Iconic Moments: Ali Dia – The worst Premier League player of all-time? (November 1996)

Throughout the history of the Premier League, there have been some amazing players who have graced these shores from the likes of Henry, Cantona and Zola to Aguero, Salah and Bergkamp. However, the English top-flight has also seen its fair share of flops and players who simply haven’t delivered on their potential. Others just aren’t good enough to reach the top level and quite possibly the worst is Ali Dia.

This weird but true story began in November 1996. Manager of Southampton at the time, Graeme Souness received a phone call from someone claiming to be the current World Player of the Year at the time, George Weah. The claim was that Dia was Weah’s cousin, had played 13 times for his country Senegal and also been a Paris Saint-Germain player. The call was actually made by one of Dia’s friends from University. If proper research had been carried out at the time, they would have seen that as recently as September 1996, the same player had made just one substitute appearance for non-league side Blyth Spartans!

Souness fell for it and Dia was signed on a one-month contract. A few days later, he was named as a substitute against Leeds United and got an unexpected opportunity when a calf injury forced Matt Le Tissier to be replaced by Dia after 32 minutes. His 53-minute cameo was nothing short of laughable and embarrassing. Withdrawn for Ken Monkou with five minutes left, Dia was never seen again in the Premier League. Le Tissier later said: “His performance was almost comical. He kind of took my place, but he didn’t really have a position. He was just wondering everywhere. I don’t think he realised what position he was supposed to be in.”

Dia gave up the game in 1997 after a couple more unsuccessful spells in the non-league with Gateshead and Spennymoor United. He went on to receive a Master of Business Administration from San Francisco State University in 2003.

Ali Dia – quite possibly the worst player to ever feature in the history of the Premier League.

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Great Goals: Stephen Carr – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR vs. Manchester United (October 1999)

On a wet and murky Saturday afternoon in October 1999, Stephen Carr produced a long-range pile driver for Tottenham Hotspur against reigning champions Manchester United. Driving forward from the right-hand side of the centre circle, Carr had plenty of space to run into as Red Devils defenders, including Phil Neville retreated away from making a challenge.

With this invitation, Carr elected to try his luck from distance and his terrific shot zipped into the top corner of the net. New Manchester United goalkeeper Mark Bosnich had no chance to stop this shot but in all honesty, the man he replaced, Peter Schmeichel, would have struggled to keep this effort out too.

Tottenham enjoyed a 3-1 victory on the day and it was one of only three Premier League losses Manchester United suffered during a dominant 1999-2000 season which saw them retain the title by a comfortable 18-point margin.

Memorable Matches: Newcastle United 5-0 Manchester United (October 1996)

Goalscorers: Darren Peacock 12, David Ginola 30, Les Ferdinand 63, Alan Shearer 75, Philippe Albert 83

Teams:

Newcastle United: Pavel Srnicek, Philippe Albert, John Beresford, Darren Peacock, Steve Watson (Warren Barton 87), David Batty, David Ginola, Rob Lee (Lee Clark 87), Peter Beardsley, Les Ferdinand, Alan Shearer

Manchester United: Peter Schmeichel, Denis Irwin, Gary Neville, Ronny Johnsen (Paul Scholes 66), David May, Gary Pallister, Nicky Butt, Karel Poborsky (Brian McClair 66), David Beckham, Eric Cantona, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Jordi Cruyff 56)

Referee: Steve Dunn, Attendance: 36,579

Manchester United and Newcastle United had developed an intense and bitter rivalry in the mid-1990s. The Red Devils had snatched the title in 1996, clawing back a 12-point deficit in mid-January on the Magpies to take their third Premier League championship in four years. This match in October 1996 was Newcastle’s chance to get their revenge and they did so in a wonderful exhibition of football that saw the reigning champions destroyed on a wet Sunday afternoon on Tyneside.

Newcastle took the lead in the 12th minute. From a David Ginola corner, Alan Shearer won his header against Gary Pallister and Darren Peacock stabbed his shot towards goal. It looked like Denis Irwin might have cleared the ball off the goal-line but the linesman adjudged the ball had crossed the line before Irwin’s intervention. Despite the protests from Peter Schmeichel, the goal was given.

Alex Ferguson and Kevin Keegan had been involved in a feisty war of words at the end of the previous season, leading to Keegan’s “I will love it if we beat them” rant live on Sky television in April 1996. Five months later, Keegan definitely loved this performance and on the half-hour mark, his team went 2-0 ahead. Ginola held off the attentions of Gary Neville, who allowed him to turn inside. The Frenchman unleashed a powerful drive which flew past Schmeichel before he could react to it. It was a sensational moment from the winger who was enjoying one of his best games in a Newcastle shirt. Shearer was unlucky not to make it 3-0 before half-time too when he struck the post with a long-distance strike. The home side were performing at an unbelievably high level.

