Premier League Files: Kevin Nolan

Premier League Career: Bolton Wanderers (2001-2009), Newcastle United (2009), (2010-2011), West Ham United (2012-2015)

Kevin Nolan enjoyed a successful playing career in the Premier League. He has scored winning goals at Old Trafford, captained all three of the sides he played for in the top-flight and also has two Premier League hat-tricks to his name. Nolan represented England at Under-21 level but despite his name being often linked with a senior call-up, he never earned a cap for The Three Lions. In fact, he holds the unfortunate record of making the most Premier League appearances without winning international recognition from England.

Growing up in the Toxteth area of Liverpool where goalscoring legend Robbie Fowler was born, Nolan’s desire from an early age was to become a footballer. Although the teams he followed at a young age were his boyhood club Liverpool FC and Celtic, his favourite players were the Manchester United pair, Eric Cantona and Lee Sharpe. He signed for Bolton Wanderers at the age of 16.

In 2001, Nolan helped Sam Allardyce’s Trotters defeat Preston North End 3-0 in the First Division play-off final at The Millennium Stadium. He immediately became an integral part of the Bolton side returning to the Premier League after three seasons away. On the opening day of the 2001-2002 campaign, Nolan scored twice as Bolton made a fabulous start, winning 5-0 away at Leicester City. Two months later, he scored an equalising goal in the club’s surprising win at Old Trafford. He finished with eight goals as Bolton finished 16th to beat the Premier League drop for the first time.

The 2002-2003 campaign was personally a disappointment for Nolan as he only added one more goal to his tally. However, it was a priceless one. He capitalised on a mistake from David Beckham to score at Old Trafford for the second successive campaign. This time, it was the matchwinning strike to spearhead Bolton to a 1-0 victory. It was an important result too, as they only avoided relegation at the end of the season by two points. There was a marked improvement in both player and club form in 2003-2004. Bolton finished in a tremendous 8th place in the table and reached the League Cup final. Nolan scored a career-best 12 goals in all competitions as his influence continued to grow on Allardyce’s ever-improving side.

When Jay-Jay Okocha left The Reebok Stadium in 2006, Nolan’s impact was recognised even further when he was appointed as Okocha’s replacement in the team captaincy role. He made 323 league appearances for the club, scoring a host of crucial goals in Bolton’s maiden European adventures but by January 2009, fans were unhappy with his drop in performances. Without a goal and saddened by the criticism considering the service he’d given to Bolton, Kevin left to join Newcastle United in a £4 million move.

His move to Tyneside didn’t start well. A month after his arrival, he received a red card in a goalless draw with Everton for a horrendous two-footed challenge on Victor Anichebe which left the Nigerian out of action for several months with a serious knee injury. Newcastle were relegated at the end of the season and all of a sudden, Nolan was back in the Football League. However, he didn’t seek a transfer and took responsibility for the club’s drop into the second-tier. He was widely praised for his efforts in the 2009-2010 season. He scored 18 goals, including the first hat-trick of his club career in an away victory against Ipswich Town. His performances earned him the honour of the Championship Player of the Year and Newcastle earned promotion back to the top-flight as champions.

With Nicky Butt retiring in the summer of 2010, Nolan was given the captain’s armband on Newcastle’s return to the Premier League and scored twice in the club’s first home match back in the top-flight as Aston Villa were thrashed 6-0. Two months later, he enjoyed arguably the greatest day of his career, scoring a hat-trick in the Tyne & Wear Derby as Newcastle enjoyed a memorable 5-1 success over bitter rivals Sunderland.

So it was a surprise to see Nolan leave Newcastle in the summer of 2011 and return to the Championship, linking up with his former manager Allardyce at West Ham United on a five-year contract. With Matthew Upson moving on to Stoke City following the Hammers’ relegation from the top-flight, Nolan was immediately handed the captain’s armband and he led the team to an instant return to the Premier League. Promotion was secured via the play-offs.

Back in the Premier League for 2012-2013, Nolan scored in all of West Ham’s first three home games of the season, including a stoppage-time equaliser to rescue a 1-1 draw with Sunderland. In April, he scored the 100th goal of his career and he wrapped up his season in style with a final day treble in a 4-2 victory over already relegated Reading. That meant that for the fourth season running, he achieved double figures in terms of league goals. 2013-2014 was less rewarding and West Ham’s form wasn’t great either as they struggled to find any consistency. Two quick red cards in the winter months in away losses to Liverpool FC and Fulham suggested frustration was creeping into Nolan’s game. Allardyce’s response was to fine him two weeks wages and warn him that any further misconduct would see him removed of the captaincy. He still ended as the club’s top scorer but it wasn’t a happy season and his time at West Ham which started so well was ending on a downer.

His last game for the club came in August 2015 against AFC Bournemouth. With West Ham 2-0 down at half-time, he was replaced by Matt Jarvis and it was the last time he would figure in the Premier League. Five days later, he left the club via mutual consent, having played 157 times in all competitions for the Hammers. Nolan moved into management five months later, taking a player-manager role at Leyton Orient who were struggling in League Two. In January 2017, he took over at Notts County and led them to the League Two play-off final last season where they were pipped to promotion by Coventry City. After a wretched start to the 2018-2019 campaign, Nolan parted company with the oldest football club in England on 26th August, replaced by Australian Harry Kewell, who has since also being relieved of his duties.

Management has already shown bumps in the road but Kevin Nolan had a knack of being in the right place at the right time as a player. He was a leader in all of the dressing rooms he walked into, was never afraid of a challenge and a serial goalscorer for all of the teams he represented in the top-flight.

