Premier League Files: Wilfried Zaha

Premier League Career: Manchester United (2013), Cardiff City (2014), Crystal Palace (2014-PRESENT)

Wilfried Zaha is the key player at Crystal Palace. His ability is unquestionable and so is his talent. When Zaha plays well, Palace are a much better side. When he is injured or not in the side, the Eagles find it a major struggle without his presence. Now 26, many Premier League experts believe Zaha is one of the best players outside the top six teams. Recent form would suggest that too, although he has had a taste of the big time at Manchester United which didn’t work out for all parties.

Born in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, Zaha moved to the London Borough of Croydon at the age of four and joined the Crystal Palace academy when he was just 12. Given his first-team debut at home to Cardiff City in March 2010, he signed a two-year professional contract with the club shortly afterwards.

He immediately made his impact on the Palace side and missed just two matches in the 2010-2011 season although one goal and two assists in all competitions suggested there was more to come from the gifted winger. In March 2012, he was voted the Football League’s Young Player of the Year and his real breakthrough came in the 2012-2013 season. Eight goals in 50 appearances in all competitions were a key component of a successful season for the south Londoners. It also won him international recognition from Roy Hodgson, who gave him his first of two England caps as a substitute against Sweden in November 2012.

Two months later, Zaha got his big money move to Manchester United. He would turn out to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s last-ever signing as Manchester United manager. United paid £10 million and immediately agreed to loan him back to Palace for the remainder of the campaign. He played a huge part in the Championship play-offs that season. Two goals in the semi-final against bitter rivals Brighton & Hove Albion took Crystal Palace to Wembley. In the final itself, he won the penalty for Kevin Phillips to score the only goal against Watford which guided Crystal Palace back to the Premier League.

Mission accomplished, Zaha was off for a shot in a big team but circumstances meant it wasn’t a period in his career he will want to remember. Ferguson had retired in May 2013 from first-team management and he was replaced by fellow Scot, David Moyes. He was rarely used by Moyes and didn’t make a Premier League appearance until coming off the bench in December 2013 when Manchester United were beaten 1-0 at home by Newcastle United.

Desperate to play, Zaha moved on-loan to Cardiff City in the January transfer window but failed to score in 12 appearances as Cardiff were relegated in their debut Premier League season. It was clear Zaha’s spell at Old Trafford had seen his confidence take a substantial knock. He later criticised Moyes for not being given a fair opportunity and also felt hurt about rumours online that he had been seeing Moyes’ daughter. He mentioned: “There were rumours about Moyes’ daughter from Twitter. It was weird. I was getting tortured for something I hadn’t done. I hadn’t even met her!”

Moyes was sacked in April after a dismal season but Zaha wouldn’t be staying under new manager Louis van Gaal. He was on his way back to his spiritual home of Crystal Palace, initially on-loan in August 2014 before the transfer became permanent in the 2015 January transfer window.

In his first match back, he scored a stoppage-time equaliser to rescue a point for Crystal Palace in a 3-3 draw with Newcastle United – Neil Warnock’s first match of his second spell as Eagles boss. Zaha was back and the fans loved it. He scored four times as Palace finished 10th in the table, including a goal with virtually his first touch as a substitute in Steven Gerrard’s farewell Liverpool FC match at Anfield in May 2015. In 2015-2016, he won Crystal Palace Player of the Year at the club’s end of season awards dinner. He also scored twice in the club’s run to the FA Cup final and featured in 34 Premier League matches.

His international future was cleared up later in 2016 when in November – frustrated at not getting competitive opportunities for England, Zaha elected to switch allegiances and represent the country of his birth, Cote d’Ivoire at international level. Despite Gareth Southgate’s best efforts, Zaha stuck to his principles and made his debut for his new country at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, although it was disappointing for the team as they were eliminated in the group stages.

In 2016-2017, his levels and end product drastically improved. He scored seven times which was his best goalscoring return for any season. Among the highlights was an early goal in the 4-0 victory over Hull City that confirmed Crystal Palace’s Premier League status for another season and relegated Hull in the process.

One criticism of Zaha has been his tendency to complain about a lack of protection from officials and his tendency to go to ground easily in the penalty area. After not winning a spot-kick against Watford on Boxing Day 2016, Watford’s mascot decided to mimic a dive infront of him at full-time. It didn’t go down well with the Palace hierarchy. Recent data published has shown Zaha is the second most fouled player in the Premier League in the last three seasons – only behind Eden Hazard in this statistic.

After injury saw a delayed start to 2017-2018, Zaha’s return to first-team action was well-timed. Hodgson was now Crystal Palace manager and determined to make Zaha the focal point of his team after missing out on using him more regularly at international level with England. In his first game back, he scored the winning goal against reigning champions Chelsea – the club’s first goals and win of the season.

In April 2018, he scored four times in the month and was given the Premier League Player of the Month award, including two goals – one was a rare header in a crucial 3-2 success over Brighton. He was voted as the club’s Player of the Year again for a third successive season, matching a feat only previously achieved by Julian Speroni.

2018-2019 began with a goal on the opening day at Fulham in a 2-0 win and in a 2-1 loss at Watford a fortnight later, Zaha scored his 24th Premier League goal for the club, which saw him overtake Chris Armstrong as the club’s most successful top-flight goalscorer. His recent form has seen him score crucial goals against both Leicester City and Burnley in priceless away victories that mean the club is looking at another mid-table finish this season.

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Shock Results: Bradford City 1-0 Liverpool FC (May 2000)

Goalscorer: David Wetherall 12

Teams:

Bradford City: Matt Clarke, John Dreyer, Gunnar Halle, Andy O’Brien, David Wetherall, Jamie Lawrence, Stuart McCall, Lee Sharpe, Peter Beagrie (Wayne Jacobs 81), Dean Saunders (Isaiah Rankin 78), Dean Windass

Liverpool FC: Sander Westerveld, Jamie Carragher, Stephane Henchoz, Sami Hyypia, Dominic Matteo (Erik Meijer 82), Dietmar Hamann, Jamie Redknapp, Steven Gerrard (Vladimir Smicer 61), Patrik Berger (Titi Camara 61), Emile Heskey, Michael Owen

Referee: Dermot Gallagher, Attendance: 18,276

Tipped by many to go straight back down after promotion to the Premier League, Bradford City went into the final day of the 1999-2000 season still with a fighting chance of survival. However, they had to win against Liverpool FC who were chasing a UEFA Champions League qualification spot. Even a win might not be enough if Wimbledon got all three points in a simultaneous kick-off at The Dell against Southampton.

