Tag Archives: Derby County

Premier League Rewind: 5th-8th May 2001

Results: Arsenal 2-1 Leeds United, Aston Villa 3-2 Coventry City, Bradford City 1-1 Middlesbrough, Chelsea 2-1 Everton, Leicester City 4-2 Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool FC 3-0 Newcastle United, Manchester United 0-1 Derby County, Sunderland 3-2 Charlton Athletic, West Ham United 3-0 Southampton, Ipswich Town 2-1 Manchester City, Liverpool FC 2-2 Chelsea

With three games to go and the title already wrapped up by Manchester United, attention in May 2001 was largely focused on the bottom of the table. Bradford City were already condemned to relegation but the fight for survival was on between Derby County, Manchester City and Coventry City.

All three sides had testing fixtures away from home and with no margin for error, the side able to pull off a victory was more likely to survive. Derby had the most challenging match with a trip to the champions at Old Trafford. Jim Smith’s side had struggled all season and had only won one of their last seven encounters. The Rams though had pulled off an unexpected victory away at Manchester United in April 1997, so they had experience of producing the unexpected and they did so again here, with a shock 1-0 victory. Malcolm Christie scored the only goal of the game in the 34th minute to inflict only a second home defeat on Sir Alex Ferguson’s side all season. This win piled the pressure on Coventry City.

It meant the Sky Blues had to realistically win at Villa Park against Midlands rivals Aston Villa. They were in a very strong position when two spectacular goals from Mustapha Hadji had them 2-0 ahead. However, it was a position Gordon Strachan’s side weren’t used to in the 2000-2001 season. They’d recorded just eight league victories all campaign and it showed. Darius Vassell and Juan Pablo Angel pulled Villa level and with four minutes to go, Paul Merson delivered the final blow with a superb curling effort. The Villans won 3-2 and that result, combined with Derby’s win meant Coventry’s 34-year stay in England’s top-flight was officially over. They haven’t been back since.

Two nights later, a similar fate befell Manchester City. Shaun Goater gave their supporters hope by opening the scoring away to high-flying Ipswich Town in the 74th minute. Matt Holland equalised four minutes later though and Martijn Reuser’s diving header five minutes from full-time sealed a 2-1 win for Ipswich to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the following season’s UEFA Champions League. For Joe Royle and Manchester City, it was the end of the road and relegation back to the First Division.

Ipswich were in a three-horse race for the final UEFA Champions League qualifying position and it was advantage Liverpool FC in this particular battle. The Reds were preparing for the FA Cup final with Arsenal but warmed up by claiming four points from two home fixtures. Michael Owen was in sensational form, scoring yet another hat-trick against Newcastle United in a 3-0 success. Three days later, he grabbed another two goals in an absorbing 2-2 draw with Chelsea, as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink matched Owen’s accomplishment. The Dutchman’s two goals on Merseyside saw him take a giant step closer to winning the Golden Boot.

Elsewhere, Arsenal secured the runners-up position by defeating in-form Leeds United 2-1. Freddie Ljungberg and Sylvain Wiltord scored the goals in what turned out to be a damaging defeat for Leeds’ prospects of matching their third place finish from the previous campaign. Leicester’s wretched run of seven consecutive losses was ended by a 4-2 home victory against Tottenham Hotspur with goals from Gary Rowett, Dean Sturridge, Steve Guppy and a Robbie Savage penalty whilst Middlesbrough’s safety was secured by other results. They drew 1-1 at Valley Parade with bottom-placed Bradford City.

What else happened in May 2001?

  • Campaigning for the UK General Election is dominated by a scuffle between Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and a protestor in Rhyl after an egg is thrown at him.
  • Silvio Berlusconi becomes Italian Prime Minister for the second time after winning the election in Italy.
  • The government decides to start relaxing its tough sanctions put in place to tackle the foot and mouth crisis two months on.
  • Liverpool FC complete a unique ‘Treble’ of cup victories, defeating Arsenal 2-1 in the FA Cup final in Cardiff, before prevailing 5-4 against Spanish side Alaves in the UEFA Cup final in Dortmund.
  • At 16, Temba Tsheri becomes the youngest person to summit Mount Everest.
  • With the song ‘Everybody,’ Estonia win the 2001 Eurovision Song Contest.

 

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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.

Memorable Matches: Bradford City 4-4 Derby County (April 2000)

Goalscorers: Rory Delap 1, Branko Strupar 6, Dean Windass 11, 18, 44, Peter Beagrie 27 PEN, Craig Burley 36 PEN, 52 PEN

Teams:

Bradford City: Matt Clarke, John Dreyer, Gunnar Halle, Wayne Jacobs (Isaiah Rankin 77), Andy O’Brien, David Wetherall, Ashley Westwood (Dean Saunders 71), Stuart McCall, Peter Beagrie, Robbie Blake, Dean Windass

Derby County: Mart Poom, Horacio Carbonari, Tony Dorigo, Jacob Laursen, Steve Elliott, Craig Burley, Rory Delap (SENT OFF), Seth Johnson, Darryl Powell, Malcolm Christie, Branko Strupar (Georgi Kinkladze 65)

Referee: Alan Wilkie, Attendance: 18,276

Neither Bradford, nor Derby were safe from the threat of relegation in the closing weeks of the 1999-2000 Premier League season. It was the Bantams who were under more genuine risk when the sides met and shared an eight-goal thriller on Good Friday 2000.

Bradford manager Paul Jewell will have been horrified by his team’s sluggish start as they conceded two goals inside the opening six minutes of this must-win match. Rory Delap opened the scoring after just 23 seconds. Darryl Powell’s shot was saved by Matt Clarke but the ball fell perfectly for Malcolm Christie, who unselfishly squared the ball to Delap for the midfielder to tap home. It got worse when Branko Strupar drilled a free-kick home from the edge of the penalty area. Bradford had it all to do but Dean Windass enjoyed one of those afternoons where everything he struck ended up in the back of the net.

With the home side’s first genuine attack of the match, Windass superbly controlled the ball on the half-volley and squeezed his shot past Mart Poom’s left-hand post. Amazingly, it was 2-2 just seven minutes later. Windass pounced on a poor clearing header from Steve Elliott and the striker’s confidence was sky-high. He smashed a shot into the back of the net from at least 35-yards out.

Bradford’s transformation was completed when they took the lead for the first time on 27 minutes through controversy. The hosts thought they had scored again from a well-worked free-kick. However, referee Alan Wilkie disallowed the goal and after further consultation from his linesman, gave Bradford a penalty instead. In the process, Delap had been red-carded for a deliberate handball. Although Poom went the right way, Peter Beagrie made no mistake, finding the bottom corner.

The lead lasted just nine minutes. Strupar’s flick-on into the box found Christie who was tripped in the penalty area by Ashley Westwood. Craig Burley’s penalty was spot-on to haul the 10-men back onto level terms. Just before half-time, Bradford scored the seventh goal of a dramatic first 45 minutes. Robbie Blake picked out Windass who completed his maiden Premier League hat-trick. It was the only the second time in Premier League history that seven goals had been scored in the first half.

There was more drama after the restart but just one further goal. John Dreyer handled in the area and referee Wilkie gave his third penalty of the match – all absolutely justified. Burley stuck away his second penalty of the match to make the scoreline 4-4. Then, the Rams received yet another spot-kick chance when Powell was fouled by Blake. This time round, Burley went for power and was denied by Clarke who made a fine save.