Manchester United had to improve after the break and they nearly found a way back into the match soon after the restart. Karel Poborsky’s header was well-saved by Pavel Srnicek before a combination of Steve Watson and Peacock produced a goal-line clearance to deny Eric Cantona. Victory was virtually secured on 63 minutes when Shearer produced a delightful ball into the box and Les Ferdinand outjumped David May. The forward’s header went in off the underside of the crossbar. Manchester United’s unbeaten start to the Premier League season was going to end spectacularly.

Goal number four arrived on 75 minutes. Schmeichel did superbly to deny Peter Beardsley and Ferdinand but Shearer finally added his name to the scoresheet and he enjoyed the moment, having been goaded all afternoon by visiting fans after turning down the opportunity to sign for Manchester United that summer to come home to his boyhood club. The crowning on the performance was produced by Philippe Albert with seven minutes left to play. Rob Lee and David Batty played a quick passing exchange and with no pressure on him and spotting Schmeichel off his goal-line, Albert chipped the Dane with panache and class to complete a memorable afternoon.

This was Manchester United’s worst defeat for 12 years and Newcastle’s first-ever Premier League success over the reigning champions. However, by the end of the season, the championship trophy remained in the trophy cabinet at Old Trafford.

Premier League Files: Steve Finnan

Premier League Career: Fulham (2001-2003), Liverpool FC (2003-2008), Portsmouth (2009-2010)

Republic of Ireland right-back Steve Finnan has a unique feat of being the only player to have played in the World Cup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, UEFA Intertoto Cup, all four levels of English league football and the Conference. Known predominately for his tremendous ability to cross the ball and flying forward to help out attacking situations, Finnan was a quality defender and a fans favourite at both Fulham and Liverpool FC. He was often one of the unsung heroes, especially during Rafa Benitez’s tenure at Anfield.

Finnan began his career in the youth system at Wimbledon but was released by the club at the age of 16 and had to work his way up from non-league level with Welling United. It was Birmingham City who helped him turn professional in 1995, paying Welling United a fee of £100,000 to sign him. Steve would move on to Notts County in March 1996, initially on-loan where he helped them reach the Second Division play-off final, losing to Bradford City. His impressive loan period with them was enough for the club to offer Birmingham £300,000 for his services in October 1996.

After a relegation to Division Three and an instant promotion at County, future England boss Kevin Keegan took Finnan to Craven Cottage in November 1998 for £600,000. Fulham’s promotion to Division One meant he enjoyed back-to-back promotions and in 2001, this became three promotions in four years when he appeared in 45 of the 46 league matches under Jean Tigana’s stewardship.

In his debut Premier League season, Finnan impressed both Fulham supporters and his peers who voted him into the PFA Team of the Year for 2001-2002. He was also the club’s choice as Player of the Year. Victory in the UEFA Intertoto Cup that summer meant he got his first experience of European club football in 2002-2003 as Fulham played in the early rounds of the UEFA Cup. By the summer of 2003, many of England’s top clubs were scouting and showing interest in Steve’s services.

Fulham sold him to Liverpool FC for £3.5 million but it was a rocky start. His first campaign on Merseyside was disrupted by injury and when Benitez arrived to succeed Gerard Houllier as manager, Finnan’s time at Anfield looked like it would be brief. It wasn’t helped when Rafa’s first signing was a right-back in the shape of Josemi. Hard work, determination and proving a point helped him win over any doubts the manager might have had.

In September 2004, he would score his one and only goal for the club against West Bromwich Albion, meaning he shares a record with Jimmy Willis of scoring in each of the five highest divisions of English football. He saw off the threat of Josemi and established himself as Liverpool’s first-choice right-back for the next three-and-a-half years. In January 2006 after producing another fine cross for Harry Kewell to smash home a winner against Tottenham Hotspur, Benitez admitted: “Finnan is a player who will always play at a consistent level. He will be seven, eight, nine or even ten out of ten every week. This is really important for the team. Some players find a good level for individual games, but don’t do the same every week. Finnan does it for a whole season.”

The 2004-2005 season ended with Liverpool FC’s unbelievable comeback in the UEFA Champions League final against AC Milan. They trailed 3-0 at half-time but scored three goals in six second half minutes and the heroics of Jerzy Dudek in-goal saw the Reds triumph in the penalty shootout. For Finnan, it was bittersweet. A thigh injury forced him to be substituted at half-time.

