All posts by Simon Wright

Hello, I am Simon, 23 and studying a BA Hons in Journalism (3rd and final year) at the University of Northampton.

Referees in the Middle: David Allison

Premier League Career: 1992-1994

First Premier League Match: Middlesbrough 4-1 Leeds United (22 August 1992)

Final Premier League Match: Wimbledon 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur (30 April 1994)

David Allison was one of the referees in the very first season of the Premier League. By the time the competition had been formed in 1992, he had already being part of the profession for 12 years, taking charge of his first Football League match in 1980.

When he was promoted to the referees’ list at the age of just 31, some thought he was too young to handle the pressure of top-flight matches which in the 1980s were often played on slow, bumpy pitches at a more aggressive tempo. However, he was seen as a steady pair of hands to control these games. With more experience and maturity, he was becoming one of the best and most trusted officials in the Football League.

By the end of the 1980s, he was often the man given responsibility to handle the testing but enjoyable Manchester and Merseyside derbies. Despite this widespread praise, he was overlooked for the showpiece FA Cup final. David’s most senior appointment in cup football was taking charge of a League Cup semi-final first leg in 1992 between Nottingham Forest and Tottenham Hotspur.

His first Premier League appointment was newly-promoted Middlesbrough’s surprising 4-1 home win over defending champions Leeds United. Allison would remain on the Premier League’s officiating list for the first two seasons of the new era in English football, controlling 33 matches.  In 1994, the league decided to move to a smaller list of officials who would control its matches. It was a big surprise to see him not selected to continue duties in the top-flight.

This was a crushing disappointment for David but he didn’t pack up his whistle until the end of the 1996-1997 season after returning to Football League duty for another three campaigns. This included taking charge of the 1996 First Division play-off final between Leicester City and Crystal Palace when Steve Claridge scored with practically the last kick of the match to take Leicester back to the Premier League at the first attempt of asking.

In total, he controlled 463 matches in English football and remained in the game after retirement as a referees’ coach. In 2007, he was appointed National Group Manager in charge of the 57 top referees for the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) and is also the Training Officer for the Lancaster & Morecambe Referees’ Society.

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Memorable Matches: Queens Park Rangers 3-2 West Bromwich Albion (December 2014)

Goalscorers: Joleon Lescott 10, Silvestre Varela 20, Charlie Austin 24 PEN, 48, 86

Teams:

Queens Park Rangers: Robert Green, Yun Suk-Young (Clint Hill 30), Nedum Onuoha, Steven Caulker, Richard Dunne, Joey Barton, Leroy Fer, Karl Henry, Charlie Austin, Eduardo Vargas (Junior Hoilett 67), Bobby Zamora (Niko Kranjcar 80)

West Bromwich Albion: Ben Foster, Sebastien Pocognoli (Cristian Gamboa 90), Andre Wisdom, Joleon Lescott, Gareth McAuley, Graham Dorrans, Craig Gardner, James Morrison, Stephane Sessegnon, Silvestre Varela, Brown Ideye (Saido Berahino 69)

Referee: Craig Pawson, Attendance: 17,560

Going into this pre-Christmas match, both Queens Park Rangers and West Bromwich Albion were in the need for three points. Harry Redknapp’s side had failed to take a single point away from home but were in fine form at Loftus Road, taking 10 points from their last four home encounters. West Brom had just beaten Aston Villa in their last match to ease the pressure slightly on their head coach, Alan Irvine.

It was the visitors’ who made the better start and completely dominated in the first 20 minutes. Craig Gardner and Brown Ideye both came close to opening the scoring but it was a defender who would ultimately break the deadlock. Sebastien Pocognoli’s corner was flicked on by Stephane Sessegnon and Joleon Lescott headed home. Lescott was a summer arrival from Manchester City and this was his first goal since September 2012.

