Archive for May, 2008

May 31 – Sheva Sweeps into Stamford Bridge

IT cannot be denied that Jose Mourinho knows how to win and when he arrived at Chelsea he turned Claudio Ranieri’s happy bunch of players into a highly efficient trophy-gathering machine.

The players had their roles, all strictly controlled by the Portugeezer as part of his grand plan. The only thing lacking was a bit of style, a bit of elan, and apparently this was beginning to needle Red Rom the owner. The team also had only one striker in the shape of Didier Drogba. A good solution to both these problems was identified by Abramovich as being a small Ukranian man.

On this day in 2006 Chelsea broke the English transfer fee record when they signed Andriy Shevchenko from AC Milan. The exact figure they paid is not known but it is believed to be more than the £30m Rio Ferdinand cost Manchester United in 2002.

He said on signing: “I am here for the challenge and the excitement of the Premier League.

“I am going from one big club to another and joining a team of champions.

“There is a right moment to join a football club and I think I have arrived here at the perfect time.

“The Champions League has to be a realistic target for next season but it is not just about the Champions League. Chelsea is going for their third Premiership as well and I like the club’s mentality of wanting to win every game they play.

“I have followed Mr (Jose) Mourinho’s career carefully for the last few years and have been hugely impressed with the way he manages.”

Mourinho enthused in a similar vein: “Today is a day when the dream became reality. Andriy has always been my first choice for Chelsea since I arrived.

“Before it was not possible, now it is for real. He has great qualities, ambition, discipline, tactical awareness and of course he is a great goalscorer.

“I did not need to meet with him to convince him about Chelsea, in the same way we did not need to talk a lot about why I wanted him. Everybody knows him as a player, tactically he can play in the Chelsea system no doubt.”

The only problem was that, as long as Drogba was in the team, Sheva couldn’t really play in the Chelsea system which always worked best with only one striker and the suspicion abounded that the Ukranian captain was really Ambramovich’s signing rather than Mourinho’s.

As the weeks and the months of the new season went by Sheva’s expected goal avalanche never materialised and he began to look more and more like a marginal figure on the Chelsea bench.

Meanwhile his presence at the club was causing bigger problems when Avram Grant was brought in as Director of Football to work specifically with the mis-firing £30m man, without Mourinho’s approval. By mid September 2007 Jose had left the club and with Grant installed as manager in his place things perhaps looked up for Sheva who probably thought he might actually get a game.

It was not to be though and in January Grant spent £15m on Nicholas Anelka – not a good sign when Sheva himself couldn’t get in the team.

With Grant now given his marching orders as well it remains to be seen whether the new man in charge at Stamford Bridge will be able to coax any form out of the man who was one of the most lethal hit men in European football until he came to England. Have a look at the footage below to see the form Sheva used to show in a Milan shirt and come back tomorrow for more from us.

May 30 – Forest win in Europe

NOTTINGHAM Forest have just won promotion back to the Championship but nearly 30 years ago Brian Clough was leading them to the very top of the football world.

It was on this day in 1979 that the City Ground club won the first of their two European Cups when they defeated Swedish side Malmo 1-0 in the final at The Olympic Stadium in Munich.

When Clough was appointed in January 1975 Forest had just lost 2-0 to city rivals Notts County and finished 16th in Division Two in his first season in charge. In 1977 Clough and his trusted lieutenant Peter Taylor led the club to promotion to Division One and amazingly won the league the year after that.

With success at home the club now turned their attentions to Europe but hopes were not high when in the first round Forest were paired with favourites Liverpool. Former carpet-fitter and Long Eaton United striker, Garry Birtles had other ideas though and scored as Forest won the home leg 2-0, and held firm in the second game at Anfield to force a 0-0 draw.

AEK Athens and Grasshoppers of Zurich were dispatched to put Forest into the semi-finals where they came up against German champions Cologne. The Germans managed a 3-3 draw at the City Ground and the second leg looked to be a daunting prospect for the East Midlands team. Indeed, Cologne were so confident of a win that they had already printed the tickets and booked their hotel in Munich for the final.

Pride before a fall, and a brilliant defensive performance and an Ian Bowyer goal gave Forest the win they needed to take them to the final.

There they met Swedish team Malmo, managed by Englishman Bob Houghton and with a team made up entirely of players born in Malmo – a town with a less than 300,000 people. For once this meant that in a campaign of being the underdogs, Forest were now favourites for the final, especially as Malmo were shorn of six of their first team players because of injuries.

