Iconic Moments: “Why Always Me?” (October 2011)

It was October 2011 and the two Manchester clubs were already stamping their mark on the 2011-2012 Premier League season. Neither team had lost so far in domestic competition. Manchester City arrived at Old Trafford two points clear at the top of the table. Fulham had been the only side to take points off Roberto Mancini’s side in the current campaign.

Manchester United had made a rampant start too and were 100% at Old Trafford, with Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea all brushed aside with relative ease. This though would be a different story.

Manchester City’s maverick forward Mario Balotelli had made tabloid headlines hours’ earlier after setting off fireworks in his bathroom at his Manchester home. Fire crews were called out to deal with a substantial fire and although the Italian escaped unhurt, there was extensive fire and smoke damage to his luxury property.

So, he had some talking to do on the football pitch. Mancini elected to start with him alongside Sergio Aguero in-attack despite this latest escapade. It was an inspired decision. Midway through the first half, Balotelli opened the scoring from the edge of the penalty area, with his low shot beating David de Gea.

He then coolly lifted his shirt over his neck and revealed a t-shirt underneath, simply saying “Why Always Me?” It was a moment of calmness personified from a man who was never far away from the headlines. It is one of those memorable celebrations that remain in the minds with most football supporters.

Balotelli had a wonderful day. He added a second goal and was fouled by Jonny Evans that led to the dismissal of the United defender. Manchester City went on to humiliate their rivals 6-1 in their own backyard on a day when Balotelli had us all smiling…unless you were a Manchester United supporter.

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The Clubs: Leeds United

All-Time Premier League Record

Played Won Drew Lost Scored Conceded Goal Difference Points No of Seasons
468 189 125 154 641 573 +68 692 12

 

Most Premier League Appearances

Player Appearances Total
Gary Kelly 325
Ian Harte 214
Nigel Martyn 207
Lee Bowyer 203
David Wetherall 201
Lucas Radebe 197
Harry Kewell 181
Rod Wallace 178
Alan Smith 171
Gary McAllister 151

 

Most Premier League Goals

Player Goals Total
Mark Viduka 59
Harry Kewell 45
Rod Wallace 42
Lee Bowyer 38
Alan Smith 38
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink 34
Brian Deane 32
Ian Harte 28
Tony Yeboah 24
Gary McAllister 24

 

Biggest Premier League Victories

Match Date Season
Leeds United 6-1 Bradford City 13th May 2001 2000-2001
Charlton Athletic 1-6 Leeds United 5th April 2003 2002-2003
Leeds United 5-0 Tottenham Hotspur 25th August 1992 1992-1993
Swindon Town 0-5 Leeds United 7th May 1994 1993-1994
Derby County 0-5 Leeds United 15th March 1998 1997-1998
West Ham United 1-5 Leeds United 1st May 1999 1998-1999
Leeds United 4-0 Wimbledon 2nd October 1993 1993-1994
Queens Park Rangers 0-4 Leeds United 4th April 1994 1993-1994
Leeds United 4-0 Queens Park Rangers 24th January 1995 1994-1995
Leeds United 4-0 Ipswich Town 5th April 1995 1994-1995

 

Worst Premier League Defeats

Match Date Season
Portsmouth 6-1 Leeds United 8th November 2003 2003-2004
Liverpool FC 5-0 Leeds United 20th January 1996 1995-1996
Arsenal 5-0 Leeds United 16th April 2004 2003-2004
Sheffield Wednesday 6-2 Leeds United 16th December 1995 1995-1996
Manchester City 4-0 Leeds United 7th November 1992 1992-1993
Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 Leeds United 20th February 1993 1992-1993
Leeds United 0-4 Norwich City 21st August 1993 1993-1994
Leeds United 0-4 Manchester United 7th September 1996 1996-1997
Liverpool FC 4-0 Leeds United 19th February 1997 1996-1997
Leeds United 0-4 Arsenal 16th April 2000 1999-2000

 

Managers

Manager No of Seasons managed Left the Club
Howard Wilkinson 5 10th September 1996
George Graham 3 1st October 1998
David O’Leary 4 27th June 2002
Terry Venables 1 21st March 2003
Peter Reid 2 10th November 2003
Eddie Gray 1 31st May 2004

 

Highest Home Attendances

Match Date Attendance Figure Season
Leeds United 0-2 Manchester United 27th April 1994 41,125 1993-1994
Leeds United 3-4 Newcastle United 22nd December 2001 40,287 2001-2002
Leeds United 1-1 Manchester United 25th April 1999 40,255 1998-1999
Leeds United 1-0 Middlesbrough 11th May 2002 40,218 2001-2002
Leeds United 0-4 Liverpool FC 3rd February 2002 40,216 2001-2002
Leeds United 3-1 Aston Villa 11th May 2003 40,205 2002-2003
Leeds United 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur 4th November 2001 40,203 2001-2002
Leeds United 0-1 Newcastle United 6th February 1999 40,202 1998-1999
Leeds United 3-2 Everton 19th December 2001 40,201 2001-2002
Leeds United 1-4 Arsenal 28th September 2002 40,199 2002-2003

 

Intro

Leeds United were one of the biggest clubs in England when the Premier League was formed. They were the reigning English champions when the new era began in 1992 and were a regular finisher in the top six throughout the first decade. This included a 3rd place finish under David O’Leary’s management in 2000. Leeds spent big to try and break Manchester United’s dominance but this led to crippling debts. Just three years after reaching the Champions League semi-finals, Leeds were relegated in 2004 and haven’t been back in the top-flight since.

 

1992-1993

Having finished as champions in the last Football League season before the formation of the Premier League, Leeds United struggled and finished just two points clear of relegation. They were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League by Scottish champions Rangers, bizarrely sold Eric Cantona to Pennines rivals Manchester United and failed to win a single league match away from Elland Road. Form was better on home turf for Howard Wilkinson’s side, with heavy wins against Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham Hotspur, whilst Lee Chapman was one of the star performers, scoring 13 goals.

 

1993-1994

Wilkinson broke the club’s transfer record in the summer of 1993 by paying Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United £2.7 million for Brian Deane’s services. There was a slow start with a heavy 4-0 loss to Norwich City among the low points. However, Leeds recovered and finished in a much-improved fifth place at the end of the season, only one point shy of qualifying for continental competition. Rod Wallace scored 17 goals but championship-winning player David Batty did depart during the season for Blackburn Rovers.

 

1994-1995

Consistency was a strong element of Leeds’ 1994-1995 campaign. They never dropped outside the top eight from the second match of the season. They did inflict a rare loss on Manchester United at Elland Road in September but goalscoring was a problem for Wilkinson’s side. Although there was initial promise from youngster Noel Whelan, it was the January signing Ghanaian striker Tony Yeboah from Eintracht Frankfurt that breathed new life into an unremarkable but solid side. Yeboah ended as top scorer with 12 goals and nine wins from their last 13 games ensured a second successive finish in fifth place.

