Archive for November, 2008

November 30 – The Oldest Rivalry Begins

A TRULY historic entry today here on OTFD as we look at the beginning of the longest-standing football rivalry in the world.

As leaders in the development of the modern game it also fell to England and Scotland to invent international football which they did on this day in 1872 when the two teams took each other on in the very first international football match. Ever. In the world.

The Scots had home advantage as the match was played at Hamilton Crescent cricket ground. Ged O’Brien, the former director of the Scottish Football Association’s football museum told the Guardian in 1999: “The interest in that first ever game was massive. Everyone desperately wanted to see what Scotland could do against England. Even though the crowd was fairly small -4,000 – the ramifications of that day are with us even now. It was the game that changed the world.”

Tactics were certainly a tad different in those days with Scotland playing a 2-2-6 formation and England lining up with an eight-man forward line. “The Scots played a revolutionary brand of football, a pass and run game which was called combination football,” says O’Brien.

“England’s tactics were much more rudimentary – whoever had the ball just dribbled as far as he could until he was tackled. The English were amazed and spread the word. From then on, every club in England had to have a Scottish ‘professor’ in the team to show his team-mates how to play combination football.”

Despite the Scots supposed tactical advantage they could not break down the English and the game ended in a 0-0 draw, although the home crowd were angry after they were denied a goal by a refereeing decision. A newspaper reported it thus: “The home side’s Leckie drove the ball towards the goal. The crowd cheered enthusiastically under the impression that a point had been gained for Scotland. But the umpire ruled no goal because the ball had gone over the tape instead of under.”

No doubt the Tartan Army were sick about the decision but little did they know it was merely the opening salvo in a form of football that, by its very nature means only one team can win anything and only once every two years, meaning most fans spend their life witnessing perpetual disappointment, not least those of Scotland and England.

Given that the first film camera was not invented for sixteen years after the match (yes, we’ve checked) there is no footage of that historic match, but have a look below for some great VT of England taking on Scotland at Wembley in 1944, which was our current Queen’s first ever international.

Have a look here at what else happened on this football day, and unlike Woolworth’s we’ll still be around tomorrow so don’t forget to check it one time.

November 29 – Viv Anderson Breaks Down the Taboos

IT TOOK 105 years and 364 days from England’s first ever match, but today in 1978 Viv Anderson became the first black player to represent the Three Lions when he turned out for England in a 1-0 friendly win against Czechoslovakia.

In an age when Sky Sports try their hardest to deny the fact that football existed before the establishment of the Premier League in 1992 it is often easy to forget what kind of state the English game was in during the late 1970s.

Violence, hooliganism and racism was all too abundant across English football, so the selection of the classy Nottingham Forest centre-back was a momentous event.

Anderson went on make 30 appearances for his country, making the 1982 and 1986 World Cup squads supplementing the shedloads of medals he won under Brian Clough’s stewardship at Nottingham Forest, where he was a crucial part of the side that won back-to-back European Cups.

His England career stalled after the ’82 World Cup in Spain, and it wasn’t until a £250,000 move to Arsenal in 1984 that he was back in the side. At Highbury he would win the 1987 League Cup and would become Alex Ferguson’s first signing as Manchester United boss later that year.

Anderson left Old Trafford before the trophies started rolling in for Sir Alex, moving to Sheffield Wednesday. After two seasons he was upping sticks again, this time taking up a roll as player-manager at Barnsley, but quit after a year to join his old mucka Bryan Robson at Middlesbrough, becoming his assistant manager.

He stayed with Robson at Boro until the pair left in 2001 following Terry Venables’ troubleshooting intervention that undermined Robson’s tenure and hasn’t been seen in the game since.

In the Millennium Honours List Anderson was awarded an MBE by Her Maj, an honour that he describes as the greatest of his life. His achievement of being England’s first black player also saw him introduced into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2004 and he now also acts as a goodwill ambassador for the FA.

He also runs a slightly bizarre website, that looks more like a CV (Sample quote – “…with almost ten years experience in management I am eager to move on to my next challenge”), but we won’t hold that against him.

There isn’t much footage of Anderson’s England bow on the internet for you, so we’ll throw a clip of the classic 1982 England World Cup song in which he featured. See which European big-wig was being founded today here and come back tomorrow for some more footballing history.

