Referees in the Middle: Rob Styles

Premier League Career: 2000-2009

First Premier League Match: West Ham United 0-1 Leicester City (23 August 2000)

Final Premier League Match: Chelsea 2-0 Blackburn Rovers (17 May 2009)

In nine seasons of top-flight officiating, Rob Styles took charge of 212 Premier League matches. He was one of the most controversial officials in the Premier League era and never shied away from annoying supporters and managers with some of his key decisions.

Styles began refereeing in 1987 and nine years later, was appointed to the National list. He started to make his breakthrough at the start of the millennium, taking charge of the Second Division play-off final between Gillingham and Wigan Athletic. He was also the fourth official in 2000 at both the FA Trophy and LDV Vans Trophy finals.

In the same year, he was promoted to the Premier League officiating list and his first game came in the second round of matches in the 2000-2001 season. For the record, Darren Eadie scored the only goal as Leicester City won 1-0 at Upton Park against West Ham United. In the same game, West Ham’s Igor Stimac was sent off.

He became a FIFA referee in 2002 and three years later, was in-charge for the 2005 FA Cup final between Arsenal and Manchester United. He sent off Jose Antonio Reyes in the closing stages of extra-time before the match went to penalties, won ultimately by Arsenal.

Based in Waterlooville, Styles showed the yellow card to offending players a whopping 689 times. He gave 57 penalties, including 11 in the 2007-2008 campaign alone. The lowest moment of his career came in August 2007 when he put in a comical display at Anfield. He awarded Chelsea a penalty in the second half when adjudging Steve Finnan had fouled Florent Malouda, even though the ball was nowhere near Malouda and replays showed no contact between the players. Frank Lampard converted the spot-kick, earning Chelsea a point and leaving Liverpool FC manager Rafa Benitez generally baffled by the decision.

He booked nine players on that afternoon and was at the centre of another talking point when he appeared to show a yellow card to both John Terry and Michael Essien, who had been cautioned earlier in the match. He later clarified that only Terry was booked in the incident (shown below).

Liverpool FC captain Steven Gerrard piled the pressure on the embattled ref afterwards, telling the Evening Standard: “The referee didn’t play well. There was a lot of pressure from the Chelsea players and I thought he eventually cracked. I hope he apologises. When players make mistakes they have to come out and say sorry so we’ll see what he has to say.”

Styles later telephoned Benitez to apologise for his cock-up but Keith Hackett confirmed shortly afterwards that he would be dropped for the next round of Premier League matches. Ultimately, it would be the beginning of the end for his career.

In January 2009, he dismissed West Bromwich Albion’s Paul Robinson against Manchester United in a game where the visitors’ cruised to a 5-0 victory. However, the FA elected to rescind the red card given in the match for a challenge on Ji-Sung Park. He felt any support from the governing body was gone after this escapade and although he carried on until the end of the season, the zest was gone.

In the summer of 2009, Styles decided enough was enough and quit refereeing. Graham Poll wrote in his Daily Mail column: “He cared deeply about his refereeing; dedicating himself to serving the game he loves. However, the fact that the majority of the football-watching public will merely shrug their shoulders in indifference at this news or say ‘Good’ proves the lack of understanding of the modern referee.”


Premier League Files: David James

Premier League Career: Liverpool FC (1992-1999), Aston Villa (1999-2001), West Ham United (2001-2003), Manchester City (2004-2006), Portsmouth (2006-2010)

Currently a regular pundit on BT Sport’s coverage, David James played in a mammoth 572 Premier League matches, which places him fourth on the current all-time list. He held the Premier League record for most clean sheets between April 2007 and December 2015 with 170 before being surpassed by Petr Cech.

Awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 2012 Birthday Honours’ List for services to football and charity work, James was capped 53 times by England during a 13-year period and was first-choice goalkeeper at the 2004 European Championships and the World Cup of 2010.

Born in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, James grew up supporting Luton Town but would begin his professional career at the Hatters’ local rivals, Watford. He made his league debut in August 1990 and would go onto play 89 times for the Hertfordshire-based club.

He joined Liverpool FC for a fee of £1.25 million in July 1992 and was the first goalkeeper to be beaten by a goal live on Sky Sports when Teddy Sheringham fired a cracking drive past him in Nottingham Forest’s 1-0 victory on the opening weekend of the Premier League. He struggled to settle into his new surroundings and shipped 20 goals in his first 11 appearances before being dropped for LFC fans’ favourite and veteran Bruce Grobbelaar.