1-0 after 10 minutes became 2-0 after 20 minutes. Silvestre Varela linked up with Sessegnon, playing some smart one-touch football and he finished coolly inside the penalty area. Varela was on-loan from FC Porto and had struggled to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League. It was his first goal for the club and ultimately, his only goal in the Baggies’ colours.

Redknapp’s side needed a swift response and it arrived via the penalty spot just four minutes later. Referee Craig Pawson punished James Morrison for tugging away at Leroy Fer’s shirt. Charlie Austin, back from suspension after seeing red in QPR’s last home match against Burnley, made no mistake from the penalty spot. This goal meant he had scored in each of QPR’s last five home matches.

Despite getting back into the game, QPR were still second-best for the remainder of the first half. Green’s agility levels were tested on two further occasions before the interval to deny Gardner from a deflected free-kick and a dangerous drive from the impressive Sessegnon. West Brom’s failure to take their chances would cost them dearly in the second half.

Less than three minutes into the second half, Joey Barton’s corner was headed onto the crossbar by Richard Dunne. The ball fell perfectly to Austin, who bundled home a loose ball to level the scores. A winning goal always looked likely for either side and with Austin on the pitch, QPR could not be discounted. Four minutes from time, he climbed highest to head home another Barton corner. It was his ninth goal in the last seven matches and his maiden hat-trick in the Premier League.

The result lifted QPR out of the bottom three and into 15th spot, level on points with their opponents. Irvine lasted another two matches before being sacked. Tony Pulis succeeded him and steered Albion clear of any relegation danger. Despite the goals of Austin, QPR were relegated before the end of the season. This was their day though and one of the best comebacks of the 2014-2015 season.

Great Goals: Denny Landzaat – Arsenal vs. WIGAN ATHLETIC (February 2007)

Arsenal’s first year at the Emirates Stadium saw the club concede the first goal of matches to many of their opponents. Few were better though than the strike Denny Landzaat produced in February 2007.

It looked like Arsenal had cleared the danger when the Wigan attackers lost possession in a promising position. The ball fell to Landzaat and no-one expected him to produce a shot on goal, let alone one that would hit the back of the net.

The defensive midfielder took a touch and smashed a shot that flew past Jens Lehmann and into the back of the net. Arsenal did their usual late show that season and won 2-1, so ultimately, this goal counted for nothing. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful moment for Landzaat and one of the best goals seen in the early days at the Emirates.

Premier League Files: Richard Jobson

Premier League Career: Oldham Athletic (1992-1994), Leeds United (1995-1998)

Although injuries were an issue in the career of Richard Jobson, his longevity could never be questioned. He made nearly 600 professional appearances and played in the top-flight for Oldham Athletic and Leeds United. Jobson’s early career was dominated by a lengthy stint at Hull City, featuring 221 times for them from 1985 to 1990. Oldham had to pay a club record fee of £460,000 to acquire Jobson. The powerful centre-back then played 189 times for the Latics, playing a pivotal role in their unlikely escape act from relegation in the first Premier League season. He was also an FA Cup semi-finalist in 1994.

After Oldham’s relegation, Jobson remained loyal to the club, staying with them for nearly 18 further months before moving onto Leeds United for £1 million in October 1995. This is where injuries started to take their course on Richard. He played just 22 times for Leeds across three seasons, scoring once in a 1-1 home draw with Wimbledon in December 1995.

He linked up with his former Oldham manager, Joe Royle at Manchester City in 1998 and helped the Citizens’ to back-to-back promotions from Division Two to the Premier League. However, he never got the opportunity to play in the top-flight again. Royle moved him onto Tranmere Rovers before finishing his playing career at Rochdale. The final game of his professional career was in May 2003, just six days short of his 40th birthday. Off-the-pitch, Jobson spent the final year of his playing career as chairman of the PFA and in 2009, became a senior executive within the PFA’s player management department.