 

1995-1996

Leeds made a fantastic start to the 1995-1996 season, winning their first three matches with Yeboah in stunning shooting form. He was forming his own Goal of the Season shortlist, with spectacular goals in victories over Liverpool FC, Wimbledon and Sheffield Wednesday. When his goal beat Chelsea on 18th November, Leeds sat fifth in the table but their season nosedived after this result. A run of six successive defeats following a League Cup final defeat at the hands of Aston Villa ensured a disappointing 13th place finish – well below the club’s lofty expectations.

 

1996-1997

It was the end of an era at Leeds United on 10th September 1996 as the club elected to sack their 1992 championship-winning manager Howard Wilkinson. Despite winning two of their first five league matches, a demoralising 4-0 home defeat to Manchester United spelt the end of Wilkinson’s successful reign at Elland Road. George Graham returned to management after a one-year suspension and made Leeds tough to beat. However, they scored just 28 goals in 38 matches, finishing with the worst goalscoring total in the Premier League. Nevertheless, Leeds kept a staggering 20 clean sheets and finished in 11th place with a better defensive record than champions Manchester United.

 

1997-1998

After two frustrating seasons, Leeds returned to the Premier League’s top five as George Graham secured UEFA Cup qualification. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink arrived in pre-season and finished as the club’s top goalscorer with 16 goals. There was a 1-0 win over Manchester United in September and resounding home victories against Newcastle United (4-1) and Blackburn Rovers (4-0). The foundations had been put in place for a successful few seasons for the Leeds faithful.

 

1998-1999

Unbeaten in their opening seven matches, the club were stunned in early October when George Graham walked out to move back to north London, filling the vacancy at Tottenham Hotspur. When no.1 target Martin O’Neill elected to stay at Leicester City, it was Graham’s former assistant, David O’Leary who was appointed as his successor. It was a young squad but O’Leary achieved great things. They strung together a seven-game winning sequence to match a record set by Don Revie’s all-conquering side of the 1970s and Leeds finished in fourth place. Hasselbaink shared the Golden Boot with Michael Owen and Dwight Yorke, scoring 18 times.

 

1999-2000

The 1999-2000 Premier League season was the most competitive for Leeds United. They launched a serious title challenge to Manchester United, topping the table at the end of 1999. Their youthful side really sparkled with Harry Kewell winning the PFA Young Player of the Year and Michael Bridges scoring 19 goals in his first season wearing Leeds colours.

A 1-0 loss to Manchester United at Elland Road in mid-February effectively ended their challenge and inexperience did catch up on them, ultimately finishing 22 points adrift of the champions from Old Trafford. Tragedy also shook the club to the core when two Leeds supporters were stabbed to death on the streets of Istanbul just hours before their UEFA Cup semi-final with Galatasaray.

There was a silver lining though. A goalless draw on the final day at Upton Park secured UEFA Champions League football for the following campaign with a 3rd place finish.

 

2000-2001

In Europe, Leeds United really made a statement of intent by reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. They beat the likes of Lazio, Deportivo La Coruna and AC Milan along the way before bowing out over two legs to Valencia. David O’Leary had now become one of the game’s most in-demand managers.

Initially, the demands of UCL action meant an inconsistent start to the Premier League season and Leeds even went into 2001 in the bottom half of the table. They rallied in the second half of the campaign but were edged into fourth place on the final day by treble cup winners, Liverpool FC.

Leeds broke the British transfer record for a defender during the season, spending £18 million on Rio Ferdinand in November 2000 but their failure to qualify for Europe’s premier club competition for a second successive season would start to have a worrying impact on their future finances.

 

2001-2002

Leeds launched another strong push for the championship in 2001-2002. They were part of a five-club battle for the summit, together with Newcastle United, Liverpool FC, Arsenal and Manchester United. Tough-tackling midfielder Seth Johnson and goalscoring hotshot Robbie Fowler were added to the squad during the season for a combined fee of £18 million.

O’Leary had plenty of options and a 3-0 victory over West Ham United on New Years’ Day took Leeds to the top of the table. However, a seven-game winless sequence followed which included defeats to Liverpool and Newcastle along with a shock FA Cup exit at Division Two side Cardiff City knocked the stuffing out of their season. Leeds eventually finished in fifth place.

Chairman Peter Risdale decided the manager was to blame and sacked O’Leary in June, with no silverware and no Champions League football either. He was now aware of a huge hole in the club’s finances.

 

2002-2003

By now, Leeds’ debts were racking up and were being noted in the public eye. Many star players were now being sold to balance the books. Manchester United signed Rio Ferdinand for £30 million, Robbie Keane was sold to Tottenham Hotspur and Robbie Fowler joined Manchester City in the January transfer window.

Terry Venables succeeded O’Leary as manager and despite winning four of their first six games; Leeds struggled all campaign and were closer to the relegation zone for much of the season. Venables quit in March, not fancying a tussle at the bottom and it was Peter Reid who steered them to the end of the season. A 3-2 victory at Arsenal on the penultimate weekend secured their Premier League safety but a 15th place finish was not what anyone wanted. Worse was to come though.

 

2003-2004

Debts had now reached the £100 million mark and Harry Kewell was the next star to leave, with the Australian joining Liverpool FC. Leeds collected just eight points from their first 12 games and after a 6-1 humbling at newly-promoted Portsmouth in November, Peter Reid was sacked.

Former player Eddie Gray was handed the poisoned chalice and Leeds did record a draw with Chelsea plus victories against Charlton Athletic and Fulham. However, a terrible run of seven successive defeats which started with a 3-1 loss at Wolverhampton Wanderers ended any realistic hopes of staying in the Premier League.

On Sunday 2nd May, Leeds’ 14-year stay in the top-flight ended with a 4-1 loss to Bolton Wanderers. More stars left in the off-season including Paul Robinson, Alan Smith and Mark Viduka. Finances have improved since but apart from one play-off final defeat in 2006, Leeds have remained a club in the mid-table reaches of the Championship.

Seasonal Records: 2006-2007

For all the statistical fans out there, here are some of the season’s records from the 2006-2007 Premier League campaign. After a three-year period watching dominance from the capital, Manchester United regained that winning feeling to claim their ninth Premier League title, spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo, who began to show why he would become one of the greatest players to ever play football.

