Posts Tagged ‘Beckham’

Sven’s Obsession With Beckham Was The Reason Why The Golden Generation Failed

by Rob Shepherd.

Rio Ferdinand is the first player of England’s golden generation to hint at the real reason why it became the wooden spoon generation.

It remains heresy to say it but read between the lines of Ferdinand’s new book and he suggests it was the cult of David Beckham which undermined England when the golden boys should have peaked under Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Appraising the Eriksson era, Ferdinand says: ‘I think Sven was a bit overawed by Beckham.

‘If truth be known he was a bit too much of a Beckham fan.’

That was never more true than at the 2002 World Cup finals.

Yes, Beckham had made sure England got there when he scored THAT memorable free-kick goal in final minute of the game against Greece to make it 2-2 at Old Trafford thus securing qualification to the finals in South Korean and Japan without the danger of going to a play off.

It was one of the great dramatic moments in the history of the England football team and cemented Beckham’s iconic status. But that’s also when the cult of Beckham took over. In my opinion to the detriment of the England team.

It was swimming against the tide to argue as much back then, but I know there were a few England players of that era who felt the same at the time, certainly now.

While not anti-Beckham, many felt his domination of England as ‘Brand Beckham’ expanded into a global empire undermined a team that had the best group of players since 1990, when England reached the semi finals of the World Cup, potentially even better.

They should have got closer to winning the 2002 and 2006 World Cup than they did. Certainly the 2004 European Championship.

But in each tournament Team England seemed, for some of us observers, more like Team Beckham.

Team Beckham was indeed a phrase some players would mutter under their breath.

Ferdinand was and remains friends with Beckham. And the way football world has gone in a commercial sense Ferdinand is hardly going to come out and suggest Beckham’s international career was allowed to run and run under Eriksson despite the fact it seemed obvious he was being picked for his name, his status as captain and his danger from free-kicks rather than the all round contribution he offered at his height.

But the phrase: ‘If truth be known, he (Eriksson) was a bit too much of a Beckham fan’, speaks volumes.

In 2002 Beckham, who was at the peak of his game then, suffered from a metatarsal injury.

It should have ruled him out of that World Cup, but Eriksson made the decision to nurse him back in South Korea and Japan.

Beckham did return, even scoring the winner against Argentina from the penalty spot. But he was clearly a passenger as it would prove in the defeat to Brazil.

By Euro 2004, Beckham, by then at Real Madrid, simply was not the force of nature he had been for England and would miss a decisive penalty in a shoot out against Portugal in the quarters.

In his book Ferdinand says Beckham was something close to a distraction at times

In his book Ferdinand says Beckham was something close to a distraction at times

In 2006 Beckham did not seem fit enough again but was still picked yet in the quarter final which England would lose to Portugal (again on penalties), lacked the energy and urgency he once had and was eventually replaced by Aaron Lennon with an injury at half-time.

All of this was not Beckham’s fault. He was a great player and leader for England. But at crucial times he was not fit enough to play with the energy his style required. Yet it seems Eriksson was too much of a Beckham fan to see the obvious and make the decision to leave him out to get to the best out of the team.

After all it wasn’t as if England were lacking in midfield talent. There was of course Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes around and others such as Joe Cole, Owen Hargreaves, Danny Murphy and the fleeting hopes of Lennon or Kieron Dyer.

Indeed had Eriksson not been ‘blinkered’ by his Beckham obsession and slavery to 4-4-2 there was a system that could have harnessed the best of England’s golden generation and even won the 2006 World Cup let alone the Euros.

Looking back, had England gone 3-5-2 when all fit they could have fielded this team:
James; Campbell, Ferdinand, Terry; G. Neville, Gerrard, Scholes, Lampard, A. Cole; Rooney, Owen.

Beckham would still have been part of the squad, but not the focal point of it. Indeed in some games he could have replaced his pal Gary Neville at right wing back.

