Archive for April, 2009

April 30 – End of Ayresome

AS Middlesbrough fans spend the next couple of weeks fretting over the possible end of the Premiership dream, today in 1995 was the end of another era as the club played their final game in their Ayresome Park stadium.

Ayresome had been the home to the Boro faithful since 1903, when the club won election to the Football League and needed an improved stadium, so packed their bags and ditched Linthorpe Road West cricket ground, where they started life.

The Boro bosses chose to build their new ground at the utopian-sounding Paradise Field, across the way from where former Football League side, the uber-cool named Middlesbrough Ironopolis plied their trade. There really aren’t enough teams using the ‘Ironopolis’ suffix these days.

Perhaps Ayresome Park’s most famous games were when they played host to North Korea’s World Cup adventure in 1966, holding all three of their group games which culminated in their 1-0 win over Italy, one of the biggest upsets the competition has ever seen.

As Middlesbrough plodded along, failing to rock the football world to it’s foundations, Aryesome Park began to show it’s age. It’s defining moment came in 1986, when the gates were locked as the club fell into liquidation.

In 1994 plans were unveiled for a new 30,000-seat stadium on the bank of the River Tees and Ayresome’s days were numbered.

The final game was played today in 1995 and Boro rose to the occasion, beating Luton Town 2-1 to secure the Division 1 title and promotion to the Premier League.

Meanwhile, the builders of the new stadium proved to be better finishers than Robbie Fowler in his pomp, taking only 32 weeks to construct the new £16m ground.

After a public vote, Boro’s new home was named the Riverside Stadium and the Smoggies could boast of having the biggest arena to be built in England since the Second World War.

See some 1966 footage below, and for another emotional farewell from today click here.

April 29 – Chelsea Leeds Ruckus

THE FA Cup Final replay, a victim of modern-day managers whinging about fixture pile-ups, took place for the first time since 1912 today in 1970, when the southern fairies of Chelsea took on the northern monkeys of Leeds United in a typically fiery clash.

Two weeks earlier, the two bitter rivals had had so much fun playing each other that they decided to do it again after a 2-2 draw, this time supplementing an atrocious Wembley pitch that had hosted the Horse of the Year show the week before for Old Trafford.
This would be the only time between 1923 and 2000 that an FA Cup Final was played away from Wembley, as both sides were gunning for their first ever FA Cup win.

On a Wednesday night in Manchester the two rivals took to the pitch in front of a record 28 million television viewers who were privy to one of the most rough ‘n’ tumble games ever seen on Blighty’s shores.

And what else would you expect with the likes of Norman Hunter, Ron Harris, et al in attendance?

Chopper Harris set the tone early, clattering into Eddie Gray, giving him a knee-knack that the Scot struggled with for the rest of the game. Jack Charlton evened things up when he headbutted and kneed Peter Osgood, whilst Hunter and Ian Hutchinson traded punches.

This was of course played out in an era when men were men, so no red or yellow cards were issued by ref Eric Jennings. Years later, David Elleray re-watched the match with his referee hat on, dishing out six red cards and 20 yellow cards, which goes to show how much the game has changed. Christiano wouldn’t have last five minutes back then.

Between the punches, lunges, hacking, eye-gouging and fish-hooking a game of football threatened to break out when Mick Jones opening the scoring for Leeds after 35 minutes.

Peter Osgood managed to escape the attention of Charlton long enough to grab an equaliser in the 78th minute, due largely to the fact that the Leeds man was chasing Hutchinson for a spot of payback on a dead leg he had administered seconds earlier.

Extra-time again followed and as the two sides took their epic final towards the four-hour mark Chelsea right-back David Webb latched onto a long throw-in and scored the winner and the cup was heading back down south.

See some of the carnage below and check out a much more sedate FA Cup final that was also going on today here.

April 28 – Leeds Join the Elite

APRIL 28, 1969: this is the day Leeds United finally reached the top table of English football after years of being the coming team.

The occasion was a league match at Anfield but it was so much more than that. A point against Liverpool would be enough for Leeds to secure their first ever League title.

Skip to 5:30 for the story of the match

Phil Brown wrote in the Yorkshire Evening Post on the day of the game: “The side is buoyant with hope and the right sort of confidence as it rests this afternoon in its Liverpool hotel, and the manager is of the same mood too, I fancy, although all Don Revie will say in the last words style is, ‘We have a chance, and I hope we can take it.’

