Now & Then

When Hardmen Ruled! Jimmy Greaves Reveals Who Was Tougher: Tommy Smith or Ron Harris..?


Greaves was guest of honour

by Rob Shepherd.

It was wonderful to be in the company of Jimmy Greaves last week.

Greavsie was guest of honour at a sporting legends dinner arranged by Crystal Palace FC, who plough the profits into their academy.

The former England striker has overcome a mild stroke suffered a couple of years ago and had everyone in stitches when he rose to the mic with a combination of stand up comedy and anecdotes of the old days when as he pointed out: ‘If you were injured the trainer soon got you back on your feet…

The fella would run on with half the innards of a ball filled with cold water and a sponge.

‘Regardless of where you told him the pain was he would pull out the sponge, dripping with freezing water, and slap it right on your b******s. That was so f***ing painful and a shock to the system that suddenly the pain elsewhere had gone and you were playing again!’

Midway through a story of how he managed to stay on his feet – let alone score goals for fun in an era when players like Liverpool’s Tommy Smith would openly intimidate opposing forwards – a heckler from the audience asked: who was harder, Smith or Chelsea’s Ron Harris..?

Seamlessly Greaves answered ‘Harris’.

Chopper 'tackles' Stan Bowles

Chopper ‘tackles’ Stan Bowles

“Tommy was hard but also a good player on the ball. Ron, he was one who if told would just man-mark you with little or no interest about the ball,” said Greaves, who obviously has a disdain for the diving culture in the modern game especially when players try to get others red carded.

‘I don’t know how but I once left Ron flat out after a tackle. The ref called me over. Still Ron laid there.

‘As I get to the ref I am sure he was about to send me off. But then suddenly Ron springs to his feet and runs over: “Ref, don’t send him off. I’m OK.”

‘And Ron persuaded the ref not to give me an early bath. I thought: “You f***ing b*****d”, as Ron looked at me with a glint in his eye as the game re-started…

‘I hated playing in my own half, but for the rest of that game I ended up virtually at sweeper!’

By the way, for all that brutal attention, Greaves still scored 366 goals in 528 games and 44 in 57 England internationals.

Ron Harris and Jimmy Greaves give chase to the ball in their heyday

Ron Harris and Jimmy Greaves give chase to the ball in their heyday


Would Victory For Sunderland Over City Be A Bigger Upset Than ’73 Triumph Over Leeds?

Sunderland pulled off the greatest ever FA Cup Final shock when they beat Leeds United 1-0 in 1973. They have a chance to do the same in the League Cup Final at the weekend if they overcome Manchester City.

But would a triumph over the riches of Manchester City be a greater achievement for Sunderland than victory over Leeds in ’73…? Below BOBBY writers Rob Shepherd and Karl Hofer give the case for and against.

NO – says Rob Shepherd

It will take the spirit of ’73 for Sunderland to beat Manchester City in the Capital One Cup at Wembley on Sunday – but if Gus Poyet’s team do overcome City it won’t quite compare to Sunderland’s seismic success over Leeds back in 1973.

Even if the financial gap between Sunderland and City is bigger now than it was between The Rokerites (as the Blacks Cats were then) and Leeds 41 years ago – despite the fact the Wearsiders were in the second tier – it should not be underestimated how the chasm of class was perceived to be back then.

Don Revie’s side were at their swaggering peak even if on reflection they never accumulated as much silverware as they ought to have done.

City are evolving into a phenomenal force but as yet don’t have the all round strength and yes sometimes cynicism that Leeds had back then with players such as Norman Hunter, Johnny Giles, Billy Bremner, Peter Lorimer and Allan Clarke.

Despite a swashbuckling run to the final, including victory over Arsenal in the semis, second division Sunderland were given absolutely no chance.

But Bob Stokoes’s team produced a wonderfully defiant display characterised by an astonishing double save from Sunderland keeper Jim Mongomery to keep Leeds out.

And then the late Ian Porterfield, who went on to manage Chelsea, popped up to snatch a winner.

Memorably at the final whistle Manager Stokoe, clad in trench coat and donning a trilby hat, evaded a steward before dancing across the Wembley turf to embrace his heroes.

Bob Stokoe hugs goalkeeper Jim Montgomery after winning FA Cup Final 1973

Bob Stokoe hugs goalkeeper Jim Montgomery after winning FA Cup Final 1973

In context the win remains the greatest giant killing in an English cup final.

Of course last season Wigan, who would get relegated from the premier League days later, pulled off an unlikely win to hoist the FA Cup by beating City 1-0.

In that sense it shows City for all their financial power and pool of talent don’t have the aura that Leeds had back then.

That said, City’s attacking power may mean they overhaul the record score line for a league cup final (since becoming a one-off rather than two legged affair) which was achieved last season by Swansea when they beat Bradford 5-0.