Before kick-off, both teams paid their respects to the 56 victims of the fire at Valley Parade 15 years earlier. From the outset, the Bantams put Liverpool under early pressure and they grabbed a vital lead in the 12th minute. From a free-kick on the left-hand side, David Wetherall escaped some pretty slack marking from Liverpool defenders and planted a powerful header into the back of the visitors’ net.

Gerard Houllier’s side had failed to score in their last four matches and were playing in the first half like a side that had lost any confidence in shooting, let alone scoring. Nevertheless, they nearly equalised when Michael Owen raced clear of the defenders from Emile Heskey’s flick-on and rounded goalkeeper Matt Clarke. However, his effort was cleared off the goal-line by Gunnar Halle, who had played a key part in Oldham’s dramatic final day escape seven years earlier.

The Valley Parade crowd was in party mood which increased further when Wayne Bridge scored a free-kick on the south coast to put Southampton ahead against Wimbledon. Having been the more attacking side in the first half, the Yorkshire side had to focus on heroic defending efforts in the second half. Owen clipped an effort just wide of the post as news came through Southampton had doubled their lead through Marian Pahars. With the Saints doing their bit, the main question now was whether Bradford could hold on. Dean Windass, whose goals recently had given Bradford a fighting chance of beating the drop, nearly caught Sander Westerveld out with a long-range lob from distance. The goalkeeper just recovered in-time to tip his effort over the crossbar.

There was a minor pitch invasion when fans mistakenly thought the full-time whistle had been blown early by referee Dermot Gallagher but moments later, he did blow and the fans could race onto the field to celebrate their unlikely but deserved survival. Champagne corks starting popping in the home dressing room as Bradford players celebrated their remarkable achievement. Manager Paul Jewell sadly left the club a few weeks’ later after disagreements with the owner and took the vacancy at relegated Sheffield Wednesday.

Relegation did follow in 2001 but this was a momentous day in the history of Bradford City Football Club. Liverpool’s defeat meant they finished fourth and were pipped to Champions League qualification by Leeds United.

Great Goals: Jose Antonio Reyes – ARSENAL vs. Middlesbrough (August 2004)

Arsenal were looking to equal Nottingham Forest’s all-time top-flight record of going 42 league matches unbeaten when they hosted Middlesbrough in the second match of the 2004-2005 season. However, that record looked to be safe when Boro went into a 3-1 lead early in the second half.

The Gunners showed their championship instincts however and stormed back to win the contest 5-3. The goal which gave them the lead was a special moment for Spanish winger Jose Antonio Reyes. Moments after Robert Pires had equalised, Reyes cut inside Dutch international full-back Michael Reiziger and fired an unstoppable right-footed drive into the far top corner of Mark Schwarzer’s net. It was part of a sequence that saw Reyes score in the first five matches of the season.

He never quite lived up to the £20 million price tag that Arsene Wenger paid for him from Sevilla but he showed moments of quality during his two-and-a-half-years at Highbury and this goal against Middlesbrough to equal a piece of English football history is right near the top of the list.

Premier League Rewind: 5th-6th November 2016

Results: AFC Bournemouth 1-2 Sunderland, Burnley 3-2 Crystal Palace, Manchester City 1-1 Middlesbrough, West Ham United 1-1 Stoke City, Chelsea 5-0 Everton, Arsenal 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool FC 6-1 Watford, Hull City 2-1 Southampton, Swansea City 1-3 Manchester United, Leicester City 1-2 West Bromwich Albion

At the start of November 2016, the top five in the table were covered by just three points. Title favourites Manchester City led the standings but had Arsenal, Liverpool FC, a revitalised Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur right on their coattails. By the end of this particular weekend, we had new leaders again and another special Premier League goalscoring milestone had been reached.

Manchester City had wobbled recently at The Etihad Stadium, having dropped points at home to Southampton and Everton and that trend continued against Middlesbrough. Just days after sweeping aside Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League group stages, it looked like the home side were on their way to a routine victory when Sergio Aguero scored two minutes before half-time. However, despite having 25 shots on-goal, they were wasteful and were punished in the first minute of stoppage-time. George Friend’s cross was met by midfielder Marten de Roon, whose header was too powerful to be stopped by Claudio Bravo, earning Boro a fourth away draw of the season. It was now just one win in five Premier League matches for Pep Guardiola.

Chelsea had the opportunity to go top following this result at Eastlands and Eden Hazard put in an exemplary performance as Everton were crushed 5-0 at Stamford Bridge. The Belgian was in masterful form, scoring twice, whilst Pedro ably assisted with a goal of his own and two assists too. Since a half-time change of formation in defeat at Arsenal at the end of September, Chelsea hadn’t conceded a goal and had now chalked up five successive victories.

On the Sunday, Arsenal had the opportunity to take over at the summit of the table as they hosted local rivals Tottenham in the latest edition of the hotly-contested North London Derby rivalry. It seemed like they were going to inflict a first defeat of the season on Mauricio Pochettino’s side when Kevin Wimmer headed the ball into his own net from a Mesut Ozil free-kick. However, Tottenham were given a penalty by Mark Clattenburg when Mousa Dembele was tripped in the penalty area by Laurent Koscielny. On his return to the starting XI following six weeks out with injury, Harry Kane made an immediate impact on his return, converting the spot-kick as Spurs extended their unbeaten run. However, they had now drawn four successive matches since beating Manchester City a month earlier.

Ultimately, it was Liverpool FC who would end the weekend as new league leaders. Jurgen Klopp’s side produced a sparkling display against a Watford side that caved in spectacularly at Anfield. Sadio Mane scored twice and Georginio Wijnaldum struck his first Reds goal as the Hornets lost 6-1 at Anfield. Liverpool were top scorers in the division with 30 goals in just 11 matches.

