Kick Off

It’s The Cry Of The Tiger!
Allam Right To Try And Bring Hull Into The 21st Century

by Rob Shepherd.

AssemAllem

Allam: Could get itchy (Tiger) feet if he doesn’t get his own way

Had Assem Allam decided to re-name his team Hull Comets rather then Hull City Tigers you could understand the furore a bit more.

Although those who would have sought to block that move would quickly have lost the ‘heritage and high moral ground’ argument.

Adding the name Comets might have sounded like a crass Americanisation but actually it would have been a case of returning to the club’s roots. You see until 1904 the association football club of a rugby stronghold town were known as the Hull Comets when they turned professional and became Hull City AFC.

They soon adopted the nickname The Tigers and it’s stuck ever since.

Hull are often referred to as The Tigers especially in print. Allam, who seeks to enhance the clubs commercial activities and support base beyond the banks of the River Humber, feels that adding the nickname Tigers will make the club a bit more funky to prospective fans in Asia and America.

He is probably right.

After all as just another ‘City’ (although for some reason soon to be European City of culture) the name as It is hardly stands out from the crowd. Manchester City basically “own” the City moniker now.

In the cut and thrust of the modern global sports entertainment market (and like it or not that is what it is) Premier league teams are battling it out not just with each other, but with clubs from other countries and indeed other sports.
Enhancing support base is part of the process not merely of progress but long term existence.

That is one of the strategies behind West Ham’s proposed move from their spiritual home to the new Olympic Stadium.

Previous regimes at Hull delivered on the front before Allam came into pickup the pieces after the club suffered the financial backlash which can happen when a club loses it’s Premier League status.

Do hardcore Hull fans still pine for Boothferry Park..? Then again I suspect some of Hull’s most militant “Say No to Tigers” have watched most of their football from the comfort of the KC stadium.

After all in the Nineties Hull’s home attendances often hovered around the 4,000 mark.

Indeed one older Hull fan who started going to games in 1967 got in touch with me this week and admitted he has no problem embracing a Tigers tail to their name and was honest enough to admit that really and truly Hull don’t actually have much of a history to protect anyway.

But the the majority who have objected to me seeing Allam’s point of view have been hostile in their communication.

I could understand their point if Allem wanted to change the name to the The Humber Tigers. Or even the Hull Dolphins. Or Kingston Galaxy. But Hull City Tigers..? Or even Hull Tigers..? No, I can’t see the problem.

It’s certainly not an issue on the scale which saw Wimbledon become the MK Dons and move to a different part of the country.

It is not even quite in the same league as Cardiff ditching their traditional blue kit for red.

Maybe Allam could have dealt with the matter a bit more astutely.

Then again it’s not like he is the mold of Cardiff owner and Bond villain lookalike Vincent Tan.

Yes Allam was born in Egypt but he’s been in England since the Sixties. He is no fly by night foreign opportunist owner.

He studied, worked and lived in Hull pretty much since he arrived on these shores. He has forged a hugely successful business in the area and he has been a major benefactor of several community projects.

In many ways then Allam is more part of Hull’s heritage than a lot these Hull fans who cast him as some sort of philistine.

A big chunk of media commentators have sided with the ‘No to Tigers’ campaign arguing adding the suffix to the Hull name would be a case of football selling its soul.

It’s all populist hot-air to satisfy the Hull hoi polloi and pose as protectors of the games grassroots.

Did they not notice soccer sold its soul some time ago..? The so called beautiful game has long been the brand game.

Yes there are still some things worth fighting for. Not least because a lot of tradition is part and parcel of a clubs power to thrive in the future.

But a tweak to Hull’s name to maybe help them do better in the 21st century than they ever did in the 20th century rather than wither and die is not one of them.

HullBuys

New strike-force: Jelavic and Long have been brought in to keep Hull in the top flight

And consider this: whenever did people outside of Hull – a city that used to be in Yorkshire until border changes saw it become part if Humberside – ever talk so much about the state of Hull unless they were discussing the merits of John Prescott or The Beautiful South.

Manager Steve Bruce last week took the risk of stepping into the erm, Hullabaloo, and siding with Allam by saying the fans should be singing the owners name from the rooftops.

And with good reason. Allam dug deep into his pocket again last week to finance the signings of strikers Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long – two buys which should make sure Hull stay in the Premier league.

That in a week when the Southampton success story started to turn sour in the wake of their owner having died and the heir not appearing to be too interested.
The same week when Allam, albeit a bit too bluntly, threatened he would walk away from the club if he did not get his way with the Tiger “re-brand”, an issue which is now in front of the FA.

Several irate Hull fans got in touch with me this week and argued they would rather be back in third tier obscurity rather than allow Allam to get his way. They would be happy to drive Allam away.

I suggest: Be careful of what you wish for and also consider what happened to a club previously known as Newton Heath when, two years before the Hull Comets changed their name, they changed their name to… Manchester United.

 

 

Ronaldo: The Height of Perfection
Portuguese Genius Breaks the Mold with his Lofty Frame

by Rob Shepherd.

As expected Cristiano Ronaldo was crowned World Footballer of the Year at FIFA’s Ballon D’or awards in Zurich.

Given the sheer weight of stunning performances and goals for Real Madrid and Portugal over the course of 2013 he was a worthy winner, despite the claims of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi who finished second and Franck Ribery who was third.

Whether Ronaldo is head and shoulders above the other two is a matter of opinion, although in the physical sense there is no argument.

Ronaldo is a relative giant at 6ft 1, while Messi and Ribery are 5ft 7.

In that sense Ronaldo is not just a rare and brilliant talent, he is in terms of stature a rarity.

RonaldoHeight_636x299

Over the years the players who have been regarded as the best on the planet in general have tended to be UNDER six foot.

Pele was 5’8. So were George Best and Bobby Charlton.

Maradona stood “tall” at 5’5, Eusebio was 5’9,  Puskas 5’8 and di Stefano 5 ’10.
Bobby Moore was six foot but that’s fairly short for a central defender.

PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, insulted he was not in the running for the 2013 award but who was given the goal of the year prize for his “propeller strike” for Sweden against England, is a colossus by comparison at 6ft 5in. The maverick Swede is an exception to the rule.

And the point..?

It just shows how ridiculous it is that so many top football clubs, in this country especially, still reject players in their early teens on the basis “they are too small.”

In many cases the club’s don’t even take into account the erratic nature of physical development during adolescence.

Many who are short in their early teens shoot-up and outgrow previously bigger rivals anyway.

But in all cases they will eventually assume adult strength and power whatever their height, and often it is the shorter guy who proves to be the most gifted, while then ones who were bigger and stronger and may have relied on that strength to get them through youth football rather than technique end up being ordinary or not good enough.

 

Graeme Le Saux: How Gay Slurs Almost Wrecked My Career.

294598_1LeSaux

Le Saux: dared to be ‘different’.

Because I had different interests, because I didn’t feel comfortable in the laddish drinking culture that was prevalent in English football in the late 1980s, it was generally assumed by my teammates that there was something wrong with me. It followed, naturally, that I must be gay.

For 14 years I had to listen to that suggestion repeated in vivid and forthright terms from thousands of voices in the stands. It was a lie. I am not gay and never have been, yet I became a victim of English football’s last taboo.

The homophobic taunting and bullying left me close to walking away from football. I went through times that were like depression. I did not know where I was going. I would get up in the morning and would not feel good and by the time I got into training I would be so nervous that I felt sick. I dreaded going in. I was like a bullied kid on his way to school to face his tormentors.

