Now & Then

The Old Firm Cup Final That Nobody Won…
‘Cheated’ Fans Riot at Hampden!

Celtic 1 – 1 Rangers (Scottish Cup Final, April 17th 1909)

by Scott Murray.

Willie Maley’s Celtic were the dominant team in Scotland. They were looking to complete their third double on the spin: later that month they would win their fifth title in a row, and here they faced Rangers in the Scottish Cup final.

The first match ended in a 2-2 draw, so the teams had to return to Hampden Park for a replay. That game was also a close encounter, played in front of a crowd of 61,000, and ended 1-1. A third replay would have to be arranged, with the Scottish FA rules clearly stating that extra time would only occur after a “series of three draws”.

1909ScotCupFinalHowever, neither players nor crowd seemed aware of that. For a while it seemed like extra time would be played after all. Celtic hung around on the pitch waiting for the restart. A couple of Rangers players milled around with them. But when a linesman wandered over to a corner flag, and yanked it from its moorings, it was clear that proceedings were over for the day, and a third match was indeed required.

That match would never be played.

Nobody in the crowd seemed much interested in the intricacies of the SFA rulebook. As far as they were concerned, both teams and the SFA were grifting them for more attendance money; this series of draws was nothing more than a whopping great con. “Of late, draws between Celtic and Rangers have occurred with monotonous regularity and the ill-informed man in the street has been heard to hit off the situation by the explanation that these indecisive matches have been ‘arranged for a gate’,” was the Manchester Guardian take on the crowd’s thought processes.

The game might have been off, but the heat was on. Quite literally, too. Amid chants of “play the tie”, thousands invaded the pitch, uprooting goalposts and yanking down nets. Stones, planks and chunks of loose terracing were wheeched through the air, while dods of the Hampden turf was ripped from the ground. Overwhelmed and overrun, the police retreated. Fans took the opportunity to set light to pay boxes, reportedly fuelling the flames with their whisky, an illustration of just how jolly baity they were. “We cannot get our money returned, but we will get our money’s worth!” screamed the crowd, according to a painstakingly edited Guardian report.

When the fire brigade arrived, they were met with what the Daily Record referred to as “interference of the crowd, who pelted them with stones and missiles”. It took the best part of three hours to clear the 9,000-strong protest group; 130 people ended up in hospital.

Celtic and Rangers asked the SFA to cancel the third replay, and so the 1909 Scottish Cup was never awarded. Celtic would not get their third double in a row.

On the same evening, Charlie Chaplin was starring at the Glasgow Hippodrome as part of the Fred Karno Comic Company. But somehow that doesn’t seem quite as exciting a performance.


This piece originally appeared on in 2012.

When The Crazy Gang Beat The Culture Club New documentary on the story of The Wombles

VinnieJonesby Roy Dalley.

One doesn’t argue with Vinnie Jones when he asks you to help him move home. You don’t reason, as you stand there in a suit, shirt and tie, that you aren’t quite dressed for the occasion.

You don’t point out that, actually, this is the time for our pre-arranged interview. And you definitely don’t request a fag break as you lug a footballer’s possessions into the back of a Luton van…

At least I didn’t the day I turned up at his Hertfordshire bachelor pad some 25 years ago, expecting nothing more than an hour or two in his company.  Jones had other ideas, specifically that our interview would be carried out while we, er,  carried out his stuff. And carried. And then, carried some more.

I had face time with hundreds of players, managers and chairmen during the 1980’s and 90’s and none struck fear in me quite like Jones, even on his day off. Up that close and personal his forehead resembled a breeze block. And if Kim Kardashian can balance a champagne glass on her arse then Jones would surely have been able to rest his pint pot on his cheekbones.

He even looked menacing when he smiled, revealing a set of gnashers that looked as though they’d been sharpened on the bricks he used to carry up ladders for a living.

And he had plenty of previous, of course.  There was, for example, the image of Jones subjecting Gascoigne to an impromptu and rather heavy handed medical examination.