The point was better for Derby’s survival prospects and an Easter Monday victory over Southampton virtually confirmed their safety. Bradford rallied from this draw and three victories from their last four matches also meant they would be playing Premier League football in 2000-2001.

The Clubs: Derby County

All-Time Premier League Record

Played Won Drew Lost Scored Conceded Goal Difference Points No of Seasons
266 68 70 128 271 420 -149 274 7

 

Most Premier League Appearances

Player Appearances Total
Darryl Powell 170
Jacob Laursen 136
Mart Poom 132
Dean Sturridge 127
Deon Burton 118
Rory Delap 103
Stefano Eranio 95
Malcolm Christie 91
Horacio Carbonari 88
Lee Carsley 80

 

Most Premier League Goals

Player Goals Total
Dean Sturridge 32
Malcolm Christie 23
Paulo Wanchope 23
Deon Burton 22
Francesco Baiano 16
Branko Strupar 15
Rory Delap 11
Fabrizio Ravanelli 9
Ashley Ward 9
Horacio Carbonari 8

 

Biggest Premier League Victories

Match Date Season
Derby County 4-0 Southampton 27th September 1997 1997-1998
Derby County 4-0 Bolton Wanderers 13th April 1998 1997-1998
Derby County 4-0 Wimbledon 4th March 2000 1999-2000
Sheffield Wednesday 2-5 Derby County 24th September 1997 1997-1998
Middlesbrough 1-4 Derby County 15th January 2000 1999-2000
Derby County 3-0 Arsenal 1st November 1997 1997-1998
Derby County 3-0 Sheffield Wednesday 28th February 1998 1997-1998
Derby County 3-0 Leicester City 2nd April 2000 1999-2000
Leicester City 0-3 Derby County 23rd February 2002 2001-2002
Derby County 4-2 Tottenham Hotspur 22nd March 1997 1996-1997

 

Worst Premier League Defeats

Match Date Season
Liverpool FC 6-0 Derby County 1st September 2007 2007-2008
Derby County 0-6 Aston Villa 12th April 2008 2007-2008
Middlesbrough 6-1 Derby County 5th March 1997 1996-1997
Chelsea 6-1 Derby County 12th March 2008 2007-2008
Derby County 0-5 Leeds United 15th March 1998 1997-1998
Derby County 0-5 Sunderland 18th September 1999 1999-2000
Manchester United 5-0 Derby County 12th December 2001 2001-2002
Arsenal 5-0 Derby County 22nd September 2007 2007-2008
Derby County 0-5 West Ham United 10th November 2007 2007-2008
Derby County 2-6 Arsenal 28th April 2008 2007-2008

 

Managers

Manager No of Seasons managed Left the Club
Jim Smith 6 7th October 2001
Colin Todd 1 14th January 2002
John Gregory 1 21st March 2003

 

Highest Home Attendances

Match Date Attendance Figure Season
Derby County 0-2 Liverpool FC 18th March 2000 33,378 1999-2000
Derby County 1-2 Manchester United 20th November 1999 33,370 1999-2000
Derby County 3-4 Everton 23rd March 2002 33,297 2001-2002
Derby County 0-1 Liverpool FC 1st December 2001 33,289 2001-2002
Derby County 1-1 Ipswich Town 19th May 2001 33,239 2000-2001
Derby County 0-2 Aston Villa 26th December 1999 33,222 1999-2000
Derby County 0-4 Reading 11th May 2008 33,087 2007-2008
Derby County 0-1 Manchester United 15th March 2008 33,072 2007-2008
Derby County 0-3 Tottenham Hotspur 9th February 2008 33,058 2007-2008
Derby County 0-0 Sunderland 1st March 2008 33,058 2007-2008

 

Intro

Derby County made their Premier League bow in 1996, spending one season at The Baseball Ground before moving into the state-of-the-art Pride Park stadium. The Rams finished in ninth and eighth position in two successive campaigns at the end of the 1990s but were relegated in 2002 after going through a season with three managers. Returning in 2007, they endured a horrible season and went down with the lowest points tally in Premier League history. They are currently in the Championship with ex-Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard as manager.

 

1996-1997

Having been outside of the top-flight for five seasons, Derby County returned in 1996 and made their Premier League debut, drawing a thrilling opening game 3-3 with Leeds United. The Rams won eight games in their final-ever season at The Baseball Ground but it was an away victory that was their highlight of the season. Paulo Wanchope scored a brilliant goal on his English league debut in a stunning 3-2 victory at Old Trafford over Manchester United. Derby finished in an excellent 12th position.

 

1997-1998

Derby moved into their new stadium Pride Park for the start of the 1997-1998 season but a floodlight failure meant their first game in the ground against Wimbledon had to be abandoned in the second half with the home side leading 2-1. Home victories over Liverpool FC and eventual league champions Arsenal demonstrated they settled quickly into their new surroundings and Jim Smith’s team went on to finish in ninth position, just two points shy of a European qualification place. Wanchope finished as the club’s top scorer with 13 goals.

 

1998-1999

Derby’s excellent form continued in the early weeks of the 1998-1999 campaign, moving into second place after six games following a 2-0 East Midlands Derby victory over Leicester City. Derby enjoyed 13 league victories which was good enough for their best-ever Premier League finishing position of eighth and among the highs of the season was achieving a league double over Liverpool FC. Wanchope was joint-top scorer with Deon Burton as both scored nine goals but there was a departure on the coaching staff as Jim Smith’s no.2, Steve McClaren left in February 1999 to become Sir Alex Ferguson’s new right-hand man at Manchester United.

 

1999-2000

After an encouraging goalless draw on the opening weekend away at Leeds United, Derby’s form nosedived dramatically in the early weeks of 1999-2000. The nadir was a 5-0 home humbling by newly-promoted Sunderland and they went into the new millennium rooted in the bottom three in the table. Jim Smith’s pre-season worries were being realised and 10 home defeats at Pride Park was the root of the problems. The Rams managed just five victories in the second half of the season but 38 points was enough to survive in 16th position. It was a reality shock though for all connected with the club after an impressive first three seasons in the Premier League.

 

2000-2001

Derby’s problems continued throughout the opening months of the 2000-2001 season. They didn’t win any of their first 13 games although they did draw seven of these matches. The fans patience was starting to run out with the manager and they began unfurling banners calling for Jim Smith’s departure after a 4-0 home defeat by Liverpool FC in October.

Their first win didn’t come until a 2-0 defeat of Bradford City on 18th November. Derby were still in relegation trouble until the penultimate weekend when Malcolm Christie’s goal was enough for three points away at Manchester United. The Rams safety was confirmed two days later when Manchester City were relegated after losing 2-1 at Ipswich. This time, Derby ended eight points clear of relegation danger but were 17th at the end of the season.

 

2001-2002

The pre-season arrival of Fabrizio Ravanelli excited supporters but there wasn’t a serious upturn in fortunes and after rejecting the opportunity to move upstairs into a Director of Football capacity, Jim Smith resigned as first-team manager in early October. Former Bolton Wanderers boss Colin Todd took over but he managed just four league victories and was sacked in January after a dire 3-1 FA Cup exit at home to lowly Bristol Rovers. Former player John Gregory returned to the club in February and despite victory in his first game against Tottenham Hotspur, he couldn’t galvanise Derby away from danger. After six seasons, relegation was confirmed by a 2-0 defeat to a brace of Michael Owen goals at Anfield on 20th April in the midst of a run of seven successive defeats.