It started in the summer of 1991, in my first spell at Chelsea. We had what is known as “a strong dressing-room” –a euphemism for a group of players who are very good at dishing out stick. It was not a place for shrinking violets and in the first few days of preseason training, when the banter flies around more than ever, there was a lot of talk about where people had been for their holidays.

I had had a good summer. I was 22 and had just broken into the first team. Over the previous 18 months I had become friends with two of the forerunners of Chelsea’s foreign legion: Ken Monkou and Erland Johnsen. Erland invited us to visit him in Norway. When the season finished, I took Ken to Jersey, where I’d grown up, and then we drove up through France, Belgium and the Netherlands and flew to see Erland.

We had a good time. When the trip was over, Ken headed back to London, Erland went on honeymoon to the Caribbean and I went on holiday with my girlfriend. When I got back to Chelsea and the boys asked me where I had been, I told them. Somebody – I cannot remember who – said: “Oh, so you went camping with Ken.”

There was a bit of chortling and sniggering. It got to me straight away. I told them we had not gone camping, we had been staying in hotels. But it stuck. It became a running gag. And soon, to my horror, it was on the grapevine that Ken and I were an item.

‘Different’

I was sensitive and pretty naive and took things more seriously than I should have done. I reacted to gibes when I should have laughed them off. By the time I changed my approach it was too late. Training became an ordeal. Everybody regarded me as an outsider. I was an easy target because I did not fit in. The only people I knew in London were students, so I turned up at training with my student look: jeans rolled up, Pringle socks and my rucksack with The Guardian in it. For much of my career, reading The Guardian was used as one of the most powerful symbols of how I was supposed to be weirdly different. Pathetic, really. It gave substance to the gossip that I was homosexual: Guardian reader equals gay boy. Some people really thought that added up.

Andy Townsend got on the bus to a game and saw me reading the paper, picked it up and said he wanted to look at the sport. He threw it back down a couple of seconds later. “There’s no f***ing sport in here,” he said. The rest of the lads laughed.

They had already pigeonholed me as a loner. But I was not a loner. Away from football I was pretty sociable. It was just that because of my background, I was not what footballers regarded as typical. I got the impression they had not come across anyone like me before and the rumours that I was gay stemmed from not fitting in. I became the target of day-to-day ribbing, which got worse and worse. I had never had any problem with bullying before. Being a pariah was new to me.

The more successful I got, the more it became an issue. In those days, if anyone thought you were even slightly effeminate, you were in trouble. I already felt as if the odds were stacked against me, without being pitched into a world of double entendres, nudging and winking.

The more my supposed homo-sexuality became a topic of humour, the more upset I became. I was confronting people all the time. It felt as if everybody in the dressing-room was in on it, even Gwyn Williams, one of the coaches. He would wander up to me before training and say: “Come on, poof, get your boots on.” Nobody in authority said: “Lads, this is getting a bit silly.” The rumours were out of control.

Abuse

The p***-taking started around the beginning of July and eight weeks later my worst fears were realised. On September 7 we played West Ham United at Upton Park. I got the ball on the left flank and played it upfield. Then the chant started.

It came from the hardcore fans in the North Bank, set to the tune of the Village People’s Go West. “Le Saux takes it up the a***,” they yelled, again and again. I stood in shock. “Oh my God, that’s it,” I thought. I knew fans everywhere were going to make my life a misery.

Justin Fashanu had “come out” a year earlier and even though his career was practically over, he was ridiculed and scorned for his admission. A few years later, he committed suicide.

My preoccupation with being isolated and ostracised was turning into reality. It frightened me and I did not know how to deal with it. I did not know who to be angry with because it was my teammates who had started it. Yet nobody mentioned the chanting when we got back to the dressing-room. Maybe it did not register with some of them and I did not say: “Thanks a lot for that, boys.” I was very insecure, very nervous. I did not feel I could trust anybody.

After that game, the chanting became a regular event. The pressure I was under was immense. I would go on to the pitch knowing that I was going to get a torrent of abuse before I even kicked a ball. If there was a lull in the game, I was the fallback option and the taunting would start. If the home team’s fans got bored, they would start singing about me. I tried hard to prevent it. I stood up for myself and got angry with those who pushed it too far, but it went crazy. It became an urban myth and was talked about as if it was fact.

Everything I did was used as evidence that I was gay. The way I dressed, the music I listened to, the fact that I went to art galleries, the newspaper I read, turned into more clues about my sexuality. The variety of insults aimed at gay people became my specialist subject.

The worst thing was when I would go to get the ball for a corner or throw-in and there would be somebody a couple of feet away from me in the front row. Their faces would be contorted with aggression and they would be screaming homophobic abuse, vicious stuff. When it was that close and one-on-one, it was shocking.

Taunts

Pretty soon, opposition players were winding me up about it. I was in my second spell at Chelsea when the real problems began. From the time the rumours first surfaced, I got plenty of comments from other players about being a “faggot” or a “queer”. Robbie Savage seemed to get a particular thrill out of it, but I guess that will not surprise anybody. I told him he should say it to me at the end of the game when I had tackled him a few times; see if he still wanted to call me a poof then.

It was irrational, schoolboy behaviour. Most of the time I let it go. But when Chelsea played Liverpool at Anfield in October 1997, Paul Ince repeatedly wound me up and I gave him a taste of his own medicine.

Paul and I had always got on well. We were England teammates and I respected him. Paul was really wired during the game. He would get so frantic in matches that his eyes would glaze over. I had been clattered a few times when he took my legs and left me on the deck. Then he started jabbering away at me. “Come on, you f***ing poof,” he said. “Get up, there’s nothing wrong with you.”

He said it a few times. I let it go. People get called a poof all the time in football. But it was loaded when people aimed it at me.

A few minutes later he did me again and started yelling the same stuff. I snapped. I said something that I knew would hurt him. I insulted his wife.

Paul went ballistic. He was livid. He spent the rest of the match trying to kick lumps out of me. When the final whistle went I was going down the tunnel when I caught sight of him out of the corner of my eye, about to land a punch. I ducked out of the way and scarpered. The guy had lost it completely; he wanted to kill me. He was a prime example of someone who could dish it out but could not take it. He had been calling me all the names, personal stuff that he must have known would hurt, and yet as soon as I retaliated in kind, he could not cope.

I did not feel proud of what I had said. I knew his wife, Claire, and I liked her. It was not about her, though, it was about letting him know what it was like to put up with abuse. Paul quickly turned it round in his mind so that I was the villain. Since then our relationship has been very cold.

Prejudice

The gay slurs were putting me in a difficult situation. It was hard to keep denying that I was homosexual without being disrespectful to the gay community. I have gay friends and I do not judge them. I am not homophobic; a gay player in a team I was playing for would not be an issue for me.

But when supporters and other players accused me of being gay, it bothered me. I never believed there was anything wrong with being gay, but I felt that if it came to be accepted that I was, I would be unable to continue as a professional footballer. That is how deep-seated the prejudice in the game is.

That is why I fought back as strongly as I did. I wondered whether it was defamatory, being called gay if you were not, and in the context of football I think it is because it could end your career. No manager would want to sign you. It is a terrible indictment of the sport, but it is true.

We have got past pretty much everything else. The problems with racism are not over, but they are on the wane. You do not get people making monkey noises at English grounds or throwing bananas on the pitch. But there is still terrible prejudice within football. People pick on weaknesses. You have to deal with being constantly derided for the most trivial matters: your trainers, your haircut, your picture in the newspaper. It is endless and can be draining. If you can make someone else look stupid, that is the ideal.