“But United are never more determined than when facing odds – the side’s tenacity of purpose is unbreakable, which is just as well. Liverpool at Anfield are hardly the side you would choose to have to play for all the League title means. The Anfield Kop is nearly worth a home goal to start with.”

With hundreds of fans locked outside the gates, those 53,750 fans lucky enough to be inside the ground were to see an understandably nervy Leeds side. Captain Billy Bremner later said: “The team was unusually nervous when it went out. I have never known them like they were tonight. It was worse than our FA Cup final. I was nervous. I couldn’t sleep the night before, and that isn’t me. I even got up out of bed at four o’clock in the morning and smoked a cigarette to try and stop thinking about the game. There was such a lot at stake, of course, and it nearly beat us.”

With United nervous and Liverpool anxious to get at their opponents, the match struggled to get going as heavy tackles flew in all over the pitch and it took nearly half an hour for the first real attempt on goal to come, whereupon Liverpool missed two good chances.

Derek Wallis, the Daily Mirror’s man at the game reported: “Liverpool needed that goal, because the pattern of the first half indicated they might not get many more chances. There was little sign of the attacking play that Leeds manager Don Revie had promised, but neither was there much hint that Liverpool might improve on first half methods that carried more power than imagination.”

As the game wore on in the second half the onslaught from Liverpool increased but the United defence held on firmly. Geoffrey Green of The Times described the action beautifully: “It was a night when the red waves of the Liverpool attack crashed in vain against the tall, white cliff of this defence. Here were two sides, hard as a diamond, but without the brilliant flame of that stone. No one would expect the refinements in such a battle.

“Instead, we saw modern techniques in opposition, with Leeds applying the straitjacket on their opponents inside the penalty area. Some may say all this was alienated from the frills of football. It was. It was an occasion for men, not boys.”

And the men held on. The final whistle went, 0-0, and the title was going to Elland Road. In their book The Unforgiven: The Story of Don Revie’s Leeds United, Rob Bagchi and Paul Rogerson take up the story: “What happened next has become part of Leeds United folklore. Beforehand, Revie had instructed Bremner, if they should get that decisive point, to lead the players after the game towards the Kop. Bremner took some persuading, but after they had celebrated before their own travelling support, Bremner duly marched his men forward. The ground fell silent, but instead of being lynched, the Leeds team were surprised to find themselves being loudly hailed as ‘champions’ by the 27,000 Koppites massed in front of them. The players stayed put for 20 minutes, soaking it all in, larking around, jumping on one another and paying their tributes to both sets of fans. They had been derided and despised for such a long time that one could not blame them for basking in the adulation. ‘Being cheered by a rival crowd – any rival crowd – was a new experience for us,’ Eddie Gray recalls. ‘This in itself was as much of a turning point for Leeds as the championship achievement.’

“Back in the dressing-room, where Shankly had provided a crate of champagne, Revie clearly felt flattered by the two extraordinary events of the evening: ‘The reception given us by the sporting Liverpool crowd was truly magnificent,’ he said, ‘and so, for that matter, was our defence tonight. It was superb in everything.’

“Shankly, an incurable romantic where football was concerned and not one to bandy around accolades where they were not deserved, gave Leeds his stamp of approval. ‘Leeds United are worthy champions,’ he proclaimed. ‘They are a great side.’ That was good enough for Revie and his team. The respect of their fellow professionals was all they craved and now they revelled in the novel experience of popularity. They were underdogs no more. A psychological weight had been lifted. ‘That wonderful night at Anfield saw our burning faith in ourselves justified,’ Billy Bremner reflected. ‘At last we were well and truly vindicated.’ The irksome oiks, Revie’s ‘Little West Riding Hoods’, had joined football’s aristocracy.”

April 27 – ‘Football’s Designer In Chief’ Born

IF you were building a football stadium in the Victorian era there was really only one man you went to: Archibald Leitch, who was born on this day in 1865.

Leitch was a Glaswegian architect whose early work was designing factories and industrial buildings in his home city and it was only a call from Rangers, the team he supported, that got him into football.

In 1899 the club commissioned him to build their new home, Ibrox. His first football project could have quite easily been his last after one of his new stands of terracing at Ibrox collapsed when Scotland were playing England. Twenty-five people were killed and it could have signaled the end of Leitch’s career as a stadium designer. Instead it was only just beginning.

