Posts Tagged ‘United’

The Wandering Doc
This Man Boasted he had More Clubs than Jack Nicklaus


by Richard D J J Bowdery

During the last six weeks nine League managers have been sacked across all divisions.

In the same period 45 years ago one football manager had three managerial jobs, two of which he left on his own terms and the third he started this week in 1968. His name: Tommy Docherty.


Tommy is seen here preparing to fly out to Lisbon for Eusebio’s testimonial match with George Best.

He was managing Rotherham United when the opportunity to take the helm at Queens Park Rangers came up. He was there less than a month before Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis poached him, on the 18 December.

But this story does have a sting in the tail for Docherty. On the 19 January 1970, just 13 months after taking charge, he too was sacked. Perhaps the grass wasn’t so greener back then.

Of course one sacking, in 1977, caused a blaze of publicity both within and outside the world of football and it owed more to his performance off the pitch than his team’s performance on it.

Docherty was manager at Manchester United at the time and playing away didn’t only apply to the club.

In the summer of that year news of his affair with the wife of United’s club physiotherapist, Laurie Brown, became public and in July he was dismissed from his post.

Controversy seemed to follow Tommy Docherty around. During his time as manager at Derby County he became embroiled in a bitter Court case when he sued the ex-Manchester United captain Willie Morgan and Granada television for libel.

The case was eventually dropped and the end of the Court case coincided with the end of Docherty’s managerial career with Derby.


United won the Cup with ‘The Doc’ at the helm

But if his off-field antics made the front pages for all the wrong reasons his on field successes received glowing coverage on the back pages.

As Chelsea manager he gained promotion to Division One in 1963 and won the League Cup in 1965. With Manchester United he won the Second Division championship in 1975 and the FA Cup in 1977. The only blots being losing two FA Cup finals: in 1967 against Tottenham Hotspur, and in 1976 against Southampton.

On his appointment as Altrincham manager in September 1987, he stated that they were the ‘Manchester United of non-league football’.

For the record the Doc’s wandering took in the following clubs:

·        Chelsea: 1961–67

·        Rotherham: 1967–68

·        Queen’s Park Rangers: 1968

·        Aston Villa: 1968–70

·        Porto: 1970–71

·        Manchester United: 1972–77

·        Derby:  1977–79

·        Queen’s Park Rangers: 1979–80

·        Sydney Olympic (Australia): 1981

·        Preston North End: 1981

·        South Melbourne (Australia): 1982–83

·        Wolverhampton Wanderers: 1984–85

·       Altrincham: 1987–88

He also had a stint as manager of the Scottish national side between 1971 and 72.

Docherty brought the curtain down on his managerial career while at Altrincham at the end of 87/88 season. He became a media pundit and after-dinner speaker.

With the frequency of sackings in today’s professional game how long will it be before we have a 21st century contender for the wandering Doc..?


Tommy in his Chelsea days.


Fergie’s Original Red Devils
Looking back at United’s first sticker album squad of the SAF era

This should bring back some memories; Here is the first Panini squad of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign at Manchester United.

Although he took over the previous year, the season of 1987-88 was his first full season in charge and therefore his first in United’s colours in a Panini sticker album.

A quick glance down the left hand column and you’ll see that under ‘Honours’ United had a paltry seven league Championships to their name at the time, the last of which had been won over 20 years previous.

Nobody could have foreseen what was to happen at Old Trafford under the stewardship of Sir Alex. Not even the most optimistic United devotee could have imagined their team would usurp Liverpool’s total of 18 league titles under the Scotsman’s guidance.

However United and Ferguson would be made to wait for that first Championship; the season of 87-88 would see United finish as runner-up to Liverpool who won the title by 9 points.

United would finish back in 11th the following season, 13th the year after that, then 6th before finally challenging again in 1991-92, being pipped to the post by Howard Wilkinson’s Leeds United.

It’s hard to imagine United sticking with David Moyes if his first 4 and 3/4 seasons ended in a similar fashion!

Looking through his squad for 87-88 though its easy to see why they were up there – with the likes of McGrath, Whiteside, Strachan, Robson, Olsen and McClair in their ranks.

