Premier League Files: David Dunn

Premier League Career: Blackburn Rovers (1998-2003, 2007-2012), Birmingham City (2003-2006)

David Dunn’s football career will always be linked with Blackburn Rovers. He made his professional debut with the former Premier League champions, had two separate playing spells with them and is the current assistant manager to Tony Mowbray as the Lancastrians aim for an instant return to the Championship.

The midfielder joined the club as a trainee in 1997. A year later, he made his debut at Goodison Park against Everton but it would turn out to be a very brief cameo. Roy Hodgson brought Dunn onto the field of play in the 70th minute. 11 minutes later, forward Martin Dahlin was sent off and in order to protect a point, Hodgson had to sacrifice Dunn for a more defensively-minded player. Nevertheless, he had made a first-team appearance and as the season went on, he got more chances. His first goal came in February 1999 during a 3-1 victory at Villa Park over Aston Villa. The season ended though in disappointment with relegation from the top-flight, just four seasons after Blackburn had become the champions of England.

David stuck with the club and they stuck by him too, seeing a young talent blossoming very nicely despite the team’s lack of direction. After two seasons in the First Division, Blackburn regained their place in the Premier League and Dunn put in a string of performances that earned him international recognition from England. He made one appearance for the senior side, replacing Kieron Dyer in the 1-1 draw with Portugal in September 2002.

He scored twice in a thrilling 3-3 draw at Highbury with Arsenal and starred in Blackburn’s 7-1 thrashing of West Ham United as they finished 10th in their first season back in the elite, along with winning the League Cup. He started the 2002-2003 season in good form but was one of a number of players to eventually fall out with manager Graeme Souness. Dunn decided he needed a fresh challenge in the summer of 2003. Despite interest from Everton and Middlesbrough, he eventually moved to the west Midlands, signing for Birmingham City in a £5.5 million deal.

His career with Birmingham started promisingly. He scored the solitary goal on his debut against Tottenham Hotspur and also scored a winning goal at St James’ Park in a victory over Newcastle United. In October 2003, he produced one of the ‘viral’ moments of the season when his attempted ‘rabona’ skill ended embarrassingly in the Second City Derby. He fell over, leaving manager Steve Bruce smiling at this clumsy skill attempt!

In total, Dunn made 58 league appearances for Birmingham, scoring seven times but he was unable to feature as prominently as was liked due to a succession of injury setbacks, especially with hamstring trouble. Birmingham were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2005-2006 season and after nearly joining Bolton Wanderers, he would move back to Blackburn Rovers in the 2007 January transfer window.

He played 11 times in the remainder of the 2006-2007 season, winning a late free-kick which Morten Gamst Pedersen scored from to defeat Sheffield United in February 2007. David would stay with Blackburn for the next eight years, even remaining with them after a crushing relegation from the Premier League in 2012. His best campaign came in 2009-2010, where he scored nine times. He became a leader in the dressing room too, being appointed vice-captain during Paul Ince’s short tenure as manager in 2008.

He finished his playing days with a brief spell at Oldham Athletic which led to a three-month stint as the club’s manager. When he was sacked in January 2016 with the Latics sitting 22nd in League One, he returned to Blackburn in a coaching capacity. He first worked as assistant manager to former teammate Damien Johnson in the club’s Under-23 setup before being promoted to first-team duties when Mowbray succeeded Owen Coyle as the manager of the team in February 2017.

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Premier League Rewind: 22nd-23rd October 2005

Results: Blackburn Rovers 2-0 Birmingham City, Arsenal 1-0 Manchester City, Aston Villa 0-2 Wigan Athletic, Fulham 2-0 Liverpool FC, Manchester United 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur, Portsmouth 1-2 Charlton Athletic, Newcastle United 3-2 Sunderland, Bolton Wanderers 2-0 West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United 2-1 Middlesbrough, Everton 1-1 Chelsea

Chelsea went into the 22nd-23rd October 2005 weekend defending a 100% record. Nine teams had tried; nine teams had failed to take any points off Jose Mourinho’s champions, who were already threatening to turn the title race into a one-team demonstration. The Blues were nine points clear of London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and had conceded just three goals in their opening nine matches.

They travelled to bottom of the table Everton at Goodison Park and only the most hopeful of Toffees’ supporters expected nothing else but another win for the defending champions. Everton were up for the fight though and keen to prove that their lowly position was a false indication of their talents. They led at half-time through a James Beattie penalty. Frank Lampard equalised although there were question marks about the legality of the throw-in from Asier del Horno in the build-up to the goal. Didier Drogba then had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside as Everton held on for a 1-1 draw and ended the Blues’ perfect start to the campaign.

It was a London 1-2-3 at the end of the weekend. Alan Curbishley’s Charlton Athletic continued to punch above their weight and maintained their perfect start away from The Valley. Their fifth consecutive victory on their travels was achieved at Fratton Park, coming from behind to defeat Portsmouth 2-1. Second half goals from Darren Ambrose and Dennis Rommedahl cancelled out Dario Silva’s first goal for Portsmouth, leaving the south coast side just a point clear of the bottom three.

