Archive for December, 2008

December 31 – Run for the hills Carlos!

REMEMBER New Year’s Eve 1999? If you believed what you read in the papers the world was on the brink of a catastrophic computer hitch that would cause technology to fail us and turn the planet into a scene from Mad Max.

Obviously, it didn’t. The planet coped with the date ticking over from 1999 to 2000, but not before Argentine goalkeeper Carlos Roa had retreated to a mountain villa to sit out the end of the world.

Roa was most famous for tending the Argentina goal in the 1998 World Cup and was the ‘keeper that a young Michael Owen scored the wonder goal that announced his name on the world stage past. Back in Argentina though, he is more fondly remembered for saving David Batty’s decisive penalty in the shootout that ended that classic encounter.

After the ’98 World Cup Roa had another storming season at Real Mallorca and was rumoured to be on his way to the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal. This wasn’t to be as he would take a year off to undergo charitable and religious work as a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

When he returned to Spain he refused to discuss a new contract as he had one eye on the pending apocalypse. Maybe his old mate Michael Owen should try that avenue next time Mike Ashley and Joe Kinnear try to get him to sign on at Newcastle.

As the millennium approached Roa retired from the game, gave away all his possessions and retreated to a mountain villa, where he would ‘prepare for the end of the world, in a place where He will provide everything we need.’

Roa sheepishly returned to Spain once the world didn’t end and found himself on the fringes of the Mallorca team, so moved to Albacete Balompie. Tragedy then struck the Argentine as he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. After spending more than a year fighting the disease he received the all clear and joined Argentinean side Olimpo de Bahia Blanca before retiring in 2006.

See Roa in action below and see how the year was ending for Roa’s nemesis Owen here. Whether you’re off to prepare for the end of the world or out on the lash tonight, have a good night and a happy New Year.

December 30 – Gazza Books the Ref

AT THIS time of year we all like to have a bit of a laugh, but today in 1995 Scottish referee Dougie Smith lived up to every referee/Scotsman stereotype in the book, as he gave Paul Gascoigne a yellow card after the Geordie had cheekily flashed the offending card his way when he dropped his notebook and pen.

Gazza had signed for Rangers earlier that year and was proving to be a hit at Ibrox, not least for his provocative celebrations in an early-season Old Firm clash.

When Rangers took on Hibs in their last game of the year they would romp to a 7-0 win, with Gordon Durie bagging four. As soon as Gazza had noticed that referee Smith had dropped his yellow card on the floor he had on one thing on his mind. With a flourish he booked Smith, much to the amusement of the 44,692 fans from both clubs.

Failing to see the funny side, Smith grabbed his card back and booked the Englishman for dissent. When questioned by Hibs midfielder Joe Tortolano Smith replied: “He might be able to take the f**king piss out of you, but he’s not taking the f**king piss out of me”.

Due to bookings from earlier in the season Gazza was given a two-match ban for his antics, despite the pleas of Gers manager Walter Smith to rescind the booking. Shame on you Dougie.

See the offending incident below and check out which on of Gazza’s England team-mates was putting on his best suit today here.

December 29 – City’s Famous Five

STABILITY dear reader, is crucial. At least that’s what out psychiatrist keeps telling us. It is also one of the most over-used and inappropriate words in football. Every chairman goes on and on about stability and planning for the future etc and so on. Just because they come out with half-baked ‘five-year plans’ like the Stalin’s USSR which simply read, “year one: get promoted, year two: stay up, year three: carry on staying up, year four: consolidate (whatever that means), year five: win the league,” it does not mean they are planning for the future, they are simply making up meaningless plans which will usually bear no resemblance to what actually happens.

There are several clubs that have always erred gloriously on the side of unstability, shining like a beacon of chaos and disorder to the rest of the football world. One of these is obviously Newcastle United but another is Manchester City. Always trying to not simply be the other club in Manchester, City have lurched from glory to heroic levels of crisis throughout their history. Indeed it is very fitting that Kevin Keegan chose to manage the club, so closely are their football identities aligned.

