Category Archives: Football History

The Shot That Saved Chelsea

It was the 80’s. Hooliganism was running wild all over England. The Blues of Chelsea were having a horrible season. After a hopeful start in the Second Division, their winless streak would leave Chelsea sitting close to the bottom of the table. It seemed they were destined for relegation to the Third Division, which would spell out disaster to CFC, who were having some financial difficulties making ends meet at Stamford Bridge. The possibility of losing their home at Stamford Bridge, or having to share a football ground with another club was looming over their head. New owner Ken Bates had bought the club for one pound, but inherited the mound of debt and property problems (among other things) that came along with the Blues. Eventual hero Clive Walker was also having a less than stellar season, as he didn’t score until December. He picked a great time to score though, against league leaders QPR. This goal should have been uplifting for CFC, their supporters and their attitude, but it wasn’t. No matter how appropriate the goal was, it couldn’t fix the broken spirit of the squad. Manager John Neal (who would go on to turn CFC around the following year and help get them promoted to the first division) had brought in winger Paul Canoville, who was talented to help, but still didn’t help the morale of the players. The worst season in Chelsea history got much worse, and no matter who the manager brought in, it seemed like it made no difference. Chelsea were candidates for relegation.

With two matches left, the reality of relegation came into light. Chelsea would go to Burnden Park to face Bolton in the penultimate game of the season. The Wanderers were another club struggling to stay up in the Second Division, so this was by far, the most important match not only of the season, but in the history of CFC. As I stated previously, a tumble down to the Third Division would have proven the final nail in the coffin for Chelsea, who couldn’t get bodies into seats this season in the Second Division, let alone be able to draw supporters if they went down. Another snoozer of a match for the most part, and this nil nil draw would definitely ensure Chelsea’s demise. With 15 mintes to go, Clive Walker stepped up big time. Walker’s long range volley flew past Bolton keeper Jim McDonagh, and Chelsea got the victory 1-nil. They held on in their last match of the season and were saved from relegation to the lowly Third Division. Walker’s goal is, with no question, the single most important goal in Chelsea history, and the shot that saved Chelsea Football Club.

(aet)

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Groundtastic: A Guide To Football Grounds

Bo’ness United photo courtesy of 100 Grounds Club

I find that along with the classic matches football has to offer, I am intrigued by the culture that goes along with the club’s history, the city that supported the club, and of course the grounds that the club played their matches on. I touched upon Edgar Road, where Hereford United pulled off the 3rd Round replay upset of Newcastle United in an article last week and now I’ve come upon a magazine/ website that celebrates the rich history of the football ground. Groundtastic, The Football Grounds Magazine takes you there. Founded in 1995 by Vince Taylor, Jon Weaver and Paul Claydon, the quarterly magazine hit the shelves in March of that year. It since has blossomed into the premier football ground magazine.

“ Quite obviously a labour of love…the research is incredible and the photographs that accompany each article are superb ”- Yeovil Towne Program

From it’s humble beginnings as a photo copied magazine for the first six issues and moving on to a proper printed magazine, Groundtastic has grown from football’s answer to a punk ‘zine right into a glossy coffee table magazine in your parlor. With a circulation in the upwards of 1,500 (and growing), this labor of love fills the niche to football ground enthusiasts all over the world. We here at (aet) send out a huge Salute! to the lads over at Groundtastic. Not only are they taking a risk by putting out a glossy, virtually advert free, 80+ magazine about of all things, football grounds (which we think is the nuts), they do it with great pride and respect to the history of this game. Now if my local news stand would just carry it.

More information on Groundtastic.

(aet)

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Southampton FC: 1976 FA Cup Winners

Today we salute the 1976 FA Cup winners Southampton FC, who would rise to the occasion and in another example of a David vs. Goliath match, without the bible of course. In front of a crowd of 100K, United would put a massive amount of pressure on the Saints’ keeper Ian Turner. An early crossed shot by midfielder Steve Coppell saw Turner bobble the ball, a sure goal, only to be saved when two Red Devils hesitated to put the ball home. Gordon Hill went on the attack at what looked like a smashing lob, until Turner snatched the ball away and denied Hill and United what looked to be the go ahead goal. This gave the Saints a small kick in the pants they needed, as they regrouped and were able to finish out the first half with out going down a goal or more to United

“ Why do the goals all seem to come when you’ve nipped off to the loo? ”- Jasper Carrott, singer, in his song Cup Final, on the ’76 SFC FA Cup goal

It was Southampton who would come out in the second half but couldn’t find the back of the net as Mick Channon and David Peach came close. However, it was Man U who squandered the best chance of the match so far, when Sammy McIlroy’s header hit the woodwork. A close call for the Saints led to each club attacking several times, but managing not to put the ball in the back of the old onion bag. It wasn’t until the game was thought to be heading to extra time, when Bobby Stokes took off past the defense and scored. MU thought he was offside, but it was later shown through the replay that Stokes had timed his run perfectly, and on that run was able to place the ball extremely well into an unreachable corner of the net past United keeper Alex Stepney. It was this day that the Saints went marching into Wembley, beat the giants known as Manchester United, and rode that double tide back to Southampton with a trophy in the front of their bus, and medals around their neck. This of course, and a nod from the Queen herself. A huge shock in the world of football and a first piece of silverware for Southampton.