The above team from the so-called golden generation looking back now looks like it could have struck gold, but the obsession with ‘Golden Balls’ meant it underachieved.

Eriksson’s successor Steve McClaren must have felt that, which is why he axed Beckham. But when results went wrong the coach would and bring Becks back.

Fabio Capello then indulged in Beckham too, enabling him reach an outfield record of 115 caps, before injury made the decision for him. He could not play at the 2010 World Cup, by which time the golden generation, drained by as Capello’s ‘prison camp mentality’, phrased by Ferdinand, had lost their sparkle.

Rio Ferdinand #2Sides My Autobiography is to be released on October 2 published by Blink Publishing.




United v Spurs: 3 Great Games
We preview the New Years Day encounter at Old Trafford


A rare win at Old Trafford for Spurs would be a tonic for Tim

by Karl Hofer.

Nothing cures a New Years hangover like a decent game of football and we look set for a good one in 2014 as the live match on the box sees Tim Sherwood’s Spurs (sounds weird…) travel to Old Trafford to face David Moyes’ United (still sounds weird…).

These two usually serve up entertaining matches, and the team at BOBBY have searched through the archives to pick out three of the best from down the years to prove the point. Before we give you the odds and our prediction have a look back at these classic encounters:

Oct 16th 1965  Tottenham Hotspur  5-1  Manchester United

A match graced with legends all over the pitch including Mackay, Greaves and Gilzean for Spurs who took on the league champions with Law, Best and Charlton in their ranks – and ran riot with a 5-1 win at the Lane in front of 58,000.

Many people will tell you that Glenn Hoddle scored the greatest goal ever between the two sides when he volleyed home in a league cup tie in 1979, but in my opinion Jimmy Greaves takes the accolade for his goal in this match as he waltzed through the United defence and slotted home in the relaxed manner that was typical of the man (see link below).

It was a tremendous win for Bill Nicholson’s side, but The Red Devils would get their revenge with a 5-1 win at Old Trafford just a couple of months later.

Sept 29th 2001  Tottenham Hotspur  3-5  Manchester United

This was one of the most extraordinary matches in Premier League history, and it helped create an aura of invincibility around Fergie’s Manchester United team. It is also a result that has ensured that Spurs fans will never be able to relax against United, whatever the score may be.

Spurs were enjoying one of their finest performances in recent memory after blasting into a 3-0 lead at the interval. Spurs were coasting through goals from Dean Richards, Les Ferdinand and Christian Ziege.

The problem was the job was only half done, and in the second half United launched an astonishing comeback. After the restart Andy Cole grabbed the all important early goal to instill belief. Spurs were then blown away by the visitors as United fought back and then took the lead with goals from Laurent Blanc, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Juan Sebastian Veron. David Beckham completed the comeback in a match Sir Alex described as his most memorable during his long tenure at Old Trafford (highlights below).

It would be fair to say that this result had a bit of an affect on Spurs, who wouldn’t beat United for another 11 years.

Dec 7th 1986 – Manchester United  3-3  Tottenham Hotspur

One of the greatest clashes between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur came in a league encounter 27 years ago that really had it all. A topsy-turvy thriller that saw both sides wrestle control from each other at one stage or another before having to settle for a draw. United stormed into an early 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Norman Whiteside and Peter Davenport, before Spurs hit back with a diving header from Gary Mabbut in the second half.

Shortly afterwards Kevin Moran inadvertently turned a Glenn Hoddle shot into his own net and then Clive Allen put Spurs 3-2 ahead.

There was to be one final twist, though, as Davenport held his nerve to equalise with a last minute penalty. You can enjoy the highlights (and the wonderful commentary from John Motson) below.

(By the way, that match was played on December 7th despite what the graphic at the start says…)


Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur, Wednesday January 1st 2014, 5.30pm, Live on BT Sport

The head-to-head record between the two very much favours United who have 85 wins against Spurs over the years. Spurs have won only 47 and there have also been 47 draws.