There was his threat to Dalglish before the 1988 FA Cup Final, involving decapitation and defecation, in that order. And his wrecking-ball fouls (fastest yellow card a mere three seconds after kick-off) were never better epitomised than the one inflicted on McMahon minutes into the game, setting the tone of that incredible afternoon at Wembley.

It was surely a moment as significant as the glancing Sanchez header that secured the cup for a club who were only admitted into the Football League 11 years previously.  The Crazy Gang had beaten the Culture Club, as John Motson helpfully pointed out, easily the highlight of an incredible journey that will be the subject of a television documentary due to be screened on Boxing Day (of all days).  Little more than a week later the circle is completed in this season’s third round tie between the reformed AFC Wimbledon and Liverpool.

There have already been grumblings leading up to transmission that Jones’ role has been unfairly exaggerated by BT Sport. Certainly his part was in truth more cameo than starring, yet it had taken Jones only 18 months to make his own giant steps from non-League, with Wealdstone, into the Wembley record books.

A new £500 a week contract allowed him to leave behind his 1930’s council house, furnished in what could only be described as charity shop chic (minus the chic).  The relief of seeing the last of Jones’ household contents safely loaded into the Luton was shortlived, however…

“Only the shed to be cleared out now,” he said, leading me both literally and metaphorically down the garden path, on numerous occasions, to fetch fishing rods, tackle, air rifles and, most disheartening of all, a full set of wrought iron York weights. Never before had the lines between ‘sports’ and ‘reporting’ felt quite so blurred…

Jones was on his way, and would no longer be needing that ladder to help him on up. Moves to Leeds, Sheffield United, Chelsea and QPR were to follow, as well as a few international caps for Wales,  before transferring his own brand of irreverent intimidation from football field to film screen.

First, though, was a brief stop in a quiet cul-de-sac full of identical mock Elizabethan homes, all pimply bay windows and manicured lawns.

“See that place over there,” said Jones, pointing across his new neighbourhood. “That’s Steve Terry’s house.”

Terry, then Watford captain, and his wife Tanya, were about to be drawn into a reality drama that endures to this day…



United Now Top Trumps as Liverpool ‘Stick’ on 18 PLUS: Barnes Double for Title Winning Reds

by Rob Shepherd.

You will have to be well into your thirties to remember clearly the last time Liverpool won the title.

For those of us a little older and who witnessed Liverpool dominate English football at the end of the Seventies and throughout the entire Eighties, a period when they also won the European Cup five times, it would have seemed surreal to predict that the title success of the 1989-90 season would be their last for over two decades.

And when Liverpool disposed of United 2-1 at Old Trafford in March 1990 – John Barnes (2) Ronnie Whelan (og) – setting them on the run-in to an 18th title, it seemed incomprehensible the tables would be turned so dramatically. At the time that made the title count 18 – 7 to Liverpool.

While Liverpool were still then a well-oiled machine, United remained a team of talented individuals lacking consistency or identity.

Liverpool eventually held off the challenge of Aston Villa led by their former boss Ron Atkinson, whilst United finished 13th, a place behind Coventry City.

It was highly likely Sir Alex Ferguson would have followed Big Ron out of the Old Trafford door at the end of the season (Howard Kendall had been rumoured as a successor) had United not gone on to win the FA Cup that season beating Crystal Palace in the final after a replay.

That success gave Ferguson the breathing space he needed to see big money gambles like Gary Pallister and Paul Ince produce and home-grown players led by Ryan Giggs come through, before huge impact signings like Peter Schmeichel, Roy Keane and Eric Cantona made their mark.

The title score is now: United 20 Liverpool 18.

Yet for all United’s dominance the overall trophy count for both clubs remains pretty close. As this table shows:


The rivalry is not just about the shift in power over recent years.

It is deep rooted, it’s geographic context fueling the traditional rivalries and jealousies of both sets of fans – not just in football but in terms of their working class roots, industry, politics and even music.