But am I the only person who thought Peter Davenport looked more like an accountant than a top flight footballer…?

ManUtdPanini1 ManUtdPanini2

 Big thanks to the guys at Stickipedia once again for their help with this.


Ferguson Unveiled at Old Trafford: Goes on to become longest serving manager in English football (almost!)

Manchester United’s Greatest Signing?

by Richard Bowdery

On November 6th 1986 a lone Scot journeyed south on a mission to set up a one man dynasty in the heartland of the ‘auld enemy’. He came, he saw, he conquered and became a legend.


Alex Ferguson is unveiled as the new boss at Old Trafford by Chairman Martin Edwards in November 1986

For it was on this day that Alex Ferguson arrived at Manchester United to fill the vacant managerial seat. His journey had taken him from a string of Scottish clubs including a very successful stint as manager at Aberdeen. His impact there caught the eyes of United’s board who were ready to jettison Ron Atkinson.

But it could have been so different if Wolverhampton Wanderers had got their way. In 1982– with the club heading towards the trap door of the old Division One – they approached Ferguson about succeeding the manager John Barnwell. Ferguson declined their offer.

An even more audacious approach was rumoured when Liverpool were said to be considering him for the role of Liverpool manager following Joe Fagan’s decision to retire at the end of the 84-85 season. That job eventually went to Kenny Dalglish.

Over the next 27 years he and the Red Devils exceeded all expectations (except probably his and the team’s own). Look away now if you are from the blue side of Manchester.

League Title winners;

1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013

FA Cup winners;

1990, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2004

Football League Cup winners;

1992, 2006, 2009, 2010

FA Charity/Community Shield Winners;

1990, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011

European Cup winners;

1999, 2008

FIFA Club World Cup;


UEFA Super Cup;


European Cup Winners Cup;


Of course he does have other claims to fame. He was knighted and is now a Sir. He engaged in diplomacy by entering into an entente cordiale with Arsene Wenger. He repelled a Spanish Armada that had settled near the Liverpool Docks during the reign of Rafael Benitez and he even tried to prove, unscientifically, that a football boot could fly.

But can he claim the crown as the longest serving manager in English football..? It seems not…

That crown must go to Jimmy Davies who, at the age of 71, stepped down as manager of Waterloo Dock AFC in the Liverpool County Premier League after 50 years in charge.


Jimmy Davies reflects on his long, trophy-laden career as manager of Waterloo Dock

When he first took up the reins in 1963 the Beatles recorded their first album, Please Please Me.

He has also out-gunned the former Manchester United manager on the Trophy front too; winning 70 to Fergie’s 37.

Apart from length of tenure and trophy’s won, does he have anything else in common with Sir Alex..?

His response was quite down to earth: “I don’t think Fergie gets involved in washing football kits like my wife does” he said.

And if you think this is a wind-up let me point out that (a) this isn’t April 1st and (b) Jimmy Davies has been verified as England’s longest-serving manager by the FA.

And they have one other thing in common; They both retired from football management in May this year.

Happy retirement Jimmy. Oh and you too Sir Alex!


The Maine Road Massacre – 23rd September 1989

by Karl Hofer.

The demolition of United by Vincent Kompany and company sets a familiar tone. In recent years derby wins for City, whilst not being a regular occurrence, have often been spectacular; amongst Citys’ nine victories in the last 25 years we’ve had a 6-1, a 5-1 and a couple of 4-1’s.

Here we recall one of those gems – Affectionately referred to as ‘The Maine Road Massacre’ by fans of City, and it took place 24 years ago today;

Manchester City 5-1 Manchester United, 23rd September 1989.

This was the first Manchester derby in three years, and newly promoted City’s fans were at melting point in anticipation . The game was a fairly even one before the players were taken off the pitch because of crowd trouble, emotions were clearly running at their highest.

And when they players returned, it was City that ran riot, with David Oldfield, Trevor Morley and Ian Bishop putting City three up, before Mark Hughes scored a spectacular scissor kick to briefly give United hope of a fightback. Maine Road was already shaking at its very foundations after Oldfield’s second of the game restored the three goal cushion – and then City fan Andy Hinchcliffe added the fifth.

