Posts Tagged ‘England’

April 9th 1988 – Shearer Nets Hat-Trick v Arsenal in First Start

by Richard D J J Bowdery.

A seventeen year-old Alan Shearer made his first start as a professional footballer for Southampton versus Arsenal at The Dell on April 9th 1988. It was to be a day to remember as he scored a hat-trick in a 4-2 victory for The Saints.

But for an oversight on the part of Newcastle United the young Shearer’s shirt may have had black stripes instead of red ones that afternoon.

He could also have avoided a round trip of over 580 miles that took in the south coast of England and East Lancashire.

On Trial

ShearerSouthamptonAs a 15 year-old schoolboy Shearer was given a trial by the St. James Park club and was asked to play in goal. Unsurprisingly, for someone with an eye for scoring rather than preventing goals, he failed to impress the coaches who were monitoring the game. As a mad Magpies fan it must have broken his heart to be turned away from the club he loved.

Shearer later recalled: “I came for a trial with a lot of other lads and there was a shortage or something, so everyone had to take a turn in goal. I was no different from anyone else, I had my 20 minutes just like everyone else, but I said to someone that I’d played in goal for Newcastle when I was on trial and I’ve never heard the last of it.”

To be fair to Newcastle United, they did rectify their mistake later in Alan Shearer’s career but it cost them a lot more than it might otherwise have done.

Despite this rejection the 15 year-old managed to get trials at other clubs including Southampton who signed him up on the spot.

His performance against Arsenal, who were to be crowned Champions at the end of the season, was an indication of what was to come. At 17 years and 240 days Shearer became the youngest scorer of a hat-trick  in top flight history, breaking a 30 year old record held by Jimmy Greaves.

Two weeks prior to his heroics against Arsenal Shearer came on as a sub against Chelsea to make his professional debut at Stamford Bridge in a 1-0 victory.

During his time at the Dell he scored over 40 goals in 158 appearances. Other clubs were beginning to take notice of this young talent and it wasn’t long before a queue of admirers started to form, all eager for his signature.

England Come Calling

Included among these admirers was the late Dave Sexton, then England under-21 coach. In 1990 he brought Shearer into the squad. Shearer repaid Sexton’s faith in him by scoring 13 times in 11 appearances. This goals-to-appearances ratio brought him to the attention of another influential figure: the England manager, Graham Taylor.

Taylor gave him his senior debut against France, in February 1992. Shearer opened the scoring and Gary Lineker added a second as England ran out 2-0 winners.

Shearer’s performance on the international stage caused his stock to rise significantly on the domestic front which caused a lot of additional work for Ian Branfoot, his manager at Southampton.

With the increasing interest in his striker, Branfoot seemed to spend as much time on the telephone fielding calls from other managers looking to sign his Shearer as he did on the training field coaching his squad.


Blackburn Rovers' Alan Shearer celebrates with the Carling Premiership trophy

Eventually the inevitable happened and he was prised away from The Dell by Blackburn Rovers who parted with over £3 million in July 1992: helped in no small part by the financing of Blackburn’s benefactor, Jack Walker.

It was at Blackburn that Shearer was to win his only significant piece of domestic silverware: the Premiership trophy.

In that League winning 94/95 season he formed a deadly partnership with Chris Sutton – known as the SAS. Shearer’s 34 goals alongside Sutton’s 15, ensured Walker’s bankrolled Rovers top spot.

His last game for Blackburn came against Wimbledon in April 1996. He signed off with another brace of goals to go alongside 19 other braces and 9 hat-tricks.

In total he scored 130 goals in 171 appearances during his four seasons at the Lancashire club.

But now another team were keen to employ his prolific services and there was the small matter of a European championship with England, in England.

Euro ’96 & The Toon

The Euro 96 tournament was to be the highlight in Shearers international career. He finished the tournament as top-scorer with 5 goals. Unfortunately those goals weren’t enough to take England all the way to the Final.

Once again Germany stood in the way; although if Gascoigne’s legs had been an inch longer, England would have won on the golden-goal rule and avoided the penalty shoot-out. They weren’t and the host nation lost 6-5 on penalties; more than a shade of Italia ‘90.

By the end of his international career Shearer had played 63 times for England and scored 30 goals (almost one every two games).

Football didn’t truly come home in ‘96 but later that summer Shearer did, and so began his love affair with the Toon Army.

With 5 goals at Euro '96 Shearer was top scorer

But if Kevin Keegan, Shearer’s boyhood hero, hadn’t been the gaffer at Newcastle, Shearer could have become a Red Devil.

