The Managers: Avram Grant

Premier League Clubs Managed: Chelsea (2007-2008), Portsmouth (2009-2010), West Ham United (2010-2011)

Avram Grant has spent the majority of his career coaching and managing in Israel, enjoying plenty of success in his homeland with a host of league titles and cup victories with different teams, including Maccabi Haifa and Maccabi Tel-Aviv. However, he has also experienced three seasons coaching in England. He came within a kick of landing the biggest prize in European club football before experiencing a lost cause at Portsmouth and an underwhelming season in the dugout at West Ham United.

Four decades in Israel

Avram Grant began coaching as an 18-year-old all the way back in 1972 when he became a youth coach at his local side, Hapoel Petah Tikva. It was a spell that lasted a staggering 14 years. He made the big step into first-team management in 1986 when he was promoted into the role at Hapoel. He turned them into regular title contenders but they missed out on the top prize to Maccabi Haifa. Grant did enjoy back-to-back victories in the Toto Cup in 1990 and 1991.

His next stop was Maccabi Tel-Aviv where they won the league championship in his first season in-charge of the club, taking the top honours by 13 points in 1992. He repeated the success three years later before taking the position at Hapoel Haifa at the end of the 1994-1995 season. This was an unsuccessful spell as the club finished just fourth in the championship. He returned to Maccabi Tel-Aviv but couldn’t replicate the success of his first spell, only achieving one cup victory in 1999.

At the start of the new millennium, he went to Maccabi Haifa, coaching there until 2002. Maccabi enjoyed a dominating period under his tenure, winning consecutive league championships. However, they missed out on a potential place in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League after fielding an ineligible player in a qualifying tie against FC Haka of Finland.

Having led most of the major clubs in Israel, Avram moved into international management in 2002, becoming Israel’s youngest-ever boss in the process. However, they failed to qualify for both the 2004 European Championships and the World Cup in 2006. That was despite an undefeated qualification campaign in the latter but six draws from 10 matches saw them finish below France and Switzerland.

Off to Chelsea

In June 2006, Grant resigned as Israel manager after electing not to extend his contract. He moved to Portsmouth to become Technical Director whilst Harry Redknapp was in his second spell as manager there. However, he was also a close friend of Roman Abramovich and when the Russian billionaire offered him the position of Director of Football at Chelsea; it was an offer he simply couldn’t turn down. His arrival in July 2007 was believed to be another maker in the increased fractious relationship between Abramovich and Jose Mourinho.

In September 2007, Mourinho left as Blues manager and Grant was given the opportunity to move downstairs into the management role at Stamford Bridge. His first game ended in a 2-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford, just three days after taking control of the team. In doing so, he became the first Israeli coach to manage in the Premier League.

The fans and players initially weren’t happy with the appointment, all still upset with Mourinho’s departure but Avram managed to win them around, steering the club onto a 16-match unbeaten run in all competitions following the reverse at Old Trafford which included a 6-0 thumping of Manchester City. That was enough for Abramovich to give him a contract extension and he added Branislav Ivanovic and Nicolas Anelka to the squad in the 2008 January transfer window.

In February, the Londoners reached the League Cup final but lost in extra-time to Tottenham Hotspur to a goal from Jonathan Woodgate. A month later, Chelsea’s FA Cup defence ended with an embarrassing 1-0 loss in the quarter-finals to Barnsley. However, the Blues and the manager were showing great resilience in the other two major competitions. Late season victories domestically over Arsenal and Manchester United put them right in contention to win the Premier League title whilst Liverpool FC were beaten over two legs in a gruelling UEFA Champions League semi-final. Grant had achieved something Mourinho failed to manage – guiding Chelsea to a Champions League final.

May 2008 promised so much but ultimately produced heartbreak for everyone connected with Chelsea Football Club. Manchester United’s final day victory away at Wigan Athletic ensured they successfully retained their Premier League title whilst Chelsea could only draw at home to Bolton Wanderers.

Less than two weeks later, United and Chelsea went head-to-head in the first all-English final in the modern era of the UEFA Champions League. The game went to penalties and when Cristiano Ronaldo had his spot-kick saved by Petr Cech, skipper John Terry had a chance to win the competition for the first time for Chelsea. He lost his footing, slipped and his kick hit the post. The penalties went to sudden death and when Edwin van der Sar saved from Anelka, it was Manchester United who became the Kings of Europe. Chelsea had missed out on the biggest prize in European club football by the smallest of margins. Three days later, Grant was sacked.

Keeping the sinking ship going at Pompey

After 18 months out of the limelight, Avram returned to Portsmouth in October 2009 as their new Director of Football. Less than two months later, he was appointed manager, replacing Paul Hart in the hotseat. He took over a sinking ship. Portsmouth were bottom of the table with just seven points gained from 13 matches and the club were in desperate financial trouble.

He quickly installed some confidence into the players with home victories over Burnley and Liverpool FC and the players kept fighting, even with the huge problems off-the-field that were threatening to engulf the club’s existence. When Portsmouth were docked nine points in February 2010 for going into administration, relegation was virtually guaranteed. However, the supporters kept faith and a sensational run to the FA Cup final put smiles on the faces of the fans. They beat Birmingham City and Tottenham Hotspur to reach the Wembley showpiece where ironically, they would face his former club, Chelsea who were chasing a league and cup double. Didier Drogba’s free-kick decided the contest in Chelsea’s favour but Grant’s reputation had been enhanced in such troubling times for Portsmouth.

At the end of the season, he resigned as manager – deciding to embark on a fresh challenge but that didn’t stop the connection he felt with the supporters which he admitted to in an open letter to the fans.

“Portsmouth has given me a feeling of home away from home. I might be leaving Portsmouth physically, but you cannot take Portsmouth away from me and my heart. It’s been both a difficult and complex year for us at the club, but, at the same time, it’s been a wonderful and uplifting professional and personal experience. I have been inundated with letters and emails from fans. Many have brought tears to my eyes – and, take it from me, it takes a lot to do that.”