The Swedes tried to frustrate Forest, and did so until just before half-time when John Robertson beat two defenders and crossed to the far post for million-pound man Trevor Francis to head home and win the cup.

Clough had won surely the only European Cup final to be contested by two English managers. He said years later: “When I sit in my garden and close my eyes I can still see that moment in Munich when Robertson made his move. Peter Taylor stiffened beside me and grabbed my arm. Robertson is not far from the corner flag. Thee are half a dozen Malmo players in the box. Trevor Francis is hurtling towards the far post, and Robbo sends over the perfect cross. One – nil. Pass me the European Cup. Thank you.”

He added: “It wasn’t a great game but they were a boring team, Malmo. In fact the Swedes are quite a boring nation. But we still won, so who cares?”

Forest proved they were no one-hit-wonders the following season when they won the European Cup for a second time. Have a look at the match below and come back tomorrow for more historical musings from us.

May 29 – Busby’s Destiny Fulfilled

TEN years earlier his team had been ripped apart and he lay on a life support machine receiving his last rites. One can only imagine the emotions that Manchester United legend Matt Busby was feeling today in 1968, as he saw his rebuilt side become the first English team to lift the European Cup.

While the shock and anguish of the Munich disaster could never be dissipated, United knew that the best way to honour their fallen comrades was to build a team to match the 1958 vintage and that is exactly what they did.

Denis Law’s signature in 1962 was followed by the arrival a year later of the mercurial Northern Irishman George Best, who added style and panache to the United midfield. Chuck Munich survivor Bobby Charlton’s long range strikes in the mix and you had a “Holy Trinity” that no one got close to until Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo gave it a bash this season, with similar results.

A pulsating cup run had lead to an epic semi-final victory over Real Madrid, where a 3-3 draw in the second leg meant that United were the first English side to make it all the way to final where they would be backed by a partisan crowd at Wembley Stadium. Their opponents were to be Benfica, conquerors of Juventus thanks largely to the in-form Eusebio.

An estimated 250 million TV viewers watching across the world were treated to a scrappy first half as both teams tried to foul their way to the trophy. Bobby Charlton headed United into the lead in the second half, before a Jaime Graca equaliser brought the game into extra time.

Seven devastating minutes in the extra period was all it took for United to win the trophy. Best, Charlton and Brian Kidd all scored to make the final score 4-1 as United’s rebuilt side earned their place in United folklore.

Matt Busby, who stayed in the United hot seat for another season following the win would say: “This is the most wonderful thing that has happened in my life and I am the proudest man in England tonight.” The European Cup victory marked the pinnacle of Busby’s career and a knighthood soon followed. This was also the peak of George Best’s career, as he capped a European Football of the Year award in style.

See footage from a bouncing Wembley Stadium below and come back tomorrow for another slice of English European glory, as we won’t be seeing anymore this summer.

May 28 – We are the Champions, Champions of Europe

DURING the ’60s and ’70s Don Revie’s Leeds United team snarled and scrapped their way to just about every trophy that was on offer. The one exception was the European Cup, and they never came closer than today in 1975, when Leeds, now under the stewardship of Jimmy Armfield, lost a controversial final to Bayern Munich in Paris.

As is still often the case with Leeds, the 1974/75 season was eventful to say the least. Revie had left the club to take up the position of England manager the previous summer, and the Elland Road suits replaced him with Brian Clough. The season started with a bang when Billy Bremner and Kevin Keegan became the first players to be sent off at Wembley during Leeds’ Charity Shield clash with Liverpool. After 44 days of bickering, player revolt and an awful lot of swearing, Ol’ Big ‘Ead was out with a hefty pay off and Jimmy Armfield was in, as the Leeds players reacted badly to Cloughy’s bombastic style.

After a disappointing ninth place finish in the First Division, Leeds had a chance to complete their set of winners’ medals when they beat Barcelona to reach the European Cup final at Parc des Princes in Paris. “We wanted it for Don Revie,” said Bremner, as Leeds became the second English team to reach the final after Manchester United in 1968.

Standing in their way was Franz Beckenbauer’s Bayern Munich side that had lifted the trophy a year earlier, defeating another physical side, Atletico Madrid 4-0 in a replay. True to form, Leeds ensured that this was another rough and ready final, with Terry Yorath ploughing down Bjorn Andersson in the fourth minute and setting the tone for a bad-tempered 90 minutes.

Tasked with keeping order was Frenchman Michel Kitabdjian, whose name ranks up there with Peter Ridsdale and Eric Cantona for public enemy number one in West Yorkshire. Kitabdjian turned down two massive penalty appeals as Beckenbauer first handled the ball in the box, and then brought down Allan Clarke in a tackle that even Das Kaiser admitted should have been a spot kick.