There was a piece of goalscoring history at The Liberty Stadium. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the 25,000th goal in Premier League history as Manchester United strolled to a 3-1 win at Swansea and moved back into the top six. It was only their second win in eight matches and left the Swans second-bottom and only above Sunderland on goal difference. There was finally some joy for the Black Cats supporters, as they came from behind to defeat AFC Bournemouth 2-1 and record their first victory of the season at the 11th attempt of asking.

The cracks were beginning to show at Leicester City. The reigning champions were performing dreadfully on their travels but at home, they were still unbeaten until West Bromwich Albion outfought and outplayed them. Matt Phillips scored the winning goal as the Baggies made the short trip back across the Midlands with all three points following a 2-1 win and left Claudio Ranieri’s side just two points above the relegation zone.

What else happened in November 2016?

  • Republican candidate Donald Trump defeats Hilary Clinton to become the 45th President of the United States.
  • Former Cuban President Fidel Castro, who spent 32 years in office, dies aged 90.
  • 71 people are killed in Colombia on-board LaMia Flight 2933 which include many of the Brazilian Chapecoense football team.
  • Thomas Mair is found guilty of murdering Labour MP Jo Cox in West Yorkshire and is sentenced to life imprisonment at The Old Bailey.
  • UKIP has a new leader as Paul Nuttall is elected.
  • BBC Television celebrates its 80th anniversary.
  • Britain’s Andy Murray becomes ATP Men’s Singles World no.1, becoming the first British player to reach no.1 in the tennis rankings in the modern era.

Premier League Files: Olof Mellberg

Premier League Career: Aston Villa (2001-2008)

Olof Mellberg was a leader and a strong part of the Aston Villa Premier League sides in the first decade of the 21st century. A strong and committed defender, few got the better of Mellberg in aerial challenges during his seven-season stay in the Premier League. He had a lengthy spell as skipper of the Villans during David O’Leary’s reign as manager and also was a figurehead for his country, winning 117 caps for Sweden.

It wasn’t until the early 1990s that Mellberg started to focus full-time on football. Growing up, he preferred tennis and had dreams of becoming the next Swedish sensation at Wimbledon rather than the World Cup. It came in a period where Bjorn Borg and Stefan Edberg enjoyed Grand Slam success for the Swedish nation.

After playing for his local side Gullspång, he had spells in the Swedish Premiership with Degerfors IF and AIK Solna, winning the championship with the latter in 1998. His first move on foreign shores was to Spain, becoming a pivotal figure at the heart of the backline for Racing Santander. After a slightly rocky beginning to his time there, Olof settled down and his promise saw him linked with higher-profile Spanish clubs, including Barcelona and Valencia.

However, it was Aston Villa who agreed a fee with Racing in the region of £5 million in the summer of 2001. Mellberg started 32 of the club’s 38 Premier League fixtures in 2001-2002 and started a relationship that means he is still considered as one of Aston Villa’s finest Premier League players. There were difficult moments. In September 2002, it was Mellberg’s throw-in back to goalkeeper Peter Enckleman which was horrendously miscontrolled by the Finn and ended up in the back of the net in the first-ever Premier League Second City Derby.

David O’Leary became Villa manager in the summer of 2003 and actually left Mellberg out of his team to play Portsmouth in his first fixture as boss. There was speculation that he would leave following this omission but Villa lost that day at Fratton Park and Mellberg was quickly recalled in his usual centre-back role. O’Leary would go on to make him captain and it was a role Mellberg held until his departure in 2006. During that time, the Midlands club finished sixth in the Premier League and reached the League Cup semi-finals.

Martin O’Neill arrived as O’Leary’s replacement and Mellberg felt it was the right time to relinquish the captaincy to local lad, Gareth Barry. In August 2006, Aston Villa were the first-ever visitors to Arsenal’s new ground and Mellberg’s second half header meant he became the first player to score in a competitive fixture at The Emirates Stadium.

At the start of the 2007-2008 season, O’Neill signed Zat Knight from Fulham and elected to play him alongside Martin Laursen at centre-back. Mellberg moved into a more unfamiliar right-back role. He was the consummate professional and did the job required with the minimum of fuss. However, with his contract running down and now, not playing in his most common role, Olof elected not to extend his contract.

In January 2008, he signed a pre-contract agreement with Juventus. On his final game for the club against West Ham United, Mellberg made a brilliant gesture by buying a shirt with his name and number on the back with the message ‘Thanks 4 Your Support’ for every fan who attended the fixture at Upton Park. This went down as a highly-thoughtful and appreciated gesture from a player who always gave his maximum to the cause for the Villans.

After his Premier League life, Mellberg spent one season with Juventus before joining Olympiacos in June 2009. He won two league championships in Greece and became one of the most well-known and respected players in Greece due to his high professionalism values. After helping Villarreal regain their top-flight status in Spain in 2012-2013, he spent one final season back in Scandinavia playing for FC Copenhagen before hanging up his boots. He has also enjoyed a spell in his homeland as a manager too, guiding Brommapojkarna to back-to-back promotions before resigning in October 2017.

On the international stage, Mellberg played at two World Cup finals and four European Championship tournaments. He skippered his country to the round-of-16 at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and scored twice in the EURO 2012 group stage game against England, although the Three Lions recovered from a 2-1 deficit to win the game 3-2.

A passionate player who was a fans favourite with all of his clubs, Olof Mellberg is widely considered as one of the best Scandinavian players to have figured in the Premier League.

