Archive for January, 2009

January 31 – England’s First Gaffer

BACK in the day the English national team was a bit a Titus Brambles. So convinced were they that they were the best in the world at the nation’s game, they didn’t even both entering the first three World Cups. In fact, they didn’t even bother with a manager until Walter Winterbottom, who was born today in 1913, took over ‘football’s hardest job’ (thank you, The Sun), in 1947.
Walter was obviously ahead of his time, as, like today managerial heavyweights Wenger, Mourinhio et al, he led an uneventful playing career, turning put 26 times for Manchester United in the pre-WWII period.
Despite being given the lofty title of ‘England Manager’, Walter had no say over the selection of his team and had to deal with the internal politics of the FA, just as his successor Sir Alf would find out during his World Cup winning reign.
Walter’s first game in charge of the Three Lions was a 7-2 victory over Ireland, and he would go on to manage in four World Cups. If anyone beats that in our lifetime we’ll eat out ‘Fabio 2010’ baseball caps.
Unfortunately, Winterbottom was in charge for two of England’s worst ever results – even worse than Schteve McClaren’s dual efforts against Croatia.
The 1950 World Cup loss against the USA was known as the ‘Miracle on Grass’ by the part-timers that made up the American team of part-timers and, worse than that, was the footballing lesson that Hungary taught England in 1953.
Still, in addition to training the team, Walter was also in charge of travel, accommodation and meals. Check out Walter’s most infamous moment below and see what else happened today here and if you need some Super Sunday action that doesn’t involve SkySports over-hyping make sure you mosey your way back here.

January 30 – The Hod Squad

IT really is just too obvious and easy to stick the boot in to Glenn Hoddle, so let’s get started.

As a player Hoddle was highly gifted and delighted fans of both Tottenham Hostpur and England with his silky skills for years. Once his playing days were over it looked like he might become one of the few top English footballers who was able to transfer his success to the dug out.

First, as player/manager, he took Swindon into the top-flight before Ken Bates poached him to take over at Chelsea. After doing a decent job there his country came-a-calling after Terry Venables quit as England boss after Euro 96.

Hoddle had risen through the managerial ranks quickly and was just 39 when he got the top job with England. Perhaps it was too soon.

Under the massive media spotlight that comes with The Impossible Job (TM Graham Taylor) Hoddle’s sometimes bizarre methods and poor man-management skills began to come to the fore. According to his former team-mate Tony Cascarino, his comedy timing was also a bit off: “When Glenn tried to be funny, it was time to pass ’round the laughing gas because he was probably the unfunniest man I have ever known. He was also completely besotted with himself. If he had been an ice cream, he would have licked himself.” Hmmm, try not to picture that readers.

But while the England team were playing well Hoddle could deflect the criticisms with some justification and he continued to use ‘faith healer’ Eileen Drewery despite ridicule from the press and his own players.

After getting knocked out of France 98 he made his first big mistake by publishing his book Glenn Hoddle: My 1998 World Cup Story. It was a behind the scenes look at the England set up during the tournament and angered senior players who thought he should not be publishing details of what went on within the dressing room – particularly as it was not all good and Hoddle expected these players to continue playing for him.

Hoddle took some flak but weathered the storm. Much worse was to come.

Today in 1999 The Times newspaper published an interview with Hoddle that would change everything.

“You and I have been physically given two hands and two legs and a half-decent brain. Some people have not been born like that for a reason. The karma is working from another lifetime,” he told Matt Dickinson, then chief football correspondent for the paper.

All hell broke loose immediately. David Mellor, chairman of the government’s Football Task Force led the critics. He said Hoddle’s religion “appears to have become some sort of superstition from the dark ages,” adding that the manager was now “on very thin ice.”

Speaking on BBC radio he said Hoddle’s comments were “insulting, upsetting and ridiculous” and said he felt like strangling the England boss for being “such a damn fool”.

Disabled groups called for Hoddle’s head while Bob Price, Chairman of the British Paralympic Association, said Hoddle’s claim was “as nonsensical as it is unhelpful”.

Hoddle immediately said his remarks were “misconstrued, misunderstood and misinterpreted,” adding: “It’s hurt me. It’s saddened me because there is a lot of work that I’ve personally done to raise money for disabled charities, mentally and physically,” (which he obviously doesn’t like to talk about mate).