He was soon working in England where his first project was the John Street Stand at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane.

Thereafter he became the Isambard Kingdom Brunel of football, the great designer of his day in demand from all the top clubs in the land. He is described by Simon Inglis, author of the biography Engineering Archie, as ‘football’s designer in chief’. In total he was commissioned to design part or all of more than 20 stadiums in Britain between 1899 and 1939.

He built Old Trafford for Manchester United, built the main stand at Anfield and at Goodison Park, he designed the West Stand at White Hart Lane, the Main Stand at the Stamford Bridge and helped Arsenal with the move to Highbury (although the listed Art Deco East and West Stands were not designed by him).

He is perhaps best remembered for the work he did for Fulham, Aston Villa and Rangers. In West London, he designed the famous cottage in the corner of the ground and the impressive brick-fronted Stevenage Road Stand, both of which now enjoy listed status. Sadly, the Trinity Road Stand at Villa Park was not listed. With its stained glass windows, Italian mosaics and sweeping staircase, the Villa structure was a masterpiece but that did not stop the club demolishing it in 2000 to make way for a replacement that might best be described functional at best.

The South Stand at Ibrox, built in 1928, was also a candidate for demolition but instead Rangers decided to preserve Leitch’s work at considerable cost.

As well as these examples Leitch had a hand in too many other stadia to mention here but suffice to say the architecture of football would have been vastly different without him.

Also on this day, probably our favourite ever moment in football. Needless to say, Kevin Keegan is involved. Check it out here.

April 26 – Oggy Oggy Oggy

BACK in the early 1990s English football was a different animal. Back then footballers weren’t paid more money in a week than we’ll earn in a decade, Manchester United never won anything and for some reason there seemed to be far more ugly top-flight footballers.

Everyone’s first choice ‘keeper in the ugly XI (narrowly beating out Jim Leighton) was Steve Ogrizovic, who hung up his gloves today in 2000.

Poor old Steve was never blessed with a 10/10 in the looks department and perhaps this, coupled with the fact he played out most of his career with unfashionable Coventry City prevented him from being regarded as one of the best goalies of his era.

During his pomp Bobby Robson and Graham Taylor continually overlooked him for the England team, despite his heroics in the Highfield Road goal where he played a huge part in their 34-year top flight run.

If Oggy had stayed at Liverpool, where he was in the squad for two European Cup and one European Super Cup wins, who knows what he could’ve achieved?

Big Steve is also one of only three players to have played top-flight football in four different decades, along with fellow shotstoppers Peter Shilton and John Lukic and also the venerable Sir Stanley Matthews.

Mangus Hedman’s arrival at the Sky Blues saw Oggy moved to the bench in 1998 and after a couple of years of kicking his heels he hung up his gloves. City were relegated a season later.

It looked as though his nice quiet retirement had been rocked in 2003 when rumours began to emerge that Ogrizovic had been kidnapped in Kazakhstan. An online petition was set up to campaign for his release, but an enterprising hack from the Coventry Evening Telegraph found him at Coventry City’s training ground at the somewhat less exciting Ryton-on-Dunsmore, as the whole episode was proved to a zany internet prank.

See what esle was going on the crazy world of football here and join us tomorrow for you next instalment of OTFD

April 25 – The Great Dane Quits

MUCH told-off Danish defenders issued a huge sigh of relief today in 2001, when their tormentor in-chief, Peter Schmeichel, played his last game for the national side.

Winning his 129th cap, Schmeichel led out the Danes in a friendly against Slovenia in Copenhagen. Naturally, he kept a clean sheet in a 3-0 win for the Danish.

Schmeichel ended his international career as Denmark’s most capped player, turning out in the 1998 World Cup and four European Championships.

His finest hour between the Danish sticks came in Euro ’92 when unfancied Denmark pulled off the biggest upset the competition had ever seen, downing defending European champions Holland in the semis and then world champions Germany in the final, as they went on to lift the Henri Delaunay trophy.

The Euro 92 win was even more remarkable given the fact that the Danish only qualified after Yugoslavia had to pull out due to the outbreak of war in the Balkans and Schmeichel played a huge part in the Danish victory.

After bowing out for the national team Schmeichel returned to the Premier League, spending a season with Aston Villa and then back to Manchester, the city where he enjoyed the majority of his domestic success, but this time as a blue.