A six-nil for City would not be a surprise but a win for relegation haunted Sunderland would not be a shock quite as high on the Richter scale as it was when the club beat the Mighty Leeds back in 1973.


YES – says Karl Hofer

The romance of Sunderland’s shock victory over Leeds in ’73 is the reason why we love cup football in this country. Don Revie’s Leeds side had matured in the conflicts of the First Division and European competition. They were no flamboyant Fancy-Dans who ‘didn’t like it up them’ and therefore could be rattled into submission. No, Leeds had the players for a battle all right, so a win would have to come through football and a fair bit of luck – which famously it did.

But times have changed. Back in ’73 Leeds may have had a side with ten internationals, but they were ten internationals from the British Isles. The side Sunderland face on Sunday is one where every player, including the ones sitting on the bench, are internationals, recruited as they were from around the globe at great expense.

That fact alone puts the task facing Sunderland into context.

OK, unlike the final of ’73 both teams are in the top flight, but the gap between City and Sunderland – or City and mostly anyone for that matter – is just gigantic.

Football, now more than ever, is dominated by money. City’s squad has an estimated value of £400m compared to the £90m value given to the Black Cats. An unusually busy season for arrivals at Sunderland (due in no small part to previous manager Paulo Di Canio) saw 21 new faces arrive at The Stadium of Light for nearly £30m – which is £4m less than City paid for Fernandinho alone.

So in economic terms the Sunderland squad is £310m worse than Manchester City’s squad. Even allowing for inflation you can’t say the same is true of the ’73 finalists.

Nasri, Alvaro Negredo, Sergio Aguero,

Alvaro Negredo, left, celebrates scoring with Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri. The three of them cost as much as the entire Sunderland squad.

It is that financial advantage which has boosted City’s firepower to the point that Pellegrini’s men are set to beat all goal scoring records for a single season.

Manchester City are also most people’s tip to go on and win the league, although Chelsea and Arsenal will have something to say about that of course. Back in the 72-73 season Leeds finished third in the table behind Liverpool and Arsenal but were beaten ten times in the league, something that will not happen to Manuel Pellegrini’s team this year, regardless of where they finish.

I expect a real battle on Sunday. The recent Arsenal game apart, when the players were no doubt concerned about missing the final through injury or suspension, Gus Poyet has added real steel to this Sunderland side. But lifting the trophy against this talent-laden tide of Sky Blue is surely beyond them, and few people outside Wearside will be bothering the bookies to say otherwise no matter how big a price Poyet’s men are given.

If the Black Cats do pull off the unthinkable on Sunday then rest assured their lineup will be nostalgically recalled in 40 years time by Sunderland fans with even greater reverence than Ian Porterfield’s teammates are nowadays – and that is despite the fact this is the League Cup and not the more heralded FA Cup.


League Cup Final – Sunderland v Manchester City, Sunday March 2nd, 2pm


Arsenal 2-2 Bayern Munich
Match Report of Champions League Group Game from Dec 5th 2000

"We equalised with a great free-kick and we can go home happy" Bayern Munich coach Ottmar Hitzfeld

“We equalised with a great free-kick and we can go home happy” Bayern Munich coach Ottmar Hitzfeld

With Arsenal entertaining Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich in the Champions League this week we’ve delved into the archives for a match report from a previous meeting between the pair.

There haven’t been many, but they did share four goals in an exciting encounter back in 2000 in the days of two group stages. Here is the match report:

Arsenal are bottom of their Champions League group in the second stage but the Highbury club’s manager is still confident his side can progress in the competition.

Arsenal were left holding up the rest of Group C after they let a two goal lead slip against Bayern Munich, only managing a draw.

That was added to a 4-2 defeat by Spartak Moscow in their opening phase two fixture.

Wenger lamented at his side surrendering their lead against the German champions but put on a brave face about Arsenal’s chances.

“Things look difficult for us because we are still at the bottom of the table,” said Wenger. “But I still believe we have a chance to go through because Lyons beat Spartak in France tonight and it looks as though everybody can beat everybody else in this group.”

Thierry Henry gave Arsenal the lead after being set-up by strike partner Nwankwo Kanu before he repaid the favour for the Nigerian to extend Arsenal’s lead.

But a “lack of concentration” saw the London outfit concede an immediate goal after Kanu’s measured strike which boosted the visiting German side.

Mehmet Scholl completed Bayern’s comeback when he scored with a 25-yard free-kick.

“It was very frustrating because we had done the important thing by going 2-0 ahead,” said Wenger. “But we lost our concentration straight away after the second goal and at this level you are punished for that.

“I was especially angry with the first goal against because it was unbelievable how we gave it away. It was a collective problem but I couldn’t see how we could get in a position to give it away. After that we were in trouble.