 

2007-2008

Derby County returned to the Premier League in 2007-2008 and drew their first game back against Portsmouth 2-2. However, a 4-0 loss at Tottenham Hotspur and 6-0 defeat to Liverpool FC was a sign of things to come for the Midlands club. They were about to break records for all the wrong reasons.

Manager Billy Davies left the club towards the end of November and was replaced by former Wigan Athletic boss Paul Jewell. However, he failed to win a single Premier League game. In fact, Derby won just one match which came against Newcastle United in September.

Relegated at the end of March, they became the first club in Premier League history to be relegated in this calendar month and broke a top-flight record run of 32 league games without a win. Derby’s paltry tally of just 11 points is the lowest points total in Premier League history in both 38-game and 42-game seasons. It was a campaign to forget.

Premier League Files: Ashley Ward

Premier League Career: Norwich City (1994-1995), Derby County (1996-1997), Barnsley (1997-1998), Blackburn Rovers (1998-1999), Bradford City (2000-2001)

Ashley Ward played for five different Premier League clubs and was often brought into sides by teams struggling to avoid the drop. This means he has the unfortunate distinction of being relegated no fewer than four times. Out of the clubs he represented in the top-flight, his best days were most probably at Derby County and Barnsley.

Born in Greater Manchester, he was the son of a coal mining engineer and despite making it into football; it was rugby and lacrosse which he often played more of during his school days due to the selection made by the Grammar School he attended. Although he had a spell in Manchester United’s Junior B team, it was Manchester City where he signed apprentice forms in 1989, choosing them ahead of Blackburn Rovers.

He made his name as a 22-year-old at Crewe Alexandra and scored 25 goals in 61 appearances for Alexandra, becoming one of the leading marksmen in the English lower leagues. Norwich City boss John Deehan was impressed and in December 1994, he made a move for Ward who made the sudden leap straight into the Premier League, signing for the Canaries. He was seen as the long-term replacement for Chris Sutton who had joined Blackburn Rovers five months earlier.

Ward had a marvellous debut, scoring twice in Norwich’s convincing 3-0 home victory over Chelsea but the Norfolk club’s form collapsed in the second half of the season, slipping from seventh place at the turn of the year to relegation by the conclusion of the 1994-1995 season.

After 18 goals in 53 appearances for the Canaries, Ward moved to Derby County in March 1996, helping the Rams win promotion to the top-flight. He contributed to their impressive debut season, scoring a late winner against Chelsea and ultimately, the decisive goal in Derby’s brilliant 3-2 away victory at Old Trafford in April against Manchester United. Ward’s place in Derby history was sealed by scoring their last-ever goals at The Baseball Ground in May 1997, although it came in a 3-1 loss to Arsenal.

He finished with nine goals in that campaign and having finished things off from a Derby perspective at The Baseball Ground, he made a great start at their new stadium of Pride Park. He technically scored the first goal at their new home against Wimbledon. However, it didn’t count in the record books because a floodlight failure caused the game to be abandoned after 56 minutes with Derby winning the match 2-1 at the time. By the time the fixture was rearranged, Ward had departed.

Jim Smith sold him to newly-promoted Barnsley in September 1997. The Tykes had just been promoted to the Premier League for the first time in their history and Ward enjoyed his time in Yorkshire. He scored memorable away winners against both Liverpool FC and Aston Villa. However, despite his best efforts, Barnsley were relegated at the end of the season. He initially stayed with them after relegation and in November 1998 in a First Division match against Sunderland, he scored a goal, missed a penalty and got sent off in the space of five crazy minutes! It was one of his final games for the club.

Brian Kidd made him one of his first signings as Blackburn Rovers manager, joining Rovers in December 1998. However, he didn’t rediscover his solid goalscoring form he’d shown at both Derby and Barnsley and Blackburn were relegated, just four seasons after being crowned Premier League champions. He joined Bradford City for their second Premier League season in the summer of 2000 but experienced a fourth relegation in 2000-2001 and after another four seasons in the Football League with the Bantams and Sheffield United, he retired in the summer of 2005.

By that point, Ashley was already planning his future and that was in the world of business. He runs a luxury property development company called Bilton Ward and is a director of the interior design company Arista Design. Ward has also featured on the ITV reality series The Real Housewives of Cheshire as his wife, Dawn, is one of the central characters.

Shock Results: Manchester United 2-3 Derby County (April 1997)

Goalscorers: Ashley Ward 29, Paulo Wanchope 35, Eric Cantona 47, Dean Sturridge 75, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 76

Teams:

Manchester United: Peter Schmeichel, Ronny Johnsen, Gary Pallister (Paul Scholes 86), Gary Neville (Denis Irwin 70), Phil Neville, Nicky Butt (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer 45), Roy Keane, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Eric Cantona, Andy Cole

Derby County: Mart Poom, Christian Dailly, Jacob Laursen, Chris Powell, Paul McGrath, Paul Trollope, Darryl Powell, Robin van der Laan, Dean Sturridge, Ashley Ward, Paulo Wanchope (Paul Simpson 65)

Referee: David Elleray, Attendance: 55,243

Going into the final two months of the 1996-1997 Premier League season, Manchester United seemed to have one hand on the title. Alex Ferguson’s side had lost just once since early November in the league and were heavy favourites to beat Derby County at Old Trafford. Derby were in mid-table and gave debuts to Estonian goalkeeper Mart Poom and 20-year-old Costa Rican forward Paulo Wanchope whilst Manchester United preferred Andy Cole upfront to top scorer Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. A win here would take Ferguson’s side six points clear of their nearest rivals.

Roy Keane had the first significant opportunity of the afternoon, nodding a header wide of the post from a delicate Ryan Giggs cross. The reigning champions dominated the early exchanges as expected and Giggs tested Poom’s reflexes with a point-blank header which the new Derby goalkeeper was equal to. So, it was a real shock to see Jim Smith’s side go into the lead.

Paul Trollope launched a ball to the back post and Wanchope won his header against Phil Neville. Ashley Ward’s strike wasn’t the cleanest but it bounced over Peter Schmeichel’s head and into the net. Six minutes later, Wanchope’s debut turned into a staggering contribution. He picked up possession and despite his fairly leggy style, he ran clean through past four Manchester United defenders, showed some great dribbling skills and nudged the ball beyond Schmeichel’s reach. Almost unknown to everyone before kick-off, the whole world now knew who Paulo Wanchope was.

Derby continued to boss proceedings and could have been leading 3-0 at half-time. Ward forced Schmeichel into two smart stops and then hit the post as the defence seemed to be standing likes statues. This was an error-strewn display from the table-toppers and Ferguson was bound to have got the hairdryer treatment out at half-time. He took off the disappointing Nicky Butt during the break and put Solskjaer on. There was an immediate response from the captain. Solskjaer picked out Eric Cantona, who brought down the ball superbly, held off his marker Trollope and then shot across Poom’s bows and into the back of the net.

Derby held firm though and with 15 minutes left, virtually secured a shock victory. Dean Sturridge nodded the ball past an overcommitted Schmeichel and when the ball hit the post, the bounce fell perfectly for Sturridge to score one of the easiest goals of his career. It was a poor performance from the entire Red Devils backline. Solskjaer immediately pulled a goal back when he made the most of an unfortunate flick-on from Paul McGrath but Derby held on for a memorable and deserved victory.