FINAL TABLE

Position Team P W D L F A GD PTS
1 Manchester United 38 28 5 5 83 27 +56 89
2 Chelsea 38 24 11 3 64 24 +40 83
3 Liverpool FC 38 20 8 10 57 27 +30 68
4 Arsenal 38 19 11 8 63 35 +28 68
5 Tottenham Hotspur 38 17 9 12 57 54 +3 60
6 Everton 38 15 13 10 52 36 +16 58
7 Bolton Wanderers 38 16 8 14 47 52 -5 56
8 Reading 38 16 7 15 52 47 +5 55
9 Portsmouth 38 14 12 12 45 42 +3 54
10 Blackburn Rovers 38 15 7 16 52 54 -2 52
11 Aston Villa 38 11 17 10 43 41 +2 50
12 Middlesbrough 38 12 10 16 44 49 -5 46
13 Newcastle United 38 11 10 17 38 47 -9 43
14 Manchester City 38 11 9 18 29 44 -15 42
15 West Ham United 38 12 5 21 35 59 -24 41
16 Fulham 38 8 15 15 38 60 -22 39
17 Wigan Athletic 38 10 8 20 37 59 -22 38
18 Sheffield United 38 10 8 20 32 55 -23 38
19 Charlton Athletic 38 8 10 20 34 60 -26 34
20 Watford 38 5 13 20 29 59 -30 28

 

THE BASIC STATS

Goals Scored 931
European qualifiers Chelsea (UEFA Champions League)

Manchester United (UEFA Champions League)

Liverpool FC (UEFA Champions League)

Arsenal (UEFA Champions League)

Tottenham Hotspur (UEFA Cup)

Everton (UEFA Cup)

Bolton Wanderers (UEFA Cup)

Blackburn Rovers (UEFA Intertoto Cup)

Longest winning run 9 games (Chelsea)
Longest unbeaten run 14 games (Chelsea)
Longest winless run 11 games (Aston Villa, Watford & West Ham United)
Longest losing run 8 games (Wigan Athletic)
Highest attendance 76,098 (Manchester United vs. Blackburn Rovers)
Lowest attendance 13,760 (Watford vs. Blackburn Rovers)

 

AWARDS

PFA Players’ Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
PFA Young Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
Football Writers’ Award Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
PFA Team of the Year Edwin van der Sar, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Nemanja Vidic, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Cristiano Ronaldo, Dimitar Berbatov, Didier Drogba
Manager of the Year Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)
Premier League Goal of the Season Wayne Rooney (MANCHESTER UNITED vs. Bolton Wanderers)

 

HAT-TRICK HEROES

Player Teams Score Date
Wayne Rooney Bolton Wanderers vs. Manchester United 0-4 28th October 2006
Didier Drogba Chelsea vs. Watford 4-0 11th November 2006
Peter Crouch Liverpool FC vs. Arsenal 4-1 31st March 2007

 

TOP SCORERS

Position Player Teams No of Goals
1 Didier Drogba Chelsea 20
2 Benni McCarthy Blackburn Rovers 18
3 Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United 17
4= Wayne Rooney Manchester United 14
4= Mark Viduka Middlesbrough 14
6= Kevin Doyle Reading 13
6= Darren Bent Charlton Athletic 13
8= Dirk Kuyt Liverpool FC 12
8= Dimitar Berbatov Tottenham Hotspur 12
8= Yakubu Middlesbrough 12
11= Frank Lampard Chelsea 11
11= Robin van Persie Arsenal 11
11= Robbie Keane Tottenham Hotspur 11
11= Andy Johnson Everton 11
11= Nicolas Anelka Bolton Wanderers 11
11= Obafemi Martins Newcastle United 11
11= Bobby Zamora West Ham United 11
18= Thierry Henry Arsenal 10
18= Jermain Defoe Tottenham Hotspur 10
18= Kanu Portsmouth 10
18= Gilberto Arsenal 10
22= Peter Crouch Liverpool FC 9
22= Mikel Arteta Everton 9
22= Gabriel Agbonlahor Aston Villa 9
22= Brian McBride Fulham 9

BIGGEST VICTORIES

Reading 6-0 West Ham United 1st January 2007
Arsenal 6-2 Blackburn Rovers 23rd December 2006
Manchester United 5-1 Fulham 20th August 2006
Tottenham Hotspur 5-1 Charlton Athletic 9th December 2006
Middlesbrough 5-1 Bolton Wanderers 20th January 2007
Bolton Wanderers 0-4 Manchester United 28th October 2006
Chelsea 4-0 Watford 11th November 2006
Wigan Athletic 0-4 Liverpool FC 2nd December 2006
Reading 0-4 Arsenal 22nd October 2006
Manchester United 4-0 Watford 31st January 2007

 

HIGHEST SCORING GAMES

No of Goals Teams Date
8 Arsenal 6-2 Blackburn Rovers 23rd December 2006
7 West Ham United 3-4 Tottenham Hotspur 4th March 2007
6 Reading 6-0 West Ham United 1st January 2007
6 Manchester United 5-1 Fulham 20th August 2006
6 Tottenham Hotspur 5-1 Charlton Athletic 9th December 2006
6 Middlesbrough 5-1 Bolton Wanderers 20th January 2007
6 Everton 2-4 Manchester United 28th April 2007
6 Blackburn Rovers 4-2 Manchester City 17th September 2006
6 Watford 4-2 Portsmouth 9th April 2007
6 Wigan Athletic 3-3 Tottenham Hotspur 15th April 2007
6 Blackburn Rovers 3-3 Reading 13th May 2007
6 West Ham United 3-3 Fulham 13th January 2007
6 Watford 3-3 Fulham 2nd October 2006
5 Manchester United 4-1 Bolton Wanderers 17th March 2007
5 Manchester United 4-1 Blackburn Rovers 31st March 2007
5 West Ham United 1-4 Chelsea 18th April 2007
5 Liverpool FC 4-1 Arsenal 31st March 2007
5 Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 Bolton Wanderers 25th February 2007
5 Everton 4-1 Fulham 6th April 2007
5 Blackburn Rovers 4-1 Charlton Athletic 28th April 2007

 

YOUNGEST PLAYERS USED

Player Teams Age at the time Date
Matthew Briggs Middlesbrough 3-1 Fulham 16 years, 2 months, 4 days 13th May 2007
Daniel Sturridge Manchester City 0-2 Reading 17 years, 5 months, 2 days 3rd February 2007
Theo Walcott Arsenal 1-1 Aston Villa 17 years, 5 months, 3 days 19th August 2006
Ben Sahar Chelsea 4-0 Wigan Athletic 17 years, 5 months, 3 days 13th January 2007
Sam Hutchinson Chelsea 1-1 Everton 17 years, 9 months, 10 days 13th May 2007
Adel Taarabt West Ham United 3-4 Tottenham Hotspur 17 years, 9 months, 8 days 4th March 2007
Scott Sinclair Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea 18 years, 1 month, 11 days 6th May 2007
Andy Carroll Wigan Athletic 1-0 Newcastle United 18 years, 1 month, 19 days 25th February 2007
Micah Richards Chelsea 3-0 Manchester City 18 years, 1 month, 27 days 20th August 2006
Emiliano Insua Portsmouth 2-1 Liverpool FC 18 years, 3 months, 21 days 28th April 2007

 