United in fact had an astonishing 33 match unbeaten run (which included 28 wins) against Spurs in all competitions from 2001 to 2012.



Van Persie 3/1, Rooney 7/2, Welbeck 9/2, Januzaj 7/1

Defoe 7/1, Soldado 7/1, Adebayor 8/1


United to win: 1-0 13/2, 2-0 7/1,  2-1 7/1, 3-0 11/1, 3-1 12/1, 3-2 25/1, 4-1 22/1

Draw: 0-0 11/1, 1-1 7/1, 2-2 16/1, 3-3 66/1, 4-4 200/1

Spurs to win: 1-0 14/1, 2-0 28/1, 2-1 16/1, 3-0 66/1, 3-1 40/1, 3-2 50/1


Rooney to score first @ 7/2

United to win 3-2 @ 25/1


Odds courtesy of William Hill


Glenn Hoddle
“My 1998 World Cup Story”

Publisher: Andre Deutsch

ISBN-13: 978-0233994239

Glenn Hoddle has hit back at claims made by David Beckham in his autobiography.

Beckham, whose book is featherweight in content compared to Sir Alex Ferguson’s heavyweight block buster, says that Hoddle added to the “feeding frenzy” that the player suffered after getting a red car against Argentina at France 98.

Hoddle’s post match comment that “If he [Beckham] had stayed on the pitch and we had 11 against 11, I believe we would have won” was taken as a pointed remark by Beckham and contributed to the vitriolic response.

Beckham said; “He showed his anger and irritation with me. It definitely fed the frenzy.

“He didn’t blame me, exactly, but he made it clear that he thought that my mistake cost England the game”, the 38-year-old Beckham says in his book. “I found his interview difficult to take. He showed his anger and irritation with me. It definitely fed the frenzy.”

HoddleMyWorldCupStoryBut Hoddle said “I am really sorry to hear that David Beckham thinks I fed the frenzy of criticism against him after his sending-off in the World Cup tie with Argentina. Nothing could have been further from my mind at the time, and certainly not since.

“Any manager would say, as I did immediately after the game, that their team would have stood a better chance with 11 men than with 10.”

And Reading through Hoddle’s book, ‘My 1998 World Cup Story’, the former England manager does not really savage Beckham in the chapter about the 3-2 quarter final defeat to Argentina. Indeed he points out that he thought it was no more than a yellow and added: “How ever made I was with David I was furious with the referee.”

At the time Hoddle though displayed a general coldness and aloofness towards Beckham before and after that incident. That comes across in Hoddle’s book.
But on the whole, going through Hoddle’s diary of the whole 1998 campaign again, much of it seems a fairly tame if decent review of the road that ended in St Etienne rather than Paris.

But at the time there was a lot of unrest among the squad when the book was released just a few months after the tournament, especially Hoddle lifting the lid on how badly Paul Gascoigne took the news that he was the be axed from the squad.

Hoddle lost the trust of several senior players who believe he broke the taboo of opening the dressing room door whilst he was still in charge.

Indeed the publication loosened his grip on the job which he lost when expanded on his religious beliefs and made a bizarre comment about the handicapped and the afterlife.

BB Rating: 7/10

by Rob Shepherd


The 100 Club: Lampard Joins a List of Legends

by Rob Shepherd

The day before he made his England debut against Belgium at The Stadium of Light in 1999, I asked then manager Kevin Keegan if he felt Frank Lampard had a great international future ahead of him and could even go on to captain his country.

Keegan retorted with a “steady on” smile but agreed young Lampard had the qualities and potential to have a chance of going to the top of the world stage.

Some of the other football writers in the room were less diplomatic, a few even chuckling with a certain disdain at such a suggestion.

Even before he had kicked a ball for his country a bizarre campaign started by West Ham fans – that Lampard was not really good enough for the top level – was a in motion and had begun to seep into the psyche of parts of the media.