Iconic Moments: Jensen scores…at last! (December 1994)

Arsenal midfielder John Jensen developed a cult reputation. He joined the club only weeks after his spectacular goal in the 1992 European Championship final playing for Denmark. He was seen as a replacement for the popular David Rocastle, who was moving to reigning champions Leeds United.

Although he won the FA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup whilst at Highbury, he became more known for his inability to find the back of the net. 97 games and over two years had passed before Arsenal hosted Queens Park Rangers on a dreary New Years’ Eve afternoon. George Graham’s side hadn’t won at home in two months and his side put in a dire performance and lost the game comprehensively 3-1. However, QPR’s win is not remembered by many.

That is because in this match, the unthinkable happened. John Jensen scored a goal for Arsenal! It was the equaliser and it came in his 98th match in all competitions for the north Londoners. Whenever he got near goal, Arsenal fans urged him to ‘shoot!’ This time, he was spot-on, bending a shot into the far top corner in front of the North Bank.

T-shirts were printed in Jensen’s honour. One of the tabloid newspapers ran the following headline in their sports section: SOUVENIR SPECIAL: After 98 games, 2 years, 4 months, 2 weeks, 2 days, 1 hour and 19 minutes, JENSEN SCORES!

He left in 1996 to return to his native Denmark after 138 games but achieved cult hero status for this goal.

Referees in the Middle: Mike Jones

Premier League Career: 2008-PRESENT

First Premier League Match: Hull City 0-5 Wigan Athletic (30 August 2008)

Mike Jones is approaching the landmark of 200 games refereed in the Premier League. He is one of the more modern refs, having only begun his referee career two decades ago. The 49-year-old from Cheshire’s first match in the Football League was a Division Two clash between Mansfield Town and Hull City in August 1997.

After 11 seasons in the Football League, Jones was promoted to the Select Group of Referees in 2008, allowing him the opportunity to take control of Premier League matches. His first match in the top-flight was Wigan Athletic’s resounding 5-0 victory away at Hull City in August 2008. That still remains Wigan’s biggest Premier League victory.

Big finals haven’t come the way of Mike Jones yet. His most high-profile appointment was the 2007 League Two play-off final, sending off Marc Tierney of Shrewsbury Town in their 3-1 loss to Bristol Rovers. Tierney became the second player to be sent off at the new Wembley after its significant redevelopment.

Some like the way he attempts to allow games to flow. Others don’t. Former top-flight referee Keith Hackett was especially critical in 2016, saying in an article for the Daily Telegraph: “Too soft and inconsistent to be a referee at this level.”

The most embarrassing moment of Mike’s Premier League career came in October 2009 when he was involved in one of the most bizarre goals in Premier League history. Sunderland were playing Liverpool FC and took the lead early on at the Stadium of Light, courtesy of a goal from Darren Bent. Replays showed Bent’s shot took a deflection off a beach ball that had been thrown onto the pitch by visiting supporters before kick-off! The goal was allowed to stand and Sunderland won the match 1-0. Jones was demoted for a week from Premier League duty and the beach ball eventually ended up being an exhibit at the National Football Museum in Manchester.

However, he is still going strong and I would expect him to be part of the Premier League refereeing fraternity for some time to come.

Premier League Files: George Boyd

Premier League Career: Hull City (2013-2014), Burnley (2014-2015, 2016-2017)

What do Steve Kabba, Mark Robins and George Boyd have in common? These three players have suffered the ignominy of playing in the same Premier League season for two relegated teams. In Boyd’s case, this happened to him during 2014-2015 when he started the campaign with Hull City but was a Burnley player by the end of the season.

The Scot, who won two caps for his country is a creative player who likes to play out on the wings and lay on chances for his teammates. He left the Premier League in the summer of 2017, turning down a new deal at Turf Moor to sign a two-year contract with Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.