Scholl slipped as he took the free kick, but it still flew past Manninger.

“It gave the mental strength to Bayern and we lost a lot of confidence. But to concede a second goal from another free-kick was too much although I don’t think our goalkeeper, Alex Manninger, had any chance to stop it.”

The Champions League now takes a break after Wednesday’s round of matches until next February when Arsenal re-start their campaign against French side Lyon.

Bayern manager Ottmar Hitzfeld said: “We gave Arsenal too much room in the first half but our first goal was a turning point.

“Then we equalised with a great free-kick and we can go home happy.”

Bayern would go on to top the group, while Arsenal would also emerge from this second group stage, pipping Lyon to second spot on goal difference. The Germans eventually won the tournament, defeating Real Madrid in the semis before beating Arsenal’s conquerors Valencia on penalties in the final.

Match Report from the BBC.



Smiling Through Gritted Teeth
Former Pros Reveal The Truth About Dressing Room Rivalries

by Rob Shepherd.


Sutton and Shearer exchange pleasantries…

Chris Sutton was once asked who was the best striker he had ever played with. He replied: “Efan Ekoku.” And his tongue was not entirely in cheek.

Sutton..? He was the lesser “S” in the original SAS strike partnership alongside Alan Shearer.

And it always bugged Sutton, who started his career playing alongside Ekoku at Norwich, that he was regarded as being in Shearer’s shadow.

Sutton had joined Blackburn Rovers in 1994 and proved the last piece of the jigsaw that would see the club, financed by the late steel magnate Jack Walker, win the title that season.

Instantly Shearer and Sutton formed what was often described as a “telepathic partnership.”

Although both physical centre forwards Sutton, whose versatility meant he could also play at centre back, took on the role as the “second striker” given that Shearer was the better natural finisher.

Shearer hit 34 goals as Rovers went on to win the title (still a Premier League record), many of which were created by Sutton who bagged 15. They were a dynamic duo.

Given the evidence on the pitch you might have expected they were bosom buddies off it.

Far from it. Basically they didn’t get along. They didn’t socialise together. And apart from pleasantries they barely spoke.

Given the body language between Liverpool’s prolific duo Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge of late, who have forged a new SAS partnership, it’s unlikely they go out dancing together either.

It was common knowledge that although they combined wonderfully for a period at Manchester United, Teddy Sheringham and Andy Cole (who holds the PL record with Shearer of 34 goals in one season) disliked each other so much they didn’t even say hello let alone chat.


“When it comes to striker partnerships it’s often the case that neither get on” says James Scowcroft, former Ipswich, Crystal Palace and England striker and now a radio pundit.

“Basically it’s in the nature of a striker to be selfish and arrogant so they don’t really like anyone else taking the glory. I never really got on well off the pitch with any striker partners I played with.”

“In recent years the trend for many teams was to play with only one striker but these things go in cycles so we’re now talking about strike partnerships again like Suarez and Sturridge or Aguero and Negredo at Manchseter City – and it’s often the case there will be a strained relationship, often it’s down to plain jealousy…”

“Yes from a professional point you work together, although when people talk about a telepathic understanding that’s bullshit. The understating comes from hard work on the training ground where you work hard at drills of who drops in deep to get the ball and who spins to make a run.”

“So there has to be an element of verbal communication but it doesn’t mean you need to have a conversation off the pitch.

Providing things are working on the pitch and goes are going it really doesn’t matter if you hate each other.”

Tony Cottee, who formed a prolific partnership with Frank McAvennie for a couple of seasons in the mid Eighties at West Ham admits: “When Frank first arrived there was a bit of jealousy.”


McAvennie and Cottee formed a prolific partnership

“He was scoring all the goals getting all the headlines and I was out of form. I was jealous of his goals but in our case it inspired me and I eventually started scoring a lot too. And as it happened despite being different types of people we got on pretty well off the pitch too.”

“But you don’t have to be mates to make a good strike partnership.”

Ultimately for strike partnerships to work there has to be an element of compromise where one player is willing to work not just for himself but his partner even if a selfish streak is part striker’s psyche.

In the case of Aguero (15 goals) and Negredo (9) at City that seems to be the case.

But although Suarez (23) and Sturrdige (13) have more goals between them there are signs that the “jealousy” between the two of them could be reaching a tipping point given the spat between the pair in the 4-0 win over Everton.


Former Liverpool star John Barnes suggests: “They are not going to be a classic partnership because they are very individual.”

“Yes, every now and again you will see there is a partnership in terms of movement and the passing to each other but, more often than not, all their work is going to be of their own making.

That is what is going to be quite frustrating for either one of them, when they believe they are not getting the service or the passes from the other one.