Memorable Matches: Chelsea 2-4 Wimbledon (October 1996)

Goalscorers: Robbie Earle 4, Scott Minto 9, Neal Ardley 16, Marcus Gayle 64, Efan Ekoku 78, Gianluca Vialli 84 PEN

Teams:

Chelsea: Kevin Hitchcock, Steve Clarke, Erland Johnsen, Franck Leboeuf, Scott Minto (Ruud Gullit 55), Dan Petrescu, Craig Burley (John Spencer 55), Roberto Di Matteo, Eddie Newton (Dennis Wise 77), Mark Hughes, Gianluca Vialli

Wimbledon: Neil Sullivan, Dean Blackwell, Alan Kimble, Kenny Cunningham, Chris Perry, Neal Ardley, Vinnie Jones, Robbie Earle, Oyvind Leonhardsen, Efan Ekoku (Peter Fear 80), Marcus Gayle

Referee: David Elleray, Attendance: 28,020

Having lost their first three matches of the 1996-1997 season, Wimbledon had produced a phenomenal turnaround and when they travelled across the capital to play Chelsea in October 1996, they were chasing a seventh successive victory. This would equal a club-record and put them one short of Manchester United’s best effort of eight consecutive wins in the early Premier League days.

The team news was dominated by Ruud Gullit’s controversial decision to drop Dennis Wise after some recent error-strewn displays. Eddie Newton was chosen as his replacement for his first start in eight months. If Gullit was looked for a good start, he wasn’t going to get it. Wimbledon took the lead inside four minutes with one of their trademark, unfashionable goals. Vinnie Jones’ deep throw-in provided chaos in the Chelsea defence. Efan Ekoku put off Kevin Hitchcock and Robbie Earle was braver in a challenge against Franck Leboeuf to score his fourth career goal at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea had won just once in their last four matches but provided an instant response. From a pre-planned free-kick routine, Dan Petrescu teed-up Scott Minto and the full-back, only starting because of an injury to Andy Myers, scored his first-ever goal for Chelsea. Wimbledon regained their lead on 16 minutes. Neal Ardley got away from Newton and his shot seemed to completely deceive Hitchcock who was going in one direction and the ball went in another. It was the strangest of goals but Wimbledon weren’t complaining. They were back infront. It was nearly 3-1 before half-time too. Marcus Gayle was too clever for Steve Clarke and was desperately unlucky not to score as his shot was deflected onto the crossbar by a relieved Hitchcock.

10 minutes into the second half and Gullit decided to make a bold decision with a double substitution, bringing himself into the game along with another forward in John Spencer. It was Gullit’s first appearance since being appointed player-manager in the summer. The gamble backfired. Although there was an initial lift in terms of the atmosphere, it was Wimbledon who installed a two-goal cushion nine minutes after this tactical alteration.

From a punt up the park by Dean Blackwell, Gayle was given too much time and space, committed Clarke into a challenge he was always second-best to and then curled a wonderful shot with the outside of his left-foot into the goal. Gullit had a goal disallowed for offside and the match as a contest was firmly put out of Chelsea’s reach with 12 minutes left to play. Leboeuf woefully misjudged a clearance and his miscue put Ekoku in. The Nigerian provided a brilliant finish into the bottom corner to score his sixth goal in as many matches.

In the closing stages, a frustrated Gianluca Vialli was brought down by Kenny Cunningham in the penalty area, allowing the home side the chance to score a second goal. Vialli’s penalty was audacious and fortuitously crossed the line, with Neil Sullivan saving it behind the goal-line. However, this was one of Wimbledon’s finest away performances and it took them into second position in the Premier League table. The Dons eventually finished in eighth spot.

Chelsea’s season took a tragic turn just days after this game. Following a League Cup defeat in midweek away at Bolton Wanderers, Chelsea vice-chairman Matthew Harding was killed in a helicopter crash. The Blues rallied from this devastating news to finish sixth in the Premier League and win the FA Cup, beating Wimbledon in the semi-finals at Highbury.

The Clubs: Bolton Wanderers

All-Time Premier League Record

Played Won Drew Lost Scored Conceded Goal Difference Points No of Seasons
494 149 128 217 575 745 -170 575 13

 

Most Premier League Appearances

Player Appearances Total
Jussi Jaaskelainen 379
Kevin Davies 316
Kevin Nolan 261
Ricardo Gardner 251
Ivan Campo 172
Bruno N’Gotty 147
Henrik Pedersen 143
Stelios Giannakopoulos 137
Per Frandsen 134
Gudni Bergsson 130

 

Most Premier League Goals

Player Goals Total
Kevin Davies 67
Kevin Nolan 39
Matt Taylor 23
Henrik Pedersen 22
Nicolas Anelka 21
El-Hadji Diouf 21
Youri Djorkaeff 20
Stelios Giannakopoulos 20
Ivan Klasnic 20
Michael Ricketts 19

 

Biggest Premier League Victories

Match Date Season
Leicester City 0-5 Bolton Wanderers 18th August 2001 2001-2002
Bolton Wanderers 5-0 Stoke City 6th November 2011 2011-2012
Bolton Wanderers 5-1 Newcastle United 20th November 2010 2010-2011
Everton 0-4 Bolton Wanderers 17th December 2005 2005-2006
Bolton Wanderers 4-0 West Ham United 9th December 2006 2006-2007
Bolton Wanderers 4-0 Wigan Athletic 13th March 2010 2009-2010
Queens Park Rangers 0-4 Bolton Wanderers 13th August 2011 2011-2012
Bolton Wanderers 5-2 Crystal Palace 2nd May 1998 1997-1998
Middlesbrough 1-4 Bolton Wanderers 17th February 1996 1995-1996
Bolton Wanderers 4-1 Ipswich Town 6th April 2002 2001-2002

 

Worst Premier League Defeats

Match Date Season
Bolton Wanderers 0-6 Manchester United 25th February 1996 1995-1996
Sheffield Wednesday 5-0 Bolton Wanderers 8th November 1997 1997-1998
Bolton Wanderers 0-5 Manchester United 25th February 1996 1995-1996
Manchester City 6-2 Bolton Wanderers 18th October 2003 2003-2004
Bolton Wanderers 1-5 Coventry City 31st January 1998 1997-1998
Chelsea 5-1 Bolton Wanderers 23rd December 2001 2001-2002
Chelsea 5-1 Bolton Wanderers 15th October 2005 2005-2006
Middlesbrough 5-1 Bolton Wanderers 20th January 2007 2006-2007
Aston Villa 5-1 Bolton Wanderers 7th November 2009 2009-2010
Bolton Wanderers 1-5 Chelsea 2nd October 2011 2011-2012

 