Despite vowing to battle on and fight his corner, Hoddle and the English public knew his time was up thanks to Richard and Judy. The pair were interviewing PM Tony Blair who had by now waded in on the story. He was asked: “If Glenn Hoddle has said what he is reported to have said, should he go?”

“Yes,” replied Blair.

Hoddle was sacked four days after the interview was published.

View Hoddle’s most embarrassing moment until the scandal below, and come back for more from us tomorrow.

January 29 – Mussolini’s Fave Team

MOST football clubs would probably rather not have a fascist dictator as their most famous all-time fan, but then Lazio isn’t most football clubs.

SS Lazio are firmly on the right of the political spectrum, the natural choice for any Romans with fascist tendencies. Paulo Di Canio is Lazio through and through having been born and bred in Rome and was initiated into the Lazio Ultras as a boy. He is more of a right winger than David Beckham and has even praised Benito Mussolini as “basically a very principled, ethical individual” who was “deeply misunderstood”. He even has “Dux”, the Latin equivalent of Mussolini’s moniker Il Duce tattooed on his arm.

When he moved back to Lazio in 2004 Di Canio soon got himself in hot water when he began celebrating wins for the team with a Nazi salute towards the club’s fans. The Fifa suits were soon alerted to his actions and, from deep within their hollowed-out volcano lair, they issued a £7,000 fine and a one-game ban for the striker who, undeterred insisted “I am a fascist, not a racist”.

Today in 2006 it became apparent Di Canio was a product of the problem in Italian football rather than the cause of it when swastikas were hung at Rome’s Olympic stadium during Roma’s game against Livorno. Walter Veltroni, then the Mayor of Rome was so shocked he decided action was needed. He said: “The word ‘game’ and swastika have no place together.”

Veltroni’s idea was to summon the entire squads of both AS Roma and SS Lazio to meet and listen to the stories of Italians who had survived the Nazi death camps. The mayor said he wanted to give players and officials “a chance to learn of the gravity of what happened directly, in the words of those who endured the hell of the Shoah”.

Council officials told The Guardian newspaper how Alberto Sed, a 77-year-old survivor of Auschwitz and lifelong Roma supporter, broke down as he read out a letter he had written to the club as a young man. Mr Sed, who was sent to Auschwitz under the anti-semitic laws passed by Italy’s fascist regime, was reported to have turned to the Roma captain and said: “Totti, before they deported me, at the age of 15, I was smarter with the ball than you.”

Another told footballers that it was irrelevant that only a minority of far-right activists was involved. “There are [only] 50 cretins in the stadium?” Piero Terracina was quoted as asking the players and officials. “Nazism also started with 50 cretins.”

It seems that Mr Veltroni may have a tough job in changing attitudes when some of the country’s highest-placed officials seem to think Nazi salutes and swastikas are nothing more than hijinx.

The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi said Di Canio is “an exhibitionist but a good lad” and his salute “did not have any significance”.

Two MPs loyal to Berlusconi proposed a collection to pay Di Canio’s fine. The MPs were both members of the “post-fascist” National Alliance, the second-largest party in Mr Berlusconi’s rightwing coalition. Among those who endorsed the whipround was Daniela Fini, the wife of the National Alliance leader, Gianfranco Fini, who was Mr Berlusconi’s deputy and foreign minister. Ms Fini said the collection for Di Canio would be “an act of solidarity”. As Boney M didn’t quite sing, oh those crazy Italians.

Have a look at the clip below to see Di Canio being embraced by the extreme right section of the Lazio crowd who gather in the Curva Nord stand and who, until recently, displayed a delightful banner taunting their traditionally more liberal Roma counterparts which read: “Team of Blacks, Crowd of Jews”. Charming.

January 28 – Law of Nature

YOU’VE got to feel for poor old Denis Law. Not only does he normally get his name spelt wrong and has he had to live with the myth that he relegated his beloved Manchester United with his cheeky backheel for City, but today in 1961 he had the game of life, scoring six goals, only for the match to be abandoned, and his feat erased from the record books.