We hate Nottingham Forest
We hate Liverpool too
We hate Manchester Utd
But Southampton we love you

Southampton FC v. Manchester United 1976 FA Cup Final

Southampton Return Home After Winning the FA Cup

(aet)

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Giant Killers: Hereford United

With this weekend’s focus turned to the FA Cup, I figured I’d go back and visit possibly the best FA Cup upset in history. Let’s go back to 1972, with Hereford United v. Newcastle Utd. in a 3rd Round Replay. Newcastle came into the tournament in the third round, while Hereford United had to enter by beating Cheltenham Town, a replay with King’s Lynn, and finally Northampton Town. After a 2-2 draw at St. James Park (the match was postponed a few times due to inclement weather, namely rain), Southern League’s own “The Bulls” hosted the Magpies at Edgar Street. With a little over 14,000 seats sold, the front office sold extra tickets, and the actual tally of spectaors is not know. Let’s just say it was over capacity. Check the people who climbed high in the trees to see this replay, most likely one of the best matches to ever take place at the grounds. With all the rain that had been falling, the pitch was in utter shambles. It did not get any better as match time grew near, and once the two clubs took to the pitch, it never got better.

Newcastle may or may not have been running their mouth about the match, and Malcolm MacDonald was to have allegedly said that he would be scoring an upwards of ten goals at the replay at Edgar Street. That is not confirmed. What is confirmed is that the traveling back and forth by Newcastle United due to the weather was definitely a factor in how they played against the Lilywhites that day. Both teams went for it early in the match, but could not score a goal. Late in the first half, MacDonald looked to be on the way, or at least 1/10th of the way when he finally scored. The goal, however, was called back, and due to a harsh foul Newcastle got a free kick. A tough few minutes ensued for Hereford, with an errant clearance that resulted in two Magpie shots rebounding off the wood work. The next few chances for both teams were exciting, as each club had goals taken away by the woodwork, or in Hereford’s case, saved by great goal keeping from Fred Potter. MacDonald and Newcastle turned up the heat. Despite an open goal miss by Mac, much to the chagrin of the Newcastle supporters and to the relief of Hereford’s, the pressure continued. Newcastle would finally go ahead with a goal by MacDonald in the 82nd minute. Hereford were not down and out. A substitute by player/manager Colin Addison of midfielder Ricky George for Roger Griffiths (who had played 80 long, painful minutes with a broken leg on the mess of a pitch) proved to be a move he would not regret. His fresh legs and cardio would be a turning point in the short minutes left in the match. He took part in setting up a Ronnie Radford 30 yard shot that went right to the back of the old onion bag at the 85th minute, three minutes after Newcastle’s opening goal. A young, green, John Motson was calling the match and exclaimed that the ball “flew into the top corner of McFaul’s net!”. A voice that would become synonymous with football for years to come. Of course this goal would force the match into extra time, where Ricky George would become the hero by scoring in the 103rd minute, and a gutsy Hereford squad would hold on to win the match. What followed after, was nothing short of madness. A massive pitch invasion on the small ground that was replayed on the telly for quite some time. It just goes to show you that no matter how big or small your club is, anything can happen on the pitch during the FA Cup. In 1972, Hereford United were giant killers, their motto of “Our greatest glory lies not in never having fallen, but in rising when we fall” rang true. The colorful history of English football and the beautiful game was alive and well then, and it still is now.

(aet)

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The Crazy Gang of Wimbledon FC