Manchester United and Newcastle United had agreed a sale price with Blackburn Rovers. Extended talks between Shearer and Alex Ferguson led everyone to believe that Old Trafford was his club of choice and yet…

Legend has it that Keegan asked for and got one final opportunity to talk with Shearer. Whatever was said Shearer put pen to paper, with Keegan looking like the cat that got the cream.

Shearer was reported to have said, on signing for the Magpies in July 1996: “It was the challenge of returning home and wearing the famous black and white shirt which made up my mind.”

The fans who turned out to greet the club’s new signing confirmed that decision. On seeing the 20,000 Newcastle fans who witnessed his official unveiling as a United player he said: “I wouldn’t have got a reception like this anywhere else in the world.”

Newcastle had shelled out a whopping £15 million – a world transfer record to capture a proven goal machine.

In more than 400 appearances Shearer netted over 200 times: more than justifying his price tag.

Of course eleven years earlier he would have cost significantly less; but then hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Injury Brings the Curtain Down

In Shearer’s last season at United he broke Jackie Milburn’s record of 200 goals in a black and white shirt. The record had stood for 49 years and cemented Shearer’s place among the pantheon of Newcastle greats.

At the same time Shearer had a dual role as player/coach. It was a role he had hoped to continue in for at least another season, but a tear to the medial collateral ligament in his left knee, during the League game against Sunderland in April 2006, put paid to that aspiration and effectively ended his playing career.

Although he was never to pull on that famous number 9 shirt in anger ever again, he still went out on a high that afternoon, scoring and seeing his side beat their historical enemy 4-1.

shearerNUFCBy the time he retired from football Alan Shearer had netted 379 goals in 733 appearances on the field of battle. Of those, 260 goals came in 434 Premier League appearances: still a PL record.

Post-Playing Career

Apart from a stint as Newcastle boss towards the end of the 2008/09 season, Shearer didn’t transfer his footballing prowess to the dugout.

Instead he developed a media career as a football pundit. Today he is a regular on Match of the Day, giving viewers the benefit of his experience, gained in over 18 years as a professional footballer.

Although the Toon Army are still able to watch their hero on television, the one image that will lodge long in their memory is of Shearer wheeling away, arm aloft, as he celebrates yet another successful strike on goal.

To relive that incredible debut by the Premier League’s deadliest finisher way back in 1988 click on the photo above.


Nobby Stiles: England’s One Goal Wonder!

nobby-377152by Richard DJJ Bowdery.

Wembley Stadium. Twenty third February 1966. England are playing West Germany in an international friendly, just prior to the World Cup finals.

The game is in the 41st minute. A cross-field pass is nodded firmly towards the German goal by England’s number eight, Roger Hunt from the edge of the six yard area. The West German keeper Hans Tilkowski could only parry the ball into the path of an incoming Nobby Stiles who bundled it into the net.

The 75,000 crowd could hardly believe their eyes. How come with Roger Hunt, Geoff Hurst and Bobby Charlton on the pitch, it was the diminutive Stiles who scored..? Once the shock had worn off the crowd roared their delight and Nobby ran back to take his place at right-half, as if scoring for England was an everyday occurrence. But it was the one and only time he managed to get onto the England score sheet.

Five months later, and wearing his toothless grin, he jigged across the Wembley turf holding the Jules Rimet Trophy aloft – a World Cup winner.

1968 European Cup Final at Wembley Stadium - Manchester United's Nobby Stiles and Bobby Charlton celebrate as they become European Champions for the first time

Nobby Stiles and Bobby Charlton celebrate becoming European Champions

He along with Bobby Charlton remain the only two Englishmen to have won both the World Cup and European Cup – after Manchester United defeated Benfica at Wembley in 1968.

But his biggest challenge came in 2013, aged 71. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer, though his doctors expected him to make a full recovery, unlike his World Cup winning captain Bobby More, who died from the disease aged 51.

In all Stiles played 28 times for his country and was awarded an MBE in 2000 for services to football.

There have been other England internationals who have only scored once for England. But none have climbed to the summit of world soccer as did a certain Norbert (a name Sir Alf Ramsey always used when addressing him) Peter Stiles.

And I for one will always remember his celebrations on the 30 July 1966: an image that will live on in sporting history!


Matt Dickinson
“Bobby Moore: The Man in Full”
Reviewed by Richard Bowdery

Published by Yellow Jersey Press

ISBN-13: 978-0224091725


To bastardize a Winston Churchill quote: Bobby Moore was a gentleman, wrapped in a facade inside an enigma. In other words he was a very private man.

Brian Glanville, the doyen of football writers, knew Moore for nearly 40 years, but wasn’t sure he really knew him.

BobbyMooreBookMichael Parkinson, who made a career of getting beneath the surface of his interviewees, has said: “You loved him because he was so friendly but, when you stopped to think, you realized you knew bugger all about him.”