Given the peer pressure, I do not think a modern footballer could come out as gay without immediately becoming isolated from his team. The group would be too hostile for him to survive. Football has not had to face up to a group of gay footballers saying: “How are you going to deal with us?”

The sport has not confronted homophobia because the gay footballers who are playing in our leagues are too frightened to declare their sexuality and cope with the backlash. Unless there is a powerful voice for a minority group, football will never make provision for it.

The abuse I had to suffer would be multiplied a hundredfold for a player who was openly gay. The burden would be too much. I think of the stick I had from the fans and it made me feel nervous before I got on the pitch. I knew I would be targeted in the warm-up. Every time I ran to the side there was a group of people giving me abuse.

Suddenly, all the anger and prejudice hidden away under the surface of everyday life starts spewing out of them. You get a sense of the mentality of the mob. If the game starts badly they will turn their anger and their frustration on you. And then a whole stadium will start singing about how you take it up the a***.

Sometimes you cannot blot it out. At Anfield once I went over to the touchline to get the ball because a kid in the crowd was holding it. He was no more than 10 and his dad was next to him. “You f***ing poof, you take it up the a***,” he screamed at me. His dad joined in. I stopped and looked at him. “Who do you think you are talking to like that?” I asked. Of course, everyone else piled in. But sometimes you have to draw the line and say: “That is wrong, you don’t treat people that way.”

Fowler

Famously, there was another time when I stood up for myself, when I refused to look the other way. I had a family by then and my wife, Mariana, brought our newborn child, Georgina, to her first game. It was Liverpool again, but this time it was not a ten-year-old who was the problem. It was Robbie Fowler.

fowlerlesaux1004pa_1003680c

Le Saux and Fowler square up

I had admired Robbie when he was a young player. He was a magnificent finisher, one of the best natural strikers I have seen. But as people, he and I are as far apart as possible. His trademark is sarcastic, put-down humour and an irreverent, caustic attitude. If that is how he plays, fine. But Robbie did not know when to stop. When things became unacceptable, he appeared ignorant of his social responsibilities and the consequences of his actions.

The Chelsea–Liverpool match at Stamford Bridge in 1999 was a high-tempo game and early in the second half I moved to clear the ball from left back. Robbie tried to block it but fouled me. I went down and Paul Durkin, the referee, booked him. Robbie looked at me. “Get up, you poof,” he said.

I stayed on the turf to get treatment and by then Robbie was standing ten yards away. The ball was in front of me, ready for the free kick. I looked at Robbie. He started bending over and pointing his backside in my direction. He looked over his shoulder and started yelling at me. He was smirking. “Come and give me one up the a***,” he said, repeating it three or four times.

The Chelsea fans were going berserk. The linesman was standing right next to me. He could see what Robbie was doing but did not take any action, not even to call Durkin over. Everyone knew what the gesture meant. There was not much room for interpretation. I asked the linesman what he was going to do. He stood there with a look of panic.

So I waited. Robbie could see he was winding me up and I suppose that gratified him, so he carried on doing it. I told the linesman I would not take the free kick until he stopped. It was a big moment, a stand-off.

What Robbie did provided a chance for people to confront a serious issue and I wish Durkin had sent him off for ungentlemanly conduct. Football had a chance to make a stand that day and Durkin would have been fêted for it. There could have been a strong statement that blatant homophobia would not be tolerated and maybe it would have been a turning point, taking some of the stigma away for gay footballers.

But football did not make a stand. Durkin ran over and booked me for time-wasting. I was dumbfounded. I asked if he was just going to let Robbie get away with it. He did not say anything. He said later that he had not seen what Robbie was doing, but I wonder if he simply did not want to deal with it. No one did. My head filled with anger. I still did not want to take the free kick. Perhaps I should have just refused to and been sent off. That would at least have forced the issue, but it would also have made me a martyr for the cause and I did not want that. Robbie stopped bending over. I took the kick.

Some people compared what happened to sledging in cricket, but those exchanges stay between the players on the pitch. That is where I believe Robbie crossed the line and betrayed the sport. When a fellow professional does something like that to you, when he mocks you for public consumption, I cannot accept it as part of the game.

Vengeance

I never saw anyone do that to another player. I felt that Fowler’s action – because it was so blatant – betrayed me, too. He broke the code. Black players have had plenty of abuse aimed at them, but no fellow player has ever made a public gesture like that. Robbie would not dream of miming insults to a black player, so why did he feel it was acceptable to incite me by sticking out his backside?

I was consumed with thoughts of vengeance. I could not calm down. I ran to the halfway line and tried to confront Robbie. I told him my family was in the stand. “Bollocks to your family,” he said. In his autobiography, Robbie wrote that I ran up to him and shouted “but I’m married” and he replied “so was Elton John, mate”. It is a nice line and makes him look funny, which is the most important thing to him, but he used dramatic licence. He did not say that.

I should have come off, really. My head was gone. I was not even concentrating on the game. I felt humiliated, as if the anger of so many years was welling up inside me. Eventually, the ball was played down the left side and Robbie made a run towards our penalty area. I came across and ran straight into him with a swing of the elbow. Thankfully I am not very good at it. We had a few more tussles, then Robbie caught me on the calf and I had to come off. The most traumatic match of my career was over.

I was still incredibly angry after the game. I went to see Durkin. I had heard that the cameras had captured my elbow on Robbie and I wanted to explain why I had done it. Dermot Gallagher, the fourth official, said that he had seen the whole thing with Robbie jutting out his backside. He started talking about the amount of stick he had had over the years for being Irish. I asked Durkin about the booking. I asked why I had been time-wasting when we were playing at home and the score was 1–1. He did not have an answer. I asked the linesman again why he had not done anything and he did not want to engage.

The aftermath was awful. I got buried because I had tried to take out Robbie off the ball. That was fair enough. But it seemed bizarre that people focused on this rather than the extreme provocation. Because I had reacted, a lot of people wanted to excuse Robbie for what he had done. Three days after the game, the FA charged us both with misconduct.

I sent him a letter of apology and got a letter from him, too. Not an apology, just an attempt to save face, couched in legal niceties and drafted by a lawyer or agent, designed to appease the FA tribunal before it sat in judgment. It was a sad excuse, really, an insult to the intelligence.

Later, in his autobiography, Robbie wrote: “Football’s a tough sport and to get to the top you have to be incredibly thick-skinned. A bit of name-calling never hurt anyone and the truth is I wasn’t being homophobic, merely trying to exploit a known weakness in an opponent who had done me a number of times.”

article-2419632-00179EFD00000258-172_634x406

Accepted prejudice; but this is an image that’s tantamount to waving a banana at a black player.

It is an interesting line of defence. According to Robbie’s rationale, it is OK to call a black man a “n*****” and pretend it is in the line of duty. I do not think so. I do not think even Robbie would argue that. He did not really have a defence and that was the best he could come up with. It was not a very good effort.

England

A month after Robbie offered me his backside, we were picked in the England squad. There was an awkward reunion at Burnham Beeches. Robbie did not have quite as much bravado in that situation. He looked like a naughty little boy.

Kevin Keegan was the manager and he wanted us to stage a public reconciliation for the press. I said immediately that unless Robbie said sorry, that was not going to happen. I did not want a public apology, just a private word would do. But he refused. He said that he had done nothing wrong, that it was just a bit of a laugh.