Today in 1996 things were looking bad at Maine Road. The club had been relegated from the Premiership in farcical circumstances in 1996 when manager Alan Ball told his players to simply play for time in the last match of the season, wrongly believing a draw was enough to keep them up. It wasn’t and they went down. Former Crystal Palace manager Steve Coppell arrived but famously departed just 33 days later citing the stress of the job. Things were going from farcical to sublimely ridiculous as Phil ‘yes man’ Neal was put in caretaker charge. Soon he had also had enough so today in 1996, former Nottingham Forest manager Frank Clark was given the unenviable job of bringing some order to the never-boring world of Man City. With Asa Hartford having also had a short spell as caretaker boss, Clark became City’s fifth manager of the 1996 season, with half of it still left to run.

Frank did manage to steady the ship and guided the club into the safe waters of mid-table in his first season in charge. By February in the following season however, things had got even worse as the club teetered of the brink of relegation to the third tear. Frank was given the boot in February 1998 and Joe Royle was brought in to try to change things. Clark said: He said: “I feel disappointed for myself, my staff and the supporters for the way it has happened. The club has done what it sees fit. Doing it on the day of a match is not my problem now. But I don’t want to make any excuses. It has been a very difficult season.” One of City’s major shareholders David Makin said: “Everybody is looking at Frank and to be honest so am I. I think his tactics have left a lot to be desired.”

Despite Royle’s arrival yet another relegation followed, making City the first English European trophy winners to be relegated to the third flight.

These days life at City is no less exciting and despite being the richest club in the world, they are still conspiring to achieve failure and spent this Christmas in the bottom three. Only City. And possibly Newcastle.

Have a look at one of their better days below, complete with some Alan Partridge-esq commentary (“Pick that one out! Good night!”), and come back tomorrow when we will be here as usual. Here’s what we told you about on this day last year.

December 28 – Magnificent Seven

CHRISTMAS time means one thing to TV schedulers: re-runs of classic movies you have seen hundreds of times already yet are strangely drawn to every time they come on. Here at OTFD we are looking at an old classic as well, but in our Magnificent Seven, Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson are nowhere to be seen. Instead the heroes are Kevin Keegan, Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand.

After the massive disappointment of losing out on the most famous title battle in years in 1996, Keegan decided to cheer himself and the Geordie nation up by buying their most famous son: Alan Shearer. A record £15m move in the summer led everyone to believe a major assault on the title would follow. By Christmas however, things were not looking so good. Newcastle were on a bad run having not won for seven league games and also having been knocked out of the League Cup by wannabe rivals Middlesbrough. They were sixth in the table, eight points behind the leaders Liverpool today in 1996 when they took on Tottenham at St James’ Park. The Toon supporters were probably fearing the worst when they turned up given their poor form, but as always with Newcastle and KK, expect the unexpected.

Spurs meanwhile were being characteristically inconsistent under Gerry Francis and sat ninth in the league as they laboured on towards yet another mid-table finish, although Gerry might have been thinking it was a good time to visit St James’ Park.

The first 20 minutes of the match were dire, with David Ginola missing for Newcastle and Chris Armstrong and Darren Anderton (surprise surprise) out for Spurs, the game struggled to get going and nothing happened to get the fans excited.

Typically it fell to Alan Shearer to rouse his team and the crowd. After one chance which flew over the bar, he made sure with his second when he fired in a stunning volley into the top corner under heavy pressure from the Spurs’ defence. They were up and running, and save for one chance for Sheringham moments later, Spurs chances of getting anything from the game were over.

Les Ferdinand soon added a second as the Tottenham defence showed worrying signs of fallibility. Newcastle went in two up at the break, but in typical KK style had no intention of sitting back on their lead.

Shearer could have got a third soon after the restart but his volley flashed wide, as did a header from the big man a few moments later. Spurs were all over the place and suddenly David Batty and Rob Lee had acres of space in the midfield to supply the front men. Ferdinand added a third before Lee decided to go himself and scored a low shot that put the home side 4-0 up.

Soon it was getting ridiculous and Newcastle centre half Phillipe Albert found himself totally unmarked on the left hand side of Spurs box. His shot was not the best but Ian Walker could not save it and the Magpies had a fifth.

Shearer and Rob Lee added the sixth and magnificent seventh goals to cpmplete a rout for the home side that was trademark Keegan. It would not be trademark KK without some dodgy defending and Spurs did manage a consolation goal when Nielsen pulled one back with just minutes left to play. There was still time for a missed chance for Shearer to claim his hat-trick before the referee put Tottenham out of their misery and blew the whistle.