He grew up in Kent and is a Crystal Palace fan. George started his career at fellow London side Charlton Athletic but was rejected at the age of 15. With this early setback, he had to work his way up the football pyramid again, starting with Stevenage. Whilst playing in Hertfordshire, he was working in a sweet shop to earn the money for his train fare to training and was also studying at North Hertfordshire College. He was definitely doing things the busy and hard way.

He made his Stevenage debut at the age of 17 and spent the next five years with the club before joining Peterborough United in 2007. It was with Peterborough that he enjoyed the most productive spell of his career, featuring 263 times for the club during seven seasons at London Road. This included three campaigns in the Championship, having begun with Posh in League Two.

He was the subject of plenty of interest during this time with the likes of Burnley and Nottingham Forest submitting bids that were rejected. Eventually, it looked like he was going to move to the latter in January 2013. Everything was agreed and a medical passed until Forest pulled the plug on the deal due to an “inconclusive eye test.” Peterborough owner Darragh MacAnthony didn’t hold back with his thoughts, saying: “I’m devastated for George. I got a phone call off him in bits… He said that he passed the medical then they made him do an eye test. He’s played 300 matches and scored from the halfway line the other month, but Forest say he has an eyesight problem. The whole thing stinks. Alex McLeish wanted to sign him. It’s the most ridiculous thing that’s happened to me.”

He eventually did move on but to Hull City on-loan before the move became permanent in the summer of 2013 with the club enjoying promotion to the Premier League. His time with Hull in the top-flight was not as successful, scoring just twice in 29 games although one did come in a 6-0 thrashing of Fulham in December 2013.

After starting the 2014-2015 campaign at Hull, making one appearance against Stoke City, he moved to Burnley on a three-year deal on deadline day. His finest Premier League moments would come that season against Manchester City. In December, he scored the first of the club’s two goals in their fine 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium. Three months later, it was his 61st minute strike that saw the champions defeated at Turf Moor. Unfortunately, Burnley didn’t have enough all-round quality to avoid an instant return to the Championship.

The Scot stayed with the club to help them win promotion at the first attempt back to the top-flight and figured 36 times in 2016-2017, scoring twice as Burnley survived in the Premier League for the first time in their history.

Although he was offered a new deal, he decided for a fresh challenge away from Lancashire and signed for Sheffield Wednesday where he has only just made his league debut after injury hampered the early months of his time in Yorkshire.

Shock Results: Coventry City 5-0 Blackburn Rovers (December 1995)

Goalscorers: David Busst 40, Dion Dublin 60, David Rennie 64, Peter Ndlovu 74, John Salako 88

Teams:

Coventry City: Steve Ogrizovic, David Rennie, David Busst, Marcus Hall, Ally Pickering, Paul Telfer, Chris Whyte, Kevin Richardson, John Salako, Peter Ndlovu, Dion Dublin

Blackburn Rovers: Tim Flowers, Graeme Le Saux, Henning Berg, Nicky Marker, David Batty, Tim Sherwood, Lars Bohinen (Billy McKinlay 45), Stuart Ripley, Mike Newell (Paul Warhurst 33), Alan Shearer, Chris Sutton

Referee: Steve Dunn, Attendance: 13,409

Coventry City hosted Blackburn Rovers in December 1995 desperate for a win. They were still in single digits in terms of points and hadn’t achieved a maximum three points since beating Manchester City in their second game of the campaign. Reigning Premier League champions Blackburn Rovers were not making the best of title defences but were unbeaten in three games. However, they were yet to win on their travels in the top-flight in 1995-1996.

Having ended up on the wrong end of a seven-goal thriller five nights earlier at Hillsborough, Ron Atkinson’s side kicked off bottom of the Premier League. Blackburn came into the match having just thrashed Norwegian champions Rosenborg 4-1 in the UEFA Champions League group stages. So, it was a huge surprise to see what would happen next, despite Rovers’ lack of form away from Ewood Park. It was a frosty and chilly afternoon at Highfield Road and Steve Dunn had to give the pitch a late inspection to ensure play could go ahead. Atkinson had a defensive crisis with the likes of David Burrows and Paul Williams out injured. He had recruited 34-year-old Chris Whyte on-loan from Birmingham City and he went straight into the side.

