Iconic Moments: Enter Wayne Rooney (October 2002)

The opening day of the 2002-2003 season saw a young teenager make his debut for Everton by the name of Wayne Rooney. Considered “Once a blue, always a blue,” the young lad from the Croxteth area of Liverpool made an early impression against Tottenham Hotspur on his debut, setting up the club’s first goal of the campaign for Mark Pembridge. The game finished 2-2 and a star was born.

However, it was Tottenham’s north London rivals, Arsenal who would feel the firm punch of Rooney a couple of months later. The Gunners arrived at Goodison Park on a 30-match unbeaten run in the Premier League and it looked like that run would extend when Freddie Ljungberg put the visitors ahead inside eight minutes. This was a stronger Everton team though and they equalised midway through the first half through Tomasz Radzinski.

Rooney was brought on in the second half by manager David Moyes and entered the national conscience in stoppage time. He collected the ball from just past the halfway line and with Arsenal defenders backing off, fancied his chances. His shot flew past David Seaman, off the underside of his crossbar and into the net. ITV commentator Clive Tydlesey commented: “Oh a brilliant goal, a brilliant goal. Remember the name, Wayne Rooney!”

Arsene Wenger was quick to praise him afterwards too, saying: “Rooney is the biggest England talent I’ve seen since I arrived in England. There has certainly not been a player under 20 as good as him since I became a manager here.”

Rooney was crowned BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2002, was nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award and soon earned himself his first professional contract. He moved on to Manchester United in August 2004 and became the club’s all-time record goalscorer, surpassing Sir Bobby Charlton in the early weeks of 2017.

His career went full circle in 2017 when he returned to Everton on a free transfer and scored his 200th Premier League goal in a draw with Manchester City in August 2017.

It wasn’t just the Premier League that was introduced to Wayne Rooney in October 2002; it was the football world as a whole.

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Premier League Files: Steve Stone

Premier League Career: Nottingham Forest (1992-1993), (1994-1997), (1998-1999), Aston Villa (1999-2002), Portsmouth (2003-2005)

Injuries were part of Steve Stone’s football career but when he managed to stay clear of fitness battles, he proved to everyone what a decent footballer he was. His best spell came in the 1995-1996 season with Nottingham Forest.

Stone scored a series of excellent goals during this campaign including a winner at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur and a stunning equaliser at home to Aston Villa.

His performances with his club were recognised by Terry Venables who handed the midfielder his international bow in October 1995 in a goalless draw with Norway in Oslo. A month later, Stone came off the bench to score in a 3-1 friendly win over Switzerland and also found the back of the net at Wembley in a draw against Portugal. He made nine appearances for the Three Lions’ and was part of the Euro 96 squad that reached the semi-finals on home soil.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t force his way into Glenn Hoddle’s plans on an international scale and that was down to injury. During his career at Forest, he suffered three broken legs including one in pre-season of 1996 which meant he missed the club’s entire 1996-1997 season as they were relegated to Division One.

Stone recovered and although he missed an absolute sitter in an away match against Reading in the First Division, he played an integral role in Dave Bassett’s team that returned to the Premier League at the first attempt. Sadly, relegation swiftly followed the following season and after making 229 appearances for the club, Stone was sold for £5.5 million to Aston Villa in the summer of 1999.

He became a vital player for John Gregory and figured frequently during his tenure including an appearance in the 2000 FA Cup Final; the last cup final to be played underneath the famed Twin Towers. When Gregory departed in January 2002, Stone fell out of favour with Graham Taylor and was transferred to Portsmouth.

He returned to the Premier League under Harry Redknapp’s stewardship in 2003 and even scored a winning goal against Manchester United in April 2004 that helped Pompey achieve survival in their maiden Premier League season. Stone was released in 2005 by Alain Perrin and he finished his career at Leeds United, retiring in December 2006 after further injury issues.

Stone moved into coaching and worked with the reserves and first-team at Newcastle United from 2010-2015. He was let go by the club after their near-miss with relegation in 2014-2015 and now spends the majority of his time between England and Dubai.

Referees in the Middle: Paul Durkin

Premier League Career: 1992-2004

First Premier League Match: Arsenal 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday (28 August 1992)

Final Premier League Match: Arsenal 2-1 Leicester City (15 May 2004)

Paul Durkin was one of the most respected referees in the Premier League and also one of the best. He spent 12 seasons in the middle, beginning and finishing his Premier League career ironically at the same ground, Highbury.