OLDEST PLAYERS USED

Player Teams Age at the time Date
Alec Chamberlain Watford 1-1 Newcastle United 42 years, 10 months, 23 days 13th May 2007
Teddy Sheringham West Ham United 0-1 Manchester City 40 years, 8 months, 28 days 30th December 2006
Pavel Srnicek Bolton Wanderers 2-1 Newcastle United 38 years, 9 months, 16 days 26th December 2006
Gary Speed Bolton Wanderers 2-2 Aston Villa 37 years, 8 months, 5 days 13th May 2007
Chris Powell Reading 0-2 Watford 37 years, 7 months, 27 days 5th May 2007
Jens Lehmann Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea 37 years, 5 months, 26 days 6th May 2007
John Filan Wigan Athletic 0-3 West Ham United 37 years, 2 months, 20 days 28th April 2007
Arjan de Zeeuw Sheffield United 1-2 Wigan Athletic 37 years, 27 days 13th May 2007
David James Portsmouth 0-0 Arsenal 36 years, 9 months, 11 days 13th May 2007
Tugay Blackburn Rovers 3-3 Reading 36 years, 8 months, 19 days 13th May 2007

 

CLEAN SHEETS

Position Player Teams No of Clean Sheets
1 Pepe Reina Liverpool FC 19
2 Tim Howard Everton 14
3= Petr Cech Chelsea 13
3= Marcus Hahnemann Reading 13
5= Edwin van der Sar Manchester United 12
5= Jussi Jaaskelainen Bolton Wanderers 12
5= David James Portsmouth 12
5= Thomas Sorensen Aston Villa 12
9 Scott Carson Charlton Athletic 11
10 Jens Lehmann Arsenal 10

Iconic Moments: The managerial merry-go-round (November 1994)

With four clubs going down at the end of the 1994-1995 Premier League season, pressure on managers grew much quicker than in previous campaigns. It still couldn’t transpire to an incredible November 1994 where a managerial merry-go-round began and five clubs changed bosses.

It was all triggered by Tottenham Hotspur, who sacked Ossie Ardiles after a dismal start to the campaign. With a six-point deduction hanging over their head for financial misconduct, Tottenham’s defence had been incredibly generous in recent games, losing 5-2 at Manchester City and suffering a humiliating 3-0 League Cup exit at the hands of Notts County. With his lack of defensive principles, Ardiles paid the price for his shortcomings, despite his legendary status within the club.

Over at Goodison Park, Everton had made their worst start in their proud history. On 1st November, Gary Ablett’s scrappy goal got them their first win of the campaign over West Ham United but Mike Walker’s fate had already been sealed. Days after a goalless draw at his former club Norwich, Walker was sacked by the Toffees hierarchy after a nightmare 10-month reign at the Merseysiders which destroyed his reputation as one of Britain’s finest upcoming managers.

Aston Villa were now firmly in the relegation battle too. One point from nine matches had seen the club slip into the dreaded bottom four and they threw away a match against Wimbledon. Leading 3-1 after 50 minutes, they had Andy Townsend sent off and somehow conspired to lose this game 4-3. Ron Atkinson admitted: “We’re in a rubbish position (19th). For the players of our quality, rubbish position. I reckon though you’ll be asking me a different question in a couple of months’ time.”

He didn’t get the chance to turn his fortunes around. Despite having received a vote of confidence days earlier from Doug Ellis, Atkinson was removed from his position, less than two years after guiding the club to a runners-up position in the Premier League.

There was strife too at Queens Park Rangers. Manager Gerry Francis was furious to find out his board had approached Rodney Marsh to become the club’s Director of Football. He hadn’t been consulted about this appointment and felt trust had broken down in their relationship. Despite his affection for the club, he resigned.

Once the Aston Villa vacancy came up, Leicester City manager Brian Little, a former Villa player was immediately linked with the post, despite being under contract to the Foxes. He promptly resigned too.

Once all the moving and switching was done, Francis would fill the vacancy at Tottenham and his replacement at QPR was former player Ray Wilkins, who was released by Crystal Palace to take his first job in management. Everton turned to one of their former goalscoring greats, Joe Royle to lift the gloom at Goodison Park. Little would take the Aston Villa job and Leicester appointed Mark McGhee.

There has never been a spell like this in Premier League history and by the end of the season, 15 of the 22 clubs had changed their manager through resignations and sackings.

Premier League Files: Fabricio Coloccini

Premier League Career: Newcastle United (2008-2009, 2011-2016)

Argentine defender Fabricio Coloccini spent eight years on Tyneside and became a cult figure with supporters of Newcastle United. Signed during Kevin Keegan’s brief second reign in the summer of 2008 from Deportivo La Coruna, Coloccini would captain the club for several seasons and made 275 league appearances for the Magpies.

After beginning his career at Boca Juniors in his native Argentina in 1998, Coloccini attracted the interest of Italian giants AC Milan but he only made one appearance for the Rossoneri and had several loan spells away from the fashionable Italian city. Time away included spells in Spain with Alaves and Villarreal. In January 2005, he joined Deportivo La Coruna on a permanent contract and was a regular starter, featuring 105 times for the former Spanish champions.

Two days before the start of the 2008-2009 campaign, Coloccini made the switch to English football as Newcastle United paid Deportivo £10.3 million. He made his Premier League debut at Old Trafford and it was an impressive opening bow as Newcastle drew 1-1 with Manchester United. He formed a partnership with fellow newcomer Sebastien Bassong but Coloccini initially struggled with the physical demands of the English game. He came under pressing scrutiny for this, especially when Newcastle lost 5-1 at home to Liverpool FC in December 2008. His performances did improve after this game but a final day loss to Aston Villa saw the club relegated to the Championship.

Despite Newcastle’s relegation, Coloccini stayed loyal to the club and was the mainstay of the tightest defence in the division. His great contributions earned him a place in the Championship Team of the Year as the Magpies returned to the top-flight at the first attempt as champions. In late 2010, Coloccini wore the captain’s armband for the first time and marked this feat with his first Premier League goal in the 2-2 home draw with Wigan Athletic. His 2010-2011 campaign of impressive landmarks continued against Tottenham Hotspur when he opened the scoring in the 1-1 draw in his 100th appearance for the club.

When Kevin Nolan swapped the north east for London and West Ham United in the summer of 2011, Coloccini was handed the captain’s armband permanently by manager Alan Pardew. Having previously played sporadically in a partnership with local player Steven Taylor, the pair were the regular centre-back combination in the 2011-2012 season as Newcastle finished in a fantastic fifth position in the table. They conceded only eight goals in their first 11 matches and Coloccini rightfully deserved his place in the Premier League PFA Team of the Year.

It looked like his time on Tyneside would end abruptly in January 2013 when Fabricio stunned the club by handing in a transfer request. He stated personal reasons for the decision, wanting to return to Argentina. San Lorenzo was the club who showed the interest but a transfer fee couldn’t be agreed between the two parties and after further consultation with Pardew, the Argentine elected to stay on until the end of the season and make a more firm decision about his long-term commitments in the summer.

