Referees in the Middle: David Allison

Premier League Career: 1992-1994

First Premier League Match: Middlesbrough 4-1 Leeds United (22 August 1992)

Final Premier League Match: Wimbledon 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur (30 April 1994)

David Allison was one of the referees in the very first season of the Premier League. By the time the competition had been formed in 1992, he had already being part of the profession for 12 years, taking charge of his first Football League match in 1980.

When he was promoted to the referees’ list at the age of just 31, some thought he was too young to handle the pressure of top-flight matches which in the 1980s were often played on slow, bumpy pitches at a more aggressive tempo. However, he was seen as a steady pair of hands to control these games. With more experience and maturity, he was becoming one of the best and most trusted officials in the Football League.

By the end of the 1980s, he was often the man given responsibility to handle the testing but enjoyable Manchester and Merseyside derbies. Despite this widespread praise, he was overlooked for the showpiece FA Cup final. David’s most senior appointment in cup football was taking charge of a League Cup semi-final first leg in 1992 between Nottingham Forest and Tottenham Hotspur.

His first Premier League appointment was newly-promoted Middlesbrough’s surprising 4-1 home win over defending champions Leeds United. Allison would remain on the Premier League’s officiating list for the first two seasons of the new era in English football, controlling 33 matches.  In 1994, the league decided to move to a smaller list of officials who would control its matches. It was a big surprise to see him not selected to continue duties in the top-flight.

This was a crushing disappointment for David but he didn’t pack up his whistle until the end of the 1996-1997 season after returning to Football League duty for another three campaigns. This included taking charge of the 1996 First Division play-off final between Leicester City and Crystal Palace when Steve Claridge scored with practically the last kick of the match to take Leicester back to the Premier League at the first attempt of asking.

In total, he controlled 463 matches in English football and remained in the game after retirement as a referees’ coach. In 2007, he was appointed National Group Manager in charge of the 57 top referees for the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) and is also the Training Officer for the Lancaster & Morecambe Referees’ Society.

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Memorable Matches: Queens Park Rangers 3-2 West Bromwich Albion (December 2014)

Goalscorers: Joleon Lescott 10, Silvestre Varela 20, Charlie Austin 24 PEN, 48, 86

Teams:

Queens Park Rangers: Robert Green, Yun Suk-Young (Clint Hill 30), Nedum Onuoha, Steven Caulker, Richard Dunne, Joey Barton, Leroy Fer, Karl Henry, Charlie Austin, Eduardo Vargas (Junior Hoilett 67), Bobby Zamora (Niko Kranjcar 80)

West Bromwich Albion: Ben Foster, Sebastien Pocognoli (Cristian Gamboa 90), Andre Wisdom, Joleon Lescott, Gareth McAuley, Graham Dorrans, Craig Gardner, James Morrison, Stephane Sessegnon, Silvestre Varela, Brown Ideye (Saido Berahino 69)

Referee: Craig Pawson, Attendance: 17,560

Going into this pre-Christmas match, both Queens Park Rangers and West Bromwich Albion were in the need for three points. Harry Redknapp’s side had failed to take a single point away from home but were in fine form at Loftus Road, taking 10 points from their last four home encounters. West Brom had just beaten Aston Villa in their last match to ease the pressure slightly on their head coach, Alan Irvine.

It was the visitors’ who made the better start and completely dominated in the first 20 minutes. Craig Gardner and Brown Ideye both came close to opening the scoring but it was a defender who would ultimately break the deadlock. Sebastien Pocognoli’s corner was flicked on by Stephane Sessegnon and Joleon Lescott headed home. Lescott was a summer arrival from Manchester City and this was his first goal since September 2012.

1-0 after 10 minutes became 2-0 after 20 minutes. Silvestre Varela linked up with Sessegnon, playing some smart one-touch football and he finished coolly inside the penalty area. Varela was on-loan from FC Porto and had struggled to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League. It was his first goal for the club and ultimately, his only goal in the Baggies’ colours.