Managers

Manager No of Seasons managed Left the Club
Roy McFarland 1 7th January 1996
Colin Todd 2 22nd September 1999
Sam Allardyce 6 30th April 2007
Sammy Lee 1 17th October 2007
Gary Megson 3 30th December 2009
Owen Coyle 3 9th October 2012

 

Highest Home Attendances

Match Date Attendance Figure Season
Bolton Wanderers 2-2 Leicester City 28th December 2003 28,353 2003-2004
Bolton Wanderers 0-0 Fulham 6th February 2010 28,353 2009-2010
Bolton Wanderers 1-1 Arsenal 20th December 2003 28,003 2003-2004
Bolton Wanderers 1-0 Liverpool FC 29th August 2004 27,880 2004-2005
Bolton Wanderers 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur 1st February 2005 27,780 2004-2005
Bolton Wanderers 2-2 Manchester United 11th September 2004 27,766 2004-2005
Bolton Wanderers 1-2 Manchester United 1st April 2006 27,718 2005-2006
Bolton Wanderers 3-2 Everton 15th May 2005 27,701 2004-2005
Bolton Wanderers 1-2 Manchester United 7th January 2004 27,668 2003-2004
Bolton Wanderers 0-2 Chelsea 30th April 2005 27,653 2004-2005

 

Intro

Bolton Wanderers have played Premier League football in 13 seasons and at their peak, the Trotters enjoyed four successive finishes in the top eight under the guidance of Sam Allardyce, peaking with sixth position in 2004-2005. Bolton’s ability to get the best out of experienced players such as Jay-Jay Okocha, Youri Djorkaeff, Ivan Campo and Gary Speed served them well for several years. Relegation came in 2012 under Owen Coyle’s stewardship and with current severe financial problems; it is looking difficult to see Bolton returning to the top-flight in the short-term.

 

1995-1996

After an absence of 15 years, Bolton Wanderers returned to the top-flight in 1995-1996 and produced an early season surprise when they defeated reigning champions Blackburn Rovers 2-1. However, they remained at the foot of the table for much of the campaign and in early January, manager Roy McFarland was sacked. His assistant Colin Todd took over and although results did improve, the damage had already been done and Bolton went down on the final Saturday of the season, losing 1-0 to Southampton.

 

1997-1998

1997-1998 was the first season Bolton Wanderers moved into their new state-of-the-art home and there was controversy in their opening match at The Reebok Stadium. In a goalless draw with Everton, Bolton were denied a goal when Terry Phelan hooked the ball off the goal-line when the ball had clearly crossed the line. It would prove to be a decisive moment in their season. Colin Todd paid a club-record fee to bring Dean Holdsworth to the club in October for £3.5 million and they had a strong home record, winning seven times. However, they went into the final day still needing a positive result to survive.

Bolton went to Chelsea but despite a brave effort, lost 2-0 and were relegated on goal difference as Everton’s 1-1 draw with Coventry City was enough to keep the Toffees in the Premier League. Bolton fans felt robbed because of the controversy during the early-season encounter with Everton in the days where goal-line technology was just a pipedream.

 

2001-2002

After a four-year absence, Bolton returned to the Premier League with Sam Allardyce as manager and made an amazing start, winning their first three games which included a 2-1 victory over Liverpool FC. Michael Ricketts’ form won him an England international call-up in February and Ricketts also scored the winning goal at Old Trafford as Bolton stunned the champions in October. Form dipped in the winter and it was only the arrivals of Fredi Bobic and Youri Djorkaeff that kept Bolton away from danger. A masterful first half display against Ipswich Town which saw the home side go 4-0 infront before half-time was a crucial result. Bolton finished in 16th place and avoided relegation for the first time in their Premier League existence.

 

2002-2003

Bolton enjoyed another promising start to the 2002-2003 season. They bounced back well from an opening day 4-1 loss to Fulham by defeating both Aston Villa and then, for a second successive season, success at Old Trafford with Kevin Nolan’s only strike of the season beating Manchester United. Only two wins in their next 21 games followed and another relegation scrap would follow. However, the form of Youri Djorkaeff, Per Frandsen and Jay-Jay Okocha was important in the run-in. They lost only two of their final 13 matches and survival was achieved at West Ham’s expense on the final day after beating Middlesbrough 2-1.

 

2003-2004

Fears of another relegation scramble looked like a distinct possibility after back-to-back 4-0 defeats on the road at Manchester United and Portsmouth. In fact, Bolton won just one of their first 10 matches but Kevin Nolan’s matchwinner at White Hart Lane in early November was the catalyst for a big improvement from Sam Allardyce’s side. They actually enjoyed a comfortable season, finishing in a tremendous eighth position with a run of five successive victories achieved towards the end of the season. Bolton also reached the League Cup final but lost the showpiece event 2-1 to Middlesbrough.

 

2004-2005

The arrivals of Fernando Hierro, Gary Speed and El-Hadji Diouf in pre-season added to the quality and experience that Sam Allardyce was forming. The Trotters won three of their first four matches and sat in fourth place after beating Newcastle United 2-1 at the end of October. However, they ended 2004 in 13th place after a dreadful December which brought six successive defeats. Bolton recovered brilliantly from this mid-season slump to beat Arsenal and Everton in the second half of the campaign and finished in a Premier League high of sixth, level on points with Liverpool FC and only behind the Reds on goal difference.

 

2005-2006

Sam Allardyce had a new assistant with Sammy Lee replacing Phil Brown after Brown decided to go and manage Derby County. Bolton were competing in the UEFA Cup and reached the round-of-32 before bowing out to Marseille. Domestically, the Trotters had another impressive season and looked set for another top six finish until a five-game losing sequence towards the campaign’s end saw them slide to eighth at the season’s end. Allardyce was interviewed for the England manager’s job but lost out on the role to Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren.

 

2006-2007

Nicolas Anelka was a major new arrival in the summer and although it took until November for him to score, the Frenchman finished with 11 goals to be the club’s top scorer. Bolton again proved tough to beat and sat in third spot on New Years’ Day only below Manchester United and Chelsea in the table. They eventually finished seventh and secured European qualification again but lost their manager as Allardyce resigned three games before the end of the season. Sammy Lee succeeded him.