And the footage we showed in a recent article of a West Ham fan giving an 18 year old Lampard pelters now looks plain ridiculous (see the clip on Bobby TV on our home page).

Fourteen years after that, ahead of a pivotal World Cup qualifier against Ukraine all the media fawned over Lampard at a press conference as he spoke about the prospect of picking up his 100th cap for England in Kiev.

France's Zinedine Zidane holds the World Cup trophy after an exhibition soccer match in Saint Denis

Zidane: Knows a thing or two about football. And headbutts.

And while he has only captained his country on the odd occasion no less an authority than former France star Zinedene Zidane suggested that 35 year old Lampard – rather than midfield side kick and skipper Steven Gerrard – is the key figure in the England team.

Zidane said: “The one that is standing out for England and is really a leader is Lampard.”

In that respect one wonders what might have been for England had Lampard been seen as an integral part of the side in the early days of the Sven Goran Eriksson era.

Lampard was often on the periphery of what for too long effectively became ‘Team Beckham’.

Indeed I remember sitting with Lampard in a hotel in Kensington doing an interview after the 2002 World Cup finals reflecting on what had gone on. Lampard had been omitted from the squad but Beckham travelled even though he had still not recovered from a serious injury and would eventually play despite not being fully fit.

When other midfielders started to pick up knocks England’s chances of success in Japan were undermined by a lack of midfield options in the crunch game against Brazil.

It seemed farcical that Lampard after completing an impressive first season with Chelsea after moving on from West Ham had not been in the squad. He was frustrated but vowed eventually to force his way into England’s midfield even if there didn’t seem much room with Beckham, Gerrard and Paul Scholes around.

But Lampard has energy and goal power; he has scored 29 for England putting him one short of Alan Shearer, Tom Finney and Nat Lofthouse as joint seventh in the all time list.


Billy Wright and Ferenc Puskas exchanging pennants in 1954

And his appearance in the Ukraine means he becomes the eighth member to join England elite Centurion Club.

The first was England’s giant of a captain from the Fifties, the Wolves centre-half Billy Wright who played 105 times.

Then there was Bobby Charlton (106) and Bobby Moore (108) who played in the games when there were no ‘cheap’ caps to be won from the bench and when there were less international games to be played.

Peter Shilton retains the record with 125 and had he not had to battle with Ray Clemence for the no. 1  spot for so long it could easily have been 200.

It was a long gap until Beckham made it over the 100 line and he sits third with 115 caps.

And it’s been a bit like London buses since with Ashley Cole, Gerrard (each 104 not out ) and now Lampard reaching the milestone.

Had it not taken so long to establish himself as a regular after that debut (in which he was overshadowed by cousin Jamie Redknapp) then Lampard might well have over taken Shilton by now.

And he admits there was a time under Steve McClaren when again he was not always included, that he questioned whether he had a future with England.

But a deep determination and dedication to succeed has seen him drive on. It’s an attitude instilled by his father Frank, the former West Ham player, who won just two England caps.


Lampard: A chip off the old block

“Reaching this landmark is obviously a very proud day for me and my family” said Lampard.

And young Frank thanks his dad for “bullying him” to the top.

“My dad was a hero” said Lampard. “Mind you, when I was a kid, not as much as Frank McAvennie and Tony Cottee (West Ham’s star strikers of the Eighties). They put the ball in the back of the net. My dad was a ­left-back!”

“But he was my hero, day in, day out. He put that work ethic in me. He always made me very aware of my weaknesses.

“He’d praise the good things but he was always on about my pace, about trying to get in the box and score goals, and have the energy to be able to do that.

“There was no easy way to get there – he let me know that. It was extra runs, extra hours ­practising shooting and finishing, that became ingrained in me. He probably bullied me into it a bit in my younger years. I didn’t always like it. But I can’t thank him enough for it now.

Peter Shilton of England

Shilton leads the way with 125 caps for England

“If you are going to try to get to the top and get 100 caps, it was something I needed to do. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without that.”


