Premier League Files: Matt Ritchie

Premier League Career: Portsmouth (2010), AFC Bournemouth (2015-2016), Newcastle United (2017-PRESENT)

After the briefest taste of Premier League football with Portsmouth in 2010, Matt Ritchie was part of AFC Bournemouth’s historic first campaign at this level and is back in the top-flight this season as he looks to play a role in keeping Newcastle United away from relegation.

Ritchie got his big break with Portsmouth. A part of their academy since the age of 13, Ritchie made his Premier League in April 2010. It was largely down to the club’s crippling injury list and the huge financial strain they were in too. He played 79 minutes in the defeat to Wigan Athletic and admitted it was a dream come true to make his debut for the club where he’d done all of his education with.

It looked like he was set for a bright future at Fratton Park but soon had a disagreement with new manager Steve Cotterill and was frozen out of his plans. He was loaned out to Swindon Town, making 16 appearances before the Robins’ agreed to make the loan move a permanent deal. Although Swindon were relegated to League Two at the end of the campaign, he was awarded the club’s Player of the Season award.

Ritchie remained a Swindon player until January 2013 and worked under Paolo di Canio, who was the club’s manager. His performances raised eyebrows with higher-profile clubs and AFC Bournemouth were among those admirers. Di Canio insisted he would not be sold, claiming he was worth £2 million. In March 2012, Ritchie won the League Two Player of the Year and was one of Swindon’s two players in the PFA Team of the Year.

Bournemouth eventually got their man in January 2013, after Swindon’s board decided their offer was too good to turn down. Di Canio was furious with the hierarchy and ultimately, Ritchie’s departure would turn out to be the catalyst for his exit from the County Ground. Ritchie joined a team in peak form and his first goal for the club in a 4-1 win over Bury starting a run of eight successive victories, shooting the club towards the Championship.

In 2014-2015, Matt won international recognition from Scotland. Despite being born in Gosport, Ritchie qualified to play for the Scots through his Scottish father and he made his debut in a friendly match against Northern Ireland. In club football, he had a sizzling campaign, scoring 11 times and setting up 13 further strikes for his teammates. Bournemouth went up as champions and would be playing Premier League football for the first time in their history – just six years after being close to relegation to the Conference.

His first top-flight strike was a venomous volley to help the Cherries beat Sunderland 2-0 in September 2015 and earn them their first home win in the Premier League. A month later, Ritchie scored the club’s fastest goal of the season, netting inside a minute against Tottenham Hotspur although it ended in a horrid 5-1 home defeat.

Bournemouth finished 16th in their first Premier League campaign, with Matt chipping in with four goals, so it was a surprise to see him drop down a division to Newcastle United in July 2016, signing a five-year deal to move to Tyneside. He scored 16 goals in all competitions, only being outscored by Dwight Gayle as Newcastle comfortably earned promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt.

As of January 2018, Ritchie has featured 23 times for Newcastle in the Premier League and has created more chances for his teammates than any other Magpies’ player this season. He has the quality to change matches with dangerous crosses and inch-perfect passes. However, he hasn’t scored yet this season and it will help Rafa Benitez out in their relegation battle to see him rediscover his goalscoring touch as the season progresses.

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Memorable Matches: Bolton Wanderers 3-3 Derby County (December 1997)

Goalscorers: Alan Thompson 50 PEN, Stefano Eranio 55, Francesco Baiano 64, 69, Nathan Blake 73, Jamie Pollock 77

Teams:

Bolton Wanderers: Gavin Ward, Gudni Bergsson, Chris Fairclough, Jimmy Phillips, Andy Todd, Per Frandsen, Jamie Pollock, Scott Sellars (Michael Johansen 88), Alan Thompson, Peter Beardsley (Arnar Gunnlaugsson 88), Nathan Blake

Derby County: Mart Poom, Christian Dailly, Rob Kozluk (Darryl Powell 81), Gary Rowett, Igor Stimac, Chris Powell, Lee Carsley, Stefano Eranio, Francesco Baiano, Paulo Wanchope (Deon Burton 81), Dean Sturridge

Referee: Uriah Rennie, Attendance: 23,027

After 102 years of playing professional football at Burnden Park, Bolton Wanderers had moved into the new state-of-the-art Reebok Stadium in-time for the 1997-1998 campaign. This was their second season in the Premier League and again, it looked like being a campaign battling to avoid relegation. They faced Jim Smith’s Derby County in this pre-Christmas encounter which produced an entertaining second half for the Sky Sports Super Sunday cameras.

The first half was dominated by the home side but they couldn’t find a way through. Chris Fairclough hit the crossbar from a free-kick which was the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock. The goals arrived in a belting second half. Midfielder Per Frandsen won a penalty five minutes into the second half as he was fouled by Derby defender Igor Stimac. Uriah Rennie correctly pointed to the spot and Alan Thompson made no mistake to give the hosts a deserved lead. The goal sparked Derby into life and five minutes later, they were level. Francesco Baiano played in his fellow Italian Stefano Eranio, who finished well as the defenders gave him plenty of time to strike.

The visitors started to take control of the game. Dean Sturridge was denied a goal by some last-ditch goalkeeping from Gavin Ward but a second Rams’ goal was coming. Moments after being kept out by Ward, Sturridge’s searing pace took him away from Andy Todd. His cross was palmed out by Ward, but only into the path of the in-form Baiano who made no mistake with his finish. Five minutes later, the little Italian had doubled his tally. He played a lovely one-two with Sturridge and as Fairclough slipped in trying to cut the ball out, Baiano placed the ball beyond Ward’s advances. At this stage of the season, Baiano was already on 11 Premier League goals and he was looking like one of the signings of the summer.