 

2007-2008

Bolton made a very slow start to 2007-2008 and after winning just one match in their first nine of the campaign; Sammy Lee was fired in mid-October. Gary Megson was the surprise replacement and it wasn’t a popular appointment either. Megson though managed to galvanise the team to a shock victory over Manchester United in November with Nicolas Anelka scoring the only goal. Anelka scored 10 times before leaving for Chelsea in the January transfer window. An unbeaten five-game sequence at the end of the season, including a final day draw at Stamford Bridge kept Bolton in the top-flight but down in 16th place and only safe by a solitary point from relegated Reading.

 

2008-2009

Anelka’s long-term replacement in the striking department was Johan Elmander who arrived for a club-record fee of £8.2 million from Toulouse. The Swede struggled though in his debut campaign and so did Bolton again, who eventually finished 13th and lost exactly half of their 38 games. Bolton’s best period came in November when they four out of their five matches including an impressive 4-1 away victory at Sunderland which spelt the end for Roy Keane as Black Cats boss.

 

2009-2010

The pressure was on Gary Megson early on when Bolton finished August pointless from all three matches played. Just four victories were recorded in the first half of the campaign and after throwing away a two-goal lead to draw with fellow strugglers Hull City during the festive period, Megson was sacked. It was a popular decision with many who had grown tired of his sterile tactics and lack of productive results. Bolton then pursued former player Owen Coyle and managed to persuade him to leave Burnley to take the vacancy at The Reebok. Coyle managed six further victories including a priceless success over his former club in January and completed his short-term mission of keeping Bolton in the Premier League. They eventually finished 14th.

 

2010-2011

Bolton Wanderers enjoyed a mini renaissance in 2010-2011 and were strong all season at The Reebok Stadium. They won 10 times on home soil, with Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal among their victims. The 2-1 victory over the Gunners in April finished off Arsenal’s title challenge for another season. Coyle’s team were sixth just before Christmas and playing some superb football. Elmander enjoyed his best campaign in English football and scored a Goal of the Season contender in a 3-2 away victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers in November.

There was also a run to the FA Cup semi-finals which ended in a demoralising 5-0 defeat to Stoke City and that had a damaging effect on the run-in. The Trotters lost their last five games of the season and ended 14th for the second successive campaign, despite sitting in the top half for the majority of the season.

 

2011-2012

A 4-0 opening day victory away at Queens Park Rangers turned out to be a false dawn. Bolton went on to lose their next six matches, losing heavily to Manchester United and Chelsea on home soil too. There was a 5-0 triumph over Stoke in November to exact nice revenge on the Potters for April’s FA Cup semi-final hiding but Bolton went into 2012 bottom of the table.

In March, midfielder Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest in the first half of their FA Cup quarter-final against Tottenham Hotspur. Muamba would make a full recovery but had to retire from playing football professionally after the incident.

After conceding a two-goal lead to draw their final home match of the season against West Bromwich Albion, Bolton had to win at Stoke on the final day to have any chance of avoiding relegation. The 2-2 draw wasn’t enough and that meant they were relegated back to the Championship despite QPR’s final day defeat at Manchester City.

The Managers: Gerry Francis

Premier League Clubs Managed: Queens Park Rangers (1992-1994), Tottenham Hotspur (1994-1998)

Gerry Francis was a club legend at Queens Park Rangers and guided Tottenham Hotspur through a challenging but exciting period in the mid-1990s when he could call on the likes of Teddy Sheringham, Jurgen Klinsmann and Darren Anderton to drive the team on in the Premier League.

Management for Gerry in the top-flight ended over 20 years ago but he was still involved as a coach in the top-flight all the way until Tony Pulis’ departure from Crystal Palace on the eve of the 2014-2015 season getting underway.

QPR and England hand-in-hand

In his playing career, Gerry Francis made his name at Queens Park Rangers. He made his first-team debut against Liverpool FC back in March 1969. Throughout the 1970s, he was part of a Hoops squad that were thrilling to watch and challenged the elite in the old First Division. He was captain of the club during that period and also got the thrill of winning 12 international caps for England, skippering the Three Lions in eight of those games after being appointed captain by Don Revie. Unfortunately, this was during a difficult period for the men’s international team, who failed to qualify for the World Cup finals in both 1974 and 1978.

After a decade of loyal service to QPR, Francis left for Crystal Palace in 1979 but already troubled by a persistent back injury, his influence on sides he played in afterwards were limited. He ended his playing career in 1987 having had stints at Coventry City, Cardiff City, Swansea City, Portsmouth and Bristol Rovers which is where he hung up his playing boots. It was at Bristol Rovers where he would enjoy his managerial breakthrough.

Gerry had already a season on his books as a player-manager with Exeter City in 1983-1984 so he wasn’t a complete rookie when he took over as manager of Bristol Rovers. They were in the Third Division and he succeeded Bobby Gould in the role. Bristol Rovers were a club who often sold their best players and didn’t have much of a transfer budget but Francis often got the best out of his players. In 1990, he guided the club to the Third Division title which remains the only honour of his managerial career. In 1991 though, a return beckoned to the club he called as home.

Lack of consultation

Having made 313 league appearances across two spells as a player at Queens Park Rangers, the fans were thrilled to have Francis back as their manager when he returned to Loftus Road in 1991, succeeding Don Howe as manager. Like his playing days, Francis’ insistence was clear – to go out and have fun and thrill the supporters and at QPR, his sides definitely did that.

In the inaugural Premier League season, QPR finished fifth and were the highest-placed of all the London clubs in the division. Les Ferdinand flourished and finished as runner-up to Teddy Sheringham in the race for the Golden Boot and the Londoners were becoming a good watch for all concerned.

A ninth place finish followed in 1993-1994 and once again, Ferdinand was amongst the goals but Francis was becoming frustrated by the club’s desire to sell its best assets available. In March 1994, ambitious Wolverhampton Wanderers offered him the chance to manage them but Francis turned them down, staying loyal to QPR despite being annoyed by seeing Darren Peacock transferred to Newcastle United on transfer deadline day. Wolves eventually appointed the former England boss Graham Taylor as their new manager.