Hailing from the Isle of Portland in Dorset, Durkin refereed 242 games across 12 campaigns, showing 595 yellow cards and dishing out 29 red cards during his career.

1997-1998 was Durkin’s best season. His consistent performances ultimately saw him chosen for the ultimate pinnacle in football, the World Cup.  Early in the season, he took charge of a tempestuous match between Bolton Wanderers and Manchester United. In the 34th minute, Bolton’s Nathan Blake and Gary Pallister of United started to trade punches with each other. What happened next was something more akin to be seen at a rugby match. A 21-man brawl followed with only Bolton goalkeeper Keith Branagan staying out of the melee. Durkin kept his composure and sent off Blake and Pallister for starting the incident in the first place.

A month later, Durkin was at the centre of another flashpoint when he was physically pushed by French midfielder Emmanuel Petit of Arsenal during a goalless draw with Aston Villa. Again, he didn’t produce any dramatics and simply flashed the red card at Petit, who was subsequently banned for three matches.

Often called up to the big matches, Durkin had the honour of taking charge of the 1998 FA Cup final between Arsenal and Newcastle United. He also refereed the 2003 League Cup final involving Liverpool FC and Manchester United. In 2004, he did a rare thing for referees and faced the television cameras after a 0-0 stalemate at Old Trafford when Manchester United played Newcastle United.

Both teams had debatable moments in the match and Durkin admitted he’d been wrong not to award Newcastle a penalty when Alan Shearer was tripped by Tim Howard.

He told Sky Sports: “If I had seen the incident, clearly I would have given it. I was expecting the ball to be playing up field, so I was a long way off when it happened and I wasn’t certain there had been any contact. It’s disappointing because you like to get the big decisions right but you only get a split-second. I looked at it again on TV and Newcastle can count themselves unfortunate.”

Durkin’s final match was the historic game at Highbury when Arsenal completed an unbeaten season in 2003-2004 with victory over Leicester City. After appearing on the short-lived ITV gameshow Simply the Best as a referee, Durkin now works as a referee assessor for the FA.

Honest, straight-talking and widely respected within many quarters of the game, Paul Durkin is still considered as one of the best referees across the first quarter of a century in the Premier League.

Shock Results: Cardiff City 3-2 Manchester City (August 2013)

Goalscorers: Edin Dzeko 51, Aron Gunnarsson 59, Fraizer Campbell 78, 86, Alvaro Negredo 90

Teams:

Cardiff City: David Marshall, Ben Turner, Steven Caulker, Andrew Taylor, Matthew Connolly, Kim Bo-Kyung (Jordon Mutch 90), Gary Medel, Aron Gunnarsson, Peter Whittingham, Fraizer Campbell (Andreas Cornelius 90), Craig Bellamy (Don Cowie 83)

Manchester City: Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott, Javi Garcia, Gael Clichy, Pablo Zabaleta, Fernandinho (James Milner 77), Yaya Toure, David Silva, Jesus Navas (Samir Nasri 55), Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko (Alvaro Negredo 69)

Referee: Lee Probert, Attendance: 27,068

This was Cardiff City’s first home game in the Premier League and it couldn’t have been much harder than against a highly-fancied Manchester City side. Manuel Pellegrini was the new manager of the Citizens’ and he started brilliantly with a convincing 4-0 win over Newcastle United. This though was a lesson for the Chilean that English football was not going to be a walk in the park.

Cardiff might have lost 2-0 on the opening weekend away to West Ham United but they were determined to put in a performance than would send the fans home happy. They did more than that. The hosts started full of energy and running and controlled the first 30 minutes. However, they struggled to trouble England number one goalkeeper Joe Hart. Peter Whittingham’s free-kick which flew wide was the closest they came to opening the scoring.

The visitors’ started to test the home defence and nearly went into the interval leading. Only last-gasp defending from Ben Turner stopped Yaya Toure from scoring. They did strike though in the early moments of the second half. 30 yards out, Edin Dzeko tried his luck and the Bosnian’s shot drove past a helpless David Marshall.

Pellegrini’s side had wrestled control but they only held onto their lead for just eight minutes. Cardiff dug deep and got a bit of fortune with their equaliser. Hart saved well from Fraizer Campbell but the rebound fell nicely to Icelandic international Aron Gunnarsson who scored the club’s first-ever Premier League goal.

The home supporters went mad for this moment but even better would follow. With 12 minutes left to play, the upset was on. Whittingham delivered a dangerous corner into the heart of the Manchester City penalty area. Hart failed to show his commanding presence and Campbell was in the right place to score from close-range. It might have come off his shoulder but he didn’t care and nor did the fans inside the Cardiff City Stadium.