He was an ever-present in Liverpool’s 2005-2006 Premier League campaign as the Reds finished third with their highest points tally at the time for a Premier League season of 82. He claimed more medals with the UEFA Super Cup and the FA Cup both heading back to the club by the end of the season. With Josemi gone, Jan Kromkamp arrived for competition but he was another player who failed to usurp Finnan from the right-back role.

It looked like Alvaro Arbeloa would head in the same direction when he arrived midway through the 2006-2007 campaign. It was Finnan who got the vote to play again in another UEFA Champions League final. This time, he lasted 88 minutes before being subbed, this time in a 2-1 defeat to AC Milan in Athens. That summer, he agreed a two-year contract extension to stay on Merseyside.

He featured 35 times in 2007-2008 and took his total appearances for the club past the 200 mark. However, a few niggling injuries saw Arbeloa get his chance and when the Reds went on a winning run with him in the side, Steve couldn’t force his way back into the team when he recovered from injury. When another full-back arrived in the summer of 2008 in the form of Philipp Degen, Finnan knew his time at Liverpool was coming to an end. It looked like he would join Aston Villa as part of a deal that would see Gareth Barry go to Liverpool. However, the clubs couldn’t agree a fee on Barry’s transfer which meant his proposed switch to Villa Park collapsed. Instead, he moved to La Liga to join Espanyol on transfer deadline day in September 2008.

His time in Spain was a wretched experience. He made just four league appearances before his contract was mutually terminated after a succession of injuries. This also saw a potential move to Hull City collapse. In July 2009, Finnan returned to English football, signing a one-year contract with Portsmouth who were in severe financial peril. He made 21 Premier League appearances for Pompey who went into administration during the campaign, guaranteeing relegation at the end of the season. After playing in the FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea, Finnan was released and never played professional football again.

He won 53 caps for The Republic of Ireland between 2000 and 2008, playing a prominent role in Mick McCarthy’s squad at the 2002 World Cup finals, scoring his penalty in the shootout defeat to Spain in the round-of-16. Since retirement, Steve worked in The Gambia, providing irrigation for impoverished children before moving into property development back in the UK.

Seasonal Stories: Fulham (2003-2004)

Breaking into the top ten

Fulham’s third full Premier League campaign saw the Cottagers break into the top half of the table for the first time. Under the guidance of Chris Coleman, who was enjoying his first full season in management, the west Londoners picked up some impressive results early in the season, including a marvellous 3-1 away victory at Old Trafford in October.

Their form levelled out when top scorer and star player Louis Saha was sold to Manchester United in the January transfer window. Nevertheless, it was an impressive season for all connected with Fulham as they prepared to return to Craven Cottage for the following campaign after continuing to groundshare at Loftus Road with Queens Park Rangers.

Squad: Edwin van der Sar, Mark Crossley, Moritz Volz, Zat Knight, Martin Djetou, Alain Goma, Jerome Bonnissel, Carlos Bocanegra, Ian Pearce, Adam Green, Jon Harley, Dean Leacock, Zesh Rehman, Andy Melville (Left in January 2004), Sylvain Legwinski, Sean Davis, Lee Clark, Steed Malbranque, Junichi Inamoto, Mark Pembridge, Bobby Petta, Malik Buari, Darren Pratley, Luis Boa Morte, Brian McBride, Collins John, Barry Hayles, Facundo Sava, Louis Saha (Left in January 2004), Steve Marlet (Left in August 2004)

Saha makes an impact

With Craven Cottage still being redeveloped, Fulham continued to groundshare at Loftus Road with Queens Park Rangers and had a new permanent manager to start the 2003-2004 season. After impressing in his five-game reign at the end of the previous campaign, former club captain Chris Coleman was given the chance to prove his credentials as a manager on a full-time basis.

It was a quiet summer for the club in the transfer market. The only notable arrival was Mark Crossley for £500,000 from Middlesbrough. Crossley would fill the gap as a deputy to Edwin van der Sar. It was a couple of defenders though who would make more of a mark on Coleman’s first-team plans. Frenchman Jerome Bonnissel arrived on a free transfer from Rangers and Moritz Volz joined on an initial four-month loan deal from Arsenal also this would later turn into a season-long loan arrangement with the Gunners.

Among those leaving was Maik Taylor on a season-long loan switch to Birmingham City and Republic of Ireland international Steve Finnan, who switched to Liverpool FC for around £3.5 million. Steve Marlet started the season and scored in the opening day 3-2 victory over Middlesbrough. However, he wouldn’t see August out and moved to Marseille on-loan after a largely disappointing two-season spell on these shores.