Further persuasion from Pardew in the summer of 2013 convinced Coloccini to stay on with Newcastle determined to hang on to one of their prized assets. In November 2014, he reached the milestone of 200 league appearances for the club in the 1-0 Premier League victory over Liverpool FC. A week later, he scored his first goal in three years with a header in the 2-0 success at The Hawthorns against West Bromwich Albion.

He remained with Newcastle until July 2016 when after their second top-flight relegation during his time at St James’ Park, his contracted was mutually terminated so he could complete his move back to Argentine football. He’d hoped to end his career with San Lorenzo but after just 12 appearances, was made surplus to requirements in the summer of 2017.

Memorable Matches: Stoke City 3-2 Aston Villa (August 2008)

Goalscorers: Liam Lawrence 30 PEN, John Carew 63, Ricardo Fuller 80, Martin Laursen 84, Mamady Sidibe 90

Teams:

Stoke City: Thomas Sorensen, Leon Cort, Andy Griffin, Carl Dickinson, Abdoulaye Faye, Rory Delap, Amdy Faye (Salif Diao 72), Seyi Olofinjana, Liam Lawrence, Ricardo Fuller (Richard Cresswell 87), Dave Kitson (Mamady Sidibe 76)

Aston Villa: Brad Friedel, Curtis Davies, Martin Laursen, Nicky Shorey (Wayne Routledge 73), Luke Young, Gareth Barry, Stiliyan Petrov, Nigel Reo-Coker, Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor, John Carew

Referee: Mark Halsey, Attendance: 27,500

The 2008-2009 season was Stoke City’s first campaign in the Premier League. The home supporters at The Britannia Stadium were looking forward to the club’s first home match at this level against Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa side. This game would set the tone for their season and the style of play they were going to bring to the top-flight.

Stoke had lost their opening match of the season a week earlier, going down 3-1 at Bolton Wanderers, whilst Villa had beaten Manchester City 4-2 as Gabriel Agbonlahor helped himself to an opening weekend hat-trick. O’Neill’s side were considered the favourites as they turned up in Staffordshire for what turned out to be an engrossing Premier League battle.

Stoke had a secret weapon which they were about to share with the Premier League public. Rory Delap’s vicious long-throws were a tactic that would work on many occasions in their first couple of Premier League campaigns. Early on, it looked like Villa’s defenders were struggling with the extra aerial bombardment. They fell behind in the 30th minute to a slightly contentious penalty. Referee Mark Halsey believed Martin Laursen had clipped Delap in the penalty area. Liam Lawrence kept his composure and despite Brad Friedel guessing the right way, Lawrence’s spot-kick was good enough to defeat him and give the Potters’ their first Premier League home goal.

O’Neill was furious with Halsey’s decision and chased him down the tunnel at half-time. Whatever he said at the interval to his players, they came out a different team in the second half. Just past the hour mark, they were level. Ashley Young’s brilliant back heel played John Carew in. The tall Norwegian striker produced a trademark finish, across the bows of ex-Aston Villa goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen.

With 10 minutes left, Stoke got back into the lead with a piece of individual brilliance from Ricardo Fuller. Flicking the ball away from Laursen, the Jamaican got the space he craved and from a tight angle, got the better of Friedel to put the home side back in control. Laursen was experiencing an uncomfortable afternoon but six minutes from time, he scored a fairly scrappy goal after Young drove a free-kick into the box which the defenders failed to clear.

It had been an end-to-end battle and a winner always looked likely. Sure enough, it came in injury-time for the Potters. With 30 seconds left, Delap played another dangerous throw-in and substitute Mamady Sidibe climbed highest. His header left Friedel stranded and ensured Stoke’s first Premier League win in a thrilling contest.

Tony Pulis’ side were tough to beat at home all season. Arsenal and Tottenham were among their victims on their way to a 12th-place finish. Aston Villa were in the UEFA Champions League qualification race until a dismal March saw them fade out of the picture but they still finished sixth for a second straight campaign.

The Managers: Alan Pardew

Premier League Clubs Managed: West Ham United (2005-2006), Newcastle United (2010-2014), Crystal Palace (2015-2016), West Bromwich Albion (2017-2018)

Life has been very tough of late for Alan Pardew. The 2012 LMA Manager of the Year hasn’t been able to arrest the slide at West Bromwich Albion and the Baggies’ relegation looks set to be confirmed in the coming weeks. A run of eight successive defeats saw him part company with the club in April 2018.

Pardew has attracted headlines for the wrong reasons and got himself into trouble with the senior authorities on a number of occasions. He is a confident manager who has always believed he can turn around difficult outcomes. He’s often been able to string together a lengthy run of successive victories but at the same time, can be in control of teams who go on worrying runs of consecutive losses too.

His best achievements as a player and manager have been to reach the FA Cup final three times. However, it has been a case of three times unlucky as he has lost on all occasions.

Wonderful winner against mighty Liverpool

Born in the Wimbledon area of London, Pardew started his career as a part-time player in non-league football whilst working as a glazier. His most prolific spell came with Crystal Palace. He joined them in 1987 for a fee of just £7,500. Two years later, he helped them win promotion to the First Division and in 1990, came the greatest moment of his career.

The midfielder scored the winning goal in extra-time of a fantastic FA Cup semi-final against mighty Liverpool FC at Villa Park. The Eagles won 4-3, just seven months after losing 9-0 to the same opposition in a league fixture at Anfield. They were through to the final where they played Manchester United. Despite leading, the game ended in a 3-3 draw and Alex Ferguson’s side won the replay to earn their first major honour as a partnership.

In 1991, Crystal Palace finished a surprising but deserving third in the First Division table before Pardew moved to Charlton Athletic in November 1991. He was the Addicks top goalscorer in the 1992-1993 season with 10 goals and was part of the squad that made a triumphant return to The Valley after several seasons playing at neutral venues across the capital.

He played four times for Tottenham Hotspur during the 1995 UEFA Intertoto Cup, being part of a squad that lost 8-0 to German side 1. FC Köln which remains the club’s heaviest-ever defeat. After a spell with Barnet, he ended his playing career on the books of Reading in 1998, although he never played a first-team game for the Berkshire outfit.

A controversial departure

It would be Reading where Alan would make his first steps as a manager, taking over in a couple of caretaker spells before getting the job permanently in 1999. Reading were toiling in the Second Division at the time and often fighting off relegation but he managed to guide them to serial play-off contenders during his time with the Royals. The likes of Jamie Cureton flourished under his management and in 2002; he won promotion to the First Division automatically.

There were no issues with stepping up to a higher level. In his maiden season as a boss in the second-tier, Pardew’s Reading side finished a stellar fourth but were beaten in the play-offs by Wolverhampton Wanderers. His impressive time with the club attracted the interest of West Ham United and it would be a controversial departure too.

In September 2003, West Ham approached Reading for permission to speak to Alan. Reading rightly refused but Pardew decided to force the hand by tendering his resignation. A compromise was eventually reached and he would take over at Upton Park but it was a sour ending to an excellent first job in management.