James would only feature sporadically then until February 1994 when Grobbelaar sustained an injury in an away defeat to Leeds United. He was back in the team and when Grobbelaar left that summer to join Southampton on a free transfer, became the first-choice goalkeeper at Anfield unchallenged for the next four seasons. He still was unconvincing at times. In 1997, he made a catalogue of costly goalkeeping errors that derailed Liverpool’s title challenge. James was at fault for conceding goals against Nottingham Forest, Coventry City and Manchester United, costing the Reds’ at least eight points which could have been enough for them to win their first title since 1990.

He put down his spate of errors to overindulgence in playing computer games that in turn affected his concentration. This earned him the nickname ‘Calamity James.’

After 277 games for Liverpool FC, he was sold to Aston Villa for £1.8 million in June 1999 and kept a clean sheet in his first Premier League match for Villa; a 1-0 away win at Newcastle United. The highlight of his career in the Midlands was a couple of penalty saves in the FA Cup semi-final shootout victory over Bolton Wanderers. He would make 85 appearances for the club but with Peter Schmeichel arriving on a free transfer for the 2001-2002 campaign, David moved onto pastures new with West Ham United in a £3.5 million deal.

His Hammers’ debut was to be seriously delayed though by a knee injury sustained whilst keeping goal for England during an international friendly against the Netherlands at White Hart Lane. He wouldn’t play for his new club until November 2001. On his return, West Ham immediately tightened up at the back and finished an excellent seventh. This was pretty good considering they’d been beaten heavily in the season’s early weeks by Everton and Blackburn Rovers. A sting in the tail came in 2002-2003. James was part of the West Ham squad that proved no team is too good to go down. Despite having the likes of Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Paolo di Canio, Jermain Defoe and James in their ranks, West Ham were relegated on the final day of the season. They became the first team to go down in a 38-game season despite having achieved the usual magical 40-point mark which is often considered enough to survive.

He stayed loyal to West Ham and remained with them in the First Division but when David Seaman announced his retirement from playing in January 2004, Manchester City came calling. It was a no-brainer for David, who was serving as England’s no.1 goalkeeper at the time. Manchester City were in a relegation battle and only won four matches after his arrival but James played a crucial part in earning draws against relegated duo Leicester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Defeats in these games could have led to a completely different outcome for Kevin Keegan’s expensively-assembled side.

On the final day of the 2004-2005 season, Manchester City played Middlesbrough with a race between the sides to finish in seventh spot and secure a place in Europe for the following season. Stuart Pearce had taken over from Keegan in March of that season and he tried an unusual tactic, by removing David James from goal and making him an outfield attacker! Nicky Weaver came on in-goal to replace outfield player Claudio Reyna. The presence of a goalkeeper in home kit clearly had Middlesbrough rattled. In injury-time, a cross came in aimed at James. Franck Queudrue handled the ball and a penalty was given. Unfortunately for City, Mark Schwarzer saved Robbie Fowler’s spot-kick to ensure Middlesbrough drew 1-1 and grabbed that coveted European spot.

Later that summer, he separated from his wife of four children, Tanya. A year later, he decided he needed to leave Manchester City for personal reasons and moved to Portsmouth in a £1.2 million deal. James kept clean sheets in his first five appearances for Portsmouth and was named the club’s Player of the Season. In April 2007, he made Premier League history by keeping his 142nd clean sheet in a goalless draw away at Aston Villa. This meant he overtook the record held by David Seaman. In January 2008, he became only the third player in Premier League history to reach the landmark of 500 appearances in the 2-0 defeat to Manchester United. He won the FA Cup that season which was his second major honour, 13 years after his League Cup success with Liverpool FC.

In February 2009, James made his 536th Premier League appearance against one of his former sides, Manchester City. This broke Gary Speed’s all-time record. This has since been surpassed by Frank Lampard, Ryan Giggs and Gareth Barry. He left Portsmouth after their relegation from the top-flight in 2010, bowing out as skipper in the FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea. Although he expressed an interest in replacing the West Ham-bound Avram Grant, he eventually moved to Bristol City, meaning his Premier League career was over.

He had a spell at AFC Bournemouth and would retire from playing in 2013 after spending one season playing in Icelandic football with IBV Vestmannaeyjar who were being managed by his former Portsmouth teammate, Hermann Hreidarsson. Since then, David has done some part-time coaching with Luton Town and was player-manager with Kerala Blasters FC in the Indian Super League. However, his long-term future looks to be in punditry with BT Sport.