Coventry did the majority of the early running and it was the home side who took the lead. Marcus Hall produced a deep cross, Peter Ndlovu headed the ball across goal and central defender David Busst was in the right place to nod the ball past Tim Flowers. Blackburn had beaten Coventry in the reverse fixture 5-1 back in September but now it was the champions’ who were taking the pasting. Dion Dublin nearly made it 2-0 in the opening moments of the second half but was denied at point-blank range by Flowers. 15 minutes later, he did double the Sky Blues’ lead, flicking the ball over himself, leaving Henning Berg on the turf and slicing the ball past Flowers reach.

Number three arrived four minutes later. Kevin Richardson’s free-kick was headed in at the near post by David Rennie. Ndlovu, who was a constant pest all afternoon, made it 4-0. He skipped past three brittle Blackburn challenges and knocked in after his lovely run. Two minutes from time, John Salako completed the rout, smashing home after Blackburn struggled to clear a deep cross from Ally Pickering.

Atkinson said afterwards: “I have always thought we were capable of putting a run together. We defended very well and didn’t give Blackburn a look in.”

Coventry ended up surviving on the final day of the season, whilst Blackburn had to wait until mid-January for their first away win which came at Queens Park Rangers. They had to settle for a final finishing position of seventh but Alan Shearer did win the Golden Boot for a second successive season with 31 goals.

The Managers: Eddie Howe

Premier League Clubs Managed: AFC Bournemouth (2015-PRESENT)

Having just turned 40, 2017-2018 is only Eddie Howe’s third Premier League season. He rejoined the club for a second spell as manager in 2012 and has achieved already so much. Eddie is considered one of the brightest English managers in the game at the moment.

In his playing days, he operated as a defender, winning two caps for the England Under-21s in 1998 and spending the majority of his career playing for AFC Bournemouth. He was Portsmouth’s first signing in 2002 under Harry Redknapp, when Pompey paid £400,000 to Bournemouth to sign Howe.

Wretched injuries restricted him to just two appearances for the club and he even had a loan period with Swindon Town which saw him fail to play for them. Bournemouth took him back on-loan at the start of the 2004-2005 campaign and the move eventually became permanent. After over 270 league appearances, he retired from playing in 2007 as knee problems eventually took their toll and he moved into coaching with the reserve squad.

Saving Bournemouth from extinction

He did have a brief spell away from the club in 2008 after Kevin Bond was dismissed as manager but Eddie returned quickly into a youth coach role under new manager Jimmy Quinn. When Quinn was fired himself on New Years’ Eve 2008, Howe became caretaker manager. Even though he lost both of his matches in interim charge, he was given the job permanently in January 2009 and despite starting the season with a 17-point deduction due to being in administration, he managed to keep the League Two club in the Football League.

2009-2010 saw him make his first significant mark with promotion to League One achieved despite the club still being under a transfer embargo. Peterborough United made an approach for him but Howe turned the job down, saying “My heart is here and I think everybody knows how much I love the club.”

In January 2011, with Bournemouth doing well back in League One, several clubs made approaches, seeing Eddie’s clear talents. Crystal Palace and Charlton Athletic were both very keen to acquire him but once again, he turned down those approaches. However, five days after resisting those clubs, Burnley came in for him and compensation was agreed between the clubs. After taking charge of his 100th match in a 2-1 loss at Colchester, Howe told his players he was leaving, unable to resist the chance to manage at an ambitious Championship club.

A tough challenge with Burnley

When he arrived, Burnley were 10th and only six points off the play-offs. They improved to eighth place but disappointed in his first full season at Turf Moor, struggling to 13th spot in the final standings. However, he did bring in the likes of Ben Mee, Kieran Trippier and Sam Vokes to the Lancashire club and set them in good stead for the future.