Denied by Gerrard

Having been relegated from the Premier League on the final day of the 2002-2003 campaign, West Ham United were firm favourites to make an instant return but the going was much tougher than anticipated. The Hammers had to settle for a place in the play-offs as Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion won the two automatic promotion spots. The play-offs ended in defeat in the final to his old club Crystal Palace.

The 2004-2005 season was just as hard proving that no matter how talented your squad is, getting out of the Championship is very tricky. Yet again, West Ham had to settle for a spot in the play-offs. Pardew was coming under scrutiny from some sections of the Boleyn Ground faithful and failure again would probably cost him his job. This time he prevailed, as Bobby Zamora’s strike defeated Preston North End 1-0 in the final. After two seasons in the wilderness, West Ham were back in the Premier League party.

Their first season back was very impressive. Pardew’s side always posed a threat on the counter-attack and played some enjoyable content which pleased the supporters. They finished ninth in the Premier League and beat Tottenham Hotspur on the final day of the season to deny Spurs a chance in the Champions League. There was also a 3-2 success on the club’s final trip to Highbury – Arsenal’s iconic ground.

The main highlight though was a run to the FA Cup final with the likes of Bolton Wanderers, Manchester City and Middlesbrough being defeated on the road to Cardiff. In the final cup final to be played in the Welsh capital, West Ham took on red-hot favourites Liverpool FC and came within a few moments of winning the cup for the first time in 26 years. They led 2-0 and 3-2 but Pardew was to be denied by Steven Gerrard’s stoppage-time heroics with an exhilarating equaliser. Liverpool would win the penalty shootout leaving the Londoners heartbroken.

It felt like the cup defeat had a negative effect on the dressing room dynamics and despite signing world stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, West Ham went on an alarming run of defeats which was their worst run in 70 years. This included a shock League Cup exit at the hands of Chesterfield and UEFA Cup failure at the first hurdle to Palermo.

The new Icelandic owners gave their public backing but a horrible performance and 4-0 loss to Bolton Wanderers in mid-December was the final straw. Pardew was sacked two days later but he would be back in management just over two weeks after this axing.

Charlton woe

On Christmas Eve 2006, Pardew returned to Charlton Athletic, succeeding Les Reed in the job. The Addicks were in the bottom three and struggling to maintain their grip on their Premier League status. Pardew’s first match nearly drew instant success late equaliser from Fulham in controversial circumstances. It would be the story of his reign at The Valley.

Charlton’s form improved, including a 4-0 victory over his former employers in February but it wasn’t enough to avoid the drop. A 2-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur in the club’s final home match of the season saw Charlton’s seven-season stay in the top-flight come to a sudden end.

The spark seemed to have gone from Pardew. He couldn’t motivate the club to a sustained push for an instant return to the Premier League. Charlton finished a distant 11th in the Championship in 2007-2008 and after slipping into the bottom three of that division in November 2008, he parted company with the club by mutual consent.

His next role was down in League One as he tried to revive Southampton’s fortunes. Despite a points deduction for entering administration, he did bring in plenty of firepower with the likes of Lee Barnard and Rickie Lambert arriving on the south coast. Southampton did win the Football League trophy under his stewardship in April 2010 but with low morale within the staff, he was sacked five months later by owner Nicola Cortese.

It looked like his top-flight days were numbered until Newcastle United came calling.

Defying the critics

In December 2010, Chris Hughton was dismissed as Newcastle United manager and three days after his departure, Pardew was confirmed as his successor. Many Magpies supporters did not want him as their manager and a poll on the Sky Sports website confirmed this. He received just 5.5% backing.

He won his first match in-charge though, defeating Liverpool FC 3-1 and was manager when Newcastle produced one of the greatest comebacks in Premier League history, storming back from 4-0 down at half-time to draw 4-4 with Arsenal in February 2011.

Newcastle finished 12th in 2010-2011 and that summer; they recruited very well, using contacts from France to bring in the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Sylvain Marveaux and on a free transfer from West Ham United, Demba Ba. Ba’s goals in the first half of the season, combined with a solid defensive line-up and the qualities of Cabaye meant he would defy the critics throughout the 2011-2012 season.

Newcastle remained unbeaten until mid-November and were a fixture in the top seven all season. The January arrival of Papiss Cisse from Sport-Club Freiburg added more firepower to the striking ranks and the club enjoyed their best season since Sir Bobby Robson’s final full term in 2004. The Magpies were in the mix for a UEFA Champions League qualification place until the final day when defeat at Everton ensured they’d miss out on a top-three spot. Nevertheless, fifth place in the final table, ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool FC was a stunning achievement. Pardew’s work was recognised and he was awarded LMA Manager of the Year honours.

Crazy moments

In September 2012, he signed an eight-year contract extension but the 2012-2013 season was a major disappointment. Newcastle finished 16th in the table and suffered some damaging defeats, including a heavy 3-0 loss to local rivals Sunderland in April 2013. They did reach a UEFA Europa League quarter-final before losing to Benfica.

The 2013-2014 campaign went better and Alan won the Manager of the Month award for November after four successive victories. The club won at Old Trafford in December and sat sixth in the table going into Christmas. However, Cabaye was sold to Paris Saint-Germain in January and he got into hot water twice in quick succession which put his position in severe jeopardy.

First, he was caught by television cameras using foul and abusive language towards Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini during a 2-0 home loss in January. Two months later, he was sent to the stands after head-butting Hull City’s David Meyler following a touchline confrontation. It was an extraordinary incident which saw him fined £160,000 combined by the FA and his own club and given a seven-match ban, three of these games saw him barred from entering the stadium.

There was a tumultuous start to the 2014-2015 season and the relationship between manager and supporters seemed to be at an all-time low. Newcastle sank to bottom in the Premier League after four games and disgruntled fans set-up a website called SackPardew.com in an effort to convince Mike Ashley to dispense with his services. He survived this storm and a run of five successive victories saw the club rocket up the table from 20th to 5th. However, there was always a feeling in the closing weeks of his reign on Tyneside that his time was coming to an end.

After not fulfilling media commitments following a 3-2 home victory against Everton, speculation grew on whether Pardew would leave Newcastle to take the vacancy at Crystal Palace. Two days later, compensation was agreed between the two clubs and Alan was leaving the north east behind to return to a club that was still dear to his heart.

A sound start at Selhurst

When Pardew took over at Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace were in the relegation zone but immediately showed a revival in fortunes. In his first match in-charge, Palace beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 and would beat both Manchester City and Liverpool FC before the season’s end. Crystal Palace finished the 2014-2015 campaign in 10th place which remains their best-ever Premier League finish. In doing so, he became the first manager to take over a side in the drop zone and guide them to a top-half finish.

It was a sound start and the first half of the 2015-2016 campaign went swimmingly too, helped by acquiring Cabaye again after he fell out of favour at Paris Saint-Germain. After 19 games, Palace sat in fifth position and looked set to launch a serious challenge for a European spot in the most unpredictable Premier League season.