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The Clubs: Ipswich Town

All-Time Premier League Record

Played Won Drew Lost Scored Conceded Goal Difference Points No of Seasons
202 57 53 92 219 312 -93 224 5

 

Most Premier League Appearances

Player Appearances Total
David Linighan 112
Geraint Williams 109
John Wark 101
Mick Stockwell 96
Chris Kiwomya 91
Matt Holland 76
Craig Forrest 74
Hermann Hreidarsson 74
Phil Whelan 74
Gavin Johnson 73

 

Most Premier League Goals

Player Goals Total
Marcus Stewart 25
Chris Kiwomya 18
Ian Marshall 13
John Wark 13
Alun Armstrong 11
Marcus Bent 9
Jason Dozzell 7
Martijn Reuser 7
Finidi George 6
Bontcho Guentchev 6

 

Biggest Premier League Victories

Match Date Season
Ipswich Town 5-0 Sunderland 29th December 2001 2001-2002
Ipswich Town 4-1 Leicester City 2nd January 1995 1994-1995
Oldham Athletic 0-3 Ipswich Town 14th August 1993 1993-1994
Everton 0-3 Ipswich Town 30th September 2000 2000-2001
Ipswich Town 3-0 Tottenham Hotspur 30th December 2000 2000-2001
Southampton 0-3 Ipswich Town 2nd April 2001 2000-2001
Ipswich Town 4-2 Leeds United 3rd October 1992 1992-1993
Ipswich Town 3-1 Manchester City 12th December 1992 1992-1993
Ipswich Town 3-1 Norwich City 19th April 1993 1992-1993
Ipswich Town 3-1 Southampton 16th December 2000 2000-2001

 

Worst Premier League Defeats

Match Date Season
Manchester United 9-0 Ipswich Town 4th March 1995 1994-1995
Ipswich Town 0-6 Liverpool FC 9th February 2002 2001-2002
Sheffield Wednesday 5-0 Ipswich Town 23rd April 1994 1993-1994
Liverpool FC 5-0 Ipswich Town 11th May 2002 2001-2002
Ipswich Town 1-5 Arsenal 5th March 1994 1993-1994
Arsenal 4-0 Ipswich Town 11th September 1993 1993-1994
Leeds United 4-0 Ipswich Town 5th April 1995 1994-1995
Manchester United 4-0 Ipswich Town 22nd September 2001 2001-2002
Ipswich Town 1-4 Sheffield Wednesday 6th November 1993 1993-1994
Nottingham Forest 4-1 Ipswich Town 10th December 1994 1994-1995

 

Managers

Manager No of Seasons managed Left the Club
John Lyall 3 5th December 1994
George Burley 3 11th October 2002

 

Highest Home Attendances

Match Date Attendance Figure Season
Ipswich Town 0-1 Manchester United 27th April 2002 28,433 2001-2002
Ipswich Town 0-0 Chelsea 1st April 2002 28,053 2001-2002
Ipswich Town 1-0 Middlesbrough 24th April 2002 25,979 2001-2002
Ipswich Town 0-6 Liverpool FC 9th February 2002 25,608 2001-2002
Ipswich Town 1-3 Southampton 2nd March 2002 25,440 2001-2002
Ipswich Town 0-0 Aston Villa 23rd March 2002 25,247 2001-2002
Ipswich Town 1-0 Fulham 30th January 2002 25,156 2001-2002
Ipswich Town 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur 12th January 2002 25,077 2001-2002
Ipswich Town 2-1 Manchester City 7th May 2001 25,004 2000-2001
Ipswich Town 0-1 Newcastle United 9th December 2001 24,748 2001-2002

 

Intro

Ipswich Town were the last champions of the old Second Division before the formation of the FA Premier League in 1992. The Tractor Boys were a side who might have lacked world-class players but had an abundance of team spirit. This meant they ensured top-flight football remained at Portman Road until 1995. They returned to the Premier League in 2000 for a two-season spell which saw them record a fine fifth-place finish in 2000-2001 before a crushing relegation just one season later.

 

1992-1993

Ipswich’s reward for winning the Second Division title in 1992-1993 was a place in the inaugural Premier League season. They made an impressive start, staying unbeaten in their first eight matches, even though six of those games ended in draws. By January, they sat as high as fourth in the table and even defeated Manchester United 2-1 at Portman Road.

However, the win over the Red Devils was their last success in 13 and saw the club plummet to 17th in the table. A crucial 3-1 victory over East Anglia rivals Norwich City in April with Jason Dozzell scoring twice helped Ipswich achieve their aim of survival, just three points clear of the drop zone.

 

1993-1994

Ipswich dealt with the blow of selling Jason Dozzell to Tottenham Hotspur in the summer initially very well and new signing Ian Marshall made a great start. The summer arrival from Oldham Athletic scored in his first three games as Ipswich recorded victories over the Latics, Southampton and Chelsea, without conceding a goal.

In November, they held Manchester United to a goalless draw at Old Trafford and by New Year’s Day, they sat in the top half, having lost only six of their first 22 games. However, there was little joy in 1994. John Lyall’s team recorded just two further victories and slipped into the relegation battle. On the final day of the season, they managed a goalless draw at Ewood Park against Blackburn Rovers.

However, they would have been relegated but for a late Mark Stein goal at Stamford Bridge which ensured Sheffield United lost at Chelsea and meant they went down rather than Ipswich.

 

1994-1995

After avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth on the final day of the 1993-1994 season, Ipswich’s luck ran out this season. Although there were early season victories over Queens Park Rangers and Manchester United, Ipswich weren’t able to sustain any consistent form. They were in the bottom four from October onwards and two months later, manager John Lyall resigned as first-team boss.