David James definitely had his critics throughout his career. He was a keeper who never seemed to do dull. His longevity within the game shows how he was trusted by many different managers from Evans and Gregory to Keegan and Redknapp. That means he must take credit for the career he enjoyed, even if it did lack a major league title.

Great Goals: Gus Poyet – CHELSEA vs. Sunderland (August 1999)

Gus Poyet would become a Premier League manager with Sunderland from October 2013 to March 2015. He scored one of his finest goals against the Black Cats from his Chelsea days.

The Uruguayan was something of a cult hero during his four seasons at Stamford Bridge and came up with a glut of crucial goals, including the one to defeat the mighty Real Madrid in the 1998 UEFA Super Cup final.

On the opening weekend of the 1999-2000 campaign, the Blues welcomed Sunderland to their lair and dismissed their opponents 4-0. Poyet scored the goal of the match. Gianfranco Zola received possession from a long ball and as the Italian took it under control and assessed his options, Poyet made a run from midfield into the box.

He got between the two Sunderland defenders and met Zola’s pass with brilliant timing. His volley left Thomas Sorensen without a hope of saving it. Poyet scored 49 goals in his Chelsea career. This was quite probably his best.

Iconic Moments: Schmeichel scores! (October 2001)

During the first decade of the Premier League, Peter Schmeichel was arguably the best goalkeeper seen. He won five Premier League titles with Manchester United and developed an art for spectacular saves. However, he did like to score the occasional goal too.

In 1995, he headed home from a corner in a UEFA Cup tie against Rotor Volgograd at Old Trafford. United went out on away goals so his efforts counted for little. Six years later, he was at it again, this time playing for Aston Villa.

Villa were at Goodison Park, playing Everton and trailing 3-1. Schmeichel decided to come up into the Everton penalty area for a corner and when the Toffees’ defenders failed to clear, Schmeichel smashed the ball into the back of the net with a volley that Thierry Henry would have been proud of.

Everton held on to claim all three points on the day but it was the Dane who made all the headlines afterwards. In its 10th season, Schmeichel had become the first goalkeeper to score a goal. He ended his career in 2003 with Manchester City, having scored nine goals professionally at club level. Not a bad achievement for a player who was an expert at keeping them out at the other end.

Premier League Rewind: 23rd-25th April 2011

Results: Manchester United 1-0 Everton, Aston Villa 1-1 Stoke City, Blackpool 1-1 Newcastle United, Liverpool FC 5-0 Birmingham City, Sunderland 4-2 Wigan Athletic, Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 West Bromwich Albion, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-1 Fulham, Chelsea 3-0 West Ham United, Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Arsenal, Blackburn Rovers 0-1 Manchester City

The 2010-2011 Premier League season had been one of the most unpredictable campaigns for many years. With five games left to go, nothing was settled. Manchester United were six points clear but not totally comfortable yet in terms of the title picture with an ever-improving Chelsea bearing down on them. Meanwhile at the bottom, just six points covered Fulham, Stoke City, Sunderland, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic, Blackpool, West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers. It really was too close to call.

Manchester United opened up proceedings on 23rd April with a brief opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the table to nine points. They played Everton in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off and were pushed all the way by a stubborn David Moyes. They were eventually broken down by Javier Hernandez in the last 10 minutes. 1-0 was the final scoreline and another giant leap towards a record-breaking 19th title had taken place. United had dropped just two points at home all season and that was a proud statistic that would hold up in their remaining two matches.

On a wet and torrential evening in west London, Chelsea knew they needed to win against bottom-placed West Ham United to keep the pressure up on Manchester United. As they still had to travel to Old Trafford to play the Red Devils, hope still existed for Carlo Ancelotti’s side and they made no mistake here, dispatching the Hammers 3-0. The most exciting moment of the match was Fernando Torres scoring his first goal for the club after 734 minutes. Torres had struggled to match the form he’d demonstrated at Liverpool FC and it was clear this goal was a massive weight off his shoulders.

If Chelsea still had title hopes, they had completely diminished for Arsenal. They had won only one of their past six matches and another defeat; 2-1 to Bolton Wanderers dashed any faint hopes they had of catching the leaders. Arsene Wenger’s side had shown major fragilities after their last-gasp League Cup final loss to Birmingham City in February. There was a poignant moment here too. Bolton’s stoppage-time winner was scored by midfielder Tamir Cohen, who removed his shirt and dedicated the goal to his father Avi, who had been killed in a traffic accident in December 2010.