Keegan started to back off at that point. He was not qualified to deal with it, but I felt more confident. I was determined to stand up for myself. I confronted Robbie while we were in Keegan’s room. I pointed out that if he had taken the p*** out of someone like that in the middle of London’s Soho, where the gay clubs are, he would have been chased down the street and beaten up.

Even then, Robbie could not resist it. When I mentioned the gay clubs, he muttered: “You’d know where they are.” I told him I would be professional on the training pitch, but that there was no way I was going to shake his hand. I felt bolstered by the debate the incident had caused and relieved that the issue was in the open.

From that moment, there was less animosity in the chants. The debate about what happened had exposed it for the puerile cruelty, the out and out bullying, that it was. I do not feel any animosity towards Robbie now, but the stuff he sought to justify nearly drove me out of the game.

On April 9, six weeks after the original incident and six days after Robbie had got himself in more trouble by pretending to snort the white lines on the pitch at Anfield during a goal celebration in a Merseyside derby, we attended separate FA disciplinary hearings. I got a one-match ban and a £5,000 fine, but they hammered Robbie. He was dealing with the fallout from his mock cocaine-snorting antics as well as what he did to me and it provided a fascinating glimpse of the governing body’s moral code.

It gave Robbie a much harsher punishment for making what was clearly a joke than it did for his attempt to humiliate me and encourage homophobia. I wonder if Robbie appreciated the irony of that. He did something as a retort to malicious rumours, yet was happy to exploit a malicious rumour spread about me. Robbie got a two-match ban for taunting me and a four-match ban for his goal celebrations at Anfield. As I said, interesting.

The debate about what Robbie had done and the FA hearing gave me a form of closure. It was a watershed for me. After that I still got the taunts from the crowd, but the venom seemed to have gone. What Robbie had done had always been my worst fear. Now it was over, I knew that nothing could be worse than that ordeal, so nobody could offend me any more.

After the hearing, the distress I had always felt about the taunts began to ebb away. So in the end, I got there. But it did not wipe out what I had been through. It did not wash it clean. It is an indictment of our game and the prejudice it allows, but I felt a great surge of relief when I retired.

 

(Originally appeared in The Times, 2007)

 

 

Tribute to Eusebio
The Black Panther Passes Away Aged 71

eusebio-05

Eusebio won the first Golden Boot in 1968

Eusebio, died overnight in Portugal of a heart attack. He was aged 71.

Playing in the same era as Pele (aka The Black Pearl) Eusebio was known as the Black Panther, he spent 15 years at Benfica (1960 to 1975) and he scored 733 goals in 745 competitive games over his career. He scored 41 goals in 64 internationals.

There were many similarities in style to Pele. Pele of course was always regarded as the best, but Eusebio had a magic and special charisma of his that endeared him to many fans in Europe.

Portugal and Real Madrid star Crsistiano Ronaldo – who tweeted a tribute hailing Eusebio as “eternal” – may recognise that struggle for recognition given his duels over who is the so called world number one with Lionel Messi.

But back in the day there was much less ego flying about. Eusebio was a humble self effacing individual.

And last year he was irked when Ronlado boasted that his records for club and country were superior to Eusebio’s. The legend responded with pointed dignity.

Eusebio “It saddens me because you can’t make that comparison,” said Eusebio. “It’s a mistake.

“I played around 60 games to score my 41 goals. Now, after all these years, someone else has scored that many goals, but obviously that happens today because it’s easier to play against some opponents. I never played against Lichtenstein or Azerbaijan.”

Eusebio was born in Mozambique, West Africa (then a Portuguese colony) in 1942. He made his debut as a 15 year old and his career would eventually span all the way to 1979 when he turned out for the New Jersey Americans.

He won the Ballon d’Or in 1965, he was the first winner of the Golden Boot in 1968 and he accumulated 11 Portuguese titles and a European Cup (1962) during his career.

At the 1966 World Cup he finished as top scorer with nine goals and he helped push Portugal to a third-place finish after losing to winners England in the semi final when Gordon Banks cam e out on top of what was a great duel between the pair.

In a remarkable match against outsiders North Korea, Portugal found themselves 3-0 down. They ended up winning 5-3.

Eusebio66

Eusebio in action during the 1966 World Cup in England

Eusebio also played in the Benfica side that lost to Manchester United in the 1968 European Cup final. He was revered by the late George Best and Sir Bobby Charlton.

Charlton said Eusebio was “one of the finest players I ever had the privilege to play against”.

Chelsea’s Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho said of Eusebio: “I think he is immortal” while Luis Figo,  who won a record 127 caps for Portugal, described him as “the greatest”.

Eusebio scored twice in the final when Benfica retained the European Cup in 1962 when they beat the might of Real Madrid 5-3 in the final.

Eusebio was famed for his powerful shooting and blistering acceleration (he ran the 100 metres in 11 seconds), traits which made him the leading scorer in the Portuguese top flight seven times during a 15-year, trophy-laden career with Benfica.

In retirement he remained an icon in Portugal and he was named their greatest ever player in 2003.

Ron Remembered
BOBBY pays tribute to the former Palace Chairman who sadly died

by Rob Shepherd.

Ron Noades, covered in Champagne after victory in the Playoffs v Blackburn in 1989.

Ron Noades, who was one of a new wave of chairman in the Eighties who saw football as big business along with Irving Scholar, David Dein, Ken Bates, Doug Ellis and Sam Hammam, died last week aged 76.

One of his former managers Alan Smith wrote a fine tribute last week recalling once when Noades decided to pick the team himself … and chalked 12 names on the blackboard!

When Smith told Noades: “You have a point there Ron, that team looked hard to beat – especially with the extra man!”, Noades stormed out of the room shouting at Smith: “Your trouble is too much bloody attention to detail!”

Actually, unlike most modern chairmen, Noades did know a thing or two about football.

He would go on regular scouting missions and picked out a few rough diamonds like Geoff Thomas of Crewe who manager Steve Coppell didn’t rate at the time. Thomas went on to play for England.

It was Noades who also got the heads up on a lad in his early twenties playing Sunday League football. Ian Wright went on to do some big things in the game and beyond in the Nineties.

The manner in which he eventually sold the club to Mark Goldberg without including the freehold means many Eagles have more bitter than sweet memories of Noades, the silver fox negotiator.

I recall one deal that captured Noades’ ruthless streak perfectly.

I will keep the player anonymous to spare him blushes – but the said player, a regular in that excellent Crystal Palace side of the late Eighties and early Nineties, was due to sign a new contract.

Noades was in the process of moving house, so he suggested the player take on the one he was selling as the signing on fee.

The player agreed.

It was a lovely detached pile in Surrey with a big back garden backing onto a country lane.

It seemed a great deal both ways and was rubber stamped quickly so saving on agents fees, tax complications etc.

But a few weeks later the player awoke the loud noise of builders. He opened his back window and saw that half the back garden had been sectioned off and was being dug up!

He stormed down to ask what the builders were up to. They told him they were starting work on a couple of new houses and showed him the plans.

The player then drove off to confront chairman Noades who pointed out that the reason the player had got such a “bloody good deal” was that part of the sale included the carve up of half the land at the back. It was all legal, he should have read the small print and besides he was lucky to be living in such a good neighbourhood considering where head come from!

The player who was no shrinking violet and knew a few Sarf London characters had to take it on the chin!

RIP Ron.

Ron Noades

Ron Noades, 22 June 1937 – 24 December 2013.

Hurst’s Story Gives Fringe Players Hope

105781Hurst

Sir Geoff drops England in it at the World Cup draw!

by Rob Shepherd.

