Sunday, 28 June 2020

1989/90: Arsenal v Norwich City

As November 1989 progressed, it seemed as if every day there was a new story of football in crisis, as the behaviour of players and managers came under scrutiny. Freedom, joy and love may have been emotions filling the air as the Berlin Wall began to fall; there wasn't much of this in evidence on football pitches in the Football League during the same period.

A brawl involving the players of Wimbledon and West Ham in a Littlewoods Cup match; a similar incident during a League fixture between Crystal Palace and Tottenham; Paul McGrath fined £8,500 for writing a newspaper article criticising his former manager Alex Ferguson; York manager John Bird arrested after a confrontation with Scarborough boss Ray McHale.

Monday, 22 June 2020

1988: Alan Shearer's dream debut

Arsenal must have been sick of the sight of Southampton during the 1987/88 season. After a slow start to their Division One campaign, ten straight wins catapulted George Graham's team to the top of the table. But a 1-0 defeat to Southampton at Highbury triggered the start of a disastrous run of just one win in eleven matches, as any hopes of a title tilt faded.

The ship was steadied between February and April, with an undefeated eight-match run at least giving the club a chance of a second-placed finish behind runaway leaders Liverpool. That was until Southampton appeared again to throw a spanner in the works, and a 17-year-old striker introduced himself to the footballing world in dramatic fashion.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

1985 Mercantile Credit Classic: Willie Thorne

Willie Thorne had a lot of doubters to prove wrong as the 1984/85 snooker season commenced. In truth, he probably had to crush his own demons too. After turning professional in 1975, the lack of a ranking tournament trophy during his career was an unwanted monkey on his back, especially for such a talented player.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

1982/83 European Cup: Aston Villa v Besiktas

With Project Restart in the Premier League fast approaching, armchair fans will soon be in for a feast of football. When Aston Villa take on Sheffield United on Wednesday June 17, it will be the first of 92 matches over a period of 39 days that will eventually bring the 2019/20 top flight season to a conclusion.

Football without fans simply feels wrong, and witnessing matches on television with no supporters present in the stadiums will be a peculiar experience. With or without crowd noise piped in, it will be interesting to see the first Premier League match played behind closed doors at Villa Park.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

The BBC and live top flight football

As news broke that Premier League football would be returning from June 17, one bit of the announcement stood out to me. Live top flight football would be returning to BBC television after an absence of 32 years.

In fact, the relatonship between the BBC and live Division One football was a relatively brief affair. Between December 1983 and March 1988, 26 live league matches were shown - plus a Division Two match between Manchester City and Chelsea - as a revolution swept the game.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Euro 80: England v Belgium

The 1970s had not been kind to the English national team. That 1970 World Cup quarter final defeat; failure to qualify for Euro 1972 and the 1974 World Cup, as Alf Ramsey vacated the managerial hotseat; the debacle of the Don Revie years, as again England missed out on qualification for the next two major championships.

Clearing up the mess of what had gone before would eventually fall on the shoulders of Ron Greenwood, despite many justifiably pointing to the fact that Brian Clough should have been the man to replace Revie, hopefully with better results than he experienced at Leeds United in 1974.

Monday, 25 May 2020

1980 European Cup final: Nottingham Forest v Hamburg

“You win something once and people say it is all down to luck,” Brian Clough said after Nottingham Forest had successfully defended the European Cup on May 28, 1980. “You win it twice and it shuts the buggers up.”

Winning the 1979 European Cup was hardly a fluke. Defeating Liverpool and Cologne on their way to the final in Munich, Nottingham Forest could not be accused of having things easy. Admittedly, Malmo were not the most testing of opponents in the final. But a year on, Forest’s opponents in the final at the Bernabeu could not be dismissed so lightly.