Bolton showed great resilience in coming back though from a 3-1 deficit. Nathan Blake’s header from Thompson’s cross gave them hope on 73 minutes. Four minutes later, Frandsen made a surging run into the box. His neat back heel allowed Jamie Pollock to take control of possession. The midfielder fired his shot into the bottom corner to level the scores. Both sides pushed for a winner but in the end, the points were shared.

The point took Bolton upto 15th but they would suffer anguish on the final day and experienced relegation at Stamford Bridge. Despite a horrendous away record, Derby finished an excellent ninth in just their second Premier League season.

Great Goals: Robin van Persie – Charlton Athletic vs. ARSENAL (September 2006)

Robin van Persie has scored some special goals in his career and many of them were in the Premier League. This was probably his best strike in the colours of Arsenal.

Arsenal had made the trip across London to face Charlton Athletic and the score was 1-1. It looked like it was going to take something special to settle the stalemate between the two sides and Van Persie most definitely produced it.

It was a nice build-up from the Gunners, involving Justin Hoyte, Gilberto and Emmanuel Eboue. Eboue produced the cross but there was still plenty for Van Persie to do. His volley was magnificent and it was fitting to win the match for Arsene Wenger’s side.

Shock Results: Tottenham Hotspur 0-3 West Ham United (October 2013)

Goalscorer: Winston Reid 66, Ricardo Vaz Te 72, Ravel Morrison 79

Teams:

Tottenham Hotspur: Hugo Lloris, Kyle Walker, Kyle Naughton (Lewis Holtby 81), Michael Dawson, Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Paulinho, Andros Townsend, Christian Eriksen (Roberto Soldado 74), Gylfi Sigurdsson (Erik Lamela 63), Jermain Defoe

West Ham United: Jussi Jaaskelainen, Guy Demel, Razvan Rat, James Tomkins, Winston Reid, Mohamed Diame (James Collins 80), Mark Noble (Joey O’Brien 90), Ravel Morrison, Kevin Nolan, Stewart Downing, Ricardo Vaz Te (Carlton Cole 86)

Referee: Lee Probert, Attendance: 35,977

A win for Tottenham Hotspur in this match with London rivals West Ham United in October 2013 would have taken them joint-top of the table with Arsenal and Liverpool FC. West Ham began in the bottom three but a win would see them rise into 13th position in the table. As Andre Villas-Boas’ side had the joint-tightest defence in the Premier League going into this match, Spurs were expected to come out on top.

Sam Allardyce decided to name no recognised forward in his starting XI, with Ricardo Vaz Te and Ravel Morrison playing in the false no.9 positions. In a first half of precious few chances, it was West Ham who created the best moment. They won a free-kick in a dangerous position and rather than shoot, Mark Noble elected to chip the ball over the wall. Clearly a training ground routine, it nearly worked. Kevin Nolan’s shot went just wide from a tight angle.

Tottenham enjoyed 61% possession in the match but created precious little which was a sign of how their season was progressing. They were tight at the back but had only scored six goals in their first six league matches of the season – still struggling with the aftermath of the Gareth Bale transfer to Real Madrid.

Villas-Boas elected to start with Jermain Defoe over summer signing Roberto Soldado and Defoe did cause some problems at the start of the second half. He was twice denied by Hammers’ goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen. As the game entered its last 25 minutes, the outcome of the match was firmly in the balance.

It was at this moment when West Ham took the lead. Winston Reid met Stewart Downing’s corner but his effort was inadvertently blocked on the goal-line by Nolan. Fortunately for the east Londoners, the ball bounced back to Reid and he made no mistake on the rebound, striking past Hugo Lloris. He joined Oliver Giroud and John Terry in being only the third player to score in the league this season past Lloris.

Vaz Te would add his name to that list just six minutes later. Found by Noble, his shot was saved by Lloris but he followed up quickly and the ball went into the net off his knee. If there was fortune about West Ham’s first two goals, there was nothing lucky about their third. Morrison, who had been dangerous all afternoon, collected a flick-on from Mohamed Diame and ran with the ball. He beat both Tottenham central defenders, Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen before convincingly beating Lloris and finishing the match off as a contest.

It was the Hammers’ first win at White Hart Lane since 1999 and their first away victory in nine attempts. West Ham would win three encounters in the season with Tottenham but finished in the bottom half of the table. Spurs’ form dipped alarmingly after this loss and AVB was axed as manager in December 2013. Tim Sherwood took over and guided the club to a sixth-place finish at the end of the campaign.

Memorable Matches: Everton 2-3 Manchester City (May 2014)

Goalscorers: Ross Barkley 11, Sergio Aguero 22, Edin Dzeko 43, 48, Romelu Lukaku 65

Teams:

Everton: Tim Howard, Seamus Coleman, Antolin Alcaraz, Phil Jagielka (Gerard Deulofeu 66), John Stones, Leighton Baines, James McCarthy, Leon Osman (Aiden McGeady 83), Ross Barkley, Romelu Lukaku, Steven Naismith

Manchester City: Joe Hart, Gael Clichy, Martin Demichelis, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Javi Garcia, James Milner, Samir Nasri (David Silva 74), Yaya Toure (Aleksandar Kolarov 66), Sergio Aguero (Fernandinho 28), Edin Dzeko

Referee: Lee Probert, Attendance: 39,454

This was a pivotal match in the destiny of the Premier League title race for the 2013-2014 season. Manchester City went into this teatime kick-off at Goodison Park knowing the destiny of the championship was with them. If they won their final three matches, they would be champions for the second time in three seasons. Title rivals Liverpool FC were desperate for their Merseyside rivals Everton to do them a massive favour and beat Manuel Pellegrini’s side.

The home side still harboured faint hopes of catching Arsenal in the race for the final UEFA Champions League qualification spot and they took the lead with a special effort on 11 minutes. Whilst Leighton Baines and Steven Naismith played a neat exchange of passes, the goal was all about Ross Barkley. He produced an awesome curling effort from distance that left his international colleague Joe Hart clutching at thin air. It was a remarkable goal.