Sir Geoff Hurst is 72 on Sunday.

As the draw for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil is digested it’s perhaps worthwhile recalling that Hurst – who picked the sphere that put England in their group with Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica on Firday – had not kicked a ball in international football until four months before being the hat-trick hero in the 1966 success.

So while all the talk now is what Balotelli or Suarez might do to England or Rooney to them or who will be the star of the show; Messi or Ronaldo? – the ultimate hero could be a relative unknown like Hurst.

As Sir Geoff proved back in 1966; strange and great things can unfold at World Cup finals…

Certainly Hurst’s story gives those England players on the periphery or who haven’t yet made their debut (or another West Ham forward Andy Carroll, if he ever gets fit) hope that making the finals in Brazil is still possible even if manager Roy Hodgson, who has used an incredible 54 different players in 24 games in charge so far, has suggested he has finished with experiments.

Or maybe another Hammer who just like Hurst was back then has yet to be capped, Ravel Morrison could spring a surprise.

It wasn’t until February 1966 in a friendly against West Germany whom England would face in the final that Hurst made his debut.

A couple more decent displays in the friendlies saw him scrape into the squad, but although Hurst was given the number 10 shirt it was 21 Roger Hunt who would partner number 9 Jimmy Greaves at the start.

But of course when Greaves got injured, Hurst came in and scored the winner against Argentina and played a big role in the semi final win over Mexico (Bobby Charlton scored the two goals), then along with Hunt kept his place for the final – leaving Greaves a gutted figure as a spectator on the bench in the days before substitutes.

Everyone knows what happened next.

Hurst became the first player to score a hat trick in a World Cup final as England triumphed over the Germans 4-2, his second goal which put England 3-2 up in extra time remaining a bone of contention, and next summer will be the first time that goal line technology will be used at a World Cup finals  – the equipment being supplied by a German company.

Hurst rise was more all the more remarkable because he had started out his career as left wing half (midfielder in modern parlance) at West Ham but a certain Bobby Moore had better defensive qualities.

As a consequence at the start of the Sixties Hurst almost gave up on football to pursue a career in cricket (see kick off article archive).

But when Ron Greenwood took over as Hammers manager he changed Moore into a defensive partner for the centre half as the number 6 position moved back to form a back four, while Hurst took on the number 10 as the old inside left role became a duel central striker, in this case alongside West Ham’s number 9 of the time, John “Budgie” Byrne.

PF-hurst-12_1475351i

Hurst prospered and became a provider and taker of goals.

He scored 24 goals in 49 games for England and scored 242 goals in 500 in all competitions for West Ham before moving on to Stoke then West Brom.

In 1979 Hurst succeeded Danny Blanchflower as Chelsea manager but only lasted a little over a year before drifting out of the game and moving into business, corporate hospitality and media work.

Geoff was knighted in 1998.

Iconic

As a kid growing up watching West Ham, along with Moore and Martin Peters (who scored the other goal in the ’66 final) Hurst was an iconic figure. All three played in the first match I ever watched on the opening day of the 1969-70 season, Hurst scoring the only goal in the 1-0 victory over Newcastle.

The previous year Hurst had scored SIX goals in one game in a 8-0 win over Sunderland. He later admitted to punching the first goal into net, which caused a storm at the time. Such controversies are nothing new.

Yet for all the big moment, great games and great goals, for me it was a Hurst miss that sticks out in the mind.

Having beaten Stoke in the semi-final first leg of the League Cup 2-1 away, West Ham found themselves 1-0 down in the second leg at Upton Park.

But with a replay looming suddenly the door was open to a Wembley final when Gordon Banks – England’s keeper in 1966 – brought down Harry Redknapp and a penalty was given.

Hurst v Banks.

What drama…

Hurst hit a belter but Banks pulled off a stunning save.

After two replays Stoke made it to the final where they beat Chelsea to lift their one and only trophy.

But most of England and the rest of the world will always remember Hurst and that World Cup hat-trick and perhaps more so than that controversial second, or the precise first, the swashbuckling third in particular.

Happy birthday Sir Geoffrey.

You can see a nice tribute to him below.

 

Back of the Nets!
The Players That Graced Both Football and Cricket

by Karl Hofer

The Ashes are back and cricket fans everywhere will be keeping a close eye on proceedings Down Under over the next couple of months as Australia and England battle it out for what is surely the smallest trophy in world sports; The Urn.

There are many links between football and cricket, far more than you would imagine. But when you think about it, with seasons which hardly overlapped and natural athletes who needed to earn a living in both summer and winter, it’s perhaps not surprising that many players played both our Winter and Summer sports – football and cricket – to a high standard.

Here are a few of the dual sportsmen that enjoyed willow and the leather of a football;

Former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville maybe an iconic figure in the world of football, but most people are totally unaware that Gary was an excellent cricketer.

As a teenager, Neville played for the Greenmount Cricket Club and quickly broke into the first team who played in the Bolton League. Young Gary also played for the Lancashire under-14 team. Many of his peers insist that had he not chosen a career in football, he would have become a great cricketer. He had a very attacking style of batting, was a useful medium-pace bowler and also a fine fielder.

Neville continued to develop and moved into club cricket, and during the Hamer Cup semi finals in 1992 he played with the West Indian great Franklyn Stephenson and an emerging Aussie talent by the name of Matthew Hayden. The 17 year old Neville, in a partnership with future Aussie legend Hayden, then 21, scored an unbeaten 110 runs. Below is the extract from The Bury Times;

HaydenNeville

BURY TIMES extract, Friday July 24, 1992:

‘Two ton route to cup final’Destined for greatness: Hayden and Neville pose for the Bury Times aged 21 and 17 respectively

‘Greenmount emerged triumphant from a semi-final tie which produced more than 500 runs on Sunday afternoon.

They amassed 278 for 2 against AstleyBridge thanks largely to two individual hundreds, and were then forced to sweat it out as their visitors made a tremendous effort to snatch a place in the Bolton League’s Hamer Cup final.

The home side were 42 for 2 when 17 years old Gary Neville, an apprentice footballer with Manchester United, strolled to the middle to join 21 years old Australian professional Matthew Hayden.

Some 40 overs later the Queenslander, who has high hopes of a place in the Aussie Test squad, was 140 not out and his less experienced partner was unbeaten on 110, Neville’s maiden first team ‘ton’ after a previous best of 49. It was Hayden’s fourth century for the club this summer.’

The story goes that Neville later injured his finger and then decided to focus on his dream of playing football for his boyhood club, Manchester United.

In all fairness Gary probably isn’t the best cricketer in his family. His Dad, the legendary Neville Neville, was a league cricketer in Lancashire while his brother Phil was viewed by many as a future Test player. Phil actually captained England Under-15s and later played alongside Andrew Flintoff in the Lancashire Under-19 side. The former United and Everton ace also holds the record as the youngest player to play for the Lancashire 2nd XI, who he turned out for at the tender age of 15.

Whilst neither Neville ever managed to play both sports professionally, plenty did.

I’m sure a lot of you will be familiar with this pub quiz question; Name the three England captains who have played for Scunthorpe United..?

In case you don’t know, the answer is: Kevin Keegan, Ray Clemence and Ian Botham!

91292Botham

Botham the centre-half; In many ways a poor man’s Micky Droy…

The former England cricket legend Botham made his Football League debut for Scunthorpe as a sub in a 3-3 draw away to Bournemouth on March 25th 1980. He started for the first time a couple of years later in what transpired to be Scunthorpe’s worst home League defeat, a 2-7 spanking from Wigan on Friday March 12th 1982. In total That Man Botham played 11 League games for Scunthorpe United as a non-contract player, which was enough to earn him a testimonial against Manchester United!