Former full-back George Burley, who had played a big part in the successful era the club enjoyed during Sir Bobby Robson’s spell, returned to the club as manager. Ipswich did record a surprising 1-0 victory at Anfield over Liverpool FC in mid-January but survival was virtually impossible. In March, they fell victim to a 9-0 beating at Old Trafford against Manchester United which remains the biggest-ever defeat in Premier League history.

Relegation was confirmed over the Easter weekend and Ipswich ultimately finished bottom of the 22-team table, conceding 93 goals and recording just seven league victories.

 

2000-2001

After an absence of five seasons, Ipswich finally returned to the top-flight as play-off winners in 2000 and they spectacularly surpassed expectations. Considered as one of the pre-season favourites for the drop, Ipswich defied the critics time and again. They lost just three home matches all season and never relinquished a position inside the top six after a 2-0 victory away at Bradford City in late October.

A 3-1 home victory over the Bantams in early March took Ipswich into the dizzy heights of third position and it was a spot they held for over seven weeks. Marcus Stewart was a revelation and his 19 goals meant he finished runner-up in the race for the Golden Boot.

Ultimately, the experience of Liverpool FC and Leeds United wore down Ipswich and a 2-1 defeat to Charlton Athletic meant Ipswich were squeezed into fifth spot at the season’s end. Nevertheless, they spectacularly exceeded expectations, earning UEFA Cup football for the first time since 1982 and George Burley’s achievements meant he deservedly won the LMA Manager of the Year award.

 

2001-2002

£8 million was spent on new players in the summer of 2001 with the likes of Finidi George and Matteo Sereni arriving at the club. However, Ipswich were about to fall victim to the curse of “second season syndrome.” A 3-1 victory over Derby County on the 21st August was their only win in their first 18 games and left them rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table. Not even a 1-0 victory over Inter Milan in the UEFA Cup could lift the gloom around Portman Road.

Winter looked bleak but Ipswich then hit a purple patch. A late win at White Hart Lane over Tottenham Hotspur just days before Christmas started a glorious run of seven wins in eight games. This included a 5-0 drubbing of Sunderland which remains the club’s biggest-ever Premier League victory.

Ipswich were upto 12th and at this point, a mid-table finish looked a real possibility. However, a soul-destroying 6-0 home beating by Liverpool FC knocked the stuffing out of the team. Ipswich recorded just one victory from their last 12 matches and six more points following the defeat by the Merseysiders. They arrived at Anfield on the last day needing a win to stand any chance of survival. That never looked likely and a 5-0 defeat ultimately consigned them to relegation.

George Burley resigned five months later and Ipswich have rarely looked like escaping the Championship since. Paul Lambert has just been appointed manager but he’ll have a job on his hands to keep Ipswich in the second-tier of English football.

Shock Results: Manchester City 1-3 Leicester City (February 2016)

Goalscorers: Robert Huth 3, 60, Riyad Mahrez 48, Sergio Aguero 87

Teams:

Manchester City: Joe Hart, Martin Demichelis, Nicolas Otamendi, Aleksandar Kolarov, Pablo Zabaleta, Fernandinho, Yaya Toure (Fernando 52), David Silva (Bersant Celina 77), Fabian Delph (Kelechi Iheanacho 52), Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero

Leicester City: Kasper Schmeichel, Robert Huth, Wes Morgan, Christian Fuchs, Danny Simpson, Danny Drinkwater, N’Golo Kante, Marc Albrighton (Nathan Dyer 86), Riyad Mahrez (Demarai Gray 77), Shinji Okazaki (Leonardo Ulloa 81), Jamie Vardy

Referee: Anthony Taylor, Attendance: 54,693

This meeting in February 2016 was between the top two in the Premier League. Many expected Manchester City to be there at this stage of the season but no-one apart from the most ardent of Leicester City supporters could have imagine their team to be top of the table and travelling to The Etihad Stadium with the opportunity to really stake their title challenge. Was this where the 5000-1 outsiders at the start of the season going to fold or grow even stronger.

We got our first answer inside of three minutes. The dangerous Riyad Mahrez drew an early free-kick from Aleksandar Kolarov. The Algerian played the resultant set-piece into the penalty area and it was dispatched by centre-back Robert Huth for his second goal of the season. It was a dream start for the Foxes and their travelling contingent.

Despite enjoying 66% of possession and having 22 shots on-goal, Manchester City looked a pale shadow of the side that were expected to win the title. Earlier in the week, Manuel Pellegrini had confirmed to the media that he was leaving at the end of the season and being replaced by the current boss of Bayern Munich, Pep Guardiola. Whether it was having an effect on his players, it clearly seemed to drive Leicester towards herculean efforts. N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater completed bossed the midfield battle. Yaya Toure, formerly a gladiator in this department, was substituted for Fernando in the 52nd minute after being completely outplayed by the Leicester duo.

By this point, the fearless Foxes were 2-0 up through a combination of woeful defending and tremendous individual skill from the brilliant Mahrez. Set-up by the equally influential Kante, Mahrez skipped past Nicolas Otamendi’s half-hearted tackle, cut inside a cautious Martin Demichelis, then lashed a fantastic strike past Joe Hart. It was his 14th Premier League goal of the season and the most pivotal moment of the season. Now, everyone was starting to believe that this miracle could well happen.

Huth was enjoying a brilliant afternoon of his own. From another set-piece on the hour mark, his looping header beat a stranded Hart to make the scoreline a sensational 3-0. Claudio Ranieri’s side fully deserved their lead. They had stunned the whole of English football already, now they were shocking it to its core.