Manchester United remained unbeaten after this defeat to register a fourth Premier League title in five seasons. This was only Derby’s second away win of the season but it was the boost they needed and Smith’s side would finish a fine 12th in their debut Premier League campaign.

Premier League Files: Georgi Kinkladze

Premier League Career: Manchester City (1995-1996), Derby County (1999-2002)

With plenty of dribbling ability and the quality to hurt opposition defences, Georgi Kinkladze was often the shining light in some grim days at Maine Road with Manchester City. The diminutive Georgian might have not been able to save the Citizens from Premier League relegation in 1996 but he did his best to do it virtually single-handily. His solo effort against Southampton is still widely remembered as one of the best goals of the 1995-1996 season.

Born in the Georgian capital Tbilisi, Kinkladze won three league titles with the main powerhouse in Georgian football, Dinamo Tbilisi. He was named national player of the year twice and gained some prominence within the minds of UK supporters with his dazzling displays in European Championship qualification matches against Wales.

In July 1995, Manchester City beat off stiff competition from several European clubs to acquire Kinkladze’s signature. The £2 million fee would mean he would become the first Georgian to play in the Premier League and despite some initial problems with trying to earn a work permit, Kinkladze would get his documents ready in-time to be in the starting XI for Manchester City’s opening game of the 1995-1996 season – a 1-1 draw at home with Tottenham Hotspur.

City made a wretched start to the season under new manager Alan Ball. They didn’t win a league match until defeating Bolton Wanderers in early November. Nevertheless, Kinkladze was the shining light and already very popular with the long-suffering supporters. In November 1995, he scored his first Premier League goal in a 1-0 victory over high-flying Aston Villa that briefly took Ball’s side out of the bottom three.

Initially, he struggled to settle due to the language limitations and bitter winter climate but his mother moved to Manchester just before the festive period and if anything, this home comfort made Kinkladze an even better player. In March 1996, he produced his best moment of the campaign against relegation rivals Southampton. He beat five Southampton players on a mazy solo run and clipped the ball over the experienced Dave Beasant with calmness personified. City won the game 2-1 and Kinkladze’s goal was voted Goal of the Month by BBC Match of the Day viewers.

He was named Player of the Year by his fellow teammates and supporters of the club but one high-quality player can’t always save a faltering team. On the final day of the season, Manchester City were relegated to the First Division. Despite interest from the likes of Celtic and Inter Milan, Kinkladze elected to stay at Maine Road and try to help City back to the top-flight at the first attempt.

It didn’t happen and the club went backwards. He continued to shine in the First Division but Manchester City were slipping towards the third-tier of English football and were relegated in 1998. Joe Royle saw him as a luxury player and often left him out in the 1997-1998 relegation run-in, thinking his skills were too much of a hindrance in a struggling side rather than a help.

Kinkladze joined Ajax in the summer of 1998 for £5 million but played in an unfamiliar wide position after Jari Litmanen’s planned transfer to Barcelona collapsed. He never settled in the Netherlands, playing just 12 times and felt frustrated by a lack of first-team opportunities. He returned to English shores and joined Derby County on-loan initially in November 1999 making his Premier League return as a late substitute in a defeat at Highbury.

He made 14 appearances in the loan spell with the Rams and did enough to make the move into a permanent switch with Derby paying Ajax £3 million which was a transfer record for the club that stood for the next seven years. A hernia operation kept Kinkladze on the sidelines at the start of the 2000-2001 season and further injury setbacks meant he couldn’t nail down a regular place in Derby’s line-up. He wasn’t as influential in the Midlands as he had been at Manchester City. Some managers seemed to appreciate his flair like John Gregory and Jim Smith. Others like Colin Todd were not interested in this and made that abundantly clear by often not selecting him due to his lack of work ethic. In 2002, Derby were relegated from the Premier League – a third relegation on Kinkladze’s English CV.

Although he liked him, Gregory had to slash the wage bill following Derby’s drop into the Football League and had to tell Kinkladze he had to leave for the good of the club. Settled in the region, Georgi didn’t want to go and even turned down a potential move to Turkish champions Galatasaray. He stayed with the Rams until his contract expired in the summer of 2003.

An 18-month spell without a club followed. Trial periods with the likes of Portsmouth, Leeds United and Panathinaikos led to no permanent contract offer and his career in England was most definitely over. He did win the Cypriot championship in 2005 when he returned to club football with Anorthosis Famagusta before ending his career at Rubin Kazan. Retiring in 2007, he later worked as a sports agent and spent a year back at Anorthosis as Sporting Director before leaving in June 2012.

He might have been a weak tackler and a lack of defensive contribution meant he was not always a manager’s favourite. However, Georgi Kinkladze was a playmaker artist and is still fondly remembered as a bright light in very difficult times at Manchester City.

Premier League Rewind: 2nd-3rd February 2002

Results: Derby County 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal 1-1 Southampton, Everton 1-2 Ipswich Town, Fulham 0-0 Aston Villa, Leicester City 2-3 Chelsea, Manchester United 4-1 Sunderland, Newcastle United 3-2 Bolton Wanderers, West Ham United 2-0 Blackburn Rovers, Leeds United 0-4 Liverpool FC, Middlesbrough 0-0 Charlton Athletic

The 2001-2002 Premier League title battle was becoming a very intense fight between many of the top-flight’s superpowers. Despite a lackadaisical start to the season by their high standards, Manchester United were now top of the table and chasing a fourth successive title victory.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side won their 10th match in their last 11 outings with a comfortable 4-1 home victory over an out-of-form Sunderland side at Old Trafford. All four goals were scored in the first half by the hosts with Ruud van Nistelrooy adding another two to his growing collection. There was also a rare goal for Phil Neville. Sunderland were now without a win in six games and slipped to 15th in the table, just three points clear of the relegation zone.

Arsenal were the Red Devils’ closest challengers going into the weekend but they ended it back in fourth position after being held at Highbury to a 1-1 draw by Southampton. On the weekend where the club revealed their new club crest to be used from the 2002-2003 season onwards, Sylvain Wiltord put the Gunners ahead five minutes before half-time. Jo Tessem’s equaliser would turn out to be the final dropped points of Arsenal’s season.

Newcastle United’s impressive campaign continued. Sir Bobby Robson’s side did trail twice at home to Bolton Wanderers but came back to win 3-2 with the winning goal coming from Craig Bellamy. After their bright start which had seen a maximum haul of points back in August, Bolton were now in the bottom three.

It wasn’t a happy reunion for Robbie Fowler in his first meeting with Liverpool FC since his £11 million transfer to Leeds United in November 2001. Liverpool were in devastating form at Elland Road, crushing the home side 4-0 with Emile Heskey scoring twice. Liverpool overtook Arsenal to move into third place with three successive victories for stand-in manager Phil Thompson. Having been top on New Years’ Day, Leeds were now down to sixth and nine points off the pace. Their title challenge looked as good as over.

Having resigned from his position as Aston Villa manager, John Gregory returned to his former club Derby County and made a winning start. Lee Morris scored a very scrappy goal to ensure the Rams edged out Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 at Pride Park. After four successive defeats, the victory kept Derby just about in touch with the pack above them in the scrap to survive.