While they are two fantastic players, it is not a classic partnership. If anyone is going to look for a classic partnership between them, it is really not going to happen.

That’s not to say they are not both going to score lots of goals, but they will get frustrated and you will see some incidents like the one against Everton.”

Classic partnership..? That is open to debate.

In the Seventies and Eighties that tended to be a “little and large” duo like John Toshack and Kevin Keegen at Liverpool.

Then there was the evolution of the “split striker” duo like Sutton and Shearer, or indeed with England Shearer and Sheringham.

The truth is there is no identikit. It’s just a case of talent and handwork forging an understanding even if the pair can’t really stand the sight of each other.

The problem comes if a relationship sours to the point where a team-mate becomes so self-obsessed they stop passing to another – as Ian Rush discovered during his brief and painful spell at Juventus.

Suarez and Sturridge would appear to teetering on the brink of breakdown on that front.

They would do well then to remember the moto of the real SAS; “Who Dares Wins”, and swallow just a little bit of their huge egos and realise that when it comes to sustaining a strike partnership in soccer it takes two to tango – even when they are the best of enemies.


Comets to Tigers: The Hull City Story

Hull City v Stoke City - Premier League

Tigers fans protest at Stoke City match

What’s in a name..?

Quite a lot to Hull City fans who are defying the wishes of owner Assem Allam.

Allam wants to change the club’s name to Hull Tigers.

Tigers has been the club’s nickname virtually from the start. Allam has warned he will walk away from the club if the fans and The FA block him.

Given the furore it’s fascinating to know that Hull City is not even the club’s original name.

Here is the background;

Hull City started out in life as Hull Comets and evolved into Hull City, when they turned professional in 1904 at the time when rugby dominated the town. The timing of its formation did not allow the club sufficient time to apply for membership of the Football League, so its first season in existence consisted of playing friendly games against clubs from the North of the country as well as the East Midlands.

These were played at the Boulevard, home of Hull RFC. However soon after rugby league’s governing body decreed that no admission could be charged for admission by the football club so City’s footballers started to use The Circle, home of Hull Cricket Club on Anlaby Road. City only stayed a short time before moving on to an adjacent proper football pitch. The club managed to develop this incredibly cramped enclosure into a venue that attracted a record 32,930 crowd for the sixth round stage of the FA Cup in March 1930.

Throughout this time, City had been intending to move elsewhere, due to the proposed railway developments at the instigation of the owners, the Railway Company. They therefore had purchased land a few hundreds yards south on Anlaby Road with the intention of building Boothferry Park. It was originally part of the estate used as a golf course by the Hull Golf Club prior to its removal to Kirkella in 1924 and the deal was financed thanks to a loan of £3,000 from the Football Association. However, probably restricted due to the lack of money, coupled with the absence of the expected railway improvements, progress was slow to say the least. By the time of the war hostilities in 1939 Hull City were still playing at Anlaby Road! When their lease ran out in 1943, Hull City moved back to The Boulevard for the 1944-45 season…


The Boulevard

Then there followed a period when the club’s very existence was in doubt – and not for the first (or last) time. Once again The Boulevard became a no-go area and although the war was coming to an end creating a new football ground was hardly likely to be given priority. Hull City had no alternative but to temporarily close down. The enforced lay-off lasted only one year, a year which actually enabled the club to finally develop Boothferry Park, which would be their home from 1946 until December 2002 when a move was made to the 25,000 capacity Kingston Communications Stadium, virtually on the same spot as the former Anlaby Road ground!

It is not strictly true to say that Hull City wore amber and black colours from the start. A team photograph from the very first game, a friendly against Notts County on 1 September 1904, showed the players wearing all white shirts, black shorts and black socks with a white top. However, it was not long before the famous amber and black colours and the ‘Tigers’ nickname was adopted.

There is no record of the first throat to emit the cry ‘Now, the Tigers!’ nor the precise occasion on which it happened. The first reference in print to ‘The Tigers’ appears in the Hull Daily Mail in March 1905. Before that date the nearest to a nickname was the ‘Citizens’, popularly shortened to the ‘Cits’. As both the city’s Rugby League teams had nicknames relating to the animal kingdom, the Daily Mail reporter suggested the football club should follow suit. With plenty of exposure in the local newspaper columns, the nickname soon caught on.

Raich Carter

Hull legend Raich Carter

When football resumed after the Second World War, Hull City attempted to break from the past by introducing new colours of orange shirts with a blue trim, bearing the civic crest of three crowns. White shorts and orange and blue socks completed the new image. Unfortunately, the Board of Trade refused to release the necessary dyes, so the club had to be satisfied with pale blue shirts and white shorts. The old colours were still used for big matches and colour clashes though, and eventually the directors had to succumb to public demand and four decades of tradition the following summer. They compromised with an amber shirt emblazoned with a tigers head motif and black shorts.