Manchester City strengthened their grip on fourth place and the final UEFA Champions League qualifying spot after a Monday night 1-0 victory away at Blackburn Rovers. January signing Edin Dzeko scored his first goal for the club. They extended their lead on closest challengers Tottenham Hotspur to four points after Spurs dropped points at home to West Bromwich Albion. Simon Cox scored the pick of the goals in a 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane.

At the wrong end of the table, the big winners were Sunderland. After four successive defeats, a 4-2 victory over Wigan Athletic eased their concerns and moved them seven points clear of danger with four games left to play. That result plunged Wigan back into the bottom three with Blackpool climbing out after a 1-1 draw with Newcastle United. Birmingham’s 5-0 defeat at Anfield to Liverpool FC left them very vulnerable with Maxi Rodriguez scoring his first of two hat-tricks in 16 days.

What else happened in April 2011?

  • Prince William and Kate Middleton marry at Westminster Abbey. An estimated two billion people watch the wedding.
  • The 20-1 shot Ballabriggs wins the Grand National, trained by Donald McCain, son of former National trainer, Ginger McCain.
  • Channel 5 confirms it has bought the rights to TV show Big Brother and will screen it from August 2011.
  • Actor Brian Regan, best known as playing Terry Sullivan in Brookside from 1982-1997, is charged with the murder of a city bouncer in Merseyside.
  • The Daily Sport and Sunday Sport tabloid newspapers cease publication and enter administration.

Memorable Matches: Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal (May 2002)

Goalscorers: Sylvain Wiltord 55


Manchester United: Fabien Barthez, Laurent Blanc, Wes Brown, Phil Neville, Mikael Silvestre, Roy Keane, Juan Sebastian Veron (Ruud van Nistelrooy 58), Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Diego Forlan (Quinton Fortune 68), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Arsenal: David Seaman, Sol Campbell, Martin Keown, Ashley Cole, Lauren, Edu, Patrick Vieira, Ray Parlour, Freddie Ljungberg, Kanu (Lee Dixon 89), Sylvain Wiltord

Referee: Paul Durkin, Attendance: 67,580

This was the ultimate showdown of the 2001-2002 season. Arsenal arrived at Old Trafford looking to wrap up a second league and cup double against reigning champions Manchester United. Only a victory for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side would keep the title fight going to the final day of the season.

Arsenal were in impressive form, having not dropped a point in the Premier League since drawing 1-1 with Southampton in early February. Days earlier, goals from Ray Parlour and the in-form Freddie Ljungberg had beaten Chelsea 2-0 in the FA Cup final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. However, they were missing the injured Tony Adams and Thierry Henry. Ruud van Nistelrooy was rested to the bench by Ferguson with the boss admitting before the game that he thought the Dutchman had been looking fatigued in recent games.

It was a frantic first 45 minutes with the home side deciding to break the game up as much as possible, committing several late tackles as referee Paul Durkin struggled to keep emotions under control. Both Paul Scholes and Phil Neville were slightly fortunate to stay on the pitch after wild fouls on Edu and Sylvain Wiltord. Both were punished with just yellow cards.

Arsenal didn’t produce much attacking threat early on but started to show their authority on the match just before the interval. Wiltord fired a cross into the box which only just evaded a late stretch from Edu and when Fabien Barthez produced a sloppy clearance, his compatriot Wiltord was too late to pounce on this error.

10 minutes into the second half, Arsenal got the breakthrough which continued their unique feat of scoring in every single Premier League game in the season. Mikael Silvestre gave away possession to Wiltord. The forward passed the ball to Ljungberg who got the better of Laurent Blanc, before firing a shot on-goal. Barthez parried his strike only into the path of Wiltord, who drove the ball into the back of the net past the goalkeeper’s despairing dive.

Ferguson threw Van Nistelrooy on now knowing his side needed two goals but they didn’t even look like scoring one. Roy Keane’s header which whistled wide from a corner was the closest they came to troubling David Seaman.

Arsenal showed their class on the night and ultimately, the season to complete their third league and cup double. They’d taken the title from Manchester United in their own backyard and done it in style. No-one could argue they were the best side in the country in 2001-2002.

Premier League Files: Mark Kinsella

Premier League Career: Charlton Athletic (1998-1999, 2000-2002), Aston Villa (2002-2003)

Playing as a central midfielder for most of his career, Mark Kinsella served the clubs he played for with great dignity and class. He featured in five Premier League seasons for Charlton Athletic and Aston Villa.