After that opening victory, Fulham got a rude awakening in their first away fixture of the season, trailing 3-0 at half-time to Everton before eventually losing 3-1. However, they enjoyed their short trip across the capital to White Hart Lane a week later. Barry Hayles scored twice and Luis Boa Morte also found the target in a 3-0 success at Tottenham Hotspur which piled the pressure on beleaguered Spurs boss Glenn Hoddle.

Louis Saha scored in the opening day victory over Middlesbrough and in September, he started to make a real impact on Fulham’s campaign. It started with a 2-2 draw away at Birmingham infront of the Sky Sports cameras with the Frenchman scoring twice. One of those goals came in the very first minute. Saha scored four goals in the month and Fulham ended September with just one defeat from their opening six games. Better was to follow with an October visit to Old Trafford.

Van der Star at Highbury

Fulham travelled to Manchester United in high spirits but their supporters went there more in hope of gaining a positive result. The team put in their best performance of the entire campaign. Skipper Lee Clark gave the Cottagers the dream start with a goal inside three minutes. Diego Forlan did equalise on the stroke of half-time but Fulham bounced back brilliantly from this setback. Marvellous goals in the second half from Steed Malbranque and Junichi Inamoto helped them record a stunning 3-1 victory. This was a real statement victory for Coleman who seemed to be finding management an enjoyable and easy task.

November began with back-to-back defeats to Liverpool FC and Charlton Athletic before Saha rediscovered his goalscoring touch after a four-game drought with two quick-fire first half goals to sink Portsmouth 2-0.

The month ended with a trip to Highbury to face unbeaten Arsenal who were on their own crest of a wave following a 5-1 midweek rout of Inter Milan at The San Siro in the UEFA Champions League. Fulham’s goal took a beating but Edwin van der Sar put in a simply heroic display. He made seven first half saves and despite 27 shots on-goal, Arsenal couldn’t find a way through. Fulham earned a 0-0 draw and ended the month in the UEFA Champions League qualifying positions. It was some achievement for a team that looked like being a relegation struggler in pre-season.

However, fresh investment was coming for the team in the January transfer window.

TABLE ON 30th November 2003

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
1 Chelsea 14 11 2 1 28 9 +19 35
2 Arsenal 14 10 4 0 28 10 +18 34
3 Manchester United 14 10 1 3 25 9 +16 31
4 FULHAM 14 6 4 4 24 18 +6 22
5 Charlton Athletic 14 6 4 4 20 17 +3 22
6 Liverpool FC 14 6 3 5 21 15 +6 21

Louis departs for Manchester United

December was a mixed month for the club with two wins and three defeats. Chelsea came to Loftus Road and left with all three points thanks to Hernan Crespo’s second half header and there was also a bad performance and result at Villa Park, going down 3-0 to an ever-improving Aston Villa side.

Saha was still banging in the goals though. Two more arrived in a 2-0 win on Boxing Day over Southampton and he now had 13 Premier League goals for the campaign. It became clear in January 2004 that Fulham were going to struggle to be able to persuade Saha to stay at the club.

Manchester United were on the search for a new striker with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer out long-term with injury and Ruud van Nistelrooy not quite displaying his devastating form he’d shown in his first two Old Trafford campaigns.

They got their man towards the end of January in a £12.8 million transfer although the way Saha left the club left a bitter taste in the mouths of some Fulham supporters. Coleman immediately started to reinvest the squad with the funds from the transfer. Brian McBride arrived from the MLS having previously auditioned in the Premier League in a loan spell with Everton in the previous campaign. Collins John also arrived on an undisclosed fee from Dutch side FC Twente whilst Volz’s loan switch from Arsenal became a permanent move having impressed greatly in the right-back role.

Regrouping for the future

Saha’s departure ultimately had a damaging effect on Fulham’s chances of a shot at European contention. The likes of Liverpool FC and Newcastle United, who had underachieved for much of the campaign, started to take command of the Champions League qualification battle and their main challengers turned out to be from the Midlands in Aston Villa and Birmingham City rather than from London in Fulham and Charlton Athletic.

Saha scored on his first return to Fulham just a month after his departure but he couldn’t help Manchester United to victory as they were held to a 1-1 draw. There was also an excellent point gained at Anfield where Van der Sar saved a penalty from Steven Gerrard in the second half.