However, a dismal run followed. Crystal Palace went 14 league games without a victory and plummeted down the table into the bottom five. Late season victories over Norwich City and Stoke City removed any late threat of a relegation battle but finishing 15th at the end of the season was not what anyone hoped for. Alan’s salvation was another excellent run in the FA Cup and another final which ended in another agonising defeat. Manchester United came from behind to defeat the Eagles 2-1 after extra-time in the Wembley showpiece. It was the third time he’d experience FA Cup final heartache as a player/manager.

The poor league form continued throughout the first half of the 2016-2017 season. Despite a three-game winning sequence in September that did have them briefly upto seventh and above eventual champions Chelsea, another dire sequence of results followed. One win in 11 saw the south Londoners slip down to 17th in the table and a few days before Christmas 2016, Pardew was sacked after a 1-0 loss to Chelsea.

After a stint working as a TV pundit for Sky Sports, Pardew returned to the managerial dugout at West Bromwich Albion in November 2017. He replaced Tony Pulis at the helm but his record was nothing short of disastrous. He won just three matches in all competitions from 20 games, earning him a grim win ratio rate of just 15%. West Brom won only once in the Premier League during his reign – a 2-0 success over Brighton & Hove Albion in January and a run of eight successive losses means relegation from the Premier League at the end of the campaign is now just a mere formality. In early April, he parted company with the Baggies by mutual consent.

Alan Pardew has always tried to play football the right way and encourage an expansive style but his recent spells in management since leaving Newcastle United haven’t gone to plan. With the nightmare he has recently experienced at West Bromwich Albion, it is more likely he will be a TV pundit than a manager in future seasons to come.

Referees in the Middle: David Elleray

Premier League Career: 1992-2003

First Premier League Match: Liverpool FC 2-1 Sheffield United (19 August 1992)

Final Premier League Match: Newcastle United 1-0 Birmingham City (3 May 2003)

One of the most well-known and high-profile referees in the first decade of the Premier League, David Elleray was one of the strongest officials in the top-flight. He took charge of 197 games between 1992 and his retirement in 2003, handing out 540 yellow cards and 34 red cards.

A former geography teacher and housemaster at a public school in Harrow, Elleray took a firm and strict approach to the game at a time when referees were combining a full-time day job with weekend matches in the middle. He certainly was someone who you wouldn’t mess around with.

Educated at Dover Grammar School for Boys, David did dabble with the playing side of football at a young age but started taking charge of games at the age of just 13. It was a role he enjoyed doing and a hobby that soon turned into something he would be well-known for throughout the rest of his career.

A keen rugby enthusiast, he went to University and progressed through the non-league system until becoming a Football League official in 1986. Three years later, he took part in a trial which saw officials wear microphones during a tempestuous First Division clash between London rivals Millwall and Arsenal. It didn’t go well and David admitted in an interview with the BBC in 2013 that the documentary, shown on Channel 4 had been corrupted. He said: “I saw a preview which was very balanced, but it was then hijacked to become a witch-hunt of Arsenal. Bleeps were put in to give the impression that players were swearing when they hadn’t. They only showed the occasions when there was some sort of dispute between the players and me. They edited out all the good exchanges and gave the impression that Arsenal had behaved appallingly.”

Included on the original referees list for the inaugural Premier League season, Elleray is remembered for a number of incidents in his career. He was the official at the 1994 FA Cup final, handing two penalties on the day to Manchester United in their 4-0 victory over Chelsea. He later admitted in his autobiography that for the second spot-kick, scored by Eric Cantona, he “blew without thinking” and although he knew he had made a mistake, he could not change his mind.

However, he was well-respected by supporters, coaches and even repeat players who got in trouble with him. Roy Keane was sent off four times in his career by Elleray but there was no bad blood between the pair. The referee admitted: “I got a letter and a signed shirt from him when I retired. It demonstrates the relationship between players and referees are better than people think. When you’re away from the heat of battle on the field there is a mutual respect.”

In 1999, David was given two of the tastiest fixtures in the Premier League and they weren’t without any incidents either. In May 1999, Manchester United were going for The Treble and travelled to Anfield to face Liverpool FC. They were leading 2-0 when Liverpool produced a second half fightback with some help from the referee. He gave Liverpool a penalty, even though replays showed Jesper Blomqvist had cleanly tackled Oyvind Leonhardsen in the penalty area. Moments later, Denis Irwin was given a second yellow card for kicking the ball down the touchline. Sky Sports commentator Andy Gray couldn’t believe Elleray’s strict behaviour, saying on the broadcast: “I don’t believe it. It is a nothing offence.” Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said afterwards: “We would have won the game had it not been for the referee and we’re not going to allow him to deny us this opportunity.” United would win The Treble but there were still angered fans who disgustingly sent Elleray death threats afterwards.

Six months later, he took control of the North London Derby at White Hart Lane which saw Tottenham Hotspur defeat Arsenal 2-1. Freddie Ljungberg and Martin Keown were both sent off by Elleray and nine players were booked. Elleray admitted it was one of his toughest-ever matches he had to take control of.

His school commitments meant he missed out on going to a World Cup finals despite being the preferred choice in 1998 (Paul Durkin went instead) but he was a FIFA referee until 1999, taking charge of 40 international matches including the 1997 UEFA Super Cup final between Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund. In his final Premier League match, Birmingham’s Matthew Upson was sent off as the Blues lost 1-0 to Newcastle United in May 2003.

He was awarded an MBE in 2014 for his services to football and in May 2016, took the position of Technical Director for the International Football Association Board. His achievements mean David Elleray has to qualify as one of the Premier League’s most influential referees in the first 25 years of the competition.

Great Goals: Silvinho – Chelsea vs. ARSENAL (September 2000)

In this early season London Derby clash between Chelsea and Arsenal, the visitors seemed to be heading towards a second defeat of the campaign. Arsenal were 2-0 down going into the final 25 minutes, courtesy of goals from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Gianfranco Zola. Thierry Henry had pulled a goal back but the equaliser was something special from Brazilian left-back Silvinho.

He raced onto a loose ball after Franck Leboeuf had successfully challenged Sylvain Wiltord. Silvinho smashed an unstoppable shot past Carlo Cudicini’s defences. The bend on the shot saw his attempt fly into the top corner. For the second season running, Arsenal had rescued a positive result at Stamford Bridge from a two-goal deficit and a week later, Chelsea sensationally sacked manager Gianluca Vialli.