Kinsella began his career as a 17-year-old at Colchester United. He played in Essex for seven seasons and won the FA Trophy in 1992 when Colchester spent a couple of campaigns playing non-league football. He joined Charlton in 1996 and first came to prominence with an equalising goal in the FA Cup third round against Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United in January 1997. That won the Addicks’ a cup replay and was Keegan’s last match of his first stint in charge of the Toon Army.

Kinsella was an integral part of the club’s promotion via the play-offs in 1998. He scored Charlton’s first away goal in the Premier League at Old Trafford, but Charlton did lose the game 4-1. He featured in every single match of Charlton’s maiden Premier League adventure and although his performances were very good, they weren’t enough to avoid relegation on the final day of the season.

The Irishman stayed loyal to Charlton and helped them win an instant promotion back to the top-flight in 2000. Once again, he was an important figure of the club’s next Premier League season, scoring on their return to the big league in a 4-0 opening day win against Manchester City. Charlton finished ninth which was a fine effort with limited resources. In November 2001, Kinsella was injured away at Southampton and this allowed the younger Scott Parker to take his place in the team. Kinsella couldn’t regain his spot when he was ready to return. At the beginning of the 2002-2003 campaign, manager Alan Curbishley told Kinsella that he would only be a back-up player to Parker and Claus Jensen. A week into the season, he joined Aston Villa for £1 million.

Unfortunately, more injury problems restricted Kinsella to just 21 appearances in around 15 months at Villa Park. He moved to Midlands’ neighbours West Bromwich Albion in January 2004 on a short-term contract and helped the Baggies’ win promotion. His contract wasn’t renewed and he finished his playing days with Walsall. In total, Kinsella made 108 Premier League appearances, scoring five goals. He won 49 international caps for the Republic of Ireland and featured in the run to the round-of-16 at the 2002 World Cup. Today, Kinsella is currently serving as an assistant coach with Drogheda United – a club where he has had a brief spell as manager too.

Shock Results: Crystal Palace 3-0 Arsenal (April 2017)

Goalscorers: Andros Townsend 17, Yohan Cabaye 63, Luka Milivojevic 68 PEN


Crystal Palace: Wayne Hennessey, Jeff Schlupp, Martin Kelly, Mamadou Sakho, Joel Ward, Yohan Cabaye (James McArthur 74), Luka Milivojevic (Mathieu Flamini 82), Jason Puncheon, Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha (Damien Delaney 88), Christian Benteke

Arsenal: Emiliano Martinez, Nacho Monreal, Gabriel, Shkodran Mustafi, Hector Bellerin, Mohamed Elneny (Aaron Ramsey 59), Granit Xhaka, Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott (Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 69), Danny Welbeck (Olivier Giroud 60), Alexis Sanchez

Referee: Michael Oliver, Attendance: 25,648

Crystal Palace arrived into this match in good form, despite their tricky position in the Premier League. The Eagles’ had won three matches in a row for only the second time in the campaign and had beaten league leaders Chelsea at Stamford Bridge nine days earlier.

By contrast, Arsenal were in a rut and had surrendered meekly in defeat on their last away trip to West Bromwich Albion before the international break. However, their Premier League record against Palace was superb. Sam Allardyce’s side hadn’t beaten the Gunners’ in the top-flight since October 1994. Even with a vocal Selhurst Park on their side under the floodlights on a Monday night, the home side went into the match as underdogs. By the full-time whistle, they had taken advantage of a lifeless Arsenal performance and increased their chances of staying up.

Although Arsenal dominated possession, they created little and deservedly fell behind after 17 minutes. Wilfried Zaha crossed from the right-hand side and ex-Tottenham midfielder Andros Townsend was in the right place to drill the ball past Arsenal’s third-choice goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, only playing because of injuries to Petr Cech and David Ospina.

Wayne Hennessey had made 11 saves in the previous game against Chelsea. He didn’t have much to do in this game and only had stops to make to deny Alexis Sanchez and Mohamed Elneny. If the Arsenal supporters were expecting a strong reaction to being behind at the interval, they got a nasty shock in the second half.

Arsene Wenger’s team didn’t even get a shot on target after the restart. They were toothless, clueless and useless. The fans showed their frustration, with more ‘Wenger Out’ banners unfurled and chants of ‘You’re not fit enough to wear the shirt’ aimed at the players.