The Dutchman had his best campaign but he was still prone to the odd costly error. In Fulham’s last home match of the season against Arsenal, he stupidly attempted to dribble around Jose Antonio Reyes, who simply stole possession from him and put the ball into an empty net to give Arsenal a 1-0 victory in their penultimate match of ‘The Invincibles’ campaign.

Fulham finished their best-ever Premier League campaign to this point with a 2-0 win on the final day away at Bolton Wanderers with McBride endearing himself to his new supporters with a brace. A 9th place finish was fair reward for an exciting campaign and just five points behind Newcastle United in fifth was a good basis for seasons to come under Coleman’s shrewd and calm management.

FINAL 2003-2004 TABLE – 6th to 11th  

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
6 Aston Villa 38 15 11 12 48 44 +4 56
7 Charlton Athletic 38 14 11 13 51 51 0 53
8 Bolton Wanderers 38 14 11 13 48 56 -8 53
9 FULHAM 38 14 10 14 52 46 +6 52
10 Birmingham City 38 12 14 12 43 48 -5 50
11 Middlesbrough 38 13 9 16 44 52 -8 48

Iconic Moments: Torres’ first Chelsea goal (April 2011)

With Chelsea struggling to retain their Premier League title in 2010-2011 and looking at risk to even qualify for the UEFA Champions League via their league position, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich sanctioned the transfer of Fernando Torres. Torres had been Liverpool FC’s star striker for the past three-and-a-half years but his form had dipped in the six months before his transfer to Stamford Bridge.

On transfer deadline day in January 2011, Chelsea paid Liverpool £50 million for Torres and broke the British transfer record in the process. His debut came six days later against the club he’d just left and he didn’t play well and had been subbed before Raul Meireles scored the only goal of the game for the Reds.

Torres looked a pale shadow of the player who had tormented English and European defenders during his time on Merseyside. By the time Chelsea hosted West Ham United in late April 2011, Torres was still looking for his first Blues goal. Defender David Luiz, who had also been a January arrival had already found the net twice as a Chelsea player.

Against the Hammers, the moment finally came for Torres. The Spaniard came off the bench to score the second goal of Chelsea’s three on the evening on his 14th outing for his new employers. It ended a drought of 903 minutes without finding the target for both club and country since his last Liverpool goal in a 3-0 away victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers in January.

He said afterwards: “It was not the beginning I was expecting when I signed, but it’s never easy when you arrive in January at a massive team like this. There’s less pressure for me now, now I can enjoy it.”

He would win trophies at Chelsea including the UEFA Champions League in 2012 and UEFA Europa League in 2013. However, 45 goals in 172 appearances in all competitions was a disappointing return for ‘El Nino,’ who is now closing his career playing in Japan. His best Premier League days were most definitely as a Liverpool FC player.

Iconic Moments: Ravanelli’s first day treble (August 1996)

Middlesbrough pulled off one of the biggest transfer surprises of the summer of 1996, as they managed to entice Fabrizio Ravanelli to The Riverside Stadium. Ravanelli had won the UEFA Champions League months earlier with Juventus, scoring in the final against Ajax. However, he was deemed surplus to requirements in Turin. Nevertheless, with some other European clubs sniffing around his services, it was a real coup for Bryan Robson to attract him to Teeside.

On the opening day of the 1996-1997 season, Middlesbrough hosted Liverpool FC and Ravanelli produced one of the most stunning debuts seen in the history of the Premier League. He scored a sensational hat-trick as Boro came from behind on three separate occasions to draw 3-3.

He quickly became a fans’ favourite and nicknamed ‘The White Feather,’ he scored 16 Premier League goals. However, despite the club reaching two domestic cup finals, they were relegated following a three-point deduction for failing to fulfil a scheduled fixture away at Blackburn Rovers in December 1996.

He joined Marseille following Boro’s relegation but left their supporters with some great memories, none more so than that first day treble.

Great Goals: Stiliyan Petrov – Derby County vs. ASTON VILLA (April 2008)

One of Aston Villa’s biggest-ever Premier League victories was this 6-0 annihilation of hapless Derby County in April 2008. It also saw an amazing strike from the very likeable Bulgarian international, Stiliyan Petrov.

Roy Carroll played his part in it. The Derby goalkeeper’s clearance was poor but Petrov still had a lot to do. He brought the ball down with his chest and on the half-volley and his weaker foot; he went for goal from distance. Carroll was desperately scrambling to get back but the shot flew over the top of him and into the net. It was easily the best goal of the six Villa goals at Pride Park that afternoon.

Petrov was diagnosed with acute leukaemia in March 2012 which saw his professional career come to an untimely end but he was a marvellous player with an eye for goal from distance which he demonstrated here to perfection.

