Wednesday, September 27, 2006

David Beckham for Manchester United (v Wimbledon), 18 August 1996

Well, it's that time folks. Time for the assembled masses to explain to the world what the wonderful game of football means to them via the means of alphabetic consecutivity.


The A-Z of Football

B is for..... Boogers (Paul A)

Its time ladies and gents for a short trip down amnesia lane. Its 1995, Klinsmann has signed for Spurs and sets the Premiership alight. Sky money is starting to wash through the league, the Bosman case approaches a conclusion, foreign stars see the chance to earn a shedload of cash in the most exciting league in the world and rocketing prices for domestic players are putting managers off homegrown talent.

Into this footballing maelstrom steps England's favourite chancer and sometime football manager, Harry "Arry" Redknapp with a couple of quid in his wallet and no f*cking idea what he's going to do with it!

Traditional wisom has it that before buying a player, a manager or scout will actually watch them play and see if their skills will fit into the existing club structure, needs and wants. Undaunted by traditional narrow thinking like this, Harry opts for a night in with the TV. On the strength of putting the wrong tape in the video, 'Arry ends up writing a cheque for £1 million for someone called Marco Boogers!!!

The potted history of Marco Boogers spectacular Hammers career goes thus. Signs in 1995 and plays the grand total of 83 minutes for the club. Gets sent off 90 seconds into this second game for a "sickening" tackle on Gary Neville (and they label him a failure!). Disapears from sight and is found in a mobile home on a Dutch caravan site with 2 pencils up his nose, his pants on his head and a letter from his doctor declaring him "mentally unfit" to play football. Leaves the club!
'Arry's genius for mixing football management and comedy is the stuff of dreams and cannot be understated. His comedy foreign legion of such illustrious names as Raducioiu, Margas, Dani, Camara and Song have entertained the footballing world and it is gratifying to see the process
continue a pace at his new club, Portsmouth with the likes of Westerveld and Benjani. But, good readers, lets us not forget that it was "Mad" Marco Boogers who set the good ship Redknapp off on its rudderless voyage of foreign discovery.

I am always disappointed that Marco Boogers never seems to be at the top of the "worst signings in the Premiership" tree, although I must concede that the names of Brolin and Taibi represent the pinnacle of the art.

However, I feel that Marco Boogers deserves his place in Premiership history. The worst signing, maybe. The maddest person (this side of Duncan Ferguson) ever to lace a pair of football boots, yes....surely??

B is for.....the BBC (Paul)

7pm, Sunday 9th of July 2006. Football fans across Britain tuned in to watch the World Cup Final live on terrestrial television.

Of those who tuned in, does anybody know anyone who did anything other than watch it on the BBC?

Whilst it was shown by both ITV and BBC, there is only ever one choice for the discerning football fan - the Beeb.

To be blunt, they simply do football better. For a start, no commercial breaks mean you at least get some analysis and a build up which isn't ruined by adverts for cars, beer or body spray.

The BBC may have its flaws (Mark Lawrensen, Gary Linekar's smug delivery, John Motson clearly losing the plot, and the less said about Ian Wright the better), but consider the alternative: Steve Rider's bland delivery, the Kasabian cover of Heroes, Fat Sam Allardyce whinging about how he should be England manager, Gareth Southgate, Clive sodding Tyldesley.

Skinner and Baddiel once made a joke about showing something nobody would ever have seen, before putting on a clip of ITV's World Cup coverage. Only it's not a joke. It's true. Nobody watches ITV if they have a choice because, when it comes to showing live football, they always have been, and will always be, the poor relation.

The sad thing is that because the BBC have long since realised this, they get away with it, safe in the knowledge that it is much better than the alternative.

B is for...Peter Beardsley (Ben)

Like Clarence Acuna, my subject last time round, Peter Beardsley is a former Newcastle Utd player. Like Acuna, Beardsley must have cracked a fair few mirrors in his time, looking as he does something like Quasimodo with an Ann Widdecombe bowl cut. (All of which makes rumours he had an affair with a not unattractive local newsreader rather less plausible.)

But, like Ronaldinho, he could certainly play the beautiful game beautifully. I could never tire of seeing that trademark shimmy, sidestep and shot.

I was only nine when Beardsley left his hometown club for Liverpool in 1987, my only (very) vague memory being the phenomenal goal he scored against Brighton in 1984 in Kevin Keegan’s last match for the club to round off our return to the First Division in style.