Going in the wrong direction were Blackburn Rovers. After a positive start to their Premier League return, Graeme Souness’ side were going through a trough in terms of their league results. Their fifth reverse in six games came at Upton Park, losing 2-0 to West Ham United. This left Blackburn only above the relegation zone on goal difference  and it was a far cry from the corresponding fixture earlier in the season when the former Premier League champions had thrashed the Hammers 7-1.

Meanwhile, Ipswich Town were going in the right direction. The 2000-2001 surprise packages recorded their seventh victory in eight games with a 2-1 success away to Everton. Ipswich had climbed to 12th and were just three points off eighth place as they were recovering brilliantly from their horrific start to the campaign. Sadly for George Burley, a heavy defeat to Liverpool FC in their very next game would start a worrying drop down the table towards eventual relegation from the top-flight.

What else happened in February 2002?

  • There is sad news from Buckingham Palace as the Queen’s sister; Princess Margaret dies after suffering a stroke. She was 71.
  • The Winter Olympics take place in Salt Lake City and Great Britain win a gold medal thanks to the women’s curling team.
  • Actor John Thaw, best-known for playing lead roles in Inspector Morse and Kavanagh QC, dies just seven weeks after his 60th birthday. 
  • Saturday nights get a new hit as the first series of Pop Idol concludes on ITV. Over 8.7 million votes are casted as Will Young beats Gareth Gates to win the competition.
  • The trial of the former president of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic begins in The Hague.
  • More than 2,000 jobs disappear when Ford ends 90 years of British car production after the last Fiesta model is completed in Dagenham.

Premier League Rewind: 7th-8th November 1998

Results: Aston Villa 3-2 Tottenham Hotspur, Blackburn Rovers 1-2 Coventry City, Charlton Athletic 0-0 Leicester City, Liverpool FC 1-2 Derby County, Nottingham Forest 0-1 Wimbledon, Southampton 3-3 Middlesbrough, Arsenal 1-0 Everton, Leeds United 2-1 Sheffield Wednesday, Manchester United 0-0 Newcastle United, West Ham United 1-1 Chelsea

The 7th-8th November 1998 weekend would be one of shattering blows for an Italian striker, the end of ‘The Boot Room’ regime at a leading Premier League club and a wonderful debut for another forward in the Midlands.

The big news going into this round of games was Aston Villa’s acquisition of the ex-Manchester United forward Dion Dublin. Villa had pipped Blackburn Rovers to the signature of Dublin, who had decided to call time on his four-year spell as the leading marksman at Coventry City.

Just 48 hours after arriving at Villa Park, Dublin made his Aston Villa debut as the league leaders welcomed Tottenham Hotspur. With virtually his first opportunity, he scored after 31 minutes. Four minutes later, he made it 2-0 with another composed finish and when Stan Collymore made it 3-0 two minutes into the second half, John Gregory’s side were going to be staying as the table toppers. Despite two late goals from Darren Anderton and Ramon Vega, Villa held on for a 3-2 victory which looked more comfortable than the actual scoreline suggested. Gregory’s side were still unbeaten after 11 matches and finished the weekend two points clear. For new Tottenham manager George Graham, it was just one win from his first four matches in the post and Spurs sat a below-par 14th in the table.

Only three places above them were Liverpool FC. The Reds had won just one of their last seven matches and that run got worse when Derby County won 2-1 at Anfield. Early goals inside the first 30 minutes from Kevin Harper and Paulo Wanchope spearheaded Derby to an amazing victory. The pressure was growing on Liverpool’s wisdom of appointing joint-managers. It was Gerard Houllier and Roy Evans in the dugout together and the latter was taking most of the flak. Less than a week later, Evans had parted company with the club and Houllier would take sole charge of the team. The final link to ‘The Boot Room’ which had dominated Anfield for over 30 years had been severed.

Liverpool were some way off the pace which was being set by Villa. Among the chasing pack were Chelsea and they extended their unbeaten run to nine matches after drawing 1-1 at West Ham United. Celestine Babayaro scored the equaliser to preserve this record. However, this match would be overshadowed by a horrific injury sustained by Pierluigi Casiraghi. The Italian had scored just once and his 10th appearance for the Londoners would be his last. An unfortunate collision in the penalty area with West Ham goalkeeper Shaka Hislop led to a serious cruciate knee ligament injury. Chelsea boss Gianluca Vialli admitted his season was over but was optimistic Casiraghi could recover. In truth, he would never play professional football again, retiring in 2002 after 10 unsuccessful operations.

Defending champions Arsenal moved above Manchester United into second place. Nicolas Anelka’s early goal after six minutes was enough to defeat Everton 1-0 at Highbury whilst the Red Devils were held to a goalless draw by a stubborn Newcastle United at Old Trafford.

At the wrong end of the table, Southampton remained bottom after an enthralling 3-3 draw with Middlesbrough. The visitors had both Phil Stamp and Robbie Mustoe sent off by referee Paul Alcock and required a 90th minute equaliser from defender Gianluca Festa to rescue a point. Coventry City and Blackburn Rovers swapped places with the Sky Blues’ 2-1 win in Lancashire moving them out of the relegation zone at Blackburn’s expense.

What else happened in November 1998?

  • The United States House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee begins impeachment hearings against American president Bill Clinton over the Lewinsky scandal.
  • The European Court of Human Rights is instituted.
  • The United Kingdom formally abolishes the death penalty.
  • Former professional wrestler, Jesse Ventura is elected Governor of Minnesota.
  • Daimler-Benz completes a merger with Chrysler Corporation to form Daimler-Chrysler.
  • A new subscription movie channel from Channel 4, FilmFour is launched.
  • Mika Hakkinen wins the Japanese Grand Prix to become Formula One World Champion for the first time in his career.

Seasonal Records: 2007-2008

For all the statistical fans out there, here are some of the season’s records from the 2006-2007 Premier League campaign. The title race went down to the wire but it was Manchester United who made it back-to-back title successes, beating Chelsea to the league title and the UEFA Champions League.

FINAL TABLE

Position Team P W D L F A GD PTS
1 Manchester United 38 27 6 5 80 22 +58 87
2 Chelsea 38 25 10 3 65 26 +39 85
3 Arsenal 38 24 11 3 74 31 +43 83
4 Liverpool FC 38 21 13 4 67 28 +39 76
5 Everton 38 19 8 11 55 33 +22 65
6 Aston Villa 38 16 12 10 71 51 +20 60
7 Blackburn Rovers 38 15 13 10 50 48 +2 58
8 Portsmouth 38 16 9 13 48 40 +8 57
9 Manchester City 38 15 10 13 45 53 -8 55
10 West Ham United 38 13 10 15 42 50 -8 49
11 Tottenham Hotspur 38 11 13 14 66 61 +5 46
12 Newcastle United 38 11 10 17 45 65 -20 43
13 Middlesbrough 38 10 12 16 43 53 -10 42
14 Wigan Athletic 38 10 10 18 34 51 -17 40
15 Sunderland 38 11 6 21 36 59 -23 39
16 Bolton Wanderers 38 9 10 19 36 54 -18 37
17 Fulham 38 8 12 18 38 60 -22 36
18 Reading 38 10 6 22 41 66 -25 36
19 Birmingham City 38 8 11 19 46 62 -16 35
20 Derby County 38 1 8 29 20 89 -69 11

 

THE BASIC STATS

Goals Scored 1002
European qualifiers Manchester United (UEFA Champions League)

Chelsea (UEFA Champions League)