Tottenham dropped to third but still recorded a fine 1-1 draw at Old Trafford against Manchester United. An inch-perfect free-kick by Jermaine Jenas in the 72nd minute saw Spurs earn a deserved point at the Theatre of Dreams. Home form was a concern for Sir Alex Ferguson, whose side had won just once at home from their four outings on their own patch so far.

It was a weekend where the London clubs took the headlines. Arsenal celebrated Thierry Henry’s achievement as the club’s all-time top goalscorer after his exploits in the UEFA Champions League earlier in the week in Prague. Henry played a part in one of the strangest incidents of the season as the Gunners squeaked past Manchester City 1-0 at Highbury. Robert Pires scored a penalty to settle the match but it was a second spot-kick that caused the biggest talking point. It appeared Pires had attempted to roll the ball forwards to Henry to finish what should have been a clever move first pioneered in the 1980s by Dutch legend Johan Cruyff. Unfortunately, Pires scuffed the ball which moved off the spot and a free-kick was given to the opposition by referee Mike Riley. It was lucky for all parties that Arsenal did claim the three points.

24 hours later, West Ham United beat Middlesbrough 2-1 with a ghost own goal from Boro defender Chris Riggott. The referee’s assistant judged Riggott’s deflection from Paul Konchesky’s free-kick had crossed the line. Replays showed clearly that Mark Schwarzer had prevented this and even West Ham’s opening goalscorer Teddy Sheringham admitted afterwards that the ball hadn’t crossed the line by some distance. Boro boss Steve McClaren was not amused.

In a massive Tyne & Wear Derby, Emre’s glorious free-kick helped Newcastle United to a vital 3-2 victory over Sunderland which kept the Black Cats in the bottom three and gave some much-needed relief to under-fire Newcastle boss Graeme Souness.

Another manager also under pressure was Birmingham boss Steve Bruce. His team continued to underperform and a 2-0 loss in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off to Blackburn Rovers kept them firmly planted in the bottom three, with just Sunderland and Everton below them. It was a position the Birmingham supporters would get used to as the season progressed.

What else happened in October 2005?

  • Saddam Hussein goes on trial in Baghdad for crimes against humanity.
  • Daniel Craig is announced as the sixth official James Bond actor.
  • The European Court of Human Rights rules the United Kingdom’s ban on voting rights for prisoners is unlawful.
  • An earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale occurred in Kashmir, Pakistan, killing over 175,000 people.
  • Southend Pier, in the East of England, is devastated by a fire.
  • British playwright Harold Pinter is confirmed as the 2005 winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
  • NTL, the largest British cable television company, announces its multi-billion pound purchase of Telewest, creating one of the largest companies in the British media industry.

Memorable Matches: Arsenal 4-0 Everton (May 1998)

Goalscorers: Slaven Bilic 6 OG, Marc Overmars 28, 57, Tony Adams 89

Teams:

Arsenal: David Seaman, Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Emmanuel Petit (David Platt 44), Patrick Vieira, Ray Parlour, Marc Overmars, Nicolas Anelka (Ian Wright 72), Christopher Wreh (Steve Bould 80)

Everton: Thomas Myhre, Slaven Bilic (John Oster 46), John O’Kane (Gareth Farrelly 46), Craig Short, Carl Tiler, Dave Watson, Michael Ball, Don Hutchinson, Peter Beagrie (Mickael Madar 46), Nick Barmby, Duncan Ferguson

Referee: Gerald Ashby, Attendance: 38,269

At the end of February 1998, most bookmakers stopped taking bets on the title after Manchester United won at Chelsea to establish a 13-point lead on the chasing pack. However, Arsenal had games in hand and had been plugging away at United’s lead. A 1-0 win at Old Trafford in March had really got their fans believing and they were now cantering towards their first Premier League crown.

Arsene Wenger’s side hosted Everton who were desperate for points at the wrong end of the table. Bolton’s victory over Crystal Palace 24 hours earlier had put Howard Kendall’s Toffees into the bottom three. Arsenal knew that a 10th successive Premier League victory would hand them their first top-flight title since 1991. However, they were missing the influential Dennis Bergkamp whose season had been ended by a hamstring injury five nights earlier against Derby County.

It was set to be a party at Highbury and playing in gorgeous sunshine, Everton were simply no more than bystanders to a day of immense celebrations in the capital. Just six minutes had been played when Arsenal went into the lead. From a free-kick on the right-hand side, Slaven Bilic headed the ball into his own net, under pressure from Arsenal skipper Tony Adams. The Gunners were getting closer and closer to the main prize in English football.

Everton didn’t even manage an attempt on-goal in the first half and went 2-0 down before the half-hour mark. Peter Beagrie lost possession and Marc Overmars ran at a frightened backline. His shot had too much power for Norwegian goalkeeper Thomas Myhre, who got a decent hand on the effort but saw the ball squirm over the line. Had it not been for a couple more decent saves from Myhre to deny Christopher Wreh and Ray Parlour, the scoreline could have been even worse at half-time for the visitors. The only minor negative for Wenger was an injury to Emmanuel Petit which meant he was withdrawn before half-time, to be replaced by David Platt.