Rising to meet David White’s cross, he dispatched a header past the helpless Jim Leighton to make it five-one in front of the dejected United fans. Seizing the opportunity to install himself as something of a City legend, he then gleefully brandished five fingers at an elated Kippax Stand. Twice.

The star of the day was the Australian-born Oldfield, he had been bought by City boss Mel Machin for a modest £600,000 from Luton Town the previous season. He went on to make barely two dozen appearances before he joined Leicester City in a swap deal for Wayne Clarke, a move set up by Howard Kendall who had since taken over the reins at Maine Road.

What made it all the worse for United was their investment in the quartet of Gary Pallister, Neil Webb, Paul Ince and Mike Phelan who had all arrived in the summer, it made the whole day all the more embarrassing for a team expected to mount a serious title challenge.

Said Ferguson after the game: “Every time somebody looks at me I feel I have betrayed that man. After such a result you feel as if you have to sneak around corners, feel as if you are some kind of criminal.”


Ian Bishop takes the acclaim after making it 3-0

In an interview with The Scotsman years later, Archie Knox, Ferguson’s assistant at the beginning of his time at Old Trafford, recalled the trauma it caused.

“I think Alex said he felt like going home and putting his head in the oven. That’s it. It was a disaster. After games, we were parking our car under the stand and leaving through the laundry and that kind of stuff. There was a bit of that going on. It affected him.

“He says he became a bit of a hermit and, aye, he went into his shell round about that time. We weren’t maybe as close socially as we had been. I was trying to get him out for a drink but he didn’t want to.

No doubt the defeat hurt United, but Sir Alex Ferguson used the pain to good cause. ‘The Maine Road Massacre’ as it became known would be the last time City managed to beat United for 13 years. History indicates that those in doubt of David Moyes’ credentials for the job should bite their tongue for a while longer at least.

United and City would both finish in the bottom half of the table that season, but United won the FA Cup, the first piece of silverware Sir Alex would win with United, but not by any means the last…

David Oldfield, now 42, used to run the reserve and under 18 teams at Peterborough United alongside Darren Ferguson, son of Sir Alex. He is now in charge of the development squad at West Bromich Albion.


Best: His Name Said it All…


The young Best makes his debut

by Rob Shepherd.

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of George Best making his league debut.

It’s tempting to think that if Gareth Bale is worth a fee of 100 million Euros then Best would on the current market be worth, what, 300 million..?

In terms of influence on the pitch and allure off it, the modern day equivalents are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

One also wonders whether in the ‘money talks’ language of the modern game whether Manchester City would out-bid everyone and lure Best away from United as they tried to do with Wayne Rooney.

Many books, films and documentaries have been written about Best. The list of ‘Bestie’ anecdotes quips and quotes would make a book in itself. Many, especially those about wine woman and song, still bring the house down at after dinner speeches.

Below is a random selection of the not quite so obvious and some video evidence to boot.

Gone but never forgotten, here’s to you Georgie Boy…

Sir Bobby Charlton on Best’s debut :

“To be honest, his first performance for the team in a league match against West Bromwich at Old Trafford in September 1963 does not linger in my mind.
I am sure he showed some nice touches. But the overall impact was not overwhelming. It was when he returned to the first team, a few months later against Burnley at Old Trafford, that we began to see all that would be.”


“For those who witnessed Best’s brief zenith in the 60’s, the effect went beyond the realisation that we were seeing the world’s most popular game played better than all but two or three men in its long history have ever played it.”
Hugh McIlvanney, Sports Journalist


“Shellito was taken off suffering from twisted blood!” United team-mate Pat Crerand after Best had given Chelsea full-back Ken Shellito a torrid time.

“There are times when you want to wring his neck. He hangs on to the ball when players have found better positions. Then out of the blue he wins you the match, and you know you’re in the presence of someone special.” Paddy Crerand, again


Sir Alex Ferguson on the “stupidity” of likening Ryan Giggs to Best.

“He’ll never be Best. Nobody will. George was unique. The greatest talent our football has ever produced – easily! Look at the scoring record, 137 goals in 361 league games. A total of 179 goals for United in 466 matches played. That’s phenomenal for a man who did not get his share of gift goals that sometimes come to specialist strikers.”