Manuel Pellegrini’s team regained their composure after a slow start and were back on level terms in the 22nd minute. Yaya Toure played through Sergio Aguero and the deadly Argentine drove his shot past Tim Howard’s defences at his near post. It was a crucial moment in the season and the final significant contribution of Aguero’s afternoon. He limped off six minutes later with a groin injury.

Two minutes before the interval, City came up with another vital goal to go into the dressing rooms in the lead. Edin Dzeko scored another crucial goal, as he had done so a week earlier in an away victory at Crystal Palace. The Bosnian leapt highest to James Milner’s in-swinging cross and he beat Howard with a header that the American shot-stopper reacted far too late to. Pellegrini’s side were passing the toughest test of their run-in.

There were still scares though. Almost immediately into the second half, Hart had to demonstrate his supreme reflexes in full flow to fingertip away Naismith’s shot. It was a moment that Everton boss Roberto Martinez later said was the “save of the season.” It was made even more decisive because the visitors broke straight down the other end of the field and Dzeko was on-hand to poke home from six-yards out after good work from Samir Nasri. At last, the Citizens had the comfort margin they were looking for.

Everton were never going to lie down though and accept defeat. On-loan forward Romelu Lukaku reduced the deficit in the 65th minute. The Belgian had been kept very quiet throughout but he evaded some slack marking to head home from a Baines cross. Despite dominating possession, Martinez’s side ran out of steam and it was City fans and players celebrating afterwards. They were back at the top of the Premier League table on goal difference.

Liverpool did reclaim the lead two nights later but threw away a three-goal lead to draw 3-3 at Crystal Palace. Pellegrini’s side did what was expected and brushed aside Aston Villa and West Ham United in their final two games to become champions. This win at Goodison in 2014 was one of their most important results in their Premier League history.

Premier League Files: Bobby Zamora

Bobby Zamora’s career took its time to really get going but he represented all of his Premier League teams with great loyalty and desire to succeed. His best spell was with Fulham where he helped Roy Hodgson’s side to a UEFA Europa League final in 2010 and earned himself international recognition from Fabio Capello and England. A lifelong West Ham United fan, he would spend five seasons as a player for the club he grew up supporting and was often a scorer of some spectacular goals.

He started his Football League career as a trainee with Bristol Rovers in 1999 and made a few sporadic first-team appearances before going out on-loan to first Bath City, then Brighton & Hove Albion. He made an immediate impact at Brighton, scoring six goals in six matches during a three-month loan spell in 2000. This encouraged the Seagulls’ to sign him permanently for the 2000-2001 season. He would score 83 times in 136 appearances, breaking into the England Under-21 setup during this time and helping Brighton towards the second-tier of English football with back-to-back promotions.

Several Premier League clubs had been monitoring Zamora very closely, particularly Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs paid Brighton £1.5 million in July 2003 to take Bobby to White Hart Lane. He was one of Glenn Hoddle’s prime targets that summer. However, the manager was sacked in September 2003 after a poor start to the campaign which saw Tottenham winning only one of their first six games. Zamora struggled to settle too, scoring just once in 18 matches and that was in a League Cup victory over West Ham United. Had he just blown his big Premier League opportunity?

In January 2004, he dropped back down to the Football League but it was a move he needed for his career. Joyfully for Zamora, it was West Ham United where his next port of call would be as the Hammers struck a deal with Tottenham which allowed an unhappy Jermain Defoe to go in the other direction. Zamora struck an instant cord for West Ham supporters, scoring in his first two matches for the club as they narrowly missed out on an immediate return to the Premier League via the play-offs.

There was no play-off heartache in 2005. Zamora was the ultimate difference behind West Ham’s return to the top-flight. He scored four goals in the play-off matches, including the winner to defeat Preston North End in the final. He was heading back to the Premier League and it was with his boyhood club too. He made an important contribution to the 2005-2006 team under Alan Pardew that finished in 9th place and reached the FA Cup final. Bobby scored on the club’s final visit to Highbury which ended in victory over Arsenal but was one of the unfortunate victims to have a spot-kick saved in the FA Cup shootout defeat to Liverpool FC.

He started 2006-2007 in brilliant form with five goals in four matches but as the club hit a dreadful run of form, the goals also dried up for Zamora. Pardew was sacked and replaced by Alan Curbishley. Zamora did score some vital goals in the run-in which saw West Ham pull off a remarkable escape with seven wins in their last nine matches to avoid relegation. Among those goals was a winning goal at Arsenal which made West Ham the first away winners in the Premier League at The Emirates Stadium. In 2007-2008, he missed five months of the campaign because of tendinitis which restricted him to just 14 Premier League appearances and would leave Upton Park in the summer of 2008 to join Fulham.

Zamora struggled to find the net, scoring just twice in 35 league appearances over the 2008-2009 season and it looked set that his stay in the west of the capital would be just a sole season. Fulham agreed a fee with Hull City for Zamora to be sold in July 2009 to the Tigers. However, he turned down the move because he didn’t fancy moving away from London.

It was an inspired decision to stay. Zamora enjoyed his best-ever campaign in 2009-2010, scoring some vital goals in the run to the UEFA Europa League final as Fulham beat the likes of reigning holders Shakhtar Donetsk, Bundesliga champions VfL Wolfsburg and Italian giants Juventus. Fulham suffered heartache in the final, losing 2-1 to Atletico Madrid but finished a comfortable 12th in the Premier League table and he scored 19 goals in all competitions.

A late season injury ended his outside hopes of playing in the 2010 World Cup finals for England but he made his international debut in August 2010, featuring in a friendly victory over Hungary. Another injury meant he would figure just once more for the Three Lions – against Sweden in November 2011 which ultimately turned out to be Capello’s last match in charge of England.

