resorted to that. But I’ll tell ya – you can tell him now if you’re watching it – we’re still fighting for this title, and he’s got to go to Middlesbrough and get something, and… and I tell you honestly, I will love it if we beat them – love it.”

Unfortunately for KK, Newcastle, and probably most neutrals, they couldn’t do it, and despite holding a 12 point lead over United at one point, they couldn’t hold on and Man United clinched the title.

We would’ve loved it too Kev.

April 26 – Goodnight Newton Heath

IF you ever need to wind up a Manchester United fan (and lets face it, we all need to let rip every so often), then tell them that the Red Devil’s were founded by a scouser; and a St Bernard dog is responsible for their existence, which kicked in today in 1902 when Newton Heath changed their name to Manchester United.

The world’s most famous clubâ„¢, came about when a team of bored railway workers lead by a Liverpudlian, decided that Saturday afternoons could be spent better than in the pub watching the 1880′s version of Soccer Saturday (substitute Le Tiss and Merson for Friedrich Nietzsche and Fyodor Dostoevsky, if that would work. Big if, mind).

The Newton Heath Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Football club was established, playing in green and yellow strip, with the Heathen’s bagging some promising Lancashire Cup results, winning the local competition in 1898.

All you fact-fans will be interested that Newton Heath scored the first ever Football League penalty, when from the class of 1891, Alfred Farman , buried his spot kick in the back of the Blackpool net.

Despite success in regional contests it was starting to look gritty for Newton Heath at the turn of the 20th century. In 1902 bankruptcy reared it’s ugly head, with debts of £2,500 facing the Heath. Fundraising events ensued, and captain Harry Stafford hit the jackpot when his lovable St. Bernard dog caught the eye of a local industrialist J H Davis, who wanted to buy the pet for his daughter. Stafford convinced Davis to go one better and buy the club itself, ending their financial woes.

It didn’t take long for Davis to assert his control over the club, with an early board meeting rejecting the ideas of renaming the club ‘Manchester Central’ and ‘Manchester Celtic’ in favour of young Italian immigrant Louis Rocca’s idea of Manchester United.
A fair bit of trophy-winning history would ensue, but a few holes would soon appear.

The Manc’s had risen the ranks and by 1886 they had blagged their way into the fledging FA Cup competition. A battle against Fleetwood ensured, with the sides sweating out a 2-2 draw after 90 minutes. Like a Victorian Roy Keane, skipper Jack Powell refused to play extra-time, arguing with the referee, and storming off the pitch. The Heathern’s were holding out for a replay, but the FA weren’t forthcoming, leading to Heath pulling out of the competition until 1898. Sound familiar?

It’s been rumoured that 5% of the world’s population are Man Utd fans, so enjoy some retro footage below and come back for our favourite moment of the 1990′s tomorrow.

April 25 – Unbelievable Jeff!

IF you can’t make it to the game on a Saturday afternoon the only thing to do is head to the pub, get in a couple of pints and let Super Jeff Stelling guide you through the afternoon’s action.

Jeff is one of the unexpected stars of the Sky Premier League era, he has amassed a cult following among fans and he has even spawned a Facebook group with more than 55,000 members.

Apart from being the consummate pro and keeping everyone up to date with all the goings on up and down the footballing map Jeff’s genius lies in his cheesy dad jokes which he trots out every week come rain or shine.

One of his favourite lines centres around a team from the Welsh border: “They’ll be dancing in the streets of Total Network Solutions tonight” he exclaims whenever the team win.

It was on this day in 2006 that the club put one of Jeff’s favourite catchphrases at risk by putting up their naming rights for auction on Ebay.

The club was originally founded as Llansantffraid FC to represent the tiny border village of Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain (population: 1,000) in 1959, and played at the Recreation Ground. Over the following years the club enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks of Welsh football culminating in a Welsh Cup win in 1996.

They then signed a sponsorship deal with a computer firm from nearby Owestry to become Total Network Solutions Llansantffraid FC, and they dropped the ‘Llansantffraid’ part in 1997. The became the first club in the UK to be renamed entirely to a sponsor’s name only.

In 2003 the club merged with Owestry Town FC who, despite being from over the border in England, played their football in Wales but in 2006 the club was forced into another change.

Total Network Solutions was bought by British Telecom and a new main sponsor and name had to be found so the club turned to Ebay to auction off the name of the club.