Pellegrini was missing skipper Vincent Kompany from this game because of injury. Spaniard Javi Garcia had been deployed as a makeshift central defender and it is fair to say he struggled to cope in the new position. Ex-Manchester United youngster Campbell put in the best performance of his Premier League career. He added his second three minutes from time, heading home following a corner with the visiting defence once more flat-footed. Cardiff’s first win in the top-flight of English football since 1962 was secured.

Substitute Alvaro Negredo did pull a goal back in the dying moments but no-one could deny Cardiff victory. In the final reckoning, Manchester City became champions and Cardiff were relegated but on this day, this was another example that no Premier League match has ever been decided on paper.

The Managers: Kenny Dalglish

Premier League Clubs Managed: Blackburn Rovers (1992-1995), Newcastle United (1997-1998), Liverpool FC (2011-2012)

As a player, Kenny Dalglish’s achievements are second-to-none. As a manager, his achievements are almost unprecedented. He was a born winner and experienced the ultimate highs and tragic lows as a manager.

In a playing career that spanned over 20 years, he won numerous honours with both Celtic and Liverpool FC, scored a hatful of goals and produced moments of sheer brilliance that the fans on the terraces at Parkhead and Anfield never forget.

Kenny won the European Cup three times as a player and scored the winning goal in the 1978 final against Club Brugge. In terms of league honours, he won 10 league titles, along with 10 domestic cups and the UEFA Super Cup in 1977. His career is a glittering one and he is often considered the greatest player to have ever played for both Celtic and Liverpool FC.

His management breakthrough came as a surprise and in tumultuous circumstances.

Picking up after Heysel

In 1985, the Heysel Stadium disaster before the European Cup final had sent shockwaves around the world. English clubs were immediately banned from participating in European competition for the rest of the decade. Joe Fagan decided to step down as Liverpool FC’s first-team manager. Dalglish took the reins as player-manager.

In his first season in the dugout, Liverpool FC won the double. It was Dalglish who scored the winning goal on the final day of the season at Stamford Bridge to win the 1986 First Division title for the Reds.’ A week later, they beat Merseyside rivals Everton in the FA Cup final. This was during the height of dominance on Merseyside in the British game. He had come straight in and achieved a unique feat as a rookie. More was to come.

He signed the likes of Peter Beardsley, John Barnes and John Aldridge as Liverpool continued their supreme grip on the English game. Further titles followed in 1988 and 1990, with runners-up spots in 87 and 89. The Double would elude them twice. In 1988, underdogs Wimbledon beat Dalglish’s Reds’ in the FA Cup final. In 1989, it was a last-gasp strike from Michael Thomas that snatched the league title for Arsenal at Anfield with moments remaining of the campaign. Liverpool won the FA Cup that season on a highly-charged afternoon.

Hillsborough

Saturday, 15 April 1989 will remain the blackest day in English football history. It was a sunny afternoon as Liverpool FC fans flocked to Sheffield to see their team play Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup semi-final. 96 supporters would not come home; crushed on the terraces of Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium.

In the aftermath, Dalglish attended many funerals of the victims and his presence on the club, the grieving families and the city has been described as immense. The tragedy affected him deeply and Liverpool’s victory in the cup final that season against Everton was a victory that was much more than just a football match.

In February 1991, the two Merseyside teams played out a belting FA Cup fifth round tie which finished 4-4 at Goodison Park. Two days later, Dalglish shocked everyone by resigning as manager. This was despite Liverpool still being three points clear at the top of the First Division table. All the trauma and strain had caught up with him but he would be back – both in management and later on in his career with the club who he has always seen as home.

Changing the face of Blackburn

After seven months out of the game, Kenny Dalglish returned to management with Blackburn Rovers in October 1991. He led Rovers back to the top-flight of English football for the first time since 1966 with victory over Leicester City in the Second Division playoffs. It meant Blackburn would play in the inaugural FA Premier League season.

Backed by beloved Blackburn fan and steel magnet Jack Walker, Dalglish wasted little time in making the club one of the best in the early Premier League Years. He broke the British transfer record to sign Alan Shearer in 1992 from Southampton and repeated the feat two years later to snare Chris Sutton away from Norwich City.

Other notable buys included winger Stuart Ripley, midfielder Paul Warhurst and goalkeeper Tim Flowers. Blackburn were looking to go all the way and become champions of England. After finishing fourth and second in the first two seasons, 1994-1995 was the year that Walker’s dreams would come true.