Arsenal (UEFA Champions League)

Liverpool FC (UEFA Champions League)

Everton (UEFA Cup)

Manchester City (UEFA Cup)

Portsmouth (UEFA Cup)

Tottenham Hotspur (UEFA Cup)

Aston Villa (UEFA Intertoto Cup)

Longest winning run 8 games (Manchester United)
Longest unbeaten run 21 games (Chelsea)
Longest winless run 32 games (Derby County)
Longest losing run 8 games (Reading & Wigan Athletic)
Highest attendance 76,013 (Manchester United vs. West Ham United)
Lowest attendance 14,007 (Wigan Athletic vs. Middlesbrough)

 

AWARDS

PFA Players’ Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
PFA Young Player of the Year Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)
Football Writers’ Award Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
PFA Team of the Year David James, Gael Clichy, Rio Ferdinand, Bacary Sagna, Nemanja Vidic, Cesc Fabregas, Steven Gerrard, Cristiano Ronaldo, Ashley Young, Emmanuel Adebayor, Fernando Torres
Manager of the Year Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)
Premier League Goal of the Season Emmanuel Adebayor (Tottenham Hotspur vs. ARSENAL)

 

HAT-TRICK HEROES

Player Teams Score Date
Emmanuel Adebayor Arsenal vs. Derby County 5-0 22nd September 2007
Benjani Portsmouth vs. Reading 7-4 29th September 2007
Yakubu Everton vs. Fulham 3-0 8th December 2007
Roque Santa Cruz Wigan Athletic vs. Blackburn Rovers 5-3 15th December 2007
Marcus Bent Wigan Athletic vs. Blackburn Rovers 5-3 15th December 2007
Dimitar Berbatov (4) Tottenham Hotspur vs. Reading 6-4 29th December 2007
Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United vs. Newcastle United 6-0 12th January 2008
Benjani Portsmouth vs. Derby County 3-1 19th January 2008
John Carew Aston Villa vs. Newcastle United 4-1 9th February 2008
Fernando Torres Liverpool FC vs. Middlesbrough 3-2 23rd February 2008
Mikael Forssell Birmingham City vs. Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 1st March 2008
Fernando Torres Liverpool FC vs. West Ham United 4-0 5th March 2008
Frank Lampard (4) Chelsea vs. Derby County 6-1 12th March 2008
Emmanuel Adebayor Derby County vs. Arsenal 2-6 28th April 2008
Afonso Alves Middlesbrough vs. Manchester City 8-1 11th May 2008

 

TOP SCORERS

Position Player Teams No of Goals
1 Cristiano Ronaldo Manchester United 31
2= Emmanuel Adebayor Arsenal 24
2= Fernando Torres Liverpool FC 24
4 Roque Santa Cruz Blackburn Rovers 19
5= Dimitar Berbatov Tottenham Hotspur 15
5= Yakubu Everton 15
5= Benjani Portsmouth & Manchester City 15
5= Robbie Keane Tottenham Hotspur 15
9 Carlos Tevez Manchester United 14
10 John Carew Aston Villa 13
11= Wayne Rooney Manchester United 12
11= Jermain Defoe Tottenham Hotspur & Portsmouth 12
13= Nicolas Anelka Bolton Wanderers & Chelsea 11
13= Steven Gerrard Liverpool FC 11
13= Gabriel Agbonlahor Aston Villa 11
13= Michael Owen Newcastle United 11
17= Frank Lampard Chelsea 10
17= Dean Ashton West Ham United 10
17= Dave Kitson Reading 10
20= Gareth Barry Aston Villa 9
20= Obafemi Martins Newcastle United 9
20= Stewart Downing Middlesbrough 9
20= Mikael Forssell Birmingham City 9
24= Didier Drogba Chelsea 8
24= Joleon Lescott Everton 8

BIGGEST VICTORIES

Middlesbrough 8-1 Manchester City 11th May 2008
Everton 7-1 Sunderland 24th November 2007
Manchester United 6-0 Newcastle United 12th January 2008
Chelsea 6-0 Manchester City 27th October 2007
Liverpool FC 6-0 Derby County 1st September 2007
Derby County 0-6 Aston Villa 12th April 2008
Chelsea 6-1 Derby County 12th March 2008
Arsenal 5-0 Derby County 22nd September 2007
Derby County 0-5 West Ham United 10th November 2007
Derby County 2-6 Arsenal 28th April 2008

 

HIGHEST SCORING GAMES

No of Goals Teams Date
11 Portsmouth 7-4 Reading 29th September 2007
10 Tottenham Hotspur 6-4 Reading 29th December 2007
9 Middlesbrough 8-1 Manchester City 11th May 2008
8 Everton 7-1 Sunderland 24th November 2007
8 Derby County 2-6 Arsenal 28th April 2008
8 Wigan Athletic 5-3 Blackburn Rovers 15th December 2007
8 Chelsea 4-4 Aston Villa 26th December 2007
8 Tottenham Hotspur 4-4 Chelsea 19th March 2008
8 Tottenham Hotspur 4-4 Aston Villa 1st October 2007
7 Chelsea 6-1 Derby County 12th March 2008
6 Manchester United 6-0 Newcastle United 12th January 2008
6 Chelsea 6-0 Manchester City 27th October 2007
6 Liverpool FC 6-0 Derby County 1st September 2007
6 Derby County 0-6 Aston Villa 12th April 2008
6 Newcastle United 1-5 Manchester United 23rd February 2008
6 Aston Villa 5-1 Birmingham City 20th April 2008
6 Tottenham Hotspur 5-1 Fulham 26th December 2007
6 Blackburn Rovers 4-2 Reading 20th October 2007
6 Portsmouth 4-2 Birmingham City 12th March 2008
6 Manchester City 4-2 Bolton Wanderers 15th December 2007

 

YOUNGEST PLAYERS USED

Player Teams Age at the time Date
Jack Rodwell Sunderland 0-1 Everton 16 years, 11 months, 27 days 9th March 2008
Kazenga Lualua Newcastle United 0-0 Bolton Wanderers 17 years, 1 month, 9 days 19th January 2008
Martyn Waghorn Sunderland 0-4 Manchester United 17 years, 11 months, 3 days 26th December 2007
Gareth Bale Manchester United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur 18 years, 1 month, 10 days 26th August 2007
Adel Taarabt Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 Derby County 18 years, 2 months, 25 days 18th August 2007
Freddie Sears West Ham United 2-1 Blackburn Rovers 18 years, 3 months, 17 days 15th March 2008
Paris Simmons Derby County 0-4 Reading 18 years, 4 months, 9 days 11th May 2008
Theo Walcott Arsenal 2-1 Fulham 18 years, 4 months, 27 days 12th August 2007
Daniel Sturridge Derby County 1-1 Manchester City 18 years, 4 months, 29 days 30th January 2008
Armand Traore Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool FC 18 years, 5 months, 28 days 5th April 2008

 