Even in his darkest hour, stricken with terminal cancer at the young age of 51, he kept his illness secret, only making it public shortly before his death.

Credit, therefore, must go to journalist Matt Dickinson who, with this biography, has succeeded in peeling away the layers that surrounded the legend, to reveal a life that was by turns heroic and tragic.

But in dealing with the life story of Bobby Moore, who has been called the ‘patron saint of English football’, the author could have veered towards sycophancy.

Instead we are presented with an honest, even-handed assessment of Moore from what must have been hours and hours of research carried out among family, friends, other journalists and former teammates and colleagues from the world of football.

As you would expect from such a renowned wordsmith the biography he crafts is both engaging and illuminating.

For instance, were you aware that Moore suffered from testicular cancer in 1964? Or that as Southend manager he turned up to one match, drunk? Or that Elton John approached him about managing Watford?

The book highlights Moore’s highs and lows in detail, from his receiving the World Cup from Her Majesty the Queen to his being ejected from Upton Park for not having a valid ticket.

In between we read about West Ham manager Ron Greenwood’s desire to build a team around ‘Mooro’; Moore’s business ventures which involved some shady characters; the arrest in Bogota prior to the 1970 World Cup Finals for allegedly stealing a bracelet; how Moore was snubbed by club and country after his retirement; his attempts at football management; the divorce from his childhood sweetheart; and how cancer finally took the life of this icon.

BB Rating: 9/10



Football isn’t just black and white…sometimes it’s red or blue or yellow

Viv Anderson races past Czech defender Koloman during his England debut.

Viv Anderson races past Czech defender Koloman during his England debut.

by Richard DJJ Bowdery.

At any England match many of the fans will be wearing shirts in the national colours. It identifies them as supporters of our nation’s football team and shows solidarity with the players on the pitch. Some might even wish they were one of the eleven. Others might affirm in good old Anglo-Saxon that they could do better than those representing their country!

Yet whatever the result, win, lose or draw, white is the colour – or at least that was the case until 29 November 1978 when England played the former Czechoslovakia, in a friendly.

That night 22-year-old Viv Anderson, a defender with Nottingham Forest, trotted out to take his place in the England back four. Nothing remarkable about that you might think. You’d be wrong.

When Anderson pulled on the white shirt of England and strode out onto the Wembley turf as England’s first black full international, he trod a path for others to follow.

By selecting Anderson, national team manager Ron Greenwood broke down any remaining barriers to black players representing their country.

And to cap a game changing night the host’s ran out 1–0 winners in front of 92,000 fans.

With so many black players gracing our game for club and country, Viv Anderson’s inclusion in the England team might not seem such a big deal for our younger readers. That wasn’t always the case back then which is why his elevation was such a defining moment in our national sport.

Seventy-six black players (up until November 2014) have represented England at full international level since 1978, but that number is certain to increase.

Down the years England have worn shirts of varying colours: red, white, blue and yellow. Today the squad also varies in colour and that can only be good for the game and for our chances in future tournaments. As the old adage states: ‘if you’re good enough that’s all that should matter.’


Anderson was the 936th player to represent England

Anderson was the 936th player to represent England


“Nothing compares to Scotland v England” Alex Montgomery on the next installment of the oldest rivalry

AlexMontgomeryby Alex Montgomery.

It is the intensity of the build-up, the anticipation of facing the Auld Enemy in Glasgow that I have always found so compelling as an obsessive follower of football reared in a football obsessed city.

We were indoctrinated from an early age. When it came to brainwashing the Scottish media were in a league of their own particularly in the austere post war years of my youth. What they wrote, volumes of it, was designed to make us believe that somehow Scotland were all but certainties to win anywhere, anytime and particularly against England.

The approach these days is far more sophisticated based on reality (our natural optimism was knocked into shape by defeats –remember 9-3 and 7-2 – that were national humiliations) though the desire to put one over the Auld Enemy remains. I hanker for the old approach where the only talk in town was the big match, where pubs were packed and much strong drink was consumed without guilt. The City, the Dear Green Place, would then be geared up and ready for action.

There was no chance of a ticket for a boy at Hampden. The alternative was to soak up the pre-match atmosphere; that would do until I was older. My father would even drive me into the city centre on the Friday night before the match to experience the chaos on the streets. It would be spot the Englishman as they toured the bars and restaurants – the Horseshoe Bar and the Rogano Bar and Restaurant (both still serving) being two favourite haunts within walking distance of the Central Railway Station. There would be a few thousand who would travel from England, nowhere near the 30,000 Scots who’d save two bob a week to clog up London every two years. Those who did travel north all looked so big to me, big men in their trench coats with a white rose in their lapel.