“He has ice in his veins, warmth in his heart and timing and balance in his feet.” Danny Blanchflower, Spurs star and Northern Ireland captain.


Little did he know it, but Best was set to enthrall the world with his skill and style


“Keegan is not fit to lace Best’s drinks.”
John Roberts, football writer, after Best said Kevin Keegan was not fit to lace his boots.


“George Best was the greatest player in the world.” Pele, considered by many as the world’s greatest, admired Best.


Best, in retirement, to a small group of journalists, with a wry smile on his face: “If I had been born ugly…you would never have heard of Pele.”


Best on Sir Matt Busby: “He never said much after a game. ‘Well done son’ would make me feel great. In fact the best compliment he ever paid me was to say I was the best tackler in the club. ‘Sometimes I’m frightened for you’ he said.”


“With feet as sensitive as a pickpocket’s hands, his control of the ball under the most violent pressure was hypnotic. The bewildering repertoire of feints and swerves … and balance that would have made Isaac Newton decide he might as well have eaten the apple.”

McIlvanney, writing in The Sunday Times.



Best: Twisting the blood of defenders everywhere

“He was able to use either foot – sometimes he seemed to have six.” Sir Matt Busby on Best.


Of Best’s courage, David Sadler said of him circa ’68: “At the time he was the complete man. He was so brave, so strong in comparison to his size and build.

If he got injured he’d still play. In my opinion he was without doubt the greatest player I ever saw or played against”.


Best on his demise at the age of just 26:

“It had nothing to do with women and booze, car crashes or court cases. It was purely football. Losing wasn’t in my vocabulary. When the wonderful players I had been brought up with – Charlton, Law, Crerand, Stiles – went into decline, United made no real attempt to buy the best replacements. I was left struggling among fellas who should not have been allowed through the door. It sickened me that we ended up being just about the worst team in the First Division.”


“As a Manchester United fan I always saw George Best as a football legend and it was a proud moment for me when I wore the same number seven shirt as him. He is one of the greatest players to have ever graced the game and a great person as well.” David Beckham on following in Best’s footsteps.


Bobby Charlton:

“When I look back on a life that was too brief, too troubled – whatever bright light George attempted to shine on it at time – I share that sense of wonder, sometimes disbelief when I think of how good he was and all those improbable things he achieved under such immense pressure.”


And Van Morrison
In a factory in a street called Bread in East Belfast
Where Georgie knows best
What it’s like to be Daniel in the lion’s den
Got so many friends only most of the time

From the song ‘Ancient Highway’

Eamon Dunphy
“Sir Matt Busby and Manchester United: A Strange Kind of Glory”

Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd

It was never going to be a smooth ride succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson.

And already there are rumblings of discontent even if much of it is from those only to be pleased to stoke up things a little and create an impression things are already going wrong at OT.

Much has been made about the lack of activity in the transfer market until the last seconds. There was the always doomed chase of Fabregas, the Wayne Rooney saga and mutterings from RVP about changes on the training ground.

DunphybookMaybe to counter act some of the flak David Moyes has now said he needs to shake up the club’s scouting system.

The pressure on Moyes succeeding Fergie The Godfather draws obvious comparisons with how the club coped – or didn’t – when Matt Busby abdicated at the end of the Sixties.

A transition that was designed to be seamless was far from it as Manchester United unravelled from a club who had won the European Cup in 1968 to become one which was relegated from the top flight in 1974. Such a decline was unthinkable back then, but it happened.

Eamon Dunphy’s ‘Sir Matt Busby and Manchester United: A Strange Kind of Glory’ offers a fascinating insight into the club’s decline of the time and takes the reader through the seeds of recovery that Ferguson started to sew at the end of the Eighties.

And of course it examines just what made United the club it became, taking the reader from the very start of the Busby era in 1945; with authoritative detail of the Busby Babes, Munich Air disaster and the rise from the ashes to the height of the Swinging Sixties.

The book is further helped by the fact that Dunphy was a young player at the club at the end of the Fifties and start of the Sixties and so adds a fantastic personal touch and has unique access to some of the players of the time where he gets underneath the skin of the true relationships between Best, Charlton and Law.