Redknapp’s side needed a swift response and it arrived via the penalty spot just four minutes later. Referee Craig Pawson punished James Morrison for tugging away at Leroy Fer’s shirt. Charlie Austin, back from suspension after seeing red in QPR’s last home match against Burnley, made no mistake from the penalty spot. This goal meant he had scored in each of QPR’s last five home matches.

Despite getting back into the game, QPR were still second-best for the remainder of the first half. Green’s agility levels were tested on two further occasions before the interval to deny Gardner from a deflected free-kick and a dangerous drive from the impressive Sessegnon. West Brom’s failure to take their chances would cost them dearly in the second half.

Less than three minutes into the second half, Joey Barton’s corner was headed onto the crossbar by Richard Dunne. The ball fell perfectly to Austin, who bundled home a loose ball to level the scores. A winning goal always looked likely for either side and with Austin on the pitch, QPR could not be discounted. Four minutes from time, he climbed highest to head home another Barton corner. It was his ninth goal in the last seven matches and his maiden hat-trick in the Premier League.

The result lifted QPR out of the bottom three and into 15th spot, level on points with their opponents. Irvine lasted another two matches before being sacked. Tony Pulis succeeded him and steered Albion clear of any relegation danger. Despite the goals of Austin, QPR were relegated before the end of the season. This was their day though and one of the best comebacks of the 2014-2015 season.

Great Goals: Denny Landzaat – Arsenal vs. WIGAN ATHLETIC (February 2007)

Arsenal’s first year at the Emirates Stadium saw the club concede the first goal of matches to many of their opponents. Few were better though than the strike Denny Landzaat produced in February 2007.

It looked like Arsenal had cleared the danger when the Wigan attackers lost possession in a promising position. The ball fell to Landzaat and no-one expected him to produce a shot on goal, let alone one that would hit the back of the net.

The defensive midfielder took a touch and smashed a shot that flew past Jens Lehmann and into the back of the net. Arsenal did their usual late show that season and won 2-1, so ultimately, this goal counted for nothing. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful moment for Landzaat and one of the best goals seen in the early days at the Emirates.

Premier League Files: Richard Jobson

Premier League Career: Oldham Athletic (1992-1994), Leeds United (1995-1998)

Although injuries were an issue in the career of Richard Jobson, his longevity could never be questioned. He made nearly 600 professional appearances and played in the top-flight for Oldham Athletic and Leeds United. Jobson’s early career was dominated by a lengthy stint at Hull City, featuring 221 times for them from 1985 to 1990. Oldham had to pay a club record fee of £460,000 to acquire Jobson. The powerful centre-back then played 189 times for the Latics, playing a pivotal role in their unlikely escape act from relegation in the first Premier League season. He was also an FA Cup semi-finalist in 1994.

After Oldham’s relegation, Jobson remained loyal to the club, staying with them for nearly 18 further months before moving onto Leeds United for £1 million in October 1995. This is where injuries started to take their course on Richard. He played just 22 times for Leeds across three seasons, scoring once in a 1-1 home draw with Wimbledon in December 1995.

He linked up with his former Oldham manager, Joe Royle at Manchester City in 1998 and helped the Citizens’ to back-to-back promotions from Division Two to the Premier League. However, he never got the opportunity to play in the top-flight again. Royle moved him onto Tranmere Rovers before finishing his playing career at Rochdale. The final game of his professional career was in May 2003, just six days short of his 40th birthday. Off-the-pitch, Jobson spent the final year of his playing career as chairman of the PFA and in 2009, became a senior executive within the PFA’s player management department.

Referees in the Middle: Mike Jones

Premier League Career: 2008-PRESENT

First Premier League Match: Hull City 0-5 Wigan Athletic (30 August 2008)

Mike Jones is approaching the landmark of 200 games refereed in the Premier League. He is one of the more modern refs, having only begun his referee career two decades ago. The 49-year-old from Cheshire’s first match in the Football League was a Division Two clash between Mansfield Town and Hull City in August 1997.

After 11 seasons in the Football League, Jones was promoted to the Select Group of Referees in 2008, allowing him the opportunity to take control of Premier League matches. His first match in the top-flight was Wigan Athletic’s resounding 5-0 victory away at Hull City in August 2008. That still remains Wigan’s biggest Premier League victory.