England’s Centurians

Peter Shilton 125
David Beckham 115
Bobby Moore 108
Bobby Charlton 106
Billy Wright 105
Ashley Cole 104
Steve Gerrard 104



From Moldova to Hollywood: The World Meets David Beckham

by Rob Shepherd

No-one knew it at the time. How could we ? I was there and didn’t spot that the road from Moldova would lead to Hollywood.

But in hindsight, on a bumpy pitch in a poverty stricken Eastern European backwater, English football – the global game even – would change forever.

In the immediate after glow of Euro ’96 England embarked not just on a new era but a new epoch.

Soccer - World Cup Qualifier - Moldova v England

“Playing for England; This is what I want, what I really, really want…Hmm, quite like that song”

David Beckham, who a few weeks earlier had hit the headlines as something special – something a bit different – scoring that career-defining wonder goal from the halfway line for Manchester United at Wimbledon, made his England debut.

At the time there was more fuss about Andy Hinchcliffe winning his first cap than Beckham winning his. Andy Who..?

But looking back this was the day when football morphed from a sport into showbiz, because this was the day when Becks Inc took to the world stage.

And just as it is in showbiz it wasn’t exactly an overnight success.

Indeed, Beckham’s contribution to a 3-0 win in England first World Cup qualifier for France ’98 was very low key.

But Beckham had that three Lions number 7 shirt on his back and, despite an early rocky road, in terms of time line this was the beginning of football becoming more about the brand than the ball, with Beckham the ring master.

Never remotely the best footballer of his or any other generation, Beckham would become the biggest commercial football icon globally, not to mention the wealthiest that soccer had ever seen.

To some he was and remains a hero, a role model, an all- time great; to others he became an anti-hero, the definition of the game selling it’s soul, even the death of football as former German international Uli Hoeness once described.

So it was in a country which at the time was still struggling to move on from Soviet Union rule that ironically became the launchpad of the Americanization of football; the day that Becks Inc as it would become launched a thousand sponsorships; or conversely the day the music died.

It is September 1996, the Spice Girls are at number one with Wannabe (Posh hadn’t met Becks yet), Will Smith is battling aliens in Independence Day and, in the wake Euro 96, England are embarking on a new era under Glenn Hoddle and playing 3-5-2. Click below to see the goals;

It was Nick Barmby rather than Beckham who set England on their way with the first goal, Paul Gascoigne hit the second and Alan Shearer the third.

The Odds

It was all so easy – matter of fact even – and should be again this time with the real business coming next week against Ukraine.

That said you just can’t tell with England under Roy Hodgson, especially with a squad severely depleted because of injury.

But logic says a win of 3-0 (5/1 with William Hill) or 4-0 (6/1) at Wembley should be achieved.

Perhaps better value can be found with the goalscorer markets, where the in-form Rickie Lambert is 2/1 to score 2 or more.

Where Are They Now ?

Let’s take a look back at the team that started that day in Kishinev;

David Seaman The goalkeeper remained England’s first choice for many years to come, picking up 75 caps in all. He played all the way through to the World Cup finals in France, where England again suffered penalty heartbreak against Argentina and would go on to be first choice under Kevin Keegan at Euro 2000 and Sven Goran Eriksson at the 2002 World Cup. Now a goalkeeping coach at non-league Wembley FC.

Gary Neville Then a fresh-faced youngster breaking through for club and country, Neville went on to become a stalwart for England at right-back, playing at the 1998 World Cup, Euro 2000 and Euro 2004. He missed the 2002 World Cup due to a foot injury. He won 85 caps in total and every honour in the game with Manchester United. Now works as a pundit for Sky Sports.

Stuart Pearce With over 50 caps already to his name, Pearce had intended to retire after Euro 96 – where he had laid to rest the ghosts of his shoot-out miss in 1990 – but Hoddle persuaded him to continue. He played through the qualification campaign for France 98 but was not selected for the finals squad. Was looking after the next generation as England Under 21 coach until recently but some poor perfromances at the recent UEFA U21 Championships in Israel saw him replaced by Gareth Southgate.