He signed a new four-year contract at Fulham in September 2010 but just 24 hours after putting pen to paper on his new deal, he suffered a broken leg in a home match against Wolverhampton Wanderers. This would keep him out of action for over five months. He did return to action before the 2010-2011 season finished but fell out with new Fulham manager Martin Jol and would leave the Cottagers in January 2012 to join Queens Park Rangers.

He scored on his debut for the club which was a 2-1 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers and scored twice in 14 games as the club narrowly avoided relegation. He never hit the heights of his Fulham days at Loftus Road and experienced two relegations in three seasons. He did score a Goal of the Season contender against West Bromwich Albion in April 2015 and scored another play-off final winner over Derby County but by now, injuries had taken their toll.

In August 2015, he returned to Brighton & Hove Albion and scored seven times in 26 appearances before being released after Brighton missed out on promotion through the play-offs. He didn’t play any part in the campaign after March due to a hip injury and in December 2016, he decided to hang up his football boots. He scored 182 goals during his club career.

Zamora is currently pursuing business interests, including a social housing scheme with ex-Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand and West Ham United midfielder Mark Noble.

On his day, Bobby Zamora was unplayable and certainly made an impact on many of his clubs. His best Premier League spell was with Fulham and he is still fondly remembered by Brighton supporters, who came up with the chant: “When the ball hits the goal it’s not Shearer or Cole, its Zamora,” to the tune of Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore.”

The Managers: Alan Curbishley

Premier League Clubs Managed: Charlton Athletic (1998-1999, 2000-2006), West Ham United (2006-2008)

Alan Curbishley enjoyed some notable success in his reign at Charlton Athletic. He ensured the Addicks became a solid, consistent mid-table Premier League side at the start of the millennium and enjoyed 14 seasons as manager of the Londoners. As soon as he decided to step down at the end of the 2005-2006 campaign, Charlton became a pale shadow of the strong sides he’d built up and they were promptly relegated the season after his departure.

Playing between London and the Midlands

As a player, Alan featured for five clubs over the course of an 18-year career which began with West Ham United in 1975, a club he would later spend a couple of chequered years as manager. He made 85 league appearances for the Hammers and often competed for a place in midfield alongside the likes of Billy Bonds, Alan Devonshire and Geoff Pike. After falling out with manager John Lyall, he transferred to Birmingham City in 1979, spending four seasons at St. Andrews. A controversial move to Birmingham’s bitter rivals, Aston Villa followed before his first spell as a player at Charlton Athletic began in 1984. He helped the Addicks to promotion from the First Division in 1986 and achieved a similar feat at Brighton & Hove Albion in 1987, only this time it was into the Second Division.

He returned to Charlton in 1990 in a player/coach capacity under the guidance of Lennie Lawrence and when Lawrence left the following season, Curbishley became joint-manager, working alongside Steve Gritt.

Between the two of them, they laid down the foundations for future success at Charlton, starting the careers of the likes of Lee Bowyer, Shaun Newton and Richard Rufus. They were also in command when Charlton played their first game back at The Valley in 1992 after several seasons away due to a financial dispute.

Gritt stepped down in 1995, enabling Curbishley to take sole control of the team. In 1998, the Addicks reached the First Division play-off final and would meet Sunderland at Wembley Stadium in what is still considered as one of the finest play-off matches ever seen. The game ended 4-4 after extra-time, with Clive Mendonca scoring a hat-trick. The match went to penalties and Curbishley couldn’t look at the drama any longer. When goalkeeper Sasa Ilic saved from Michael Gray, Charlton were promoted to the Premier League.

Learning lessons to be better

Charlton made a fabulous start to life in the Premier League. They thrashed Southampton 5-0 in their first home match in the division and earned creditable goalless draws away to Newcastle United and champions Arsenal. That meant Alan won the first Manager of the Month of that season. The 1998-1999 season would be a campaign of learning lessons for both manager and club.

Winter 1998 was not good. Charlton managed to lose eight successive matches and failed to win in 13 games before beating Wimbledon 2-0 in February 1999. Back-to-back victories over Liverpool FC and Derby County followed and another Manager of the Month award for this mini revival but the earlier run of form had done the damage to the club’s survival prospects. Despite an entertaining 4-3 away win on the penultimate weekend against Aston Villa, Charlton’s 1-0 home loss to Sheffield Wednesday on the final day confirmed their relegation back to the First Division.

The club stuck with Curbishley and their faith was rewarded. Charlton won 27 of their 46 matches back at second-tier and finished First Division champions in 2000, two points clear of Manchester City. A resounding 4-0 victory over City on the first day of the 2000-2001 Premier League campaign suggested Charlton had learned greatly from their first experience of the big league.

They beat Chelsea and Arsenal at home, held Manchester United to a 3-3 draw and recorded a league double over Manchester City. Charlton finished a fantastic ninth place, despite not having a prolific goalscorer with only Jonatan Johansson achieving double figures.

14th in 2001-2002 was slightly disappointing given the previous season’s highs but they were one of only three sides to beat Arsenal that season with a wonderful 4-2 victory at Highbury in November 2001. In early 2003, the club were sitting as high as sixth after five successive victories at the turn of the year which earned Curbishley his third Manager of the Month award. However, eight defeats in their last 10 matches saw the Addicks fade to a 12th place finish in 2002-2003.

A nice blend of youth and experience

Charlton’s best Premier League season came in 2003-2004. Curbishley’s development of youth and experience was proving to be a nice blend, with Scott Parker flourishing in the first part of the campaign before high-flying Chelsea came in with a £10 million bid which Charlton simply couldn’t turn down in January 2004. They were fourth going into the New Year and still finished a fine seventh, only narrowly missing out on a UEFA Cup place behind the richer resourced sides like Newcastle United and Aston Villa.

