Archive for February, 2009

February 28 – Let’s Be ‘Aving You!

PICTURE the scene: it’s half-time in a vital match in your struggle against relegation and you’ve just seen your side throw away a 2-0 lead. As the club’s joint major shareholder you should probably stay in your plush executive box, have another drink and let your manager rally the troops.

That’s not how Delia Smith rolls. Today in 2005 everyone’s favourite television chef-cum-football executive staggered out onto the pitch, grabbed the microphone from a bemused stadium announcer and sought to gee up the Carrow Road crowd.

“This is a message for possibly the best supporters in the world. We need a 12th man. Where are you? Where are you? Let’s be having you! Come on!” she slurred in front of 24,302 spectators that looked on with a mixture of embarrassment, amusement and, in some rare cases, admiration.

Delia had seen her charges waste a two-goal lead as Dean Ashton and Leon McKenzie’s early strikes were cancelled out by goals from Antoine Sibierski and Robbie Fowler to leave the sides level at half-time. The motivational speech did not have the desired effect, as Fowler’s would grab another goal as the Citizens would go on to win 3-2 as Norwich’s survival efforts were doomed to failure.

Delia’s outburst was caught by the Sky Sports cameras and received more press coverage than anything else the Canneries could cook up that season, as she was splashed across the front pages of the nation’s newspapers.

The next day she would issue a statement defending her actions that sounded more like the kind of hungover apology that your dear narrator has to give to his mates following a messy Saturday night: “My message to the fans was a totally spontaneous appeal from the heart, aimed at trying to do everything we could to get behind Nigel Worthington and the team,” she offered.

“Maybe in the heat of the moment I didn’t choose the best words.”

Still, what would the crazy game of football be without a bit of passion? Fair play to you Delia, you wouldn’t catch Nigella doing that.

Also on this day Fifa were preparing up a feast of their own, so click here for that.

Unlike Delia’s cooking, we’ll be repeating on ourselves tomorrow, so make sure your back here for more of the same. In the meantime why not join the Twitter revolution by following OTFD here.

February 27 – Robbie Taunts Le Saux

SUBTLETY has never been one of Robbie Fowler’s strong points. The young scamp from Merseyside has never been the shy retiring type and it seems that sometimes he just can’t help himself.

Today in 1999 was no different as Rob lined up for Liverpool at Stamford Bridge as they took on Chelsea in a Premiership clash. If we tell you that Graeme Le Saux was playing that day for Chelsea you probably know what happened next.

Despite the fact he was married and has two children, rumours had been circulating for years about Le Saux’s sexuality, prompted by his preference for The Guardian over The Sun, his love of reading and antiques, and most likely, because he rose to the bait the first time he was ever teased about it.

Fowler and Le Saux had been clashing throughout the game, and Fowler claims Le Saux was being rather over-liberal with discreet use of his elbow. Eventually Fowler bent over, starting waggling his arse in the direction of Le Saux and pointing at it. No one was in any doubt as to what he was getting at, least of all Le Saux, who, having had just about enough of all this nonsense, shouted plaintively: “But I’m married!” Fowler claims he retorted “Yeah, so was Elton John mate,” but Le Saux contends Fowler made that up later. Either way Le Saux snapped and elbowed Fowler who responded by pulling his shorts down.

Typically, The FA were not laughing at Robbie’s antics and banned him for two matches and banned Le Saux for one match for his elbow brandishing.

Le Saux recounted the incident in his autobiography: “I didn’t go out of my way to stand up for gay rights, but my situation dictated that I did. The way I see it, there are people in the gay community that are going to be football fans and that means there are young people who might be confused about their sexuality. They need support, so when Robbie Fowler attempts to humiliate me in public, all the kids in that position feel pretty s***ty about themselves.

“More than anything in my career, that offended me. What he did was wrong and he has never admitted that. He still talks as if it was a bit of a laugh. I just think there should be someone in his life who says, ‘Robbie, you were out of order’.”

The FA said that again to Rob just a few months later when he further enraged them with his infamous goal-line sniffing celebration at Everton. The little rascal!