Coming a long way from the 1889 founding of Wimbledon Old Central Football Club, Wimbledon FC would finally make it to top flight football and get promoted to the first division in the 1985-86 season. After hanging around in non-league play for the better part of eleven years, a virtually unheard of side moved up to the big league and faced a modern day football giant in the FA Cup, the great Liverpool FC. Liverpool had seemingly dominated the world of football. With on pitch scientists like player/ manager Kenny Dalglish, plus tacticians such as Peter Beardsley, Steve Nicol, Alan Hansen, John Barnes, and Steve McMahon, the Reds were looking to do their second domestic double in just three years (beating Merseyside rivals Everton two years prior 3-1, and also the year after 3-2 in extra time). This particular Liverpool team had dominated everyone home and abroad, and were on a tear as one of the greatest Liverpool teams put together. Indeed it was an incredible football team. Who were Wimbledon FC? A group of rag tag, rough and tumble, scrappy players led by a menacing 6’2″ Welsh midfielder Vinnie Jones (who came from Wealdstone F.C. to Wimbledon). Dubbed the Crazy Gang because of the nature of pranks pulled throughout the season (founded by Wally Downes, who had been a staple at WFC since their plundering non league and lower division presence), no player was safe from the insanity, not even the gaffer. The practical jokes on each other boosted morale and kept the team together, while their unorthodox training techniques which included military tactics went right along with the pub punch ups, suit slashing, and other assorted tricks while they were off the pitch to round it all out.

“ If we can sell Newcastle Brown to Japan, and if Wimbledon can make it to the First Division, there is surely no achievement beyond our reach ”- Margaret Thatcher

Compared to Wimbeldon’s unorganzied and physical style of play, Liverpool’s calculated and tactical offense was predicted to smash Wimbledon. Their tactics can be summed up from Vinnie Jones, who claimed he would “rip off Dalglish’s ear and spit in the hole”. As match time approached, and the teams lined up in the tunnel, The Crazy Gang lived up to their name, intimidating and shaking Liverpool to the core (with shouts of “in the hole”, a direct reference to the Dalglish remark, which shook up King Kenny so much he conferred with an FA official about it on the walk to the pitch). It didn’t stop there, when shortly after the opening whistle Jones went in late on a challenge on the toughest Liverpool player, Steve McMahon. Slow to get up, this set the pace of the match, as Wimbledon showed the mighty LFC that they meant business. Jones would later admit that this was a planned move, a move to actually strike a psychological chord with the Reds. It worked. Led of course by Jones, and the black belt karate chopper John Fashanu the Dons terrorized the Reds in a way that they have never experienced on the pitch. Although LFC were on a high equaling Leeds’ 29 games unbeaten and just lifted their 17th championship trophy, the lads from Plough Road had scrapped their way up to face the giants at Wembley, and had them shook. Despite the Wombles rough play, their lapse in defense let Peter Beadsley push through, even while getting pummeled, to chip it over keeper Dave Beasant and put the Reds up 1 to nil. The play was called back, however, on an apparent foul on Beardsley, without playing advantage (referee Brian Hill claimed he may have blew the whistle a bit quickly in hindsight). This took a bit of wind out of Liverpool’s sails. Shortly before the half, as a result of a free kick from Dennis Wise, a Lawrie Sanchez header put the Wombles up 1 to nil. Bobby Gould’s scrappy side was up at the half against the team favored to win by four or five goals easy.

The second half started out with controversy, when in the 61st minute, Clive Goodyear took down John Aldridge in the area and was awarded a penalty. The result was the first ever penalty save in FA Cup history by keeper and captain Dave Beasant. Nobody could save the Reds now, not even John Barnes. The ex-Watford star had dazzled fans with his dribbling and precise finishing all season. Clearly frustrated with the marking and tackling of Wimbledon (along with the double teaming of him by Clive Goodyear and Dennis Wise), he could not execute his usual gun slinging and get the ball in the back of the net. As final whistle blew, commentator John Motson proclaimed: “The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culure Club, Wimbledon have destroyed Liverpool’s dream of the double”, and Wimbledon’s weird and wonderful world was there for the whole football public to see. The day that WFC won the FA Cup from Liverpool was the single, greatest moment in the club’s history. However, it wouldn’t last, as most of the players would move on to bigger and better clubs, and in just three short years the team would lose Plough Lane (forced to share a stadium with Crystal Palace) and start their eventual plummet from top of the world back to lower division football. A move to Milton Keynes split up their supporters, so much that they [the supporters] formed a new club, AFC Wimbledon. A sad tale of another football club succumbing to the financial woes and pressure of keeping up with clubs with unlimited funds to keep their roster stacked with productive players, proper stadiums to accommodate the club, and a draw to generate the necessary income to stay afloat. However, on May 14th, 1988, The Crazy Gang of Wimbledon held the trophy high, a feat though impossible for them by everyone except themselves.

(aet)

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Speaking of Spurs: Spurs vs. Man City ’69-’70

Speaking of Spurs and Jimmy Greaves, peep the goal disallowed by an offside call at 2:18. This is what makes football the beautiful game. I’m loving that the current kit of Manchester city is a throw back to their 1969 kit.

