Tag Archives: England

Back after World Cup break!

“Football’s coming home?”

Well, it didn’t quite but the 2018 World Cup finals was the best tournament in my living memory. There were some great goals, memorable matches, moments we’ll never forget and, England even won a penalty shootout!

Congratulations to Gareth Southgate and his Three Lions squad who managed to reconnect the nation with international football. A semi-final appearance was a huge milestone for a team that had such low expectations going to the finals in Russia. Congratulations also to France on winning their second World Cup title. The French were organised, calm and when needed, absolutely clinical on the counter-attack. In Kylian Mbappe, the world has a new star to take the crown Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have shared between themselves for the past decade. It was a tournament full on wonderful memories.

I took the opportunity to enjoy the competition which meant ‘Premier League at 25’ took a hiatus but now I’m back in the run-up to the new season. The 2018-2019 campaign will be season 27 of the most envied league on the planet and don’t worry football fans, it is just 26 days until the first game of the new season as Manchester United host Leicester City at Old Trafford on Friday Night Football, live on Sky Sports.

Before kick-off, I will be sharing my moments from the 2017-2018 campaign which saw Manchester City demonstrate a season of record-breaking proportions. There will be a look at some of the best goals, the shock results, the iconic moments and a season review which will be online in August.

Once the season has resumed, I will be returning to go through the archives and there’s plenty of content to be created and ready to be uploaded too. With the ‘Seasonal Records’ and ‘Referees in the Middle’ series reaching its conclusion, these will be replaced during the season by a couple of new categories.

The Global Tale – A global trip through Premier League countries, charting their milestones and the best players through the archive. All corners of the globe will be covered here, from the likes of Spain, Germany and France to Venezuela, South Africa, New Zealand and China.

Seasonal Stories – Whether it was a battle against relegation, a title-winning campaign or a challenge that didn’t quite end up with the target set, I will be looking back at some clubs and a specific season they enjoyed in the Premier League. This will range from Arsenal’s Invincibles of 2003-2004 and Manchester United’s treble-winning campaign of 1998-1999 to Norwich City’s dramatic 1994-1995 collapse and Leicester City’s escape against the odds from relegation in 2014-2015.

The Analysis – To ensure this isn’t just all about the past, I will be producing a weekly round-up of all of the action from the 2018-2019 Premier League season, producing some analysis on some of the weekend’s major talking points and stories away from the field of play. The first piece will debut on Tuesday 7th August with a Season Preview.

So, I look forward to you following and enjoying my content on ‘Premier League at 25,’ charting the past glories and present stories over the course of the next nine months.

Enjoy!

Regards

Simon Wright

 

 

Advertisements

The Managers: Ray Wilkins

Premier League Clubs Managed: Queens Park Rangers (1994-1996)

One of football’s all-round nice guys, the game has been left in mourning after the tragic death of Ray Wilkins. Wilkins passed away on Wednesday 4th April 2018 in hospital after suffering a massive heart attack. He was just 61-years-old.

A much-loved coach, well-respected pundit and talented player, Ray represented all of his clubs with class and dignity. You simply couldn’t say a bad word about him. He won many friends in the game and this has been made further evident by the tributes that have pouring in for him since his sad passing.

In the Premier League era, Wilkins will be always associated with Queens Park Rangers. He was a much-loved character at Loftus Road but his most enjoyable times were with Chelsea, the club where he made his first significant breakthrough.

A young skipper

Born in Middlesex, he made his name at his boyhood club in the 1970s. At just 17, Wilkins made his debut in the Chelsea first-team, appearing as a substitute in a 3-0 home victory over Norwich City. Just over two years later, he was given the captain’s armband by manager Eddie McCreadie. Still in his teenage years, this could have overwhelmed many players but it just made Ray a stronger presence.

He skippered the club for the next four seasons, helping them win promotion to the First Division. By now, he was already a regular in the England international set-up but in the late 1970s, Chelsea were not one of the English superpower clubs. When they were relegated in 1979, they were going to have to sell Wilkins to help soothe the financial hit from their relegation out of the top-flight.

He signed for Manchester United for £825,000, becoming one of the most expensive players at the time in British transfer history. He made 160 appearances for the Red Devils across five years and won his first major honour too. In 1983, Manchester United defeated Brighton & Hove Albion in the FA Cup final, although they needed a replay to get the job done. In the first match, Wilkins scored his most iconic goal – a curling long-range strike which just highlighted what an excellent midfielder he was.