Always played in a fraught and hostile atmosphere (sometimes hateful), there’s now the added spice as bitter rivals as players Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher go head-to-head as Sky TV pundits.

Despite Neville’s assertions, this is still a long way from being ‘a pub match’ though.

Can United maintain their recent momentum under van Gaal ?

Is Brendan Rodgers a one season wonder at Liverpool ??

Sunday could be a pivotal day for the future of both these great clubs.

Liverpool ‘Stick’ on 18

For those who have never seen Liverpool lift the title, here it is;


It’s so long ago that it’s the old Football League Championship trophy.

The teams from that day at Old Trafford:



Jose Mourinho Glory Years Wouldn’t Have Happened Without John Neal

by David Chidgey.

Whilst pondering what to write about Chelsea’s dismissive 2-0 win against West Brom at the weekend, extending their unbeaten run to a club-record 12 games in the process, I heard some very sad news which took me back to a very different time in the club’s topsy-turvy history.

The news that John Neal, Chelsea Manager from 1981-1985, had died put a dampener on an otherwise fun-packed and celebratory weekend. The subsequent outpouring of grief on social media from Chelsea supporters of a certain age appropriately summed up the feelings we had for a Chelsea of our youth, and it can be argued that without John Neal as manager at that time we simply would not have the Chelsea (or the support) that we have today.

John Neal, a warm-hearted but tough character from the North East, arrived at Chelsea in the summer of 1981. Chelsea were in meltdown both on and off the pitch thanks to a period of laughable financial mismanagement following their early ’70’s glory years, and the even more comical management on the pitch by Danny Blanchflower and Geoff Hurst. Neal took over a side with little appetite for the fight, one which had finished 12th in Division Two and had failed to find the net in 19 of its last 22 league games.

Things would get far far worse before they got better. Neal’s first year in charge saw some of the most infamous defeats in Chelsea’s history – the 6-0 league defeat at Rotherham; the 4-2 defeat to Wigan in the League cup and the 3-0 defeat to Burnley which put Chelsea in the relegation zone of Division 2 for the first (and only) time in their history.

New signings for Chelsea in the summer of 1983: Rear: Eddie Niedzwiecki, Joe McLaughlin, Nigel Spackman, Kerry Dixon. Front:: Pat Nevin, John Hollins.  (Photo by Hugh Hastings/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

New signings for Chelsea in the summer of 1983: Rear: Eddie Niedzwiecki, Joe McLaughlin, Nigel Spackman, Kerry Dixon. Front: Pat Nevin, John Hollins. (Photo by Hugh Hastings/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

But John Neal was a fighter and he slowly began to instil these qualities in the Chelsea side he was shaping. The turning point came on 7th May 1983. Winless in nine matches, Chelsea were plummeting towards relegation to the Third Division and with it probable extinction. They faced fellow strugglers Bolton needing a win to stay up.

The game was petering out to a 0-0 draw, and relegation for Chelsea, when Clive Walker received the ball just outside the penalty area and lashed a shot into the top corner to secure what was arguably the most important win in Chelsea’s history.

Having avoided relegation to Division 3, Neal got rid of the deadwood at the club and, with the help of new chairman Ken Bates, built a team that could take Chelsea back to where they belonged – or as the terrace chant at the time aptly put: “Come along, come along, come along and sing this song, we’re the boys in blue in Division 2 but we won’t be here for long!”

And this is really where the respect and love that Chelsea supporters of my vintage have for John Neal and his mid-’80’s team began. His shrewd dealings in the transfer market brought players such as Joey Jones, Mickey Thomas, Eddie Niedzwiecki, Nigel Spackman, David Speedie, Pat Nevin and Kerry Dixon to the club, players who are still loved and revered to this day.

The team had a great balance of hunger, desire, aggression and a fierce will to win. Added to this was the flair of Nevin and the devastating strike partnership of Dixon and Speedie. They played some great football but most of all they played like a team that gave everything on the pitch, and as supporters that’s all you really want – 100% commitment.

