Archive for August, 2008

August 31 – Dodgy Hammers

IT all seemed a bit fishy right from the start. When West Ham United announced the double signing of two of the world’s most coveted young players to a stunned football world, the pundits were soon pontificating on the finer details and ramifications of the deal.

Argentine World Cup stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano were unveiled to the press as the newest members of the Hammers squad on this day in 2006.

But how had the club pulled off such a coup? And why had the young players with the world at their feet chosen the Boleyn Ground as their new home when they could have had the pick of any of Europe’s top teams?

As the opposing footballer/manager refrain goes, no disrespect to West Ham, but they were not one of Europe’s biggest clubs at the time. Indeed, they had only won promotion back into the Premiership a season earlier.

With Alan Pardew at the helm the club had finished an excellent 9th in the Premier League, and been just a few penalty kicks away from lifting the FA Cup in their first season back in the big time, but they were still some way short of the very top of the football tree.

A West Ham spokesman said: “The pair have been signed for an undisclosed fee and put pen-to-paper on permanent contracts with the club this afternoon. All other aspects of the transfers will remain confidential and undisclosed.

“The transfers represent a massive coup for the Hammers, who have beaten off some of Europe’s biggest clubs to secure the services of the duo.”

As it turned out, there were very good reasons why “all other aspects of the transfers will remain confidential and undisclosed,” namely, that the players’ ownership was not entirely above board, which would come back to haunt the club later with a £5.5m fine from the Premier League – though many thought they were lucky to avoid a points deduction which would have meant certain relegation.

Meanwhile, the new signings explained their reasons for joining the club, with Tevez claiming he was already a West Ham fan, thanks to his friendship with Lionel Scaloni.

He said: “Other clubs in the Premier League and Europe were interested in us but when we met Alan Pardew he made us both really feel wanted.

“I had followed the club quite a bit last season because I am a close friend of Lionel. We watched every West Ham game in Argentina because of our friendship and he spoke very highly of the club, its supporters and the manager.”

Mascherano was also keen to stress his knowledge of his new club, but perhaps stretched it a bit far when he said: “I know of Anton Ferdinand – he is talked about a lot in Argentina as a great player of future.”

Having been blindsided by the whole transfer, football’s so-called experts began having their say on the deal, with speculation rife that the players would be moved on to bigger clubs after just one season with the Hammers.

Hammers media spokesman Phil Hall rejected this saying: “There is no way West Ham would act as a feeder club for others,” before leaving the door just slightly ajar: “These are exciting signings for us but, of course, if we were offered major fees for the players in the future we would have to consider it – just as we would with other players.”

The new players were supposed to take West Ham to the mythical ‘next level’ that every football fan believes their club should be aspiring too, but the dream quickly turned sour. Amid rumours that squad morale had been crippled by the high-profile arrivals, West Ham’s form nose-dived after they turned up, with eight consecutive defeats.

Mascherano was not even being played, and after a takeover of the club Pardew was sacked, with Alan Curbishley brought in to try to keep the team up. Despite the earlier claims of Phil Hall, Mascherano was shipped out on loan to Liverpool in January never to return, barely six months after joining the club.

Tevez meanwhile stayed on just long enough to secure Premiership survival with the only goal in an unlikely 1-0 away win at Manchester United on the last day of the season. He left for Old Trafford soon after to bring to a close one of the strangest transfer deals ever seen in English football.

Here is Tevez scoring the goal that kept the Hammers up, and we will be back tomorrow with memories of a really rather good night in Munich. Also on this day, a young scouser was proving loyalty in modern football really is just for the romantics.

August 30 – Tino’s Off

THERE is a really rather good discourse here on why Tino Asprilla, contrary to popular opinion, was not actually responsible for Newcastle United losing out on the title in 1996.

After apparently not derailing the Toon title bid and then leaving St James’ Park in 1998 most English football fans probably thought they had heard the last of the Columbian striker, but he was back on the radar in the most unlikely way in 2002.

One-time Darlington chairman and former safe-cracker George Reynolds was throwing his money about at the turn of the millennium and even built a 25,000 seat stadium for Darlo’s 4,000 regulars to watch their team in, modestly naming it the Reynolds Arena.

Reynolds had promised Premiership football to the Quakers fans and part of his strategy for achieving it was recruiting former big-time players. First he tried to bring in Paul Gascoigne but when that failed, he turned to former Magpie Asprilla, who he said was a personal friend.