Scots fans enjoy themselves at Wembley in 1977

It was passionate for sure and patriotic without being nationalistic, not back then. The ‘chippy’ Scot, as the English saw him, was ever present but my recollection of these matches in the late fifties and early sixties was of benign antagonism not the vile hatred from a minority we would reel from decades later.

The welcome, because that’s what it was, came disguised behind anti-England chants and risqué songs aimed at England’s finest – Bobby Moore was a prime target but so was Bobby Charlton and Jimmy Greaves and before them Tom Finney and Stanley Matthews and others. Only the very best warranted a song.

For me having spent the past fifty years travelling to report matches in the most passionate football cities in the world, whatever the outcome nothing internationally, but nothing, compares to this the most unique of occasions.

Alex Montgomery is a former Chief Football Writer for The Sun and a leading football writer at many publications over the years including Today and The News of World.

Every Ass Loves to Hear Himself Bray Except…
Tony Adams Makes His Arsenal Debut

by Richard DJJ Bowdery.

Opposition fans tried to unsettle him during matches with braying noises – probably inspired by a Daily Mirror article – yet he refused to be put off his stride.

They called him a lowly donkey but, at nearly 19 hands, he was a thoroughbred at the heart of Arsenal’s defence.

But his career also contained deep troughs that almost destroyed him. Yet, just like his battling performances on the pitch, he fought his way back from the brink of alcoholic addiction.

Today he is considered one of the greatest players to have graced English football, for both club and country.

Two of his managers even used Greek mythology and academic references to describe his talent. George Graham said he was “my colossus.” Whilst Arsène Wenger described him as a “professor of defence.”

To cap it all, in 2011 a statue of this Gooner hero was unveiled in front of the Emirates Stadium.

But this was in the future for 17 year-old Tony Alexander Adams, who made his debut for Arsenal in a 2-1 defeat at home to Sunderland on 5 November 1983.

From this inauspicious start Adams grew too dominate the Arsenal back four; a defensive unit that included Steve Bould, his partner at centre-back, alongside full-backs Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn. How Wenger must long for a similar partnership in today’s Arsenal eleven.

Then aged 21 Adams was handed the club captaincy which he held to his retirement.

His captaincy coincided with perhaps the most dramatic end of season game in living memory.

In May 1989, Arsenal travelled to Anfield needing to win by two clear goals to snatch the title from under the nose of their hosts. Their second goal, scored by Thomas in the dying minutes of the game, saw them achieve what many said was impossible and crowned League champions.


Adams celebrates winning the double with Arsenal

Almost as memorable was Adams goal and celebration after he had raced from the back to bury the ball in the Everton net on 3 May 1998; capping Arsenal’s first League championship under the new management of Frenchman ‘Professor’ Arsene Wenger.

But these were just two highlights in a career that included 10 major trophies spread over 19 years (14 as captain), and 669 appearances.

Adams made his international debut against Spain in 1987, making him the first player to represent England who was born after the 1966 World Cup win.

He represented England at World Cup tournaments and European Championships as well, by the time Euro 96 came round he was the country’s captain.

In all Adams appeared 66 times for England. But for injury, he could have won significantly more caps.


Adams was a natural leader for club and country

Since retiring as a professional footballer in the summer of 2002 – his last league game in Arsenal colours was against Everton at Highbury in May of that year – he tried his hand at coaching: firstly at Wycombe Wanderers, then Feyenoord, Portsmouth, and Gabala FC in the Azerbaijan Premier League.

But perhaps his greatest contribution to the world of football and beyond was his Sporting Chance Clinic, a charitable foundation he set-up in 2000.

Based in Hampshire, the clinic provides support, counselling and treatment for sports people with a drink, drug or gambling addiction.

Adams own battle with the ‘demon booze’ was the catalyst behind the organisation which, over the last fourteen years, has helped many others battling their own demons.

During his playing days, his style of play was often associated with that of the legendary Bobby Moore. Sadly, like Morro he was never invited to use his knowledge and experience to better the game.

But then again he doesn’t need to bray about his achievements. Just like Bobby Moore, he can simply show people his trophy cabinet. Nuff said!


The Best of Enemies
Classic Scotland v England Encounters of the Past

The oldest rivalry in international football will be renewed on November 18th when Scotland entertain England at Celtic Park.

The two ‘Auld Enemies first met in Partick in November 1872 when the match finished goalless in front of 4,000 fans. What was once an annual fixture has only been played once since the European Championship play-offs in 2000.

However past conflicts provoke debate and stir memories and here STEVE CURRY recalls two of the most memorable, one for fans north of the border, the other recalling a famous victory for England.