November 28 – Ronaldinho Bags the Ballon d’Or

WE ALL know what it’s like you the partying begins to get the better of you. Here at OTFD towers we used to be able to party all night like the best of them and breeze into work the next morning without feeling a thing, but it’s a different story these days.

We get the feeling that Ronaldinho is feeling much the same. Before his party lifestyle down Las Rambla in Barcelona got the better of him the big-toothed Brazilian was combining the high-life with being the best player in the world, winning the Ballon d’Or today in 2005.

The overweight trickster that finished last season on the bench at Camp Nou has recently become a shadow of his former self as he tries to rebuild his career in Milan, but in his pomp three years ago his array of tricks, goals and signature ‘flip-flap’ move meant he was the only choice to pick up the 50th edition of world football’s biggest individual honour.

His biggest competition that year (not literally, all you West Ham fans) was Frank Lampard Junior, who was voted as the second best player plying his trade in Europe that year. Without wanting to have the usual argument about the merits of one of English football’s most divisive players, we’re really not convinced about that. Steven Gerrard rounded out the top three that year.

The Ballon d’Or award has grown in stature since Sir Stanley Matthews picked up the inaugural gong in 1956 over the likes of Alfredo Di Stefano and Raymond Kopa. Since then the roll of honour reads like a who’s who of all-time legends; Eusebio, Beckenbauer, Cruyff, Rivera, Keegan, Platini, van Basten and Baggio are just some of the big names on there.

Since Ronny picked up the prize he has seen a slow but steady decline, but his recent move to Milan appears to have revitalised him if last night’s late match changing cameo against Portsmouth is anything to go by. Indeed the Rossoneri can boast of having three of the last four Ballon d’Or winners in their ranks, with Ronaldinho’s compatriot Kaka joining Chelsea flop and 2004 winner Andriy Shevchenko at the San Siro.

See footage of Ronny strutting his stuff for Barca below and check out which other South American was making headlines today here.

November 27 – The Head of God

WHEN he wasn’t tormenting England, having drug-induced heart attacks or shooting at journalists, Diego Maradona was a bit tidy on the old football pitch in his pomp.

We are not going to get into the Pele/Maradona debate so whether or not he was the best ever, there is no doubt Diego was no slouch.

On this day in 1988 he was playing for Napoli against their big rivals Milan in a Serie A match when he did something rather novel: he headed the ball, wait for it, with his head, rather than with his hand, which as we all know is how he usually heads it.

‘Yeah so what?’ I hear you cry. Well, not only did he head the ball into the net to score one of Napoli’s four goals in a 4-1 drubbing of the Milanesas, but he did it from well outside the box – a full eight to ten yards outside in fact. The Milan ‘keeper was nowhere to be seen so Maradona’s effort bounced into the back of the net and surely ranks as one of the longest ever headed goals in the history of the game, and one of the rare instances of scored headers from outside the box.

You can see an incredibly bad quality video of the feat by following this link and then selecting the clip second from bottom on the left hand side.

Among others to have achieved the feat of bulging the net from outside the box with headers are Steve Nichol who scored the winner for Liverpool at Highbury in 1987 with a long range bonce-effort, and the unlikely Carlton Palmer for Sheffield Wednesday against Everton at Goodison in 1993/94. Palmer headed the ball high up into the air from about 22 yards and the ball then dipped wickedly behind Neville Southall and nestled in the net.

Not to be outdone by Carlton Palmer (and who can blame him), Marco van Basten pulled off the feat in the 1989 European Cup semi-final first-leg against Real Madrid. He was outside the box, facing his own goal, and he lobbed a long clearance backwards over the keeper and into the top corner. Have a look at the goal here.

Before you go have a little look below and the clip reel which serves a nice homage to the humble header, and have a look at what else happened on this day here.

November 26 – Molby’s Pen-trick

IF the perfect hat-trick is one with each foot and one with the head, what would a hat-trick of penalties be called? That is probably a question no one thought to ponder before this day in 1986 when Jan Molby acheived the feat for Liverpool at Anfield.