OLDEST PLAYERS USED

Player Teams Age at the time Date
Jens Lehmann Arsenal 1-0 Everton 38 years, 5 months, 24 days 4th May 2008
Kasey Keller Portsmouth 0-1 Fulham 38 years, 5 months, 12 days 11th May 2008
Gary Speed Bolton Wanderers 4-1 Wigan Athletic 38 years, 3 months, 1 day 9th December 2007
David James Manchester City 3-1 Portsmouth 37 years, 8 months, 19 days 20th April 2008
Tugay Birmingham City 4-1 Blackburn Rovers 37 years, 8 months, 17 days 11th May 2008
Edwin van der Sar Wigan Athletic 0-2 Manchester United 37 years, 6 months, 12 days 11th May 2008
Brad Friedel Birmingham City 4-1 Blackburn Rovers 36 years, 11 months, 23 days 11th May 2008
Maik Taylor Birmingham City 4-1 Blackburn Rovers 36 years, 8 months, 7 days 11th May 2008
Alan Stubbs Derby County 2-6 Arsenal 36 years, 6 months, 22 days 28th April 2008
Dwight Yorke Sunderland 0-1 Arsenal 36 years, 6 months, 8 days 11th May 2008

 

CLEAN SHEETS

Position Player Teams No of Clean Sheets
1 Pepe Reina Liverpool FC 18
2 David James Portsmouth 16
3= Edwin van der Sar Manchester United 15
3= Petr Cech Chelsea 15
5 Tim Howard Everton 14
6 Chris Kirkland Wigan Athletic 12
7 Manuel Almunia Arsenal 11
8 Scott Carson Aston Villa 9
9= Brad Friedel Blackburn Rovers 8
9= Robert Green West Ham United 8

The Managers: Jim Smith

Premier League Clubs Managed: Derby County (1997-2001)

Jim Smith was an experienced-hand in football and managed in every single main division in English football. He spent four relatively successful seasons as a Premier League manager with Derby County and served as Harry Redknapp’s assistant at both Portsmouth and Southampton. Now aged 77, Smith earned himself the nickname “The Bald Eagle.”

Toiling as a player

Smith grew up in Sheffield and was a Sheffield Wednesday supporter as a youngster. In terms of his playing career, he toiled around in the lower leagues but he did make over 370 league appearances between 1959 and 1973.

Although he was a Wednesday fan, it was Sheffield United who signed him up as a professional, though he didn’t make a first-team appearance for the Blades. He was transferred to Aldershot Town in 1961 and would go on to play for Halifax Town, Lincoln City, Boston United and Colchester United.

By the time he’d retired as a player, Jim was already making his first strides into management. He took charge of both Boston and Colchester, guiding the Essex club to promotion from the Fourth Division in 1974.

A year later, he left Colchester for Blackburn Rovers which would be the first of seven clubs he’d take charge of on a permanent basis over nearly 30 years. Blackburn were a Second Division side at the time and Smith consolidated them initially before leading them to a promotion push in 1978. However, he wouldn’t see the season out as a new challenge awaited in the top-flight.

Being a part of transfer history

In March 1978, Birmingham City were struggling near the foot of the First Division table. England’s World Cup winning manager Sir Alf Ramsey decided to step down, not fancying relegation on his CV. Smith accepted the challenge but couldn’t keep the Blues away from the drop.

He would eventually take charge of 182 matches at St. Andrew’s and was part of football transfer history as he allowed Trevor Francis to leave and join Midlands rivals Nottingham Forest. In doing so, Francis became the first £1 million player in transfer history. Smith was allowed to re-invest the money in the rest of the playing squad and guided Birmingham back at the first attempt to the First Division.

In early 1982, Ron Saunders controversially walked out on Aston Villa; the team he’d led to the First Division title a season earlier. Birmingham sensed an opportunity and decided to sack Smith and replace him with Saunders at the end of the 1981-1982 season. Smith would later say in his book that he believed the decision to axe him was made on the team coach on the way home from the last game of the season.

Oxford United picked him up and he led them to the Third Division title in 1984 and actually achieved back-to-back promotions as they won the Second Division crown a year later. In most cases, that should give you a job for life but unfortunately for Jim, the owner of Oxford at the time was the controversial media mogul, Robert Maxwell. Maxwell refused to enter discussions for a new contract, so Smith left after the consecutive title success to take the job at Queens Park Rangers.

Maxwell got his revenge on his former boss in 1986 as Oxford beat QPR 3-0 in the League Cup final. After three years in west London, he made the move to manage Newcastle United in December 1988. Like many before and after him, he found the going very tough on Tyneside and by March 1991, with little progress being made and a power struggle in the boardroom at St. James’ Park, he resigned. Later, he claimed Newcastle United are “unmanageable.”

Near-miss with Pompey

In the summer of 1991, his next port of call was Portsmouth where the 1991-1992 season saw a near-miss in the world’s oldest domestic cup competition. Pompey reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup before losing a penalty shootout to eventual winners Liverpool FC.  A year later, they came within an inch of automatic promotion to the Premier League but missed out to West Ham United on goal difference, then losing in the play-off semi-finals.

Star player Guy Whittingham was sold to Aston Villa in the summer of 1993, following the likes of Darren Anderton and John Beresford who were transferred away from the club a season earlier. No money was made available for adequate replacements and in January 1995, he was sacked and briefly had a spell as chief executive of the LMA (League Managers’ Association).

In the summer of 1995, he returned to the dugout as manager of Derby County, bringing in Steve McClaren as a first-team coach. He finally made it to the promise land of the Premier League. Derby beat promotion rivals Crystal Palace 2-1 in April 1996 to secure the runners-up spot in the First Division behind champions Sunderland.

He added the likes of Croatian defender Igor Stimac, midfielder Aljosa Asanovic and the unheralded forward Paulo Wanchope and Derby finished a comfortable 12th in their first Premier League season, beating Manchester United 3-2 at Old Trafford along the way.

Even better was to come for the Derby faithful as the 1990s drew to a close.

Feeling Pride at Pride Park

1996-1997 was Derby County’s final season at The Baseball Ground and they would move that summer into a new stadium. Jim would feel great pride at being the first Derby manager to coach at Pride Park. The first game against Wimbledon was abandoned due to a floodlight failure but he made them very difficult to beat at home.

Derby beat Arsenal 3-0, held Manchester United to a 2-2 draw and crushed Southampton 4-0. They remained unbeaten on home soil until Leeds United picked up a 5-0 victory in mid-March. That loss did take the life out of the Rams season but they still finished a creditable ninth in the table.

They improved a season later to eighth, with another scalp being a 2-1 triumph at Anfield over Liverpool FC. Smith had made Derby an attractive side to watch, with the creative talents of Wanchope, Dean Sturridge, Francesco Baiano and Stefano Eranio matched by the grit of goalkeeper Mart Poom, defender Chris Powell and midfielder Lee Carsley.

The next two seasons were a much bigger struggle, with the club finishing near the lower reaches of the Premier League table. After winning just one of his first seven games in 2001-2002, Derby decided to make a change. They offered Smith a Director of Football position but he turned it down and as a result, tendered his resignation in October 2001. Colin Todd would replace him.

He said: “I appreciated the chairman offering me the position of Director of Football, but felt I had more to offer the club. I will always appreciate Derby County and their magnificent fans for everything they have done for me and my family.”

Becoming a no.2

After his exit from Derby, Jim Smith became an assistant manager for the majority of the rest of his time in football. In January 2002, he was made assistant to Roland Nilsson at Coventry City but was sacked three months later as the Sky Blues failed to launch a challenge for a play-off place.

Harry Redknapp added him to his staff at Portsmouth and Jim played an important part in the south coast’s side promotion as First Division champions in 2003. The pair remained together until November 2004 when Redknapp resigned following a row with owner Milan Mandaric over the appointment of a Director of Football. A month later, Smith would rejoin Redknapp a few miles down the road at Southampton but they couldn’t save the Saints from sliding into the Championship. He was made redundant in a round of job cuts following their failure to preserve their top-flight status, much to Redknapp’s chagrin.