The Hammers nightmare

Two weeks after resigning as Portsmouth manager, Grant was appointed as West Ham United’s new boss, succeeding Italian playing legend Gianfranco Zola. However, it didn’t go well. He led the club to their worst-ever Premier League start, recording four successive defeats at the start of the season, scoring just twice and conceding 10 in that period.

His first win for the Hammers came in a London Derby against Tottenham Hotspur but by the end of November, West Ham were bottom and had enjoyed just two Premier League victories. The pressure was growing and on his job too with reports that the recently dismissed Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce was being lined-up as a potential successor.

West Ham rallied over the festive period with victories over Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers and a draw at home to Everton but the rumours about his longer-term future continued to grow. Martin O’Neill’s name was mentioned with the job in mid-January, especially after a 5-0 loss away at Newcastle United but he categorically ruled himself out of the running. Although they reached the League Cup semi-finals, that ended in defeat over two legs against Birmingham City and following a 3-2 defeat on the penultimate weekend away at relegation rivals Wigan Athletic which confirmed West Ham’s relegation, Grant was sacked. He’d achieved just seven league wins from 37 matches.

After the Premier League, he guided Partizan Belgrade to a fifth successive Serbian championship in 2012 and he took Ghana to an African Cup of Nations final in 2015 where they lost a penalty shootout to Cote d’Ivoire. In January 2018, he became technical advisor at Indian Super League side NorthEast United FC.

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Iconic Moments: Pompey enter administration (February 2010)

Promoted to the Premier League in 2004, Portsmouth had tried to live with the big boys of English football. Under Harry Redknapp’s guidance, the south coast side won the FA Cup in 2008 – their first major piece of silverware in 58 years. Less than two years later, the club were crippled with debts and became the first Premier League member to enter voluntarily administration.

The chaos began when Sacha Gaydamak sold the club in the summer of 2009 to Emirati businessman Sulaiman Al Fahim. Al Fahim had come to prominence for fronting the famous Manchester City takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group in September 2008. However, no major signings were made and with star assets like Peter Crouch and Sylvain Distin being sold to Tottenham Hotspur and Everton respectively, there were worrying early signs.

In early October, their plight became more known in the public spectrum when the club revealed the players hadn’t been paid. Then, Saudi businessman Ali al-Faraj bought the club from Al Fahim, taking a 90% share in the ownings. Results weren’t coming either and Paul Hart was sacked in November to be replaced by former Director of Football Avram Grant.

In 2010, a winding-up petition was given and another owner arrived in the form of Balram Chainrai. With debts of £135 million, liquidation was becoming a distinct possibility. To protect this and with no further investment coming, Chainrai placed the club into administration. They received a nine-point deduction for entering administration, effectively guaranteeing relegation.

Portsmouth have gone through another administration since and also three further relegations but are now back in League One and following a four-year period where the fans owned the club, they are now owned by The Tornante Company, led by former Disney CEO Michael Eisner.

Like Leeds before them, Portsmouth is a prime example of spending too much money in trying to be successful and experiencing serious long-term financial pain.

Great Goals: Johan Elmander – Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. BOLTON WANDERERS (November 2010)

Johan Elmander’s time in English football was mixed but he did enjoy a rich vein of form at Bolton Wanderers during the 2010-2011 season. The Swede scored this magnificent goal which was down to individual brilliance at Molineux against Wolverhampton Wanderers in November 2010.

Bolton were already 1-0 infront when Elmander produced this clever moment. Stuart Holden made a run into the penalty area and found the nomadic striker. His back was to-goal but with a silky backheel, he got away from two opposition defenders in Karl Henry and George Elokobi before finding the bottom corner of the net beyond the dive of Marcus Hahnemann.

It was one of 10 league goals he managed in the season and in a poll ran by The Guardian newspaper ahead of the 20,000th goal scored by Marc Albrighton in December 2011, it was voted the greatest-ever goal in Premier League history.

Premier League Files: Dean Windass

Premier League Career: Bradford City (1999-2001), Middlesbrough (2001-2002), Hull City (2008)

In November 2008, Dean Windass became one of the oldest goalscorers in the history of the Premier League when his scrambled equaliser earned his hometown club, Hull City a 2-2 draw away at Fratton Park against Portsmouth. He was 39 at the time, becoming the Tigers’ oldest-ever scorer in the process. He is back at Hull now, working as a Club Ambassador which he has held since 2015.

It was a career that went full circle. He started his career at Hull, signing his first professional contract in 1991 at the relatively late age of 22. Previously, he had been playing at part-time level for North Ferriby United whilst holding down jobs packing frozen peas and working on building sites. With the club in financial difficulty and after scoring 64 goals in 205 games, he was sold to Aberdeen for £700,000 in December 1995.

He became a fans’ favourite at Pittodrie but a fiery temperament was always part of his game and none more so than in a league game in November 1997 against Dundee United. Incredibly, he was sent off three times in the same match! The reasons were foul play, abusing an official and kicking the corner flag as he left the pitch. He received a six-game ban from the authorities. He moved to Oxford United in the summer of 1998, scoring 15 times for them before being transferred again, this time to Bradford City in March 1999 as Paul Jewell seeked a final boost to his attacking line-up ahead of a promotion bid to the Premier League.

Windass scored twice in 12 matches including a goal in a crucial away win at Bury as Bradford won promotion as runners-up in the First Division. Rather than go on holiday, he decided to train all summer, preparing for his debut bow in the Premier League. He finished as the Bantams top goalscorer in 1999-2000, finding the target 10 times including a Good Friday hat-trick in a 4-4 thriller with Derby County. Bradford beat the odds and avoided relegation on the final day of the season.

In March 2001, he was sold to Middlesbrough for £600,000 but only made 38 first-team appearances for the club which included loan spells at both Sheffield clubs during his spell on Teeside. Sheffield United turned his loan into a permanent transfer but after being dropped by Neil Warnock for the play-off final defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers, he elected to return to Bradford for a second spell at Valley Parade.