Big finals haven’t come the way of Mike Jones yet. His most high-profile appointment was the 2007 League Two play-off final, sending off Marc Tierney of Shrewsbury Town in their 3-1 loss to Bristol Rovers. Tierney became the second player to be sent off at the new Wembley after its significant redevelopment.

Some like the way he attempts to allow games to flow. Others don’t. Former top-flight referee Keith Hackett was especially critical in 2016, saying in an article for the Daily Telegraph: “Too soft and inconsistent to be a referee at this level.”

The most embarrassing moment of Mike’s Premier League career came in October 2009 when he was involved in one of the most bizarre goals in Premier League history. Sunderland were playing Liverpool FC and took the lead early on at the Stadium of Light, courtesy of a goal from Darren Bent. Replays showed Bent’s shot took a deflection off a beach ball that had been thrown onto the pitch by visiting supporters before kick-off! The goal was allowed to stand and Sunderland won the match 1-0. Jones was demoted for a week from Premier League duty and the beach ball eventually ended up being an exhibit at the National Football Museum in Manchester.

However, he is still going strong and I would expect him to be part of the Premier League refereeing fraternity for some time to come.

Premier League Files: George Boyd

Premier League Career: Hull City (2013-2014), Burnley (2014-2015, 2016-2017)

What do Steve Kabba, Mark Robins and George Boyd have in common? These three players have suffered the ignominy of playing in the same Premier League season for two relegated teams. In Boyd’s case, this happened to him during 2014-2015 when he started the campaign with Hull City but was a Burnley player by the end of the season.

The Scot, who won two caps for his country is a creative player who likes to play out on the wings and lay on chances for his teammates. He left the Premier League in the summer of 2017, turning down a new deal at Turf Moor to sign a two-year contract with Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.

He grew up in Kent and is a Crystal Palace fan. George started his career at fellow London side Charlton Athletic but was rejected at the age of 15. With this early setback, he had to work his way up the football pyramid again, starting with Stevenage. Whilst playing in Hertfordshire, he was working in a sweet shop to earn the money for his train fare to training and was also studying at North Hertfordshire College. He was definitely doing things the busy and hard way.

He made his Stevenage debut at the age of 17 and spent the next five years with the club before joining Peterborough United in 2007. It was with Peterborough that he enjoyed the most productive spell of his career, featuring 263 times for the club during seven seasons at London Road. This included three campaigns in the Championship, having begun with Posh in League Two.

He was the subject of plenty of interest during this time with the likes of Burnley and Nottingham Forest submitting bids that were rejected. Eventually, it looked like he was going to move to the latter in January 2013. Everything was agreed and a medical passed until Forest pulled the plug on the deal due to an “inconclusive eye test.” Peterborough owner Darragh MacAnthony didn’t hold back with his thoughts, saying: “I’m devastated for George. I got a phone call off him in bits… He said that he passed the medical then they made him do an eye test. He’s played 300 matches and scored from the halfway line the other month, but Forest say he has an eyesight problem. The whole thing stinks. Alex McLeish wanted to sign him. It’s the most ridiculous thing that’s happened to me.”

He eventually did move on but to Hull City on-loan before the move became permanent in the summer of 2013 with the club enjoying promotion to the Premier League. His time with Hull in the top-flight was not as successful, scoring just twice in 29 games although one did come in a 6-0 thrashing of Fulham in December 2013.

After starting the 2014-2015 campaign at Hull, making one appearance against Stoke City, he moved to Burnley on a three-year deal on deadline day. His finest Premier League moments would come that season against Manchester City. In December, he scored the first of the club’s two goals in their fine 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium. Three months later, it was his 61st minute strike that saw the champions defeated at Turf Moor. Unfortunately, Burnley didn’t have enough all-round quality to avoid an instant return to the Championship.

The Scot stayed with the club to help them win promotion at the first attempt back to the top-flight and figured 36 times in 2016-2017, scoring twice as Burnley survived in the Premier League for the first time in their history.