It’s not just a book for United fans, but every football fan who wants to understand the roots of the club and what it was all about before the commercial era took hold. One thing is certain now, given how the landscape has changed and their financial muscle, United won’t go down the pan as dramatically as they did back then.

BB Rating: 9/10

The Birth of the World’s Oldest League Competition

by Richard Bowdery.

This week’s column departs from the comfort of its usual timeframe and for very good reason. It looks at the start of a competition that has millions of followers, is a multi-million pound industry and has spawned heroes and villains alike.

In early March 1888 William McGregor, a director at Aston Villa, wrote to several other football clubs with a simple idea: instead of each club arranging their own fixtures, why not set up a league competition guaranteeing a number of fixtures for those clubs who chose to take part. His idea was embraced wholeheartedly at a meeting of those clubs in London later that same month and the English Football League was born.

The first games of that inaugural League season kicked off on 8 September 1888 and ran until the spring of 89. One hundred and twenty five years later it is still going strong and is the oldest football league competition in the world. Although there have been changes along the way, it remains, in essence, as Mr McGregor first envisioned it.

Twelve member clubs took part on that first day. They were:

• Accrington (not to be confused with Accrington Stanley)
• Aston Villa
• Blackburn Rovers
• Bolton Wanderers
• Burnley
• Derby County
• Everton
• Notts County
• Preston North End
• Stoke
• West Bromwich Albion
• Wolverhampton Wanderers.

It had been decided that the league champion’s would be the team that won the most games. But that meant a drawn game was no better than losing a game. So eventually a points system was introduced: two points for a win, one for a draw. It remained that way until 1981 when the Football League introduced three points for a win.

By the end of that first season Preston North End were crowned League champions winning 18 of their 22 games and drawing the other four leaving the final table looking like this:

Preston North End, unbeaten in 22 games 1888

The Preston team celebrate that first title triumph

1. Preston North End – 40 points
2. Aston Villa – 29 points
3. Wolverhampton Wanders – 28 points
4. Blackburn Rovers – 26 points
5. Bolton Wanderers – 22 points (on goal average)
6. West Bromwich Albion – 22 points
7. Accrington – 20 points (on goal average)
8. Everton on 20 points
9. Burnley – 17 points
10. Derby County – 16 points
11. Notts County – 12 points (on goal average)
12. Stoke – 12 points

It might seem surprising to some that of the 12 clubs that started the Football League 11 are still playing in it today with four of them, Aston Villa, Everton, Stoke FC (now called Stoke City), and West Bromwich Albion plying their trade at the very highest level.

Sadly, despite early promise, Accrington began to slip down the fledgling League. They were demoted at the end of the 1892/93 season and rather than play in the recently formed second division they resigned. Financial problems plagued the club (so nothing new there then) and they finally folded in 1896.

Ironically in Accrington’s last season another team, Newton Heath, were starting their first season in the League. Today they are better known as Manchester United.

But until earlier this year the scorer of the first ever Football League goal was a hotly debated topic. It didn’t help that those first matches kicked off at different times, quite often because the crowd was still filing into the ground or the away side had turned up late.


After scoring Davenport tore off his shirt, did a somersault and then gestured to the away fans apparently…

Enter football historian Mark Metcalf. With the dogged detective work of a Sherlock Holmes, who, by the way, made his first public appearance around the same time as the League kicked off, Mark finally got his man.

His research leaves little doubt that the accolade for the first ever goal scored in the Football League should go to Bolton winger Kenny Davenport.

He scored two minutes into the game against Derby County which kicked off at 3.45 p.m. He quickly added a second but despite this Bolton lost their first home game 6-3.

So if the match you watch this weekend is a drab affair you can always hold an impromptu quiz with your fellow supporters. Only two questions: first League champions and first ever League goalscorer.

But before you put any money on it you had better check they haven’t read this column!



The Bitter Reds: Liverpool v United

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

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


Barnes scored twice at Old Trafford in Liverpool’s last title winning season

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

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

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

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

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

The title score is now United 20 Liverpool 18.