With their usually strong opposition in freefall, Palace made the most of this opportunity and the game was basically put beyond doubt when Yohan Cabaye doubled the lead in the 63rd minute.

Cabaye, a former Arsenal transfer target, deliciously clipped Zaha’s pass into the net to score his first goal at Selhurst Park since December 2015. Five minutes later, Martinez made a rash judgement, racing out of goal and tripping Townsend in the penalty area. There was no decision for Michael Oliver to make. Luka Milivojevic made no mistake from the spot to score his first goal for the club since signing from Olympiacos in January.

It was Arsenal’s fourth successive away defeat and it would cost them, as they missed out on a top-four finish in the Premier League by two points. Crystal Palace would survive but Allardyce stepped down at the end of the season and it is now Roy Hodgson who has to try to keep them out of danger.

The Managers: Jim Jefferies

Premier League Clubs Managed: Bradford City (2000-2001)

Scottish manager Jim Jefferies only had a brief stint in the Premier League with Bradford City. The majority of his career, both in playing and management was based in Scottish football and he enjoyed some success, especially in domestic cups.

In his playing days, Jim spent most of his time figuring for the Edinburgh giants Hearts. He didn’t win any honours as a player but did reach the Scottish Cup final with the Jambos in 1976. However it ended in a 3-1 defeat to Rangers. He left the club in 1981, having made 227 appearances, scoring five times. Jefferies ended his playing days in 1983 after two seasons with lowly Berwick Rangers.

Early steps in management

His first management breakthrough came in 1983 with amateur side Gala Fairydean. He spent five years there before returning to Berwick Rangers to begin his professional management career. They were struggling at the time of his arrival but he steered them to an impressive 21-match unbeaten run during the 1988-1989 season and this grabbed the attention of more profitable and successful sides.

Falkirk took a chance on him in 1990 and Jefferies continued to build on his solid reputation. He won the Scottish First Division title in 1991 and 1994, achieving Premier League football for them. There was also a 3-0 victory over St Mirren in the 1993 Scottish Challenge Cup final.

In August 1995, he left Falkirk to take over as manager of Hearts and three years later, achieved his biggest managerial honour as the Tynecastle side stunned favourites Rangers to win the Scottish Cup final of 1998.

In November 2000, the call came to try his luck in the Premier League.

The battle in Bradford

In November 2000, Bradford City were already staring relegation in the face. They had gambled on Paul Jewell’s former assistant Chris Hutchings but ditched him after a terrible start to the 2000-2001 campaign.

Jefferies was given the opportunity and he wasn’t going to turn it down. He had resigned from his position at Hearts two weeks earlier in an effort to push the move forward. On his appointment, he said: “I’m delighted to be getting the opportunity to manage in the Premier League. It doesn’t happen that often that you can come down here from Scotland. Bradford are everybody’s favourites to go down, but hopefully we’ll prove them wrong.”

He became the Bantams’ fifth manager in seven years and the job looked like a very difficult one from the outset. He had to trim the wage bill and that meant some of Bradford’s higher-profile players being sold. Benito Carbone and Dan Petrescu were among the casualties, whilst Stan Collymore was told he had no future at the club despite having arrived just three months later. He saw a move to VfB Stuttgart collapse due to his excessive wage demands.

Bradford ultimately went down, relegated by Everton in April 2001. Jefferies stayed on into the following campaign but resigned in December after a poor start to their season back in the First Division. It was a job that didn’t work out despite his best efforts.

Collymore was not as complimentary though. 12 years after his departure from Bradford, he admitted: “He was one of the most useless managers [he] worked under”

In total, he won just four of his 24 games in the Premier League, achieving a disappointing win ratio rate of 16.7%.

Back to his homeland

He returned to management in Scotland in February 2002, taking over at Kilmarnock and staying there for nearly eight years before leaving via mutual consent in 2010. He had a second spell at Hearts and then a two-year stint with Dunfermline Athletic which ended in December 2014 following a crippling financial crisis which saw the club suffer back-to-back relegations to the third tier of Scottish football.

Although he has no plans to go back into management, he returned to football in February 2017, joining League Two club Edinburgh City in a Sporting Director capacity.

Premier League Files: Stuart McCall

Premier League Career: Bradford City (1999-2001)

Having made a staggering 763 league appearances in his career, there isn’t much that Stuart McCall hasn’t achieved in his footballing life. He has played in the Premier League, represented Scotland at two major international tournaments and is now back at Bradford City as manager, aiming to guide the Bantams out of League One.