On a personal basis, things were very tough. His mother passed away and he felt he needed to be closer to his family. With the Clarets sitting 16th in the Championship table in October 2012, he left the club for personal reasons and returned to Bournemouth with the Cherries sitting in the bottom four of League One. Whilst he was away, major investment had gone into the club to improve the stadium and training facilities.

There was an instant impact on Eddie’s return to Dean Court. He won three of his first five matches back and the club steadily improved to a point where promotion from League One looked like a distinct possibility. Sure enough, AFC Bournemouth’s promotion to the Championship was confirmed in April 2013, finishing runners-up to Doncaster Rovers.

Taking The Cherries up

The foundations were now in place for a serious promotion push to the Premier League. 2013-2014 was an excellent starting point, finishing 10th and just six points shy of the play-offs. In 2014-2015, he secured Bournemouth’s ultimate dream and guided them into the top-flight just seven years after they nearly went out of business. A 3-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers secured the south coast’s side spot in the Premier League.

On promotion, he told BBC Radio Five Live: “It shouldn’t be them thanking me; it should be me thanking them. It is a family club and deserves its moment in the sun.”

A few days later, Bournemouth were confirmed as champions of the Championship, winning 3-0 on the final day away at Charlton Athletic, whilst Watford, who were favourites for the crown, drew at home to Sheffield Wednesday. He was crowned LMA Manager of the Year for his wonderful efforts and was now looking forward to the Premier League adventure.

There was a tough start with just two league wins in the first four months of the campaign and hefty back-to-back losses to Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. However, December saw amazing victories away to champions Chelsea and at home to Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United. They were virtually safe by early April and finished 16th in the final standings.

Although there were rocky moments in 2016-2017 including a worrying winless run between mid-January and the end of February, Bournemouth finished the season strongly and broke into the top 10, finishing a fantastic ninth.

In 2017-2018, despite losing their first four matches, the Cherries are looking more settled now with recent wins over Stoke City, Newcastle United and Huddersfield Town.

Eddie Howe is set for a long and successful career in management. He has already achieved so much in the game and has plenty of potential to go much further. Bournemouth are lucky to have one of the finest managerial talents in the game.

Premier League Files: Simon Charlton

Premier League Career: Southampton (1993-1997), Bolton Wanderers (2001-2004), Norwich City (2004-2005)

Making over 500 appearances in a career that spanned 18 years, Simon Charlton was a player who never took the limelight at any of his clubs. However, he was a well-respected figure by the supporters of the teams he represented and was a consistent performer throughout.

Frequently deployed as a left-back, Charlton began his career with his hometown club, Huddersfield Town. During that stint, he demonstrated the capabilities to play as a central defender or even in midfield. It was this versatility that helped win stay with clubs and play in prominent squad positions.

He moved to Southampton in June 1993 for £250,000 but barely figured initially under Ian Branfoot at the Saints. His PL debut came in a 2-0 defeat to Blackburn Rovers, over five months after arriving on the south coast. However, he went onto make 114 Premier League appearances at The Dell, scoring twice. One of those goals was in a narrow defeat to Manchester United in May 1995.

Three years later, Simon dropped down a division to Birmingham City and would spend three campaigns in the second-tier, eventually escaping Division One with Bolton Wanderers in 2001. On his return to the top-flight, he appeared in 36 of the Trotters’ 38 Premier League matches in 2001-2002. Bolton avoided relegation and Charlton was chosen as the club’s Player of the Year. As Bolton started to improve under Sam Allardyce and more continental stars arrived, it wasn’t a surprise to see him slip down the pecking order at the Reebok Stadium.