Neal’s Chelsea romped to the Division 2 title in 1984, with Dixon scoring 34 goals, and were followed by a huge travelling Chelsea support – packing out most of opposition grounds in their desire to catch a glimpse of their new heroes.

Arguably the most memorable match in the Neal era was the first match in Chelsea’s return to the top flight after an absence of five years. The match took place on 25 August 25 1984, against Arsenal at Highbury. Twenty thousands Chelsea supporters were in the ground that day, and Kerry Dixon scored what he claims was his favourite Chelsea goal in a creditable 1-1 draw.

Chelsea were back, and that really was John Neal’s great legacy. He rescued us from the depths of possible extinction; put us back together and put us in a position to challenge with the elite once again. Anyone who supported the club before Neal’s arrival and during that time had their passion for Chelsea signed, sealed and delivered.

Neal achieved 6th place in Chelsea’s first two seasons back in Division One, and Chelsea would have been competing in Europe had it not been for the ban on English clubs at that time.

The bedrock of Chelsea’s hard-core support still come from that era – just look at how many season ticket holders at Stamford Bridge are in their late 40’s and early 50’s – and there is no doubt that an unbreakable bond was forged at that time between the team and the supporters. But the gratitude we have for John Neal should not be underestimated.

In fact, you could argue that without John Neal we would not have had the Hoddle, Gullit and Vialli years; and without them there would be no Abramovich or Mourinho.

Those of us who enjoyed the sumptuous football on offer, particularly during the first half at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, would do well to remember that. They would also do well to remember that Chelsea playing attractive, winning football was not invented this season. There have been other seasons where we have had a wizard of a winger and a monster of a striker banging the goals in for fun, long before the Abramovich era – and for a lot less money.

Good times: Neal with John Hollins and Chairman Ken Bates.

Good times: Neal with John Hollins and Chairman Ken Bates.

John Neal’s legacy at Chelsea was undoubtedly helping to forge the strong bond between the supporters and the Club – one that exists to this day – but, more importantly, he made us believe again. He made us believe that we belonged with the elite and could challenge at the top once again. He also serves as a great reminder that beating all and sundry with alacrity is not a given. You have to work hard, give 100% commitment and treat all opposition and competitions with respect.

I think Jose Mourinho would have liked John Neal. Although their backgrounds are very different, there is a strange similarity in their approach – mixing flair with aggression and an uncompromising will to win. On Saturday, Jose made two statements of great import. He pointed out that for all of the beautiful football and domination Chelsea have had so far this season, they have won nothing yet, and that it will count for nothing until they have the trophies to vindicate it. He also apologised to the supporters for criticising their lack of effort recently.

John Neal, a real gentleman and manager who never once criticised the Chelsea supporters (even though they called for his head early in his tenure), would no doubt have approved of that.

At the end of the season, if we win the Premier League, I hope John Neal looks down on us with a smile – after all he played a significant part in our history, and perhaps, just perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are now without what he did 30 years ago.

David ‘Stamford Chidge’ Chidgey presents the award winning Chelsea FanCast TV show and podcast which can be seen every Monday at 19.00 on or You Tube or heard at or downloaded from ITunes. Follow on twitter @StamfordChidge and @ChelseaFanCast

( This piece originally appeared on the International Business Times website – )


Ireland’s Debt To A Scotsman
Mackay Strike Sends Ireland Through PLUS Lawrenson Stuns Hampden!

by Karl Hofer.

Scotland v Republic of Ireland

Surprisingly, the Republic of Ireland have only played near neighbours Scotland on nine previous occasions.

The first match between the pair didn’t occur until the two countries were drawn in the same qualifying group for the 1962 World Cup. The Scots ran amok in both of those qualifiers, winning 4-1 at Hampden Park and 0-3 in the return at Dalymount Park, with the likes of Pat Crerand, Jim Baxter and Billy McNeill outplaying an Irish side built around former Manchester United midfielder and now RTE pundit Johnny Giles.