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


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

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

Always played in a fraught and hostile atmosphere (sometimes hateful) there will be a spice this Sunday when once bitter rivals as players Gary Nevile and Jamie Carragher go head to head as Sky TV pundits.

The start of this campaign represents a potential new watershed of course following Ferguson’s abdication:

Can United maintain the momentum under David Moyes ?

Is Brendan Rodgers really re-building Liverpool ??

Liverpool ‘Stick’ on 18

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


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

The teams from that day at Old Trafford:





The Odds

But what of this season…? Liverpool have started well and will be confident. For United the attention is all on David Moyes still, but at least the Wayne Rooney situation seems to have been resolved which is one less headache.

It’s a fixture that traditionally delivers goals, and after the dour stalemate against Chelsea the other night we fully expect United to come out with guns blazing for this one, which will probably suit Liverpool’s style.

So Bobby’s Bets fancies a scoring draw, for which William Hill are offering 14/1 for a 2-2 draw or if you’re feeling frisky there’s 50/1 on offer for a 3-3.

Bobby’s Bet of the Day: Wayne Rooney to open the scoring at 13/2



Monday Night Football: United v Chelsea Preview

by Karl Hofer

For a club that has dominated the domestic game in modern times, United’s home league record against Chelsea is far from impressive. In the modern Premier League era, United have won eight, drawn seven and lost six against the Blues.

It’s fairly common knowledge that Chelsea have the best record of any other team in the Premier League against United, but this is seen as something of a modern phenomenon. It is not.

If you look at what happened between the two clubs at Old Trafford before the Premier League, all the way back a quarter of a century to the 1966-67 season, you’ll see something quite extraordinary;

United wins: one. Draws: eight. Chelsea wins: eight.


Dixon ended an eleven game goal drought with a brace

Perhaps the most painful for United of those eight defeats – and bear in mind one of those was a 4-0 as the newly crowned European Champions in 1968 – was Chelsea’s 2-1 win in April 1986. Despite Everton and Liverpool breaking away from the chasing pack, both clubs were still grimly hanging on in the title race. Neither side were in any kind of form going into this meeting. Chelsea were squandering away the games they had in hand on the leaders, having just been slapped 4-0 at home by fellow contenders West Ham and (even more disastrously) 6-0 away to neighbours QPR.

United meanwhile were starting to resemble that depressed drunk guy at a party, rambling to themselves in the corner with bottle in hand. Having seen a 10 point lead at Christmas dissolve into nothing, Ron Atkinson’s side knew their long wait for the title would continue for sure unless they won this one. This was make or break for both clubs.

After a goalless first half, Kerry Dixon beat the offside trap to score his first goal for four months. United then equalised through a Jesper Olsen penalty, big Doug Rougvie doing what he did best; this time sending Hughes crashing to the floor in the area. But Dixon had the final say in the dying moments to knock United out of the title race and send the many thousands of travelling fans into delirium and the home fans into despair. The future looked bright momentarily for John Neal’s team but Chelsea would subsequently win only one of their last seven games to finish in sixth spot.

United’s poor form continued through the beginning of the following season, and with the club languishing at the foot of the table in November manager Ron Atkinson was dismissed – with Alex Ferguson and his assistant Archie Knox taking over that same day.

Without question the greatest match between the sides was an 11 goal thriller at Stamford Bridge back in October 1954. Ted Drake had taken over Chelsea in 1952 and had been busy trying to rid them of their image, one that saw them as the butt of many a comedian’s jokes in the music-halls up and down the land. Out went the nickname ‘The Pensioners’, replaced with the more respectable ‘Blues’. Also dispatched was the affable septuagenarian on the clubs crest. This was a new Chelsea, one that Drake was instilling with a winning mentality.

To that end Drake drafted in solid defenders Peter Sillett and future England boss Ron Greenwood, plus striker Roy Bentley. As a consequence the team established itself in the top flight and were no longer involved in relegation battles, but nobody expected more than a safe mid-table position when the 1954-55 season came round.

The favourites for the title were reigning champions Wolverhampton Wanderers and Matt Busby’s upcoming Manchester United side.