His performances at Old Trafford caught the attention of Serie A giants AC Milan and in 1984, he moved to Italy for £1.5 million. Like Chelsea and United, Milan weren’t enjoying their most wonderful time in terms of results. They’d actually experienced relegation to Serie B as recently as 1982 but it was still a glamorous city and a historic club to be a part of. He played 105 times for Milan between 1984 and 1987 and won plenty of praise for the way he could control the tempo of a game and his ability for an eye-catching pass.

England highs and lows

On the international stage, Wilkins won 84 caps for England and captained them on 10 occasions. He was part of the squads at the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals and won caps from Don Revie, Ron Greenwood and Sir Bobby Robson.

He scored just three goals but one of them was an inspirational individual goal against Belgium in the 1980 European Championships. He first lobbed the ball over the entire Belgian defence and then, when clear on-goal, he lobbed the ball again over the advancing goalkeeper and into the back of the net. It was a wonderful goal in England’s first major international competition in a decade.

The lowest point of his international career came at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. England were enduring a frustrating tournament, having lost their first match to Portugal and were drawing 0-0 with outsiders Morocco. Wilkins showed a rare piece of frustration when he threw the ball at referee Gabriel Gonzalez after feeling he had been unfairly flagged for being offside. Gonzalez took no-nonsense and promptly dished out the red card. It made Wilkins the first England player to ever be dismissed at a World Cup.

He was suspended for two matches and Robson left him out of the quarter-final defeat to Argentina. His last appearance came against Yugoslavia a few months later. His international career ended on a rather sour note.

Beginning his coaching days

In 1987, Ray left behind Milan and joined Paris Saint-Germain but it was an unsuccessful spell. After just 13 appearances for the Parisians, he left them behind and moved back to the British Isles, joining Graeme Souness at Rangers. He had two excellent seasons with the Glasgow giants, winning the League Cup once and two championships.

In August 1988, he scored one of the most memorable goals in the history of the Old Firm Derby as Rangers enjoyed a 5-1 victory over Celtic at Ibrox. He returned to London in 1989 and joined Queens Park Rangers which is where he spent the bulk of his latter playing days.

In the summer of 1994, he joined newly-promoted Crystal Palace in a player-coach role under manager Alan Smith. He made his debut against Liverpool FC on a horror day for Palace, who lost 6-1 at home to Roy Evans’ young chargers. Wilkins played over 80 minutes but broke his left foot in the match and he wouldn’t play again for the Eagles.

That was because in November 1994, he got the opportunity to return to Loftus Road as player-manager of QPR following Gerry Francis’ resignation. He appeared another 21 times as a player and focused more on a management style that was initially successful. Under his guidance, QPR finished eighth in 1994-1995 and reached the FA Cup quarter-finals. However, star striker Les Ferdinand was sold in summer 1995 to Newcastle United and not properly replaced. Although they still played an exciting brand of football, QPR struggled and on the final Saturday of the season, they were relegated.

Ray’s long association with the club ended in September 1996 when he parted company following a change in ownership. He continued playing after his departure from west London, experiencing brief periods with Millwall, Hibernian and Leyton Orient before hanging up his boots for good at the end of the 1996-1997 season.

Two stints with Chelsea

He returned to management with Fulham in 1997-1998, working alongside Kevin Keegan but Keegan’s influence saw him take over at the end of the campaign. After two decades away, he returned to Chelsea in his first coaching spell, serving as Gianluca Vialli’s assistant following the imprisonment of Graham Rix.

After leaving Chelsea following Claudio Ranieri’s appointment as first-team manager in 2000, Wilkins went on to have spells as assistant manager at Watford and Millwall, assisting Dennis Wise when the Lions were shock FA Cup finalists in 2004. He also returned to the international spectrum, serving as Peter Taylor’s assistant on the England Under-21 coaching staff between 2004 and 2007.

In September 2008, Ray returned to Chelsea as assistant manager after Steve Clarke’s defection to West Ham United to work with Gianfranco Zola. He served as no.2 to Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti. He played an important part in Chelsea winning the league and cup double in 2009-2010.

In his autobiography, Ancelotti wrote: “Ray is one of those select few, always present, noble in spirit, a real blue-blood, Chelsea flows in his veins … without him we wouldn’t have won a thing.”

He was mysteriously axed by the club in November 2010 just days before a 3-0 home humbling by Sunderland. Ancelotti would be dismissed himself at the end of the season.

Later experience

Wilkins finished his coaching days with brief spells at Fulham and Aston Villa, as well as a spell as head coach of the Jordan international football team. His last stint in a Premier League dugout ended in October 2015 when he was sacked by Villa alongside their manager Tim Sherwood after a home loss by Swansea City.