It is the club McCall will always claim to be his home, having made his professional debut with Bradford back in 1982. His first spell with the Yorkshire team ended in 1988, appearing 238 times and being appointed club captain at just the age of 21 during that time. He won promotion to Division Two in 1985 but that was overshadowed by the horrific fire at Valley Parade when the main stand was engulfed by flames on the final day of the season. McCall’s father sustained serious burns in the blaze.

He joined Everton for £850,000 in June 1988 after getting frustrated with a lack of ambition at Bradford. He scored twice in the 1989 FA Cup final against Liverpool FC but Ian Rush’s own double ensured the trophy would return to Anfield after a 3-2 victory. Unfortunately, he had joined Everton at a time where their decline was starting to emerge and that near-miss in the FA Cup final was the closest he would get to winning silverware on Merseyside. In 1991, he moved to Scottish football, joining Rangers and he would spend seven wonderful seasons at Ibrox. This came at a time when Rangers were the dominant force in Scotland. McCall won six successive league titles, three Scottish Cups and two League Cups in a glorious spell where he was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame.

Although he had one more year on his deal in Glasgow, new Rangers manager Dick Advocaat allowed McCall to leave on a free transfer in the summer of 1998 and he would ultimately return to Bradford and as club captain too. His inspired performances in the centre of midfield would win him the club’s Player of the Year award and a final day victory at Molineux over Wolverhampton Wanderers would seal a surprise promotion to the Premier League.

McCall’s experience would be essential in 1999-2000 if Bradford were to avoid an immediate relegation. He helped the club claim 26 of their 36 points at Valley Parade, including a late 93rd-minute equaliser at home to Tottenham Hotspur. By now, he was already showing an interest in coaching. After Paul Jewell’s resignation shortly after the season ended, he was appointed assistant manager to Chris Hutchings. When Hutchings was sacked in November 2000, he even had a couple of games in caretaker charge before Jim Jefferies was appointed as Hutchings’ successor. Bradford were relegated with just 26 points and he even had a fight with teammate Andy Myers on the pitch during a 6-1 defeat to Leeds United which went unpunished by the club.

McCall was released by Bradford in May 2002 and he would play another 71 league matches for Sheffield United over the next two seasons. He retired just a few weeks before his 41st birthday in 2005. At international level, he won 40 caps for Scotland and played at Italia 90 and EURO 96, scoring in a group stage victory over Sweden in the former competition. He retired in 1998 after being left out of the squad for the World Cup finals in France.

He stayed with the Blades’ after retirement and became Neil Warnock’s assistant manager, leaving in 2007 after Warnock’s resignation following their crushing relegation from the Premier League. His first managerial post was at Bradford in 2007, and he also spent four years as boss of Motherwell. He returned to Valley Parade for a second managerial spell in 2016 after Phil Parkinson’s departure for Bolton Wanderers. He only narrowly missed out on promotion to the Championship in his first season back in May 2017, losing the play-off final to Millwall.

Stuart McCall was a player with plenty of heart and determination to succeed. He also seems to have plenty of commitment as a manager and will be hoping to get Bradford into the Championship at the end of the 2017-2018 campaign.

Referees in the Middle: Graham Barber

Premier League Career: 1996-2004

First Premier League Match: Nottingham Forest 1-4 Sunderland (21 August 1996)

Final Premier League Match: Bolton Wanderers 0-2 Fulham (15 May 2004)

One of the most familiar referees in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Graham Barber took charge of 169 Premier League matches during his excellent top-flight career. He showed no messing when it came to getting out his notebook, dishing out 624 yellow cards during his Premier League spell. That’s an average of nearly four yellow cards per match.

Barber’s first appointment to a Premier League came in August 1996 as Sunderland ran riot at The City Ground, beating Nottingham Forest 4-1 to record their first Premier League victory. His first red card was handed out to the Arsenal skipper Tony Adams for bringing down Newcastle’s Alan Shearer in a goalscoring opportunity position during a match in November 1996.

Among his other red card victims over the years were Nicky Butt in a 3-0 defeat for Manchester United at Highbury in September 1998. He also sent off Andy Cole in a Red Devils’ 3-2 victory at Anfield in September 1999 and Gareth Barry for foul and abusive language on the opening weekend of the 2003-2004 season when Portsmouth saw off Aston Villa 2-1.