If you want to know some of Graeme Le Saux’s innermost thoughts then have a watch of the clip below. If you don’t, have a look at which powerhouse of German football was starting life on this day. If you don’t want to do that, then just come back tomorrow to see what historical snipped we’ll be bringing you then. And if you don’t want to do that, then there is just no pleasing you.

February 26 – The Road to Wigan Pier

THE late, great Bob Monkhouse once said: “They laughed at me when I said I wanted to be a comedian. Well they’re not laughing now are they?!”

When Dave Whelan bought Wigan Athletic in 1995 he was almost laughed out of town when he pledged to bring Premiership football to the club. At the time they were struggling in the fourth tier and looked about as likely to reach the top flight as Alex Ferguson is to overcome is crippling fear of balloons.

Ten years later and they only ones laughing were the Wigan fans when they were promoted to the Prem and then held their own among the big boys.

Today in 2006 Whelan and the Wigan fans had their day in the sun when the club reached the Carling Cup final and took on Manchester United at the Millennium Stadium.

The Latics had earned their place in the final after negotiating their way past Bournemouth and Watford in the early rounds before dispatching of Premier League Bolton in the quarter final and then impressively overcoming Arsenal in the two-legged semi final. After the second leg Whelan was overjoyed to have reached the final, but a tad concerned about the impact it would have on his pocket. He told the Guardian: “They’re on a hell of a good bonus to win it next month but I’d only be guessing how much; I can’t remember. When the lads talked to me back in the summer and asked what they’d get if they got a cup final I probably just said: ‘Well, what do you want because we’ll never get there.’ I never thought we’d get to the final so I might have gone mad. I might have offered them £1m; that’s what I’m worried about.”

The final itself would prove a bridge too far for Paul Jewel’s plucky players who succumbed 4-0 to United with two goals from Rooney, one from Ronaldo, and one from Louis Saha – playing in place of the dropped Ruud van Nistelrooy who would never play for the club again after going off to Real Madrid in a sulk.

The result broke what passes as a trophy drought at Old Trafford, as it was the first gong won by United since the FA Cup in 2004. It was also the first senior trophy for Wayne Rooney and the first United had won since the arrival of the Glazer family.

You can see Ronnie’s contribution to the scoring below and have a look at what else was going down in the world of football on this day right here. Until next time, dear readers, until next time.

February 25 – The Drog Downs Arsene’s Young Gunners

FOR a spell in the late ’90s and early 2000′s the League Cup was a chance for some of the lesser lights of English football to pick up some silverware. Since Middlesbrough’s win in 2004 though, the Big Four (if we’re still allowed to call them that) have had their mitts all over it.

But, if these finals are all going to be as entertaining and action-packed as Arsenal’s clash with Chelsea from today in 2007, then we won’t mind so much.

The two London rivals had to head over to Cardiff as the finishing touches were still being made to the new Wembley, so the Millennium Stadium hosted it’s last English cup final. Around 2,000 cockney fans had reason to lament this as major train delays saw them miss kick-off thanks to Network Rail’s usual shenanigans.

As luck wouldn’t have it, the latecomers missed out when the final started with a bang. Arsene Wenger put his faith in the youngsters that had got his side to the final, selecting a team with an average age of less than 21 and after 12 minutes 17-year-old Theo Walcott bagged his first goal for the Gunners as he ghosted past Ricardo Carvalho and slotted home past Petr Cech.

Under the stewardship of the Special One, Chelsea didn’t give up easily and Didier Drogba soon equalised with his 27th goal of the season, which had more than a suspicion of offside about it.

Arsenal’s youngsters took the game to Chelsea, but failed to take advantage. The game was held up for over five minutes when John Terry went headfirst into Abou Diaby’s incoming boot, causing the England captain to lose consciousness and be stretchered off to hospital.

This seemed to galvanise the Chelsea team, just as Arsenal’s young legs began to tire. With five minutes remaining Drogba headed substitute Arjen Robben’s cross past Manuel Almunia to give the Blues the lead.