Law was turning out for City as they took on Luton Town in an FA Cup fourth-round tie at a damp Kenilworth Road. Determined to beat the elements, City began to put Luton to the sword, with Law splashing around to bag his double hat-trick as City cruised to a 6-2 lead and it looked like they had secured their place in the last 16.

The weather had other ideas though. According to a report at the time, the playing surface “first resembled a beach with the tide just out, then deep mud, then a shallow lake.”

After 69 minutes the game had to be abandoned, leaving Law’s six-goal haul in some sort of footballing purgatory.

He would later recall: “It’s not everyday you score six goals. I never did it again – the most I managed in a game that counted was four. But then the heavens opened. Obviously it wasn’t meant to be.”

The tie was rescheduled for the following Wednesday and Law claims that “the pitch was in a worse state than it ever was on Saturday”, but Luton had obviously learned a thing or two from the abandoned match as they turned the tables with a 3-1 win. And guess who got the ’1′? Yup, despite personally out scoring his opponents 7-5 over the almost-two games, Law was unceremoniously dumped out of the FA Cup, at a time when it still meant something to managers, players and fans alike.

We’ve no footage of the Luton mudbath, so instead here’s one for all you City fans and United-haters. Join us again tomorrow for more of the same, but until then check out what else was going on today by clicking here.

January 27 – Carra Throws a Wobbly

“THERE were about thirty-eight thousand fans in the crowd that day, but I think only five of them failed to make an insurance claim.”

This was Jamie Carragher’s response in his recent autobiography to the events of today in 2002, when the Liverpool defender threw a pound coin back into the crowd after having it chucked his way.

Liverpool and Arsenal were locking horns in a fiery FA Cup fourth round clash at Highbury, with the Gooners out for revenge following Michael Owen’s late show that saw Liverpool defeat them in the final the season before.

The tone was set after only two minutes, when Steven Gerrard and Patrick Vieira both went in for a 50-50 challenge, leaving each other sprawling on the turf. After 20 minutes Robert Pires limped off following a heavy Sami Hyypia challenge, but Bergkamp made it 1-0 soon after.

The tackles continued to fly in, with Martin Keown being sent off in the second as Liverpool pressed for an equaliser. With 20 minutes remaining Carragher was on the receiving end of a late Bergkamp challenge that saw the non-flying Dutchman also heading for an early bath.

As Carra dusted himself off a pound coin was thrown from the crowd, and the former England international, showing scant regard for any type of regional stereotyping, threw it straight back.

Referee Mike Riley reached for his red card for the third time that afternoon and Arsenal held on to a 1-0 win. Carragher would receive a three-match ban, a formal warning from the police and a £40,000 fine from the club as plenty of Arsenal claimed that they had been the victim of what Carra would later describe as a ‘magic coin’.

We don’t have footage of his coin throwing antics, but instead catch a Carra compilation here and see what else was happening today here.

January 26 – Pick’n'Mix

THE great Bob Dylan once told us in verse that the times they are a-changing. Indeed they are Bob. We now find ourselves in a world where the economy is shot to bits, Man City is now the richest club in the world yet no one is taking them seriously enough to actually sign for them, and now we find out that someone even richer than Roman Abramovich is trying to beat him at his own game by launching a takeover of Chelsea. Has the world gone mad? Have we all taken leave of our senses?!

To cap it all the world even looks different, especially down the high street where well-known retailers that have been part of the landscape for decades are starting to drop like flies. Even Woolworths has gone for crying out loud. No longer can you pop in for some sweets or one of those tiny cans of coke or whatever else it was they sold.

Today here at OTFD we offer you our, admittedly belated, tribute to the passing of Woolies with a pick’n'mix of stories from football’s past that occurred on this day – a smörgasbord of trivia based nostalgia if you will.

We start way back in 1926 when John Logie Baird, the inventor of television gave the world’s first public demonstration of a working television system on this day at his laboratory in London in front of members of the Royal Institution and a reporter from The Times. Nobody present knew it at the time of course, but television was to transform football. It was just 11 years after Baird’s demonstration that the first televised football match was aired – a specially arranged game between Arsenal and Arsenal reserves.