The news of a potential deal rippled across the football landscape to disbelief everywhere – not least Darlington where Scott Thornberry, editor of the fan website Darlo Uncovered said: “We’ve been crying out for a goalscorer since Marco Gabbiadini left. But we never expected somebody like Faustino Asprilla. When people said it was going to be a big name we thought maybe it would be Luke Beckett.”

The move hit problems straight away when the player was not granted a work permit but the club appealed, and after Home Office officials had stopped laughing, they granted the visa.

All was looking good for the deal but it was on this day in 2002 that it all finally fell apart. Tino had been due at the club for a medical before signing on the dotted line, but twice he postponed and Darlo were forced to admit the game was up when Tino boarded a flight out of Newcastle, never to return. He had another offer on the table from a Middle Eastern club and apparently decided the hot weather was too good to turn down.

“We made him a fantastic offer and I thought it was all in place. I am absolutely devastated,” Reynolds told Sky Sports at the time.

“We’re friends, myself and Faustino. I wined and dined him – but he knew about this alternative offer two to three days ago.

“He did not even have the decency to say goodbye. We offered him 20% of the gate receipts, plus salary, plus a car, plus a flat rent free.

“I’ll never ever talk to him again. He’s completely sunk me.”

Perhaps Tino simply looked at the fixtures list and thought life in the English Third Division was not for him: his first match with the Quakers would have been a champagne glamour tie with Kidderminster Harriers (a 1-1 draw in the end, since you ask).

Here is a little look at Tino’s time with the Magpies (with a little Darlo mention at the end from Wee Gordon Strachan). We will of course be back with more tomorrow, and this was us last year on this day.

August 29 – Football in Mourning

BILL Shankly once said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

While this has gone down as one of the most famous football quotes there’s ever been, many believe Shanks was taken out of context and after events like those today in 2007 the game of football is put back into perspective.

Zambian international Chaswe Nsofwa died during a training match that took place in Beersheba, Israel. The 28-year-old striker died from sudden heart failure during a training match for his new side Hapoel Beersheba following his two-goal debut the week before.

As a mark of respect the club have since retired the number six shirt in his honour. Nsofwa’s death came at the end of a truly grim 10 days for football, as the sport was reeling from the loss of three other players that were cut down in their prime.

Sevilla’s 22-year-old left-back Antonio Puerta died on 28 August, three days after suffering a series of cardiac arrests during their game with Getafe. This came in the same week of 16-year-old Walsall youth team player Anton Reid died in training and also saw another promising youngster, QPR’s Ray Jones killed in a car crash at the age of 18.

Another player, Sunderland’s Clive Clarke who was on loan at Leicester, had two heart failures in a League Cup tie against Nottingham Forest, but was stabilised in the dressing room before being taken to hospital.

Clarke later recounted: “When you think about Sevilla player Antonio Puerta, it goes without saying that a day won’t pass when I don’t cherish every moment in my life.”

Rarely has their been a week in football where the troubles you face being an average football fan paled into insignificance, and Shankly’s words sounded so hollow.

See footage of the Sevilla side paying tribute to their fallen team-mate, Antonio Puerta in their first match since his death, against Milan in the European Super Cup below and find out what else happened today here.

August 28 – Fergie Gets Pally

AT the start of his reign Alex Ferguson was scratching his head and trying to figure out how to deliver the League title back to Old Trafford for the first time since 1967. As he often does, he decided that he needed to throw money at the problem and today in 1989 he broke the English record between two English clubs by paying £2.3m for Middlesbrough centre-back Gary Pallister.

By 1989 Fergie had almost been at Manchester United for three years and a lack of trophies meant that he was feeling the pressure. Pallister meanwhile was establishing himself as one of the best young defenders in the country at crisis-hit Boro that had seen the gates at their Ayresome Park ground padlocked by liquidators and only avoided folding in 1986 when board member Steve Gibson stumped up £350,000 for League registration ten minutes before the deadline.

Pallister had been instrumental in the club clawing their way back up to the leagues, as he forged a formidable partnership at the back with now-West Brom manager Tony Mowbray. Financial problems still loomed over Boro and they were relegated from the First Division in 1989 after a season of rumours linking Pallister with United. The drop meant that Pallister’s move was inevitable and help the Smoggies live to fight another day.

At United Pallister wasted no time in forming one of the best central defensive partnerships seen in years, as he hit it off with fellow north-easter Steve Bruce and the foundation for United’s resurgence was formed.