But that move to Merseyside wasn’t to be the last we saw of Beardsley in a black and white shirt. Eyebrows were raised when, having returned to once again to the top flight, Keegan (now manager) opted to sell the two previous season’s top scorers David Kelly and Gavin Peacock. Even more surprising was Keegan’s decision to replace them with his former team-mate, who came back to Tyneside from Everton for £1.5m.

But if it was a gamble, it certainly paid off. The evergreen forward was instrumental in Andy Cole’s record-breaking goal haul in that first season back in the big time while also banging in a fair few himself as we earned the nickname the Entertainers. He formed a similarly lethal partnership with Les Ferdinand, one which came so close to firing us to the Premiership title in 1995-6, before taking up a more withdrawn but no less significant role following Alan Shearer’s arrival that summer.

That was to be his last season with us before a move to Bolton.

Of course I could wax lyrical about some of his goals and his brilliant twinkletoes footwork to create chances for others, but the moment I remember best of his second spell as a player on Tyneside didn’t come on the pitch.

Beardsley used to drop his children off at the school over the road from mine every morning, and inevitably found himself plagued by excitable autograph-hungry kids. So he struck a deal with our school: if he came into assembly one morning, everyone would stop pestering him. The morning came around, he was introduced by the headmaster and walked onstage – and got a standing ovation which must have lasted for a good couple of minutes before eventually dying down. Never able to close his mouth at the best of times, he was gobsmacked.

B is for......Brooking (Mike)

The word “avuncular” was invented for Trevor Brooking. He exudes warmth and humility and always seems very composed. People say he’s a bit dull. I disagree. As a pundit, I always found his faint East London twang rather soothing, particularly in comparison to Motty’s effervescence.

I don’t remember too much about Uncle Trev’s playing days. In fact, my only strong recollection is of him standing on the touchline waiting to come on in the 1982 World Cup. He was recovering from an injury, as was Kevin Keegan, and Ron Greenwood brought them both on at the same time. I can still picture them both, standing there on the touchline, like Cannon and Ball in tight shorts.

A very brief biography of his career: he played the game “cerebrally” according to Wikipedia, which probably means he passed the ball well and did everything at his own laid-back pace. He only ever played for West Ham and had just under 50 games for England. He became a pundit and very rarely said anything stupid (which is perhaps why people found him dull: who wants a pundit who talks sense?). Uncle Trevor became Sir Uncle Trevor in 2004 for his work in sports administration with organisations such as Sport England.

The main reason why he’s my entry for B, though, is because of his success as caretaker manager of West Ham. Brooking’s brief reign as manager was hugely successful: probably a surprise to many people. I always thought he’d be a bit Sven-like as manager: dispassionate and unable to motivate. He didn’t seem the kind of chap that would be able to make tough decisions or give the hairdryer treatment. However, there are rumours from his Sport England days that he wasn’t always Mr Nice Guy.

His managerial record is brilliant: won 9, drew 3, lost 1. I know that 13 games isn’t much to go on, but his record definitely speaks of great potential. When he was interviewed after matches, particularly when West Ham were looking down the barrel of relegation, I was impressed with his dignity and honesty. On the touchline he was passionate and involved. He was respected by players and had real presence. I think it’s a great shame he’s not interested in being a manager.

If only Uncle Trev had decided to become a manager, he might have been on the England shortlist himself rather than on the selection committee. And he might have made a better job of choosing players than he did choosing a manager...

B is for....Blake, 60 - (Skif)

Welling United 1 Havant & Waterlooville 1, 04/01/03

I guess what this entry is really about how one tries to determine ‘my favourite goal’.

Considering it probably should be something that made you shed a few layers of living skin in excitement, it will probably have to be a goal scored by your team of choice. If choice ever came into it, of course.

Then does it count if you’ve not seen it live in person, although when you’re a non-league follower like myself, this is rather a moot point.

Whenever I think of this question, I always automatically picture tricksy, but lightweight, midfielder Dean Blake crashing in a shot from about 30 yards out, at Welling United. I was stood right behind the flight and for a bit of it slo-mo progress it looked as though it would sail over. Which itself brings that hit of adrenaline that comes when you think you may have to take evasive, or defensive, action (I have been known to head the ball back onto a field of play, but usually it has to bounce first and not have the rapidity of an Exocet). Then there’s that extra and more vivid burst when the ball flattens its trajectory and squeezes between keepers hand and he near post.