His excellent work at Charlton was always noted and Liverpool FC interviewed him for the vacant managerial position in the summer of 2004 which eventually went to the reigning La Liga championship-winning manager Rafa Benitez. He was also considered for the England job in 2006 and even received praise from the likes of Sir Bobby Robson. However, he missed out on this position too, with Steve McClaren taking over after the World Cup in Germany that summer.

By now, things had got slightly stale at Charlton. Solid, if unspectacular campaigns followed in 2004-2005 and 2005-2006. Both had their high points, including a four-game winning sequence at the start of 2005-2006 but both campaigns faded away into mediocrity. He was offered a new contract but declined the opportunity to stay. Moments before the club’s final home match of the season against Blackburn Rovers, he revealed that he was leaving at the end of the season.

He said: “It’s a time of mixed emotions, but it is the right time for me and right for the club. I have done 15 years and wanted a break. I want to freshen up and not do anything for a little while.”

He left after 720 games in charge of the Addicks. Charlton would experience relegation a season after his departure and haven’t been anywhere close a return to the top-flight since.

Masterminding an incredible turnaround at Upton Park

After a six-month break to spend more time with his family, Curbishley returned to the managerial dugout in December 2006, succeeding Alan Pardew as manager of West Ham United. They were in the bottom three and already facing an uphill task to stay in the Premier League.

There was an initial bounce, with a 1-0 victory over league leaders Manchester United in his first game in charge but a harrowing run followed, which included defeat at home to bottom-placed Watford and a 6-0 New Years’ Day mauling at the hands of Reading. When Tottenham Hotspur won a 4-3 thriller at Upton Park at the start of March, West Ham were 11 points adrift of safety. The situation looked incredibly desperate.

However, Curbishley masterminded an incredible turnaround. The club won seven out of their last nine matches, including 1-0 away wins at Arsenal and Manchester United. Helped by the goals of Carlos Tevez, West Ham stayed up on the final day with the victory at Old Trafford. There was huge controversy off-the-pitch with the club not being deducted points for breaking transfer ownership rules over the signings of Tevez and Javier Mascherano but Alan deserved great praise for turning around an almost hopeless scenario into one of the league’s greatest escapes.

A more calmer 2007-2008 season followed with the club finishing 10th in the final standings despite long-term injuries to the likes of Craig Bellamy, Parker and Kieron Dyer who had all been signed in the summer by Curbishley. Speculation increased about his future though at the start of the 2008-2009 season and unhappy about the departures of defenders George McCartney and Anton Ferdinand, he resigned three games into the campaign. He launched a case of constructive dismissal against the club a year later, winning £2.2 million in compensation from the east Londoners.

That was his last managerial role. He has since worked briefly as a technical director at Fulham and is occasionally seen as a TV pundit. In a world where managers get sacked far too often nowadays, we won’t see the likes of Alan Curbishley’s reign at Charlton in terms of duration anymore. He often maximised the resources he had available to him and deserves credit for what he achieved as a result.

Premier League Files: Ricardo Fuller

Premier League Career: Portsmouth (2004-2005), Stoke City (2008-2012)

Jamaican forward Ricardo Fuller enjoyed a successful spell in the Premier League with Stoke City. After failing to make the grade at Portsmouth, Fuller was one of the leading stars of the early Stoke years in the Premier League under Tony Pulis.

He began his English journey with Crystal Palace in February 2001, signing after impressing Eagles’ management on trial. Unfortunately, he struggled to settle in the capital and with knee problems too, it restricted him to just eight league appearances as Palace narrowly avoided relegation to Division Two. He was released and returned to his homeland with an unpredictable future.

He tried his fortunes in Scotland next, as Hearts signed him for the 2001-2002 season from Jamaican side Tivoli Gardens. He scored eight times in 27 appearances and finished as the club’s joint top scorer for the campaign. Unfortunately for the Jambos’ fans, the Edinburgh club couldn’t afford to sign Fuller on a permanent basis. So, he went back to English football, with Preston North End swooping in to sign Fuller permanently. Arguably, his time with Preston was probably the most prolific of his career. He scored 30 times in two seasons and it would have been far more had it not been for a bad knee ligament injury he sustained in December 2002. In June 2004, Fuller decided it was time to try his luck in the Premier League, so handed in a transfer request.

His persistent knee problems in English football so far meant there were few suitors for Fuller’s services, despite his instincts infront of goal. Only Leeds United and Portsmouth displayed interest and the former had just dropped out of the top-flight. Ricardo failed medicals with both teams but Harry Redknapp maintained an interest and eventually, agreed a fee with Preston to sign the player in August 2004. He scored on his debut against Crystal Palace but his impact was limited. Redknapp left Portsmouth two months later and he fell down the pecking order under Alain Perrin’s stewardship. His goal against Palace was the only one he struck in Portsmouth colours. After another failed medical, this time at Sunderland in the summer of 2005, he eventually moved to Pompey’s bitter south coast rivals Southampton, to reunite with Redknapp who had controversially moved onto St Mary’s after his exit from Fratton Park.

His stay at Southampton was not the greatest. Again, Redknapp left shortly after signing him to incredibly return to Portsmouth. The fans struggled to accept him in their colours because of his Pompey connections and there was a general feel that Fuller’s commitment to the club wasn’t always 100% evident. He went on-loan to Ipswich Town and was eventually moved to Stoke on transfer deadline day in August 2006. Whilst Preston gave Ricardo his best scoring days, Stoke would be his longest and strongest period of his footballing career.

If Southampton fans didn’t enjoy him, Stoke supporters loved him. Fuller scored 26 goals in his first two seasons to help the Potters’ reach the promise land of the Premier League. He won the club’s Goal of the Season award in 2007-2008 for a solo effort against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Despite his popularity, Fuller was no stranger to trouble either. He received two red cards in his debut Stoke season and was also sent off for violent conduct against West Ham United when he slapped his teammate Andy Griffin in the face!