Sergio Aguero did grab a late consolation with three minutes left with a glancing header from substitute Bersant Celina’s cross but it was only a footnote in what was a stunning display by the visitors. Leicester became title favourites with the bookmakers after this result and they lost just one more match on their way to becoming Premier League champions. Manchester City finished a distant fourth as they faded away dramatically after this shock scoreline at Eastlands.

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The Managers: Andre Villas-Boas

Premier League Clubs Managed: Chelsea (2011-2012), Tottenham Hotspur (2012-2013)

Still only 41, Andre Villas-Boas harbours the desire to get back into management, although whether that will be back in the Premier League remains to be seen. AVB’s most recent commitment though was away from football. Following one of his other main passions, he quit his role managing in China to compete in the 2018 Dakar Rally, though it didn’t end in glory.

One of Jose Mourinho’s disciples, Villas-Boas has experienced tricky times with both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur but has won honours as a manager in both Portugal and Russia.

Learning from a master

Unlike many of his former colleagues, Villas-Boas didn’t actually experience a playing career. He did his learning at FC Porto under the tutorage of the late, great Sir Bobby Robson. It was Robson who arranged for AVB to begin his FA coaching qualifications, as well as to do some observational work at Ipswich Town and how they trained.

At the age of just 21, he was appointed technical director of the British Virgin Islands national team before continuing his development under the guidance of Jose Mourinho. He was one of Mourinho’s assistants during his first spell at Chelsea and also followed him to Inter Milan for Jose’s first campaign in Serie A.

In October 2009, Villas-Boas elected to go alone, taking the managerial job with Portuguese club Academica. It was a challenge as Academica were sitting bottom of the table in the Portuguese top-flight. He guided them to a comfortable mid-table finish and also the semi-finals of the domestic cup, winning plenty of admirers for an attractive style of football.

In the summer of 2010, both FC Porto and Sporting Lisbon were looking for new managers and AVB was immediately linked with both positions. He elected to choose Porto and the 2010-2011 season was a dream for him. They won the league championship by 20 points, conceding only 13 goals in 34 matches during the season. Porto were unbeaten through the league season for only the second time in their history and there was also great success in Europe. They won the UEFA Europa League; defeating country rivals Sporting Braga in the final. The success made Villas-Boas the youngest-ever manager to win a European trophy, at the age of just 33 years and 213 days. Chelsea liked what they saw and having sacked Carlo Ancelotti after a season without a trophy, he would be their next boss. 

A sour experience at Stamford Bridge

It wasn’t cheap to get Villas-Boas. Chelsea had to pay FC Porto over £13 million in compensation to release him from his contract. He won all of his pre-season fixtures and managed to attract the likes of Juan Mata and Raul Meireles to the club.

However, he preferred to use creative players and started to alienate the senior core of players. Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard were often left on the bench and weren’t happy with their reduced playing time, whilst Nicolas Anelka left for the riches of the Chinese Super League. Despite a decent start to the Premier League season, Chelsea’s form dipped in the autumn, losing games in quick succession to Queens Park Rangers (1-0), Arsenal (3-5) and Liverpool FC (1-2).

Under his reign, they did end Manchester City’s unbeaten start to the domestic season but the pressure was starting to increase, especially when the Blues dropped out of the top four after a lacklustre display in a 2-0 loss to Everton in mid-February. A 3-1 defeat to Napoli in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round-of-16 tie added to the problems and when the Blues lost 1-0 to West Bromwich Albion in early March, he was sacked and replaced on an interim basis by his no.2, Roberto Di Matteo. It was the first major setback in his still young managerial career.

Time for Tottenham

In July 2012, Tottenham Hotspur were looking for a new manager after deciding to part ways with Harry Redknapp and they decided to hire Villas-Boas on a three-year contract. He was excited and ambitious about the plans he had for the club.

It took him four games to get his first league victory for the club but a 3-1 away win at Reading started an improved run of form, which included him becoming the first Tottenham manager to win at Old Trafford in 23 years. A run of five victories in six December games pushed Spurs into third position going into 2013 and hopes were high for a top four finish. When they defeated nearest rivals Arsenal 2-1 in March at White Hart Lane, they looked set to achieve this goal. However, back-to-back losses to Liverpool FC and at home to Fulham saw them throw away a decent points advantage. Arsenal clawed back the initiative and despite Gareth Bale’s best efforts, it was the Gunners who claimed fourth place and the final UEFA Champions League qualification spot on the final day of the season.

The season had ended in disappointment of not achieving the ultimate goal but the final points tally of 73 was the highest in Spurs’ Premier League history and was a record still held until the runners-up position in 2016-2017 achieved under Mauricio Pochettino. It was also the highest total of points achieved by a team not to finish in the top four in a 38-game season.

Failure to qualify for the Champions League meant Bale was virtually certain to leave and so he did, joining Real Madrid for £85.3 million. Tottenham spent big in the summer of 2013 in an effort to strengthen their resources. The likes of Erik Lamela, Etienne Capoue, Roberto Soldado and Christian Eriksen were among the new recruits.

However, league form was disappointing and two demoralising defeats, 6-0 away against Manchester City and 5-0 at home to Liverpool FC left Spurs trailing in seventh position in the table. Daniel Levy decided to sack AVB just over a fortnight before Christmas 2013. This came after intense scrutinising of his coaching methods and integrity from several of the football journalists reporting on the Lilywhites at the time.  