There was more of the same in the second half, as Peter Lorimer’s fierce volley hit the back of the net, only to be ruled out for a dubious offside decision. Two late Bayern goals against a deflated Leeds side saw the German’s pick up their second of three consecutive European Cups, as Beckenbauer admitted “in the end we were winners, but we were very, very lucky.”

This was the last time that the remnants of Revie’s great side competed in Europe, as Leeds fans tore seats from the stands, throwing them on the pitch and clashing with police which earned the club a four year European ban, later reduced to two on appeal and a period of decline set in at Elland Road.

The feeling of injustice still burns brightly for Leeds fans who, even in the third division, can be found singing ‘We are the champions, champions of Europe’ at every game. Make your own mind up and see footage from the second most infamous night in Paris (hotel heirs notwithstanding) below and join us tomorrow for more tales of European glory tomorrow.

May 27 – Owen off the mark

WE are constantly being told the massive influx of foreign players to English football is having a negative effect on the national side, as the overseas players are restricting the opportunities for young homegrown players.

Without wishing to jump on any bandwagons, here at OTFD we are inclined to think there may just be something in that. Quite apart from the fact that England have not qualified for Euro 2008 we now find ourselves in a position where Peter Crouch is an England regular. We’ve got nothing against the lad and he certainly knows how to score, but England? Really?! Not so long ago he was kicking his heels in the Villa reserves while David O’Leary plotted to get rid of him.

Crouchie finds himself in the national setup because there really aren’t that many English strikers at the top of their game anymore. Centre-forward is not a position England have traditionally had trouble filling – indeed on the day of their greatest triumph at Wembley in 1966 Sir Alf made the very braze decision to leave Jimmy Greaves out of the team.

It was on this day in 1998 that one of England’s finest servants still to be playing forced his way into the reckoning for the England squad for the World Cup in France that year.

Michael Owen, then just 18, had already made his England debut in February 1998, and he was named as a sub for a friendly match against Morocco, part of Glenn Hoddle’s pre-World Cup preparations. The match got off to a bizarre start when a technical glitch meant there was no music for the national anthem. Not to be defeated, Captain Paul Ince stepped up to the plate and led his players in a rousing rendition of God Save the Queen without musical accompaniment. Good job Barnes wasn’t there or he might have tried rapping in the background.

Playing up front for England were Ian Wright and Dion Dublin but the former had to come off with a knee injury halfway through the first half. History beckoned for young Michael Owen who came on in his place and, in the 59th minute became the youngest player to score for England when he met a McManaman ball and scored past the Moroccan ‘keeper.

The goal cemented Owen’s place in the World Cup squad and we all know what would follow in the tournament itself. We could show you a clip of Owen’s first England goal, but we know that a look at his most famous is probably want you really want so have a look below at his strike against Argentina described by one of our favourite commentators, Barry Davies.

May 26 – Title Race Reaches Fever Pitch

A couple of weeks ago the Sky Sports hype-machine breathlessly told us that Manchester United and Chelsea’s tussle for the title was the closest and most exciting since the 1960s. Rubbish. Today in 1989 Arsenal and Liverpool played out the mother of all title deciders, when the Gooners stood between the scousers and a second league and FA Cup double in three years.

A fixture pile-up after the Hillsborough disaster had meant an extension to the season that saw Arsenal travelling to Anfield on a Friday night at the end of May, with Liverpool having already claimed the FA Cup. The league title was up for grabs and the maths was simple: Arsenal needed to win by two goals to clinch the title. Lord knows how much Richard Keys would have hyped this one.

Liverpool went into the clash having won their last ten home games and back in those days a 2-0 defeat at Anfield happened about as often as Drogba manages 90 minutes without losing his perennial battle against the forces of gravity.

A goal-less first half saw Arsenal dominate but fail to break the deadlock. Whatever George Graham said at half-time must have worked though, as the Gunners took the lead through an Alan Smith goal in the 52nd minute.

Proceedings then started to get a little bit tense. A long, grinding and above-all emotional season had effectively boiled down to ‘next goal wins’. With eighty seconds remaining an injury to Arsenal Kevin Richardson stopped play and as physio Gary Lewin was treating him the Liverpool fans started to chant “Champions, Champions!”

Steve McMahon informed his Liverpool team-mates that there was only a minute left, but when play restarted Michael Thomas began a driving run, cutting through the Liverpool midfield. “It’s up for grabs now,” Brian Moore declared to the millions watching at home as Thomas calmly chipped the ball over Bruce Grobbelaar, scoring one of the most iconic goals of all-time in the English game.