These transgressions apart, Tony Pulis seemed to always get the best out of Fuller. He scored some brilliant individual goals, including efforts against Aston Villa in August 2008 and West Ham United in March 2010 that won the club’s Goal of the Season awards. Fuller also scored Stoke’s first-ever Premier League goal, although this came in a defeat to Bolton Wanderers.

Injury unfortunately meant he missed out on the club’s FA Cup final appearance in 2011 and another red card away at Chelsea a year later didn’t go down well with Pulis. Fuller had stamped on Branislav Ivanovic and the manager called him ‘ridiculous.’ With Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones now at the club as the preferred partnership, Fuller was no longer an automatic pick when fit and Stoke decided to release him at the end of the 2011-2012 campaign.

That would be his final Premier League hurrah. He retired in May 2016 after spells in the Football League with Charlton Athletic, Blackpool, Millwall and Oldham Athletic. In the international spectrum, he played 73 times for Jamaica in a career that spanned an incredible 16 years.

Ricardo Fuller was a tempestuous figure but always could produce magical moments from nowhere and Stoke fans certainly enjoyed his combative and abrasive style of play in their Premier League story.

Great Goals: Wayne Rooney – MANCHESTER UNITED vs. Newcastle United (April 2005)

In January 2017, Wayne Rooney overtook Sir Bobby Charlton to become Manchester United’s record goalscorer. It was an amazing feat for one of the greatest English players of his generation.

One of his early goals came in a Premier League match at home to Newcastle United. The Red Devils were 1-0 down 10 minutes into the second half and looked short of attacking input. Rooney was experiencing a frustrating afternoon of his own. He had picked up a knock in the first half and looked like he might be substituted. He answered those doubts in stunning style.

Rooney was having an argument with the referee Neale Barry over not getting an earlier free-kick. He paused from this conversation and latched onto a defensive clearance, producing a confident and cracking volley into the top corner of the net. It was one of the best strikes of the 2004-2005 season and another sign of money well spent by Sir Alex Ferguson.

It was a pure hit and a goal that kick-started Manchester United’s afternoon. Wes Brown’s header in the last 15 minutes ensured the home side won the day 2-1.

Iconic Moments: Di Canio shoves Alcock (September 1998)

There’s no doubt that Italian Paolo di Canio was a character on the football field. He was fabulously gifted at times but also frustratingly infuriating at other occasions. He represented Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham United and Charlton Athletic during his Premier League playing days and had an explosive reign in charge of Sunderland during 2013. The lowest point of his career came in September 1998.

Sheffield Wednesday were playing the reigning champions Arsenal at Hillsborough and the game was goalless when the match blew up spectacularly. Patrick Vieira and Wim Jonk had a scrap in the middle of the pitch. Vieira didn’t like the challenge and over-reacted, pushing over the Dutch player. Other players started piling in, with di Canio and Martin Keown getting into a heated confrontation, whilst others were trying to play peacemaker.

Referee Paul Alcock took his time before brandishing the red card in di Canio’s direction. What happened next was inexcusable on di Canio’s part. He shoved Alcock to the ground. Whilst the referee made the absolute most of the contact, di Canio had no right to behave like he did. The FA took a dim view to the incident and handed him an 11-match ban. Sheffield Wednesday suspended him immediately after the incident and he would never play for the club again. He moved to West Ham in January 1999.

For the record, Keown was also sent off in the incident and Sheffield Wednesday ended up winning the game 1-0 with a late winner from Lee Briscoe.

It was a sour incident and whilst some do feel Paul Alcock definitely over-exaggerated his fall, showing physical contact to a referee was simply unacceptable. For all the brilliance of di Canio’s career, including that brilliant goal against Wimbledon in March 2000, these incidents are just as fondly remembered for the wrong reasons.

Memorable Matches: Southampton 6-3 Manchester United (October 1996)

Goalscorers: Eyal Berkovic 6, 83, Matt Le Tissier 35, David Beckham 41, Egil Ostenstad 45, 85, David May 56, Paul Scholes 89, Phil Neville 90 OG

Teams:

Southampton: Dave Beasant, Jason Dodd, Richard Dryden, Claus Lundekvam, Simon Charlton (Graham Potter 70), Alan Neilson (Jim Magilton 75), Ulrich van Gobbel, Matt Oakley, Eyal Berkovic, Matt Le Tissier (Gordon Watson 88), Egil Ostenstad

Manchester United: Peter Schmeichel, David May, Gary Pallister (Denis Irwin 45), Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt (Brian McClair 17), Roy Keane (SENT OFF), David Beckham, Jordi Cruyff (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 83), Paul Scholes, Eric Cantona

Referee: Jeff Winter, Attendance: 15,256

Manchester United arrived at The Dell in October 1996 off the back of a humiliating 5-0 defeat to Newcastle United six days earlier. Manager Alex Ferguson must have been shell-shocked after the scoreline at St James’ Park. He was about to get another taste of embarrassment. This result will remain one of Southampton’s greatest and one of Manchester United’s worst in the Premier League era.

This match was played six months after the ‘grey shirt’ debacle when Manchester United lost 3-1 and changed their away kit at half-time because Ferguson claimed the players couldn’t see each other! This time, he could offer no excuses. His team were simply outplayed and outfoxed by a wily Southampton outfit.

The scoring began in the sixth minute. New signing Egil Ostenstad forced Peter Schmeichel into a save. However, Eyal Berkovic was in the right place to smash the ball past the Dane on the rebound. United’s cause wasn’t helped even further when Roy Keane picked up a red card inside of 21 minutes.

10 minutes before half-time, it was 2-0. Berkovic found Matt Le Tissier, who had plenty of time outside the penalty area. He evaded challenges from Brian McClair and David May before producing a delicate lob over Schmeichel’s head. It was another amazing goal in the Le Tissier collection. The Red Devils’ did find a quick response this time. David Beckham’s trademark free-kick reduced the deficit but not for long. Right on the stroke of half-time, Ostenstad bamboozled May and then somehow squeezed a shot past Schmeichel’s defences at his near post. The scoreline was 3-1 at half-time.