From Russia to the Dakar

Following his English troubles, AVB tried another country, taking over at Zenit Saint Petersburg, winning the Russian Premier League title in 2015 and the domestic cup a year later. VfL Wolfsburg offered him the position as their boss in October 2016 after the departure of Dieter Hecking but he turned down the job for a lucrative position as boss of Shanghai SIPG in the Chinese Super League. He spent one season with them before deciding to take a break from management. He decided to try his luck in the 2018 Dakar Rally, driving a Toyota Hilux. A keen motorsport fan, his experience didn’t last long, crashing four stages in and damaging his back. Two months later, he competed in another off-road rally and this hobby is certainly something that is keeping him busy away from the trials and tribulations he has experienced in his football management career.

Referees in the Middle: Kevin Friend

Premier League Career: 2009-PRESENT

First Premier League Match: Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 Fulham (20 September 2009)

Kevin Friend started refereeing at the age of 14 in his home county of Leicestershire. A member of the Leicestershire and Rutland County Football Association, Friend officiated in the Leicestershire Senior League before being promoted to the National List of Referees.

In the summer of 2009, his consistent performances in the Football League led to him earning a promotion to the list of Select Group Referees. This led to him being well-placed for Premier League appointments. His first fixture in the top-flight came in September 2009, taking control of Wolverhampton Wanderers’ 2-1 home win over Fulham. It wasn’t the hardest match to take charge of. He showed just two yellow cards at Molineux.

Albanian captain Lorik Cana was the unfortunate first recipient of a red card from Kevin Friend. He received his marching orders in Sunderland’s 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa in December 2009 for two bookable offences.

Friend has been an ever-present in the Premier League since, although he did controversially send-off Sunderland defender Wes Brown in a match away at Stoke City in 2013. Everyone seemed startled at this decision and the FA later rescinded the dismissal following an appeal by the Black Cats.

In 2016, it was revealed that he was a supporter of Leicester City. This ruled him out of being appointed to a clash involved Leicester’s main title challengers Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City in April of that year. In March 2017, he was criticised for his handling of a game at Old Trafford between Manchester United and AFC Bournemouth. Both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Tyrone Mings were later charged with violent conduct by the FA and retrospectively banned. Ibrahimovic was found guilty of using an elbow into Mings’ face, only moments after Mings was seen to have stamped on Zlatan’s head. Both incidents were missed in the match. 

Kevin hasn’t had the honour yet of the FA Cup final but he did take charge of the 2013 League Cup final between Swansea City and Bradford City, dismissing Bradford goalkeeper Matt Duke for a professional foul during the final. Having got the League Cup and also 2012 FA Community Shield final on his CV, Friend will be hoping he can get more top-line appointments in the future.

Iconic Moments: Christian Gross and the London Underground (November 1997)

Swiss manager Christian Gross enjoyed great success in his homeland. He won six league titles with Grasshoppers Zurich and FC Basel 1893 and in November 1997, he became the first Swiss boss in the Premier League.

Tottenham had made a slow start to the 1997-1998 Premier League season and after a second half collapse at Anfield which saw them lose 4-0, Gerry Francis resigned as manager on 19th November. Less than 24 hours later, his successor had been appointed and only those who had detailed knowledge of the game had heard of the name Christian Gross.

He was doomed from the outset. At his press conference unveiling, he arrived late from Heathrow airport, his grasp of English was limited and then he got out his London Underground tube ticket, kissed it and said “I want this to become my ticket to the dreams.”

Ridiculed from the outset by the tabloids, Gross started poorly with a home defeat to Crystal Palace and by the end of his first month, he’d overseen heavy defeats to Chelsea (1-6), Coventry City (4-0) and Aston Villa (4-1). He was sacked 10 months later, having only narrowly guided Spurs to survival.

His spell at Tottenham was memorable but for all the wrong reasons.

 

Great Goals: Robin van Persie – MANCHESTER UNITED vs. Aston Villa (April 2013)

In the summer of 2012, Robin van Persie was the finished article in terms of goalscoring ability. After several years of promise which had been stopped by injury, he’d sparkled as captain of Arsenal. The Dutchman struck 30 times in 2011-2012 to win the Golden Boot and sweep the main player awards for the season, despite the Gunners finishing 18 points behind champions Manchester City.

Van Persie elected not to sign a new contract that summer and with 12 months left only to run on his current deal, Arsenal had to cash in on their prized asset. Both Manchester clubs courted his services. Van Persie ultimately chose Manchester United.

In what turned out to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s swansong, he won the Golden Boot again, his one and only Premier League title and the Goal of the Season award for this spectacular volley on the night the Red Devils were crowned Premier League champions for a 13th time.

Wayne Rooney was provider with a delicious long ball over the top of the high defensive line Aston Villa were playing. Van Persie watched the ball all the way and connected first time as it dropped out of the night sky, thumping a beautiful volley beyond Brad Guzan. It was a picturesque goal and a fitting way to earn the Premier League prize back for Manchester United. For the record, RVP scored a hat-trick on the night in United’s 3-0 victory.

Premier League Rewind: 26th-27th August 1994

Results: Aston Villa 1-1 Crystal Palace, Blackburn Rovers 4-0 Coventry City, Leeds United 2-3 Chelsea, Manchester City 4-0 Everton, Newcastle United 5-1 Southampton, Norwich City 1-0 West Ham United, Nottingham Forest 1-0 Leicester City, Queens Park Rangers 1-2 Ipswich Town, Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Manchester United, Wimbledon 0-1 Sheffield Wednesday, Liverpool FC 3-0 Arsenal

Going into the third set of fixtures in the 1994-1995 Premier League, 20 teams had played two games each and just two sides had 100% records. They were Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur. The Magpies had already scored seven goals in their opening two victories over Leicester City and Coventry City. They were about to add five more to that tally in a 5-1 destruction of Southampton.