Variations of an amber and black design have been used ever since. From 1975/76 to 1977/78, a white collar and white shorts and socks accompanied the amber and black striped shirt. During most of the 1980s, a basic amber shirt and black shorts design was enhanced by a variety of red additions most memorably the red socks worn during the 1982/83 promotion season.


The Tigers of 71-72; with Terry Neill as player/manager and Tommy Docherty as his assistant

Chairman Don Robinson believed red signified the blood his players were prepared to spill in the name of the club. Red was also the colour of Scarborough FC – his birthplace and former club.

Of further note is the design used in the early Nineties when the Tigers’ shirts were exactly that – incorporating a design of tiger stripes.

It wasn’t ‘just another badge’ that was worn on the shirts just after World War II. ‘Azure, three ducal coronets in pale or’ do of right belong and appertain to the corporation of the Town and bounty of the Town of Kingston-upon-Hull as allowed at the heralds visitation of Yorkshire in the years 1612 and 1665-6.

Despite the fancy words however the actual origins of the arms are not known. It has been speculated that the arms could have been derived from the device of a local company of mediaeval merchant adventurers who are said to have adopted three crowns as their company’s arms, likening themselves to the three Kings of the East who were also merchants. It is interesting to note that the same motif appears in the arms of Cologne, with which continental town Hull merchants did once considerably trade in fine linen and cloth.

It is more likely that the crowns were adopted in token of the royal founder Edward I, who, seeing its value as a port, took over the town of Wykeham-upon-Hull from the Monks of Meaux and gave it a charter, so that thereafter it was called the King’s Town. This explanation is supported by the fact that during the reign of Edward I it was agreed at a conference held at Bruges that all merchant ships should fly the flag of their homeports and from which time the ships of Hull displayed a flag resembling the present arms.

Over the years a variety of tigers’ heads have been used in allusion to the club colours and nickname. This led to amount of confusion, making for problems in marketing and merchandising. In March 1999 it was decided a new official crest should be designed. This was done by James Hinchliffe – a graphic design student at Leeds University and son of one of the club’s former presidents. This badge features a new-look tiger’s head, the Humber Bridge and the three crowns from the civic crest. However, Hull City have reverted to yet another tiger coinciding with the move to the KC.

City-v-Vasas-programmeAnd a final anecdote: The Hungarian football team Vasas, they were the greatest of their time. Every season’s beginning for 25 years they visited a different country to play that country’s three top teams and had never been defeated.

They visited England to play Tottenham Hotspur, Sheffield Wednesday and Wolverhampton Wanderers, at that time they were England’s greatest clubs. Vasas put seven past Tottenham, six past Wednesday and Wolves, who up to that time had never lost to a continental team and had a long injury list, withdrew. Hull City, bottom of Division Two at the time, said, “We’ll take the fixture”.

The Vasas officials visited the magnificent Boothferry Park and said, “the game is on”. The ground attracted 13,889 for the occasion and witnessed an astonishing 3-1 victory to the Tigers. That year Hull City’s Christmas card was a cartoon of a smiling Tiger with its paw on a bone marked “Vasas”.

This first appeared on the Beautiful History website

Dec 1990: Derby 4-6 Chelsea
BOBBY Recalls Ten Goal Thriller at the Baseball Ground

by Karl Hofer.

Chelsea overcame a resilient Derby side at the weekend in what could have been a tricky encounter in the FA Cup.

Goals from Oscar and a collectors item from John Obi Mikel were enough to see the blues through to the next round.

Whilst it was an absorbing match it did lack the spark of a game played between the two teams back in 1990, one in which an astonishing ten goals were scored as Chelsea won a see-saw game 4-6.

It’s a game I remember with great fondness, because I was there.

In those days I traveled the country watching Chelsea continually flatter to deceive at a variety of grounds, most of which no longer exist.

The Baseball ground was one such stadium. The home of The Rams was a weary place but cloaked in the kind of history none of these modern bowl-type stadia could ever capture. And also unlike many modern grounds it was conducive to a great atmosphere.

G Durie

Durie ran Derby ragged

In what was a lively affair Chelsea started brightly and went ahead after Kerry Dixon converted a cross from Gordon Durie, but within a few minutes Derby had pulled level through Dean Saunders.

The next half hour didn’t provide too much by way of entertainment, and it was at this point my mate Vince who I had traveled with went to queue for halftime refreshments. No sooner had he disappeared under the stand Chelsea were ahead again, Dixon once  more in the right place to tap in after good work from Rodney Trotter (or David Lee as he was also known).

Two-one quickly became three-one after some poor attempts at clearing the ball from Derby resulted in Durie slotting home. Halftime followed and I tucked into my pie trying not to laugh too much at Vince who was fuming that he’d missed the last two goals.