Another five goals would follow in the second half. Again, Manchester United responded. Beckham’s free-kick was nodded in at the back post by May, who was making up for his own shoddy defensive display. Then, with seven minutes left, Southampton scored their fourth goal. Israeli international Berkovic crashed in his second goal of the afternoon with a venomous volley from the edge of the penalty area after a corner wasn’t properly cleared by United’s weary defenders. Worse was to come.

Ostenstad raced past May again and beat Schmeichel to make it 5-2! Paul Scholes did grab a consolation shortly afterwards but there was still time for a sixth Saints’ goal. Substitute Gordon Watson played in Ostenstad who rounded Schmeichel and found the net again, via Phil Neville’s despairing attempt to stop the ball. Although Ostenstad deserved his hat-trick, the records officially show this quite harshly as a Neville own goal.

Manchester United would lose their unbeaten 40-year home record in Europe days later to Fenerbahce but would claim a fourth Premier League title in five years. Southampton survived again and their fans will never forget the afternoon when the reigning champions were hit for six of the best.

Seasonal Records: 2002-2003

For all the statistical fans out there, here are some of the season’s records from the 2002-2003 Premier League campaign, as Manchester United claimed their eighth Premier League title and the first club slipped out of the league despite reaching the usual magical safety mark of 40 points.

FINAL TABLE

Position Team P W D L F A GD PTS
1 Manchester United 38 25 8 5 74 34 +40 83
2 Arsenal 38 23 9 6 85 42 +43 78
3 Newcastle United 38 21 6 11 63 48 +15 69
4 Chelsea 38 19 10 9 68 38 +30 67
5 Liverpool FC 38 18 10 10 61 41 +20 64
6 Blackburn Rovers 38 16 12 10 52 43 +9 60
7 Everton 38 17 8 13 48 49 -1 59
8 Southampton 38 13 13 12 43 46 -3 52
9 Manchester City 38 15 6 17 47 54 -7 51
10 Tottenham Hotspur 38 14 8 16 51 62 -11 50
11 Middlesbrough 38 13 10 15 48 44 +4 49
12 Charlton Athletic 38 14 7 17 45 56 -11 49
13 Birmingham City 38 13 9 16 41 49 -8 48
14 Fulham 38 13 9 16 41 50 -9 48
15 Leeds United 38 14 5 19 58 57 +1 47
16 Aston Villa 38 12 9 17 42 47 -5 45
17 Bolton Wanderers 38 10 14 14 41 51 -10 44
18 West Ham United 38 10 12 16 42 59 -17 42
19 West Bromwich Albion 38 6 8 24 29 65 -36 26
20 Sunderland 38 4 7 27 21 65 -44 19

 

THE BASIC STATS

Goals Scored 1000
European qualifiers Manchester United (UEFA Champions League), Arsenal (UEFA Champions League), Newcastle United (UEFA Champions League), Chelsea (UEFA Champions League), Liverpool FC (UEFA Cup), Blackburn Rovers (UEFA Cup), Southampton (UEFA Cup), Manchester City (UEFA Cup)
Longest winning run 7 games (Liverpool FC)
Longest unbeaten run 18 games (Manchester United)
Longest winless run 20 games (Sunderland)
Longest losing run 15 games (Sunderland)
Highest attendance 67,721 (Manchester United vs. Charlton Athletic)
Lowest attendance 14,017 (Fulham vs. Blackburn Rovers)

 

AWARDS

PFA Players’ Player of the Year Thierry Henry (Arsenal)
PFA Young Player of the Year Jermaine Jenas (Newcastle United)
Football Writers’ Award Thierry Henry (Arsenal)
PFA Team of the Year Brad Friedel, Sol Campbell, William Gallas, Stephen Carr, Ashley Cole, Patrick Vieira, Kieron Dyer, Robert Pires, Paul Scholes, Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer
Manager of the Year Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United
Premier League Goal of the Season Thierry Henry (ARSENAL vs. Tottenham Hotspur)

 

HAT-TRICK HEROES

Player Teams Score Date
Michael Owen Manchester City vs. Liverpool FC 0-3 28th September 2002
James Beattie Southampton vs. Fulham 4-2 27th October 2002
Ruud van Nistelrooy Manchester United vs. Newcastle United 5-3 23rd November 2002
Robbie Keane Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton 4-3 12th January 2003
Thierry Henry Arsenal vs. West Ham United 3-1 27th January 2003
Ruud van Nistelrooy Manchester United vs. Fulham 3-0 22nd March 2003
Mark Viduka Charlton Athletic vs. Leeds United 1-6 5th April 2003
Paul Scholes Newcastle United vs. Manchester United 2-6 12th April 2003
Michael Owen (4) West Bromwich Albion vs. Liverpool FC 0-6 26th April 2003
Ruud van Nistelrooy Manchester United vs. Charlton Athletic 4-1 3rd May 2003
Jermaine Pennant Arsenal vs. Southampton 6-1 7th May 2003
Robert Pires Arsenal vs. Southampton 6-1 7th May 2003
Freddie Ljungberg Sunderland vs. Arsenal 0-4 11th May 2003

 