The next time Ireland and Scotland met in a competitive match was in the Euro 1988 qualifiers. The Irish, under the direction of new manager Jack Charlton, opened the campaign with a creditable away draw against Belgium. That good work was somewhat undone however when they played the Scots at Lansdowne Road in their next match and had to settle for a scoreless draw.

The next match in the qualifiers was the return tie against the Scots in Hampden Park – and it was a game the Irish could ill afford to lose if they were serious about reaching their first major tournament. Up until then the Irish had a reputation of being poor travelling away from home in competitive matches, but ‘Big Jack’ was quick to change that. He got the team back on track in the group with a one-nil victory in Glasgow, a sixth minute goal from Mark Lawrenson of Liverpool enough to secure the points.


Mark Lawrenson is congratulated by his manager Jack Charlton

Although usually a defender, Lawrenson was deployed in midfield by Charlton in an anchor role that allowed the stylish Liam Brady to dictate things in the middle of the park. With injuries to full-backs Jim Beglin and Chris Hughton he bolstered the defence by playing Paul McGrath at right-back to combat the skillful Davie Cooper and Ronnie Whelan at left-back to handle Gordon Strachan. Alongside centre-backs Kevin Moran and Mick McCarthy they put up a barrier that the Scots found too formidable to break down.

In the post-match press conference Charlton nursed a whisky and announced “the character in the team is there to be seen”. Goal-scorer Lawrenson said it could only be viewed as historic if Ireland went on to qualify.

Ireland’s victory in Hampden was the catalyst to their qualification campaign, one that did indeed end with a trip to the Euro ’88 Finals in Germany and some incredible memories. But it is to the Scots that the Irish were ultimately grateful, for without their intervention the Irish would once more be on the outside looking in.

Ireland had finished their campaign and had to wait nervously as Bulgaria took on Scotland in Sofia in the last match of the group. If Bulgaria drew or won it would mean they would go to the Euro ’88 finals and Ireland would suffer yet more heartbreak. Amazingly Scotland, with nothing to play for except pride, scored a late winner in a foggy Sofia courtesy of Hearts legend Gary Mackay who netted his only international goal.

Thanks to a Scotsman Ireland had qualified for it’s first major championship finals.

Scotland full-back Maurice Malpas recalls: “They said Jack Charlton sent Andy Roxburgh a case of champagne. If he did, I never saw a drop of it!”

Sadly Lawrenson, the match winner in Jack Charlton’s first competitive away victory, didn’t make it to Germany for Ireland’s first major tournament, missing out through injury. Later that year he had to quit the game with an achilles problem. You can see his winning goal in the below link;

Scotland v Republic of Ireland
European Championship Qualifier, 18th February 1987
Hampden Park, Att: 45,081


Scotland manager Gordon Strachan in action against Ireland back in 1987

Jim Leighton
Ray Stewart
Maurice Malpas
Alan Hansen
Richard Gough
Gordon Strachan
Brian McClair
Pat Nevin
Ally McCoist
Mo Johnston
Davie Cooper

Paul McStay for Cooper (46)
Roy Aitken for McCoist (67)

Manager: Andy Roxburgh

Pat Bonner
Mark Lawrenson
Kevin Moran
Mick McCarthy
Paul McGrath
Ronnie Whelan
Ray Houghton
Liam Brady
Tony Galvin
Frank Stapleton
John Aldridge

John Byrne for Brady (60)

Manager: Jack Charlton

Goals: 0-1, Lawrenson (6)

Sport. Football. European Championship Qualifier. Dublin. 15th October 1986. Republic of Ireland 0 v Scotland 0. Republic of Ireland's Liam Brady moves away from Scotland's Roy Aitken.

Brady and Aitken do battle during the goalless draw at Lansdowne Road in 1986.



Lamela Scores Wonder Goal
But Who Was The First Player to do a Rabona?

Erik Lamela scores for Spurs with a 'rabona'

Erik Lamela scores for Spurs with a ‘rabona’

by Rob Shepherd.