Bradford’s fortunes had nosedived dramatically as they struggled financially but Windass enjoyed arguably the best spell of his career in terms of goals. He ended up as top goalscorer in League One in 2004-2005, with 27 goals in 41 matches and ended as the club’s third highest all-time goalscorer before rejoining Hull in 2007.

In 2007-2008, he helped shoot Hull to a surprise promotion to the top-flight, scoring 11 times in 37 appearances. During that season, he made his 700th career appearance and scored his 200th goal in English football. The fairytale concluded with a spectacular winning strike in the play-off final victory over Bristol City which secured the Tigers promotion to the top-flight for the first time in their 104-year history.

The goal at Fratton Park was one of his final Premier League contributions. In total, he played just five times in the top-flight and was allowed to leave in January 2009 to join Oldham Athletic. He finished his professional career later that year, briefly working afterwards in the player-coach capacity at Darlington. He has hoped to get into management but made unsuccessful applications for managerial positions at Grimsby Town, Shrewsbury Town and Hartlepool United. Alongside his ambassadorial commitments with Hull, he is also overseeing the development of his son Josh, who currently plays for SkyBet EFL Championship side Wigan Athletic after a spell in Scotland with Rangers.

The Foreign Legion: Georgia

Number of Georgian Players to have played in the Premier League: 5

Most appearances: Georgi Kinkladze (102)

Most goals: Temuri Ketsbaia (8)

Appearances: Georgi Kinkladze 102, Temuri Ketsbaia 76, Zurab Khizanishvili 62, Mikhail Kavelashvili 4, Rati Aleksidze 2

Goals: Temuri Ketsbaia 8, Georgi Kinkladze 7, Zurab Khizanishvili 1, Mikhail Kavelashvili 1

Assists: Temuri Ketsbaia 1, Zurab Khizanishvili 1

Georgia is a nation that with a population of just 3.7 million and having only received independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 hasn’t made too much impact on the worldwide sporting landscape. In fact, its rugby union players are probably as big as any successful footballers, having played at four successive Rugby World Cup finals, coming within a point of embarrassing Ireland at the pool stages in 2007.

From a football perspective, only five footballers have tried their luck in the Premier League – two of them have left a legacy behind. First up was the dazzling and dribbling artist, Georgi Kinkladze. Kinkladze arrived in England in the summer of 1995 after impressing in some international games against Wales. It was Alan Ball who bought him to Manchester City and the fans at Maine Road absolutely loved him. As the team struggled, Kinkladze sparkled. He scored one of the best goals of the 1995-1996 season when he waltzed his way through Southampton’s defenders in a 2-1 victory in March. Ball loved him but the club were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the campaign and when he quit shortly afterwards, other managers didn’t appreciate Kinkladze’s lack of defensive responsibility on the team. Another relegation to Division Two followed in 1998 and he departed having been part of the club’s worst recent spell with two relegations in three seasons. After a difficult time in the Netherlands, he returned to English football with Derby County in 2000 but couldn’t re-ignite the sparkle he’d demonstrated in a Manchester City shirt. Relegation followed again in 2002 from the top-flight. Kinkladze was a luxury player and some managers liked that, whilst others couldn’t stand his desire to keep the ball and attempt to beat several defenders.

On Tyneside, they had their own Georgian they loved and that was Temuri Ketsbaia. Ketsbaia joined Newcastle United in the summer of 1997 after running down his contract at AEK Athens. Eight goals was a modest return but Ketsbaia remains the highest-scoring Georgian player in Premier League history and the fans considered him as a ‘cult hero’ during his three-year stint with the Magpies. Ketsbaia is most famously remembered for his celebration after scoring a winning goal against Bolton Wanderers in January 1998. He ripped his shirt off and started taking out his frustration by constantly kicking an advertising hoarding – apparently because he was frustrated at a lack of starting opportunities under Kenny Dalglish.

The other three Georgian players are largely forgotten. Mikhail Kavelashvili joined Manchester City on transfer deadline day in March 1996 and scored on his debut in a Manchester Derby. It was his only Premier League goal and he made just four appearances before City’s 1996 relegation. Zurab Khizanishvili struggled to hold down a regular starting position at Blackburn Rovers during his three-year spell at Ewood Park whilst Rati Aleksidze’s two-game spell at Chelsea was restricted to substitute appearances that lasted 18 minutes in 2000. Even the most ardent of Blues supporters probably don’t remember his spell at Stamford Bridge.

Thanks to Ketsbaia’s celebration and Kinkladze’s dribble, Georgia has a couple of historical moments in the Premier League archives but little success to show for it.

Premier League Rewind: 22nd-24th August 1998

Results: Charlton Athletic 5-0 Southampton, Chelsea 1-1 Newcastle United, Derby County 0-0 Wimbledon, Leicester City 2-0 Everton, Liverpool FC 0-0 Arsenal, Nottingham Forest 1-0 Coventry City, Tottenham Hotspur 0-3 Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham United 0-0 Manchester United, Aston Villa 3-1 Middlesbrough, Leeds United 1-0 Blackburn Rovers

There seemed to a post-attacking hangover after the 1998 World Cup finals in France and defences were most definitely on-top in the first month of the 1998-1999 season. On the second weekend of the campaign, there were three more goalless draws to add to the three on the opening day and just 18 goals across the 10 fixtures.

The main story was Charlton Athletic’s first game in the Premier League at The Valley and it turned out to be a memorable afternoon the Addicks supporters would never forget. Southampton were ripped apart in the Saturday afternoon sunshine in the capital. John Robinson had the honour of scoring Charlton’s first goal in the top-flight since promotion and play-off hero Clive Mendonca helped himself to a second half hat-trick. The Saints caved in and finished with midfielder David Howells in-goal after regular goalkeeper Paul Jones was sent off for a professional foul. Charlton won 5-0 and ended the weekend top of the Premier League table.