You might have known about that, but I bet you didn’t know that Ian Botham’s Somerset team-mate Viv Richards was a double World Cup international. He was a World Cup winner for the West Indies at cricket – but not quite as successful when playing football for Antigua in the 1974 World Cup qualifiers…

 Botham is probably the most famous player to have played both games. But for real Roy of the Rovers style swagger, Chris Balderstone takes some beating. As a footballer Balderstone must have been decent, after all he was signed by the great Bill Shankly for HuddersfieldTown back in 1958. He did struggle to break into the team initially but then a certain Denis Law was ahead of him, so he didn’t make his debut until the following year.

He went on to play for Carlisle, Doncaster and Queen of the South. At Carlisle he is somewhat of a legend, because in August 1974 he scored the winner for the Cumbrians against Spurs, a victory that actually put Carlisle on top of the old First Division for a few days. I guess you could call that doing ‘a Jimmy Glass’ in reverse!

It was as a cricketer that Balderstone really excelled. He made his debut for Yorkshire in 1961 before moving to another successful club, Leicestershire, and he made two Test appearances for England.

His two sports once famously collided to earn him something of a ‘Superman’ reputation. On 15th September 1975 he played cricket for Leicestershire against Derbyshire at Chesterfield and at close of play he was 51 not out. A quick drive to Belle Vue followed where he turned out for Doncaster Rovers that evening in a 1-1 draw against Brentford in the old Fourth Division. The following morning he was back playing cricket, where he batted on for his century. After eventually being dismissed for 116 he then took 3 wickets for 28 runs to help win the CountyChampionship for Leicestershire for the first time!

After his retirement Balderstone became a first-class umpire, officiating in two one-day internationals.

PF-hurst-4_1475152i

Members of the West Indian cricket team field as Geoff Hurst tries his hand at batting a football at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground, London, July 23 1980. Fielding are (left to right) Derek Murray, Clyde Walcott, Viv Richards and Alvin Kallicharran

Everyone knows that Sir Geoff Hurst holds the record as the only footballer to have scored a World Cup final hat-trick – But did you know he also holds the record of being the only World Cup winner to have played County Championship cricket..? Hurst made one appearance for Essex against Lancashire at Liverpool in 1962 (scoring 0 not out in the 1st innings and being bowled for 0 in the 2nd), and went on to play a further 23 times for Essex 2nd XI during the summers of ‘62, ‘63 and ‘64.

Thankfully for England fans Hurst gave up playing cricket by the time the Summer of ’66 rolled along.

Hurst wasn’t the only Hammer hitting willow either. Another was goalkeeper Jim Standen who in 1964 was part of the West Ham side that won the FA Cup for the first time. He was also a member of the Worcestershire side that won the CountyChampionship for the first time that Summer, in what was an eventful year for Standen.

He actually finished top of the CountyChampionship bowling averages with his medium-pace bowling, taking 64 wickets at 13 runs each (best performance 7-30). A year later he was back at Wembley with West Ham, who beat Munich 1860 in the European Cup Winners Cup Final. Worcestershire also retained the CountyChampionship title the following season but Standen played only the once.

Few can compete with Standen in terms of what he achieved in both sports.

Two people who definitely can though are the brothers Denis Compton and Leslie Compton, who were legends in their time for both Arsenal and Middlesex.

denis-comptons-brylcream-ad

Denis Compton was an advertisers dream

Leslie was the better footballer of the two and holds the record as oldest-ever outfield England debutant, getting the first of his two caps against Wales in1950 at the age of 38 years and 64 days old. He made 253 League appearances for Arsenal between 1932 and 1952 and between 1938 and 1956 he kept wicket for Middlesex, playing a total of 274 first class matches.

Denis was the better cricketer, making 78 Test appearances for England. He scored 38,942 runs and took 622 wickets in a total of 515 first class matches played. A right-hand bat and a slow left-arm Chinaman bowler, he is one of only seventeen players to have scored over one hundred centuries in first-class cricket. Denis also made 60 official (non-wartime) League appearances for Arsenal scoring 16 times between 1936 and 1950, as well as playing 12 times for England in war-time (unofficial) internationals.

The brothers actually played alongside each other in Arsenal’s League Championship successes of 1937/38 and a decade later in 1947/48. They both starred in Middlesex’s CountyChampionship victory in 1947 and if that weren’t enough were both in the Arsenal side that defeated Liverpool in the 1950 FA Cup Final at Wembley.

The former Swansea, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Cardiff, PSV Eindhoven and NewportCounty centre-forward Trevor Ford didn’t like cricket, he loved it! After retiring from football the former Wales international made a cameo appearance in a very famous CountyChampionship match between Glamorgan and Nottinghamshire. On August 31st 1968 in his home town of Swansea he made a brief appearance for Glamorgan as a substitute fielder for the injured Ossie Wheatley in the same game that Nottinghamshire’s Gary Sobers scored six sixes in one over off the bowling of Malcolm Nash, the first player ever to achieve the feat.

Sport. Cricket. pic: 4th July 1995. Charity Cricket Tournament at Althorp Park, Northampton. Former England footballer Gary Lineker, himself a keen cricket fan, pictured batting at the event.

Gary Lineker opted for football over cricket as he never liked to run as far as 22 yards to score!

Another decent cricketer in his youth was Match of the Day presenter and former England striker Gary Lineker, who idolised David Gower as a kid. Lineker captained Leicestershire Schools and played for the County 2nd XI before concentrating on football. He once played for the MCC against Germany at Lords in 1992, where he was dismissed for a solitary run. ‘I always score one against Germany…’ he later said.

Andy Goram was actually a double international for Scotland, despite being born in Bury, Lancashire. He played 43 times for Scotland in goal while at cricket he played four first-class matches and several times more in one-day internationals. The left-handed batsman, right-arm medium pacer was fined by his employer, Hibernian, for playing in one of those matches, against the Australians in 1989, after being banned for fear of injury. After his £1 million move to Rangers in 1991 he was forced to give up the game to prevent a possible injury.

Arthur Milton was the last of the twelve England double internationals. He won his only international cap at football for England in a 2-2 with Austria in 1951 after having played only 12 League matches for Arsenal. He became a regular for Arsenal at right half and outside-right and won the First Division title in 1952-53.

Having scored 21 goals in 84 matches for Arsenal he moved to BristolCity for a short spell before retiring from football in the summer of 1955. He was also a Gloucestershire cricketer from 1948 to 1974 and made 6 appearances for England. He made a century on his England debut, against New Zealand at Headingley in July 1958, curiously opening the batting in that Test with another double international MJK (Mike) Smith (cricket and rugby union).

frys_190507

CB Fry’s magazine was way ahead of its time. This issue is from July 1905

But we’ve saved the best until last. The greatest all-rounder of them all was CB Fry. An amateur footballer, he played for the Corinthians as well as a total of 18 Southern League matches for Southampton and Portsmouth. While at Southampton he won an England cap against Ireland and played for the Saints in the 1902 FA Cup final against Sheffield United, who had ‘Fatty’ Foulke in their line-up. Two days after their replay defeat in that final Fry scored 82 when opening the batting with WG Grace for LondonCounty at the Oval. As a cricketer he made 26 appearances for England and during his career scored 94 centuries averaging over 50.