Chelsea’s grip on the game was always a brittle one (as was the way in those days) but the Blues defence completely fell apart after the restart as Ken Monkou had to go off injured. On came Peter Nicholas to replace the big Dutch man but he was unable to offer much by way of resistance.


Saunders netted 17 goals for Derby that season

Within minutes Trevor Hebberd fired home after Mick Harford had caused disarray in the box to bring the Rams within a goal. Derby were  then level after the unmarked Saunders rose to head in Callaghan’s excellent cross for his second and fans spilled unto the pitch in celebration.

Celebration turned to jubilation when Gary Micklewhite made it 4-3 and the Derby faithful could not contain themselves, dancing on the pitch in front of the away end.

In a little over 13 minutes Chelsea had turned a winning margin of 3-1 into a 4-3 deficit, and sadly it was Nicholas, in what turned out to be his last appearance for Chelsea, who was getting the blame.

It was pretty grim in the away end at that point, with Chelsea having offered nothing by way of attack since the second half began it was feeling like one of those best forgotten games. Vince was particularly unimpressed having missed Chelsea’s second and third goals but with a splendid view of Derby’s comeback strikes. All was not lost however…

As Derby continued to try and exploit Chelsea’s utter inability to defend in any way, Graham Stuart broke from the back and fed Durie who delivered an inch perfect cross onto the head of the smallest man on the pitch. Suddenly parity had been restored thanks to the head of Dennis Wise. Yes, that’s how bad the defending was in this game.

Back came Derby again, but a long throw from Dave Beasant set Durie loose once more from the halfway line, and this time he advanced on the Derby goal himself to fire Chelsea 4-5 in front. We were delirious!

The icing on the cake came in added time from the young Graeme Le Saux who converted Stuart’s cross to make it six past England’s Peter Shilton (highlights are below).

At the final whistle Vince was smiling – not many away days ended like that I can tell you!

It was a game you could probably label under ‘How Not to Defend’ – which was surprising as Derby’s lineup included two of England’s stars from the World Cup that Summer, Peter Shilton and Mark Wright.

But Derby would win only 5 games all season and finish bottom, relegated along with Sunderland with Luton Town just surviving (only two went down). Top scorer Dean Saunders joined Liverpool for a record fee of £2.9m.

Chelsea would finish 11th that season, level on points with Spurs.




Gazza Steals The Show at First Ever Wembley Semi

by Rob Shepherd.

Next Saturday’s FA Cup third round clash between Arsenal and Tottenham evokes memories of the famous 1991 semi-final.

Given the enormous interest, a pointless exercise of both sets of London fans travelling north to Old Trafford was avoided, meaning it became first semi-final to be staged at Wembley.

It was a thrilling game best remembered for Paul Gascoigne’s astonishing 5th minute free kick to open the scoring – seemingly all the way from Willesden (see belolw).

Gascoigne had been a massive doubt for the game because he was recovering from a hernia operation.

A couple of weeks before I met up with him in the South of France where we had been watching Chris Waddle score the goal that saw Marseille beat AC Milan in the quarter finals of the European Cup.

Gazza gave me an interview insisting he would be fit for the semi-final which at the time seemed wishful thinking.

But he fulfilled his pledge. While he was not fit enough to last the distance, Gascoigne on his return to action at Wembley produced a whirlwind display that blew Arsenal – who would win the title that season – away.

Apart for the astonishing opening goal he later paved the way for Gary Lineker’s second. Alan Smith (yes, he’s on telly too now) pulled one back but Lineker then clinched a 3-1 triumph for Spurs.

Gazza’s joy at the final whistle is clear for all to see in this brief interview;

In the final Spurs beat Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest. It was a game which for Gazza would be in stark contrast to the joie d vivre exuded that semi-final day…


Has Giggs Overtaken Best as a United Legend..? We Look at the Career of the Welsh Wonder at 40

by Rob Shepherd.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Ryan Giggs has just turned 40.

I last interviewed him at the World Cup finals in France in 1998. He wasn’t there playing of course but was doing some gigs for sponsors.

Eventually I asked him the obvious, and to him, annoying, question; Did he not wish that instead of being in this hotel foyer in Paris he was with the England squad in St Etienne, preparing for the match against Argentina?

Giggs sighed: ‘Can we put this one to rest once and for all. I wouldn’t have wanted to play for England even had I qualified. I am Welsh.

‘I was born in Wales. All my relatives are Welsh. Under the rules the only country I could play for is Wales.’


No split loyalties: Giggs says he always wanted to play for Wales and not for The Three Lions

‘Yes I’d love to play in a World Cup and hopefully I will with Wales one day. But it’s not the be all and end all for me. There are a lot of good players who haven’t played at a World Cup.’