Although he was offered a new deal, he decided for a fresh challenge away from Lancashire and signed for Sheffield Wednesday where he has only just made his league debut after injury hampered the early months of his time in Yorkshire.

Premier League Files: Simon Charlton

Premier League Career: Southampton (1993-1997), Bolton Wanderers (2001-2004), Norwich City (2004-2005)

Making over 500 appearances in a career that spanned 18 years, Simon Charlton was a player who never took the limelight at any of his clubs. However, he was a well-respected figure by the supporters of the teams he represented and was a consistent performer throughout.

Frequently deployed as a left-back, Charlton began his career with his hometown club, Huddersfield Town. During that stint, he demonstrated the capabilities to play as a central defender or even in midfield. It was this versatility that helped win stay with clubs and play in prominent squad positions.

He moved to Southampton in June 1993 for £250,000 but barely figured initially under Ian Branfoot at the Saints. His PL debut came in a 2-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers, over five months after arriving on the south coast. However, he went onto make 114 Premier League appearances at The Dell, scoring twice. One of those goals was in a narrow defeat to Manchester United in May 1995.

Three years later, Simon dropped down a division to Birmingham City and would spend three campaigns in the second-tier, eventually escaping Division One with Bolton Wanderers in 2001. On his return to the top-flight, he appeared in 36 of the Trotters’ 38 Premier League matches in 2001-2002. Bolton avoided relegation and Charlton was chosen as the club’s Player of the Year. As Bolton started to improve under Sam Allardyce and more continental stars arrived, it wasn’t a surprise to see him slip down the pecking order at the Reebok Stadium.

He moved to Norwich City in 2004 but couldn’t avoid relegation with the Canaries in his first season with them. He fell out with boss Nigel Worthington and was released on a free transfer in 2006. On his departure, he fired parting shots at Worthington, claiming he had been made a “scapegoat” for the team’s indifferent performance that season. He spent one year at Oldham Athletic before retiring from the game. After playing, Charlton served time as a youth coach back at Norwich before going into management for a season at non-league Mildenhall. He now works in media as a commentator and summariser for Bolton Wanderers matches for BBC Radio Manchester.

Memorable Matches: Middlesbrough 3-3 Tottenham Hotspur (December 2005)

Goalscorers: Robbie Keane 25, Yakubu 30, 43, Jermaine Jenas 63, Franck Queudrue 69, Mido 83

Teams:

Middlesbrough: Mark Schwarzer, Matthew Bates, Gareth Southgate, Ugo Ehiogu, Franck Queudrue, George Boateng, Doriva, James Morrison (Massimo Maccarone 89), Fabio Rochemback, Marc Viduka, Yakubu

Tottenham Hotspur: Paul Robinson, Lee-Young Pyo, Michael Dawson, Ledley King, Paul Stalteri, Michael Carrick, Edgar Davids, Jermaine Jenas (Grzegorz Rasiak 81), Andy Reid (Jermain Defoe 56, Michael Brown 90), Robbie Keane, Mido

Referee: Howard Webb, Attendance: 27,614

The 27,614 crowd that turned up at the Riverside Stadium in December 2005 were given a pre-Christmas treat. Middlesbrough and Tottenham Hotspur produced a great spectacle and ultimately, a game which neither side deserved to lose.

Boro were having a tricky season under Steve McClaren. They had lost their last two Premier League games and were finding the juggling effect of Premier League and European matches tough to handle. Martin Jol’s Tottenham didn’t have that problem and they were challenging for a top-four finish alongside the top-flight’s usual suspects.

After a scrappy first 25 minutes, it was Jol’s side who took the lead. Lee-Young Pyo launched a deep cross into the box. Mark Schwarzer was challenged by Mido and under pressure, the goalkeeper lost the ball. Robbie Keane was in the right place at the right time. His strike wasn’t the cleanest but evaded three Boro defenders to score. Schwarzer looked at referee Howard Webb, feeling he had been impeded. In truth, it wasn’t his finest piece of goalkeeping.