Next we move on to 1957. Last year there were no draws in the FA Cup fourth round, and therefore no need for any replays. The last time such a thing happened was more than half a century earlier, way back in 1957. Indeed most ties came nowhere near drawing with several very high scoring games: Blackpool did Fulham to the tune of 6-2, Burnley walloped New Brighton 9-0, and Birmingham knocked Southend for six, winning 6-1 away. The closest any matches came to drawing was Barnsley’s 1-0 win at Cardiff and Bournemouth’s win at Wolves by the same scoreline. Villa also won by the odd goal, beating Middlesbrough 3-2 at Ayresome Park, on their way to the final where they beat Manchester United.

Two of the game’s great managers were born on this day, the first, in 1919, is Bill Nicholson. The Yorkshireman arrived at Tottenham when he was just 16 and save for a break for World War Two, he would serve the club as a player, coach and most famously, manager, for nearly 40 years. He oversaw Spurs winning a hatful of trophies including the League and Cup double in 1961 – the first double of the twentieth century, as well as European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1963, making Spurs the first British winners of a European trophy.

That same year on this day a future European trophy winner was born in Portugal. José Mourinho was famously Sir Bobby Robson’s translator at Barcelona before really making his name at Porto where he won the European Cup. He went to Chelsea with a brief to deliver the same trophy but despite winning their first League title for 50 years could not succeed in Europe with the club.

Today is also significant for two Liverpool strikers. Today in 1982 Ian Rush scored his first hat-trick for Liverpool, two years after signing from Chester. The mustachioed hit man netted three times in the second half as the Reds beat Notts County 4-0 at Meadow Lane after Ronnie Whelan had opened the scoring in the first half. Liverpool went on to win the league that season while Rush went on to score a remarkable 16 hat-tricks for the club.

In 1990 Israeli striker Ronny Rosenthal was on trial at Luton Town when he was spotted by Liverpool. Manager Kenny Dalglish signed him on loan and it proved to be a masterstroke as Rocket Ronny scored seven goals in the Reds final eight games of the season to help them to the League title once again. He was soon signed on a permanent deal with the club but never made the same impact as when he first arrived, and is largely remembered for a shocking miss against Aston Villa in 1992 (see clip below), which he says he doesn’t regret. He told the Guardian in 2007: “If you asked me if I’d want to do it again I’d say yes, because it put me on the map. I laugh.” Good man. Today in 1994 his Liverpool adventure came to an end when he was sold to Spurs for £250,000.

Well there we are, we hope you found something you liked in our buffet of football history but if not, never mind, you can always read what we were on about last year, or come back tomorrow.

January 25 – Trevor and the Wonder Goal

HERE at OTFD we’ve always liked Trevor Sinclair, not least because of his excellent and disciplined performances on England’s left side in the 2002 World Cup. Then a West Ham player, he was only in the squad as a replacement for Danny Murphy who broke his foot in Japan, yet Trev was one of the best players in the England team in the tournament and was certainly better than the much heralded Beckham on the opposite flank.

Today we are marking the anniversary of the best goal Sinclair ever scored. It was on this day in 1997 that Trevor, at the time playing for QPR, lined up for the Hoops at Loftus Road to face fellow Division One club Barnsley in the FA Cup Fourth Round.

Not perhaps a thrilling prospect on paper, but Trev was to ensure the match would never be forgotten by the Rangers fans.

Things actually started better for Barnsley when Neil Redfern scored to put them 1-0 up with just 13 minutes played, but Rangers soon responded with goals from Gavin Peacock and John Spencer.

When Andy Impey was sent off just after half time for the Rs it looked like they would try and hold on to their slender lead until the final whistle. Sinclair had other plans.

A long ball was launched up towards the Barnsley penalty box from the right flank but there seemed little danger with just one man up for QPR. But Sinclair saw the chance of the spectacular and with his back to goal flung himself into the air and in one movement met the ball with an amazing bicycle kick on the volley that sailed over keeper David Watson.

The crowd were silent for a split second, not quite believing what they had just seen, but soon Loftus Road erupted as the fans celebrated the best goal they were ever likely to see in person.

The game was not quite over yet and Barnsley ensured a nervous finish for QPR by scoring four minutes from time to make it 3-2, but it was not enough. Rangers had won – and how.

Sinclair told newspaper reporters: “I try them all the time in training but they’ve never come off like that.”