Two days after his big money transfer from Aston Villa to Manchester United, Dwight Yorke made his Red Devils debut at Upton Park as Alex Ferguson’s side continued their unspectacular start to the season with a turgid performance in a goalless draw with the Hammers. David Beckham made his first trip to a visiting ground since his World Cup nightmare and he was viciously booed throughout the afternoon by the West Ham faithful who hadn’t forgiven him for his antics in St-Etienne back in June.

Aston Villa boss John Gregory was furious Yorke had left his club and when his striker demanded to leave, he famously said “if he’d had a gun at the time, I think I would have shot him!” The Villans didn’t seem to miss him at home to newly-promoted Middlesbrough. Julian Joachim scored the pick of the goals in the home side’s impressive 3-1 victory infront of the Super Sunday cameras.

The standard and competitiveness of the Premier League was drawn out by the fact that there were no 100% records left after just two rounds of fixtures. Only two teams were pointless so far; Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs’ alarming 3-0 home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday with goals from Peter Atherton, Paolo Di Canio and Andy Hinchcliffe would turn out to be Christian Gross’ last home fixture as manager of the club. He was sacked in early September. The win for the Owls was the first in-charge for Danny Wilson after he left relegated Barnsley in the summer to take charge of a club he represented in his playing days.

The first manager to leave his post in the season was Kenny Dalglish. Although Newcastle recorded an excellent 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge against a new-look Chelsea, Dalglish resigned a few days later and would be replaced by ex-Chelsea manager Ruud Gullit.

The weekend ended with Leeds United edging out Blackburn Rovers 1-0 on Monday Night Football. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scored the only goal of the game after 18 minutes. It was the first of his 18 Premier League goals in the season, as he shared the Golden Boot with Yorke and Liverpool FC’s Michael Owen. 

What else happened in August 1998?

  • Just four months after The Good Friday agreement, trouble returns to Northern Ireland when a car bomb explodes at Omagh, planted by a splinter group who opposed the agreement. 29 people are killed and 220 are injured in the worst terrorist atrocity in Northern Ireland.
  • The United States embassy buildings are bombed in Tanzania and Kenya, killing 224 people and injuring over 4500. They are immediately linked to al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden.
  • American President Bill Clinton admits in a televised address to the country that he “misled people” about his sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky.
  • The world’s first bionic arm, the Edinburgh Modular Arm System is fitted.
  • Richard Dunn, the former CEO of Thames Television dies aged 55. He was in-charge of Thames when they controversially lost the London license to serve ITV in the 1991 Franchise Awards.
  • Damon Hill wins the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa – the first-ever victory for the Jordan Formula One team, ran by Irish team owner Eddie Jordan. It is Hill’s 22nd and final victory in the sport.
  • The Netherlands is selected as the venue for the trial of the two Libyan men charged with the Lockerbie bombing of December 1988.

 

 

Shock Results: Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 Manchester United (February 2011)

Goalscorers: Nani 3, George Elokobi 10, Kevin Doyle 40

Teams:

Wolverhampton Wanderers: Wayne Hennessey, Christophe Berra, George Elokobi, Richard Stearman, Ronald Zubar, Adam Hammill (Stephen Ward 65), Karl Henry, Nenad Milijas (Sylvan Ebanks-Blake 89), Jamie O’Hara (Kevin Foley 59), Matt Jarvis, Kevin Doyle

Manchester United: Edwin van der Sar, Jonny Evans (Chris Smalling 65), Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Rafael, Michael Carrick (Paul Scholes 45), Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs, Nani, Dimitar Berbatov (Javier Hernandez 65), Wayne Rooney

Referee: Michael Oliver, Attendance: 28,811

Wolverhampton Wanderers looked in desperate relegation trouble as the 2010-2011 Premier League season entered the month of February. Mick McCarthy’s side had conceded late in the midweek defeat to Bolton Wanderers and were bottom of the table when league leaders Manchester United travelled to Molineux for a Saturday evening kick-off.

It had already been a spectacular goal-filled afternoon with 37 goals in seven earlier Saturday matches and another three followed here, with one of the biggest surprises of the campaign so far. Wolves had already shown they could upset the big teams and had defeated Manchester City, Liverpool FC and Chelsea during the campaign. However, Sir Alex Ferguson’s champions-elect were on a 29-match unbeaten run in the Premier League, the third-longest in the competition’s history.

The formbook indicated the visitors should leave the Midlands with all three points and inside three minutes, they were already into the lead. In some of the best form of his Manchester United career, Nani broke down the right-hand side of the pitch, twisted and turned past George Elokobi and fired a left-footed shot inside Wayne Hennessey’s near post. The Portuguese international was starting to finally fulfil his potential that had always been evident since his 2007 transfer from Sporting Lisbon.

However, their advantage lasted a meagre seven minutes. Matt Jarvis produced an excellent cross into the danger area and Elokobi made amends for being beaten comprehensively for Nani’s goal with a towering header for his first goal of the season. Ferguson’s side had lost Rio Ferdinand in the warm-up to a calf injury and his leadership was being missed, as his replacement Jonny Evans struggled to deal with Wolves’ strong physical presence on proceedings.

Buoyant by the equaliser, Wolves began to sense the Red Devils were there for the taking. On-loan midfielder, Jamie O’Hara was making his debut for the club and he impressed throughout, forcing 40-year-old goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar into an improvised save whilst Nenad Milijas saw a free-kick nearly creep past the Dutchman via a nasty deflection off Nemanja Vidic.

Then, Wolves got a deserved lead five minutes before the interval. From another Milijas set-piece, Kevin Doyle just beat teammate Elokobi to the header and for the second time in the evening, United had been completely bullied at a set-piece scenario. Wolves were ahead and the impossible result suddenly looked like a distinct possibility.

There was a lack of response from the Red Devils after the break. Even the introduction of veteran midfielder Paul Scholes and expert substitute Javier Hernandez couldn’t break Ferguson’s side out of their slumber. Scholes even got booked in the closing stages for a deliberate handball when attempting to meet a cross.

Wolves claimed another impressive victory, repeating their 2004 success over Manchester United and it was a vital result as they avoided relegation on the final day of the season in dramatic circumstances.

