Author Archive: Gary Thacker

Sebastian Deisler – The Sad Tale of a Promise Unfulfilled.

On the first day of September 2001, England travelled to Munich to face old adversaries Germany in a World Cup qualifying game. Within six minutes of kick-off, the Hertha Berlin midfielder Sebastian Deisler had carved open England’s defence with an exquisitely crafted chip that was nodded down by Oliver Neuville for Carsten Jancker to put the home team ahead. Not only did the goal suggest that Germans were on the road to victory, it also underscored the promise that Deisler, the latest German Wunderkind, could deliver on the prophases of Franz Beckenbauer who had described the 21-year-old as “physically and technically the best in Germany”, and national coach Rudi Völler who asserted that Deisler  would be “influential for Germany for another 10 years.” As things turned however, Germany collapsed under the weight of a crushing 1-5 defeat, and by the age of 27, Deisler’s career was over. A promise unfulfilled. Continue reading →

Obafemi Martins – Have boots, will travel. 

The modern-day professional footballer can very much be a citizen of the world, seeking fame, and more often than not, fortune in all around the globe. Very few however could match the globetrotting exploits and success of Obafemi Martins. The Nigerian forward has plied his trade on four different continents, in different eight countries, and for ten different clubs. He’s taken ‘goals to Newcastle’, been sound in Seattle and blunted any feeling of Birmingham City fans being too blue by taking a top line trophy to the club. He’s also accumulated silverware and awards around the world and scored 18 goals in 42 games for his country. Continue reading →

Giuseppe Savoldi: Football’s Million Pound quiz answer.

You know that quiz question. “Who was the first million-pound footballer?” Hands shoot up and out comes the chorus, like clockwork, “Trevor Francis!” goes the call. You sit there quietly while the clamour calms down, and then slowly, but purposefully, you rise to your feet, and calmly, but firmly say “No!” Because you know the real answer, don’t you? Well, if you didn’t, you will shortly. Read on… Continue reading →

Football Italia! – Channel Four’s gift to all football fans.

Was it simply the right time and the right place? Perhaps it was that iconic jerky intro music and visuals. “Campionato! Di Calcio! Italiano!” insisted the voice, capturing the beat, and intoxicating us all. Was it the erudite and urbane James Richardson sitting outside a café sipping his espresso with the Corriere dello Sport and the pink pages of La Gazzetta dello Sport on laid out on the table in front of him? Perhaps even the lingering phrase of ‘Golaço!’ – it means a goal that is amazing, crazy or similar, by the way and was never ‘Goal Lazio’ just ask Mr Richardson if you don’t believe me. That’s what I read anyway – or was it just the football itself. Perhaps it was a combination of all those things but, from that Sunday in 1992 when Channel Four introduced an intrigued – and later entranced – British footballing audience to the joys of Serie A football, a cult that became an obsession took root in fans’ consciousnesses. After just short of a million viewers on that first week, ratings rocketed. More than three million of us tuned in regularly. We were sold. Continue reading →

Crouchinho – The legend of Peter Crouch

When confronted with a survey question enquiring what he would be if he wasn’t a footballer, Peter Crouch delivered the quippiest of ‘one-liner’ answers. “A virgin,” the lanky striker replied. It was a typical piece of self-deprecating humour from the man mocked by opposing fans for his gangly deportment, less than elegant appearance and style of play. The self-appointed nickname of ‘Crouchinho’ is another example. Continue reading →

The 1971 Cup Winners’ Cup – When Chelsea’s debutants overcame the Old Masters of European football.

After winning the FA Cup in 1970, defeating Leeds United in a couple of brutal battles first at Wembley, and then in the replay at Old Trafford, Chelsea entered the European Cup Winners’ Cup. Under the guidance of their young and upwardly mobile coach Dave Sexton, the club were keen to prove their credentials of being more than a showy collection of flashy players more at home in Carnaby Street than on a football pitch. With the FA Cup victory suggesting the club were on an upward trajectory, European football was the ideal place to stake their claim. It was their first venture into European competition. It shouldn’t have been, but it was. Continue reading →

Frank Lampard – The outstanding English midfielder of the decade – probably.

In the summer of 2001, Frank Lampard left West Ham United and moved across London to join Chelsea. In those days, any thoughts of a Russian oligarch taking control of the Stamford Bridge club, “parking his tanks on our lawn and started firing £50 notes” as Arsenal’s David Dein famously opined, hardly even entered the realms fanciful caprice. Chelsea were under the charge of Ken Bates, managed by Claudio Ranieri – very much in his ‘Tinkerman’ incarnation – and plunging headlong into a financial morass. Continue reading →

Raymond Kopa – France’s ‘Little Napoleon’, who conquered Europe with Real Madrid.

The player who would ascend to legendary status as one of the outstanding footballers of the late fifties, accumulating three European Cup winner’s medals, multiple league titles in both France and Spain, numerous continental trophies and a Ballon d’Or award in 1958 – as well as being runner-up in 1959 and placed third in both 1956 and 1957 – was born on 13 October 1931, and christened as Raymond Kopaszewski. His grandparents had lived in the Polish city of Kraków, near the Czechoslovakian border before emigrating to Germany, where his parents were born. Following the first World War, the family then moved to France. In the Autumn of 1931, therefore.,the young Raymond became the third generation of the family, each to have been born in different countries. Continue reading →

Giuseppe Savoldi – Football’s Million Pound quiz answer.

 

You know that quiz question. “Who was the first million-pound footballer?” Hands shoot up and out comes the chorus, like clockwork, “Trevor Francis!” goes the call. You sit there quietly while the clamour calms down, and then slowly, but purposefully, you rise to your feet, and calmly, but firmly say “No!” Because you know the real answer, don’t you? Well, if you didn’t, you will shortly. Read on… Continue reading →

Christophe Dugarry – Birmingham City’s one Musketeer.

In January 2003, Birmingham City were back in the top tier of English football. After missing out on promotion via the play-offs on a couple of occasions, promotion had finally returned them to the Premier League. After the glory of achievement comes the reality of the task ahead though, and keeping their heads above water would initially prove to be a tricky task. Fortunately, help from an unexpected source would arrive and lift the club in so many ways.

A three-goal triumph over cross-city rivals Aston Villa fed a rapacious appetite starved of glory over recent years, but such one-off victories are only worth three points, no matter how sweet the taste and, with the New Year, came fears about securing the hard-won status. Their promotion winning squad was worthy enough, but largely workaday rather than developing. The higher standard had been a difficult adjustment to make, and the lower reaches of the league were beginning to suck at Birmingham’s coat-tails like a whirlpool locked onto its prey. The January transfer window offered a hope of salvation, but only if the money was spent wisely.

Manager Steve Bruce ushered in half-a-dozen new recruits. They would range from the hardy professional safe buys Matthew Upson, Stephen Clemence and Jamie Clapham, through the more extravagant gambles, fated to fall into regret, with Ferdinand Coly and Piotr Świerczewski, to the man who would stay but a brief time at St Andrews, but cut an elegant dash as with the swish of a rapier blade. He would save the club with an elan only granted to the most extravagant of skills. Christophe Dugarry would be the D’Artagnan of England’s second city, and become a hero, before disappearing off into the night with a Gallic shrug. Continue reading →