Kendall made a triple substitution at half-time but it simply didn’t make any difference to the match. The championship was heading to Arsenal Football Club and they were going to do it in style. The outstanding Overmars burst past Everton captain Watson on 57 minutes, leaving him in his wake before stroking a shot across Myhre’s bows to make it 3-0. The fitting finale was still to come though. Substitute Steve Bould played a wonderful ball over the top of the defence and his centre-back partner Adams had made a surge forward. Picked out by Bould, he delivered an emphatic finish to produce the perfect ending to a sensational afternoon for the Arsenal faithful.

Everton did avoid relegation on the final day of the season on goal difference but this was Arsenal’s day as Adams hoisted the Premier League trophy aloft around half an hour after the final whistle. Their long summer party could now begin as they became only the third team to win the Premier League.

Premier League Files: Marlon Harewood

Premier League Career: Nottingham Forest (1998-1999), West Ham United (2005-2007), Aston Villa (2007-2008), Blackpool (2010-2011)

Marlon Harewood played for no fewer than 14 different clubs before hanging up his boots in 2016 after a spell with non-league side Nuneaton Town. His most prolific run came in the Premier League during two top-flight terms with West Ham United.

Harewood was a product of the youth academy system at Nottingham Forest and made his league debut in 1998. He’d already tasted success in a loan spell with FC Haka in Finland, winning the Finnish Cup and the league championship and had another brief loan period with Ipswich Town. Forest were relegated from the Premier League in 1999 but Harewood started to emerge as one of the best strikers in the First Division. He formed a good partnership with his close friend David Johnson and scored 51 goals in 124 appearances for the former European Cup winners.

His contract at The City Ground was due to expire in 2004. The club offered him a new deal but it was a weaker contract which included a drop in wages. Understandably upset, the offer was rejected by the player and he left to join recently-relegated West Ham United for £500,000 in November 2003. He was West Ham’s top goalscorer in 2004-2005, scoring 23 goals in all competitions as the Hammers returned to the Premier League via the play-offs.

Alan Pardew was the manager and he decided Harewood was the man who should spearhead the club’s attack on their top-flight return. Feeling extremely confident because of this, Marlon scored the first hat-trick of the 2005-2006 season, netting a treble in the 4-0 home win over Aston Villa. Two months later, he scored the club’s quickest goal of the campaign, finding the back of the net inside 52 seconds of the 2-1 defeat against Manchester United. In April 2006, it was Harewood’s goal in the FA Cup semi-finals at Villa Park against Middlesbrough that took West Ham into the final at the Millennium Stadium which ended in an agonising penalty shootout loss to Liverpool FC. In total, he finished with impressive figures of 14 Premier League goals and was the club’s top scorer for a second successive season.

Like many of his Hammers teammates, there was a drop in form in 2006-2007 for Harewood, although he did score a famous late winner at home to Arsenal which sparked a dramatic late altercation on the touchline between his manager Pardew and opposition boss Arsene Wenger. However, the arrival of Carlos Tevez and improvement in Bobby Zamora saw Harewood drop down the pecking order.

After scoring just three times that campaign, he decided to leave the Londoners and joined Aston Villa in July 2007 for £4 million. It looked set Harewood was to join Wigan Athletic until a late intervention from Martin O’Neill swayed Harewood’s decision. It did mean he would be just a peripheral figure though which to start with, seemed to be something Harewood was happy to accept. In November 2007, he scored his 100th league career goal in the 4-0 victory at Blackburn Rovers. He scored another four times in the Premier League including a goal in a 2-2 draw at Anfield and the fans seemed to appreciate his work-rate when arriving from the bench.

O’Neill continued to use him as a regular substitute and he didn’t even start a league match in the first half of the 2008-2009 season. When Emile Heskey arrived from Wigan in January 2009, Harewood’s game time became even more limited. His time in Birmingham was coming to an end. He moved on-loan to first Wolverhampton Wanderers, then Newcastle United.

Aston Villa released him in the summer of 2010 and he was linked with a move away from the English game, with clubs from Turkey and the United States expressing an interest in Harewood. However, he stayed in the Premier League by linking up with Blackpool in August and made a fantastic start too, scoring twice in their sensational 4-0 opening day victory over Wigan Athletic. He then enjoyed his return to Villa Park in November, finding the target in Blackpool’s narrow 3-2 defeat. This was to be his final goal in the top-flight.

He was loaned to Barnsley in February 2011 and was released by Blackpool following their relegation at the end of the campaign. He ended his career with second spells with both Nottingham Forest and Barnsley, along with stints at Guangzhou R&F in China, Bristol City, Hartlepool United and lastly, Nuneaton Town.

Since retirement, Harewood has become a co-owner of AC13 Premier, a car modification business who takes requests from some of sport’s most famous stars. Among his clients include Tottenham forward Harry Kane, ex-boxer Carl Froch and Manchester City full-back Kyle Walker.