Blackburn topped the table from late November onwards and barely surrendered top spot but they were pushed all the way by reigning champions Manchester United. A late wobble saw an eight-point lead diminish to just two by the final day of the season. In an ironic twist, Blackburn were at Anfield to play Dalglish’s former side, Liverpool FC whilst Manchester United travelled to Upton Park to face West Ham United.

Alex Ferguson had been playing his usual mind games tactic, hinting that Liverpool would roll over and allow Blackburn to win to ensure Manchester United wouldn’t win the championship. It didn’t go like that. Liverpool won 2-1 with a late free-kick from Jamie Redknapp. Seconds later, the full-time whistle went in London. Manchester United had failed to beat West Ham and that meant the result on Merseyside was inconsequential. Blackburn Rovers were champions of England for the first time in 81 years. The title meant that Dalglish was only the fourth football manager in history to lead two different clubs to top-flight league championships, after Tom Watson, Herbert Chapman and Brian Clough.

Replacing King Kev on Tyneside

After that title success of 1995, Dalglish retired as Blackburn manager and moved into a Director of Football role where he would be replaced by his assistant Ray Harford. He left the club for good a year later.

In January 1997, he took over at Newcastle United, replacing Kevin Keegan who had abruptly resigned. Dalglish’s impact at Newcastle was limited. He did guide them to a runners-up spot in the 1996-1997 league campaign and spearheaded a famous victory over Barcelona in the following season’s UEFA Champions League group stage. However, he sold the likes of David Ginola, Les Ferdinand and Lee Clark, replacing them with veterans Stuart Pearce, Ian Rush and John Barnes.

Two games into the 1998-1999 season, he left the club. It is still unknown whether he resigned or was sacked. Either way, it is the only managerial period of his career which didn’t bring any silverware or much positive impact.

He went back to his first club Celtic and had a brief spell as manager there after Barnes was fired following a shambolic home League Cup defeat to Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Leaving in the summer of 2000, it would be another decade before Kenny was back in the dugout.

The second coming

In April 2009, Dalglish returned to Liverpool FC, taking a role within the club’s youth academy. He also became a club ambassador. When Rafa Benitez quit in June 2010 after relations with the American owners deteriorated, Dalglish expressed a desire to return to the management post. However, it was Fulham boss Roy Hodgson who got the job.

As soon as the fans got wind of the news that Dalglish had shown interest in the role, Hodgson was toast. Liverpool’s form was terrible and they looked like being involved in a relegation scrap as 2011 began. Hodgson left after a 3-1 defeat to Blackburn which was the club’s ninth defeat of the Premier League season. 24 hours after returning from a holiday in Dubai, Dalglish returned as caretaker manager until the end of the season. After losing his first match back; an FA Cup tie at Manchester United, he admitted it was “a big challenge.”

In the early weeks of his second coming, Fernando Torres was sold for a British transfer record to Chelsea but in came Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez. Performances started to improve and so did results. There were impressive wins over Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City and a 5-2 battering of Fulham at Craven Cottage. By the end of the season, Dalglish had signed a three-year deal to remain as manager and he guided the club to a respectable sixth in the final standings. A pretty good return considering he’d taken over with the club 13th and just four points clear of the drop zone.

In the summer of 2011, Charlie Adam, Craig Bellamy and Jordan Henderson were among the new recruits. Despite some frustrating draws at Anfield, the Reds’ strong away form meant they sat fifth at the turn of the year. However, they faded badly in the second half of the campaign and ended a distant eighth in the table, even below Merseyside rivals Everton. It was their worst Premier League points’ return in a 38-game season. Dalglish’s strong defence of Suarez after he was involved in a racism incident with Manchester United’s Patrice Evra was criticised and apologises only made after the owners insisted. He did win the League Cup on penalties in 2012 but three days after the season ended, Dalglish was sacked and replaced by Brendan Rodgers.

He is still an Anfield club hero and is now on the board at Liverpool as a non-executive director. Kenny Dalglish achieved so much in the game of football. His honours’ list means he will go down as one of British football’s most successful players and managers.

Premier League Files: Edin Dzeko

Premier League Career: Manchester City (2011-2015)

Known as ‘The Bosnian Diamond’ in his homeland, Edin Dzeko has become of the greatest natural finishers in recent times.  Wherever he has been in his career, he has scored goals and this he continues to do now in Serie A with AS Roma. During his time in England, Dzeko won two Premier League titles with Manchester City and played a significant role in the greatest finish ever to a Premier League season in 2012.