His resolve was being tested and in October 1994, his patience finally ran out. QPR made a slow start to the season and were amongst the relegation strugglers. Owner Richard Thompson decided to offer another club legend, Rodney Marsh, the opportunity to return to the club in a Director of Football capacity. Francis was not consulted about these desires and was absolutely furious. Ever the professional, he got on with the job in-hand and back-to-back home victories in three days over Aston Villa and Liverpool FC started to guide Rangers away from danger. This time though, he knew he couldn’t stay.

He tendered his resignation a week later which was reluctantly accepted by the board. Five days later, a new opportunity emerged at another London club who were in a spot of bother.

Testing Tottenham

Tottenham Hotspur had sacked Ossie Ardiles in early November 1994 after a string of poor results which had culminated with a shock 3-0 loss to Notts County in the League Cup third round. Off-the-pitch, the club was facing a deduction of points for financial irregularities and had been banned from playing in the FA Cup. It didn’t seem like the most enticing job available.

Francis though realised there was plenty of potential in the squad and he took the job when offered the position by owner Alan Sugar. His principles remained the same as at QPR but also, defensive responsibility was required after the Ardiles reign which often bordered on recklessness. Tottenham immediately improved defensively and the likes of Sol Campbell, Colin Calderwood, Dean Austin and Justin Edinburgh became better players due to confidence and also, Francis’ coaching. Their improvement meant the likes of Klinsmann, Sheringham, Anderton and Nick Barmby could focus on doing the damage in a potent attacking line-up.

Tottenham became the first team in the campaign to stop Manchester United scoring at Old Trafford, beat champions-elect Blackburn Rovers 3-1 in February and with their ban successfully overturned, also reached the FA Cup semi-finals, knocking out Liverpool FC 2-1 at Anfield in the quarter-finals. They were tipped to go all the way in this competition but lost 4-1 in the semi-finals to a Daniel Amokachi-inspired Everton at Elland Road. In the Premier League, Tottenham finished in seventh place which was a good achievement considering they were just outside the bottom four relegation positions when Francis took over.

The summer of 1995 saw Klinsmann return to Germany and Barmby sold to newly-promoted Middlesbrough. Chris Armstrong arrived from Crystal Palace and formed a good partnership with Sheringham, whilst Ruel Fox added pace to the flanks after his October arrival from Newcastle United. Tottenham finished in eighth position in 1995-1996, with a 4-1 home victory over Manchester United on New Years’ Day among the highlights.

Fans though were unhappy with his handling of Anderton, who was developing a reputation of becoming an injury-prone player. Across his two full seasons at White Hart Lane, Darren was restricted to just 25 Premier League appearances due to injuries with many supporters believing he wasn’t given enough recovery and rehabilitation time by the manager after his latest injury setbacks.

In October 1997, supporters had had enough. Before a televised home game with Sheffield Wednesday, two fans were interviewed on television saying: “Had his time, spent his money, not producing results” and “Just get rid of him, he’s useless!”

Tottenham won that match 3-2 but despite the arrivals of David Ginola and Ferdinand that summer from Newcastle United, results just weren’t coming. 11 days after a second half collapse at Anfield which saw Spurs on the wrong end of a 4-0 scoreline, Francis resigned as first-team manager, despite Sugar trying to do all he could to persuade him to change his mind.

Coach time

In September 1998, Gerry decided to return to Queens Park Rangers as manager for the second time with the club now in the First Division. He couldn’t rekindle the magic of his first spell and despite keeping them in the division; they were often closer to the relegation strugglers rather than the play-off positions. He resigned in February 2001 before returning to Bristol Rovers four months later for a second time as manager there too. Like at QPR, it was a bad move and after a family illness meant he had three weeks of compassionate leave, he resigned just before Christmas 2001. That was the end of his management career.

Gerry returned to the Premier League in October 2008 as a first-team coach at Stoke City to work underneath Tony Pulis. That was after rejecting a similar role at Newcastle United due to the club’s uncertainty regarding the future of owner Mike Ashley at the time. When Pulis left Stoke in May 2013, Francis left too and resurfaced with the Welshman when Tony took over at Crystal Palace in November 2013. He stayed with the Eagles until Neil Warnock’s appointment as manager for the second time was confirmed in August 2014. Although Warnock wanted him to stay on, Francis elected to leave due to his close links with the previous manager.

Gerry Francis is a proud man and actually was never sacked as a manager which is an impressive feat. He might lack the managerial honours but often got the best out of his players and enjoyed some whirlwind moments whilst the no.1 at both Queens Park Rangers and Tottenham Hotspur.

Great Goals: Harry Kane – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR vs. Arsenal (March 2016)

Harry Kane has loved playing against the old enemy from North London since he made his derby debut in 2015. In March 2016, he produced a glorious shot from the edge of the penalty area to give Tottenham the lead against Arsenal in a game both sides were looking to try and win to close the gap on Leicester City at the top of the table.

The game was delicately poised at 1-1 with goals from Aaron Ramsey and Toby Alderweireld either side of Francis Coquelin being sent off for two bookable offences. Kevin Wimmer played what seemed like a hopeful ball into the corner but Dele Alli hadn’t given it up, beating Per Mertesacker to the ball and back-heeling it into the path of Kane.

Kane cut inside and produced a special curling effort that flashed past David Ospina. Wearing a protected mask after a recent facial injury, Kane ripped it off and raced off into the opposite corner of the ground to be chased gamely by his jubilant teammates. It ranks up with the best-ever North London Derby goals scored at the old White Hart Lane ground.

It wasn’t enough for all three points as Alexis Sanchez found an equaliser for Arsenal and the points were shared in a 2-2 draw. Kane though had demonstrated again why he is considered as one of the world’s best strikers.

Iconic Moments: Stunning Scorpion goals (December 2016 & January 2017)

Within two weeks in the 2016-2017 Premier League season, fans were treated to a new form of goalscoring method by the form of the ‘Scorpion Kick.’