United’s title drought was ended in 1993, with Pallister at the defensive heart of the side. During his spell at Old Trafford three more titles followed, as did three FA Cups, a League Cup and a European Cup Winners’ Cup.

In one his worse decisions Pallister left United in 1998, the season before they would win their historical treble, but the man remained pretty philosophical about it, saying: “I might have made a mistake that could have lost United the treble.”

Instead of featuring in ‘that night in Barcelona’ as Mr Tyldesley occasionally calls it, Pally was back at Boro where he played out his final three years before retiring in 2001.

There’s a distinct lack of Pally action on YouTube, so see if you can spot him in United’s 1996 FA Cup Final song, which is undoubtedly the worst ever football song we’ve put on OTFD, leaving the likes of Guillet, Hoddle and Waddle trailing in it’s wake. If we haven’t offended your eardrums too much then have a gander at what we were on about last year here and join us tomorrow for more history lessons.

August 27 – Stam out

WHILE Manchester United fans have known it for a long time, only in the past few months has Sir Alex Ferguson finally admitted that selling Jaap Stam was a mistake.

The big Dutchman was the rock of United’s defence and in his three seasons at Old Trafford he helped the club win the Premiership three times, the FA Cup, and the European Cup. In the season immediately after Stam left, the club won absolutely nothing, while Stam went on playing at the highest level until last season.

It was today in 2001 that Stam was unveiled to the press as a Lazio player after Fergie got rid of him.

In the summer of 2001 Stam had released one of those pesky books that always seem to get footballers into so much trouble. His literary effort Head to Head had a few too many juicy details for Fergie’s liking, mainly that the Old Trafford boss had illegally ‘tapped up’ Stam when he was at PSV.

Stam also laid into his fellow players, and made the fatal error of sticking the knife in to Manchester United fixtures Gary and Phil Neville.

All this, coupled with some dodgy form in the early part of the season and suspicions over Stam’s powers declining after an operation led to Fergie shipping him out to Lazio for £16.5m.

Ferguson always said the book was nothing to do with the transfer and said the finances of the deal were too good to turn down. He said: “We have spent a lot of money this summer and obviously there was no more available. This, though, was a decision I just felt I had to carry through.”

Stam was out, and Fergie once again asserted his authority over the club that he ruled with an iron fist. Although the club won nothing in the year after Stam left, and his replacement Laurent Blanc had a less than distinguished two seasons at Old Trafford, Fergie had maintained his stance that no player is bigger than the club.

For Stam, getting kicked out of one top-class club wasn’t all that bad, as he pitched up with Lazio – not a bad landing. He said at the time: “I am happy to join a club which wants to win big prizes and Serie A as well. When you come here you look at all the players you are alongside – great players, big names. All the names you know, have played against them before.

“If you look at Lazio’s team they have world-class players. I think we can do very well. We can win prizes over here.

“At Lazio everybody believes in me, or they wouldn’t pay this amount of money for a defender.”

World class he may have been, but even the best can get caught out at times, as the clip below shows. Also on this day, Newcastle were getting rid of yet another manager, while we will be back again with more tomorrow.

August 26 – Shankly Gates Open

GREETINGS readers and welcome to OTFD for another stroll down the back streets of football’s past. We hope you enjoyed the bank holiday weekend, and aren’t feeling too depressed at being back at work this morning, but remember: only four days until the weekend!

Just a short nugget today folks. We could have told you about Hernan Crespo signing for Chelsea, for that happened on this day in 2003, but we have had enough of Chelsea’s vulgar cash splurging so instead we are going back to Mereryside in 1982.

In September 1981 Liverpool fans were mourning the death of their legendary manager Bill Shankly, the man who had, quite simply, transformed them from a Second Division outfit into the most successful club in the country.

We have already told you about Shanks’ shock retirement in 1974 which brought the city to a standstill, but kopites never stopped loving him, despite his successor Bob Paisley actually winning more trophies than he did.

When he died of a heart attack he was just 68 years old. A year after his death, the club commemorated their former manager with a new set of gates at Anfield. Called the Shankly Gates, they had the words to the Gerry and the Pacemakers kop anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ written across the top of them.

Today in 1982, Bill’s widow Nessie officially opened the gates for the first time.

After the Hillsborough disaster the club erected a memorial alongside the gates to remember the 96 people who lost their lives in the tragedy.

Shanks himself was further immortalised by a bronze statue of him outside Anfield which was unveiled in 1997.

We will have more tomorrow, but click here to see what else happened on this day, and see the clip below of kopites remembering the great man.