However, it was in the Bundesliga where Dzeko began to carve out a reputation for prudent finishing abilities. In the 2008-2009 campaign, he formed a partnership with the Brazilian forward Grafite at VfL Wolfsburg that is among the best ever seen in German football. Between the two players, they scored 54 goals which means their combined total is the most successful in Bundesliga history. Wolfsburg won the title for the first time in their history that season. Having narrowly missed out on the ‘Torjägerkanone’ in 2008-2009, Dzeko’s tally of 22 goals in 2009-2010 was enough to take the most prestigious goalscoring honour in the Bundesliga. He remains Wolfsburg’s all-time record goalscorer in the German top-flight.

In January 2011, a transfer fee was agreed of £27 million between Wolfsburg and Manchester City for Dzeko to make the move to the Premier League. It was the second-highest transfer fee Manchester City had ever paid out for a player at the time. He made his debut later in the month at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers but would have to wait three months for his first Premier League goal; a winner in the 1-0 away success against Blackburn Rovers.

In 2011-2012, Dzeko started in red-hot form. He scored six goals in the first three matches of the season, including a devastating display at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur. Dzeko scored four times in City’s 5-1 win, becoming the first Citizens’ player to score four goals in a Premier League match. His goalscoring exploits won him the Premier League Player of the Month award for August 2011. As the season wore on, Dzeko would have to fight for his regular place in the team but he made a valuable contribution on the final day at home to relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers. City were trailing 2-1 going into the dying embers when Dzeko headed home from a corner in the 92nd minute to level the scores. Sergio Aguero then scored the famous winner that ensured City won their first league title in 44 years. The Bosnian forward later said his goal in this match was the most important of his career.

By 2012-2013, Dzeko’s place was mainly warming the bench at Manchester City which was extremely unfortunate because his goalscoring repertoire would have seen him walk into many other starting XI sides. He was making telling impacts though from the bench, scoring 14 goals including winning efforts away at Fulham and West Bromwich Albion. Roberto Mancini left at the end of the season and Dzeko was hoping this would signal a change in his selection usage.

Not initially under Manuel Pellegrini though as the Chilean preferred a partnership of Aguero and new arrival Alvaro Negredo in attack. However, a shoulder injury to the latter in January 2014 saw Dzeko get his chance and he grabbed it with both hands. In March, he scored the fastest away goal at Old Trafford in Premier League history, netting after just 43 seconds in City’s handsome 3-0 victory over their city rivals. Dzeko also scored vital doubles at the backend of the campaign against Everton and Aston Villa as City managed to haul in and overtake Liverpool FC in the final weeks of the season and therefore, claim a second Premier League title in three seasons.

Edin left Manchester City at the end of the 2014-2015 season and moved to Italian football. After a so-so first campaign in the Italian capital, he had an impressive individual campaign in 2016-2017, scoring 39 goals in all competitions and netting an impressive European hat-trick away to Villarreal. Edin Dzeko’s goalscoring record is among the best and Manchester City fans will always thank him for being a crucial part of that day in 2012 when they finally became the kings of English football.

Referees in the Middle: Peter Jones

Premier League Career: 1994-2002

First Premier League Match: Queens Park Rangers 3-2 Sheffield Wednesday (24 August 1994)

Final Premier League Match: Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Liverpool FC (27 April 2002)

From Loughborough in Leicestershire, Peter Jones spent eight seasons as a Premier League referee. He joined the elite in 1994 after six years developing his knowledge and awareness in the Football League.

In total, Mr Jones took charge of nearly 150 Premier League matches – his first was an entertaining victory for Queens Park Rangers over Sheffield Wednesday in August 1994. Less than a month later, he dished out his first red card and it went to the Chelsea skipper Dennis Wise. Wise used some foul and abusive language towards a linesman in the Blues’ 4-2 defeat to Newcastle United on Tyneside. The linesman reported the incident and Jones had no option but to send Wise from the field of play.

Like many of his peers, Peter was fortunate enough to referee the FA Cup final. His day in the spotlight came at Wembley Stadium in 1999 when Manchester United comfortably beat Newcastle United 2-0 to complete the second part of their famous treble success. Jones was also chosen to handle the 1997 FA Charity Shield and the 1998 League Cup final.

1998-1999 was his most dramatic season. In September 1998, he oversaw a dramatic match between Blackburn Rovers and Chelsea at Ewood Park. He sent off Graeme Le Saux and Sebastian Perez after a fierce confrontation between the pair and awarded both teams a spot-kick each in Chelsea’s 4-3 win. This was the season where he wouldn’t take any tolerance and no fewer than 74 yellow cards were thrust in the direction of players.