Graham’s professionalism was rarely called into question. His biggest error of judgement came in a Premier League game between Sunderland and Liverpool FC in February 2001. Sunderland’s Stanislav Varga took out Liverpool FC midfielder Gary McAllister as the veteran bared down on-goal. Whilst Barber gave the spot-kick which was duly converted, he failed to send Varga off in the mayhem that followed his decision. The FA gave him a severe reprimand for failing to follow the letter of the law.

Based in Tring in Hertfordshire, he was close pals with Graham Poll and like his namesake, was privileged to take charge of some showpiece occasions. He controlled the 1999 Charity Shield which Arsenal won against Manchester United and the Gunners’ FA Cup final victory over Southampton four years later.

He also took charge of the 2002 Division One play-off final in Cardiff when Birmingham City defeated Norwich City on penalties and the 2003 UEFA Super Cup Final which saw Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan beat FC Porto, managed by a certain Jose Mourinho.

Two years before the standard FA retirement age, Barber decided to retire at the end of the 2003-2004 campaign. His final match was on the last day of that Premier League season as Fulham achieved a 2-0 away victory at Bolton Wanderers.

He moved to Spain soon after his retirement with his family and is now the CEO of Europa Networks.

Shock Results: Chelsea 0-1 Queens Park Rangers (January 2013)

Goalscorer: Shaun Wright-Phillips 78


Chelsea: Petr Cech, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic, Cesar Azpilicueta, Ryan Bertrand, Frank Lampard (Ramires 79), David Luiz, Marko Marin (Eden Hazard 60), Victor Moses (Juan Mata 75), Oscar, Fernando Torres

Queens Park Rangers: Julio Cesar, Clint Hill, Ryan Nelsen, Fabio, Nedum Onuoha, Shaun Derry, Stephane Mbia, Esteban Granero (Ji-Sung Park 90), Junior Hoilett (Shaun Wright-Phillips 15), Adel Taarabt (Kieron Dyer 90), Jamie Mackie

Referee: Lee Mason, Attendance: 41,634

Queens Park Rangers arrived at Stamford Bridge in January 2013 desperate for a victory. Harry Redknapp’s side had only won one game in the Premier League all campaign and were propping up the division. No-one gave them much hope against a Chelsea side that had won its last four league matches and put eight goals past Aston Villa in their last match in west London.

The visitors’ were given a boost when Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez made five changes to the side that beat Everton a few days earlier. The likes of Juan Mata and Eden Hazard were rotated to the bench and in came Marko Marin and Ryan Bertrand. Marin was making his first Premier League start of the season but a fourth minute booking set the tone for his poor evening. Benitez realised his mistake in resting Hazard and brought him on with half an hour left to play. However, Chelsea still struggled to create chances against a visiting backline that was defending very well.

Without Hazard and Mata, Chelsea lacked the creative spark, meaning Fernando Torres was relying on scraps. With the visitors’ more than happy to sit back and soak up the pressure, it meant the first 45 minutes was a tame and fairly mundane affair. With the home crowd starting to pile the pressure on the reigning European champions, Chelsea began to take control in the second half. First, Branislav Ivanovic sent a header over the crossbar from Marin’s cross – his only valuable contribution to the evening’s entertainment.

Next, Torres got his big opportunity but this wasn’t the same Torres that has frightened defences across Europe during his Liverpool FC days. The Spaniard was played in through a deflected David Luiz shot but 10 yards out, could only drill his effort straight at the former Inter Milan shot-stopper Julio Cesar. Chelsea thought they’d taken the lead in the 65th minute when Lampard found the back of the net after fine work from Victor Moses. However, the celebrations were put on hold by the linesman’s flag, who had judged Lampard to be fractionally offside.

QPR had barely threatened all evening but with 12 minutes left, they took a shock lead. After a corner was cleared at the near post, Adel Taarabt laid the ball on for Shaun Wright-Phillips to strike. The ex-Chelsea midfielder caught the ball sweetly and his shot flew into the net from the edge of the penalty area. It was a sweet moment for Wright-Phillips who only arrived into the game as a 15th minute substitute after Junior Hoillett went off injured.

It was QPR’s first top-flight success at Stamford Bridge in 34 years and their first Premier League London derby away win since March 1995 when Wimbledon were beaten 3-1 at Selhurst Park. QPR remained bottom of the table and would only win two more matches as they were duly relegated. Chelsea recovered from this disappointing setback to finish third and win in the UEFA Europa League before Benitez handed the reins over to Jose Mourinho for a second spell as Blues manager.