Gareth Southgate After a busy summer in which he missed THAT penalty against Germany then starred in a Pizza Hut advert, Southgate was a regular fixture in the England side for another few years, playing at the France 98 finals. In all, he won 57 England caps and made over 500 league appearances. After retirement, he managed Middlesbrough and worked as a pundit for ITV after leaving his post as Head of Elite Development at the FA. Now the U21 manager.


“What would you do if I dropped you Gazza?” he said. ‘A spot of interior decorating Boss’ I said…”

Paul Ince An integral part of the England team at this time, having played superbly at Euro 96, Ince would go from hero to zero. His heroic, blood-stained performance in Rome secured England’s qualification for the finals, but he missed a crucial penalty in the shoot-out defeat to Argentina. Played the last of his 53 England games at Euro 2000 but didn’t retire from club football until 2007, after which he became a manager, with mixed results.

Gary Pallister The game in Moldova turned out to be Pallister’s penultimate England cap and he was gradually squeezed out of the Manchester United side as well, eventually leaving Old Trafford for his first side Middlesbrough in 1998. Has worked since as a television pundit and in roles at Darlington FC.

David Beckham The match in Moldova was just the start for Becks, who went on to win 115 England caps, many as captain, and became arguably the most recognised footballer in the world (and the wealthiest). Won every major honour in club football and only recently retired after a spell at PSG, as well as being wheeled out as a well-known face when Britain wants to win something or someone wants to promote something.

Paul Gascoigne This campaign was the beginning of the end for Gazza, even though he had proved at Euro 96 that he retained much of his genius. Playing for Rangers at the time, Gascoigne featured in half of England’s qualifying campaign, before injuries and ill-discipline started to cast doubt on his first team place. In the end, he was left out of Hoddle’s squad for the finals and didn’t take it particularly well – wrecking his manager’s room.

Alan Shearer The top goalscorer at Euro 96, captain of England and the world’s most expensive player after joining Newcastle United, Shearer was truly at the peak of his powers. He went on to score five goals in the qualification campaign despite a number of injury setbacks and scored in the finals against Tunisia and Argentina. In all, he scored 30 times for England in 63 appearances and is now a mainstay on the Match of the Day sofa.


They could make a film about me now I’m an international – ‘Bend It Like Hinchcliffe’ – Yeah, that has a good ring to it…

Nicky Barmby Scored the first goal of the Hoddle era in Moldova but was never able to hold down a regular starting place. In total, collected 23 caps for England and scored four goals spaced over seven years. Ended his career as player and manager for Hull City.

Andy Hinchcliffe Would have been optimistic of becoming an England regular after making his debut here but never made the grade winning just seven caps for England in all. Hinchcliffe who was playing for Everton at the time, continued a decent but unspectacular career and now does some TV and media work. But a coach would tell you his left foot delivery from open play and dead ball was every bit as pin point as Beckham’s – but he didn’t marry a pop ‘singer’…

Opening Day: Memorable Matches

We all love opening day weekend, here KARL HOFER looks at some past classics from the first weekend of top flight action.

The kick-off to the new season in the Premier League is almost upon us. Up and down the country fans will, for the most part, be entering this weekend with undue optimism and a bunch of utterly unrealistic dreams and aspirations.

But the opening day does tend to throw up the odd classic encounter and its share of strange results.

We had a rummage through the archives and picked out four of the best. So now we present to you Bobby’s Opening Day Belters!

19/08/1995  Aston Villa 3-1 Manchester United

We all know this one, don’t we…? it’s the one when Villa ravaged United’s youngBeckhamvVilla starlets after Alex Ferguson had sold Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis in the summer, leading Alan Hansen to famously quip “you can’t win anything with kids” that night on Match of the Day.