Premier League Rewind: 7th-8th November 1998

Results: Aston Villa 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur, Blackburn Rovers 1-2 Coventry City, Charlton Athletic 0-0 Leicester City, Liverpool FC 1-2 Derby County, Nottingham Forest 0-1 Wimbledon, Southampton 3-3 Middlesbrough, Arsenal 1-0 Everton, Leeds United 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday, Manchester United 0-0 Newcastle United, West Ham United 1-1 Chelsea

The 7th-8th November 1998 weekend would be one of shattering blows for an Italian striker, the end of ‘The Boot Room’ regime at a leading Premier League club and a wonderful debut for another forward in the Midlands.

The big news going into this round of games was Aston Villa’s acquisition of the ex-Manchester United forward Dion Dublin. Villa had pipped Blackburn Rovers to the signature of Dublin, who had decided to call time on his four-year spell as the leading marksman at Coventry City.

Just 48 hours after arriving at Villa Park, Dublin made his Aston Villa debut as the league leaders welcomed Tottenham Hotspur. With virtually his first opportunity, he scored after 31 minutes. Four minutes later, he made it 2-0 with another composed finish and when Stan Collymore made it 3-0 two minutes into the second half, John Gregory’s side were going to be staying as the table toppers. Despite two late goals from Darren Anderton and Ramon Vega, Villa held on for a 3-2 victory which looked more comfortable than the actual scoreline suggested. Gregory’s side were still unbeaten after 11 matches and finished the weekend two points clear. For new Tottenham manager George Graham, it was just one win from his first four matches in the post and Spurs sat a below-par 14th in the table.

Only three places above them were Liverpool FC. The Reds had won just one of their last seven matches and that run got worse when Derby County won 2-1 at Anfield. Early goals inside the first 30 minutes from Kevin Harper and Paulo Wanchope spearheaded Derby to an amazing victory. The pressure was growing on Liverpool’s wisdom of appointing joint-managers. It was Gerard Houllier and Roy Evans in the dugout together and the latter was taking most of the flak. Less than a week later, Evans had parted company with the club and Houllier would take sole charge of the team. The final link to ‘The Boot Room’ which had dominated Anfield for over 30 years had been severed.

Liverpool were some way off the pace which was being set by Villa. Among the chasing pack were Chelsea and they extended their unbeaten run to nine matches after drawing 1-1 at West Ham United. Celestine Babayaro scored the equaliser to preserve this record. However, this match would be overshadowed by a horrific injury sustained by Pierluigi Casiraghi. The Italian had scored just once and his 10th appearance for the Londoners would be his last. An unfortunate collision in the penalty area with West Ham goalkeeper Shaka Hislop led to a serious cruciate knee ligament injury. Chelsea boss Gianluca Vialli admitted his season was over but was optimistic Casiraghi could recover. In truth, he would never play professional football again, retiring in 2002 after 10 unsuccessful operations.

Defending champions Arsenal moved above Manchester United into second place. Nicolas Anelka’s early goal after six minutes was enough to defeat Everton 1-0 at Highbury whilst the Red Devils were held to a goalless draw by a stubborn Newcastle United at Old Trafford.

At the wrong end of the table, Southampton remained bottom after an enthralling 3-3 draw with Middlesbrough. The visitors had both Phil Stamp and Robbie Mustoe sent off by referee Paul Alcock and required a 90th minute equaliser from defender Gianluca Festa to rescue a point. Coventry City and Blackburn Rovers swapped places with the Sky Blues’ 2-1 win in Lancashire moving them out of the relegation zone at Blackburn’s expense.

What else happened in November 1998?

  • The United States House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee begins impeachment hearings against American president Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky scandal.
  • The European Court of Human Rights is instituted.
  • The United Kingdom formally abolishes the death penalty.
  • Former professional wrestler, Jesse Ventura is elected Governor of Minnesota.
  • Daimler-Benz completes a merger with Chrysler Corporation to form Daimler-Chrysler.
  • A new subscription movie channel from Channel 4, FilmFour is launched.
  • Mika Hakkinen wins the Japanese Grand Prix to become Formula One World Champion for the first time in his career.

Referees in the Middle: Gary Willard

Premier League Career: 1994-1999

First Premier League Match: Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Everton (23 August 1994)

Final Premier League Match: West Ham United 4-0 Middlesbrough (16 May 1999)

Gary Willard’s final Premier League match was in 1999 as West Ham United defeated Middlesbrough 4-0 on the final day of the season. This meant he fell three games short of taking control of a century of Premier League matches.

From Worthing in Sussex, Willard became a Football League referee in 1990 at the age of 31. Four years later, he earned himself promotion to the Premier League list of officials for the 1994-1995 season. His first Premier League game was Tottenham Hotspur’s 2-1 home victory over Everton in August 1994. Jurgen Klinsmann marked his home debut with two goals, whilst Willard also awarded a spot-kick to Spurs which was missed by Teddy Sheringham. A few days later, he dished out his first red card in the top-flight to Leicester City’s Nicky Mohan in the Foxes 1-0 defeat to Nottingham Forest.