Seven minutes of injury time were signalled by the fourth official, in which the game turned nasty, as John Obi Mikel and Kolo Toure clashed, sparking off a mass brawl that saw the two protagonists plus Emmanuel Adebayor all receive red cards from referee Howard Webb and even had the two managers ploughing in.

Eventually, after 11 minutes of added-on time the game ended and Chelsea picked up the trophy and would go on that season to add the FA Cup after defeating Manchester United in one of the most boring Cup Finals ever.

See which other side were celebrating a League Cup triumph today here and if you’re feeling tech-savvy then why not follow us on Twitter here.

February 24 – Bobby Moore Dies

“MY captain, my leader, my right-hand man. He was the spirit and the heartbeat of the team. A cool, calculating footballer I could trust with my life. He was the supreme professional, the best I ever worked with. Without him England would never have won the World Cup.” Sir Alf Ramsey.

BOBBY Moore, the rock at the heart of England’s finest hour in the summer of 1966, died today in 1993 aged 51 following a battle against bowel cancer.

One of the true legends of the game, Moore seemed destined for greatness at an early age as he served his apprenticeship at the famous West Ham Academy of Football. After replacing his injured mentor Malcolm Allison to make his debut against Manchester United in 1958, Moore never looked back, cementing his place in the Hammers’ first team.

England honours soon followed and Moore found himself in England’s 1962 World Cup side and was promoted to captain at the end of the 1963/64 season. This proved to be an eventful year for Moore, as he would also lead West Ham to the FA Cup, be named the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year and successfully overcome testicular cancer.

There was more silverware the following season as West Ham won the European Cup Winners’ Cup as the World Cup loomed on the horizon and England expected. In early 1966 it emerged that Moore was not happy at West Ham and a move to Tottenham was imminent, only for Alf Ramsey to bash Moore and West Ham manger Ron Greenwood’s heads together and tell them to get over their differences.

Once the tournament begun Moore was instrumental in helping England through their group will relative ease and then past a feisty Argentinean side and a Eusebio-led Portugal team and on to the final.

In Geoff Hurst’s autobiography he remarkably tells the story of how George Cohen overheard Ramsey and his staff discussing the possibility of dropping Moore for the final in place of Leeds United’s more physical Norman ‘Bite Yer Legs’ Hunter. Ramsey and his fellow coaches decided against this move, which with hindsight seems unthinkable.

After 120 unbearable minutes of Anglo-German action it was left for Moore to climb the 39 steps, wipes the mud off his hands, and receive the Jules Rimet trophy from the Queen.

Moore became a national icon following England’s World Cup success and would turn out 108 times for the Three Lions, wearing the captain’s armband on 90 occasions. During his career he would pick up all manner of personal awards such as an OBE from Her Maj and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

England were unable to repeat their success in the 1970 World Cup, which was overshadowed by Moore’s arrest over the theft of a bracelet in Bogota, which led to a fully-fledged diplomatic incident.

When England failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup Moore quit the international scene and soon after headed out of the Boleyn Ground, joining Fulham. His career was rounded off with a spell in the bombastic NASL, mixing it with his old pal Pele.

In 1993 Moore announced that he was suffering from bowel cancer ten days before his death. Tributes poured in from across the world of football as West Ham renamed one of their stands after him and the Bobby Moore Fund was set up to fight bowel cancer.

England’s most successful captain still holds a place in the nation’s consciousness, with a statue of Moore being erected outside the main entrance of the new Wembley Stadium in 2007 and West Ham retired his number 6 shirt at the stat of the 2008/09 season.

See the great man in one of our favourite ever football-themed adverts below and click here to see what else was happening today. We’ll be back with another footballing nugget tomorrow, but in the meantime follow us on Twitter here.

February 23 – Eduardo’s Horror Break

MORE than getting the hairdryer treatment from Fergie, or being ‘merked’ by Rio, the one thing professional footballers fear more than anything else is getting a career-ending injury.