Tottenham’s Erik Lamela caused a bit of a stir last week with a bit of maverick magic in scoring a ‘wonder goal’ for Tottenham in their Europa League win over Astreas Trioplis.

It’s easy to see why many fans got so excited but it did seem some top professionals went over the top in their praise.

Indeed one ex-pro striker I know, while admiring the technique, questioned whether Lamela would have been able to pull off that bit of showboating against anything other than low grade opposition.

‘If it had been 0-0 in a cup final and one chance come along would he do it then? Can you imagine if you got it wrong, fell over and the chance went and the game was lost?,’ my pal asked.

Harsh? A bit of jealousy even? Maybe.

Anyway, as we all know now the technical term for a reverse scissor kick is actually a ‘rabona’. And here is the definition:

A method of kicking the football with the kicking leg wrapped around the back of the standing leg, so it appears the player has their legs crossed.

The first reported rabona happened in a league game in Argentina in 1948 and was performed by Ricardo Infante.

Soon after, a magazine front cover featured Infante dressed as a pupil with the caption ‘Infante played hooky’; rabona means to skip school in Spanish.

Diego Maradona, Roberto Baggio, Gianfranco Zola and Paul Gascoigne are among the players who have performed a successful rabona during a game.

One player famous for an extremely unsuccessful rabona was David Dunn, then with Birmingham City (enjoy below!)



From Brown Envelopes to Kickbacks Cloughie Came From The Era Before Legalised Bungs

by Rob Shepherd.

Brian Clough - N.Forest Pic : Action Images  Nottingham Forest

Clough: Accused.

I was stunned to see a an article last week which on the 10th anniversary of Brian Cough’s death chose not to praise the great man but rake over dirt with regards to allegations of bungs.

Now I have heard most of the stories about Clough and many others with regards to clandestine meets at Service stations and brown envelopes stuffed with ‘Bullseyes’ – Not saying it was right, but it went on all right.

A few decades ago the way to lure a talented kid from one club to another was to buy a washing machine for the mum and a sheepskin coat for the dad.

Yes, that really did happen. I’ve seen it. Then as agents started to emerge there were all sorts of sweeteners to make a deal happen.

When the figures escalated and greed set in then there was always going to be tipping point. As George Graham discovered.

There were many stories about Clough and others to suggest that George ended up carrying the can for the bung culture. But was it such an heinous crime..?

In big business now and then you have to oil the wheels to get a deal done.

And if someone wants to get serious about assaulting the memory of a deceased man such as the great Brian Clough OBE (aka Old Big ‘Ead), then perhaps they should examine how some transfers work now.

There are no longer pound note bungs as such. But there are commissions, which are in most cases technically legal, with money paid to agents, agency corporations, whereby I have heard it alleged that there are substantial kickbacks for managers and even chairman.

They are often executed by electronic transfer to offshore accounts.

You see once the sweet smelling lawyers are involved – not the sweaty men of football from the street – it’s all perfectly OK, even if you could argue that ‘above board’ is actually underhand.

Or as one of the first football agents to hit the scene in the early Eighties put it to me the other day: ‘I believe Falcao’s agent got 5m euros for arranging a loan deal to Man United. Then I read someone slaughtering Brian Clough. Five million euros. Listen, I’ve never been adverse to a pound note but that’s wrong.

‘Cloughie just wanted to get a deal done to improve his team and give a few people a drink out of it. But now..? I’ll tell you this, the balance sheets of many football clubs would look a hell of a lot better, my boy, if they brought back the brown paper envelopes. It would be much cheaper for one. Plus you might actually see a winning team like Clough produced. I did a few deals with him. Can’t believe someone has p****d on his grave.’



QPR Can Only Dream of Past League Glories – There’s Nothing Fair About Financial Fair Play

by Richard D J J Bowdery.

Last Saturday (20 September) Queen’s Park Rangers travelled to Southampton in the Premier League.

When the final whistle blew on that game QPR languished in 16th place, just above the drop zone and, in some people’s view, a good bet to go down.