In total, Gary handed out 340 yellow and 19 red cards during his five-year career as a referee in the Premier League. However, there is no doubt what his hardest match was and that came at Oakwell in March 1998 as Liverpool FC travelled to Yorkshire to face Barnsley.

Liverpool won the game 3-2 but it was the Tykes who got the short straw as by full-time, they had been reduced to eight men. First, Darren Barnard was dismissed in the 53rd minute for tripping Michael Owen as the young striker raced clear for a shot on-goal. Next, Owen was involved in another incident with Chris Morgan and went down clutching his face. Willard decided Morgan had made deliberate intent to hurt the player, so gave him his marching orders too. This led to a fan running onto the pitch in a vain attempt to confront the referee. This led to a police escort and Willard took sanction in his own dressing room for five minutes as he desperately seeked protection in a highly-charged atmosphere.

Worse was to come. Martin Bullock had a scuffle with Paul Ince and in stoppage-time; Darren Sheridan was shown a second yellow card and also, saw red from Willard. Incredibly, he’d only given three yellow cards in the same match.

An officer for the Inland Revenue away from his refereeing duties, Willard’s last appointment actually came in UEFA competition, taking charge of a UEFA Cup tie between Lausanne Sports and Celta Vigo in September 1999. Due to “personal reasons,” he wouldn’t officiate again in any professional competition.

Premier League Files: Richard Wright

Premier League Career: Ipswich Town (1995, 2000-2001), Arsenal (2001-2002), Everton (2002-2006)

In total, Richard Wright made 111 Premier League appearances and won the league title with Arsenal in 2001-2002. However, he only retired from the game in 2016, nearly a decade after his last appearance in the Premier League with Everton. A former England international, Wright seemed more than happy to fulfil the back-up goalkeeper role which considering his rapid rise through the ranks at Ipswich Town, is a sad indictment of his career.

Born not far away from Portman Road, Wright served his apprenticeship with the Tractor Boys and signed a professional contract in January 1995. Four months later, he was thrust into the Premier League limelight for the first time, making his debut as a 17-year-old in a 2-0 victory over Coventry City. By then, Ipswich’s relegation to Division One had already been confirmed but it was a good opportunity for Richard to get a brief experience of top-flight football. George Burley kept him in-goal for their final two Premier League games that season which ended in defeats at home to Everton and away to Sheffield Wednesday.

He remained Ipswich’s first-choice goalkeeper throughout the next five campaigns as they toiled away in the second-tier, often being the bridesmaids but never the brides in the play-offs. In 2000, they finally cracked it and the play-off final win over Barnsley was an eventful afternoon for Wright. He conceded a penalty for fouling Craig Hignett but would save the resultant spot-kick from Darren Barnard. Later, he would play a part in Richard Naylor giving Ipswich the lead which they would hold onto, eventually prevailing 4-2.

In total, Wright played 240 times for Ipswich’s first-team and was one of their leading stars in their return to the Premier League which saw the club finished an unexpected fifth in the table and earn qualification for the UEFA Cup. That was despite being involved in an unfortunate collision with Aston Villa’s Luc Nilis during a match in September 2000 which would see the Belgian never play professional football again.

It was in this period that he won both his senior international caps for England, playing in friendlies against Malta and Netherlands. He went to the 2000 European Championships, serving as the expected third-choice position behind more experienced keepers David Seaman and Nigel Martyn.

He would become club teammates with Seaman just one year later when he decided to make the bold move to Arsenal for £2 million. Arsene Wenger saw him as the man who could be Seaman’s long-term successor, even if that meant taking some short-term pain of giving up regular first-team football. He effectively replaced Alex Manninger in this role. He made 12 Premier League appearances, enough for him to win a title winners’ medal but by the end of the season, he had slipped to third-choice behind youth product Stuart Taylor after some error-strewn displays. He managed to punch the ball into his own net during a home loss to Charlton Athletic in November 2001 and was even subbed at half-time of another dismal showing away to Deportivo La Coruna in the UEFA Champions League.

When Seaman signed a contract extension, Wright knew he needed to leave a difficult season at Highbury behind him and joined Everton for £3.5 million in the summer of 2002. His debut was not good, making another blunder to allow Les Ferdinand of Tottenham Hotspur to score in the 2-2 draw between the sides. However, he redeemed himself a week later, saving Kevin Phillips’ penalty to earn Everton all three points away at Sunderland. He played 33 times and helped the Toffees finish seventh in the final standings.

David Moyes brought Nigel Martyn in as goalkeeping cover in 2003 but when Richard needed knee surgery after a match against Newcastle United in September, he would miss the rest of the campaign. In truth, he would rarely figure again in the Premier League. Martyn put in some inspirational individual displays so even when Wright was fit to return, Moyes stuck with Martyn as his first-choice goalkeeper. He would play just 24 more times in the league for Everton and any further action was restricted to appearances in cup football.