It was such a good strike that it beat Beckham’s half way line goal against Wimbledon to be crowned BBC Match of the Day’s Goal of the Season.

Sadly for QPR the magic did not continue and they were knocked out in the next round after losing 2-1 to Wimbledon at Selhurst Park, despite taking nearly 8,000 fans for the match.

Ten years after scoring that goal Sinclair was playing for Cardiff City in the Championship. He told The Independent: “A few of the lads have been giving me grief about it. They say, ‘I can’t believe you’re still on about that goal after 10 years.’ I try to recreate it in training and they have a chuckle. But as your back gets stiffer and you get older it’s not so easy. I know it’s a popular clip on YouTube, and people still ask me about it. It’s nice to be remembered.”

And remembered you are Trev. See the clip below and check out which brooding Frenchman was boiling over at Selhurst Park on this day in 1995. Toodle pip.

January 24 – The Black Diamond Passes Away

THE trailblazing Brazilian legend Leonidas da Silva, top scorer in the 1938 World Cup and possible inventor of the bicycle kick died to today in 2004, aged 90.

Leonidas was one of Brazilian football’s first superstars and could boast of two classic nicknames: the ‘Black Diamond’ and the ‘Rubber Man’. After beginning his career playing for a number of minor sides in Rio de Janeiro Leonidas joined Penarol of Uruguay in 1933, spending a year at the club before moving back to Brazil to play for Vasco da Gama.

Here he would win the Brazilian Championship and leave after one season to go to Botafogo, where he would again spend one season and again win the title. In 1935 he became one of the first players to sign for the elitist club Flamengo and that is when nickname number one was born.

Leonidas would make his mark on the world stage in the 1938 World Cup, where seven goals saw him top the goalscoring charts as Brazil lost to Italy in the semi-final. Brazilian manager Ademar Pimenta made possibly one of the biggest gaffs in World Cup history by resting the striker against the Italians, meaning that the Brazilians were without the man that “was our stick of dynamite” according to a Brazilian hack at the time.

When he returned home Leonidas found himself the most famous man in the country and became the first footballer to commercially endorse a product, as the chocolate manufacturer Lacta launched the Diamante Negro, a chocolate bar that is still produced to this day in ten countries around the world.

By this time he had already acquired his other nickname, as his elasticity on the pitch saw him dubbed the ‘Rubber Man’, a quality he used to help nurture the development of the bicycle kick, although many credit Chile’s Ramon Unzaga as the first man to perform the showboating trick. Bizarrely, Doug Ellis (yes, that one) also claims to have invented it in his autobiography despite never being a professional footballer.

Leonidas finished his career with a spell at Sao Paulo and could look back on a record with the Selecao that saw him make 19 appearances and score 21 goals. Tragically he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease from 1974 until it killed him in 2004, but his place in Brazilian folklore is secure. As playwright Nelson Rodrigues said of him: “He was a rigorously Brazilian player. Had the fantasy, childhoodness, improvisation and the sensuality from the best Brazilian players.”

Read about one of Leonidas’ countrymen that was making waves today here and see some cracking grainy old film of Brazil taking on Poland in the 1938 World Cup, where the Black Diamond bagged a hat-trick in a 6-5 thriller. They don’t make them like they used to….

January 23 – Death of the Paper-man

WHEN Gustav Hartmann broke down the door of his best friend Matthias Sindelar’s apartment today in 1939 he found the legendary Austrian centre-forward lying dead alongside his girlfriend.

The story of the tragic hero Sindelar, Austria’s finest-ever player and a man who stood up to the Nazi Party amidst the chaos of pre-war Europe is one of football’s forgotten chapters.

Born into a poor family of Czech immigrants in 1903, Sindelar joined Hertha Vienna as a 15-year-old and soon earned a move to FK Austria Vienna where he would help the team win five Austrian Cups and become the national team’s most dangerous player under the stewardship of Hugo Meisl.

Due his slight build Sindelar was known as Der Papoerne, or the Paper-man and was described by theatre critic Alfred Polgar as having “brains in his legs and many remarkable and unexpected things occurred to them while they were running.”

The Austrian national team of this era were one of the leading sides in the world, dubbed the ‘Wunderteam’ and a product of the cultural hotbed that had emanated from the Viennese coffee-houses since the latter half of the 19th century, a topic excellently explored in Jonathan Wilson’s superlative book Inverting the Pyramid.