TNS founder Mike Harris said his company had benefited immeasurably from sponsoring the club since 1997.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for a company to raise their profile, increase brand recognition and gain market share in the chosen sector,” said Harris.

“It worked like a charm for me,” he added, presumably while trying to stuff a few more £50 notes from BT into his wallet.

In the end no one fancied becoming the new subject of Stelling’s best joke as the reserve price was not met and the club had to come up with their own name. They settled on The New Saints FC which as well as handily retaining the initials TNS, was also a nod to the history of the original club Llansantffraid who were known as The Saints.

As well as being a reference to the fact that Total Network Solutions is obviously not a place, Stelling’s joke also has historical basis and is a tip of the hat to BBC commentator Sam Leitch who reacted to a Raith Rovers win in the 1960s with the words: “They’ll be dancing in the streets of Raith tonight!” Being a Scotsman Sam really should have known Raith is actually not a town but the site of a battle, with the club based in Kirkcaldy.

Here are some of the best moments from Jeff and his motley crew on Soccer Saturday and we will be back tomorrow for another name-changing story, unless we are busy dancing in the streets of Harchester.

April 24 – That’s my boy

GREETINGS dear reader and join us in our quest for historical football knowledge as we head to two unlikely places for today’s entry.

The first is Iceland, famous for Bjork, geysers and, ummm, well Bjork and geysers anyway. This Nordic country is the homeland of our protagonists, namely Arnór Gudjohnsen and his son Eidur, and it was on this day in 1996 when the father and son duo made history when Arnór was substituted in an Iceland national team match with his son Eidur replacing him.

They are the only father and son to have ever played for their country during the same game and the record breaking feat occurred in today’s other improbable location: Tallinn, capital city of Estonia, when the home side were facing Iceland in a friendly.

Arnór was 34 at the time and playing for Swedish side Örebro SK, while young Eidur was 17 and on the books at PSV Eindhoven. For all you stat fans out there, Iceland beat Estonia 3-2, with Arnór getting on the score sheet.

At the time it was assumed that Gudjohnsen senior and junior would soon both appear on the pitch together for Iceland but events conspired to prevent them from ever achieving the feat. Eidur suffered a bad ankle injury soon after the game in Estonia which ruled him out for the next two seasons, during which time his dad retired from the game.

Both regret not being able to play together for their country.

Arnór said: “It was my dream to play with him in the national team. It was very special, I had been in the national team for almost 18 years and suddenly my son was at the hotel with me.”

Eidur said: “We got close. It was very strange, it’s very different sitting in the dressing room and having your father there as well getting changed.

“It was a great experience but as well its one of my biggest regrets in my footballing career that we never actually played together or were on the pitch at the same time.”

Never mind Eidur, your incredible life as an international superstar millionaire footballer playing for one of the most prestigious clubs in the world will probably soften the blow.

See the big moment below (you might want to skip to 5mins 30secs to see the actual incident) and come back tomorrow for more from us.

April 23 – The FA Cup Leaves England

WITH it being St. George’s Day, it would surely be apt to tell you a story of a triumphant, rousing English performance, but instead today is the day that the FA Cup was taken out of the country for the first – and so far only – time, as Cardiff beat Arsenal 1-0 in the 1927 FA Cup Final.

Cardiff City had only been in the Football League for seven years, yet they had made their presence felt, finishing second on the league in 1924 and reaching the 1925 cup final, where they lost 1-0 to Sheffield United.

Arsenal, meanwhile, were looking quite tasty themselves. Under the tutorledge of Herbert Chapman and star player Charles Buchan they were setting about building a team that would dominate the 1930′s, and started the final as strong favourites.

Cardiff were lead by skipper Fred Keenor, and featured 19-year old left winger Ernie Curtis who was the youngest player to ever play in the cup final. Filling out their motley crew was goalkeeper Tom Farquarson who, rumour had it, was a member of the IRA and always carried a gun with him.

Broadcast live on the radio for the first time, the game itself was a cagey affair that saw both defences dominate until Arsenal keeper Dan Lewis (not a member of any terrorist organisation) had a moment to forget. In the 74th minute Hughie Ferguson struck a low, tame shot towards the goal that Lewis looked to have under control. As Len Davies advanced, the ball squirmed under Lewis who ended up elbowing the ball into the net.