The Clubs: Sheffield United

All-Time Premier League Record

Played Won Drew Lost Scored Conceded Goal Difference Points No of Seasons
122 32 36 54 128 168 -40 132 3

 

Most Premier League Appearances

Player Appearances Total
Carl Bradshaw 72
Paul Beesley 64
Alan Kelly 63
Glyn Hodges 62
Paul Rogers 52
Dane Whitehouse 52
Kevin Gage 48
Mitch Ward 48
Alan Cork 46
Adrian Littlejohn 46

 

Most Premier League Goals

Player Goals Total
Brian Deane 15
Adrian Littlejohn 11
Dane Whitehouse 10
Jostein Flo 9
Rob Hulse 8
Glyn Hodges 6
Paul Rogers 6
Nathan Blake 5
Alan Cork 5
Brian Gayle 5

 

Biggest Premier League Victories

Match Date Season
Sheffield United 6-0 Tottenham Hotspur 2nd March 1993 1992-1993
Sheffield United 3-0 Ipswich Town 16th January 1993 1992-1993
Sheffield United 3-0 West Ham United 14th April 2007 2006-2007
Sheffield United 4-2 Chelsea 8th May 1993 1992-1993
Coventry City 1-3 Sheffield United 24th March 1993 1992-1993
Sheffield United 3-1 Swindon Town 14th August 1993 1993-1994
Sheffield United 2-0 Southampton 3rd October 1992 1992-1993
Sheffield United 2-0 Middlesbrough 9th February 1993 1992-1993
Sheffield United 2-0 Oldham Athletic 22nd February 1993 1992-1993
Nottingham Forest 0-2 Sheffield United 1st May 1993 1992-1993

 

Worst Premier League Defeats

Match Date Season
Newcastle United 4-0 Sheffield United 24th November 1993 1993-1994
Liverpool FC 4-0 Sheffield United 24th February 2007 2006-2007
Manchester United 3-0 Sheffield United 18th August 1993 1993-1994
Sheffield United 0-3 Manchester United 7th December 1993 1993-1994
Arsenal 3-0 Sheffield United 29th December 1993 1993-1994
Arsenal 3-0 Sheffield United 23rd September 2006 2006-2007
Chelsea 3-0 Sheffield United 17th March 2007 2006-2007
Aston Villa 3-0 Sheffield United 5th May 2007 2006-2007
Everton 4-2 Sheffield United 21st August 1993 1993-1994
Leeds United 3-1 Sheffield United 17th October 1992 1992-1993

 

Managers

Manager No of Seasons managed Left the Club
Dave Bassett 2 12th December 1995
Neil Warnock 1 15th May 2007

 

Highest Home Attendances

Match Date Attendance Figure Season
Sheffield United 1-2 Wigan Athletic 13th May 2007 32,604 2006-2007
Sheffield United 0-1 Manchester City 26th December 2006 32,591 2006-2007
Sheffield United 1-2 Manchester United 18th November 2006 32,584 2006-2007
Sheffield United 1-2 Newcastle United 7th April 2007 32,572 2006-2007
Sheffield United 0-2 Chelsea 28th October 2006 32,321 2006-2007
Sheffield United 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur 10th February 2007 32,144 2006-2007
Sheffield United 1-0 Arsenal 30th December 2006 32,086 2006-2007
Sheffield United 1-1 Everton 3rd March 2007 32,019 2006-2007
Sheffield United 1-1 Liverpool FC 19th August 2006 31,726 2006-2007
Sheffield United 3-0 West Ham United 14th April 2007 31,593 2006-2007

 

Intro

It has been over 12 seasons since Sheffield United’s last dalliance with Premier League football. Their relegation on the final day of the 2006-2007 season was the second time the supporters had to deal with this heartache, having had destiny in their own hands to survive as they had on a dramatic last day in 1994. The Blades though do have the honour of scoring the first-ever goal in Premier League history thanks to Brian Deane’s fifth minute header against Manchester United in August 1992.

 

1992-1993

It was Dave Bassett who was Sheffield United manager when the Premier League began and despite working on limited resources, he kept the Blades away from relegation as they finished the inaugural campaign in 15th position, ahead of the likes of Coventry City, Southampton and reigning English champions, Leeds United.

They made Premier League history by scoring the first-ever goal in the new league on day one. Brian Deane scored it and the Yorkshire club surprised Manchester United, beating Alex Ferguson’s side 2-1. They also recorded their biggest-ever Premier League victory when Tottenham Hotspur was demolished 6-0 in March 1993. Other highlights included a Deane hat-trick to beat Ipswich 3-0 in January and victories in their final three matches, including a 2-0 success at The City Ground in Brian Clough’s final home match as manager of Nottingham Forest.

 

1993-1994

Deane had finished as top scorer in the previous campaign with 14 goals. However, he was sold in the summer of 1993 to Leeds United and goalscoring became a major problem in his absence in the 1993-1994 season. Norwegian Jostein Flo was the only player to amass double figures.

With little money to spend, Bassett’s side spent much of the campaign at the wrong end of the table but a 3-2 victory over West Ham United at the end of March started an impressive run of just one defeat in seven matches. Liverpool FC and Newcastle United were among the sides beaten in this period and that meant the Yorkshire side came into the final day of the season needing just a point to avoid relegation.

They took the lead twice against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge but were pegged back and in stoppage-time, Mark Stein scored a late winner for the home side. That goal was pivotal. Ipswich held on for a goalless draw at Blackburn and Everton’s dramatic comeback victory over Wimbledon meant Sheffield United were relegated to the First Division. They wouldn’t return to the Premier League for over 12 years.

 

2006-2007

Having finished runners-up to Reading in the Championship in the previous season, Sheffield United returned to the elite of English football with the charismatic Neil Warnock in-charge. An opening day draw with Liverpool FC was a good start and the Blades became tough to beat at Bramwall Lane. Their first victory back in the top-flight didn’t arrive until late September when a cracking Phil Jagielka shot beat Middlesbrough.