His last outing in the Premier League came in November 2006, conceding three goals in a 3-0 loss to Manchester United at Old Trafford. Released at the end of the season, he only enjoyed one more campaign as a goalkeeper playing regular football and that was back with Ipswich Town in 2008-2009. Wright became a back-up for the likes of Sheffield United, Southampton and Preston North End. He would actually spend four years on the books of Manchester City but never played a first-team match for the Citizens. At the age of 38, he called time on his career in May 2016.

Memorable Matches: West Ham United 2-4 Watford (September 2016)

Goalscorers: Michail Antonio 5, 33, Odion Ighalo 41, Troy Deeney 45, Etienne Capoue 53, Jose Holebas 63

Teams:

West Ham United: Adrian, Sam Byram (Gokhan Tore 85), James Collins, Artur Masuaku, Winston Reid, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble (Jonathan Calleri 69), Michail Antonio, Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini, Simone Zaza (Ashley Fletcher 77)

Watford: Heurelho Gomes, Miguel Britos, Craig Cathcart, Younes Kaboul (Sebastian Prodl 82), Jose Holebas, Daryl Janmaat, Valon Behrami, Etienne Capoue, Roberto Pereyra, Troy Deeney (Stefano Okaka 78), Odion Ighalo (Isaac Success 69)

Referee: Martin Atkinson, Attendance: 56,974

This was West Ham United’s second home match at The London Stadium since moving into the ground from Upton Park at the start of the 2016-2017 season. The following 90 minutes would be an indication of how hard settling into their new surroundings would be.

The Hammers had beaten AFC Bournemouth unconvincingly on their debut in the ground a fortnight earlier but made an excellent start against a Watford side who had mustered just one point from their first three matches in the campaign. Heurelho Gomes was forced into two quick saves to deny Michail Antonio but it was third time lucky for Antonio after only five minutes. He headed home from Dimitri Payet’s corner. Antonio had scored the winner in the Bournemouth match too, so he was fast developing a liking for the new ground.

Watford were rocking. Daryl Janmaat hit his own post on his full Hornets debut and 12 minutes before the interval, they were 2-0 down. Payet and Antonio combined again to cause the damage. A skilful cross from the Frenchman and Antonio headed home from close-range. Watford needed a goal before half-time but they got even more than they could have bargained for. Four minutes before the interval, Odion Ighalo’s deflected effort deceived Adrian to score only his second league goal in his last 18 matches. Then, a complete misunderstanding between James Collins and Adrian allowed Watford their equaliser. Skipper Troy Deeney produced a delightful lob over Adrian to ensure full punishment for defensive incompetence.

The turnaround was complete on 53 minutes. On the chest, Etienne Capoue struck his third of the season, beating Adrian at his near post. The Spanish goalkeeper was having a shambolic afternoon and he was at fault for Watford’s fourth too, allowing a Jose Holebas shot to somehow defeat him when he should have saved his effort.

It was Watford’s first win of the season and the first time they’d ever recovered from a two-goal deficit to win a Premier League match. The sight of fans leaving The London Stadium early in 2016-2017 would become a familiar one for West Ham who completely crumbled in this encounter. They would still finish six places above Watford though in the final table.

Shock Results: Wigan Athletic 0-4 Blackpool (August 2010)

Goalscorers: Gary Taylor-Fletcher 16, Marlon Harewood 38, 43, Alex Baptiste 75

Teams:

Wigan Athletic: Chris Kirkland, Emmerson Boyce (Ronnie Stam 45), Antolin Alcaraz, Maynor Figueroa, Steve Gohouri, Mohamed Diame (Hendry Thomas 45), James McCarthy, Ben Watson, Victor Moses (James McArthur 72), Mauro Boselli, Hugo Rodallega

Blackpool: Matt Gilks, Alex Baptiste, Craig Cathcart, Stephen Crainey, Ian Evatt, Charlie Adam, Elliot Grandin, David Vaughan, Gary Taylor-Fletcher (Jason Euell 76), Marlon Harewood (Chris Basham 60), Brett Ormerod (Ludovic Sylvestre 59)

Referee: Mark Halsey, Attendance: 16,152

The opening day of the 2010-2011 Premier League season is one that supporters of Blackpool will never forget. The Seasiders were playing in their first Premier League match away in Lancashire to Wigan Athletic. Initially having come out as a home match for Blackpool, the clubs had agreed to switch the venue whilst ground redevelopment was being completed at Bloomfield Road.

Blackpool had made seven new signings in the off-season and three of them made their debuts in this match including the experienced Marlon Harewood, who had the guile upfront to cause problems for any Premier League defence. He took advantage of a Wigan side that was missing Charles N’Zogbia through injury and had a backline that looked in complete disarray.

This was the first meeting in the top division between the sides and The DW Stadium was made silent inside of 16 minutes. Blackpool broke down the right-hand side. Harewood squared the ball for Gary Taylor-Fletcher to finish commandingly. Brett Ormerod, who had scored the play-off winner against Cardiff City a few months earlier missed a couple of earlier opportunities and Taylor-Fletcher had a second goal for the day chalked off for offside by linesman Paul Thompson.