Middlesbrough responded well though and by half-time, were leading 2-1. From a Gareth Southgate flick-on, Yakubu volleyed past Paul Robinson at the near post. He was the big summer arrival at the Riverside and returning an excellent goals tally. The Nigerian doubled his tally but in more fluky fashion. Academy graduate James Morrison was given space to run at the defence. He did just that, skipping past Michael Dawson’s tackle before releasing a shot. His effort took a wicked deflection off Yakubu and that gave the England no.1 goalkeeper no chance. Yakubu nearly had a hat-trick early in the second half. Only great reflexes from Robinson stopped him from walking home with the match ball. Morrison’s cross was met by a thumping header that was turned over the crossbar. It was a crucial save. Moments later, Spurs equalised. Jermaine Jenas produced a perfectly curled free-kick that comprehensively beat Schwarzer to level the scores.

With 20 minutes left, Middlesbrough regained the lead. Fabio Rochemback’s corner was met by a flying Franck Queudrue header. The ball hit the underside of the bar and bounced over the line. These were the days before goal-line technology but no doubts here – the linesman correctly awarded the goal. Robinson didn’t agree and was booked by Webb for his protests. However, Tottenham deserved something from the match and they got their point seven minutes from the end. Mido climbed the highest from a corner to defeat Schwarzer and ensure the points would be shared.

Both suffered heartache at the end of the season. Middlesbrough finished a disappointing 14th but went all the way to the UEFA Cup final before losing to Sevilla. Tottenham were pipped to a top-four finish on the final day of the campaign by north London rivals Arsenal.

Great Goals: Patrik Berger – Charlton Athletic vs. PORTSMOUTH (August 2004)

This early season encounter between Charlton Athletic and Portsmouth produced a spectacular effort from the experienced and skilful Czech player Patrik Berger.

Berger had the ability to produce the spectacular and he demonstrated this at The Valley. From a David Unsworth free-kick, he received possession from the defender, spun around ex-Liverpool FC teammate Danny Murphy and launched an unstoppable volley that looped over Dean Kiely who stood absolutely no chance.

Charlton might have won the game 2-1 but Berger’s goal was the moment of this match, without a doubt.

Shock Results: Aston Villa 3-1 Manchester United (August 1995)

Goalscorers: Ian Taylor 14, Mark Draper 27, Dwight Yorke 36 PEN, David Beckham 82

Teams:

Aston Villa: Mark Bosnich, Alan Wright, Gareth Southgate, Ugo Ehiogu, Paul McGrath, Gary Charles, Ian Taylor, Andy Townsend, Mark Draper, Dwight Yorke (Riccardo Scimeca 86), Savo Milosevic (Tommy Johnson 50)

Manchester United: Peter Schmeichel, Paul Parker, Denis Irwin, Gary Pallister (John O’Kane 59), Gary Neville, Phil Neville (David Beckham 45), Roy Keane, Nicky Butt, Lee Sharpe, Paul Scholes, Brian McClair

Referee: Robbie Hart, Attendance: 34,655

Manchester United felt like a wounded club in the summer of 1995. Having won the double in 1994, they ended up empty-handed one season later.

Alex Ferguson’s response was to sell star players Paul Ince, Andrei Kanchelskis and Mark Hughes. Ince moved to a new culture of football of Serie A with Inter Milan, Kanchelskis switched to Everton and Hughes moved to Chelsea. With injuries keeping out Steve Bruce, Andy Cole and Ryan Giggs, plus Eric Cantona’s lengthy suspension, it was a much-changed Red Devils line-up that travelled to Villa Park on the opening weekend of the 1995-1996 campaign. Aston Villa had undergone a huge squad overhaul themselves. The likes of Ray Houghton, Dean Saunders, Dalian Atkinson and Kevin Richardson were discarded and in came Gareth Southgate, Mark Draper and from Yugoslavia, Savo Milosevic. Villa produced a quality display on a sun-drenched afternoon in Birmingham.