April 15th, 1967 Wembley, European Championship qualifier


Scottish fans celebrate becoming unofficial World Champions

There was bitter-sweet poignancy for Scottish fans from this victory. They claimed it made them unofficial world champions but it was England who progressed to the European Championship finals in Italyin 1968.

North of the border they had squirmed eight months earlier when Bobby Moore had lifted the World Cup on this hallowed turf but here was their chance to exact some kind of retribution.

The Tartan Army moving south numbered 30,000 and they were to produce a cacophony rarely matched in the long history of the old Wembley.

It was manager Bobby Brown’s first game in charge but at his disposal was some of Britain’s finest talent. John Greig was leading out mystical players…Jim Baxter, Denis Law and Bill Bremner among them.

Anecdote has it that during Brown’s pre-match team talk, Slim Jim Baxter sat in a corner reading the Racing Post. When Brown said: “Anything to add, Jim” he replied “See this England side, they can play nane” At which he stretched his left leg, then his right and said “OK that’s me warmed up”

If that was not exactly true there was some wonderment from my seat at the way the Scots moved the ball like inspired brushstrokes from an artist and it was therefore no shock when Law scored in the 28th minute.

England had been on an unbeaten run of 19 games and this was not in the script by it was the denouement of the game that was to make it the stuff of folklore.

So swaggering was Baxter, so confident of his own ability and that of his team, he began to play keepy-uppy out near the corner flag with Nobby Stiles not more and a yard away.

When Bobby Lennox added a second goal in the 78th minute it triggered a remarkable finale. First Jack Charlton, who had been injured earlier in the game, pulled a goal back in his switched role of centre-forward.

But within two minutes Jim McCalliog had restored Scotland’s lead and Geoff Hurst’s header 60 seconds later came too late for an embarrassed England.

The hordes came spilling onto the pitch carving out lumps of the Wembley turf and wrapping it in newspaper to take home as souvenirs of the day Scotland became UFWC – Unofficial Football World Champions.


April 15th, 1961 Wembley, Home International Championship

Jimmy Greaves scores England’s third goal in the 9-3 rout of Scotland at Wembley in April 1961 in front of 97,000

Jimmy Greaves scores England’s third goal in the 9-3 rout of Scotland at Wembley in April 1961 in front of 97,000

England were on a roll at the start of the 1960-61 season. They had been told by Walter Winterbottom at the start of the season that the players selected for the first game of the season that that squad would be the basis for the World Cup assault the following year in Chile.

It triggered an avalanche of goals, five against Northern Ireland, nine against Luxembourg, four against Spain and five against Wales going into the the biennial game against Scotland at Wembley.

As Jimmy Armfield, the ever-reliable right-back reflects: “The England v Scotland were ultra competitive. Half our team at Blackpool were Scots and our five-a-sides became so physical the manager had to stop them.”

There was nothing to suggest this latest Wembley meeting would be any different with a Scottish side that boasted Dave Mackay and Billy Bremner, neither a shrinking violet, not to mention Billy McNeill and Davie Wilson.

But then England were bursting with confidence, Jimmy Greaves on fire and Bobby Smith using his weight to some effect. And in mid-field the pairing of Bobby Robson and Johnny Haynes, the skipper, was just as formidable.

Armfield says: “There was little in the way of TV footage in the early Sixties so maybe we remember ourselves as better players than we really were. But if memory serves we were pretty tasty in that match.”

That was the way it seemed in the opening 30 minutes of the game with England careering into a three-goal lead, Robson opening the scoring and Greaves grabbing two in ten minutes

Haynes of the silken pass and first £100 per week pay packet, controlled the game from mid-field with his broad vision and Blackburn’s jinking little winger Bryan Douglas was dribbling his day down the right .

When barrel-chested Mackay pulled a goal back just after half-time and Wilson added a second five minutes later it seemed as if the Scots might have worked their way back into the game.

Step in first Douglas and then Smith to restore England’s nerve and though Patrick Quinn made it 5-3 Haynes took over with two in three minutes. And when Greaves and Smith scored their second goals in the last eight minutes the roiut was complete.

Poor Celtic keeper Frank Haffey was totally shell-shocked, never really recovering from what had been, for him, a nightmare afternoon. The torment lingered on as up in Scotland the gag “What’s the time? Nearly ten past Haffey”

Eventually Haffey decided to get away from it all and emigrated to Australia and eventually went into the entertainment business as a cabaret singer, a far cry from life in post-war Glasgow and well away from his worst nightmare.

by Steve Curry

Hurry Up ‘Arry, Come On!
Harry Under Pressue; Rob Shepherd & Roy Dalley debate his future

BOBBY founder Rob Shepherd and columnist Roy Dalley met at Wembley Stadium way back in 1978, when they were a couple of teenagers plugging telephones into the press box for the national newspaper journalists of the day. In later years they would find their own readers with a variety of Fleet Street titles, and share a pint or two along the way discussing the issues that preoccupied football supporters and reporters alike.

