“You have just seen the Premier League champions today!” So said Sir John Hall, purring with pleasure, speaking to a Sky Sports interviewer. It was 20th October 1996, and his Newcastle United team, under the charismatic guidance of Kevin Keegan, had just delivered the sort of spanking to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United the like of which the irascible Scot’s team were far more used to handing out rather than enduring. Geordie joy was fulsome, and they feasted on it. Sad to say though, for that passionate band of fans, it wasn’t the herald of a new dawn, it was the last flaring from the embers of a dying dream. Continue reading →
“Unthinkable surely for the skipper to miss.” It’s funny how things work out sometimes. The next words were, “But he has!” Jock Brown, commentating on the 1994 Scottish League Cup Final at Ibrox, uttered that particular harbinger of doom for Celtic’s captain Paul McStay in the penalty shootout that decided the game. McStay saw his shot saved by Raith’s goalkeeper Scott Thompson and the Kirkcaldy club, managed by Jimmy Nicholl had secured the unlikeliest of cup triumphs.
The unlikeliest? Well, of course it’s always a major coup for any club outside of Glasgow’s top two to land a trophy and for a second tier club to do so, only added to the lustre. But there was more to it than that. A series of coincidences, links and cross-cutting threads about the game and various subsequent events, marked the game out as a watershed moment for both clubs. Continue reading →
Although the European Cup is the the preeminent competition for club football, and participation in it is regarded akin to a ‘coming out party’ as a top club for any who secures it, British clubs’ relationship with European competition was not always anything like fully committed. Continue reading →
It’s surely one of the greatest unofficial accolades that the game has to offer. No-one votes for it, not the press, not other players, not even the fans. Someone somewhere suggests it, and off it trots merrily making its way through the highways and byways of ‘football talk’. Eventually, it’s travelled the length and breadth of the football community, by common assent it becomes accepted as part of the lexicon of football. I’m talking about having an element of the game named after you. There’s the Panenka penalty, the Cruyff turn, the Makelele role and even Fergie time, to name but a few of the uncontentious – well, fairy uncontentious anyway – ones. Now, another nom de guerre may be seeking to elbow its way into the language of football. At the moment, there’s only the merest whisper of it being circulated. Isn’t that how it always begins though? Continue reading →
News of the television rights cash bonanza for Premier League clubs has caused tidal waves of outrage and floods of advice in fairly equal measures. £5.136billion is a lot of money in anyone’s language, and deflating that down to approximately £12million per game rather puts the price of the football’s top-notch match ticket prices somewhat into the shade – but more of that later. Continue reading →
The curtain-raiser for the new season was halfway through and Manchester City had eased into a comfortable 2-0 lead, with every prospect of denying their cross-city rivals from Old Trafford any chance of a sniff of comeback. During the break however, Sir Alex Ferguson, perhaps considering there was little to lose, decided to throw a young Tom Cleverley into the fray for the second period. When the referee brought the game to an end, United had turned the tables and won 3-2, with the young midfielder, fresh from a season-long loan period at Wigan Athletic the star turn.
‘Tis the season to be jolly, or so they say. For some however, it doesn’t quite work out like that. In a story particularly popular at this time of year, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by a number of ghosts. Each has a cautionary tale to tell about how things need to change if a particularly unpleasant outcome is to be avoided. Well, seeing as it’s panto season as well, I’ve decided to take the plunge and offer my football-inspired version of A Christmas Carol.
To be sure, Ed Woodward, executive vice-chairman of Manchester United is no miser. Well, not as far as I’m aware anyway, and his largesse in the transfer market probably bears that out. For the purpose of my particular interpretation of Dickens’ famous tale however, I am compelled to cast Ed in the role as Ebenezer Scrooge. Apologies requested in advance. Continue reading →
Sir Alex Ferguson was always fond of saying that whenever anyone leaves Manchester United, inevitably it was a step down, regardless of whichever club they went to. Real Madrid, among a couple of others may dispute such an assertion, especially of late, but for David Moyes, taking a step back to reignite his managerial career after his traumatic time in the Old Trafford hot seat was probably inevitable. That he has landed at the Estadio Anoeta to take charge of Real Sociedad, a club often compared in stature to Moyes’ previous employer at Goodison Park, at least shows that the Scot retains a hunger to prove himself in the managerial game.
Just over a year ago, Moyes, together with his then Manchester United charges returned from San Sebastien following a fairly satisfying 0-0 draw against his new employers in a Champions League encounter and could hardly have envisaged the turmoil and dismissal that was to follow. With an 18 month contract now is place with the Basque club however, he faces the task of rebuilding both a career and a reputation seriously damaged by the doomed attempt to take over the driving seat at Old Trafford from Sir Alex Ferguson. Continue reading →
There was always that dread moment at school when a particularly hard-line teacher suspected you of doing something wrong.
“It wasn’t me,” you said. “I didn’t do it.” It was as if multiple denials were some kind of incantation that would convince the menacing figure of malevolence of your innocence. It never seemed to work though, no matter how effusive you were in pleading to the contrary. Busted!
It would be wrong to paint the latest version of Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography in such a light, but I have to confess that the addition of chapter 27, ‘United in Transition’, brings those thoughts to mind. A mea culpa it certainly isn’t. Continue reading →
Fifa has agreed to ban the third-party ownership (TPO) of players. It’s the practise that allows clubs to buy players wherein the transfer fee is part-funded by an investment company, which then takes a share in the commercial rights of the player, with the desire for that percentage to turn a handsome profit when the player is sold on. In essence, the fund is using the club as a finishing school for a player to gain in experience and ability, thus increasing his value in the transfer market and proportionately having the same effect on their investment. Some see such practices as reasonable, others as the inevitable and insidious continuing encroachment of financial affairs into the world of football. Continue reading →