Wigan looked scared. Blackpool were rampant and fully deserved their two-goal lead, achieved by Harewood on 38 minutes. The former West Ham striker tried his luck from distance. Chris Kirkland was beaten for pace but knew he should have saved it. Five minutes later, Harewood doubled his tally as he enjoyed his return to the big stage. Fellow impressive debutant Elliot Grandin had a shot from distance. Kirkland saved but again couldn’t hold onto the ball and Harewood was fastest to the rebound to score his second of the afternoon. Wigan were jeered off at half-time by their own supporters. This was an opening day to forget so far for manager Roberto Martinez.

He made two substitutions at the break with Ronnie Stam and Hendry Thomas replacing Emmerson Boyce and Mohamed Diame. It looked like they had pulled a goal back when defender Steve Gohouri nodded the ball into the net from Ben Watson’s free-kick. However, for the second time in the day, linesman Thompson had his flag up to disallow the goal.

With 15 minutes remaining, Blackpool added further gloss onto the scoreline with a fourth goal. Defender Alex Baptiste tried his luck and his shot which looked more like a cross managed to creep in past Kirkland’s defences at his near post. It was a horrid afternoon for the Wigan shot-stopper and he would lose his place in the team shortly after this display. Blackpool’s first top-flight win in 31 years had them briefly top of the table for a few hours and Holloway’s side were thrilling to watch all season.

Sadly though, there was no happy ending. Defeat on the final day at Old Trafford saw them relegated. The Latics lost 6-0 in their next match to Chelsea but Martinez’s side rallied in the closing weeks and avoided relegation on the same day Blackpool were relegated.

Premier League Files: Jay-Jay Okocha

Premier League Career: Bolton Wanderers (2002-2006)

Jay-Jay Okocha was one of the stars of the Premier League in the early 2000s. His flair, panache and skill made him a player who could often do amazing things on the football pitch. Widely regarded as the best Nigerian player of his generation, Okocha enjoyed a wonderful time on English shores for four seasons as a Bolton Wanderers player.

Okocha won 75 international caps for Nigeria and is one of the most iconic African players of all-time. He played at three World Cup finals, reaching the round-of-16 in both 1994 and 1998. He was also part of the Nigeria squad that stunned Argentina to win the gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta in the football competition. Football runs through Okocha’s DNA. In fact, his nephew is Alex Iwobi who currently plays in the Premier League for Arsenal and is now a Nigerian international himself.

He started his career in Germany and joined Eintracht Frankfurt in December 1991. Frankfurt might have not won any Bundesliga titles but were a thrilling team to watch and often finished in the higher positions in the table. Okocha played alongside Ghanaian hotshot Tony Yeboah, Norway’s Jørn Andersen and midfielder Maurizio Gaudino. Frankfurt finished third in 1993 and fifth in 1994 and Okocha won Goal of the Year too in 1993 for a mesmerising dribbling strike against Karlsruher SC.

In 1995, Okocha spectacularly fell out with coach Jupp Heynckes who also took a dislike to Yeboah and Gaudino. The latter pair moved on to pastures new in English football whilst Okocha stuck around until 1996 but Frankfurt’s first-ever relegation from the top-flight meant he would leave the Bundesliga behind and join Fenerbahce that summer.

He scored 30 times in 62 games across two seasons for the Turkish side and would become a Turkish citizen too before switching to Paris Saint-Germain in 1998, spending £14 million to acquire this gifted talent. By now, Okocha had a fearsome reputation as one of the best direct set-piece takers in world football. His time in PSG was more frustrating. They won the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2001 but league success eluded Jay-Jay, who did at least pass on his experience and talent to a young Brazilian superstar by the name of Ronaldinho during his four-year stay in the French capital.

After the 2002 World Cup, Okocha moved to Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer. It was seen as a wonderful coup for a club that were always likely to be fighting a relegation battle. He sparkled at his new challenge, scoring seven times including the club’s Goal of the Season winner against relegation rivals West Ham United in April 2003. On the final day of the season, a trademark free-kick helped Bolton to victory over Middlesbrough that ensured their Premier League survival at West Ham’s expense. In the celebrations that followed, Okocha taught his manager Sam Allardyce some of his dancing moves which went down well with all the supporters at The Reebok Stadium.

Allardyce appointed Okocha as the club’s new captain in the summer of 2003 following the retirement of long-serving defender Gudni Bergsson. He led the club to their first cup final in nine years, scoring two breathtaking goals in the League Cup semi-final defeat of Aston Villa. Bolton faced Middlesbrough at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium but came up short on the day, losing 2-1. Amazingly, Okocha failed to score a single league goal in the campaign but that wasn’t for the worth of trying. He ended his drought on the opening weekend of 2004-2005, scoring twice in the 4-1 victory over Charlton Athletic. Another four goals followed as Bolton achieved their highest finish in the Premier League, ending sixth in the final standings.