That is just the tip of the iceberg; As well as being a double international he held the world long-jump record for a while, played for Blackheath and the Barbarians at Rugby Union, wrote a number of books, edited his own sports magazines, was a broadcaster for the BBC, stood as a Liberal candidate in three General Elections (narrowly missing out on each occasion), he met Hitler (he failed to persuade von Ribbentrop that Nazi Germany should take up cricket to Test level) and was once reputedly offered the throne of Albania.

In 1955, he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews for the fifth episode of the new television show This Is Your Life. What an episode that must have been…

 

Heads You Lose!
Lloris injury a warning to heed + When Bobby Moore went in goal

HugoLloris2

Dazed and confused: Was Lloris mishandled by Spurs medical staff?

by Rob Shepherd.

It was too easy to make the flippant remark asking what all the fuss was about after it emerged that Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris had played on against Everton after suffering concussion following a blow to the heed from a collision with Romelu Lukaku.

What about the days when football was a man’s game, eh lad..?

And then make the obvious reference to Manchester City’s ex German prisoner of war keeper Bert Trautman who completed the 1956 FA Cup final after suffering a broken neck in the days when there were no substitutes. [See Great Shot archive]

Of course that was in an era when society had not heard of the health and safety brigade, the days when some doctors performed surgery in between having a cigarette and glass of whiskey.

It should also be remembered that no one at the time realised that Trautman’s injury was that serious until well after the game.

Given all the medical staff that are now on hand and the fact there are substitute goalkeepers ready to step in, it was on reflection irresponsible of the Tottenham management to allow Lloris to play on at Goodison Park.

After all, FA guidelines make it clear that once a player has suffered concussion he shouldn’t play for FIVE days let alone after five minutes. On that basis perhaps the referee should have stepped in.

Dangerous

Delayed reaction to head injuries can be fatal. Fortunately it seems Lloris has made a full recovery.

Although even that was cast into doubt just a few minutes ahead of the 1-0 Sunday defeat to Newcastle (Nov 10) when the Tottenham medical staff advised manager Andrea Villa-Boas that Lloris had failed an “impact test” and could not play even though seven days had elapsed.

That seemed to suggest, much to AVB’s ire, that it was in fact wrong to have allowed Lloris to carry on playing the previous week and was potentially dangerous.

And as often happens suddenly there is a London buses scenario where another two high profile head injuries turn up straight away.

In Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Arsenal, Gunners keeper Wojciech Szczesny suffered a nasty blow to the head following a collision with Manchester United’s Phil Jones.

The difference with regards to Lloris though was that as painful as it must have been for a while, Szczesny was not knocked out and played on without any further fuss.

Niether was United’s centre-half Nemanja Vidic knocked unconscious after a collision with his keeper David de Gea.

But Vidic’s blow was a sufficiently bad knock for him to be withdrawn and taken to hospital for a precautionary scan straight away.

The incidents have caused a big debate on head injuries and goalkeepers are especially at risk.

After all seven years on Chelsea keeper Petr Cech still wears a protective skull cap after a sickening blow to the head which saw him knocked cold and rushed to hospital following clash with Reading’s Stephen Hunt in October 2006.

Iconic

Apart from the debate now raging the Lloris incident did bring back memories of what proved to be one of the iconic moments of Seventies soccer when Bobby Moore ended up in goal.

West Ham were playing Stoke in League Cup semi final, second (yes, second!) replay at Old Trafford in 1972.

BobbyFergusonInjury

West Ham’s Bobby Ferguson is injured, leaving Bobby Moore to take over between the sticks! (Click on photo to see the action)

Hammers keeper Bobby Ferguson suffered a blow to the head and even back then – when a patient could still have a fag in their hospital bed – he went down to the dressing room for treatment before returning twenty minutes later (only one sub back then).

For that time the Hammers played with ten men and England’s World Cup winning captain Moore went in goal after Clyde Best, the nominated stop gap keeper, lost his nerve.

MooreSaves

Bobby Moore is beaten by Stoke’s Peter Bernard after incredibly saving his initial penalty

Not long after Moore got between the sticks West Ham conceded a penalty and incredibly Bobby saved it, only for Peter Bernard to follow up and slot home from the rebound.

Stoke went on to win 3-2 and beat Dave Sexton’s Chelsea in the final to land what remains their only major trophy.

Health wise Ferguson made a quick recovery, but as a top flight keeper from a confidence point of view he never really got over that blow.

 

Stoke City 3-2 West Ham United
January 26th, 1972
Semi-final, 2nd replay (Old Trafford)
Stoke goals: Bernard, Dobing, Conroy.
West Ham goals: Bonds, Brooking.
Attendance: 49,247*

STOKE CITY: Banks; Marsh, Pejic, Bernard, Smith, Bloor, Conroy, Greenhoff, Ritchie, Dobing, Eastham.

WEST HAM UTD: Ferguson, McDowell, Lampard, Bonds, Taylor, Moore, Redknapp (Eustace), Best, Hurst, Brooking, Robson.

*Reduced capacity due to the building of the cantilever stand. Over 170,000 fans watched the four games and the average ticket price for the final match was a mere 35 pence.

 

The Goal-Scoring Goalkeepers!
Begovic has a long way to go to break into the Top 5 of all time

by Karl Hofer.

AsmirBegovic-celebrates

Begovic shows his team mates what they’re meant to be aiming for…

Asmir Begovic may have etched his name into Premier League history with his sensational early goal against Southampton on Saturday, but he has an awful long way to go if he wants to top the charts of goal-scoring keepers.

Goalies popping up in the box for corners or free-kicks late on in an attempt to snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat are more and more commonplace these days – And there have been a fair few dramatic endings to matches because of it.

Peter Schmeichel was the first keeper to get his name on the score-sheet in the Premier League when he was at Villa, smashing home a volley in a lost cause against Everton back in 2001. Paul Robinson scored for Spurs against Watford in 2007, Brad Friedel brought Blackburn level against Charlton (only to concede the winner moments later!) and until Saturday the most recent was Tim Howard who scored last year in similar fashion to Begovic versus Bolton.

Here at BOBBY, unlike most of the media, we are well aware that there was life long before the Premier League…

The first recorded instance of a goalkeeper scoring direct from a goal-kick was on April 14th 1900 when Manchester City’s Charlie Williams beat his opposite number, J.E. Doig, in the Sunderland goal.

Possibly the most famous goal of all time by a keeper was Pat Jennings’ effort in the 1967 Charity Shield while playing for Spurs against Manchester United. His goal clearance flew past Alex Stepney in the United goal after being caught by a gust of wind.

It wasn’t all bad for Stepney though. Years later he found himself in the unique position of being Manchester United’s top scorer at Christmas. His goal-getting talents were first spotted in 1973 in a pre-season friendly in Spain and when United’s regular penalty-taker Willie Morgan was injured manager Tommy Docherty decided to give Stepney the job. The goalkeeper paid back the faith placed in him by The Doc by rattling home every spot-kick he was required to take (both of them!).

Former England International Peter Shilton scored the only goal of his career during a game between Leicester City v Southampton in 1967.

Moving away from freakish clearances we have the story of Arthur Wilkie. Having injured his hand in a League game while playing for Reading in 1962, goalie Wilkie went up front and scored twice as the Royals beat Halifax Town 4-2.

Former Leyton Orient and Millwall goalkeeper Ray Goddard finished his league career in style when he netted a penalty for Wimbledon against Bury in 1981, scoring past a young Neville Southall in the process.