Their whole career can go up in smoke with just one mistimed tackle and these kinds of thoughts must have been going through Arsenal’s Croatian striker Eduardo’s mind today in 2008 when he had his leg broken early on in a match at Birmingham City.

The Brazilian-born Croatian international had been brought in from Dinamo Zagreb in the summer of 2007 and immediately looked at home in the Gunners attack, providing a clinical touch to a team that had often looked at bit toothless the season before.

The match was just three minutes old when Birmingham defender Martin Taylor mistimed his tackle on Eduardo and the striker was felled with what was clearly a serious injury.

Replays of the challenge showed Eduardo’s leg bending in ways it was never designed to and he received treatment on the pitch for seven minutes before being given oxygen and stretchered off.

Martin Taylor was sent off immediately while Eduardo was taken to hospital for emergency surgery, no doubt contemplating whether he would ever play again. He said a few days later: “I don’t remember the incident very well and it is not something that I want to see again on television or in the newspapers. All I remember is that when I fell I looked down at my foot and it had turned the other way. The rest is just a blank. It was an unfortunate situation but these things can happen in football.

“I am unsure of the extent of the injury and how long I will be out of action for but I know that I won’t be able to play for Arsenal for the rest of the season or be ready in time for the Euros this summer. But I’m not worried about that. My concentration and determination is on making as quick a recovery as possible.”

The match continued and ended in a 2-2 draw after Birmingham scored a late penalty to equalise while William Gallas turned into the Incredible Sulk, but all the talk was about Eduardo’s injury.

Arsene Wenger was practically foaming at the mouth in his post-match interviews. “The tackle was horrendous and this guy should never play football again,” he said of Taylor.

“It goes with the idea that to stop Arsenal you have to kick Arsenal and that kind of thing was waiting to happen,” he said. “Many people have got away with too many bad tackles. We’ve escaped a few times but it’s just not acceptable. If that is football it’s better to stop it.

“The worst thing you hear after is that ‘he’s not the kind of guy who usually does that’, but you need to only kill one person one time – it’s enough.”

Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish defender his player. “I’ve seen the challenge and, yes, the studs land on Eduardo’s ankle. In slow motion these tackles always look bad but he’s not a malicious player – Eduardo was just too quick for him,” he said. “The referee’s done his job, it’s a sending off, but Taylor’s not a malicious player.”

After Wenger had calmed down a touch, he retracted his earlier comments about Taylor. “I feel that my comments about Martin Taylor were excessive. I said what I did in the heat of the moment. It was a highly emotional afternoon and we were all shocked by the injury,” he said.

Last week, after almost an entire year out injured during which Arsenal’s title challenge fell by the way side and Euro 2008 went on without him, Eduardo returned to first team action for the Gunners against Cardiff in the FA Cup, scoring twice to allay any fears he had lost his sparkle.

“It was the best day of my life – it was a special moment to score, very emotional,” he said after the game.

You can see Eduardo’s horror moment about half-way through the clip below in amongst a veritable rogue’s gallery of terrible tackles.

Also on this day, one of England’s greats was taking to that big football pitch in the sky. We’ll be back tomorrow sports fans so don’t go a-changing.

February 22 – Take Your Pick

DUE to popular demand and after being inundated by literally one request to reprise the Pic ‘n’ Mix selection we offered you back in January, we’ve decided to revisit the format and offer you a round up of the stories that were making the news on this day in football history.

First up we travel back to 1958 when British football was reeling in the wake of the Munich air crash. Today Manchester United had to play their first league game since the crash. The team, being led by assistant manager Jimmy Murphy while Sir Matt Busby was recovering, had taken on Sheffield Wednesday in the Cup two days before which they won 3-0. The programme for the match declared “United will go on”, and they did. A goal from Scottish centre-forward Alex Dawson meant United drew 1-1 with Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford. Duncan Edwards had finally succumbed to his injuries and died the day before.

We’ve already told you about the day when the weather put paid to more fixtures than any other but today in 1979 the most-delayed ever fixture in British football was finally played.