Shock Results: Ipswich Town 5-0 Sunderland (December 2001)

Goalscorers: Alun Armstrong 15, 27, Thomas Gaardsoe 26, Finidi George 31, Jamie Clapham 86

Teams:

Ipswich Town: Matteo Sereni, Thomas Gaardsoe, Hermann Hreidarsson, Chris Makin, Mark Venus, Jim Magilton, Matt Holland, Finidi George, Martijn Reuser (Jamie Clapham 72), Alun Armstrong (Richard Naylor 72), Marcus Bent (Jermaine Wright 80)

Sunderland: Thomas Sorensen, Bernt Haas, Michael Gray (George McCartney 45), Emerson Thome, Julio Arca, Jason McAteer (Kevin Kilbane 45), Gavin McCann, Claudio Reyna, Darren Williams, Kevin Phillips, Niall Quinn (Kevin Kyle 45)

Referee: Graham Poll, Attendance: 24,517

The 2001 calendar year had been of tale of two halves for Ipswich Town. After flourishing in the first part of the year which saw them finish a stunning fifth in the table, the Tractor Boys were finding out the tough nature of Premier League football. George Burley’s side were trapped in the bottom three ahead of this clash with Sunderland. The Black Cats sat 10th at kick-off.

Peter Reid’s men went into the match having not conceded a goal in their last 203 minutes of Premier League football but were to be breached four times in a 45 minute spell that left him fuming and the home supporters stunned.

Ipswich took the lead after 15 minutes. Forward Alun Armstrong made the most of a mishit cross by Nigerian summer signing Finidi George to open the scoring. The lead was doubled 11 minutes later. Slack marking at a Mark Venus corner allowed Thomas Gaardsoe to head home. The Dane was only playing because of an injury to Ipswich’s first-choice centre-back, Titus Bramble. It was his first goal in English football.

Sunderland’s previously strong defensive unit seemed to have disappeared for an early New Year party because they looked all over the place – unable to cope with the barrage of attacks the home side were putting together. Just 60 seconds after Gaardsoe’s goal, Darren Williams’ poor backward header saw visiting goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen dash from his goal-line. He was beaten to the aerial challenge by Armstrong. The former Newcastle player couldn’t believe his luck. He had just been gifted his second goal of the afternoon and the onslaught wasn’t finished yet.

Fine work from skipper Matt Holland and recent new arrival Marcus Bent played in Finidi George. Sorensen partially committed himself and was caught in no-man’s land as the winger punished him by lobbing the ball delightfully over the hapless Dane. Ipswich had scored four goals in a 16-minute spell which suggested their current league position of 18th was false.

Reid made a triple half-time substitution and there was a slight improvement after the break. However, there was still time for Ipswich’s own substitute, Jamie Clapham to round off the scoring with four minutes left to play.

This win was part of a run that saw George Burley’s side win seven out of eight games that saw them climb to 12th but it was a false dawn. Ipswich never recovered from a 6-0 walloping in February from Liverpool FC and were relegated on the final day, with Sunderland only just surviving in 17th. This though was Ipswich’s day and one small memory for their supporters from an underwhelming campaign.

Memorable Matches: Nottingham Forest 3-2 Queens Park Rangers (October 1994)

Goalscorers: Kingsley Black 51, Les Ferdinand 54, Bryan Roy 63, Bradley Allen 84, Stan Collymore 88

Teams:

Nottingham Forest: Mark Crossley, Steve Chettle, Colin Cooper, Des Lyttle, Stuart Pearce, Kingsley Black, Lars Bohinen, David Phillips, Steve Stone, Stan Collymore, Bryan Roy

Queens Park Rangers: Tony Roberts, David Bardsley, Rufus Brevett, Danny Maddix, Alan McDonald (Bradley Allen 65), Steve Yates, Simon Barker, Ian Holloway, Andy Impey, Trevor Sinclair, Les Ferdinand

Referee: Kelvin Morton, Attendance: 21,449

This was Nottingham Forest’s first season in the top-flight under the guidance of Frank Clark. Clark was September’s Manager of the Month and they were still unbeaten before the visit of Queens Park Rangers and the Sky Sports Super Sunday cameras in October 1994. Forest knew a victory would take them second and right on the coattails of early pacesetters Newcastle United.

Queens Park Rangers boss Gerry Francis could welcome Danny Maddix back into the starting XI after a lengthy injury absence for the centre-back. They’d had never won at the City Ground before arriving on a rain-soaked afternoon. They would should their attacking potential in a game of two halves. Considering the talents on display, the first half was disappointing with both sides cancelling each other out. The game needed a moment of quality to spark into life and it arrived spectacularly after 51 minutes.

From the right-hand side, Kingsley Black cut inside and produced an exquisite curling shot that bent past Tony Roberts and into the back of the net. It was Black’s second goal of the season and it gave the home side the lead. It was an advantage that would last for just three minutes. Colin Cooper was caught in possession by Ian Holloway. Holloway played through Les Ferdinand and he made the most of Cooper’s error. The forward drove a shot underneath Mark Crossley. It was a cheap goal to concede but Ferdinand wasn’t complaining.

The pace of Roy and Stan Collymore was starting to cause problems for QPR’s defenders. Both were denied by excellent goalkeeping from Roberts. However, the Welshman was about to blot his copybook as Forest regained the lead on 63 minutes. He completely misjudged Lars Bohinen’s vicious corner and as he desperately tried to scramble something onto the ball, Roy stabbed the ball over the goal-line from practically two-yards out to put the hosts back infront.

Although Forest were creating the better chances, QPR’s excellent use of possession kept them right in the contest. Francis brought on Bradley Allen with devastating effect. Six minutes from full-time, he turned Des Lyttle and fired a beautiful low drive from the edge of the area that gave Crossley no chance.

It looked like the points would be shared but Collymore had other ideas. With Maddix tiring as the match went its course, Collymore exploited this weakness. He raced onto Lyttle’s clearing header, outsprinted Maddix and then produced a devastating finish past the onrushing Roberts to win this topsy-turvy clash for Nottingham Forest.

Forest stayed unbeaten until the end of October and finished an excellent third. Francis left Queens Park Rangers a month after this defeat due to disagreements with the board over the appointment of Rodney Marsh as a Director of Football. Nevertheless, they improved rapidly to finish eighth with Ray Wilkins in-charge.

Great Goals: Juan Mata – Liverpool FC vs. MANCHESTER UNITED (March 2015)

Manchester United arrived at Anfield in March 2015 just one point clear of their greatest rivals as the two teams were fighting over fourth spot in the Premier League table. The Merseysiders hadn’t lost in the top-flight since being beaten 3-0 at Old Trafford before Christmas. They were the form team but it was Louis van Gaal’s side that turned up and put in a performance.

Juan Mata scored an early opener and Liverpool’s efforts at recovery were made harder when Steven Gerrard was sent off within a minute of the second half resuming. This was to be Mata’s day and the Spaniard’s second goal of the game was simply world-class.

He played a neat one-two with Angel di Maria. The Argentine clipped the ball into Mata’s path and he swivelled on it superbly, producing a fantastic bicycle kick that left Simon Mignolet completely stranded.

Manchester United won the game 2-1 and would finish well clear of Liverpool in the final standings. It was a classy goal that won the day and a crucial one in the season for the Red Devils.