In 1988, Hibernian made headlines after future Scotland and Rangers goalkeeper Andy Goram found the net during a match against Morton.

And who can forget the legendary Jimmy Glass who saved Carlisle United from relegation with a stoppage time volley on the last day of the season…?

jimmyglassceleb1999_275x155

Somewhere under that pile of Carlisle players and fans is a very happy Jimmy Glass…

But the keepers that find the back of the net regularly don’t stop there. They are the masters of the dead ball craft; free-kick and penalty specialists.

Goalkeepers are of course notoriously eccentric, and South American goalkeepers tend to take that to a different level. So no surprises then that of the top 5 goal-scoring keepers of all time 4 of them are from the Americas.

TOP 5 GOAL-SCORING GOALKEEPERS OF ALL TIME

5. Johnny Vegas Fernandez (Peru)

Currently plying his trade with Pacifico in the Peruvian First Division, the 37 year old, and lets fact it, brilliantly named shot-stopper has so far scored 39 goals; 30 from the penalty spot and 9 free kicks. He is only two behind fourth spot so has the potential to climb this list still.

4. Rene Higuita (Colombia)

renhiguita1

The shy and retiring Rene Higuita

The legendary Higuita retired in 2010 with a record of 41 goals for club and country, eight of which came for Colombia. El Loco played for 14 clubs in a 25 year career but is more famous in the UK for his ‘scorpion kick’ save at Wembley in a friendly against England in 1995.

He also was famously dispossessed on the halfway line by Roger Milla who scored to put Cameroon through to the quarter finals of the World Cup in 1990 and send Colombia home.

Aside from being imprisoned on kidnapping charges, testing positive for cocaine, winning the Copa Libertadores, appearing on a reality TV show and undergoing plastic surgery to drastically alter his appearance, it was a quiet career all-in-all for Rene, who is currently thinking of pursuing a new challenge in politics.

3. Dimitar Ivankov (Bulgaria)

The only non-South American on the list is top Bulgarian keeper Ivankov, whose clubs included Levski Sofia, Kayserispor and Buraspor. Dimitar scored 42 goals before retiring in 2011, mostly from the penalty spot.

Perhaps his greatest day came in May 2008  when he played a vital role in Kayseri winning their first Turkish Cup, after a 0-0 draw the game went to a marathon penalty shoot out with Ivankov saving 8 penalties and scoring two himself. Curiously, that was not enough to earn him the ‘Man of the Match’ award though…

2. Jose Luis Chilavert (Paraguay)

The fiery Paraguayan scored 62 goals in his 22 year career including 9 for Paraguay which is a record in international football for a keeper. He is also the only known keeper to have scored a hat tick, putting away three penalties for Velez Sarsfield against Ferro Carril in Argentina.

Chilavert became the first goalkeeper to take a direct free-kick at the World Cup finals when he almost scored against Bulgaria in 1998.

1. Rogerio Ceni (Brazil)

The legendary Ceni has been with Sao Paolo all his senior career and has racked up an astonishing 112 goals in league and cup in that time.

Rogerio has played for Brazil on 16 occasions and will be remembered by Liverpool fans as the man who denied them the 2005 World Club Championship for his fine performance against them in the final, which Sao Paulo won 1-0.

Ceni is far and away the greatest goalscoring goalkeeper ever. More than half of his goals have been free-kicks, and as he is still playing his total is likely to increase further.

Below you can see him scoring the 100th goal of his career. It’s no wonder the world loves Brazilian football when their goalies can do this;

Fergie’s Tales of The Unexpected Did SAF Give Credit Where it Was Due..?

By Rob Shepherd.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s new book is not only a best-seller it has caused a media frenzy. Bizarrely some journalists are even complaining Fergie has been a bit too frank. Talk about killing the goose that lays golden eggs…

Yes, the timing of publication could have been better given it casts a shadow over successor David Moyes so soon into his reign. Then again; why not get it over and done while Moyes at least has a bit of his honeymoon period left..?

Rarely has an autobiography of any sort, let alone a soccer one, attracted such interest and inspection.

When the book was launched and Ferguson held court at a press conference in London’s Pall Mall, it was akin to listening to a sermon front the Mount: The Gospel according Fergie as the Manchester United manager of 27 years responded – sometimes sharply – to questions on the big issues he had raised.

Fergie lifted the lid on why David Beckham had to go, how Roy Keane lost the plot, his loathing of Liverpool and Rafa Benitez, his admiration for Cristiano Ronaldo, why he turned England down twice…..

The explosive revelations went on and on, there was barely enough space on the sports pages the next day to cope with the headlines.

Credit Due..?

Yet in the feeding frenzy one name was distinctly absent from scrutiny.

He will be in there somewhere of course and it will be fascinating how much credit – or otherwise – Ferguson pays to this player who more than any other shaped the silverware laden years (38 trophies) of The Fergie Era which began in 1986.

Eric Cantona.

ERIC CANTONAManchester United FC and France InternationalUniversal...

Cantona brought confidence and a swagger to United that had been missing

While home-grown players Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes were major and pretty much constant themes through the glory years, it was the Frenchman Cantona, to borrow a line from Ian Drury, who was the catalyst who sparked a revolution.

Remember, when Cantona joined United in December 1992 they had yet to win a league tile under Ferguson.

The previous season Cantona had in fact been a major influence on a different United winning the last Divison One championship when he was at Leeds.

When Cantona arrived United were in contention but looked as though they would blow it again.

By the end of the season they had landed the first Premier League tittle, United’s first top flight success in 26 years.

Cantona turned a very good team into what would become a great one.
He added a different dimension to the side not just in the way he played but with his attitude.

Confidence bordering on arrogance is often the characteristic of champions. Cantona had it in spades.

Cantona injected that type of confidence into a highly talented United team that had at crucial times been pitted with self-doubt. He did so with supreme skill and style counterpointed by brooding menace and sometimes raw aggression.

Cantona’s goals and guile shaped United not only for that season but even after he retired five years later.

In many ways even if there were language barriers it was Cantona, the rebel from Marseille, who understood and interpreted the message Ferguson, the rebel from Glasgow, was trying to put across to the rest.

They had much in common. Deep thinkers and readers they were rebels with a common cause.

Ferguson spoke at length about Cantona in his first autobiography 14 years ago true enough. But Cantona’s part in the United story in Ferguson’s success remains vital.

Phone Call

And all this from a player who Ferguson HADN’T even considered buying.

To remind you: The shock £1.2 million move from Leeds United came about because LEEDS chairman Bill Fotherby had rung United asking whether they could buy left back Dennis Irwin from them.

Ferguson said no. But a few days later rang back and asked if Cantona was available.

At the time Mark Hughes and Brian McClair had been in erratic form. Summer signing Dion Dublin had broken his leg. Bids to sign David Hirst, Matthew Le Tissier and Brian Deane had all failed.

Fotherby informed manager Howard Wilkinson, who much to the chairman’s shock agreed to sell his maverick striker.

ericcantonasigning1992_275x155

Fergie can’t believe his luck pinching Cantona from Leeds

So, Cantona, L’enfant Terrible as he had been known during a troubled time in his native France, became Un Devil Rouge and to the United fans would become Eric The King.

In this second autobiography Ferguson inevitably pays a lot of attention to events since the Treble season of 1999, a year after Cantona had departed. And as he has shown there are plenty of tales to tell.

He points out that Cristiano Ronaldo is the most talented player who has played under him in his years at United.

But in the grand scheme of Ferguson’s golden reign as Manchester United manager Eric Cantona remains the most significant player – as shown below;