Like George Best, who in many ways Giggs has surpassed as a Manchester United legend – certainly so in terms of longevity. Best’s United career was over by the age of 27.

Just to put the record straight, yes, Giggs DID play for England schoolboys because he went to school in Salford once he was on the books at United.

But such are the vagaries of FIFA’s current rules, it means a Belgian-born son of a Kosovan Albanian, United’s wannabe ‘New Giggs’, Adnan Januzaj, could qualify to play for England, but back then Ryan Giggs couldn’t.

It was never a debate. Never a choice. But neither does Giggs have any regrets on that front. And after all what a career it has been.

Below is a picture of Giggs making his first appearance at Old Trafford playing for Salford Boys against St Helens in 1989.

article-2516122-19BE3AF600000578-594_634x466 (1)

Back to the start: Giggs pictured playing for the first time at Old Trafford, for Salford Boys

It is now 14 years since Ryan Giggs scored THAT goal against Arsenal in an FA Cup semi final replay which put United on the way to the Treble that season. Ronaldo and Messi eat your heart out…

Here is a look at Giggs’ career in numbers:

Premier League: 626 appearances (including 108 as substitute)
Division One: (pre-1992): 40 appearances (including seven as substitute)
FA Cup: 74 appearances (including 12 as substitute)
League Cup: 40 appearances (including six as substitute)
European Cup/Champions League: 148 appearances (including 23 as substitute)
European Cup Winners’ Cup: 1 appearance
UEFA Cup: 5 appearances
Other matches (Charity/Community Shield, European Super Cup, Fifa Club World Cup): 19 appearances (including 3 as substitute)


Longevity: Giggs began his United career in 1991 and still played in the Champions League this week

He made his debut against Everton on 2 March 1991, coming off the bench to replace full-back Denis Irwin in a 2-0 defeat.

109 – Since scoring his first Premier League goal against Tottenham in a 1-1 draw on 19 September 1992, Giggs has gone on to hit the back of the net a further 108 times in the league. He has yet to score this season but has netted in every other year since the start of the Premier League.

34 – In Giggs’s time at Manchester United, he has won 34 trophies (13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, two Champions Leagues, one European Super Cup, one Intercontinental Cup, one Fifa Club World Cup and nine Charity/Community Shields), making him the most decorated player in English football history.

This is what they have said about Ryan Giggs:

‘I remember the first time I saw him. He was 13 and he floated across the ground like a cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind.’ – Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

‘He’s an outstanding player and it’s a privilege to be working with him on my staff. I’ve seen something different since I’ve come here – just how good he is, close up – and it’s incredible.’ – Manchester United manager David Moyes

‘Only two players made me cry when watching football, one was Diego Maradona and the other Ryan Giggs.’ – Italian World Cup winner Alessandro Del Piero

‘Ryan Giggs for me is one of the best players in the world. Now maybe he is old but he is a fantastic player.’ – Former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini

‘Maybe one day people will say I was another Ryan Giggs.’ – Manchester United legend George Best

‘Eric Cantona is a great player, but he’s not as good as Ryan Giggs.’ – Dutch legend and three-time world player of the year Johan Cruyff

Midfield Maestros
Lallana and Ramsey Bring Back Memories of Gazza

By Dave Smith.


Keep it quiet: Lallana has shown the kind of promise that could ignite England in Brazil

You can’t fail to have been impressed with Southampton this season (apart from the fact their manager still won’t conduct a post or pre-match interview in English!) and for me their stand-out performer, consistently, has been Adam Lallana.

Never more so than at the weekend when he celebrated his call-up to the England squad – in front of the England manager too – with a man of the match performance and a super solo goal which had me thinking…are you Aaron Ramsey in disguise?

The grace, style, power, balance, skill and composure when it counted was reminiscent of Ramsey in his pomp, as the Arsenal midfielder has been since day one of an incredible season. And Lallana isn’t far behind on the basis of his performance in the 4-1 win against Hull.

Yet whilst the way Lallana danced through a toothless Tigers’ defence drew immediate comparisons with Ramsey, my mind wandered back a decade or two when a certain Paul Gascoigne was the master of the mesmerising run from midfield into the ranks of bewildered back lines.

A young, devil-may-care Gazza made his name in an average Newcastle side he orchestrated in the lofty way Andre Previn might have conducted the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band; leading defences a merry dance yet alone a Floral Dance.


Gazza the Conductor; In the days when shorts were short!

Football’s latest, and some would say greatest, national football hero did the same on many occasions for Spurs – I can instantly recall a magical FA Cup goal against Portsmouth – and, of course, he raised our spirits and our hearts many times in an England shirt.