So that’s my knee-jerk, but once I’ve had that, I always think, perhaps the context of the match situation should play a part. Perhaps centre-back Gareth Hall crashing one in from 25 yards off the underside of the bar to beat Stafford Rangers at home 2-1. That was September 1st 2001. After the final whistle that almost immediately followed, we trooped into our club bar to watch England play Germany in Munich. Quite a good day then. On the same lines, David Platt’s goal against Belgium in 1990 would rank up there. The twelve year old me jumped over several occasional tables after that one.

Perhaps the seasonal situation is the key, in which case Jamie O’Rourke scoring against Grantham to keep us in the Southern League Premier Division at the end of a fraught first season in it in 2000. Or maybe it’s about the individual, in which case veteran and legend of the non-league scene, Dave Leworthy, scoring twice in a minute to win us a game at home to Tiverton Town in what was, almost, his last on-field appearance at senior level (but more about that when we get to ‘L’).

Then again, maybe we have to contextualise the opposition. In which case, Warren Haughton scoring twice to keep us in with a shout in our game in the first round proper of the FA Cup at Dagenham & Redbridge in 2002 would come into the equation, mainly I guess for his frenzied celebrations in front of our higher than usual, as you might expect, away support. How a player celebrates may be where it’s at. Not the baby-rocking bullshit so much, but maybe badge-kissing does it for you, or when a player barrels headfirst into the vocal hardcore behind the goal like a masked Mexican wrestler off the top turn-buckle.

Rivlary, though, that’s bound to be important. In which case, I’d go for our record goalscorer Jimmy Taylor, scoring the final goal of his hat-trick in a 3-2 home win over the despised Weymouth, after trailing 2-0 and having to hear “can we play you every week” coming from the away end. Technically not a great goal, as many of those described haven’t been, but with West Leigh Park’s Bartons Road End rocking like it never has before or since, it is possibly overqualified in the favourite goal stakes.

However, when I just typed the words ‘my favourite goal’, my mind immediately pictures Dean Blake’s finish, possibly because it took my breath away. Whether or not that was mainly due to me believing I was about to be hit in the face by it, I guess we’ll never know.

B is for......Banana (United 113)

The first inflatable banana appeared at Maine Road in 1987. A City fan called Frank Newton borrowed the banana from a friend and dressed it in a City shirt and drew a face on it, before long the inflatable bananacraze had began and Maine Road was full of them.

At the time City had a player called Imre Varadi playing for them who became known as "Imre Banana". Inflatable bananas started appearing all over the place, possibly the best use of blow up food items was by the Grimsby Town supporters who started taking inflatable fish with them to the grounds. Bury fans started taking inflatable black puddings to their games. Arsenal struggled a little trying to have inflatable cannons but life was easier for West Ham supporters who went with inflatable hammers.

By 1990, police were strating to confiscate the fruit from supporters at turnstiles and clubs had started banning them as people were complaining they couldn't see properly. There was even a suggestion that the inflatable bananas were racist.

I think we all agree it was a fun time for british football so shortly after the tragedy at Heysel.

B is for.......Stephen George Bull (Swiss Toni)

306 goals in 561 appearances. 52 goals in a single season (1987/88). 18 hat-tricks. 13 England caps and 4 goals (including one against Czechoslovakia that was voted the 37th best England goal ever). Not a bad return from a £65,000 purchase from your biggest rivals, eh?

Oh, I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to tell me that almost all of Bull’s career was spent outside of the top division; that he never really proved himself at the highest level; that he was just a shaven-headed thug of limited talent….

Perhaps you’re right.

You know what though? I don’t give a monkey’s what you think. I’m a Wolves fan and Steve Bull is my hero. Darren Clarke may have just overtaken Zara Phillips as the favourite to win the 2006 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, but I’ll be casting my vote the same way as I have every year since 1988.

I heard a story about Steve Bull the other day that just seemed to sum the man up: at the end of every season, fans are able to bid to play in a charity match against some of the legends of their club. One guy got the opportunity to play at Molineux and was delighted to find himself at the first corner with the responsibility of marking his hero. Apparently Bull was charming and made a real point of shaking the hand of his nervous marker and wishing him all the best as they waited for the corner to be taken. As the ball was launched into the box, Bull elbowed this guy in the face and banged the ball into the back of the net. 1-0.