Shock Results: Charlton Athletic 4-2 Chelsea (December 2003)

Goalscorers: Hermann Hreidarsson 1, John Terry 10, Matt Holland 35, Jonatan Johansson 48, Jason Euell 53, Eidur Gudjohnsen 73

Teams:

Charlton Athletic: Dean Kiely, Jonathan Fortune, Hermann Hreidarsson, Chris Perry, Radostin Kishishev, Matt Holland, Scott Parker, Graham Stuart (Chris Powell 77), Paolo Di Canio (Paul Konchesky 87), Jason Euell, Jonatan Johansson

Chelsea: Carlo Cudicini, Marcel Desailly, John Terry, Wayne Bridge, Glen Johnson, Claude Makelele, Frank Lampard (Geremi 66), Joe Cole (William Gallas 82), Jesper Gronkjaer (Eidur Gudjohnsen 46), Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Adrian Mutu

Referee: Graham Poll, Attendance: 26,752

Having spent big following Roman Abramovich’s summer takeover, Chelsea were now a major player in the Premier League and considered among the favourites for the title in the 2003-2004 season. The Blues entered the festive period in third place, having lost just twice all campaign and within striking distance of Manchester United and Arsenal in the table.

On Boxing Day, the Blues made the short trip across the capital to The Valley to face Charlton Athletic, who were enjoying a great season too and were challenging for a top four position. Alan Curbishley’s men were fifth in the table and above the likes of Liverpool FC and Newcastle United. They also had a good record against Chelsea, having beaten them four times in their last six outings.

The Addicks pounced on some sloppy defending within the first minute, exploiting a weakness at a Chelsea set-piece. Paolo Di Canio’s corner was whipped into the box and was met by the head of Icelandic defender, Hermann Hreidarsson. Hreidarsson’s header flew past a stranded Carlo Cudicini and the home side had the dream start, going into the lead after just 42 seconds.

Their lead lasted for just nine minutes. Adrian Mutu guided in a perfect free-kick delivery and it only required a glancing touch from John Terry which was good enough to defeat Dean Kiely. Chelsea had parity and immediately quietened the home support. Charlton though were unfazed and Scott Parker was putting in a brilliant performance, controlling the central midfield battle with calmness and assurance. Both Frank Lampard and Claude Makelele struggled to gain any momentum and it was Parker who helped start the move for Charlton’s second goal. He and Di Canio combined to set-up Jonatan Johannsson. He drove a cross into the box and Matt Holland climbed above Marcel Desailly to restore Charlton’s lead.

Claudio Ranieri tried to change things at half-time, bringing on a third striker in Eidur Gudjohnsen to replace the ineffective Jesper Gronkjaer. It made no difference and within the first eight minutes of the second half, Charlton had stormed into a 4-1 lead. Di Canio bamboozled Terry with some clever skill and squared the ball for Johansson to score one of the simpler goals of his career on 48 minutes. Five minutes later, Jason Euell took full advantage of a horrid attempt at a defensive clearance by Wayne Bridge before poking the ball past a stunned Cudicini.

Gudjohnsen added some respectability onto the scoreline on 73 minutes but it was barely a consolation for the travelling support that saw their side lose once again on one of their bogey grounds. Charlton would finish the season in seventh place and Parker’s meticulous display saw him eventually leave The Valley for Stamford Bridge in the January transfer window.

Premier League Files: David Wheater

Premier League Career: Middlesbrough (2006-2009), Bolton Wanderers (2011-2012)

A product of the youth system at Middlesbrough, David Wheater hasn’t played Premier League football since experiencing relegation with Bolton Wanderers in 2012. He remains with the Trotters now, captaining the side in very difficult financial times for the club with relegation to League One recently just confirmed. However, he is a wise experienced head which is just what the club needs at this time.

Wheater’s youth days saw him part of the successful Middlesbrough team that won the 2004 FA Youth Cup; a year after losing the same event to Manchester United. Promoted to the Boro first-team at the age of just 17, he was given his Premier League debut by Steve McClaren in the 2005-2006 campaign. Loan spells did follow at Doncaster Rovers, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Darlington which produced mixed fortunes but Wheater was ready for a more regular role in 2007-2008, starting the club’s opening day defeat to Blackburn Rovers.

David’s form in 2007-2008 was so impressive; his manager Gareth Southgate was more than happy to sell the more experienced Jonathan Woodgate to Tottenham Hotspur in the 2008 January transfer window. He would score four goals in that campaign and won the North East Football Writers’ Association Young Player of the Year for his efforts.