On Boxing Day 2016, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was the first to try this and the Armenian’s effort in Manchester United’s 3-1 victory over struggling Sunderland was a piece of beauty, as he flicked the ball in from Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s cross. Surely, it was something we wouldn’t see again for a long time to come.

Olivier Giroud had other ideas with a technically even better effort for Arsenal against Crystal Palace on New Years’ Day 2017. From a clinical Arsenal counter-attack, Giroud showed spectacular athleticism and from a higher ball played in than Mkhitaryan’s effort, he managed to somehow get enough on his effort to go into the back of the Palace net off the underside of the crossbar.

The Premier League never disappoints and although we haven’t seen any further acrobatic efforts like this since, these goals from Mkhitaryan and Giroud show it can be done with some luck and also, sheer quality.

Memorable Matches: West Ham United 3-5 Manchester United (March 2002)

Goalscorers: Steve Lomas 8, David Beckham 17, 89 PEN, Freddie Kanoute 20, Nicky Butt 22, Paul Scholes 55, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 64, Jermain Defoe 78

Teams:

West Ham United: David James, Christian Dailly, Vladimir Labant, Tomas Repka, Sebastien Schemmel, Nigel Winterburn (Jermain Defoe 74), Michael Carrick, Steve Lomas, Joe Cole, Paolo Di Canio, Freddie Kanoute

Manchester United: Fabien Barthez, Laurent Blanc, Ronny Johnsen, Gary Neville, Mikael Silvestre, Nicky Butt, Roy Keane, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Diego Forlan 84), Ruud van Nistelrooy (Quinton Fortune 87)

Referee: Mark Halsey, Attendance: 35,281

Manchester United had recovered brilliantly from a sloppy start to their title defence in the 2001-2002 Premier League season and the Red Devils had the chance to reassert their authority over their nearest challengers in March 2002 when they travelled to Upton Park to play West Ham United.

It turned into a pulsating contest with plenty of great attacking and some insipid defending from both teams. West Ham got the ball rolling after eight minutes. Czech defender Vladimir Labant delivered a brilliant cross into the penalty area and it was attacked with venom by Steve Lomas, whose header crashed past Fabien Barthez off the underside of the crossbar. Glenn Roeder’s side were looking for a rare league double over the Red Devils, having beaten them 1-0 at Old Trafford in December.

The champions’ response came in beautiful fashion from the England captain. On 17 minutes, Paul Scholes intercepted possession from Joe Cole, found David Beckham and he did the rest with an exquisite chip over his international colleague David James from the edge of the 18-yard box. It was delicate, classy and cheeky from Beckham and not his last vital contribution either.

Parity lasted though for just three minutes. Freddie Kanoute found some space in the visiting penalty area and lashed a shot beyond Barthez to put the home side back infront. However, Manchester United quickly levelled the scores again. Nicky Butt’s right-foot shot finding the net after being found by Beckham at a free-kick. The high-tempo continued from both teams in a breathless first 45 minutes but Ferguson’s side started to gain a stranglehold on the match early in the second half and took the lead for the first time 10 minutes after the restart. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer evaded the attentions of two defenders and his cross found an unmarked Scholes, who couldn’t miss from six-yards out.

As West Ham opened up even more, the clinical approach of Manchester United’s play was demonstrated further by their fourth goal, scored by Solskjaer. Despite the best efforts of James and Sebastian Schemmel who blocked efforts from Ruud van Nistelrooy and Solskjaer, the Norwegian was not to be denied at the third attempt of asking.

Within four minutes of his arrival from the bench, Jermain Defoe pulled the scoreline back to 4-3 with 12 minutes remaining but this time, the champions kept control and grabbed a fifth goal towards the end. Beckham’s second of a masterful performance came from the penalty spot after Tomas Repka had been penalised for fouling Scholes. The win put Sir Alex Ferguson’s side back at the top of the Premier League table but two further home defeats in the run-in, including a shock reverse to Middlesbrough a week later saw their three-year stranglehold on the Premier League ultimately ended by Arsenal.

Premier League Files: David Ngog

Premier League Career: Liverpool FC (2008-2011), Bolton Wanderers (2011-2012), Swansea City (2014)

Still only 29, David Ngog has been much-travelled in recent times since his Premier League career ended in 2014. Ngog currently plays in Hungary for Budapest Honved having played in the French, Greek and Scottish top divisions since he left Swansea City in 2014. At Budapest, he wears one of the more unconventional squad numbers currently around in professional football – no.89.

Cousin of former Auxerre and Newcastle United defender Jean-Alain Boumsong, Ngog started his career in 2001 in the youth academy at French superpower, Paris Saint-Germain. He was promoted into the first-team ranks in 2006 and made 14 appearances across three years. In July 2008, he left the French capital and joined Liverpool FC as a backup striker. Rafa Benitez was delighted that his scouting network had discovered Ngog and he scored in just his second game for the club in a pre-season friendly against Rangers.

His first meaningful LFC goal arrived in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League in December 2008, sealing a 3-1 away victory against PSV Eindhoven. Ngog scored in home victories over Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers in 2008-2009 as he played a dutiful back-up role to Fernando Torres. He figured more prominently in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 Premier League campaigns, making 49 appearances but he scored just seven times and failed to live up to his undoubted early potential that had seen Benitez sign him.

Ngog did score against some top sides, including the second goal in a 2-0 home win over Manchester United in October 2009 and Liverpool’s first goal of the 2010-2011 Premier League season in a 1-1 draw with Arsenal. However with Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll, Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt all seen as better options by Kenny Dalglish, Ngog was sold on transfer deadline day in August 2011 for £4 million to Bolton Wanderers.

He made 33 appearances in 2011-2012 but scored just three times and Bolton were relegated from the top-flight. Fulham showed an interest that summer to keep him in the Premier League but a bid was rejected by Bolton and Ngog actually stayed with the Trotters in the Championship, scoring 11 times in the second-tier of English football before moving to Swansea City in 2014.

His time in south Wales wasn’t anything to write home about. Three appearances, no goals and his six-year spell in the English leagues ended in September 2014 when he signed a two-year contract with Stade Reims. Since then, he has played for Panionios, Ross County and Budapest Honved where he scored seven minutes into his league debut for his current club in August 2018.