Arsenal had won their first title since 1971 and the days of Frank McLintock and Charlie George, whilst the defeat marked the beginning of a decline from Liverpool who haven’t won the league since.

The Gunners’ title win inspired Nick Hornby to pen ‘Fever Pitch’, one of the best football books ever written. See the final day drama pan out in the film adaptation here below and come back tomorrow for one of English football’s most groundbreaking days.

May 25 – Bobby’s Bogotá Bracelet Burglary Bust-up

THE summer of 1970 was an eventful one for Bobby Moore. He would lead the Three Lions in their unsuccessful defence of the World Cup in Mexico, producing ‘the greatest tackle ever’ when Jairzinho tried his luck in the classic clash against Brazil. Today in 1970 though, he was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons as he was accused of stealing a bracelet from a Colombian jewellers.

England were in Bogotá to play a warm-up game for the tournament when Moore and Booby Charlton had gone to find a gift for the Manchester United man’s wife, Norma. As the pair left the shop, the owner Danilo Rojas called the police, claiming that Moore had half-inched an emerald and diamond bracelet. It appeared that nothing would become of the incident, as neither of the players were arrested and both played in England’s 4-0 win over Columbia.

The team flew off to Quito in Ecuador for another friendly, but when their plane to Mexico stopped over in Columbia the squad were met with armed police who arrested Moore. The England captain was then placed under house arrest at the home of the Director of Columbian football, Alfonso Senior.

This wasn’t as bad as it could have been, as the two armed guards tasked with keeping an eye on him were too hungover to accompany him on his morning walks, making him promise he would return to the house.

Following a reconstruction Moore was eventually released as the case collapsed when it emerged that the tracksuit he was wearing didn’t have any pockets. Moore then hot-footed it to Mexico where he would play in the epic clash with Brazil, but couldn’t prevent his side crashing out to West Germany.

Since 1970 conspiracy theorists have searched for reasons why Moore was arrested, citing a plot to stop England winning the World Cup or that Moore was covering for one of his fellow players who swiped the bracelet. A recent investigation also suggested it was the work of a “woman with links to the underworld.”

We’re sure that, as Mulder and Scully would tell you, the truth is out there, but until we find out you can sit back and enjoy some of his finest moments and come back tomorrow for Nick Hornby’s favourite ever goal.

May 24 – Roy vs Mick

WHILE the 2002 World Cup is remembered by England fans for Beckham’s penalty against Argentina and David Seaman’s errant positioning in their final game against Brazil, for the Irish, one man’s name looms large over the whole tournament, and he didn’t even play in it.

It was today in 2002 that Roy Keane flew home from the Irish training camp in the far east after falling out with manager Mick McCarthy, goalkeeping coach Packie Bonner, senior players including Niall Quinn, Doris the tea lady and Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all.

The whole brauhaha kicked off when Keane’s less than complimentary views about his manager and the squad’s preparation for the competition were made public. By now looking to pick a fight, and without Alf-Inge Haaland anywhere in sight, Keane started a row with Packie Bonner and then tells McCarthy he wants to go home.

Despite McCarthy’s dislike of Keane he was now faced with the prospect of his captain and only true world-class player leaving the team in the lurch just days before their first match. He tries to persuade his player to stay, unsuccessfully at first, but Keane then decides he will stay and all is rosy.

With perfect timing, an interview with Keane was then published in the Irish Times detailing his criticisms of the team’s World Cup preparations, and a clear-the-air talk between the manager and his loose-cannon captain descended into a slanging match.

Roy is alleged to have said: “Mick, you’re a liar…you’re a f*cking w*nker. I didn’t rate you as a player, I don’t rate you as a manager, and I don’t rate you as a person. You’re a f*cking w*nker and you can stick your World Cup up your arse. The only reason I have any dealings with you is that somehow you are the manager of my country and you’re not even Irish you English c***! You can stick it up your bollocks.”

McCarthy was left with little choice but to send Keane home and called a press conference to announce it. “I cannot and will not tolerate being spoken to with that level of abuse being thrown at me so I sent him home,” he said, with some justification if the quote above is anything like accurate.

After flying home the media had a field day with the will he/won’t he go back to Japan saga. Keane, typically, was unrepentant. He said: “I don’t feel an ounce of guilt about my part in what has happened. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I don’t think I should be apologising. If anything, I believe the apologies are for others to apologise to me.”

