There’s supposed to be football on this weekend, but alas, we are left to solemnly stare at the walls. Or you could wallow in nostalgia: we’ve taken a look at the games that should have been happening this weekend, and picked one between those two teams from down the years. There are some belters in here…
West Ham 3-4 Tottenham, March 2007
When Tottenham became genuinely really good a few years ago, they lost a little something. Not for them, obviously: regularly challenging for the title and making the Champions League final was probably just about better than being in a constant state of chaos, liable to mess any situation up and being only a step away from calamity all the time. But for the rest of us they became a little less fun.
The really good thing about the Spursy Spurs of old was that often they won these bonkers games: it would’ve just been sad if they lost every 4-3, but they came out on top in games like this one. This was ‘the Tevez season’ at West Ham, and at this stage they were very much heading for the drop, but after 88 minutes it looked like their turnaround was starting: thanks in part to a Tevez free-kick they were 3-2 up and heading for a crucial three points, before Dimitar Berbatov copied that Tevez free-kick and a madcap counter-attack was finished off by Paul ‘Of All People’ Stalteri.
Manchester City 0-1 Chelsea, Cup Winners’ Cup, 1971
Similarly, when people use the term ‘typical City’ (and they still do, even though it’s less a football team these days more a remorseless football industrial plant), this is the sort of thing they mean. City were holders of the European Cup Winners’ Cup when they came up against Chelsea in the semi-finals in 1971, but lost the first-leg at Stamford Bridge 1-0 thanks to a Derek Smethhurst goal. Still: home in the return, only one goal down, all is very much not lost – just need to keep things tight, don’t make any silly errors and you can nick a goal or two from there. Hmmm, yes, about that. Just before half-time Keith Weller lined-up a free-kick near the corner flag on the right, span it into the middle with the outside of his right foot and it looked like an easy claim for City keeper Ron Healey. However Healey, flummoxed and distracted by the spin, the wind, a passing pigeon, some sort of existential despair or whatever, could only shovel it into the net. Typical City.
Burnley 4-7 Watford, April 2003
Players cursing out their colleagues and blaming them for defeats is usually a pretty bad look: we’re all in this together guys, let’s not have a crack at each other on the pitch, win as a team/lose as a team and all that. Still, if you’re a striker, you score a hat-trick before half-time and you’re still losing, you’re probably allowed to have a go: Gareth Taylor was the forward in question this time, bagging three for Burnley in the first-half of this one, only to find himself 5-4 down at the break. Michael Chopra, on loan from Newcastle, scored his first goal for Watford in this one. And his second, his third and his fourth. “I could not believe what was happening,” Burnley manager Stan Ternent said afterwards. “They reckon Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were having a chat and both said they would not fancy Stan Ternent’s job.”
Newcastle United 0-3 Aston Villa, April 2005
We all remember Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer fighting each other. We probably also all remember Steven Taylor’s glorious attempt to convince the referee he had in fact not handled the ball on the line, arching his back and clutching his stomach as if he had just been shelled in the stomach just outside Hanoi c 1968.
But get this: they were in the SAME GAME. Remarkable, we know. As far as the scrap goes it was all very entertaining, but according to the combatants at least, it didn’t run any deeper than a frank exchange of views on the pitch. Dyer wrote in his autobiography that Bowyer had been chipping off for not passing the ball to him all game, and given they were down to ten men and getting pumped at home anyway, eventually he snapped. ‘We were losing 3–0 at home, I was keeping possession and I had Bow raging on and on about me not passing him the ball. So I lost it. ‘The reason I don’t pass you the ball,’ I said, ‘is because you are fucking shit.’ It was below the belt but he was doing my head in.’ Fair enough.
Everton 1-5 Norwich City, September 1993
This was not only an extraordinary early-season tanning in what would ultimately be an extraordinary escape from relegation for Everton, but perhaps the most significant result in one of the most curious Premier League managerial careers. Mike Walker had led Norwich to a third-placed finish in the previous season, so his stock was high and due to long-running arguments with Canaries chairman Robert Chase, he always seemed available. This result, with Efan Ekoku scoring four for Norwich, was an early sign that things were really going south for Everton under Howard Kendall, and by December he was gone, replaced by Walker in early January. Walker left after a terrible start to the following season, briefly returned to Norwich but didn’t work in England again after that. Eventually he managed APOEL in Cyprus, where he is by all accounts enjoying a very nice life to this day.
Crystal Palace 3-3 Liverpool, May 2014
Sorry Liverpool fans. Although it has all worked out nicely in the long-run, eh?
Wolves 0-1 Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic, FA Cup fourth round, January 1957
Wolves are pretty good these days, but they were kings in the late 1950s. League champions three times under Stan Cullis, they were the first English side to play in the European Cup and got to the quarter-finals in 1960, but when they faced Third Division South Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic in 1957, they came a cropper. Winger Reg Cutler scored the only goal, but not before he had caused a hold-up in the game by barrelling into one of the posts, breaking it, which begs the question: either Mr Cutler was made of some very stern stuff, or south coast manufacturers of goalposts in the late 1950s have some questions to answer. Bournemouth went on to claim another First Division scalp, beating Tottenham in the next round, before spoilsports Manchester United knocked them out in the quarter-finals.
Leicester 1-4 Brighton, April 2014
We obviously all know what a miraculous thing Leicester’s title win in 2015/16 was, but it is worth emphasising every now and then how rapidly things changed for them. When they lost 4-1 at home to Brighton in 2014, only a clairvoyant or a lunatic would have predicted what would happen in two years: admittedly, this game was after promotion from the Championship had already been secured, and it would turn out to be a more significant result for Brighton, as it helped them sneak into the playoff spots on the final day of the season.
Sheffield United 2-1 Manchester United
This is the game that will obviously always be remembered as the one in which Brian Deane scored the Premier League’s first ever goal, but it’s also worth looking back on it as an inauspicious start to what would turn out to be the first of 25 seasons of dominance for United. They had of course horsed the previous season’s title race and for a while it looked like they would never win the league: in their match report for this game, the Guardian archly dismissed Alex Ferguson’s eye for a player, United’s capacity for scoring goals and Ryan Giggs’s talent for beating a man. It did, however, save some kind words for Darren Ferguson’s “touch and vision.” Hindsight can make fools of us all.
Southampton 1-2 Arsenal
By all accounts the FA Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Southampton at Stamford Bridge was a relatively unremarkable affair, goals from Charlie Buchan and Joe Hulme sealing an expected victory for Arsenal over Second Division Southampton, although match reports at the time felt the need to comment on how muddy the pitch was. Given that, in those days, anything better than a quagmire would be classed as a pseudo bowling green, it must have been bloody awful. But we’re only really including it here because it’s extraordinary that footage exists from a football game in 1927: look at it! The brass band on the pitch! All of those umbrellas shielding the spectators in the pissing rain! The absolute bundle for the first goal! Those high-waisted shorts! Glorious.
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