The rout against the Saints was set-up by three goals in a 10-minute period. Defender Steve Watson, who was playing in a wide midfield position, benefited from a more attacking approach by scoring the first two goals of the afternoon. Andy Cole added another brace to his growing collection as Kevin Keegan’s side consolidated top spot in the early season table.

Tottenham’s maximum start to the season disappeared as they were beaten 1-0 by champions Manchester United at White Hart Lane. United skipper Steve Bruce scored the only goal, heading home after Ian Walker came for a Ryan Giggs corner and got nowhere near it. Bruce then blotted his copybook by giving away a penalty for body checking Ilie Dumitrescu. However, Teddy Sheringham couldn’t convert the spot-kick. He was denied by Peter Schmeichel. It was a second failure from the penalty spot for Sheringham in four days.

With work still being done to the new Kop all-seater stand, Liverpool FC hadn’t played in the first midweek round of the season but the new era at the ground began on Super Sunday with Arsenal the visitors to Anfield. It would produce one of the most groundbreaking historical records that would stand for over two decades. Young forward Robbie Fowler was already making a name for himself. On this day, he scored the fastest hat-trick in Premier League history – a record that would last for 21 years. The 19-year-old found the net three times in just four minutes and 33 seconds. It was a record that would stand until Sadio Mane managed a quicker treble for Southampton against Aston Villa in May 2015. Liverpool won the game 3-0 and a star was well and truly born.

That meant Liverpool had won two games from two and so too had Chelsea, who produced the comeback of the round. They went 2-0 down to Leeds United inside 18 minutes, courtesy of goals from South African Phil Masinga and Leeds’ own young talent in Noel Whelan. The fightback was inspired by Dennis Wise, who scored from the penalty spot before half-time. Then, his free-kick in the 61st minute was saved by John Lukic but only into the path of John Spencer to equalise. Spencer scored the winner with two minutes left with his shot from outside the area squirming underneath Lukic’s body to complete a great turnaround from the Londoners.

After three sets of games, eight clubs were still awaiting their first victory of the campaign. Among them were Aston Villa, who were pegged back at home in the closing stages for the second successive match. Newly-promoted Crystal Palace earned a 1-1 draw thanks to Gareth Southgate’s 87th minute equaliser. Coventry City were another side without a victory and they took a second consecutive 4-0 beating on their travels. This time, it was Blackburn Rovers dishing out a thrashing, with their new striker, Chris Sutton scoring a hat-trick. Coventry had Mick Quinn sent off.

There were worrying signs too for Mike Walker at Everton whose side caved in dramatically in the second half at Maine Road. Uwe Rosler and Paul Walsh both scored twice as Manchester City eased to a 4-0 victory and Walker would only win one match in the league before being dismissed in early November by the Toffees hierarchy.

What else happened in August 1994?

  • The IRA announces a “complete cessation of military operations.”
  • The 1994 Sunday Trading Act comes into force, permitting retailers to start trading in six-hour slots on Sundays.
  • Britpop band Oasis releases their debut album Definitely Maybe; and it becomes the fastest selling debut album in the United Kingdom.
  • Sky Sports launch their second television channel, as Sky Sports 2 is born.
  • Norwich Central Library is destroyed by a huge fire, with most of the city’s historical records lost in the blaze.
  • The last traces of Eastern Europe’s Soviet occupation disappear as the Russian army vacates Estonia and Latvia.

Iconic Moments: 100+ minutes at The Emirates (April 2011)

With just one win from their last four outings, Arsenal were virtually in the final chance saloon when it came to the 2010-2011 title race when they welcomed Liverpool FC to The Emirates in mid-April. The Reds were looking revitalised under Kenny Dalglish, having recently destroyed FA Cup finalists Manchester City 3-0 at Anfield.

The game was a tight affair and it looked set to end goalless but all the drama came in stoppage-time. A nasty collision between Jack Robinson and Jamie Carragher left the experienced Liverpool defender knocked out. With lengthy treatment required, there was to be over 10 minutes of injury-time. In the seventh of those minutes, Jay Spearing fouled Cesc Fabregas in the penalty area. Fabregas tumbled over fairly easily but it was the correct decision. Robin van Persie duly converted the penalty and Arsenal players reacted as if they’d just won the title, not having got the goal to stay just about in the race.

However, the visitors had the final say. From Luis Suarez’s blocked free-kick, Emmanuel Eboue clumsily bundled Lucas over in the box and astonishingly, a second penalty was awarded. Dirk Kuyt kept his composure to earn Liverpool a point with the last kick of a fascinating match. Managers Arsene Wenger and Dalglish didn’t shake hands on the full-time whistle, with Dalglish shouting: “It was a penalty, a penalty” in the direction of the Frenchman.

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A week later, Arsenal’s title chances were firmly buried with defeat at Bolton but this game was the beginning of the end for another challenge towards the Premier League prize. It remains one of the most dramatic and lengthy stoppage-time periods in the history of the Premier League.