In the build-up to the 1990 World Cup there was a mass media debate about Gazza’s possible inclusion in Bobby Robson’s final squad. Would the England boss take a gamble on a wayward genius he would later describe as ‘daft as a brush’?

A maverick Wembley cameo capped with a wonder goal against Czechoslovakia just weeks before the announcement of the World Cup squad provided the answer. As did the look of delight, disbelief almost, on the face of Robson as Gazza weaved his magic. He knew; so did we.

Gazza’s performances at Italia 90 until the tears and traumas of Turin more than justified his inclusion. I’m sure we all still get goose bumps when we still think about that wonderful adventure – much in the same way he underlined his name in English football history six years later.

The date: June 15, 1996; the venue: Wembley Stadium;  the occasion; England’s 2-0 win against Scotland at Euro 96. Who could forget that marvellous moment when Gazza turned Colin Hendry inside out before volleying home the best goal of the tournament; his career, perhaps.

The celebratory re-creation of the infamous ‘Dentists Chair’ incident in Hong Kong will live long in the memory, as will Gascoigne’s subsequent comments about his wonder goal, and continued taunting of the Scottish defender he left trailing in his wake.

‘Aye, it wasn’t a bad goal was it? Not sure Colin Hendry enjoyed it though – they’re still trying to screw him out of the Wembley pitch!” – Classic Gazza.


Gazza leaves Colin Hendry twirling towards Down Under at Euro ’96

So how did the tormenter of the Tartan Army become such a legend in the Scottish heartland as a Glasgow idol – on the blue half of the great city at least..? I’ll tell you.

As the chief football writer on SHOOT magazine I was assigned to report on a ‘day in the life of Gazza’ during his career rejuvenation at Rangers. After watching a routine training session and enjoying lunch at Ibrox, an Adidas photo shoot followed before delving into the ‘real world’ of Paul Gascoigne.

An afternoon spent fishing on the banks of one of Scotland’s many beautiful lochs was followed by a few cheeky pints at Gazza’s local in Kilbarchan and an impromptu ‘England v Scotland’ game of pool; myself and Gazza taking on two fervent Scottish football fans. The result: England 2 Scotland 0 – a familiar score.

After last orders it was back to Gazza’s rambling, multi-bedroom mansion and a late supper. On close inspection of his fridge, which contained two slices of left-over pizza, a bottle of milk and a can of Gillesipies’ Irish stout, Plan B needed to kick into action.

A quick phone call from the great man to a local Indian takeaway saw a Far East feast fit for a family of five arrive (he didn’t have to pay; an autographed photo sufficed) and we sat up until the wee small hours devouring our free delivery.

A normal night for some, you might think, but perhaps not the ideal preparation for a honed athlete who, two days later, would be playing in the penultimate game of the domestic season – a Rangers’ title showdown with Aberdeen.

What sort of shape would he be in come the big day, I wondered. I needn’t have worried. True to form, he was the star of the show and capped an incredible hat-trick with a solo goal which raised the Ibrox roof (click on the image below to see it). Rangers were champions: Gazza the hero.


The delight on the faces of his adoring public was eclipsed only by the broadest of grins on Gazza’s face, as wide as the Firth of Forth itself. This was his moment; his stage. As Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel once sang ‘Come up and see me, make me smile’. We all did.


Neymar: The (Latest) New Pele

by Rob Shepherd

Neymar’s attempt to score for Barcelona against Espanyol on Friday night by dummying an advancing keeper then running around him to get the ball and shoot was reminiscent of Pele’s iconic attempt for Brazil against Uruguay in the 1970 World Cup finals.

But just like Pele the moment of magic didn’t quite come off.

Neymar couldn’t get his shot away because Espanyol keeper Kiko Casilla stayed on his feet and blocked the Brazilian, although it seemed obstruction at least (see below).

The moment though will further the hype that Neymar is the latest “New Pele”.

And next summer Neymar will at least have the chance to achieve something Pele never did; Win the world Cup on home soil.

Of course debates about which players from different eras were/are better are fruitless but nevertheless fascinating.

It’s fair to say of current day stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – and maybe soon Neymar – are up there with the all time global greats.

But I doubt anyone will ever achieve what Pele managed that summer of 1970  in Mexico; He compiled a hat trick of the greatest near-misses of all time in one tournament.

Against Urgugay, having rounded the keeper with the type of sublime dummy Neymar emulated, Pele pulled his shot from a difficult angle just wide.

Against Czechoslovakia he saw a stunning swirling drive from just inside his own half drop just the wrong side of the post.

And of course in the clash against England Gordon Banks pulled of THE save of the century to keep out a Pele header.

In many ways those three misses were more memorable than many of Pele’s goals. After all there were 1281 of those in 1363 games.

Even when he missed he did so in stunning style. That was the greatness of Pele…