He made another 32 appearances in 2008-2009 but Middlesbrough were relegated at the end of the campaign. Nevertheless, he stayed with the aim of getting the Teesiders back to the top-flight at the first attempt. Sadly, it didn’t quite work out for him and for the club. That summer, injury meant he missed out on the 2009 Under-21 European Championship after playing a prominent role for England and manager Stuart Pearce in the qualification period. He was called up a couple of times into the senior squad during Fabio Capello’s reign but never managed to make it onto the pitch to win a maiden senior international cap.

Southgate made him captain at the start of the new club season with Middlesbrough despite being just 22 but he was sacked early into the 2009-2010 campaign and when his successor was named, Gordon Strachan, he elected to give the armband to the more experienced Gary O’Neil.

Wheater continued to concentrate on his football and this actually made him a tougher player. Bolton Wanderers were impressed with his shrewd displays in the Championship and in January 2011, a deal was concluded for David to return to the Premier League, joining Bolton for an undisclosed fee. His Bolton league debut came a month later, coming on as a first half substitute for Zat Knight in the 2-0 home win over Everton.

The 2011-2012 campaign was not a good one for Wheater as he received two red cards in the first half of Bolton’s testing campaign. His first dismissal came in a defeat at Arsenal in September for holding back Theo Walcott. This was in his first league start of the season. In November, a foul on Everton winger Diniyar Bilyaletdinov was adjudged to be dangerous by Michael Oliver, who gave him a straight red card. Consequently, Wheater missed the next four Premier League engagements.

His last Premier League appearance came later that season in Bolton’s 2-2 home draw with West Bromwich Albion. In what was the Trotters’ final home match of the season, they threw away a two-goal lead and ultimately, it proved very costly as they were relegated a week later. It had bigger repercussions for Wheater though. He ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and was ruled out of action for nine months.

He returned in February 2013 and extended his contract at the end of the 2012-2013 season as the Lancashire side narrowly missed out on landing a play-off position in the Championship. At the end of the 2015-2016 season, Bolton were relegated to League One. Naturally, as he was on higher wages than most of his teammates, Wheater wasn’t offered a new deal and was subsequently released. However, he continued to train with Bolton that summer and after appearing as ‘a trialist’ in first-team pre-season friendlies, the club offered him a new deal with a significant pay cut, something Wheater was more than happy to accept.

He scored an impressive nine goals from centre-back as Bolton were promoted back to the Championship at the first attempt. He was voted as the club’s Player of the Season and was voted into the PFA League One Team of the Season alongside his defensive colleague, Mark Beevers. He signed a contract extension that summer and his only goal in 2017-2018 was a massive one for Phil Parkinson’s team. It was an equaliser in the final day 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest which kept Bolton in the second-tier at the expense of Barnsley and Burton Albion.

He was appointed skipper at the start of the 2018-2019 season, succeeding the departing Darren Pratley. It hasn’t been a joyous campaign for anyone at the club, with constant threats about administration and unpaid wages to players and staff. Wheater though has been one of Bolton’s more senior pros and done a good job in difficult circumstances.

Referees in the Middle: Dermot Gallagher

Premier League Career: 1992-2007

First Premier League Match: Tottenham Hotspur 0-2 Coventry City (19 August 1992)

Final Premier League Match: Liverpool FC 2-2 Charlton Athletic (13 May 2007)

Irishman Dermot Gallagher was one of the best referees in Premier League history. He was an official for the first 15 seasons of the league before retiring in 2007 and is still seen a lot nowadays, working as an assessor and pundit on all of the weekend’s major talking points for Sky Sports.

Gallagher was born in 1957 but was late to the take up of a career in officiating. It was only on the advice of ex-Football League linesman Dick Bartlett that saw Dermot pursue this path. His first game of any kind came in regional football in 1978 and seven years later, he progressed to the Football League assistant referees’ list. By 1990, he was a referee in the Football League and was a prime candidate for promotion to the Premier League when the new era of English football got underway in 1992.

He wasn’t appointed to a fixture on the opening weekend of the league but took charge of a midweek duel between Tottenham Hotspur and Coventry City at White Hart Lane. John Williams scored both goals as the Sky Blues left London with all three points after a 2-0 win. It was the first of 378 fixtures Gallagher would oversee during his lengthy and successful career.