He moved to Norwich City in 2004 but couldn’t avoid relegation with the Canaries in his first season with them. He fell out with boss Nigel Worthington and was released on a free transfer in 2006. On his departure, he fired parting shots at Worthington, claiming he had been made a “scapegoat” for the team’s indifferent performance that season. He spent one year at Oldham Athletic before retiring from the game. After playing, Charlton served time as a youth coach back at Norwich before going into management for a season at non-league Mildenhall. He now works in media as a commentator and summariser for Bolton Wanderers matches for BBC Radio Manchester.

Premier League Rewind: 16th-18th December 2006

Results: Charlton Athletic 0-3 Liverpool FC, Arsenal 2-2 Portsmouth, Newcastle United 2-1 Watford, Reading 1-2 Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic 0-1 Sheffield United, Aston Villa 0-1 Bolton Wanderers, Everton 2-3 Chelsea, Manchester City 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United 1-0 Manchester United, Fulham 2-1 Middlesbrough

The Christmas programme in 2006 was about to get underway and already, the 2006-2007 title race looked to be a straight shootout between Manchester United and Chelsea. Going into the 16th-18th December weekend, it was the Red Devils who had a five-point advantage. By the end of the weekend, Jose Mourinho’s champions had whittled the lead down after a dramatic Sunday afternoon involving the title contenders.

The Blues’ kicked off first on Merseyside and were given a very tough game by David Moyes and his Everton side. Everton were only 10th going into the match but just four points off the coveted UEFA Champions League qualifying positions and they led Chelsea twice in this match. In fact, Chelsea trailed 2-1 going into the last 10 minutes before amazing goals from Frank Lampard and then, another long-range special by Didier Drogba steered the Londoners home to a nervy and exciting 3-2 victory.

Later that afternoon, Manchester United travelled to Upton Park where West Ham United were welcoming their new manager. Alan Curbishley had been appointed a few days earlier, replacing Alan Pardew who had been sacked following a 4-0 defeat at Bolton eight days earlier. West Ham went into the weekend in the bottom three and desperate for a victory. They collected three much-needed points as Nigel Reo-Coker scored the only goal of the match and gave Curbishley a winning start. The gap between the top two was now two points.

Arsenal and Portsmouth were holding the other two Champions League qualification spots at the start of the weekend and they met each other at the Emirates Stadium. Pompey were flying and when Matt Taylor scored a looping volley, they were 2-0 up and looking set to become the first Premier League team to win at Arsenal’s new home. Arsene Wenger’s frustrations got the better of him and he was sent from the touchline but he will have been pleased to see his team’s battling qualities. Emmanuel Adebayor and skipper Gilberto Silva scored to ensure the points were shared.

Their draw allowed Liverpool FC to cash in and take third spot. Liverpool kicked off in the Saturday lunchtime game at second-bottom Charlton Athletic and it was one of the most one-sided away games in Premier League history. Liverpool had 24 attempts on-goal against Les Reed’s gutless side but only had a Xabi Alonso third-minute penalty to their name, squandering a host of opportunities. Luckily, Charlton were so bad, it didn’t matter. Craig Bellamy and Steven Gerrard did find the back of the net in the last 10 minutes to ensure the score had a fairer reflection given the visitors’ dominance. Reed lasted just one more abject match before being sacked as Charlton manager.

Elsewhere, Bolton climbed into fifth spot after Gary Speed’s penalty beat Aston Villa at Villa Park. Blackburn Rovers came from behind to pick up a valuable 2-1 victory away to Reading with David Bentley scoring the pick of the goals. Middlesbrough’s 2-1 defeat at home specialists Fulham on the Monday Night Football meant Gareth Southgate’s side slipped to 17th and just outside the bottom three on goal difference.

What else happened in December 2006?