What a difference almost 40 years make. For this week in 1975, QPR were riding high in the old First Division.

By the end of the 75/76 season the Hoops would claim second spot (just two points off being crowned champions) behind Liverpool and above Manchester United. How Rangers manager Harry Redknapp must wish he could turn back the clock.

That season the likes of Derby County, Ipswich Town, Birmingham City and Sheffield United (United were relegated to Division Two for the 76/77 season) were all plying their trade in the top flight.

As things stand in today’s game, where only a handful of moneyed clubs can guarantee remaining at the apex of English football, it’s probable that the likes of Derby and Co would face a battle to stay in the Premier League; always assuming they had the financial wherewithal to reach that elevated position in the first place.

Which is exactly the point Redknapp was making recently when he said: “Fair play would be everyone having £30m a year to spend.”

The sentiment behind his comment was, hasn’t football got too big, financially speaking, for its boots? Not according to all those top clubs who are doing very nicely from this cash cow, thank you very much.

And I’m sure fans of club’s with backers who have big wallets, would not wish them to forsake the chance of glory by reigning in their spending, whatever UEFA might wish. Just ask the followers of Manchester’s Reds.

QPR’s squad in the mid-70s contained the likes of goalkeeper Phil Parkes, midfielder Gerry Francis and flamboyant forward Stan Bowles.


The enigmatic Stan Bowles

Back then this small, unfashionable team took English football by storm and is still remembered fondly by Hoops fans of a certain age.

Would the club have been able to hang on to such mercurial talent in today’s market or would they have been sold to balance the books so the club could keep its head just about bobbing above the drop zone?

English football is a global business with lucrative markets spread across the world – one reason why the Premier League was set up in the first place.

But in all this what damage is being done to those clubs further down the football pyramid?

And before fans of those elite clubs say “we are here to stay” I would simply remind you of the plight endured by Leeds United. In the late 60’s and early 70’s they were the Manchester United or City or Chelsea of their day.

So all of this we, the fans, should be careful what we wish for, or there could be tears before the final whistle.



Rooney Has Sir Bobby Charlton In His Sights As He Chases Immortality

by Roy Dalley.

Wayne Rooney has been calling himself England’s “Big Man” since he arrived late at the 2006 World Cup, clutching a note from his doctor declaring himself fit for duty. We all know how that worked out…

A new chapter begins in an international career that has so far brought 95 caps, 41 goals, and not much else apart from a few red cards and the odd broken metatarsal. Rooney has been awarded the captaincy he long cherished a month before his 29th birthday, and is saying all the right things as he looks ahead to the challenge.

Coupled with his appointment as new skipper at Manchester United there is no doubt Rooney’s chest will be even more barrel-like as he leads England into the forthcoming qualifier against Switzerland.

But he will do well to compartmentalise his pride, for the Big Man has taken on a Big Job, and the next two years may well show us once and for all what sort of stuff he’s made of.

Alistair Cook knows only too well of the pressures both mind and body suffer in such a lofty environment. Well, you can probably multiply the weight of hope and expectation Rooney will carry onto the pitch as the eyes of a nation burn into him.


Rooney is set to take Sir Bobby Charlton’s scoring records for club and country

He’s already getting it in the neck from former England and United right-back Paul Parker, whose scathing critique of Rooney’s early performances as United captain rivalled a spell under Sir Alex Ferguson’s hairdryer in their venom. Views probably shared by many football watchers from Old Trafford to Wembley who reckon he shouldn’t be in their teams, never mind leading them out.

It will be fascinating finding out if Rooney can hold his nerve as the immortality he seeks appears on the horizon. Granted, United won’t win much more for a while… they’ve only effectively got the FA Cup and a top four place to play for over the next nine long months, for example.

But by the time of the European Championship Finals in 2016 Rooney might not just be captain of club and country, but their respective record goalscorers too. Something to tell the grandkids I daresay?