Throughout his coaching days, he was a fantastic pundit and someone who you could listen to for constructive advice on how to improve your game. Wilkins was a regular commentator for Channel 4’s coverage of Football Italia in the 1990s. He also worked as a pundit for ITV at the 1994 World Cup finals and was a regular analyst for both talkSPORT and Sky Sports over the years.

In 1993, he was made an MBE for services to football.

Despite all his success, Wilkins did fight a battle with alcohol. In March 2013, he was stopped whilst driving and found to be four times over the legal drink limit. This led to a four-year driving ban and in 2016, he admitted to his battle with the bottle on talkSPORT.

On Friday 30th March, Wilkins suffered a massive heart attack and had a fall. He was placed into an induced coma at St George’s Hospital and was reported to be in a critical condition. On 4th April 2018, news came through that he had passed away in hospital. One of football’s good guys had been taken far too soon.

Ray Wilkins was a wonderful man, a gifted footballer and a top coach. Football is a poorer place without Ray Wilkins around. My thoughts are with his wife Jackie and the rest of his family.

Ray Wilkins – 14th September 1956 – 4th April 2018

The Managers: Steve McClaren

Premier League Clubs Managed: Middlesbrough (2001-2006), Newcastle United (2015-2016)

Steve McClaren is hoping to follow in the footsteps of managers like David Moyes, Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce, all considered being past their sell-by-date as top-flight bosses but who have managed to return to the Premier League dugout in 2017-2018.

McClaren is currently out of work but is hoping this will change. His most recent role was as a coaching consultant with Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv. He guided Middlesbrough to a UEFA Cup final in 2006 and took FC Twente to a surprising Dutch title four years later. However, his dreadful reign as England manager seems to have scarred his reputation with both chairman and the media for good.

A loyal assistant

His playing days were nothing special to write home about. He played for Hull City, Derby County, Lincoln City, Bristol City and Oxford United before injury forced him to retire in 1992.

After retiring from playing, McClaren began his coaching career as a youth and reserve team coach at Oxford United, before moving back to Derby County in 1995, where he served as assistant manager to Jim Smith. Together, they won promotion to the Premier League and they established the Rams as a consistent top 10 side in the Premier League.

In early 1999, Manchester United were looking for a new assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson as his long-time no.2 Brian Kidd had elected to take the managerial post at Blackburn Rovers. McClaren got the role and his first game next to Ferguson saw the Red Devils win 8-1 away at Nottingham Forest. It was a wonderful first few months in the role with United winning the treble, consisting of the Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League. Another two Premier League titles followed in 2000 and 2001 and he was one of the first to embrace the new technologies of using sports psychologists and video analysis to enhance player performances.

In 2000, he combined his Manchester United role with a position on the coaching staff with the England international team. McClaren served as assistant to Sven-Goran Eriksson from November 2002 all the way until his departure after the 2006 World Cup finals.

Boro breakthrough

In the summer of 2001, Steve elected to move into management, realising his chances of succeeding Ferguson as Manchester United manager as slim. Southampton and West Ham United both approached him but he turned both clubs down and was appointed Middlesbrough manager after impressing owner Steve Gibson in an interview.

His first two seasons at The Riverside Stadium are solid, if unspectacular. Middlesbrough finish 12th and 11th in the table respectively and make the FA Cup semi-finals in 2002 before losing at Old Trafford to Arsenal.

The big breakthrough came in the 2003-2004 season. Despite another mid-table finish in the Premier League, Middlesbrough claimed silverware for the first time in their 128-year history. They knocked out Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal before defeating Bolton Wanderers 2-1 in the League Cup final.

This meant European football would follow in 2004-2005 and McClaren was able to attract the likes of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Mark Viduka and Michael Reiziger to the club in the close season. Middlesbrough made the last-16 of the UEFA Cup before bowing out to Sporting Lisbon, who will go on to make the final. There is progress in the league too. Boro finish in seventh position which is their best finish in the top-flight in 30 years.

His most dramatic season at the helm was his last one on Teeside. Middlesbrough struggled to 14th position in the league with some disastrous results; including a 7-0 beating at Highbury away to Arsenal. However, they achieved far better success in the cup competitions. They reached the FA Cup semi-finals before losing to West Ham United and enjoy some stunning nights in the UEFA Cup. Both FC Basel and FCSB of Romania hold four-goal leads during the two-legged ties and will be eliminated in dramatic conclusions to these matches. For the first time in their history, Middlesbrough reached a European final but they are no match for Sevilla in the showpiece event, losing 4-0.