August 25 – Maine Men

ONE of English football’s most iconic grounds saw it’s first game today in 1923 as
Manchester City got the ball rolling on their 80-year residency at Maine Road in Moss Side when they faced off against Sheffield United.

When the Citizens decided that they needed a new stadium following fire damage to their Hyde Road ground in 1920 club bosses drew up a hugely ambitious plan for a 120,000-seater stadium based on the design of Hampden Park. This was scaled down to 80,000, but it gave City the second biggest stadium in the country after Wembley.

Showing a darn sight more efficiency than we’re used to from stadium builders these days, the ground took 300 days to complete and came in at a cost of £100,000. It was rumoured that a gypsy curse was placed on the ground when a gypsy camp was evicted from the ground, which could certainly explain a fair few things down the years.

The first match drew 56,993 fans and saw the home side beat Sheffield United 2-1, despite Frank Roberts missing a penalty. Horace Barnes was the first City player to score at their new home, with Tom Johnson adding the second.

Over the years Maine Road would play host to countless City classics, rugby games and gigs, usually in front of bumper crowds. An English record was set for City’s 1934 FA Cup sixth-round match with Stoke when 84,569 showed they were mad for it and turned up to support their team.

One of the best things about Maine Road was the character of the stadium and the fans that filled it every week. One of their contributions to fan-dom in England was the craze for bringing inflatables to the match, inspired by a fan that brought an inflatable banana in honour of Imre ‘Banana’ Varadi, their former Leeds and Newcastle midfielder during his spell at the club in the late 1980s.

Maine Road managed to survive the Taylor Report, but not without the loss of the Kippax Street Terrace in 1994. Nine years later the club moved to the City of Manchester Stadium, a year after it had hosted the Commonwealth Games. The last game at Maine Road was played in May 2003 and, City being City, they lost 1-0 to Southampton.

Check out this excellently made video that pays tribute to the old stadium below and also check out what else happened today here.

August 24 – Rude Ruud Upsets the Natives

THERE were unhappy, moaning tattoo-bellied fans a-plenty across the Toon today in 1999 when Ruud Gullit made the ultimate Newcastle United faux pas: dropping Alan Shearer for the Tyne-Wear derby.

Whilst it might not get the same headlines as the Manchester or Merseyside derbies, Newcastle’s rivalry with Sunderland is an intense affair, with the two cities lying just ten miles apart in this football-mad part of the world.

Ruud Gullit had been brought to St James’ in 1998 and his promise of ‘sexy football’ was exactly what the demanding Toon Army wanted to see after Kenny Dalglish had broken up much of Kevin Keegan’s title-contending side. His first move was another popular one, getting rid of the French striker and apostrophe enthusiast Stéphane Guivarc’h. His first big-money signing was the decidedly un-sexy Duncan Ferguson, and an inconsistent first season resulted in the Magpies making the FA Cup Final where they would go down to Manchester United 2-0.

This would prove to be the apex of Gullit’s spell in the north-east, as the fans turned on him at the start of the next season after spats between Gullit and local heroes Alan Shearer and Rob Lee emerged. Lee, the man who Kevin Keegan described as both his best ever ‘pound for pound’ signing was not even given a squad number.

These tensions came to a head just five games into the 1999/00 season when Peter Reid brought the Black Cats into town. Gullit was playing the big-man and left out the Geordie Messiah, much to the distain of their fans.

For a while it looked like the gamble would pay off, as Kieron Dyer, the man who took Rob Lee’s number seven shirt off him, put the Magpies in the lead until second half goals from ‘Super’ Kevin Phillips and his strike partner Niall ‘Disco Pants’ Quinn gave the Mackems a memorable victory and cheered up Peter Reid no end.

After three days of being on the receiving end of the Toon Army’s ire, Gullit did the honourable thing and fell on his sword to leave Newcastle looking for yet another manager. This time the club would embark on one of their more sensible moves, brining in Sir Bobby Robson who managed six years in the job.

Gullit, meanwhile, is on the dole again, as he parted company with LA Galaxy last week, among rumours that he was not seeing eye-to-eye with his star player David Beckham. Sound familiar?

If you thought that being a football manager was the thing Gullit is worst at then think again – check out this little pop ditty that sees him join the pantheon of Messers Waddle and Hoddle in the annals of football-novelty-record shame. If your eardrums survive that then check out what else happened today and come back tomorrow for more of the same.

