Thursday, 10 November 2022

1983/84: Wolves v Arsenal

This is an edited version of my original article that appeared in issue 286 of The Gooner. 

The 1980s may not have been kind to Arsenal fans, but there was a reason to be cheerful as the summer of 1983 progressed. Optimism and anticipation; hopes and expectations; and all because a certain 21-year-old Scottish centre forward had chosen Highbury as his new home.

It was clear to comprehend why Charlie Nicholas was seen as the hottest property in British football. Scoring 48 goals for Celtic in the previous campaign, it was inevitable that the English vultures would circle. Yet his final destination was far less predictable.

Monday, 17 October 2022

1986/87: Manchester United v Tottenham

Manchester United and Tottenham had a history of entertaining BBC audiences. In December 1983, the first live league match shown on the BBC saw the home team come out on top, winning 4-2 in a thrilling if sometimes calamitous Friday evening. A lot had changed in the intervening three years as the teams prepared to face each other at the same ground.

Keith Burkinshaw eight year spell in charge at White Hart Lane had ended, and although his successor Peter Shreeves threatened to win the league at Tottenham in his first year of the club, a new man was in charge come the start of the 1986/87 campaign. David Pleat was the latest man to try and win Tottenham's first championship since 1961. 

Monday, 10 October 2022

1980/81: Leeds United v Arsenal

This is an edited version of my original article that appeared in issue 291 of The Gooner.

As election news was dominating the front pages in November 1980 – Reagan defeating Carter in the US, with Foot and Healy battling to become Labour leader – another 'e' word was constantly being referenced in relation to football on the back pages. With attendances dropping, many journalists and pundits were questioning whether the sport was providing the remaining fans with enough entertainment.

Stoke manager Alan Durban certainly made his opinion clear on the matter, after his team attempted unsuccessfully to park the bus in a 2-0 defeat at Highbury in September 1980: "If you want entertainment go and watch a bunch of clowns," Durban retorted. However, Arsenal were not exempt from these critical opinions.

Wednesday, 5 October 2022

1986/87: Clive Allen

As Erling Haaland threatens to break every goal scoring record that exists, a few questions hang in the air. Can he score over 40 league goals in the season? How many hat-tricks will he score? Will he surpass Dixie Dean's mark of 60 league goals scored in the 1927/28 season? Is he a robot? 

Surely even Haaland cannot break Dean's record? But it would not be a complete surprise if the Norwegian manages to exceed the exploits of a notable season in the career of Clive Allen. The 1986/87 campaign would see the Tottenham forward score 49 goals in all competitions, as the club under the new management of David Pleat chased a domestic treble.

Friday, 23 September 2022

1982: Jocky Wilson Said

Looking back at the story behind the unexpected appearance of a Scottish darts legend on BBC One's flagship music programme.

Thursday September 30, 1982: At 7.35pm millions of people settle down in their living rooms to watch Top of the Pops, BBC One's weekly music programme that provides a shared experience up and down the country; from the parents complaining about the musical output or the clothing worn, to kids discussing the programme the next day at school.

As Yellow Pearl by Phil Lynott kicks in, the lights flash, and the records flying towards us are obliterated, the anticipation builds. Who will be presenting the show? Who will be performing? And which dancers will be able to thrust themselves towards the cameras whilst retaining a tiny bit of their dignity?

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

1980: Clive Allen's disallowed goal

There have been a few recent examples in football of poor decisions costing teams dearly. West Ham had every right to feel aggrieved after a late equaliser was chalked off against Chelsea, and although the mayhem at the end of the Juventus-Salernitana game was very entertaining, you can understand why the home team felt they were robbed of a dramatic victory.

These are cases of football officials, despite the video technology at their disposal, getting things so wrong that it makes you wonder if they are in the appropriate profession. But sometimes even the technology can fail, as Huddersfield found to their cost with the recent Hawk-Eye glitch. Maybe we just have to accept that both humans and machines are fallible.

Monday, 5 September 2022

1983/84: Liverpool v Wolves

The 1983/84 season was one to forget for Wolves. But they did manage to pull off a shock win at Anfield to provide their supporters with a rare moment of joy.

There are seasons so bad that any supporters who lived through the experience will shudder at the memories. Stoke fans who had to endure the 1984/85 horror show or Derby followers during the 2007/08 campaign deserve a badge of honour for their support during these hard times. Wolves' 1983/84 season falls into the same category.

Just six wins in a 42-match league campaign gives a clear indication of the struggles Wolves faced that season. It took 15 games for them to gain their first league win - albeit a delicious derby win at the Hawthorns - and their first home league win came just before the new year. Conceding 80 goals, losing 25 matches, and scoring 27 goals, Wolves were a mess.