Jagielka was also the hero against Arsenal in the final match of 2006. He went in-goal after regular goalkeeper Paddy Kenny was injured but kept the Gunners out as the Blades recorded a 1-0 victory.

For much of the season, they were seven points clear of trouble but a torrid April and May meant they went into the final day still needing a point to guarantee safety. They played Wigan Athletic, who had to win or face relegation. Wigan took the lead but Jon Stead’s brave header saw the hosts equalise. However, a penalty was conceded in first half stoppage-time and David Unsworth, who had started the season as a Sheffield United player, scored for Wigan to put them infront.

Despite creating numerous openings in the second half, Sheffield United couldn’t find the goal they needed and they were relegated. The club then pursued a legal case against the FA for failing to deduct points from relegation rivals West Ham United for their part in the transfers involving Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. Warnock resigned as manager three days after relegation.

Memorable Matches: Arsenal 4-2 Wigan Athletic (May 2006)

Goalscorers: Robert Pires 8, Paul Scharner 10, David Thompson 33, Thierry Henry 35, 56, 76 PEN

Teams:

Arsenal: Jens Lehmann, Ashley Cole, Emmanuel Eboue, Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure, Gilberto Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Aleksandar Hleb (Robin van Persie 79), Robert Pires (Freddie Ljungberg 74), Jose Antonio Reyes (Dennis Bergkamp 79), Thierry Henry

Wigan Athletic: Mike Pollitt, Leighton Baines, Pascal Chimbonda, Mat Jackson, Paul Scharner, Reto Ziegler (Damien Francis 66), Graham Kavanagh, David Thompson (Andreas Johansson 73 (SENT OFF), Lee McCulloch, Henri Camara (David Connolly 82), Jason Roberts

Referee: Uriah Rennie, Attendance: 38,359

After 93 years, football was about to say goodbye to Highbury as Arsenal prepared to play there for the very last time on the final day of the 2005-2006 season. The Gunners had to better the result of north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur to claim fourth position in the final table and a chance to qualify for the following season’s UEFA Champions League.

Wigan Athletic had nothing to play for as they arrived to complete their first top-flight campaign but they played their part in an entertaining final farewell to Highbury. Before the match, Thierry Henry collected some of his individual prizes, including the Golden Boot and the Football Writers’ Award. There was one more day for the Frenchman to produce another grand performance at the ground.

Arsenal led after just eight minutes. Wigan failed to deal with a corner and from Sol Campbell’s flick-on – Robert Pires scored at the second attempt, having been denied first time round by an instinctive save from Mike Pollitt. It was Pires’ last Premier League goal for the club. He was to be released at the end of the season.

Two minutes later though, the visitors were level. David Thompson’s well-measured free-kick was steered in by centre-back Paul Scharner. Scharner had scored his first Wigan goal earlier in the season in a League Cup semi-final between the teams so he was finding a real liking for playing the Gunners. 12 minutes before half-time, Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann left a gaping hole at a free-kick and Thompson exposed this flaw with a clever set-piece that ended up in the back of Lehmann’s net. Paul Jewell’s Latics were threatening to be the party poopers.

Their lead lasted just two minutes. Aleksandar Hleb won back possession and played Henry through to equalise for his 135th Highbury goal. It was 2-2 at half-time and with Tottenham’s game also level at 1-1 against West Ham United, it was Martin Jol’s side that were on-course to finish fourth.

Into the second half and on 56 minutes, Thompson’s dreadful backpass put Henry through. He evaded Pollitt’s dive, stayed on his feet and put Arsenal 3-2 infront. With 14 minutes left, Arsenal won a penalty. In his first involvement since arriving as a substitute, Freddie Ljungberg went down under a challenge from Andreas Johansson. Uriah Rennie gave the spot-kick and sent the Wigan forward off. Henry made no mistake from the spot, completing his hat-trick, kissing the turf after scoring.

Dennis Bergkamp arrived into the game for his final-ever league match as a professional footballer and on his arrival, cheers went around the ground as Arsenal fans discovered West Ham had taken the lead against Tottenham. The Hammers held on for a 2-1 victory meaning this win was good enough for Arsenal to secure fourth place in the final standings.

There was then a glorious closing ceremony with 90 former players and staff welcomed back for a lap of honour before Arsene Wenger counted down the clock to 00:00:00 with a spectacular fireworks display. Football had finished at Highbury but it had gone out in sensational style.

The Managers: Brendan Rodgers

Premier League Clubs Managed: Swansea City (2011-2012), Liverpool FC (2012-2015)

Brendan Rodgers is breaking records and new grounds in the Scottish Premiership with Celtic. Back-to-back trebles and an unbeaten campaign with the Bhoys in 2016-2017, Rodgers is on-course to win more honours in this campaign, although he is finding life more difficult this season with Rangers launching a serious challenge for the Premiership title this season underneath his former captain at Liverpool FC, Steven Gerrard.

In England, Rodgers learned his trade under the wing of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea before going onto great success with Swansea City. This earned him the huge opportunity to manage Liverpool FC and he came within an inch of ending the Reds’ league championship drought in 2013-2014.

Enforced retirement

Growing up as a supporter of Celtic and Sheffield Wednesday, Rodgers began his playing career as a defender at Ballymena United. He was signed by Reading at the age of 18 but he never made a first-team appearance and a genetic knee condition meant he was forced to stop playing at just 20. Reading kept him on the books as a youth coach and academy director for several years.

He decided to travel around Spain to study coaching methods and in 2004, was invited by new Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho to become the club’s new youth manager. He received the recommendation to join the Blues by Mourinho’s assistant, Steve Clarke – who is now also a Premiership manager rival of Rodgers’ up in Scotland with Kilmarnock.

In 2006, he earned the promotion to manage the reserve team and even after Mourinho’s departure, Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Scolari kept him in that particular role. However, his first senior management opportunity was about to follow in Hertfordshire.

The Royal return doesn’t work out

In November 2008, Aidy Boothroyd left Watford with the club in relegation trouble in the Championship. They were 21st in the table and turned to rookie Rodgers to try and revive their fortunes.