Aside from the awful performance from United, the game was also notable for their piss-poor grey away kit, one that they would change at halftime later that season in a humping from Southampton at The Dell, and a tidy finish from the young Beckham as he rattled in a late consolation.

But let’s just address a couple of myths surrounding this match. There were a number of reasons United were slapped besides the oft-mentioned fact that they had seven players aged 21 or under in their squad that day. Missing through injury or suspension were a number of key players, including Cantona, Bruce, Cole, May and Giggs. And Villa were a decent side who went on to finish fourth. But what is rarely pointed out is the fact that Ferguson had one of his final flirtations with a 5-3-2 system, one that never worked for him.

The truth is the team that played this game would have won nothing for United that season. As the season developed they would usually play only three of their youngsters in a game; Butt, Beckham and a Neville. That they won the Double that year was largely down to Peter Schmeichel and Eric Cantona’s incredible efforts at the business-end of the season.

So Hansen was right. There, I said it.

29/08/1981  Swansea City 5-1 Leeds United

This season we will have not one but two Welsh teams in the top division. One of the greatest opening-day performances in English football history came from a Welsh team, when Swansea, taking their place in the top flight for the first time in their history, hosted the mighty Leeds.

Bob Latchford’s nine-minute debut hat-trick is an obvious highlight, but the finesse of Swansea’s fifth goal from Alan Curtis lives long in the memory.

This game was a pointer of what was to come later as Leeds would be relegated that season, but nobody had this down for a 5-1 home win beforehand. This was from the top drawer of opening-day shocks, no question. Highlights below.

15/08/1992  Arsenal 2-4 Norwich City

I’ll set the scene; Arsenal, many bookies’ favourites for the inaugural Premier League, entertained the Canaries who were being managed for the first time by Mike Walker.

The previous season the Gunners had finished top scorers in the league; in 1992-93, rather weirdly, they would be the lowest scorers. There was nothing to indicate that after an hour however, Arsenal led comfortably through goals from Steve Bould and Kevin Campbell.

Sutton beats Bould to the ball

Sutton beats Bould to the ball

Then Walker brought on his new signing, Mark Robins, and everything became a little surreal. Goals from Robins, David Phillips and Ruel Fox gave Norwich an improbable lead. Then Robins sealed the deal with a superb chip after a mistake from Tony Adams, who at the time was being barracked with donkey chants from opposing fans every weekend.

The North Bank looked on motionless and in silence. OK, it was a mural which had been brought in to improve the Highbury atmosphere, but you get my point.

Norwich, despite having to suffer that awful speckled shirt each week, went on to their highest-ever finish of third position. Dwell on that for a second if you will…

Arsenal clearly learned a lot from this opening day disaster; the following year they kicked off their campaign with a 0-3 reverse at the hands of Coventry City and a hat-trick from Micky Quinn having the game of his life.

19/08/1989  Manchester United 4-1 Arsenal

At the risk of draining all remaining hopes and dreams out of Arsenal fans ahead of their season opener, we’re going to give this one a mention as well…

It was essentially the perfect opening day for the title-starved Reds fans. It all began with businessman Michael Knighton, who had just agreed to buy Manchester United for – wait for it – £10m, showing he was a genuine fan by kitting up, ball-juggling and then smashing one home in front of the Stretford End.

Then United trounced the champions Arsenal 4-1.

During the game new signing Neil Webb topped off a splendid debut with a neil-webbpstunning, swirling volley. The long wait for the title was seemingly soon to end, it was all so intoxicating. It wasn’t the start of a new season; it was the start of a new era.

Or not. The cash-strapped Knighton was soon exposed as a chancer. Webb’s career was ruined when he ruptured his Achilles on England duty only 18 days later. And United were embroiled in a relegation battle for most of the season.

So our advice is to not get too carried away with opening day results as they are often not much of a guide for what is to come. Or sometimes they are. It depends really. I don’t know, you decide….