  • Leona Lewis wins the X-Factor, becoming the first female winner of the ITV talent show.
  • Forklift driver Steve Wright is charged with the murders of five women in Ipswich between the 30th October and 10th December. He is sentenced to life imprisonment in February 2008.
  • Aged 93, Gerald Ford dies after years battling ill health. He was the 38th President of the United States, serving in office from August 1974 to January 1977.
  • Actress Wendy Richard leaves EastEnders after her character Pauline Fowler dies on Christmas Day. She had been in Albert Square since the very first episode in 1985.
  • Equestrian Zara Phillips follows in her mother’s footsteps by becoming BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 2006.
  • 2,300 jobs are lost when the Ryton car factory closes in Warwickshire and production of the Peugeot 206 is moved to Slovakia.
  • An oil pipeline explodes on Boxing Day in Lagos, Nigeria, killing at least 200 people.

Memorable Matches: Middlesbrough 3-3 Tottenham Hotspur (December 2005)

Goalscorers: Robbie Keane 25, Yakubu 30, 43, Jermaine Jenas 63, Franck Queudrue 69, Mido 83

Teams:

Middlesbrough: Mark Schwarzer, Matthew Bates, Gareth Southgate, Ugo Ehiogu, Franck Queudrue, George Boateng, Doriva, James Morrison (Massimo Maccarone 89), Fabio Rochemback, Marc Viduka, Yakubu

Tottenham Hotspur: Paul Robinson, Lee-Young Pyo, Michael Dawson, Ledley King, Paul Stalteri, Michael Carrick, Edgar Davids, Jermaine Jenas (Grzegorz Rasiak 81), Andy Reid (Jermain Defoe 56, Michael Brown 90), Robbie Keane, Mido

Referee: Howard Webb, Attendance: 27,614

The 27,614 crowd that turned up at the Riverside Stadium in December 2005 were given a pre-Christmas treat. Middlesbrough and Tottenham Hotspur produced a great spectacle and ultimately, a game which neither side deserved to lose.

Boro were having a tricky season under Steve McClaren. They had lost their last two Premier League games and were finding the juggling effect of Premier League and European matches tough to handle. Martin Jol’s Tottenham didn’t have that problem and they were challenging for a top-four finish alongside the top-flight’s usual suspects.

After a scrappy first 25 minutes, it was Jol’s side who took the lead. Lee-Young Pyo launched a deep cross into the box. Mark Schwarzer was challenged by Mido and under pressure, the goalkeeper lost the ball. Robbie Keane was in the right place at the right time. His strike wasn’t the cleanest but evaded three Boro defenders to score. Schwarzer looked at referee Howard Webb, feeling he had been impeded. In truth, it wasn’t his finest piece of goalkeeping.

Middlesbrough responded well though and by half-time, were leading 2-1. From a Gareth Southgate flick-on, Yakubu volleyed past Paul Robinson at the near post. He was the big summer arrival at the Riverside and returning an excellent goals tally. The Nigerian doubled his tally but in more fluky fashion. Academy graduate James Morrison was given space to run at the defence. He did just that, skipping past Michael Dawson’s tackle before releasing a shot. His effort took a wicked deflection off Yakubu and that gave the England no.1 goalkeeper no chance. Yakubu nearly had a hat-trick early in the second half. Only great reflexes from Robinson stopped him from walking home with the match ball. Morrison’s cross was met by a thumping header that was turned over the crossbar. It was a crucial save. Moments later, Spurs equalised. Jermaine Jenas produced a perfectly curled free-kick that comprehensively beat Schwarzer to level the scores.

With 20 minutes left, Middlesbrough regained the lead. Fabio Rochemback’s corner was met by a flying Franck Queudrue header. The ball hit the underside of the bar and bounced over the line. These were the days before goal-line technology but no doubts here – the linesman correctly awarded the goal. Robinson didn’t agree and was booked by Webb for his protests. However, Tottenham deserved something from the match and they got their point seven minutes from the end. Mido climbed the highest from a corner to defeat Schwarzer and ensure the points would be shared.

Both suffered heartache at the end of the season. Middlesbrough finished a disappointing 14th but went all the way to the UEFA Cup final before losing to Sevilla. Tottenham were pipped to a top-four finish on the final day of the campaign by north London rivals Arsenal.