Cardiff held on for a famous win and when Keenor received the trophy from George V he took it off English soil for the first time. As luck would have it, the Bluebirds have the chance to repeat their 1927 heroics when they face Portsmouth in this year’s final. And it would appear that today is one of those days when the footballing planets are in a strange alignment, causing all manner of coincidences, as Pompey are today celebrating the anniversary of their first title win in 1949. What does all this mean for 17th May this year? No idea.

See Dan Lewis’ moment of madness below and like John Prescott’s breakfast, we’ll be back in the morning with more of the same.

April 22 – Big Ron Bites The Bullet

HE was one of the old school, a perma-tanned sheepskin-jacketed relic in the dugout. Unfortunately, today in 2004 Ron Atkinson proved that his views were also stuck in the past as he had to abandon his many media commitments following his racist comments over Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly.

Big Ron was one of the country’s favourite pundits, with his mixture of insider knowledge and “Ronglish” talk of lollipops, spotters’ badges and Hollywood balls. But the consummate professional he was not – rule one of broadcasting is surely watch what you say near a live mic.

Chelsea had just lost 3-1 to Monaco in a Champions League semi-final first leg, much to the frustration of Big Ron. Having assumed ITV’s coverage was over, he began to wax lyrical about the performance of Chelsea’s centre-half. However, he was still on air to several countries in the Middles East, including Dubai and Egypt when he uttered the phrase: “He’s what is known in some schools as a f***ing lazy n***er.”

A day later came the apologies and the resignations from ITV and the Guardian. “I made a stupid mistake which I regret. It left me no option but to resign. At the moment I can’t believe I did it,” he grovelled.

The reaction to Atkinson’s comments was far reaching, as the story was all over the press, and he was condemned from everyone from football’s anti-racism campaign Kick It Out to the Commission for Racial Equality.

There were endless debates as to whether Big Ron was a bone fide racist or not. His West Brom team in the late ’70s and early ’80s were the first to field three black players simultaneously, as Brendon Batson, Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille Regis became known as the ‘Three Degrees’.

This argument looks a bit silly though, when you look at some of Atkinson’s other comments. He called Roma forward Francesco Totti a ‘little twat’ live on German TV and later in 2004 he made remarks about Chinese women being the ugliest in the world before making a joke about how they didn’t understand contraception.

Needless to say, this incident was the death-knell for Big Ron’s high-profile media career. The closet he’s got to those ITV Champions League nights is a spot in Dictionary Corner on Countdown and a documentary on Sky called ‘Big Ron Manager’ where he attempted to troubleshoot at Peterborough United, which was, to be honest, rubbish.

See him attempting to rebuild his career on Irish TV (and doing very badly) below and head over here for more reminiscing tomorrow.

April 21 – United Stun Juventus

WHILE Sir Alex Ferguson will be delighted when his team win the Premier League again this season (which they surely will), what would give the Scot greater pleasure would be to win the Champions League for a second time.

Despite United’s domination of domestic football in England they have under achieved in Europe, but on this day in 1999 they took a giant step towards winning the trophy when they beat Juventus in Italy in the semi final second leg to seal their place in the final.

The first leg at Old Trafford had ended 1-1 with Juve grabbing a precious away goal and things looked extremely bleak for United after just 11 minutes of play of the second leg after Filippo Inzaghi put the home side 2-0 up.

Thereafter the United players put in the game of their lives to seal a 3-2 win in the best comeback since Lazarus. Captain Roy Keane epitomised the spirit of the team with a virtuoso performance, including United’s opening goal. His display was even more impressive given that he was booked early on in the match meaning he would miss out on the final.

United’s equaliser came on 34 minutes from Dwight Yorke and with just nine minutes left they had the tie sewn up when Andy Cole netted the winner.

In a cracking game, Jaap Stam had to clear off the line for United, Inzaghi had a goal ruled out for offside, while both Denis Irwin and Dwight Yorke hit the post.

The result meant United were in the final for the first time since 1968, when Sir Matt Busby’s side won the trophy. They also became the first English club to reach the final in 14 years.

Bobby Charlton, a hero of 1968 game, paid tribute to the team, and said: “Everybody was fantastic tonight. Who would have thought after two down we’d come back like that?”

Most people probably thought that would be the best comeback United would muster in the competition that season but apparently they did rather well in the final against Bayern Munich, but that’s another story.

Here are some good highlights of the match in Turin with all the talking points, and we will be back tomorrow with more footballing blasts from the past.