During this final phase of his career the records and accolades were rolling in, as Schmeichel made his way into Pele’s list of the 125 greatest living footballers and was also voted the greatest ever keeper in a public poll by Reuters.

See what else went down today here and if you fancy following us on Twitter then do so here.

April 24 – Murphy’s Peno and Other Stories

WHILE he was at Liverpool, Danny Murphy carved out quite a nice little niche for himself as personal scourge of Manchester United. He scored the winning goal in League matches between the two clubs at Old Trafford three times.

The latest was today in 2004 when Murphy netted midway through the second half to tie up a 1-0 win for Gerard Houllier’s team. The goal was that rarest of things: a penalty awarded to the away side at Old Trafford. It was the first time any player from the away side had scored a penalty at United’s ground for more than ten years.

Ruel Fox had scored a peno for Norwich City in December 1993, giving the Canaries a 2-2 draw, but no other player would do likewise until Murphy all those years later.

Also on this day in 1992, goody-two-shoes goal-hangers were obviously en vogue, as crisp salesman Gary Lineker was named Footballer of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association. The luggy front man was plying his tap-in trade at Tottenham at the time, and he was picking up the award for the second time, having first won it in 1986 when he was at Everton.

Links bags a hat-trick for Barca against Real Madrid

At the opposite end of the ‘teachers’ pet’ scale from Lineker is Graeme Souness and today in 1996 he was causing as much trouble as possible in Turkey as manager of Galatasaray. After he had just seen his side win the Turkish Cup against hated rivals Fenerbahce, Souness ran on to the pitch and planted a huge Galatasaray flag in the middle of the Fenerbahce pitch.

He claimed it was in response to some disparaging words about him from the Fenerbahce president but the rioting fans in the stadium didn’t seem to care who had started it. Scottish diplomacy at it’s best. Maybe Graeme could be sent out as a special envoy to the Middle East?

Back in Blighty and Coventry City were busy appointing a new manager on this day in 2002. Former Sky Blues player Gary McAllister was given the job of trying to restore the club, by now in the Championship, to its former glory.

“It must represent a gamble by the board but I don’t see it as such,” he said. “It has been a disappointing season for Coventry and I see it as a very exciting opportunity for me. I am very privileged to be asked. I am aware there were a lot of senior managers who applied for this job.”

And lastly on this football day, two Icelandic footballers were making a little piece of history in Estonia. Find out what the heck was going on right here, and come back here tomorrow for more tales from the crypt. Or football or whatever.

April 23 – RVN Canters into Old Trafford

THE number of horse-faced footballers in the Premier League doubled to two on this day in 2001 when Manchester United signed Dutch marksman Ruud van Nistelrooy (he joined Gareth Southgate in the ranks of the equine-alikes).

It had been a long road to Old Trafford for the striker Sir Alex Ferguson had first wanted to sign in 1998. His son Darren attended a trial at Heerenveen, where Ruud was playing at the time. Fergie recounted later: “Darren came back and said: `You’ve got to sign van Nistelrooy right away, he’s fantastic.’ I said: `We’ve been watching him.’ Darren said: `Well, sign him.’ On the next Saturday, we sent people to the game and PSV were there and signed him the next day – we were too slow.”

Two years later and Ferguson tried again to sign him in the summer of 2000. A deal had been agreed with PSV and United even set up a press conference to announce the transfer but before it could go ahead disaster struck: he suffered ruptured cruciate knee ligaments during a training session and the deal was axed.

But just like a Mountie, Fergie always gets his man and he went back for van Nistelrooy when he recovered from his injury, finally nabbing him for a cool £19m.

The player said: “It feels fantastic. Last year I was so close to joining and it was a big disappointment that it didn’t come true. This is the best thing that has happened to me.

“I was always confident I would sign for the club because when you get support from the people here, it made me determined to fight and come back stronger. It is a dream to play in this team.

“The price is not heavy for me – it lifts me up because it means United have big confidence in me,” he added.

PSV spokesman Pedro Salazar-Hewitt agreed United had signed a class striker. “United will get a big player, he can play in any competition and score goals,” he said. “He has come back very, very fit and motivated and I’m sure he will be one of the biggest players in the premier league. He has the mentality and the ambition to become one of the biggest players in the world.