B is for.....Beckham From The Half Way Line (Lord Bargain)

18th August 1996 was a sunny afternoon. People went around their normal Saturday business as the start of another Premiership season got under way. I don't remember specifically what I was doing that day, but I do remember this.

About 4.30pm that afternoon, word began to get around from the radio that Manchester United's young right midfielder, David Beckham, had scored a wonder goal. "Better than Pele" they said. "Apparently, he has scored from the half way line".

It was one of those occasions where everyone wanted to stay up for "Match of the Day" in order to see this wondergoal for themselves.

And there it was. Indeed, Beckham had lobbed Neil Sullivan from the half way line, and thus a footballing icon was born.

Having watched this back, and notwithstanding everything that has happened to loveable little David (as he was then), this remains an underrated and exceptional goal. People have tried long range efforts since, but very few have succeeded and those that did (Xabi Alonso's recently) involved a goalkeeping error. This goal was pure and simple control, vision (see the keeper off his line) and execution (a perfectly weighted chip). Pele is celebrated for trying something similar, and he never hit the target!

It was pretty much the start of Beckham's disproportionate "skill to stardom" ascent and I like this goal as it also provides one of the iconic pictures of Beckham as a limited but talented footballer - the arms aloft and smile to the fans.

As Motty said "absolutely phenomenal".


So there we go. I love this feature - fruit, strikers, a clothes-horse, a caravan, some non-league, a TV network and a Nice Man. Thanks to Swiss Toni, Ben, Paul, Skif, United 113, Paul A and Mike for their brilliant contributions.

Can I invite submissions for "C" please? Ta.


Jonny said...

I love this feature as well. I love Brighton & Hove Albion (if I'd gotten round to it my 'B' would have been about the team I support and the bastard Chairman who turned the fantastic Goldstone Ground into a sodding Toys'R'Us). And, I love that goal by Beardsley.

LB said...

Jonny - Bizarrely, Brighton was my first choice for this weeks post but I actually have a piece lined up about the club and the Goldstone Ground that I was going to put up here over the next couple of weeks.


I still don't shop at Focus DIY even now because Bill Archer used to run that chain...

Jonny said...

Oooh, please do! I'd love to read what you've got to say about it.

By the way, for those of you who are interested (and that wont be many of you), the "Gatting" mentioned in the video is Steve Gatting, the brother of Mike! What a sporting family they are...a bit like the Nevilles!!!!!!

Jonny said...

And good on you for not shopping there. I never have and never will, especially now I live in Australia. And I have never been to Toys'R'Us either!

"Build a bonfire, build a bonfire, put Bill Archer on the top, stick Belloti in the middle and we'll burn the fucking lot".

A North Stand anthem if ever there was one.

LB said...

Jonny, I will stand up and proudly state that I have sang that song on more than one occasion!

Jonny said...

Good on you. What a couple of tosspots there were (and still are I'm sure).

I'm looking forward to your post about the Goldstone Ground. All in good time, and all that.....

swisslet said...

christ, can I interrupt your love-in for a minute with a suggestion that you turn your minds to your "c"s?


Flash said...

Right, I'm back (& rather startled not to find myself at the bottom of the predictions league. God bless the new scoring system!) & I want to do a C! Where do I sign?

Anonymous said...

what a goal that was... the beauty of football blogs - bringing up memories like this one! good work mate

Anonymous said...

Being a Newcastle fan was never meant to be this hard! just when i thought things were looking up, after the return of legendary Geordie, Kevin Keegan, i go and read this article on some online sports betting company’s website that is already writing off his chances of turning round the clubs fortunes. This got me thinking, after seeing managers sacked after relatively short periods of time and new gaffer’s chances being talked down before even one game in charge, along these lines...

Are the football managers of today given enough time? I personally believe time is the answer - look at fergie at man u and Wenger at arsenal... My beloved Newcastle will never improve unless a manager with reasonable knowledge of the game is given time to put structures in place... I know its a cliché, but these people in the media and at this online football betting site are putting the pressure on Chairmen and club owners to sack managers without thinking about long term managers. It angers me intensely reading the kind of stuff i saw on sporting index this morning! Read it for yourself and let me know what you think...