Which got us thinking: What would happen if BOBBY gave them a topic to debate, got the drinks in and turned on a voice recorder…?

With QPR lingering at the foot of the table with only one win so far this season we thought we’d start with; What does the future hold for Harry Redknapp..?


Redknapp is under pressure…

DALLEY: Alright Shep? You’ve hardly changed since that Graham Taylor documentary. Well, perhaps a few more worry lines, though I daresay that’s not because of a former England manager, rather the manager England didn’t want: Harry Redknapp. I know he’s your mate, but I think his current problems at QPR suggest the FA got it right when they overlooked him in favour of Roy Hodgson… ?

SHEP: All good Royston! Obviously it’s been a poor start by QPR but despite what the Football Manager computer game generation seem to think, football managers are not magicians! Yes, of course the role of a manager is vital and while top bosses can make silk purses out of sows ears – as Harry has done in the past – there is usually a limit to what a manager can do with the player resources and budget he has at his disposal. Where would QPR be right now if either Louis Van Gaal or Manuel Pelligrini was in charge?!?

That said, maybe Harry is coming to the end of his managerial career and Rangers could do with the adrenalin rush a new manager can bring to a struggling club …and that should be good news for England. If Harry was free and available then I think the FA should waste no time in moving Roy Hodgson into the role of Technical Director and appointing Harry Redknapp as manager of the England team. Then maybe England could have shot at winning Euro 2016, rather than merely turning up to make up the numbers and satisfy the sponsors. Oh, what can I get you Roy..?

DALLEY: I’ll have the usual, and don’t forget the little umbrella… But what kind of England would we be watching if the FA took your advice (which they won’t!)..? I don’t want them to “knock it up to Crouchy”, I don’t want Defoe to come back from Canada, not now, and I certainly don’t want Rob Green in goal. A very slight exaggeration, perhaps, but I get the feeling Harry hasn’t kept pace with football’s evolution. Yeah, I take your point about the train-spotters and their fetish for statistics, but we are producing more technical players at long last, and they need proper stimulation, not just a pat on the back…

SHEP: Garcon! That will be a namby-pamby cocktail for Royston here and a cheeky Rioja for me. Disagree Roy; you’re being sucked in by the myth that the ‘modern’ game is producing more technical players… and another media myth that Redknapp is an off-the-cuff coach, a bark-bollock and bite merchant. More technical? Tell me which current England players are more ‘technical’ than Moore, Charlton, Hoddle, Gascoigne, Waddle and Barnes..? I could go on. They might eat more pasta these days but half of ’em can’t pass to each other!
As for Harry keeping pace with football evolution; People only say that because he has old school ways. And what’s wrong with that? But he HAS embraced many of the changes the game has seen and to suggest he is a long ball merchant is tosh Roy. Harry always encourages a passing game. And by the way he has been more tactically flexible and diverse over the years than Hodgson.

DALLEY: A fair riposte… one that requires the removal of my jacket and a quick slurp, methinks. Fair play Rob for your continued support of Redknapp, particularly at a time when QPR are bottom of the League with one win in seven and a goal difference of -11. To me he has the air of a man who has simply lost his desire. It’s often trotted out how a football team is a reflection of its manager, and QPR are a rather slow, ponderous and unfit team compared to many, perhaps all, further up the table. I read extracts of his latest book the other day (yeah, I know taking stuff in isolation is hazardous but…) he seems rather bewildered by the game’s evolution in this country, by the modern footballer, even by the more abstinent lifestyle of many of these new athletes. He finds it disheartening to see one of his players sitting quietly through a day at the races.

My point is I think he’s failed to keep up with football in the same way he’s failed to embrace new technology. Listen, I know he was schooled at the West Ham Academy in the days when that phrase actually meant something, and I know a few decent players have emerged elsewhere in the country over the past few decades – but not enough of them! Perhaps a call from his country might perk him up a bit, though I daresay his early retirement is probably more likely…

SHEP: Early retirement!?! I think Redknapp is doing well to still be going at the top level at the age of 67 after over 30 years in professional management. I don’t buy into this technology argument. The ball is still round and a size5; the goals are still eight yards wide and eight foot tall. The box is still 18 yards from the goal-line. The half way line is still in the middle of the park, the byline is still there, the corner flags. Fundamentally the game is still the same. The grass is greener and better than many of the mud heaps they used to have to play on. That should mean the passing and dribbling is better, but you can’t say it is. Players are more athletic I grant you, but then the game seems to be producing too many athletes and not enough footballers.