TOP SCORERS

Position Player Teams No of Goals
1 Ruud van Nistelrooy Manchester United 25
2 Thierry Henry Arsenal 24
3 James Beattie Southampton 23
4 Mark Viduka Leeds United 20
5 Michael Owen Liverpool FC 19
6 Alan Shearer Newcastle United 17
7= Paul Scholes Manchester United 14
7= Robert Pires Arsenal 14
7= Gianfranco Zola Chelsea 14
7= Nicolas Anelka Manchester City 14
7= Robbie Keane Leeds United & Tottenham Hotspur 14
7= Harry Kewell Leeds United 14
13 Teddy Sheringham Tottenham Hotspur 12
14= Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink Chelsea 11
14= Tomasz Radzinski Everton 11
16= Sylvain Wiltord Arsenal 10
16= Eidur Gudjohnsen Chelsea 10
16= Kevin Campbell Everton 10
16= Jason Euell Charlton Athletic 10
16= Dion Dublin Aston Villa 10
21= Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Manchester United 9
21= Milan Baros Liverpool FC 9
21= Damien Duff Blackburn Rovers 9
21= Marc-Vivien Foe Manchester City 9
21= Massimo Maccarone Middlesbrough 9

BIGGEST VICTORIES

West Bromwich Albion 0-6 Liverpool FC 26th April 2003
Arsenal 6-1 Southampton 7th May 2003
Charlton Athletic 1-6 Leeds United 5th April 2003
Chelsea 5-0 Manchester City 22nd March 2003
Newcastle United 2-6 Manchester United 12th April 2003
Manchester City 1-5 Arsenal 22nd February 2003
Newcastle United 5-1 Blackburn Rovers 22nd March 2003
Middlesbrough 5-1 Tottenham Hotspur 3rd May 2003
Manchester United 4-0 Liverpool FC 5th April 2003
Birmingham City 0-4 Arsenal 12th January 2003

 

HIGHEST SCORING GAMES

No of Goals Teams Date
8 Newcastle United 2-6 Manchester United 12th April 2003
8 Manchester United 5-3 Newcastle United 23rd November 2002
7 Arsenal 6-1 Southampton 7th May 2003
7 Charlton Athletic 1-6 Leeds United 5th April 2003
7 Arsenal 5-2 West Bromwich Albion 27th August 2002
7 Blackburn Rovers 5-2 Newcastle United 19th October 2002
7 Middlesbrough 2-5 Aston Villa 28th January 2003
7 Tottenham Hotspur 4-3 Everton 12th January 2003
7 West Ham United 3-4 Leeds United 10th November 2002
7 Bolton Wanderers 4-3 Newcastle United 26th December 2002
6 West Bromwich Albion 0-6 Liverpool FC 26th April 2003
6 Manchester City 1-5 Arsenal 22nd February 2003
6 Newcastle United 5-1 Blackburn Rovers 22nd March 2003
6 Middlesbrough 5-1 Tottenham Hotspur 3rd May 2003
6 Southampton 4-2 Fulham 27th October 2002
6 Bolton Wanderers 4-2 Birmingham City 1st February 2003
6 Charlton Athletic 4-2 West Ham United 22nd January 2003
6 Leeds United 2-4 Bolton Wanderers 17th November 2002
5 Chelsea 5-0 Manchester City 22nd March 2003
5 Manchester United 4-1 Charlton Athletic 3rd May 2003

 

YOUNGEST PLAYERS USED

Player Teams Age at the time Date
Wayne Rooney Everton 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur 16 years, 9 months, 24 days 17th August 2002
James Milner West Ham United 3-4 Leeds United 16 years, 10 months, 6 days 10th November 2002
Mat Sadler Birmingham City 3-1 Bolton Wanderers 17 years, 8 months, 7 days 2nd November 2002
Danny Livesey Bolton Wanderers 2-3 Liverpool FC 17 years, 8 months, 14 days 14th September 2002
Jay McEveley Bolton Wanderers 1-1 Blackburn Rovers 17 years, 9 months, 26 days 7th December 2002
Kieran Richardson Manchester United 5-3 Newcastle United 18 years, 1 month, 2 days 23rd November 2002
Robert Huth Fulham 0-0 Chelsea 18 years, 1 month, 5 days 23rd September 2002
Andrew Davies Middlesbrough 2-5 Aston Villa 18 years, 1 month, 11 days 28th January 2003
Osei Sankofa Manchester United 4-1 Charlton Athletic 18 years, 1 month, 14 days 3rd May 2003
Jamie Slabber Tottenham Hotspur 2-3 Liverpool FC 18 years, 2 months, 13 days 16th March 2003

 

OLDEST PLAYERS USED

Player Teams Age at the time Date
David Seaman Sunderland 0-4 Arsenal 39 years, 1 month, 17 days 11th May 2003
Peter Schmeichel Manchester City 0-1 Southampton 38 years, 8 months, 11 days 11th May 2003
Nigel Winterburn West Ham United 0-3 Liverpool FC 38 years, 7 months, 19 days 2nd February 2003
Gudni Bergsson Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Middlesbrough 38 years, 6 months, 9 days 11th May 2003
Laurent Blanc Everton 1-2 Manchester United 38 years, 5 months 11th May 2003
Teddy Sheringham Tottenham Hotspur 0-4 Blackburn Rovers 38 years, 4 months, 19 days 11th May 2003
Gianfranco Zola Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool FC 38 years, 1 month, 24 days 11th May 2003
Martin Keown Arsenal 2-3 Leeds United 37 years, 4 months, 16 days 4th May 2003
Les Ferdinand Birmingham City 2-2 West Ham United 36 years, 9 months, 20 days 11th May 2003
John Moncur Arsenal 3-1 West Ham United 36 years, 6 months, 10 days 19th January 2003

 

CLEAN SHEETS

Position Player Teams No of Clean Sheets
1 Brad Friedel Blackburn Rovers 15
2 Shay Given Newcastle United 14
3= Carlo Cudicini Chelsea 12
3= Jerzy Dudek Liverpool FC 12
5 Richard Wright Everton 11
6= Fabien Barthez Manchester United 10
6= Mark Schwarzer Middlesbrough 10
6= Paul Robinson Leeds United 10
6= Jussi Jaaskelainen Bolton Wanderers 10
10 Antti Niemi Southampton 9