Brian Little opted for a three-man defence, comprising of Southgate, Ugo Ehiogu and Paul McGrath. This allowed the more attack-minded Gary Charles to push forward and his tactics worked, especially as Charles played a significant part in the opening goal on 14 minutes. His dangerous cross into the penalty area was turned in by Ian Taylor. Taylor was in his first full season at the club after moving from Sheffield Wednesday in December 1994. He was already a hero of the Holte End.

It was a speedy counter-attack that led to Villa’s second. The new strike partnership of Dwight Yorke and Milosevic combined to tee-up Draper on 26 minutes for a debut goal. United were struggling without many of their regulars and a third goal came nine minutes before the interval. Goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel fouled Milosevic in the penalty area. Yorke routinely converted the spot-kick to make the scoreline 3-0. It was already a result that would raise plenty of eyebrows.

Ferguson probably peeled the paint off the visitors’ dressing room walls at half-time. He made a number of tactical changes, including reverting to a traditional 4-4-2 formation. He brought on David Beckham at half-time and his long-range strike with eight minutes left at least ensured some reward for a better second half display. However, the damage had been inflicted long before Beckham’s very first Premier League goal.

Ferguson defended his team in the media but the written press had a field day and BBC Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen famously said a few hours after the result: “He has to buy players. You can’t win anything with kids!”

Manchester United would end the season with their second league and cup double in three seasons.

Premier League Files: Angel Rangel

Premier League Career: Swansea City (2011-PRESENT)

Angel Rangel has spent the majority of his professional career at just one club, Swansea City. His loyalty was rewarded in November 2017 when he was made club captain by Swans’ manager Paul Clement, replacing Leon Britton who moved into a player-assistant role.

Born in Catalonia, Rangel played for several clubs in Spain but never in the top-flight of his homeland country. In the summer of 2007, fellow compatriot Roberto Martinez brought him to Swansea for an undisclosed fee. Since then, Rangel has been a prominent part of Swansea’s journey into the top-flight and beyond.

When he joined the Welsh side, they were in League One. He had an excellent debut campaign in British football, scoring twice and being one of five Swansea players to feature in the PFA League One Team of the Year. Swansea were promoted as League One champions, ending a 24-year exile outside the top two leagues.

He continued to feature prominently in Swansea’s teams during their Championship days under the guidance of Martinez, Paulo Sousa and then Brendan Rodgers. It was under Rodgers in 2011 that Swansea made their breakthrough into the Premier League, beating Reading 4-2 in the Championship play-off final. During that summer, he signed a three-year extension to his contract.

In August 2012, Rangel scored his first Premier League goal, opening the scoring in Swansea’s 3-0 home win over West Ham United. He scored three goals that campaign in the top-flight. He’s only got four in his PL career. His most recent strike was a crucial one as it won Swansea three vital points against Crystal Palace in January 2017 – Clement’s first game in charge as manager.

On the announcement of becoming captain, he said: “I never thought I would end up as a captain, but I am proud and honoured and full of enthusiasm after being given this chance.”

Now 35, Rangel only featured once in the first 11 games of the 2017-2018 Premier League season but his experience and guile will be important as Swansea face another difficult campaign at the wrong end of the table.

The Managers: Mike Walker

Premier League Clubs Managed: Norwich City (1992-1994), Everton (1994)

Mike Walker turned 72 in late November 2017. He had a professional career that nearly spanned 700 games and is remembered fondly by Norwich City fans as one of their finest-ever managers. By contrast, Everton fans remember his 10-month reign at Goodison Park for all the wrong reasons. He is widely considered by many supporters on Merseyside as Everton’s worst boss.

During his playing days, Walker played as a goalkeeper and this was something that ran through his family. His son, Ian Walker would later be capped at international level by England and play in the Premier League in-goal for Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City. He most notably played for Colchester United, spending 10 seasons as their first-choice goalkeeper. He played 451 times for the club and also turned out in the Football League for Shrewsbury Town, York City, Watford and one appearance for Charlton Athletic.

Taking Norwich to the brink

The highlight was being a part of the Watford side that knocked out Bill Shankly’s mighty Liverpool FC outfit from the FA Cup in 1970. He saved a spot-kick too which endeared himself to many Everton fans. 24 years later, they wouldn’t be so endearing after his ghoulish Goodison reign.