Memorable Matches: Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City (October 2011)

Goalscorers: Mario Balotelli 22, 60, Sergio Aguero 69, Darren Fletcher 81, Edin Dzeko 90, 90+3, David Silva 90+1

Teams:

Manchester United: David de Gea, Jonny Evans (SENT OFF), Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Chris Smalling, Anderson (Phil Jones 66), Darren Fletcher, Nani (Javier Hernandez 65), Ashley Young, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck  

Manchester City: Joe Hart, Gael Clichy, Vincent Kompany, Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards, Gareth Barry, James Milner (Aleksandar Kolarov 89), David Silva, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero (Samir Nasri 75), Mario Balotelli (Edin Dzeko 70)

Referee: Mark Clattenburg, Attendance: 75,487

The Manchester Derby is among the biggest rivalries in world football. In the 2011-2012 season, the two clubs duked it out for Premier League supremacy. Manchester City arrived at Old Trafford in October 2011 two points clear of the reigning champions. They left The Theatre of Dreams having sent shockwaves through the Premier League, inflicting United’s worst defeat since February 1955.

Fresh from a maiden victory in the UEFA Champions League in midweek over Villarreal, Roberto Mancini elected to start temperamental Italian striker Mario Balotelli ahead of Edin Dzeko. This was despite Balotelli being in the headlines for accidentally setting his house on fire with fireworks! It proved to be an inspired decision.

The home side made the better start but fell behind on 22 minutes. Set-up by James Milner, Balotelli was given far too much time to have a shot on-goal and he punished the lack of closing down from Jonny Evans. He found the bottom corner before lifting his shirt up and revealed a t-shirt bearing the slogan Why Always Me?

The turning point in the contest arrived two minutes into the second half. Balotelli sneaked in behind Evans and the central defender panicked, hauling the striker to the ground. With Balotelli sizing up a shot on-goal, referee Mark Clattenburg had no option but to send Evans off. Mancini’s side made the most of the extra man advantage to humiliate their near neighbours. On the hour mark, Milner chalked up his second assist of the day, squaring the ball for the excellent Balotelli to score at the far post.

Nine minutes later, it was 3-0. Sublime one-touch football involving Balotelli and Milner ended with Micah Richards picking out Sergio Aguero who produced virtually a carbon copy finish to Balotelli’s second. Darren Fletcher did reduce the deficit in the 81st minute with a lovely curling shot into the top corner but it was only scant consolation for a stunned home support.

Dzeko came off the bench to tap in after an unmarked Joleon Lescott had kept the ball in-play from a City corner. Moments later, the outstanding David Silva raced clear of an exposed backline and stroked a shot in-between David de Gea’s legs. Then, there was still time for Dzeko to complete the scoring, ensuring the hosts conceded six at Old Trafford for the first time in 81 years.

The result took Manchester City five points clear at the top of the table and it was a lead that wouldn’t surrender until mid-March. Despite a dip in form at that point, Mancini’s men then overhauled an eight-point deficit in April, beating the Red Devils again on their way to their first-ever Premier League title, ultimately won on goal difference on the final day of the season.   

Seasonal Stories: West Bromwich Albion (2004-2005)

Defying history  

The 2004-2005 Premier League campaign saw a fascinating battle to preserve top-flight status. On Christmas Day 2004, West Bromwich Albion were bottom of the table and looking in dire straits. No side before them had escaped relegation from this perilous situation. However, the Baggies made history and survived on an epic last day.

Megson departs

West Bromwich Albion were about to embark on their second Premier League campaign in the summer of 2004. Relegated in their debut season, the Baggies had made an instant return, finishing runners-up to Norwich City in the First Division. Once again, it was Gary Megson who would be in-charge of the men from The Hawthorns.

£5 million was invested into the squad in the summer transfer window. Rob Earnshaw came in for £3 million from Cardiff City, whilst former Nigerian international Kanu bolstered the striking options further, joining after his contract had expired at Arsenal.

The season started solidly enough with three successive 1-1 draws against Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur. However, it wasn’t until early October until a maiden victory in the season arrived. High-flying Bolton Wanderers arrived in the Midlands sitting in fourth position but they were beaten 2-1 after a week where the first signs of rifts within the dressing room and the manager had been reported in the press. Summer arrivals Kanu and Zoltan Gera got the goals in the victory over the Trotters. It ensured West Brom were the first newly-promoted club to win in the campaign.

Despite the win, relations between Megson and owner Jeremy Peace were straining towards breaking point. Shortly after the Bolton victory, Megson announced that he would not sign a new deal if offered one by the club and he would leave his post as manager at the end of the season. Three days after a 3-0 away defeat to relegation rivals Crystal Palace, he left the club by mutual consent.

After Frank Burrows steered the club through a couple of games in caretaker charge, Bryan Robson was appointed as Megson’s permanent successor, taking the post on 9th November.

Giving, not receiving

Robson’s first game in charge was against one of his former clubs in Middlesbrough. After scoring his first two goals in the 2-2 draw away at Southampton, Earnshaw scored his first home Premier League goal for the club. However, Kanu’s unbelievable miss from virtually a couple of yards out in the closing stages meant Middlesbrough went away from the Midlands with all three points.

Earnshaw was in a purple patch of form and he found the target again a week later in a very respectable 1-1 draw away at champions Arsenal. That hard-fought point at Highbury though was followed by five successive defeats, beginning with a 3-0 home defeat to Manchester United. With other sides near the bottom finding some form, West Brom plummeted to the foot of the table.

The festive season performances were the stuff of nightmares. A demoralising 4-0 loss to local rivals Birmingham City ensured West Brom would go into Christmas Day propping up the table. That result was followed by a shambolic display at home to a Liverpool FC side on Boxing Day that had won only once on the road all season. John Arne Riise scored twice and Florent Sinama-Pongolle achieved a rare Premier League goal as Liverpool left The Hawthorns with a 5-0 victory and kept the hosts marooned to the bottom of the league.

Although Richard Dunne’s late own goal earned a point at Manchester City to finish 2004, Robson was yet to win a game at the helm as manager. They were bottom of the table going into 2005 and with no club previously having avoided relegation after being bottom on Christmas Day, the club’s Premier League future looked very bleak.