In the FA Cup that season, he was the official during a controversial fifth round encounter involving Arsenal and Sheffield United at Highbury. The match was heading for a replay when a Sheffield United player went down injured. The ball was kicked out of play to allow treatment and whilst it was expected possession would be returned to the Blades’, Arsenal forward Kanu thought otherwise. He ran through and played in Marc Overmars to score the winning goal. According to the laws of the game, Jones could not disallow the goal but Arsene Wenger was his savour as he offered the game to be replayed. It was 10 days later which Arsenal won, ironically 2-1.

After his successful 1999, Jones accepted a Masters of Arts Honorary degree from Loughborough University and began to help promote the Scout Survival Skills Badge. His last Premier League match was in April 2002. Gus Poyet scored the only goal as Tottenham Hotspur beat Liverpool FC 1-0 to end the Reds’ championship hopes for that season.

Since then, Jones has been a member of the UEFA Referees’ Observers Panel and has brought his whistle out of retirement to officiate in the six-a-side Masters Football tournaments that ran from 2003 to 2011.

Premier League Rewind: 23rd-24th August 2002

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

The second weekend of the 2002-2003 season was a strange one in terms of days when matches were played. It might have been a traditional weekend, but by Saturday evening, all 20 teams had featured and there were no Sunday/Monday matches. There were still 26 goals though in the 10 games.

The programme began with a Friday night match between two of the Premier League’s big heavyweights as Chelsea and Manchester United battled it out at Stamford Bridge. The Blues’ made the quicker start and William Gallas headed them ahead inside of three minutes. David Beckham produced a brilliant equaliser in a match where the goals scored were of the highest quality. Bolo Zenden scored a tremendous individual effort of his own on the stroke of half-time to put Chelsea back ahead. The points would ultimately be shared as Ryan Giggs scored in the second half after a thunderous United counter-attack.

Reigning champions Arsenal had an almighty scare away to West Ham United. West Ham were coming off the back of a humbling 4-0 defeat to Newcastle United in their first match of the season but looked on-track to send the Gunners’ tumbling to their first league defeat of 2002. Goals from Joe Cole and Freddie Kanoute had the Hammers’ 2-0 up and it could have been 3-0 – only for David Seaman to save Kanoute’s very weak penalty. Arsenal showed their fighting spirit to recover the deficit and leave with a draw. Thierry Henry and Sylvain Wiltord both scored powerful efforts that nearly burst the Upton Park goal nets.

Another 2-2 game took place at the Riverside Stadium where Middlesbrough threw their game away at home to Fulham. Summer signing Massimo Maccarone scored twice on his home debut to have Steve McClaren’s side cruising to victory. Unbelievably, they gave this away in stoppage-time. Sean Davis and Facundo Sava scored to salvage an unlikely point for the Londoners. This game also got fans to see Sava’s traditional celebration for the first time – ‘The man with the mask!’

It looked like Anfield was about to welcome a new hero in the form of El-Hadji Diouf. Gerard Houllier had spent big money (£11million) to take one of the stars of the World Cup finals that summer to Merseyside. It initially looked like being a sound investment, especially after Diouf scored twice on his home debut in a comfortable 3-0 victory over Southampton. Danny Murphy got the third from the penalty spot. Little did LFC fans know that day that this double act from Diouf would turn out to be his most meaningful contribution in a Liverpool FC shirt.

Kevin Keegan was facing former foes in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off and beating them too. Ex-Newcastle United forward Darren Huckerby scored the only goal as Keegan’s Manchester City beat Newcastle 1-0 at Maine Road. Newcastle would have another excellent season under Sir Bobby Robson’s guidance but a terrible away record early season scuppered their title challenge. The Magpies’ won just once away from home from August to early December.

Premier League newcomers Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion were finding life tough at this level. Both lost their first home matches on this particular weekend. Birmingham fell 1-0 to Blackburn Rovers with Dwight Yorke scoring the only goal. West Brom were taken apart by a ruthless Leeds United side at The Hawthorns. The Baggies’ lost 3-1, with Lee Bowyer scoring the pick of the visitors’ goals.

Elsewhere, Charlton Athletic came from a goal down to beat Bolton Wanderers 2-1 and there were 1-0 victories for Everton and Tottenham Hotspur over Sunderland and Aston Villa respectively. It said a lot for the competiveness of the Premier League that after two matches, only Liverpool FC and Leeds United could boast 100% records. Neither would play a part in the title outcome come May, so this was another example of early days where the table wasn’t taking any detailed shape.