His first experience of management at first-team level didn’t start well. The Hornets dropped into the relegation zone by the end of January and suffered a League Cup exit at the quarter-final stage to holders, Tottenham Hotspur. However, Rodgers stuck to his principles and he guided the club away from danger from February onwards. A run of five wins in six matches saw them finish a creditable 13th in the table.

A few weeks later, his former club Reading were looking for a new boss after Steve Coppell resigned following their failure to earn promotion via the play-offs. Although he initially distanced himself to the job, the lure of returning to Berkshire couldn’t be ignored and a compensation package was eventually agreed which saw Brendan leave Watford and take the vacancy at Reading.

The return didn’t work out. Reading managed just an average of one point per game and won just once at home during his tenure in the Championship. In December 2009, days after conceding a late equaliser at home to fellow strugglers, Scunthorpe United, he parted company with the club by mutual consent after just over six months in-charge. He managed only five victories in an unsuccessful stint at The Madejski Stadium.

Achieving history with Swansea

In July 2010, Rodgers returned to full-time management with Swansea City, succeeding Paolo Sousa. Prior to this appointment, it had looked like he would take up a first-team coaching position alongside Roberto Mancini at Manchester City but the lure of management on his own was simply too much. The Swans played some of the best football in the 2010-2011 Championship season and comfortably finished in the top six.

They made the play-off final and incredibly, it was Reading – the club who had ditched him when the going was tough who were the opponents in the battle to reach the holy grail of the Premier League. Swansea prevailed, winning 4-2 thanks to a Scott Sinclair hat-trick. Rodgers had achieved history by guiding Swansea to the Premier League, becoming the first Welsh club to play at this level.

The experts immediately tipped Swansea for an instant return to the Championship but despite failing to score in their first four matches, he stuck to his principles and prevailed. A strong home record which included victories over Arsenal, eventual champions Manchester City and Liverpool FC saw the Swans finish an exceptional 11th in their debut Premier League campaign. During the season, he signed a contract extension to remain as the club’s manager but when Liverpool FC sacked Kenny Dalglish days after the 2011-2012 season concluded, Rodgers name was immediately linked with the vacancy on Merseyside.

So close with Liverpool

Initially, it seemed like Wigan boss Roberto Martinez was the favourite with the bookmakers but the American owners of Liverpool, The Fenway Sports Group, had earmarked Rodgers as their preferred candidate. In June 2012, compensation was agreed with Swansea and the Northern Irishman was unveiled as Liverpool’s new manager.

His first campaign seemed to be slightly underwhelming. Liverpool finished seventh in the Premier League, below Merseyside rivals Everton and were eliminated from the FA Cup at the fourth round stage by League One strugglers, Oldham Athletic. However, he was building for the future and form improved in the second half of the campaign following the January arrivals of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, whilst Luis Suarez was in sensational form and seemed to improve under the coaching of Rodgers.

In 2013-2014, Liverpool’s minimum target was to challenge for a top four finish. Without any distractions from a European campaign, the Reds could focus on this goal but they well and truly exceeded expectations. They won their first three matches to top the Premier League table and were still sitting top on Christmas Day of a thrilling title battle against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Back-to-back defeats to City and Chelsea dropped Liverpool to fifth by the turn of the year and he was fined £8,000 by the FA for making comments about Lee Mason’s performance during Liverpool’s 2-1 Boxing Day defeat to the Citizens. However, Liverpool remained firmly in the title race, helped by the emergence of Raheem Sterling as a prosperous talent, the goals from the ‘SAS’ partnership between Sturridge and Suarez and some stunning displays from Gerrard at the heart of the midfield.

An 11-game winning sequence, which included a highly-charged and poignant 3-2 victory over Manchester City in April, had the fans dreaming of a first league championship in 24 years. However, it was not to be. Two weeks later, Gerrard slipped against Chelsea, allowing Demba Ba through on-goal to put the Blues ahead. Mourinho’s side won 2-0 and handed the title advantage to Manchester City. A dramatic collapse at Selhurst Park a week later at Crystal Palace ended the dream. It was a missed opportunity but Liverpool had never come so close to landing the Premier League prize. They scored 101 goals and thrilled spectators throughout the country but conceding 50 goals were one of the detrimental factors to their title tilt.

In the summer of 2014, Suarez left for Barcelona and Sturridge spent much of the campaign on the sidelines thanks to injury. Rodgers spent big but failed to find an adequate replacement for the Uruguayan forward. Mario Balotelli was a gamble that backfired whilst Lazar Markovic proved to be an expensive flop and Dejan Lovren struggled with his £20 million price tag. Back in the UEFA Champions League, Liverpool struggled to make an impact, achieving just one victory from their six group games and exiting the competition at the first hurdle. Rodgers’ decision to rest his star names at The Bernabeu, including Gerrard, caused a rift between the boss and his captain and that turned out to be the catalyst for Gerrard’s summer departure to LA Galaxy.

Liverpool finished a distant sixth, losing 6-1 on the final day at Stoke City and lost in domestic cup semi-finals to Chelsea and Aston Villa respectively. The campaign had been a real disappointment but the owners continued to have faith in Rodgers and stuck by him in the summer, providing further funds to allow Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino and Nathaniel Clyne to join the club.

By now, the patience of the supporters with Rodgers had run out. The frailties that had persisted through the title near-miss of 2013-2014 hadn’t been fixed nearly 18 months on. They limped past Carlisle United on penalties in the League Cup third round and couldn’t even beat Swiss part-timers FC Sion in the UEFA Europa League group stages. Speculation was rife that his time was up at Anfield.

Hours after a 1-1 draw with Merseyside neighbours Everton in the 225th Merseyside Derby, Rodgers was sacked by the owners – his fate had been sealed before the match after a run of just one win in nine matches in all competitions. He left with Liverpool sitting a distant 10th in the table.

It was a chastening end to what had been an initial promising start to his Liverpool reign.