The home fans were jubilant but their usually emotive manager refused to celebrate which was a clue to the mental state of the emotional KK. After just two more matches Keegan shocked Tyneside by resigning, and the KK dream was over. He never did win them any trophies but he was loved by the Toon fans precisely because of days like this.

Have a look at all the goals below and check this out to read about a genuine goal-fest from this day in football history.

December 27 – Fiasco da Gama

THE CHAOTIC world of Brazilian football was outdoing itself today in 2000 when a re-jigged season, designed to protect the country’s biggest teams from the ignominy of relegation reached it’s climax with minnows Sao Caetano taking on the mighty Vasco da Gama for the national championship.

In order to safeguard the bigger teams from the drop the Brazilian league had a year earlier introduced a system where teams were relegated on a two-season rolling basis, but Botafogo, most famous for being Garrincha’s former stomping ground, found themselves in danger of the drop.

The Rio club responded by heading to the courtroom, where they complained that Sao Paulo had fielded a player with a false birth certificate. They won their case, and sent down Vasco da Gama instead.

Vasco were next to call in the lawyers, having the decision overturned by the civil courts, but this resulted in a ban from Fifa, who refuse to recognise teams that appeal outside their legal jurisdiction. Confused? Thought so, this makes the Carlos Tevez affair look clear-cut.

This all left the Brazilian federation in a bit of a pickle. Wanting to keep everyone happy, they organised a one-off trophy to replace the 2000 league season. The Copa Joao Havelange was a complicated, lengthy tournament that was open to clubs from the top four divisions.

Sao Caetano had only been established 11 years earlier and after finishing as runner-up in the Second Division that season they made it through to the knock-out stage of the new national championship and eventually reached the final.

Their opponents were, fittingly, none other than the same Vasco da Gama side that had helped create the whole mess in the first place. Led by Brazilian talisman Romario, Vasca played out a 1-1 draw in the first leg today in 2000. The second leg had to be abandoned when a non-fatal crowd crush occurred and Vasco would go on to win the replayed match 3-1.

Sao Caetano had done enough to earn a place in the top flight for the next season and would supersede their 2000 achievements by reaching the final of the 2002 Copa Libertadores, where they would lose out to Paraguay’s Olimpia.

Tragedy struck the Azulao in 2004 when defender Serginho collapsed on the pitch in a game against Sao Paulo and died from a pre-existing heart condition. The club had known about the condition but played him anyway and as a result were docked 24 points and within two seasons they had been relegated back down to the Second Division.

See highlights of Sao Caetano’s Libertadores clash with Olimpia below and see who else was being robbed today here. We’ll be back with some more action tomorrow, so don’t go working too hard.

December 26 – Record Crowd for the Girls

WOMEN’S football became a victim of it’s own success today in 1920, when over 50,000 turned up at Goodison Park to watch Dick, Kerr Ladies take on a team from St Helens, in what would prove to be the sport’s death knell for the next 50 years.

During the war women’s football had grown in popularity as the nation’s menfolk slugged it out in the trenches in Europe. With the Football League on hold the FA tolerated the game, but began to panic when it’s popularity appeared to be rivalling the men’s game when it got back up and running in 1919.

Dick, Kerr Ladies were the leading lights of the women’s game, led by the first female football superstar, 14-year-old Lily Parr. The club had been formed from a Preston-based munitions factory, when Grace Sibbery, one of the women at the factory, suggested that the females of the company could do better than the men.

A clerk at the factory, Alfred Frankland, agreed and helped form the side. Their first match was a 4-0 win against a team from Arundel Coulthard Foundary on Christmas Day 1917 and drew a crowd of 10,000, raising £200 for a local hospital. The level of skill on show raised many an eyebrow and the team went from strength-to-strength.

The Boxing Day 1920 clash against St Helens Ladies saw 53,000 turn up, with more than 14,000 locked out. Over £3,000 was raised during this charity match for “disabled and unemployed soldiers and sailors”. Dick, Kerr Ladies ran out 4-0 winners and sent the misogynists of the FA into panic.

The FA soon banned women’s football after throwing up some stories about medical danger for the poor dames and some guff about financial mishaps. A Guardian article at the time was equally condescending, claiming that sports such as cricket, lacrosse and hockey were “good enough” for the ladies, as “With these to go at, the most virile young woman might leave Association alone without any great feeling of deprivation.” And that was the view of the leftys!