What else happened in August 2002?

  • The UK is left shocked after the disappearance of 10-year-old Soham schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.
  • 118 soldiers are killed when a Chechen missile outside of Grozny strikes down a Russian Mi-26 helicopter.
  • Johannesburg in South Africa hosts Earth Summit 2002 with the main aim – discussing sustainable development by the UN.
  • The first series of “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me out of Here!” begins on ITV. Radio DJ Tony Blackburn will end as the winner.
  • The 2002 Commonwealth Games close in Manchester.

Memorable Matches: Tottenham Hotspur 2-3 Newcastle United (January 2007)

Goalscorers: Jermain Defoe 14, Paul Huntington 16, Dimitar Berbatov 54, Obafemi Martins 72, Nicky Butt 73

Teams:

Tottenham Hotspur: Paul Robinson, Lee-Young Pyo, Calum Davenport (Hossam Ghaly 88), Michael Dawson, Pascal Chimbonda, Teemu Tainio (Didier Zokora 79), Tom Huddlestone, Steed Malbranque (Robbie Keane 75), Aaron Lennon, Dimitar Berbatov, Jermain Defoe

Newcastle United: Shay Given, Paul Huntington, Matty Pattison, Peter Ramage, Steven Taylor, Nicky Butt, James Milner, Antoine Sibierski, Kieron Dyer, Nolberto Solano, Obafemi Martins

Referee: Steve Bennett, Attendance: 35,942

This was a match in January 2007 that promised much and certainly delivered. Neither Tottenham Hotspur, nor Newcastle United were in sparkling form ahead of this encounter between two mid-table sides. Newcastle arrived with a threadbare squad but ultimately finished the afternoon as the happier side, taking all three points for their first win at White Hart Lane since January 2003.

Tottenham completely dominated their opponents in the first 15 minutes but ran into an inspired Shay Given, who put in another blockbuster performance. He made early saves to deny Jermain Defoe, Dimitar Berbatov and Steed Malbranque. Eventually, the pressure told and Spurs got a deserved lead. Malbranque made a surging run down the left-hand side and played in Defoe to convert in a position where he normally takes his chances. Television replays later showed a potential for an offside in the build-up but the goal stood and at this stage, it looked being a long afternoon for the Magpies’.

Perhaps Tottenham switched off completely because concentration levels dropped just two minutes later. James Milner curled in a free-kick. Youngster Paul Huntington had a header blocked. However, he reacted quickest to the loose ball and squirmed a shot in-between the legs of Paul Robinson for an unexpected leveller. It was Newcastle’s very first attack of the match.

As Steve Bennett blew the half-time whistle, trouble flared up between both sets of players. Pascal Chimbonda of Tottenham and Newcastle’s Nicky Butt were booked for their part in a scuffle where Chimbonda appeared to slap Butt in the face. The Frenchman was very fortunate to avoid more severe sanction. Newcastle manager Glenn Roeder was not impressed with Chimbonda’s conduct and nine minutes into the second half, his anger was bound to have grown. The right-back made an impressive run to meet Malbranque’s pass. Nolberto Solano was able to deny Teemu Tainio but Berbatov was instinctive enough to volley the ball into the floor and into the net.

Tottenham continued to control the match but failed to convert their opportunities and in the space of 94 seconds, saw the potential of three points turn into the probability of getting nothing. Obafemi Martins was having a quiet afternoon but in the 72nd minute, he burst into life. Playing a one-two with a colleague, the Nigerian forced Michael Dawson into backing off on him. Martins then delivered an unstoppable left-foot drive that sped into the top corner, giving Robinson absolutely no chance.

Moments later, Martins turned provider for what turned out to be the winner. He played a delightful ball for Butt who made a run from midfield and angled a shot across Robinson’s bows and into the net. It was a nice moment for the ex-Manchester United youngster who had been suffering from flu all week and missed a high proportion of training. Newcastle held the hosts off for an improbable and unlikely victory.

Great Goals: Barry Horne – EVERTON vs. Wimbledon (May 1994)

On the final day of the 1993-1994 campaign, only a win would definitely keep Everton in the top-flight and they got into a grim situation against in-form Wimbledon, trailing 2-0 inside 20 minutes.

Graham Stuart had pulled a goal back via the penalty spot but the situation was still not looking good for Mike Walker’s side. They needed a goal from somewhere, anywhere and what they got was something out of the ordinary.