The portly Danish scouser secured his match ball in slightly fortuitous circumstances when the Reds took on Coventry in the fourth round of the Littlewoods Cup. Molby’s efforts from the spot ensured a 3-1 win for the home side who went on to reach the final that year where they lost 2-1 to Arsenal at Wembley.

Liverpool folk lore has it that a six-year-old Steven Gerrard was in the stands at Anfield for the first time that day watching Jan doing the penalty duties that would one day fall to Gerrard himself.

Molby scored yet another penalty against Coventry just three days later when the two sides met in a league match.

The Danish import had arrived at Anfield in 1984 and was soon a regular in the side playing either as a midfielder or as a third central defender or sweeper. In the 1985/86 season he hit top form and scored 21 goals from midfield. He carved himself into the Liverpool legends hall of fame that season when he pulled the strings in the FA Cup final win over cross town rivals Everton, who Liverpool had also beaten to the league title.

In the final the Reds were a goal down at half time after Gary Lineker had struck for the Toffees but in the second half Jan got stuck in and on 57 minutes he set up the equaliser for Ian Rush, before providing Craig Johnston with the pass to take the lead six minutes later. He also had a hand in the third goal as Liverpool won yet another pot.

His penalty record is superb and in his time as a Liverpool player he scored 42 of the 45 penalties he took (efforts against Sheffield Wednesday, QPR and Chelsea were saved), which is still a Liverpool record and as far as anyone can work out is the second best record in the top flight after Matthew Le Tissier (49 out of 50).

We don’t have any footage of the spot-kick fest against Coventry, but have a look at Liverpool taking on Leeds in 1993 when, you guessed it, Molby scored another penalty. We’ll be back tomorrow but to satisfy your football trivia thirst until then have a look at which mercurial Frenchman was switching clubs on this day in 1992.

November 25 – Macc Town Misery

TO lose a player to a season-ending injury pretty unlucky and to lose two is almost careless. Macclesfield Town went one better today in 2006 when three of their side went down to a bizarre mixture of broken legs and cruciate ligament damage during their clash against local rivals Stockport County.

Matches between these two north west sides are usually a lively affair, but the 1-1 draw at Stockport’s Edgeley Park ground was more incident packed than a night on the tiles with Liam Gallagher.

Town midfielder Simon Wiles was first to depart, suffering cruciate ligament damage after an awkward fall in the first half.

Wiles’ misfortune was completely overshadowed by later events, when Macc ‘keeper Jonathan Brain and defender Andrew Teague accidentally clashed and both ended up with broken legs.

Brain suffered a gruesome compound fracture, losing feeling in his broken leg, and Teague joined him in the fractures clinic.

Town’s assistant manager Ray Mathias said: “I feel gutted for all three players. I’ve never been involved in a football match and see three players stretchered off.

“They’re all bad injuries and the players are understandably down in the changing room because they’re worried about their team-mates.”

Stockport manager Jim Gannon was also quick to offer his sympathy: “I feel really sorry for the Macclesfield players. I’ve never seen three players injured like that in the same match, it’s very rare.”

No footage of the leg snapping incident is available, so the squeamish don’t have to worry about that. Instead see a brilliant clip of pure surrealism at Macc’s game at home to Walsall a couple of weeks earlier.

November 24 – Déjà Vu All Over Again

THE Spanish philosopher, poet and novelist George Santayana once said “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” If Brian Barwick and his cronies had paid attention in philosophy class then last November’s sorry mess at the sodden Wembley Stadium might not have happened. Today we’re going back to last time the Three Lions failed to reach a major tournament, as it was today in 1993 that Graham Taylor decided that, unlike Steve McClaren, he would try and save a semblance of dignity and resign as England manager.

The similarities between the depressing end to McClaren’s reign and England’s last low-point are there for all to see. Like McClaren, Taylor inherited a team who had been knocked out of the World Cup on penalties and the fans never took him to their hearts. Taylor did manage to get England to the European Championships in 1992, but this tournament will always be remembered for Gary Lineker’s substitution against Sweden, leaving him a goal shy of breaking the England scoring record when England were chasing the game.