August 23 – Chilavert Mouths Off

TODAY we bring you more musings from that lunatics lunatic, former Paraguayan goalkeeper José Luis Chilavert.

A penalty and free-kick specialist, we have already told you about the match in which he scored a hat-trick, but today in 2001 he was under fire for spitting at Roberto Carlos from extreme close range after a crucial World Cup qualification match between Brazil and Paraguay.

Banged to rights and backed into a corner, Chilavert came out fighting and rather than try to diffuse the situation he went in for some breeze-block diplomacy, and accused Carlos of being a ‘provoker’ and a ‘dwarf’, before stirring up some age-old political differences between the two nations.

Chilavert said: “At the first corner kick, after he [Roberto Carlos] was called for a foul, this dwarf shouted to me: ‘Get up, Indian’. After that, when they scored he touched his genitals to provoke me.

“When the match was going to end he pointed to the scoreboard and when the game ended and we were going to greet each other he told me: ‘Indian, we have won 2-0, you are a disaster’ and he hit me.

“That’s when I defended myself and I spat at him.”

Chilavert, who was captain of his country, added: “Everyone in football knows that Roberto Carlos is a provoker. He always does the same and after that he does not recognise his mistake and says he is innocent.”

The match was always likely to boil over after a frenzied build up to what was a key game for both teams. In their usual calm and measured manner, the media had hyped up the clash to cataclysmic levels of fever pitch, with Brazil struggling in their bid to make the 2002 finals and continue their record of being the only country to participate at every World Cup.

Just to stoke the fires a bit more, during the build up, Roberto Carlos called Paraguay a “small” team, while Brazilian coach Big Phil Scolari told his team to target Chilavert, saying he was his country’s weakest link.

Chilavert brilliantly responded by demanding that if Brazil were going to treat the game like a war, they should hand back land taken from Paraguay back in the 19th century. “The Brazilians started the war,” he said.

In the end, both countries qualified for the tournament in Japan and South Korea, with Brazil going all the way to lift the trophy. For his phlegmmy antics Chilavert was handed a three match ban and Paraguay were forced to play without their captain for their group matches. He returned for their second round clash, but couldn’t prevent a 1-0 defeat to eventual finalists Germany.

Here is the whole spitting image caught on camera, including some delightful slow-mo replays. Nice.
More tomorrow, and click here if you want to see who else was being naughty on this day in football history.

August 22 – Fortress Wembley?

WHEN a manager is under pressure he quite often reverts to meaningless platitudes designed to try to paper over the fact he hasn’t the first idea of what to do to get himself out of the mess he has created.

Steve McClaren differed to this approach in that he started his reign as England manager with hackneyed phrases and continued from there. On being given the job he crow-barred in as many uses of the word “passion” as is humanly possible in a single press conference, said he wanted to build a team “the fans can be proud of”, and even ventured into “evolution not revolution” territory. Because of course he evolves, but he doesn’t revolve.

By the time he had lost a few matches and the pressure was on, McClaren had left himself very little room to manoeuvre cliche-wise, but still had one to fall back on: “We need to make Wembley a fortress,” he said, with a series of crucial qualifiers coming up at England’s home ground.

Today in 2007 England suffered there first defeat at the new Wembley, in just their second outing under the giant arch. The first match had been a creditable draw with Brazil, but it was England’s old nemesis Germany that inflicted the first loss at their gleaming new football home.

In a nice bit of symmetry, it was Germany who were the last team to beat England at the old Wembley in 2000 but England proved a giant arch made them no more effective than the twin towers against the Germans.

Frank Lampard had given the hosts an early lead before trademark Paul Robinson mistake allowed Kevin Kuranyi to tap home an equaliser. England had the chances to level but Michael Owen, Kieron Dyer and Frank Lampard all failed to capitalise before Christian Pander, on his international debut, thundered an unstoppable shot past Paul Robinson to win the match for ze Germans.

Alan Shearer was not impressed. He said: “Before the game, we were looking for two things: a good result and a good performance. Clearly we didn’t get the first and I don’t think we got the second either. It was average.”

Chris Waddle was even more downbeat. “Overall, Germany gave us a football lesson,” he said, before adding ruefully: “It just seems to be getting worse.”

How much worse would become apparent when Fortress Wembley crumbled again when Croatia came to town in November.

Here is Pander scoring his thunderbolt winner. Striker! As ever, we will be back with more tomorrow, but to tide you over until then, click here to see which programme was aired for the first ever time on this day.