He left at the end of the season with the biggest job in international management ready for him.

The England nightmare

When Luiz Felipe Scolari elected to turn down the position of becoming England manager, McClaren got the job in May 2006, edging out Sam Allardyce to the position. Many England fans were unconvinced by the FA’s choice and that was further outlined when he decided to leave national treasure David Beckham out of his early international plans. John Terry was appointed captain.

Qualification for EURO 2008 was meant to be straightforward but the first signs of problems occurred when England were held to a goalless draw at home by FYR Macedonia. Days later, the Three Lions lost 2-0 to Croatia and another defeat in Moscow to Russia left England’s qualification firmly in the balance. He didn’t help his relationship with the press after walking out of a press conference following an unconvincing 3-0 victory over Andorra, saying: “Gentlemen, if you want to write whatever you want to write, you can write it because that is all I am going to say. Thank you.”

Victory at Wembley Stadium over Croatia in their final match would guarantee qualification. Anything else would likely lead to elimination as on the same night, Russia were playing no-hopers Andorra. It is a night Steve McClaren will probably never be able to erase from his memory.

First, he was photographed on a filthy, wet evening in an umbrella to protect him from the elements. This earned him the nickname; “The Wally with the Brolly!” Secondly, he dropped experienced goalkeeper Paul Robinson for rookie Scott Carson and this backfired when Carson allowed an early Niko Kranjcar shot to spill through his fingers and into the net. Lastly, England lost the game 3-2, despite recovering a two-goal deficit in the second half. Russia beat Andorra, so England failed to qualify for a major tournament for the first time since the 1994 World Cup.

A day later, McClaren was sacked. His tenure is the second shortest in history of managing the England national team. His reputation and creditability had been completely destroyed.

Rebuilding himself

Steve moved abroad and took a job in Dutch football with FC Twente. He spent two seasons with them, making them a strong force in the domestic game. In 2010, Twente saw off challenges from perennial title winners Ajax and PSV Eindhoven to become Dutch champions by just one point. He became the first Englishman to win a league title abroad since Sir Bobby Robson had won the Portuguese league title with FC Porto in 1996.

He admitted this was his best achievement in football, saying: “Winning the Carling Cup with Middlesbrough was special but this is pretty much right up at the top of anything I’ve ever done. To win a championship in a foreign country with foreign coaches, I think it’s made me stronger.”

He left after his achievement and tried his luck in the Bundesliga with VfL Wolfsburg; it didn’t work out as well as he hoped. Poor results saw him dismissed by the 2009 German champions in February 2011. After an unsuccessful spell at Nottingham Forest, McClaren returned to FC Twente for a second time in January 2012. However, he couldn’t rekindle the spirit of his first stint there and resigned a year later.

Following a stint in-charge of Derby County, McClaren returned to the Premier League in 2015; nine years after he left Middlesbrough. He succeeded John Carver as manager of Newcastle United. He was on the backfoot from the outset. Newcastle went eight games without a win at the start of the season and although there were brilliant victories in December 2015 over Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur, it always looked like he was fighting a losing battle on Tyneside.

With the club in the bottom three, a damaging 3-1 home defeat to AFC Bournemouth in March 2016 left him firmly in the firing line with the Geordie supporters. He was sacked five days after this loss to the Cherries.

He had a brief second spell as Derby County manager and is aiming at returning to management in the near future. Whilst he waits, he is currently working as a pundit for the EFL television coverage on Sky Sports. Hopefully, he won’t react as dramatically as he did when working for Sky after England’s shock loss to Iceland at EURO 2016!

Premier League Files: Nicky Shorey

Premier League Career: Reading (2006-2008), (2012-2013), Aston Villa (2008-2009), Fulham (2010), West Bromwich Albion (2010-2012)

Now a coach at League Two side Stevenage, Nicky Shorey enjoyed his Premier League stint, featuring for four sides across seven years. He was most prominent at Reading, where he had two spells for the club, during which time; he managed to win two England caps from Steve McClaren.

Shorey grew up as a West Ham United fan. He started his career at Leyton Orient as an apprentice in 1998 before moving onto Reading in February 2001 for a fee of just £25,000. He would spend the next seven seasons with the club, helping them reach the promise land of the Premier League.