As for tactics; well it’s not as if they didn’t exist back in the day and despite hype to the contrary Redknapp is more tactically astute than he is given credit for. In my book he is more flexible and adventurous than Hodgson on that front. As for embracing more technology, I am not sure what you mean. Do you think a manager needs an Ipad to show players what he wants to do or speak to them via twitter? On other ‘scientific’ front Redknapp has always made sure he has a broad church of backroom staff working with him. The recollections in his book resonate with me because from where I stand the game is becoming ever more sterile with money and branding seemingly more important for players and clubs. And where has the fun gone? Maybe though Roy you are right that Harry could do with a new challenge… sadly though I don’t think a call from the country will come. It looks like we are stuck with Hodgson through to the Euro 16 finals.

Right Royston, we are running a dry ship here, and it’s your round…

DALLEY: Yes indeed, Redknapp has every right to feel satisfied with his life’s work. The sad fact is his one major trophy as a manager is one more than any other English manager in decades. Blimey, who was the last Englishman to win silverware? (It’s not Howard Wilkinson is it!?) Quite apart from that his personality and, yes, much of the football played by his teams, has illuminated the game. And, of course, Transfer Deadline Days will never quite be the same without him. But I daresay England’s young lions are in safe hands with Hodgson for the time being…

Another Rioja on the way Shep, together with something from the jukebox. How about a bit of Sham 69…?

Look out for more from BOBBY columnists @robshepherd5 and @RoyDalley or suggest topics for them to discuss by contacting them via Twitter.


Rooney Will Be The Record Holder But He Will Never Be In The Same League As Charlton…

by Rob Shepherd.


Rooney: closing in on Charlton’s record

Wayne Rooney failed to fill his boots in the 5-0 sleepwalk over San Marino last week but a penalty in that game then his free-kick strike in the 1-0 win over Estonia has edged him closer to Bobby Charlton’s England goal record of 49.

As it stands only Jimmy Greaves (44) and Gary Lineker (48) are ahead of Rooney who is now on 43 after that goal in Tallin, struck ironically just before manager Roy Hodgson was about to take him off, such had been his profligacy prior to then.

So Rooney is on the threshold of a great achievement in the history of the English game, but greatness..?

Without taking anything away from Rooney there are more ‘cheap’ international goals about than there were in Lineker’s day let alone in the Greaves and Charlton era. There are more internationals, too.

For the record Greaves’ haul of 44 came in just 57 games. Lineker’s 48 came in 80 matches. It took Charlton, who don’t forget was a winger turned midfielder rather than a striker, 106 for his 49. In that respect Rooney’s ratio is similar. On November 15 at Wembley he is set win his 100th cap against Slovenia.

It is pointed out that Rooney has scored more “competitive” goals than any England player. But there are far more qualifying games than there used to be and more “minnow” opponents. But given his age (he is 29 later this month) it is likely that Rooney will not only break Charlton’s goal scoring record but surpass Peter Shilton’s 125 cap appearance record as well.


Sir Bobby in his heyday

It has been something of a chequered England career, especially when it has come to tournament finals, consequently it will be hard for many to see Rooney as a true England legend.

That said, for some of his faults Rooney is the only current England player who would have got close to making England’s 1966 World Cup winning side or indeed the Italia 90 which reached the World Cup semi finals.

Given that Roy Hodsgon has made him England captain there seems little doubt Rooney will surpass Charlton’s record, perhaps by the end of this season.

No doubt Sir Bobby – especially considering the Manchester United connection – will salute Rooney graciously but anybody who thinks the record books and statistics tell the whole story are misguided.

Bobby Moore was the inspiration of the World Cup winning team while Geoff Hurst eventually took the goal scoring plaudits with his unique hat-trick in the 1966 final after he took the place of an injured Jimmy Greaves (the best ever instinctive English striker) but in many ways it was Charlton who was the talisman.

Charlton was the England player football fans around the world viewed with most awe.

He scored two “routine” but crucial goals when England overcame Portugal in the semi finals (Rooney has only managed one World Cup goal in three tournaments) but the strike that summed up Charlton best was his spectacular effort in the group stage win over Mexico.

Rooney has yet to and one suspects never will score goals for England quite as important. Certainly he will never be a true football legend, the kind that Sir Bobby Charlton has become.



One Bombshell After Another…
BOBBY’S Roy Dalley Gives His Take on ‘Bobby Moore: The Man in Full’

by Roy Dalley.

One suspects if you dumped a fluffy white cat onto Matt Dickinson’s lap he would pass an audition for the next James Bond movie.

He’s the journalist who emerged from the disgruntled press pack to apply the coup de grace to Glenn Hoddle’s tenure as England manager when his critique of Hoddle’s rather extreme interpretation of Karma was splashed on the front page of The Times.