“It has been a very tough year for him but everything is going well now. He’s a great player and very nice guy. The PSV supporters will be sorry to see him go but will give him a big send-off.”

He was an immediate hit at Old Trafford During his first season he scored 23 goals in 32 league games, ten Champions League goals, and was named the PFA Players’ Player of the Year.

The following term he went even better, helping United to the title with a team record 44 goals in 52 European and domestic matches, including twelve Champions League goals in ten games.

He was a goal machine and by the end of his fifth season with United he had a phenomenal record of 150 goals in less than 200 starts. He had also overtaken Denis Law’s record for European goals.

But it couldn’t last. In 2006 RVN was left out of the squad for the League Cup final, which United won 4-0 without him. It signaled the end of his career at the club and in the summer he was shipped off to Real Madrid after falling out with Sir Alex, and we all know players don’t survive at United after that.

Ruud won the FA Cup in 2004, defeating Millwall in the final, but today in 1927 the famous old trophy left England for the first and only time. Find out how right here.

April 22 – Neville Neville Will be Proud

EVERYBODY’S favourite footballing family were making the headlines today in 1998, when the Neville’s became the first ever brothers to replace each other as substitutes for the England team.

England’s opponents that day were Portugal at Wembley Stadium as Glenn Hoddle prepared for the upcoming World Cup in France.

In their usual build-up-the-nation’s-confidence-before-a-major-tournament style England coasted to 3-0 lead with 25 minutes remaining thanks to a brace from Alan Shearer and a Teddy Sheringham strike.

This meant that Hoddle looked at his subs bench, and after he threw on the promising youngster Michael Owen he decided that his right back Gary Neville should be replaced by little brother Phil.

Between the pair of them the Neville brothers have notched up 144 caps for the national team, making them England’s most successful pair of siblings. How proud their father, and inspiration of one of Old Trafford’s best songs, Neville Neville must be.

During the Hoddle/Keegan/Sven years the brothers had quite a rivalry, with Phil claiming in 2001 that “I want to be a regular. If that means dislodging Gary, then so be it.”

Despite this fighting talk, Gary has ended up with more caps and poor old Phil has never made it to a World Cup squad. It looks like their England days are well and truly behind them now so Gary the elder looks to have secured the family’s cap-based bragging rights.

Don’t tell Neville Neville, but with the emergence of the da Silva twins in the Manchester United team means that the Neviller’s place as top Old Trafford brothers may be under threat.

And they’re not to everyone’s tastes. All you have to do is ask Liverpool fans or even Jaap Stam, who said the brothers were: “”busy c**** for their endless grumbling about everything in general and nothing in particular. They never stop.”

Jaap would probably appreciate this clip, so have a giggle and see what else was happening in the big bad world of football today here.

April 21 – Keano’s Horror Tackle

IT’S likely that somewhere on the Old Trafford pitch there’s still of bit of Alf-Inge Haaland’s knee lying dormant from Roy Keane’s infamous tackle that took place in the Manchester derby today in 2001.

The pair had a spot of history, dating back from the Norwegian’s goading of Keane during his time at Leeds United four years earlier when Keane went down with a snapped cruciate ligament.

With Keane lying on the ground at Elland Road after he attempted to tackle Haaland, the Leeds defender implied that he was faking injury to prevent the referee from brandishing a card his way.

Like an elephant, Keane obviously never forgets, and when he came up against Haaland in the Manchester derby four seasons later he chose his time for revenge.

With five minutes remaining Keane struck. Who better to describe the incident that the man himself?

“I’d waited long enough,” Keane later recounted in his autobiography. “I f**king hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c*nt. And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries.”

One of football’s more obvious red cards followed, as did a three game ban and £5,000 fine from the FA. That was that, at least until Keane’s bombastic autobiography, ghosted by Irish pundit and expert agitator Eamon Dunphy, was released in August 2002.

Keane’s revelations resulted in a charge of bringing the game into disrepute and saw him banned for another five games and fined £150,000. Haaland, meanwhile, whose career had effectively been ended by the tackle and a host of other injuries, considered suing Keane.

Showing little regret for the challenge Keane went on to say: “My attitude was, f**k him. What goes around comes around. He got his just rewards. He fucked me over and my attitude is an eye for an eye.”

Funnily enough, this wasn’t Roy Keane’s only contribution to the annals of football history today, so check out what else he was up to here and join us tomorrow for more footballing history.