Welshman Barry Horne was not a prolific goalscorer. In fact, he only scored three goals in his entire Everton career so this was some way to make his mark. Receiving possession in the middle of the park, the ferocious ball-winner decided to try his luck from 30-yards out. The ball smashed into the back of the net. Hans Segers received criticism for the Everton winner that day but he could do nothing about this. It was a fine goal and just what the club needed. Stuart got the winning goal but had it not been for Horne’s strike, the club would have been relegated.

Great Goals: Mario Stanic – CHELSEA vs. West Ham United (August 2000)

Going into the opening day of the 2000-2001 campaign, Chelsea are on a high after dismissing Manchester United in the Charity Shield. Their first game of the season was against London rivals West Ham United.

Mario Stanic was a new summer arrival at Stamford Bridge and keen to make an impression on the home crowd. This was some way to make it. Collecting possession, the midfielder does a bit of juggling in some space, teeing the ball up perfectly to connect with the sweetest dipping volley. Shaka Hislop gets nowhere near it and the Blues have a new hero.

Chelsea won the game 4-2 but finished a slightly underwhelming sixth in the final standings thanks to a poor away record. Injuries caught up with Stanic and he was forced to retire from playing in 2004 but this is a moment Chelsea fans will never forget.

Memorable Matches: Blackburn Rovers 4-3 Manchester United (February 2006)

Goalscorers: David Bentley 35, 41, 56, Louis Saha 37, Lucas Neill 45 PEN, Ruud van Nistelrooy 63, 68

Teams:

Blackburn Rovers: Brad Friedel, Michael Gray, Andy Todd, Ryan Nelsen, Lucas Neill, Tugay (Brett Emerton 45), Robbie Savage (Aaron Mokoena 90), Steven Reid, Morten Gamst Pedersen, David Bentley (Jemal Johnson 90), Shefki Kuqi

Manchester United: Edwin van der Sar, Patrice Evra. Wes Brown (Mikael Silvestre 76), Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Darren Fletcher, Kieran Richardson (Ruud van Nistelrooy 54), Cristiano Ronaldo, Louis Saha, Wayne Rooney

Referee: Phil Dowd, Attendance: 25,484

Manchester United travelled to Ewood Park in early February 2006 still with hopes of catching Chelsea at the top of the Premier League table. Trouble was – the gap was a yawning 14 points between the two teams. By the end of the evening, those distant dreams had evaporated through a marvellous and unexpected hat-trick by David Bentley. Bentley had been on-loan to Blackburn Rovers for the first half of the 2005-2006 season and just 24 hours earlier, had made his move into a permanent transfer from Arsenal. The midfielder was above to prove to worth to manager Mark Hughes.

On a cold Lancastrian evening, the home crowd were about to be treated to wonderful entertainment which started with Bentley’s opener on 35 minutes. Blackburn won a free-kick which Morten Gamst Pedersen took. Pedersen was one of the best set-piece takers at the time in the Premier League and he forced a save from Edwin van der Sar. The goalkeeper couldn’t hold on and Bentley pounced on the rebound to put the home side infront.

It started a crazy period of four goals in 10 minutes and Blackburn’s first lead lasted just a couple of minutes. Louis Saha, preferred to Ruud van Nistelrooy in attack equalised after Wayne Rooney forced Brad Friedel into an excellent save. Like his counterpart Van der Sar, Friedel was unlucky. Saha simply reacted quicker than the defenders to strike an immediate reply.

If Van der Sar was unfortunate with the first goal, he had to take accountability for Bentley’s second. A complete breakdown in communication between the Dutchman and Rio Ferdinand saw the England defender flick the ball over his head. Bentley was left with an open goal to finish off this unexpected gift. United’s woeful defensive display continued before half-time. Wes Brown stopped Steven Reid’s cross with his hand and Phil Dowd gave a penalty to Blackburn, converted by Lucas Neill.

11 minutes into the second half, it was 4-1. Robbie Savage picked out Bentley who had time and space to pick out his shot and find the bottom corner. Bentley became the first player to score a Premier League hat-trick against Manchester United. The last had been Dennis Bailey for Queens Park Rangers in the old first division on New Years’ Day 1992.

Just before that goal, United had thrown Van Nistelrooy on and he scored his 20th Premier League goal of the season shortly after his arrival. Andy Todd’s slip allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to pick out Van Nistelrooy who finished deftly from close range. Five minutes later, he was sent clear by Brown’s flick and drilled a shot past Friedel to make it 4-3. However, Blackburn held on to complete a league double over the Red Devils for the first time in the Premier League era.