He returned to the main hotseat of one of his former clubs, Oxford United in March 2006, holding the role for 18 months as Oxford struggled in non-league football. He also took a seat on the board before severing his ties with the club in 2009.

With 34 years’ experience in the game, Jim Smith was one of the most respected and well-liked personalities in football and put Derby County well and truly on the Premier League map in the late 1990s.

The Managers: John Gregory

Premier League Clubs Managed: Aston Villa (1998-2002), Derby County (2002)

In 2015, it looked like John Gregory’s managerial career would be cut short when health reasons forced him to step down from his position at Crawley Town. Happily, Gregory has made a full recovery and is back in management over in India, currently as manager of Chennaiyin.

Recently, 20 years have passed since his appointment as Aston Villa manager where he took them to a title challenge tilt in his first full season and an FA Cup final appearance before an ill-fated spell at one of his playing clubs in Derby County that ended with Premier League relegation in 2002.

Playing in his teens

Gregory made his professional debut as a player at the age of just 18 in 1972. His first club was Northampton Town, scoring eight times in 187 league appearances before earning his big chance with Aston Villa in 1977.

It was a big step-up for John from his time with the Cobblers but he handled the pressure very well, even if his spell with the Villans was restricted to just two seasons. Gregory became the only player to play in every outfield position, wearing every number from 2 to 11 over his two seasons with the club, which remains a record.

After two years on the seaside with Brighton & Hove Albion, Gregory moved to Queens Park Rangers in 1981, enjoying the most successful period of his playing career at Loftus Road. In his first full season in west London, he was part of the team that reached the FA Cup final but experienced the agony of losing that final to Tottenham Hotspur. It was a pain that John would also experience as a manager a full 18 years later.

He helped QPR qualify for the UEFA Cup in 1984 but after Terry Venables left to accept the position as Barcelona manager, their form dipped and Gregory elected to move to Derby County in 1985.

Derby had been champions of England twice in the 1970s but by 1985, had dropped into the Third Division. With Gregory’s guile and experience, the Rams returned into the limelight with back-to-back promotions. After helping them survive their first campaign back in the top-flight, he announced his retirement as a player in 1988, although he did briefly come out of retirement two years later for very brief spells with Plymouth Argyle and Bolton Wanderers.

Cutting his apprenticeship

It would be six years between the end of Gregory’s playing career and his first steps into permanent management. His apprenticeship as a coach was during Brian Little’s days as manager with Leicester City and Aston Villa. He joined Little’s team in 1991 and followed him to Villa Park three years later.

In September 1996, he got the opportunity to go his own way with Wycombe Wanderers. At the time, it was one of the toughest jobs to make your mark. Wycombe were bottom of Division Two but he stabilised them and took them to a solid mid-table finish.

He had turned Wycombe into a play-off challenger in Division Two when Little resigned as Aston Villa manager in February 1998 after a 2-1 loss to Wimbledon left them floundering in 15th place in the table. Although big names were linked to the post, including Dutchman Ruud Gullit, Gregory was given the opportunity to return to Villa Park to revive their fortunes.

He revealed recently: “Villa had a group of players that should not be, under any circumstances, be worried about the threat of relegation.”

A wonderful honeymoon

His first match was a home game with Liverpool FC. Villa had lost five of their previous seven matches and Gregory had inherited a squad that he knew greatly from his days of being on Little’s coaching staff. The only exception was Stan Collymore and their relationship would be destructive.

It started well. Collymore put in an unstoppable performance against the club that had sold him the previous summer, scoring twice in Villa’s 2-1 victory. It was the high point of a very tempestuous relationship.

Collymore was involved in a highly-publicised bust-up with his girlfriend Ulrika Jonsson in the summer of 1998 and was never the same player after that. He struggled with depression and stress and it was something the manager struggled to help him with. He eventually loaned him out to Fulham and would release him in 2000 to join Leicester City.

Insults have been traded over the years but Gregory accepts mistakes were made on his behalf. He said: “It pains me to admit that I failed miserably in showing any kind of compassion to his long drawn out periods of depression. I still cannot understand how someone so young, fit, handsome and wealthy can suffer from such an illness.”

Aside from Collymore, the rest of the playing squad looked revitalised under his coaching. Villa rallied to seventh place at the end of the 1997-1998 campaign and qualified for the UEFA Cup. Despite selling Dwight Yorke to Manchester United, the momentum continued for the rest of the 1998 calendar year.

Aston Villa stayed unbeaten until mid-November and were top of the table on Christmas Day, losing just three times in the first half of the season. Going into 1999, Gregory’s team looked like a serious title challenger alongside Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal. It had been a wonderful honeymoon period but it wasn’t to last.

Second suffering at Wembley

The Villans form crumbled after an FA Cup exit in January 1999 to Fulham. They folded in the title race and didn’t even qualify for Europe, finishing sixth in the final 1998-1999 standings.

A run to the FA Cup final in 2000 was the highlight of John’s next two seasons at the helm, guiding them to the final-ever final before Wembley would be demolished and redeveloped. They met Chelsea but the occasion seemed to get to the better of the players on the day. Roberto Di Matteo’s scrappy second half winner saw Chelsea claim the cup and produced a second final suffering for Gregory after his pain as a player with Queens Park Rangers.

In 2001-2002, the club had a brief taste of top spot in the table again, hitting the summit at the end of October after a 3-2 success at home to Bolton Wanderers. However, only three wins in 13 games followed which dropped them to seventh and two-goal leads were blown in the Premier League away to Arsenal and in the FA Cup at home to Manchester United.

In late January 2002, Gregory walked away from Aston Villa and was immediately linked with the vacancy at his former playing club, Derby County.

A Derby disaster

His first game as Derby manager came less than 10 days after exiting Aston Villa and Lee Morris scored the only goal in a 1-0 success over Tottenham Hotspur.

An away victory at already doomed Leicester City followed and only a controversial disallowed goal stopped them beating Manchester United at Pride Park. Unfortunately, seven defeats from the Rams last eight fixtures saw their six-year stay in England’s top-flight come to an end.

Gregory stayed on but couldn’t buy any players due to financial restrictions and Derby struggled back in Division One. He was sacked in March 2003 for alleged misconduct and took the club to court for unfair dismissal.

The protracted legal action meant he was out of the game for three years but he was successful in his case, winning £1 million in compensation. Needless to say, his Derby spell was a disaster.

Since then, John has been globetrotting with spells as a manager in Kazakhstan and Israel along with stints at Queens Park Rangers and Crawley Town.

With Crawley struggling in the League One relegation zone in December 2014, Gregory stepped down with the club revealing he needed open heart surgery in January 2015. After a long period of recuperation, he made a full recovery and is currently in India, adding to his managerial CV.

Passive was not a word to use about John Gregory. He had a good reputation for working with difficult characters and getting the best out of them. He was good also with soundbites for the media. When Yorke left Villa for Manchester United in August 1998, he jokingly said in a media conference: “Dwight came into my office a couple of weeks ago and stated he wanted to play for Manchester United and he didn’t want to play for Aston Villa. If I’d had a gun at the time, I think I would have shot him!”

One thing he does know after his health scare is he knows the true meaning of life and it being more important than management.