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A Life Changing Game

When I was a child, I played soccer. My coach was a hard as nails Scotsman called Malcolm Maw. He spoke with a thick Scottish accent, and named the team the Rovers. I played center half back for two years, had a NY Cosmos pennant on my wall and loved wearing my orange and black kit traveling all over South Jersey to play. Then, I made a decision that I regret to this day. I stopped playing. I have no idea why, but I got caught up with what most American boys in the 1970’s got caught up in: skateboarding, baseball, basketball, BMX bike riding, and video games. I had a friend who tried to get me back into it and of course I refused, choosing to follow other sports, or just not want to deal with it at all. It wasn’t until my late 20’s when I was a bit more refined, so to speak, that I got back into the beautiful game, it’s colorful and storied history, and gave up on any other sports I was ever into. I’m just simply not interested in anything other than football. I completely agree with the great Bill Shankly when he said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” I’ve made so many friends all over the world through football, a kinship that can be attributed through who you support, who you don’t support, or the banter that arises from last night’s match. I’ve met strangers on planes, trains, the subway and on the street who, when seeing my scarf, track top or jersey have struck up a conversation, or even have gone as far to start an argument about a penalty kick they thought was undeserved from the last time their club played my club. In my whole life, I’ve never felt so connected to a sport and the people who support it.

“ Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that. ”-Bill Shankly

My love of the beautiful game has brought me to Scotland, where I saw my first live match when Celtic took on Dundee, to London, where I was suprised I couldn’t get a stadium tour in every stadium (large and small except Chelsea) I went to. I have been back and forth through the United States to watch and support the game I love. I’ve taken my knocks from friends who thought football was a waste of time, said it wasn’t a real sport or draw for fans, and much to their chagrin I pointed out it’s the most popular sport in the world. I spoke up to so called supporters who liked the “tops the guys wear” on clubs like Man United (IMHO the NY Yankees of the Premiership) and debated why they should do their homework on a team before they just chose the most popular one. I’ve played Premier League Fantasy League for so many years that when I talk about it, the people I had worked with looked at me like I was Rafi from the FX series League. I can specifically remember when Fox Soccer Channel was Fox Sports Net, you only got sporadic games to watch, and had to actually pay to get into a place like Nevada Smith’s in NYC to watch a match on Setanta. Locally, however, I had gone to a struggling “Irish Pub” that broadcast EPL matches. I did it primarily to find some kindred spirits to watch the match with, but to quench my thirst for football all together, even if I had to go alone. As I walked in with my scarf to watch the only match on, Arsenal v. Bolton (neither of my clubs), I saw two construction workers having a Bud Light at 11am while they screamed at the tv: “Turn this girl’s sport off!”. It didn’t matter that 6 foot something Sol Campbell ran up and down the pitch gracefully for 90+ minutes without even getting tired, a feat not many athletes in American football can claim. Quietly, I watched the end of the match, finished my shepard’s pie, and looked at the owner. This guy was a beaten man, realizing that he had to switch to the NFL because the EPL wasn’t going to cut it. He just raised his hands as if to say “what can I do?”. That place didn’t last, but my interest in football did, and I went where ever I had to to get my fix. I was just happy that I could be a part of what I felt was an underground cult of people who were into a movement against the norm. Plus, it was the most exciting sport I had ever watched: the long ball, hard challenges, great defense, and unbelievable passing and goals. My mind was made up, football from now on.

I was also introduced to the England National team in the beginning of my interest in football. My room mate was a Northern Irish lad who got me into the often exciting, mostly dreadful (but altogether addicting) England National team and (a team called everyone’s second favorite team, but my first) Liverpool. I was told I couldn’t switch clubs, that’s the way it goes. I stuck with that. I didn’t bother to get into the USMNT then, as I was introduced to England first. When I supported them (England) as an American (but still pulled for the US) during the last World Cup, I had to endure a ridiculous amount of stick at my local pub. “Country first”, as my mate Fulham Dave would say. While I know it struck people as odd, for me, it wasn’t odd. I was introduced to football through England, and those words that my friend told me about not switching teams stuck. I have since grown to also love USA football, Clint Dempsey, Landy Cakes, Tim Howard, the National team and the MLS, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why I was getting a bunch of flack from people who would never get up and be at the pub (I’d never seen about 95% of these people) for a 7:05 kick off in the snow on a Saturday morning, while two bottom of the table clubs fought to stay up, but would surely put on a USA cowboy hat and scream for a team they knew not one player on. At least I supported the sport! I was the bloke who was there every Saturday and Sunday for Premiership matches, no matter who was playing, and I was wondering why these Johnny Come Lately’s were stepping into my clubhouse stirring the pot? I did and still do stand my ground, and consider myself a huge supporter of the game (no matter who is on the pitch). I do support my local club (New York Redbull), have had season tickets for the last five years, and will continue to preserve the culture and history of not just a sport they call the beautiful game, but what I call a life changing game.

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