Amazingly enough, the FA’s ban stood until 1971, as women players had to fight for their rights for more then 50 years. They would get there eventually though and you can see some footage of the planet’s best female footballer below and also check out what other Boxing Day action went on today here. Now get back to sitting on the sofa eating left-overs.

December 25 – I saw three ships go sailing by

GREETINGS all ye merrry ladies and gentlemen and a very merry Christmas to you all from all here at OTFD. We hope Santa brought you everything you hoped for, and if he did, we hope the various cuts and bruises sustained on all those new bikes are not too bad.

These days Christmas Day is football-less but it was not always so. There was a long tradition of professional football matches being played on the 25th stretching back to the latter part of the 19th century, and often clubs would play a match on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Frequently the fixtures were local derbies so they were regularly the best attended matches of the season with many fans seeing their only match of the year at Christmas a special treat.

By the 1950s however the times they were a-changing and the football fraternity began to get a little bit tired of having to run all over the country playing football instead of scoffing down turkey and Quality Streets and playing charades. The last time a full programme was played on Christmas Day was 1957, although there were matches in 1959 between Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool in Division One and Coventry City and Wrexham in Division Three – and, in the last match of all, Blackpool beat Blackburn 4-2 in a Division One fixture at Bloomfield Road in 1965.

Christmas Day in 1948 saw the first appearance of one of the innovations of the football experience that is still with us today. Fans who arrived at Stamford Bridge to watch the Chelsea match against Portsmouth were the first ever to be able to purchase a matchday programme. It was 16 pages long and cost sixpence (two and a half pence in today’s money) and was an instant hit, although the original creators had no idea it would one day be a vehicle for Ken Bates’ increasingly enraged and incoherent rantings.

The most famous Chrimbletide kick about was of course the unofficial truce between the German and British troops in 1914, which we told you about last year. While that event is one of the most remarkable and heart-warming in human history, spare a thought this Christmas for poor old Gary McAllister. Poor old Gary was born on Christmas Day, but will probably struggle to enjoy his combined birthday and Yuletide celebrations after jolly old Santa look-alike Ken Bates gave him the sack on the weekend. Ho ho ho Ken.

We’ll call it a day there so you can get back rooting around in drawers for batteries and struggling to construct whatever complicated presents were unwrapped this morning.

December 24 – Deck the halls with Alan Pardew

CHARLTON Athletic used to be one of the most stable and boring clubs in the world. Alan Curbishley was the manager for 437 years and for almost every single one of them the Addicks spent little, started well, and then tailed off as soon as their Premier League survival was assured.

The club was the football version of magnolia or vanilla ice cream. The fans began to yearn for some excitement or at the very least for something to change. They say be careful what you wish for and never was the phrase more apt.

When Curbs packed up and left Iain Dowie came in to replace him but after more than £10m spent and just 12 disappointing games, Dowie was shown the door by the board. It was one of the shortest ever tenures of a Premiership manager, but his successor was about to beat it.

Dowie’s assistant Leswyn Reed was given the job, much to the chagrin of the fans. He was an unknown outside coaching circles and had an even more undistinguished playing career than Steve McClaren. When it came to coaching though he literally wrote the book on it, having penned The Official FA Guide to Basic Team Coaching . He had also formerly held the job of FA Technical Director following Howard Wilkinson, and had been part of Kevin Keegan’s England set up. What could go wrong?

Well, just about everything as it turned out. Proving there are just some things you cannot get from book learning, Reed was an unmitigated disaster in the top job and the fans and the board were getting anxious.

He even conspired to mastermind a defeat in the League Cup quarter final to League Two side Wycombe Wanderers at The Valley. After a mere 41 days and just one win to his name, Reed was sacked on Christmas Eve 2006 by Charlton chairman Richard ‘Ebeneezer Scrooge’ Murray. One can only presume it was a not such a merry Christmas in the Reed household that year.

His 41-day reign was the shortest ever in Premiership history for a permanent manager and the papers were typically savage as they got into the swing of the season of goodwill to all men when they labelled him “Les Misérables” and “Santa Clueless”.

Alan Pardew, sacked by West Ham just days earlier, was what the Charlton fans found under their Christmas trees as he was chosen to try and save the Addicks from the deadly drop. “We are very fortunate a manager of Alan Pardew’s calibre is available and we have moved very, very quickly to secure his services,” Murray said in a statement.