Dennis Viollet was a hat-trick hero

The game on October 16th was a glowing confirmation of the emergence of the attacking prowess of the ‘Busby’s Babes’. The visitors went 1-0 up with Dennis Viollet opening the scoring but a pair of unknown amateurs making their debuts returned fire as Seamus O’Connell equalized before the Thermos-flask seller Jim Lewis put the home side 2-1 up. Tommy Taylor and then Viollet put United back in front 2-3, a lead they held at half-time.

The same pair in the same order, Taylor and then Viollet (completing his hat-trick) seemed to have put Matt Busby’s side out of sight at 2-5 but then Ken Armstrong pulled one back for Chelsea. Jackie Blanchflower looked to have sealed the points when he made it 3-6, but cattle-farmer O’Connell then scored twice to record a famous debut hat-trick and set up a grandstand finish, but United’s shaky defence clung on for an extraordinary 5-6 triumph.

Chelsea lost their next two games – completing a run of six games without a win – to end October in 12th place, Wolves having taken over from United at the top. But then Drake’s Ducklings got their act together losing only four more games all season as they stormed up the table and, beating Wolves home and away, shocked the nation to win the title. Their last defeat of the season was at Old Trafford – but by then, the title, Chelsea’s first trophy in their 50 year history, had been won.

The Busby Babes would have to wait to make their mark on English football’s roll of honour.

The Odds


If you fancy a repeat of that scoreline then you’ll no doubt be delighted to hear that William Hill are offering a handsome 500-1 on it. Realistically the game is set to be a much tighter affair, there’s a lot at stake and it’s very early in the season. Both teams have new managers and neither will want to concede any ground so early on in the race for the title. So Bobby’s Bets recommends a draw at 11/5.

You can also get 8/1 on Wayne Rooney to open the scoring, although with Mourinho rumoured to be lining up a third bid for the unsettled striker we can’t be 100% sure if he’ll be in red or blue on the day.

Bobby’s Bet of the Day: 10/1 for Frank Lampard to continue his good start to the season by scoring the opening goal.

History Man, plus Golden Boot Odds

You may well be aware the Premiership started on 15 August 1992,  but who scored the first goal ?

Well this photograph reveals all. Sort of…


The first ever Premier League goal, but who scored it..?

For the record it came in the fifth minute of Sheffield United’s 2-1 win over Manchester United and it was scored by Brian Deane,  but the Reds would go on to be crowned champions in the first ever PL season.


Big Brian Deane…History man

Deane recalls “Whatever happens, that will be the one moment fans all over the world will remember me for”.

“It was a fantastic feeling and even to this day people remind me of it – and it’s now a classic quiz question too.” It started when Blades goalkeeper Simon Tracey cleared a back-pass – then only recently outlawed by FIFA – deep into Manchester United territory, with United defender Gary Pallister heading the ball out for a throw-in.

“We had a throw-in at the Kop End (at Bramall Lane), Carl Bradshaw took a long throw aiming for Alan Cork at the near post,” recalls Deane, who also played for Leeds, Middlesbrough and Leicester City during his 12 seasons in the League notching 71 goals.

“He flicked a header on and I managed to get myself between Steve Bruce and Pallister to nod the ball past Peter Schmeichel.”

“They were no mugs those three, all great players. That made it extra special because that goal was against one of the top teams in the country and in Europe.”

That season Deane scored 15 goals. The Premier League top scorer that campaign was Teddy Sheringham with 22 goals. Sheringham scored the only goal in the first Live TV match on Sky in the Premier League for Nottingham Forest against Liverpool but then moved on to Tottenham a week later in £2.1 million deal. Click on the below link to see Teddy’s excellent finish and for a classic bit of Cloughie.

Golden Boot

Robin van Persie won the golden boot last season with 26 goals. No surprise that RVP is favourite again, but Fernando Torres at 20-1 looks good value as it stands and Sergio Aguero is keenly priced and at 8-1 Christian Benteke is worth a tickle.

This is how Graham Sharpe of WILLIAM HILL books it:SturridgeOdds

7/2       RVP
8/1       Sergio Aguero
16/1     Daniel Sturridge; Gareth Bale;  Luis Suarez; Wayne Rooney;

18/1    Christian Benteke
20/1    Fernando Torres.

Twitter @sharpeangle