His final season saw the Nigerian removed of the captaincy in November 2005. His head had been turned by a potential move to the Middle East and Allardyce elected to give the armband to Kevin Nolan. Okocha carried on playing but it was clear the spark had gone and he rejected a contract extension at the end of the season to go and play in Qatar. It was a slightly acrimonious departure and his relationship with Bolton supporters wasn’t helped six years later following their Premier League relegation when he said: “We laid a good foundation at Bolton but, unfortunately, for the fans, they have to deal with Bolton being a struggling team again.”

After one year in Qatar, he returned to the English game to conclude his career at Hull City, retiring at the end of the 2007-2008 campaign. He is currently Chairman of the Delta State Football Association and has also expressed previously a desire to become Nigerian Football Federation President in the past.

He was so good, he was named twice! Jay-Jay Okocha certainly didn’t do dull during his time in the Premier League with Bolton Wanderers.

Great Goals: Hatem Ben Arfa – NEWCASTLE UNITED vs. Bolton Wanderers (April 2012)

On Easter Monday in 2012, Newcastle United were at home to relegation-threatened Bolton Wanderers and were struggling to break down the Trotters resolute defence. The score was 0-0 and therefore, something special was required to break the deadlock. It came from midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa.

The Frenchman received the ball inside his own half and a beautiful spin saw him leave Sam Ricketts on the ground. He was now away and continued a mazy run right through the centre of the St James’ Park turf. Three Bolton players were beaten and then, he calmly placed the ball beyond the advancing Adam Bogdan.

At times, Ben Arfa was a frustrating enigma. Sometimes, he was brilliant, other times, he was non-existent. However, this was one special goal from a player who has always had the quality to deliver but not always fully demonstrated his abilities.

Memorable Matches: Everton 3-4 Manchester United (February 2004)

Goalscorers: Louis Saha 8, 28, Ruud van Nistelrooy 23, 88, David Unsworth 48, John O’Shea 66 OG, Kevin Kilbane 74

Teams:

Everton: Nigel Martyn, Tony Hibbert, Alan Stubbs, David Unsworth, Alessandro Pistone (Gary Naysmith 46), Lee Carsley, Thomas Gravesen, Steve Watson (Wayne Rooney 46), Kevin Kilbane, Duncan Ferguson, Francis Jeffers (Tomasz Radzinski 46)

Manchester United: Tim Howard, Gary Neville, Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Mikael Silvestre, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher (Cristiano Ronaldo 81), Ryan Giggs, Louis Saha (Quinton Fortune 74), Ruud van Nistelrooy

Referee: Neale Barry, Attendance: 40,190

Reigning champions Manchester United had recently surrendered top spot in the table to unbeaten Arsenal after a surprising loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers three weeks earlier. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were now doing the chasing when they travelled to 14th place Everton, who had won just one of their last six league matches.

The Red Devils are often known for scoring very late goals but they made a stunning opening as they completely dominated the first 45 minutes. Paul Scholes hit the post and new signing Louis Saha headed wide from close-range inside the first five minutes. Three minutes later, Saha made no mistake to score his second United goal since joining from Fulham in the January transfer window. Mikael Silvestre’s hopeful long ball found Saha in acres of space as the Everton defence tried to play offside. The Frenchman brought the ball down, took his time and smashed his strike into the net.

The dodgy defending continued on 23 minutes when David Unsworth’s awful attempt at a clearance dropped into the path of Ruud van Nistelrooy. The Dutchman shook off the attentions of Alan Stubbs and finished from a tight angle to complete a century of goals for Manchester United. Saha quickly made it 3-0, getting his second goal with a weak shot which deflected off the left boot of Nigel Martyn.

David Moyes needed to make changes at half-time and he duly did. A triple change saw the struggling Alessandro Pistone, Steve Watson and the non-existent Francis Jeffers replaced by Gary Naysmith, Wayne Rooney and Tomasz Radzinski. They were about to begin an improbable comeback which won’t have pleased his fellow Scot in the visiting dugout. Four minutes into the second half, United’s lead was trimmed by a third. Tim Howard flapped his arms out on a Naysmith corner. Unsworth made the most of the gift to nod the ball into the unguarded net at the back post.

Manchester United’s weak spot all season was conceding goals from set-pieces and they gifted away another goal on 64 minutes. Yet another Naysmith corner caused chaos in the United penalty area and John O’Shea saw the ball bounce off him and into the net. The comeback was completed 16 minutes from full-time. Nobody picked up Kevin Kilbane who met Thomas Gravesen’s free-kick perfectly with a header that flew into the net. It was game on and either side could go on to win all three points. However, there would be a sting in the tale for Everton supporters.

Substitute Cristiano Ronaldo delivered a delicious cross to the back post from the right-hand side and there was an unmarked Van Nistelrooy to score his 101st Manchester United goal and see them nick all three points. It was a typical ‘Fergie Time’ goal but neither manager was smiling at the end of the season. Everton finished 17th, just six points clear of relegation and United came in a distant third, 15 points behind champions Arsenal.

25 years of the most envied league in the world!