It wasn’t until October 2001 when he got a regular chance in the first-team. Shorey established himself, making 36 appearances and helping the club to promotion to the First Division. Now at a higher level, he made the transition look easy, scoring his first professional goal in October 2002 to win a match at home to Bradford City. Shorey helped Reading make the First Division play-offs where they were edged out by Wolverhampton Wanderers over two legs.

In 2004, there was a nasty scare for his career. Following a routine match with Stoke City which finished goalless, Shorey noticed at home that his foot had started swelling and was throbbing by the time he reached hospital. The resulting infection kept him in hospital for a fortnight and he received further treatment at home for three months on his departure from A&E.

In 2005-2006, he missed just two matches as the Royals’ finally achieved promotion to the Premier League. He was one of Reading’s superstars in their excellent debut season in the top-flight, when they defied all expectations to finish eighth and only narrowly miss out on European qualification. He missed just one match and scored in Reading’s 3-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur in November 2006. Praised for his excellent delivery from set-pieces, this was shown in full when he contributed to four of the team’s six goals as they gave West Ham United a New Years’ Day mauling in 2007. The season ended with Nicky becoming the first Reading player to represent the England national team in almost 100 years when he played in the 1-1 draw with Brazil. It was also the first match to be played at the new Wembley Stadium.

He was consistent again in 2007-2008, scoring twice but couldn’t prevent the club from being relegated. Relations between club and player became more strained when a proposed move to West Ham United collapsed during the season. The full-back decided after relegation his future lay away from Berkshire and his departure left a bitter taste in the mouths of many supporters. He joined Aston Villa in the summer of 2008.

His time at Villa was a real struggle, unable to hold down a regular place in the side. Although he started the first four matches of the 2009-2010 campaign, he was made surplus to requirements by Martin O’Neill and turned down a loan move to financially-ruined Portsmouth on transfer deadline day in September 2009. Loan spells followed at Nottingham Forest and Fulham during that campaign. He made 12 appearances for the Cottagers’ but was cup-tied during their historic run to the UEFA Europa League final. Shorey impressed Roy Hodgson but when he left Fulham for the Liverpool FC job, the club decided not to take an option up on his loan contract for a permanent switch.

He went back to the Midlands but joined newly-promoted West Bromwich Albion for £1.3 million in August 2010. He made 57 Premier League appearances across two seasons and had another spell working alongside Hodgson when his Liverpool experience turned sour. The arrival of Liam Ridgewell in the 2012 winter transfer window pushed Shorey out of his regular left-back role at The Hawthorns and he was released at the end of that campaign.

He rejoined Reading in the summer of 2012 on a free transfer, four years after his initial departure in fairly acrimonious circumstances. He made 21 appearances but couldn’t stop Reading’s immediate return to the Championship. He was released following their relegation and experienced spells afterwards with Bristol City, Portsmouth, Colchester United and Pune City in the Indian Super League. He retired in October 2016 to take up a coaching role under the guidance of 34-year-old Darren Sarll who is the current manager of Stevenage.

Fate drew the two sides Nicky is commonly associated with together in the third round of the 2018 Emirates FA Cup. Stevenage and Reading played out a goalless draw and will need to replay to see who progresses to the fourth round.

He might have moved elsewhere, both in his playing and current coaching guise but Nicky Shorey will always be a Royal.

Premier League Files: Tony Dorigo

Premier League Career: Leeds United (1992-1997), Derby County (1998-2000)

Born in Adelaide, Australia, Tony Dorigo forged a fairly fruitful career which saw him scoop individual Player of the Year awards at four of his professional clubs.

Before the emergence of the Premier League, the full-back turned out for both Aston Villa and Chelsea. He was sold to Leeds United in the summer of 1991 for £1.3m and was part of the side that won the last Football League title before the Premier League was formed in 1992.

Dorigo ended in the PFA Team of the Year in 1992/1993; the only positive in a pitiful season for the reigning champions as they finished a dreary 17th and without an away win all season. He stayed with the Yorkshire side before moving to Torino in 1997.

The club’s financial problems meant his Italian experience was brief. Dorigo spent only one season abroad and returned to England, playing another two Premier League campaigns for Jim Smith at Derby County. He scored one Premier League goal for the Rams; a penalty against East Midlands rivals’ Nottingham Forest in November 1998.

Dorigo dropped down the divisions to finish his club career with Stoke City where he was club captain. He won 15 caps for England and was part of the squad that reached the World Cup semi-finals at Italia 90. After hanging up his boots, Dorigo has forged a reputable career as a football pundit. He has worked for the likes of ESPN, Eurosport and Channel 5 and commentates on Premier League matches for Absolute Radio.