Falkirk were due to host Inverness Caledonian Thistle on January 6 for a Scottish Cup second-round tie at their Kings Mill ground. Unfortunately the pitch was declared unplayable, as it was on a further 28 – yes 28! – occasions before eventually the playing surface was deemed suitable for a game, on this day. Caley Thistle were probably wishing it had been postponed again when four first half goals helped Falkirk progress to the next round. After all that, they were then beaten three days later by a late penalty at Dundee to end one of the longest and most pointless cup campaigns in history.

We’re shooting forward to 1997 in the OTFD DeLorean now as we look at two records of very different kinds. The first involves a controversial game between Plymouth Argyle and Chesterfield. If we tell you that one Bruce Grobbelaar was keeping goal for Plymouth you’re probably expecting us to follow that up by telling you about a betting scandal at the match, but we’re not going to do that. No, the game is record breaking simply for the number of red cards brandished: five in all, making it the red-cardiest match in English football history. It all kicked off after a mass brawl which was instigated by Grobelaar claiming to have been injured.

The Guinness Book of Record pisses all over those chips though with a match between Sportivo Ameliano and General Caballero in Paraguay which saw a crazy 20 players sent off. Barmy.

On the very same day David Beckham was setting a record of his own when he scored the fastest goal in British football ever recorded as Manchester United took on Chelsea. Becks goal was clocked at 97.9mph which is pretty damn quick.

This day in 2004 was described by Arsene Wenger as “one of the most important dates in our history.” The reason he was was so cock-a-hoop (why does no one use that phrase anymore?) is that the Gunners had secured the bucket loads of cash they needed to build their shiny new stadium.

“It has been a big target of mine to participate in pushing the club forward and relocating to a new stadium is a necessity as it will enable us to become of one the biggest clubs in the world,” said the famously short-sighted Frenchman. “I love the fact that the new site is so close to Highbury,” he addeed. The new Emirates Stadium opened in 2006 – amazingly right on schedule.

To finish we are remembering a player who was in large part responsible for one of the biggest world cup shocks of all time. Uruguayan goalkeeper Roque Maspoli was net-tending at the 1950 World Cup and managed to keep the celebrated Brazilian team at bay in the final and thus help Uruguay to win the Cup. Maspoli passed away on this day in 2004 but he will never be forgotten for his part in what is still remembered as The Fateful Final in Brazil.

We’ll leave you with some footage of Maspoli’s finest hour and the story of a dramatic resignation, also from this day in football’s history. More tomorrow pop pickers so keep it OTFD.

February 21 – Fight Club

ONE of the most remarkable and, it has to be said, amusing, on-pitch brawls took place today in 2007 when Internationale and Valencia clashed in the aftermath of their Champions League last-16 second leg.

A tense goalless second leg ended with the Spanish side progressing to the next round on away goals when unused Valencia substitute David Navarro raced onto the pitch and landed a peach of a right hook square on Nicolas Burdisso’s nose, breaking it and sparking a melee that saw players and coaches from both sides go at it hammer and tongs.

As soon as the Spanish midfielder had landed his blow he proceeded to get the hell out, making a beeline for the dressing room, but found a posse of Inter players chasing him in a Keystone Cops stylee.

Players traded blows on the pitch as Navarro was chased down the tunnel where he would lock himself in the dressing room as the Nerazzuri waited for him outside.

The incident was sparked off when Valencia’s Marchena followed up a heated debate with Burdisso by kicking out at the Italian. Navarro later said: “I saw that they were trying to attack a team-mate, and I lost my nerve. I have never behaved in this fashion before, and I will never do it again. I am very sorry and ashamed.”

Inter boss was not very impressed by Navarro’s hit-and-run tactics, calling him a “coward” as “there’s nothing else you can say about someone who throws a punch like that and runs away.”

Uefa immediately launched an investigation into the chaotic scenes and ended up throwing the book at Navarro almost as hard as he threw his punch. As chief perpetrator he received a seven-month ban from all competitions, with his team-mate Marchena receiving a four-game ban and the Inter pair of Burdisso and Maicon, whose hunting down of Navarro provided some excellent comedy value, both being forced to sit out the next six games. The two clubs were both fined £106,000, but Valencia escaped a stadium ban.