He did agree with his former manager on one point though: “I don’t regret what I said, but at the same time I agree Mick had to send me home. A player cannot speak to a manager like that and continue to work under him. Of that charge, I am guilty.”

In the end he did not rejoin the squad and spent the World Cup walking his dogs if all that Sky Sports News footage is to be believed. Meanwhile Ireland did fairly well without him, going out to Spain on penalties after getting to the last 16.

We’ll leave you with some footage of Ireland’s World Cup campaign and don’t forget to come back tomorrow when we’ll be remembering more pre-World Cup problems, this time for England.

May 23 – England’s Record Loss

GOOD old England, just when you think they have hit rock bottom, they start digging. The first ever home loss to a side from outside the British Isles against the Mighty Magyars of Hungary in 1953 was a historic match that finally put an end to England’s unshakable belief in their own superiority.

The visiting side which contained Ferenc Puskas thrashed England 6-3 at Wembley to stun the hosts and confirm the Golden Team from Hungary as a genuine world force.

Eager to reclaim some credibility after that hiding England agreed to a rematch in Hungary the following year as a warm-up for the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland.

It was on this day that the two sides squared up in the Népstadion in Budapest. Rather than exacting any revenge over their Wembley conquerers England were again taught a footballing lesson and ended up on the wrong end of a 7-1 scoreline. It remains England’s heaviest ever defeat.

Mihály Lantos opened the scoring with just nine minutes played as the England side containing Billy Wright and Tom Finney must have collectively thought ‘here we go again.’

Puskas of course had his say, bagging a brace while Sándor Kocsis also got two. A goal each from József Tóth and the man who had scored a hat-trick at Wembley Nándor Hidegkuti made this the only match in which five different players have scored against the Three Lions.

Newcastle United’s Ivor Broadis’ name cut a lonely figure in the ‘Visitors’ section of the scoreboard after he scored England’s only goal in reply.

As well as proving the Wembley game was no fluke, the match also ensured Hungary were installed as favourites for the up-coming world cup.

While England were knocked out at the now traditional stage of the quarter-finals, Hungary did get all the way to the final before losing to West Germany 3-2, despite being 2-0 up at half time.

See the Mighty Magyars destroying England again below, and come back tomorrow when we’ll be right here with more time-wasting trivia for you.

May 22 – Juve’s Dutch Double

DESPITE being the best-supported club in Italy, with a fan base of over 11 million across the country and being able to boast of 28 Scudettos, Juventus have only managed to bring home Europe’s top prize twice. Compare this to AC Milan’s seven European Cups and it’s enough to give even the most ardent Juve fan a complex.

Today in 1996 The Old Lady picked her second European Cup, when the Turin side defeated Ajax on penalties at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

The clash was a rematch of the 1973 final, where Johan Cruyff had inspired the Dutch side to a 1-0 win in a match they dominated. Ajax also went into the match as the defending champions, their exciting young squad having disposed of AC Milan a year earlier.

Juventus, however weren’t to let the omens get to them, as they surged to an early lead when Fabrizio Ravanelli’s angled drive put the Italian’s in front, before a Jari Litmanen equaliser saw the teams go in to the half-time interval deadlocked. This was the way it would stay, as extra time and penalties beckoned. Gianluca Vialli was captaining the side in his last game before joining Chelsea on a Bosman and despite putting in a blockbusting performance he missed a golden opportunity to win the match in the 86th minute, shooting wide.

The Italian side could have been forgiven for being a tad worried about a penalty shoot-out. Two years earlier the national side had become the first to lose a World Cup final on penalties when Baggio missed against Brazil, and Roma had lost a European final on the same ground when Liverpool out-spot-kicked them in 1984.

Goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi didn’t let the demons put him off though, as he saved Edgar Davids’ and Sonny Silooy’s efforts as Juve won the shoot-out 4-2. The Italians then partied like never before, as their previous triumph in the competition was overshadowed by the Heysel disaster in 1985. Many fans and pundits in Italy failed to even recognise the win over Liverpool, saying the final should never have been played.

Under their Paul Newman lookalike manager Marcello Lippi Juve returned to the final in each of the next two years, but again flattered to deceive, losing them both to Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid respectively. Their record in the final currently reads played seven, lost five, enough togive them a tag of ‘bottlers’ in our book. After a Calciopoli-enforced break from the Champions League, the Bianconeri will be back next season, hoping to improve on their record in Europe’s premier competition. Ajax meanwhile, saw their mid-90s renaissance cut short, as the Bosman ruling ripped apart their squad.

Watch the penalty drama in it’s entirety below and come back here tomorrow for you daily dose of football history.