The tabloid media had a field day. “Swedes 2 Turnips 1″ was The Sun’s headline in 1992 and the vegetable theme was something that Taylor never managed to shake off. A loss to Spain saw him dubbed a “Spanish Onion” and the headlines soon escalated quicker than McClaren’s umbrella in a rainstorm, with “Norse Manure” and “Oslo Rans” as the obvious puns following a particularly bad loss to Norway that left qualification for USA ’94 hanging by a thread.

That thread involved beating San Marino by a cricket score. In a textbook example of England messing with your emotions worse than any woman ever could, a computer salesman called David Gualtieri was pinching himself after ten seconds, wondering if he really had just scored the quickest goal in World Cup qualifying history.

England did manage to put seven past the minnows, but it wasn’t enough and meant that Holland pipped them to the place in the finals. Before you could say “do I not like that” Taylor had decided to do the honourable thing and jump before he was pushed.

We could go on about rubbish England managers all day, but Capello seems to be doing a suspiciously good job at the moment so we’ll leave it there. We’ll leave you with a bit of Channel 4′s often hilarious documentary that followed Taylor and his staff through the 1994 qualifying games and come back tomorrow for more football trivia.

November 23 – His name is Rio and he dances on the sand

AH remember those heady days of innocence and optimism back in, erm 2000? The Millennium Dome was in its pomp, Microsoft launched Windows 2000 and everyone’s house was doubling in value by the day. Heady days indeed, but especially heady for the fans of Leeds United who were enjoying the chairmanshipship of one Peter Ridsdale and the management of David O’Leary.

At the time Leeds were an exciting young team with the world at their feet with O’Leary playing the part of rising star manager and Ridsdale looking the model chairman, leading the fans in rousing renditions of the club’s anthem Marching on Together. All was rosy.

On this day things looked even rosier for the Leeds faithful when the club signed West Ham defender Rio Ferdinand for a whopping £18m. It seemed like a massive amount of money for an undoubtedly good player, but at the time it was a British transfer fee record, and a world record for a defender. Many questioned whether he was worth the money, but no one bothered to ask where the money was coming from, and if Leeds could actually afford it.

Still, it all looked so good for a while. Rio looked at home in the White Leeds shirt and he continued to impress and become an England regular.

Things would start to fall apart in 2002 when O’Leary was sacked and it became obvious that the club had somewhat overreached itself with the purchase. Ferdinand was sold to rivals Manchester United, but that deal was one of the few good ones for the club during the fire sale from Leeds in 2002 and 2003. He went for £30m after two years, a £12m profit on his original price which is a bit of a bobby dazzler.

Now, we know we have shown this clip of Rio’s howler at Portsmouth before, but go on, have another look – you know you want to, if only for the Benny Hill soundtrack. We will be back tomorrow but first, have a look at this for the comedy antics of the only manager more hapless than O’Leary. Souness gets it very wrong on this day in 1996.

November 22 – Le Saux Batters Batty

AN interest in antiques, art, and a preference for The Guardian as opposed to The Sun has led to married father-of-two Graeme Le Saux having his sexuality questioned throughout his career, especially by Robbie Fowler.

With so many taunts and rumours doing the rounds old Graeme became somewhat sensitive to any jibes of that nature with opposing players used to their advantage. On this day in 1995 Le Saux decided to show his teammate David Batty that he was a hard man by punching him after they had a coming together when going for the same ball in a Champions League match away at Spartak Moscow.

It has long been assumed that Batty must have been taunting Le Saux about his sexuality but in his autobiography Le Saux refutes this, and says it was more to do with arguments over passing the ball and the general ill-feeling that starts to creep in when a team loses it’s form.

Le Saux said: “It was a horrible atmosphere in Moscow. It was bitterly cold, the pitch was frozen and the dressing-rooms were miserable. I felt weighed down by a general air of anxiety even before kick-off. They scored early and things felt fraught, as though they were unravelling. Everything was going from bad to worse.

“It was still the first half when I set off after a loose ball. I was running up the touchline, the ball in front of me. I was going to intercept it. David was coming across the pitch to try to get there as well. We arrived at the same time and ran into each other.

“I hit the deck and, as I got up, he came at me very aggressively. He was being threatening and screaming things. His face was contorted with anger, as if he was going to rip my head off. Hitting him was more of a pre-emptive strike than anything. If I had not hit him, I felt he was going to hit me.