Dermot gave out 636 yellow cards during his Premier League time and 39 red cards – nine of those dismissals in his penultimate campaign (2005-2006). Here’s a list of some of his key dismissals:

  • His first red card came in February 1994 and it went to a goalkeeper. Bryan Gunn was given a straight red in the 87th minute of Norwich City’s 2-2 home draw with Liverpool FC.
  • On the opening day of the 1994-1995 campaign, he gave out two red cards in the Manchester United vs. Queens Park Rangers fixture with Clive Wilson and Paul Parker being the unfortunate recipients.
  • In a thrilling 3-3 draw between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur in May 1995, Dermot dished out red cards to Newcastle goalkeeper Pavel Srnicek and Spurs defender Colin Calderwood.
  • Matt Le Tissier collected a rare red card in his career from Gallagher. He was red-carded in a 3-1 home defeat for Southampton against Liverpool FC in October 1995.
  • Chris Sutton received his marching orders late on in Blackburn’s home defeat by Arsenal in October 1998 for a wild lunge on Patrick Vieira.
  • Back at Ewood Park two months later, a straight red card was given to Aston Villa goalkeeper Michael Oakes in their 2-1 loss to Blackburn for handling outside his area.
  • Liverpool FC’s Salif Diao was sent off on New Years’ Day 2003 in the Reds 1-0 reverse at Newcastle United.
  • Defender Stephane Henchoz was the final recipient of a red card in Gallagher’s Premier League career. He was dismissed after just 40 minutes of Blackburn’s 3-1 home defeat to Newcastle United in December 2006.

Gallagher’s strongest years were in 1995 and 1996. He took charge of the curtain-raiser for the 1995-1996 season between league champions Blackburn Rovers and FA Cup holders Everton. The Toffees won the FA Charity Shield thanks to a goal from Vinny Samways. Also in 1995, he was in the middle for the FA Trophy final which Woking won at Wembley, beating Kidderminster Harriers 2-1 and to finish a busy year, Dermot went out to Qatar and took charge of the Under-20 World Cup final between South American rivals Argentina and Brazil. Argentina triumphed 2-0.

In 1996, he was appointed to the FA Cup final between Manchester United and Liverpool FC. It was a day best remembered by Liverpool’s terrible choice of suit colour before the game and the match itself was a real disappointment. We were spared extra-time by a late winner from Eric Cantona, ensuring a second double in three years for the Red Devils. Gallagher’s strong performances also led to him being appointed as a referee at the 1996 European Championships in England. He took charge of the group game at St James’ Park between France and Bulgaria. France won 3-1 and he booked four players but there was a nasty sting in the tail for him. He suffered a serious injury whilst refereeing the match which kept him on the sidelines until early 1997.

He retired from FIFA duty at the mandatory retirement age limit of 45 at the end of 2002 but continued at the high levels of the English game. His extremely consistent performances led to him being the first referee since 1994 to be granted an extension beyond the domestic retirement age of 48 in 2006.

In his final season in the middle, Gallagher had one of his more testing incidents to deal with. In August 2006, Manchester City defender Ben Thatcher was widely condemned for a sickening elbow into Portsmouth midfielder Pedro Mendes during a goalless draw at Eastlands. Mendes was knocked into the advertising hoardings and knocked unconscious. He suffered a seizure and required oxygen pitchside. Gallagher only gave the defender a yellow card for the elbow but the FA took a dim view to the challenge and gave Thatcher an eight-game suspension. He was also fined six weeks’ wages by Manchester City.

His last Premier League match was at Anfield in May 2007 between Liverpool FC and Charlton Athletic which was also the swansong for Robbie Fowler as a Liverpool player. The match ended 2-2 with Harry Kewell scoring a stoppage-time penalty for the Reds.

After retirement, Dermot Gallagher officiated in the Masters Football competition for several years. Alongside his regular Monday role on Sky Sports News to discuss the performance of his colleagues from challenging Premier League weekends, he is also an active speaker on both the after-dinner circuit and at coaching schools, offering advices to younger footballers and referees.

Great Goals: Matt Le Tissier – Blackburn Rovers vs. SOUTHAMPTON (December 1994)

Although Blackburn Rovers would eventually win this match in December 1994 against Southampton, the star of the game at Ewood Park was Matt Le Tissier.

The magic midfielder had a canny knack for scoring some outrageous goals and this is one which even he has often said is his best strike. With 12 minutes left to play, Le Tissier picked the ball up from teammate Tommy Widdrington on the halfway line. He shielded possession from Blackburn captain Tim Sherwood and turned Mark Atkins inside out. Le Tissier then went for goal from distance and his right-foot shot was inch-perfect. It flew into the top left-hand corner past his former teammate, Tim Flowers.

This goal was rightfully selected as the BBC Match of the Day Goal of the Season for the 1994-1995 campaign.