Having ending his playing days with Colchester in 1983, his first managerial role came at the Essex club three years later. Colchester were top of the Fourth Division table in November 1987 and Walker had won 35 of his 79 games in charge, yet was mysteriously sacked by owner Jonathan Crisp to the amazement of everyone at Layer Road. He had just won Manager of the Month honours for the previous month too.

Norwich City were quick to snap Walker up following his shock exit from Colchester. He took charge of their youth team which was a role he would keep until 1992. He was promoted to take control of the first-team just two months before the start of the inaugural Premier League campaign. The Canaries were considered among the favourites for relegation but they continued to defy the odds all season. They beat the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Southampton in the season’s early weeks to top the table and they remained top of the pile at Christmas. Eventually, Manchester United and Aston Villa managed to wear the East Anglian club down but Norwich still finished a fabulous third, despite ending with a negative goal difference.

Walker was seen as one of the most promising managers in British football. His Norwich side were attack-minded, positive and never afraid to take teams on at their own game. It made them one of the most attractive sides in England. In October 1993, Norwich produced one of the biggest shocks in the history of the UEFA Cup. They stunned Bayern Munich in their own backyard to beat them 2-1 in the second round. They became the first English team to win at the Olympic Stadium. A draw back at Carrow Road was enough to see the Bundesliga heavyweights eliminated. They were edged out in the next round by the eventual winners of the competition that season, Inter Milan.

However, relations had soured between Walker and his owner Robert Chase. The manager wanted to take the club forward but couldn’t as Chase was more interested in cashing in on the most prized assets. With Ruel Fox on the verge of being sold to Newcastle United in January 1994, that was the final straw for Mike and he abruptly quit, taking over as Everton manager. Everton had been without a manager for a month before his arrival and they had to pay substantial compensation to Norwich for Walker’s services.

The nightmare of Merseyside

His first game was an exciting 6-2 victory over Swindon Town but it wouldn’t get much better than that. Everton were in the midst of a relegation battle and went into the final day of the season in the bottom three. They needed to beat Wimbledon and hope results went their way. It started disastrously with the Toffees 2-0 down inside 20 minutes but they produced a remarkable recovery to win 3-2. Results did go for the Merseysiders and they stayed up with Sheffield United going down instead.

Walker had signed Anders Limpar and in the summer of 1994, added Vinny Samways from Tottenham Hotspur and Nigerian Daniel Amokachi who had starred at the World Cup. However, fans were annoyed to see fan favourites Peter Beagrie and Tony Cottee discarded so easily. Everton fans were desperate to see the ‘Silver Fox’ as he was nicknamed succeed but his lack of defensive principles and refusal to change tactics would cost him his job.

Everton started 1994-1995 so poorly. They made their worst start to a league season in their proud history and were propping up the table. With four clubs going down that campaign, desperate action was required. A win did arrive at home to West Ham United in early November but the damage had already been done.

Three days after earning a gutsy 0-0 draw at his former club Norwich in a dire game of football, Walker was sacked. On leaving, he said he was “disappointed” and believed the club had “turned the corner.” He took charge of 35 league matches, losing over 50% of these games and winning just six times. It remains the worst reign of any Everton manager in terms of statistics since the end of World War II. After his dismissal, Everton would eventually survive and win the FA Cup under the guidance of Joe Royle.

None of the players would miss him. Mark Ward, who had been a senior figure before his arrival and was eventually banished to the reserves said in his autobiography: “He was a phoney from the start and, although he’d had an impressive 18 months at Norwich, I knew this job was just too big for him.”

With Norwich on a stiff decline, fans at the Norfolk club were very keen to see Walker come back to the club. They had been relegated by the time he was back at the helm in June 1996. He stayed with the Canaries for two seasons but couldn’t rediscover the winning formula from his first reign and left via mutual consent in April 1998 after they failed to return to the Premier League. Since leaving Norwich, Walker has had a spell managing in Cyprus for APOEL, where he resides to this day.

25 years of the most envied league in the world!