“It is a myth that he was hurling a stream of homophobic abuse. It wasn’t the words that got to me, but a combination of four or five things. I was upset at what he said and that he was accusing me of being selfish again; I was upset that we were not doing well as a team and I reacted because of the way he behaved.”

Despite being the puncher, Le Saux seemed to come off worse than Batty with the former having a broken hand to show for his troubles, and the latter seemingly unaffected. Le Saux said: “I swung at him, connected and knew immediately that I had broken my left hand. I am not a fighter. I hadn’t closed my fist properly. I was in a lot of pain, which just made me feel more ridiculous.”

Tim Sherwood had to come and separate them and manager Ray Harford tore the proverbial strip off them at half time while Le Saux was having his hand bandaged. The reigning champions of England lost 3-0.

Le Saux continued: “There has always been speculation about what David said to me. Most have assumed that a homophobic taunt made me snap. But I never considered this incident similar to the one with Robbie Fowler, nor even in the same league. What David said was between me and him. I am not condoning it, but I am not condoning what I did, either.

“The aftermath was appalling. We were miles away from home, we had been battered 3-0, I had a broken hand and I had just hit my own teammate. I sat by myself on the coach to the airport, cowering at the back.

“More than anything, that night is the one thing I wish I could erase from my career.”

The incident epitomised the ill-fated Champions League campaign for the team which would never hit the heights of the previous season again. Batty and Le Saux were both picked for Rovers’ next match, a 0-0 draw at Highbury, with Le Saux sporting a cast on his hand – a little souvenir from his trip to Moscow.

Such team fighting was not seen again in English football until Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer went at it while playing for Newcastle in 4004. In the absence of any footage of the Batty/Le Saux indicent, watch Dyer and Bowyer using their handbags below, and check this to see what full time sefl-publicist and part time football club chairman Simon Jordan was up to on this day in 2001.

November 21 – The Wally with the Brolly

EURO 2008 was pretty good wasn’t it? An array of world-class talents strutting their stuff, scoring superlative goals and treating the spectator to some classic matches. Oh, and England weren’t there to f**k it all up on penalties.

It was today in 2007 that the Three Lions’ fate was sealed, when England lost to Croatia on a soggy night at Wembley Stadium.

When Schteve McClaren took over from Sven as England boss his first order of business was to negotiate a not too intimidating Euro 2008 qualifying group that shouldn’t have been too tricky for the World Cup quarter-finalists.

This was not the case, as McClaren’s men flattered to deceive, only putting one goal past FYR Macedonia over two games and losing to Croatia when Paul Robinson swiped at thin air after Gary Neville’s backpass.

A 2-1 loss to Russia in their penultimate game seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for England’s qualification hopes, but Russia’s 2-1 defeat in Israel gave the Three Lions one last chance, as a draw against the Croats would see them qualify.

For reasons that no-one else could fathom, McClaren opted to drop David James for Scott Carson, giving the former Leeds stopper his first taste of competitive action in England’s most important game and in horribly wet conditions.

Needless to say, the gamble backfired. Croatia took an early lead when Nico Kranjcar’s speculative shot slipped through Carson’s hands. Ivica Olic scored a second before half-time and England had yet another mountain to climb.

After half-time McClaren brought on David Beckham, another player that he had unceremoniously dropped and 20 minutes into the second half England were equal – and as things stood, going to Austria and Switzerland the next summer.

Unfortunately, this isn’t where the story ends. Instead of coasting their way to the final whistle Slaven Bilic’s men kept on battling to the end, showing the kind of spirit that McClaren could only dream of.

When Mladen Petric fired the winner in from 25 yards English hearts were broken and we were left with one of English football’s most iconic images of recent years, as McClaren looked on, hopelessly out of his depth under a huge umbrella.

The tabloid press had a field day, with ‘Wally with a Brolly’ headlines a-plenty and royalties for the Rhianna hit ‘Umbrella’ went through the roof once the montage makers got their hands on it. Proving that they did have a smidgen of common sense the FA didn’t waste time getting rid of McClaren, sacking him the morning after.

See the goals from that eventful night below and click here if you want to know what else was going down today.