29TH DECEMBER 2004 TABLE

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
15 Blackburn Rovers 20 3 10 7 19 32 -13 19
16 Fulham 20 5 3 12 22 35 -13 18
17 Crystal Palace 20 3 6 11 20 31 -11 15
18 Norwich City 20 2 9 9 17 36 -19 15
19 Southampton 20 2 8 10 18 32 -14 14
20 WEST BROMWICH ALBION 20 1 8 11 16 42 -26 11

Market moves

The opening of the January transfer window saw the chance for Robson to strengthen his squad. He brought in the experience of Kevin Campbell from Everton. His goals had saved the Toffees from relegation in 1999 and he certainly knew how to find the back of the net from his Arsenal days.

The promising midfielder Richard Chaplow was added from Burnley and Kieran Richardson joined on-loan from Manchester United. All three would play a part in this great escape. After 13 games without a win, Robson’s side recorded a 2-0 home win against Manchester City, with Campbell scoring on his home debut and Ronnie Wallwork getting a vital second in the closing stages.

Wins followed over Birmingham City and Charlton Athletic in March. At The Valley, Earnshaw scored a tremendous second half hat-trick to become the first player to score trebles in all four English divisions, the FA Cup, the League Cup and at international level for Wales. The 4-1 away victory at Charlton would turn out to be West Brom’s solitary away win of the season. However, this was the day when their fans really started to believe they could pull off the impossible.

Another win came at the start of April. Gera’s second half header steered the Baggies to a 1-0 win over Everton and took them off the foot of the table with Norwich replacing them as the basement club.

Survival Sunday

Defeats away to Middlesbrough and at home against Arsenal put Albion on the brink again as the final month of the season approached. Form continued to fluctuate between the Baggies, Crystal Palace, Norwich and Southampton. The Canaries put together a run of four wins and a draw in six games to lift themselves out of the relegation zone going into the final round of games.

Danny Higginbotham’s stoppage-time equaliser for Southampton ensured the points were shared at Selhurst Park with Crystal Palace. Later that evening, Earnshaw’s 11th Premier League goal of the season from the penalty spot earned Robson and West Brom a precious point at Old Trafford against Manchester United. For the first time in Premier League history, no side had been relegated before the final day of the season. ‘Survival Sunday’ was on.

Only Norwich had control of their situation. A win for them at Craven Cottage would relegate the other sides but they were beaten 6-0 by Fulham. That made relegation a certainty for the Canaries. Defeat at home to Manchester United meant Southampton would join them so that meant it was a straight shootout for survival between West Brom and Crystal Palace.

Albion had a winnable game at home to Portsmouth and after a nervy first half; they got the win they needed to have any chance of staying up. Seconds after arriving as a substitute, Geoff Horsfield scored the opening goal before Richardson ensured a 2-0 victory. They now needed a favour from Charlton at The Valley against Crystal Palace. With eight minutes left, Jonathan Fortune scored a dramatic equaliser for Charlton to make the scoreline 2-2 and push Palace into the drop zone. Despite their best efforts, the visitors’ couldn’t find the crucial winner they required.

FINAL 2004-2005 TABLE – THE BOTTOM SIX

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
15 Blackburn Rovers 38 9 15 14 32 43 -11 42
16 Portsmouth 38 10 9 19 43 59 -16 39
17 WEST BROMWICH ALBION 38 6 16 16 36 61 -25 34
18 Crystal Palace 38 7 12 19 41 62 -21 33
19 Norwich City 38 7 12 19 42 77 -35 33
20 Southampton 38 6 14 18 45 66 -21 32

When the full-time whistle went in London, the party could begin at The Hawthorns with memorable scenes as fans invaded the pitch to greet and carry their heroes off the field. Robson had achieved a remarkable feat. No team in history before had been bottom on Christmas Day and survived.

Relegation would follow the following season and again in 2009 under Tony Mowbray. It was only when Roy Hodgson succeeded Roberto Di Matteo in February 2011 that their reputation as a yo-yo club ended. West Brom enjoyed an eight-year spell in the Premier League before suffering a fourth Premier League relegation in 2018. Whatever West Bromwich Albion will achieve in their future, it will have to go some to beat this remarkable tale of survival achieved in 2004-2005.

Iconic Moments: Mixed emotions for Lampard (September 2014)

Frank Lampard is a living legend with all supporters of Chelsea Football Club. Joining the Blues from West Ham United in the summer of 2001, Lampard enjoyed 13 fantastic seasons at Stamford Bridge, winning three Premier League titles and the Champions League in 2012 among his honours. He also is Chelsea’s all-time record goalscorer, surpassing Bobby Tambling’s mark in May 2013.

Lampard’s contract wasn’t renewed at the end of 2013-2014 and he decided to embark on a new adventure in the United States with New York City FC. However, this was a new club in the MLS and as they needed time to set-up, Lampard was loaned out to one of New York’s partner clubs – Manchester City.

In September 2014, Lampard came off the bench at The Etihad Stadium to play against Chelsea for the first time in 13 years. Moments later, he had scored the equaliser. David Silva’s chipped ball found James Milner and he squared an opportunity to Lampard, who had made a late run into the box. He found the back of the net to fairly mixed emotions.

He understandably didn’t celebrate. The Chelsea fans looked stunned. Even Jose Mourinho looked slightly lost for words. The game ended 1-1 and both sets of supporters gave Lampard a round of applause at the end. Now manager for Derby County, he remains one of the perfect gentleman of ‘The Beautiful Game.’