As if to prove he hasn’t mellowed, Dickinson stuck the boot into Brian Clough on the Times’ sports pages last month while almost everyone else paid nothing but tribute on the 10th anniversary of his passing.

And he as good as admits his forefinger was hovering above a metaphorical big red button as he sat down to research and write Bobby Moore The Man In Full.

Dickinson writes in his Prologue: “He is held up as a man without blemish but could he really be that perfect? Could anyone? To me, the idyll seemed implausible. It wasn’t that I thought the eulogies were untrue; rather I could not believe they represented the whole truth. There is chaos and complexity in every life. Shit happens, even to saints.”

Uh oh.

Certainly it soon becomes apparent that Moore was blessed and cursed in equally monumental measures. Music folklore contains the legend of Robert Johnson, a blues guitarist and singer of modest repute, who only found his chops and success after selling his soul on a crossroads in the Mississippi Delta.

MooreBookIt’s just as preposterous, of course, to suggest Moore found his own crossroads somewhere in the Thames Delta, yet there is no doubt his rise and fall contains all the chief ingredients required of a Hollywood film script.

Moore was born into a world at war in an area a few miles east of London that was heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe. (Talk about trying to get your retaliation in first.) He was a chubby schoolboy who suffered from taunts of ‘Fatso’ from the back of the class, and the scouting report that earned him an apprenticeship at West Ham was hardly glowing: “Whilst he would not set the world alight, this boy certainly impressed me with his tenacity and industry.”

But the planets seemed to align in Moore’s favour. First he was thrust into the orbit of one of the game’s most progressive and imaginative thinkers in senior pro Malcolm Allison. The random good fortune of geography meant he got lifts home from training from Big Mal, which doubled as confidence boosting exercises as Allison opened Moore’s eyes to new possibilities on the field of play.

That luck was multiplied when Ron Greenwood arrived as manager and effectively changed the way the game was played in England to accommodate Moore in the first-team, parachuting him in as a second central defender in an era commonly deploying only one centre-half between two full-backs.

The rest, as they say, is history… but Dickinson is quick to remind us that the brightest light produces the darkest shadow. Battles with cancer, Greenwood, the bottle, England manager Alf Ramsey, and even the Colombian Police, would follow. Then there were arson attacks on no less than three of Moore’s business premises as he tried to rebuild his life after the game he served so well effectively washed its hands of him.

Moore’s contemporaries queue up to offer their loving reminiscences and anecdotes, yet also speak of a private man seemingly cocooned by his thoughts and fears.

Perhaps Moore really was fully aware of his destiny all along?

He seemed lost in his thoughts on the couple of occasions I encountered the great man. The first time was after a midweek match at Brentford sometime in the very late 70’s or early 80’s, and although his star was inexplicably on the wane it felt incongrous to see him standing alone at the rear of the main stand, staring at nothing in particular.

Coincidentally I was with Rob Shepherd, founder of Bobbyfc, who I had to cajole into going over to introduce ourselves, at that time a couple of teenage football-writing wannabes. Shep, I can reveal, is no shrinking violet (on another occasion we bumped into Little Richard while he was flogging his autobiography and Shep demanded: “Oi Little, Little! Gissa book!”) but such was his awe, as a West Ham fan, he took some persuading.

The last time I saw Moore was in the press room at QPR during the 92-93 season. It was an area about 20 feet square with a bar in the corner pumping out free pints of Guinness (QPR’s shirt sponsors at the time) and populated by about 20 journalists.

Moore, as is the wont of all great footballers, had found space, though now it was in order to stand alone, leaning with his back against a wall, almost hiding under a cap with his collar turned up. His skin was yellow.

I sat quietly and stole glances and wondered if I should ask if he’d like a cup of tea or something, yet his body language suggested, very politely, to Leave Me Alone. He was only weeks from making his final pass though we didn’t know it. But it was obvious something was seriously wrong and it was also heart breaking. Moore, as always, kept his woes to himself, but who can blame him for that having already given everything of himself to his country?

Like that famous image of Moore held aloft by his team-mates with the World Cup in his clutch, he remains the England captain head and shoulders above all other England captains.

As Michael Caine pointed out: “It was the cometh the moment, cometh the man. It’s a bit like a messiah. You know, out of the gloom of the fifties… he just came, like a gleam of light.”

(*Dickinson, thankfully, plays a blinder in what is I daresay a fair representation and portrayal. The book jacket informs of a £20 cover price though I got mine in a supermarket for just nine quid. Yet after reacquainting myself with Moore once again I can think of no good reason not to send the balance to the Bobby Moore Fund.)