By now it was too late and the club was relegated at the end of the season, kicking off a downward spiral that so often engulfs clubs that fall out of the Premier League. Still, at least it was a bit of excitement eh Charlton fans?

That’s all from us folks, we’re off to put out a beer and a mince pie for Santa so we’ll leave you with the best Christmas song ever made, and we hope you get what you asked for. Merry Christmas and god bless us, every one.

December 23 – Arrivederci Football Italia

FOR every English football fan of a certain age there’ll always be a special place in their heart for Serie A. In 1992 Channel 4 began showing Football Italia in 1992 and for 14 years viewers who had seen domestic football snatched away by Sky were treated to some of the best players on the planet every Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t to last though and today in 2006 Football Italia came to end when Internazionale took on Atalanta.

In the early 1990s Serie A was undoubtedly the biggest league in the world. The planets biggest stars, such as Baggio, Matthaus, Rijkaard, Gullit, Van Basten, and Zola were joined by some of England’s best, such as Paul Gascoigne, David Platt and Paul Ince.

What really made the show tick was one of football’s best frontmen, James Richardson. Laconically sitting at various cafes on the piazza’s of Italy he would slurp on his cappuccino and take us through the Gazzetta dello Sport with a multi-storey ice cream to his side.

On the pitch the competitive nature of Serie A would put today’s Premiership to shame. The ‘seven sisters’ of Milan, Inter, Roma, Lazio, Juventus, Parma and Fiorentina all had the resources to fight for the title, before the financial bubble burst, and several of these teams that were built on mountains of debt began to struggle.

The financial turmoil that greeted the new millennium in Italy also brought about a slide in viewing figures. Whereas the glory years so no less than three million viewers every Sunday afternoon, by the 2006/07 season Football Italia had been relegated down to satellite channel Bravo, where less than 20,000 would watch. Throw in the Calciopoli affair that summer and the TV suits decided enough was enough and pulled the plug.

A short-lived resurrection followed on Channel Five last year, but remarkably no station picked up the rights for this year’s fight for the Scudetto, which thanks to the arrival of Jose Mourinho and Ronaldinho among others, is shaping up to be one of the more exciting seasons in recent years. However, with a David Beckham-shaped arrival on the horizon this may well change.

See some classic Football Italia fare below, as James Richardson puns his way through some analysis with a typical leftfield guest in Elvis Costello and wonder why all football coverage can’t be this good. See what else was going on in the big bad world of football today here and we’ll be back for some night before Christmas action tomorrow.

December 22 – A Shaw Thing

WHEN Aston Villa striker Gary Shaw burst onto the scene in the early 1980s he looked destined to become one of the leading lights of his generation. This was not to be, although today in 1990, playing in his final season, he showed a glimpse of what could have been, when he bagged a four minute and 32 second hat-trick for Shrewsbury Town.

Shaw, a livewire striker, made his Aston Villa debut in 1978 as a 17-year-old and was a key part of Villa’s First Division winning side in the 1980/81 season, when he was rewarded with the PFA Young Player of the Year award, following in the footsteps of Glenn Hoddle who had won it the year before.

A knee injury that would eventually end Brian Little’s career meant that Shaw was fast-tracked into the Villa first team, and next up for the youngster was a starring role in Villa’s European Cup winning team in the 1981/82 season, with Shaw as the only Birmingham-born player in the side.

Shaw’s eye for goal saw him receive a call-up for the preliminary England squad for the 1982 World Cup, although he failed to make the final 22. He did, however, win one of Europe’s more random awards – the Bravo Award, given out by Italian magazine Guerin’ Sportivo to the best young player participating in a European club competition. Past winners include Marco van Basten, Paolo Maldini, Roberto Baggio and Robert Prosinecki, so he’s in decent company there.

Soon after though, Shaw suffered a knee ligament injury in a match away to Nottingham Forest and, before the days of flying out to ligament-guru Dr Richard Steadman in Colorado, such injuries would often rob a player of their speed and technique.

Shaw stayed at Villa Park until 1987, but was never the same player. He wound his career down with spells at Blackpool, FC Copenhagen, Austrian side Klagenfurt, Walsall and Kilmarnock, before his swansong at Shrewsbury.

Proving that, despite the injuries, he still knew how to sniff out a goal, Shaw’s sub-five-minute hat-trick for Shrewsbury came in his last season before his knee finally gave in.

See some footage from Villa’s famous European Cup win below and check out what else was going on today here.