When the Nazi forces annexed Austria in March 1938 Hitler was quick to integrate the Wunderteam into a new united national team. Never keeping his Social Democratic views a secret, Sindelar turned out for Ostmark, the name that the Nazi’s had given Austria, for their celebratory “Reconciliation Match” in April 1938. This PR exercise was supposed to result in a draw and during the first half Sindelar missed a number of easy chances as the Austrians seemed to let Germany control the game.

In the second half both Sindelar and team-mate Karl Sesta scored as the game finished 2-0. Reports suggest that Sindelar celebrated his goal by dancing in front of the watching Nazi dignitaries.
Sindelar was then called up to the Germany team, but steadfastly refused, citing injury and old age as his excuse. He also refused to leave his home country despite the Nazi Party banning professional football.

When Sindelar was found dead in his apartment a myriad of conspiracy theories emerged and still float around to this day. The official cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty heater, a plausible reason as many in his neighbourhood had died that way.

Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung had different ideas, claiming that Sindelar, who was a hero to millions had most likely “become the victim of murder though poisoning.” Theories of missing police records and bribes to coroners added fuel to the fire that the Nazi’s had murdered one of the 20th century’s greatest ever players. Suicide was also raised as a possibility, as he was found lying next to his Jewish girlfriend Carmilla Castagnola, as if to suggest that Sindelar could not face living the city he loved that was being downtrodden by the Hitler’s evil empire.

Whatever the cause of the Paper-man’s death it is undeniable that both on and off the pitch Sindelar was one of the most significant men of his generation. See some footage of him in action below and have a look at what else was going on in the world of football today here.

January 22 – Captain Teddy Hits the Airwaves

IN 1927 Cardiff City won the FA Cup, the first ever transatlantic telephone call was made, and on this very day listeners were able to tune in to a live football commentary broadcast for the very first time.

In 1927 the British Broadcasting Service received it’s first Royal Charter and was now able to start broadcasting sports events from around the country, despite heavy opposition from the sports authorities and the newspapers who thought attendance and readership were bound to be hit by the new service.

The first sport to get the new wireless treatment was rugby when, on 15 January 1927, the BBC delivered the first ever live running sports commentary for the international between England and Wales from Twickenham.

The man chosen to be the first ever radio sports commentator was the rather grandly named Captain Henry Blythe Thornhill Wakelam, known as Captain Teddy. He described how he got the job in his autobiography thusly: “One January afternoon, I was working out some details of a tender, when my telephone rang. An unknown voice at the other end asked me if I was the same Wakelam who had played rugger for the Harlequins, and, upon my saying “yes”, went on to inform me that the owner of it was an official of the BBC, who would much like to see me at once on an urgent matter.”

A week after his successful debut as a rugby reporter, Captain Teddy turned to football, and on this day, from a garden shed-like hut at Arsenal’s Highbury stadium, he described to the listeners the action from the Division One clash between the Gunners and Sheffield United.

Arsenal’s Charlie Buchan took the honour of being the first player to score a goal live on radio.

The experiment had proved a success and even the gentlemen of the press were keen with The Spectator correctly predicting, “That type of broadcasting has come to stay”. The Times also reportedly it favourably with their correspondent commending Wakelam’s description of play as “notably vivid and impressive”. Perhaps Captain Teddy’s commentary was enhanced by a little something to loosen him up – in one unguarded Ron Atkinson-like moment when he thought he was off-air during his first commentary Wakelam was reputedly heard saying over the airwaves, “What about a beer?” What an excellent idea.

The Soectator’s prediction was right, that type of broadcasting certainly was here to stay and to this day TV has not entirely replaced radio as a means of following a match.

You can hear some of Captain Teddy’s commentary by clicking here, which is followed by a sofa-based chat with OTFD’s fave commentator Barry Davies.

As Wakeham probably didn’t say at the end of the Arsenal match, that’s all for now folks, but we’ll be right back here tomorrow with something that if nothing else, will take your mind off work for a couple of minutes.

Last year on this day we were telling you about some nutters who tried to use a flame thrower as part of a plan, but no, it wasn’t the A-Team. Find out who it really was here.