Although we never like to condone violence here at OTFD, it’s hard not laugh at the shambolic scenes in Spain above, so enjoy them, have a look at what else was going on today here and make sure you’re back for some more of the same tomorrow.

February 20 – Respect the Ref

THIS season has seen Premier League and FA bosses launch the ‘Respect the Ref’ programme which is designed to give the much-hounded men in black a break from the petulant millionaires that they are tasked with keeping under control.

Following some distinctly dodgy refereeing performances this season we could debate how much respect some of these referees deserve until the cows come home, but if the likes of serial ref-hasselers John Terry and the like saw what happened in South Africa today in 1999 then we think they’d soon change their tune.

The referee in question was Lebogang Petrus Mokgethi who was overseeing a match between Hartbeesfontein Wallabies and Try Agains. When the Try Agains proved their moniker was apt scored to and cut their opponents lead to 2-1, a number of Hartbeesfontein fans invaded the pitch in protest. The game was said to have been the subject of some hefty unlicensed betting and amidst the scenes of chaos the home side’s skipper Isaac Mkhwetha went to get a knife.

Rather than pull out a red card, Mokgethi reached for a more potent weapon: a 9mm pistol that a friend of his in the crowd was looking after. Witnesses said that when Mkhwetha lunged at the ref, Mokgethi shot the 20-year-old in the chest, killing him shortly afterwards.

Remarkably, five years later South Africa was reeling from another similar incident when a match between two teams in Kenton-on-Sea lead to the referee fatally shooting the coach of Marcelle in the chest and also hitting the hands of two players with the same bullet.

See some more agressive refereeing below and see what other going-ons were going-on today by clicking here. If you’re all over Twitter lark than follow our updates and random musings here. Until tomorrow footy fans…

February 19 – ShearERRR!!

NOT many players have turned down Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United, fewer still have turned them down twice.

Alan Shearer has done it, reportedly when he left Southampton for Blackburn in 1992 and then again in 1996 when he became Kevin Keegan’s showpiece signing at Newcastle, although rumours persist that Uncle Jack Walker was dead set on not letting him go to Old Trafford when he left Blackburn.

Shearer was highly regarded enough for Fergie to go after him twice and to have broken the transfer fee record twice and he certainly knew how to make an impact on the pitch, if not off it (his dull speaking voice and even duller words hardly make him a contender for the after dinner speaking circuit).

He became the youngest player to score a top flight hat-trick on his full debut with Southampton in 1988 (against George Graham’s Arsenal no less) and he was suddenly the hottest young property in football.

He was playing regularly for the England Under 21 team and soon notched up enough strikes to be the record goalscorer with 13 (a record he now shares with Franny Jeffers).

A full England call up was only a matter of time and it came on this day in 1992 when Graham Taylor selected him to start a friendly match at Wembley against a France team containing Eric Cantona, Didier Deshamps and Laurent Blanc.

He started up front alongside Nigel Clough and immediately justified his spot, scoring in the 44th minute to put England one up.

At half time Gary Lineker was brought on for David Hirst and added another as England wrapped up a 2-0 win to inflict the first defeat on France for 20 games.

Shearer was right at home in the England shirt and would go on to represent his country 63 times over the next eight years until he retired from the international game to prolong his club career after Euro 2000. In that time he wheeled away from goal with his right arm aloft 30 times after netting for England and captained the side 34 times.

He also scored the goal the only goal of the match against Germany in Euro 2000 – the first time England had beaten Germany since the 1966 World Cup final.

Often criticised for being dull and boring (even by us about eight paragraphs ago) Shearer did show he had a sense of humour when he joined in a game the England squad were playing at the 1998 World Cup, which we’ll leave to YouTube to explain here.

We’ll leave you with the last goal Big Al ever scored. We will be back tomorrow but in the meantime you can see what Shearer’s one-time would-be employer was up to on this day here.