Celtic joy

In May 2016, he was appointed as Celtic’s new manager on a 12-month rolling contract and immediately set to work on one of the clubs he supported as a boy. Celtic had been winning titles comfortably under the previous regime but had been failing to win the domestic cup competitions and made little impact in Europe either. The aim was to make the Bhoys stronger in European competition and to leave nothing on the table in terms of silverware for the other Scottish clubs.

In 2016-2017, he achieved history by guiding Celtic to a domestic treble for the fourth time in their history and ending the season unbeaten in all domestic competitions. They became the first Scottish top-flight side to complete an unbeaten league campaign since 1899, finishing with 106 points and a whopping 30 points clear of runners-up Aberdeen. The Dons were beaten in the Scottish Cup final and the Scottish League Cup final too as Celtic managed their 100th major trophy in their history.

They went 69 games unbeaten domestically before losing 4-0 to Hearts at Tynecastle in December 2017. Nevertheless, they once again cruised to the Premiership title and beat Motherwell in both domestic cup finals, becoming the first manager to win a ‘Double Treble’ in the history of Scottish football.

His success at Celtic can’t be ignored and it means his name is often linked with vacant Premier League jobs when they come up. However, he seems happy at Parkhead and it is highly likely he will remain up in Scottish football whilst the challenge continues to come from Rangers, Kilmarnock and Aberdeen.

Memorable Matches: Chelsea 4-3 Tottenham Hotspur (February 1994)

Goalscorers: Steve Sedgley 17, Jason Dozzell 18, Mal Donaghy 29, Mark Stein 33, 89 PEN, John Spencer 40, Andy Gray 72 PEN

Teams:

Chelsea: Dimitri Kharine, Steve Clarke, Mal Donaghy, Jakob Kjeldberg, Erland Johnsen, Craig Burley (David Hopkin 88), Eddie Newton, Dennis Wise, Gavin Peacock, John Spencer, Mark Stein

Tottenham Hotspur: Ian Walker, Dean Austin, Kevin Scott, Justin Edinburgh (Sol Campbell 27), Stuart Nethercott, Gary Mabbutt, Steve Sedgley, Vinny Samways, Darren Anderton, Jason Dozzell (Andy Gray 68), Ronny Rosenthal

Referee: John Lloyd, Attendance: 19,398

Both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur were experiencing tough campaigns in season 1993-1994. Both teams were far too close to the relegation zone for comfort when they met each other at Stamford Bridge in February 1994. The two sides from the capital would produce one of the finest London Derbies the Premier League has ever seen.

Tottenham hadn’t won at Stamford Bridge for over four years and they made the brighter start. Ossie Ardiles’ gung-ho approach seemed to be working. Darren Anderton produced a brilliant ball to the far post and Steve Sedgley sneaked around the back of Steve Clarke and found the back of the net in the 17th minute. Having lost six league matches in a row which was the worst run in the club’s proud history, Spurs quickly doubled the advantage. Dean Austin producing a first-class cross and Jason Dozzell was left unmarked to hand the visitors a 2-0 lead inside 20 minutes.

Chelsea needed to respond quickly to keep the home crowd onside and they managed it through 36-year-old Mal Donaghy in the 29th minute. Gavin Peacock picked out Donaghy whose shot took a slight deflection off Dozzell which was enough to deceive Ian Walker at his near post. Four minutes later, the scores were level. From a Dennis Wise corner, Danish defender Jakob Kjeldberg won an aerial battle against Stuart Nethercott and the ball fell perfectly for the in-form Mark Stein to fire home. Glenn Hoddle’s side completed a phenomenal turnaround with three goals in 11 minutes to take a 3-2 lead into half-time. The influential Wise produced a direct pass into the path of John Spencer whose brilliant instant control set himself up to flash his shot past Walker. The Scot had now scored in four successive matches and the Blues had their noses infront.

After a calmer start to the second half, Tottenham won a penalty in the 72nd minute. Erland Johnsen threw his arms up in the air from a corner to deny Kevin Scott’s header. Referee John Lloyd had no option but to give a penalty and substitute Andy Gray converted the spot-kick, firing his kick down the middle of the goal. At 3-3, there was no way Ardiles was going to settle for a point. Moments later, Tottenham were in again. Ronny Rosenthal burst clear with the Chelsea defensive offside trap breaking down spectacularly. Dimitri Kharine flew out of his goal and tackled the Israeli international unfairly and a second penalty was given. Kharine was probably slightly fortunate to avoid further sanction from the referee and it would play a part in the next course of action in this thriller of a match. Gray took his second spot-kick but it wasn’t as convincing as his first effort and Kharine saved with his legs.

Incredibly, there was a third penalty in stoppage-time when Austin fouled Peacock. Although there was a brief argument between Wise and Stein on who was going to take the penalty, the forward won the battle, both with his skipper and then with Walker, thumping his kick into the back of the net and sealing all three points for Chelsea.

Tottenham’s seventh successive defeat prompted huge concerns but they eventually edged away from danger to finish 15th in the final table, one place below Chelsea.

Great Goals: Gaston Ramirez – MIDDLESBROUGH vs. AFC Bournemouth (October 2016)

Middlesbrough found the going tough on their return to the Premier League in 2016-2017. One of their bright spots was the 2-0 home victory recorded over AFC Bournemouth in October 2016. The first goal on this autumn afternoon was one of the best solo goals of the season from the enigmatic Uruguayan, Gaston Ramirez.

A Bournemouth corner didn’t lead to any significant threat and when Adam Smith’s attempted shot was blocked, the ball fell into the path of Ramirez. The midfielder skipped past Harry Arter before increasing his speed, leaving on-loan Jack Wilshere trailing in his wake. With clear space ahead of him, Ramirez kept going and going, before cutting inside Andrew Surman’s desperate challenge and firing the ball beyond Artur Boruc.

Middlesbrough fans were elated and it won the Carling Goal of the Month for October 2016. It will be a lasting memory of Ramirez for them. He returned to Italian football after their relegation.

Memories from the Premier League archive of the most envied league in the world!