Who knows, a Knighthood may even be in the beckoning. Sir Bobby Charlton is the one currently holding those particular aces, scoring 49 for England and 249 for United. Rooney needs 9 and 33 respectively to surpass Wor Bobby, easily attainable in two seasons one would have thought?

Only problem is will he play every week, even if he avoids injury? Certainly Ross Barkley will be eager to add his name to the challengers for his place in Roy Hodgson’s team once he returns to fitness. And Radamel Falcao’s arrival in English football has already got Rooney on the retreat as he speaks of a more deeper-lying role in the years ahead.

Perhaps it may be so. Perhaps he will look to Andrea Pirlo for inspiration as he contemplates his 30’s. Or perhaps will he end up crying in his pillow? It’s time to find out…



40 Years On: British Transfer Record Broken As Latchford Joins Everton


‘The Latch’

by Karl Hofer.

With the arrival of Angel Di Maria at Old Trafford for a British Transfer record of £59.7million, BOBBY rolls back time to 40 years ago when Everton brought in Bob Latchford from Birmingham City for a then record fee of £350,000.

Everton have been blessed with some great number nines through the years – the likes of Dixie Dean, Joe Royle and Dave Hickson to name but three – but for Toffees fans Bob Latchford has a special place in their history and their hearts. After all, according to the famous Everton terrace chant, Bob Latchford could walk on water!

It’s been 40 years since The Latch signed for the Blues, moving from Birmingham City in a £350,000 British transfer record deal that saw another Goodison legend, Howard Kendall, go in the opposite direction, along with Archie Styles.

At Everton, Latchford was the top scorer for six successive seasons. Whilst Latchford would not get his hands on any winners medals during his time at Goodison, his heart and his goals gave Everton fans something to smile about during the mid-to-late 1970s, finding the back of the net 138 times in 289 appearances.

He had some memorable strikes as well, including a diving header (a speciality of The Latch) in a FA Cup semi-final replay against West Ham at Elland Road in 1980 (the Hammers won in extra time) and the winning goal at Bolton which took Everton to the 1977 League Cup final to play Aston Villa.

Latchford bagged a last-minute leveller in the first replay against Villa at Hillsborough, before netting the opening goal in the second replay at Old Trafford (it was the only domestic final to go to two replays).

Villa came back to make it 2-2 at the end of normal time and then won the cup in extra time, leaving Latchford and Everton empty handed once more despite the heroics.

Whilst medals eluded Latchford during his seven years at Goodison he did land a £10,000 prize from the Daily Express for bagging 30 goals in the 1977/78 campaign. The paper put up the money for anyone who could reach 30 league goals – a feat that had last been achieved by Francis Lee seven years previously.

The Latch went into Everton’s final game of the season at a packed Goodison Park needing two goals to reach the magical figure of 30 goals. Chelsea were the visitors and there was little they could do to stop the Toffees that day, they were swept aside in a 6-0 drubbing – with Latchford bagging the fourth and final goals to pocket the £10,000.


Latchford celebrates after scoring his 30th goal of the season

Not that he got to enjoy his winnings. In fact, by the time he’d generously donated a sum to the PFA benevolence fund and shared out the rest among team-mates and club staff, he was left with just £192. He still jokes about having to convince the taxman he didn’t actually owe anything.

Everton fell away sharply, from title contenders in 78/79 to a 19th placed finish in 79/80, and another poor finish of 15th a year later, coupled with the continuing success being enjoyed by Everton’s neighbours across the city, led to  Gordon Lee’s departure as manager.

That signalled the end for Latchford at Goodison, as in an ironic final twist Latchford was sold to Swansea City by incoming boss Howard Kendall – the very man who had been shipped out to Birmingham when the Latch signed for Everton in 1974.

Latchford netted a hat-trick on his debut for the Swans and went on to spearhead their rise through the divisions, before spells with NAC Breda in Holland, Coventry, Lincoln and Newport County.

He also represented England twelve times, scoring on five occasions.

But, at heart, he was always a blue.

“I might have started at Birmingham,” Latchford once said, “but my soul is at Goodison.”