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Great Goals: Cristiano Ronaldo – MANCHESTER UNITED vs. Portsmouth (January 2008)

The 2007-2008 season was all about Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese player has gone onto great and glorious things with Real Madrid but his legend was created in Manchester.

Against Portsmouth, he was at his absolute finest. He’d already scored early on to put the Red Devils’ infront. 12 minutes in, United won a free-kick which Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney stood over. There was only ever going to be one contender to take this and it wasn’t Rooney.

Ronaldo revolutionised the way a free-kick can be dispatched. He took a few strides back, then managed to get sensational power and pace onto the ball from 30-yards out and it flew into the net leaving David James looking bemused.

It was his 27th of his 42 goals in all competitions for the season and quite possibly, the very best.

The Managers: Sean Dyche

Premier League Clubs Managed: Burnley (2014-2015, 2016-PRESENT)

October 2017 will mark Sean Dyche’s fifth year at the helm at Burnley Football Club. In that time, the former defender has transformed the club from one-season top-flight wonders into a team that is difficult to beat at Turf Moor. Burnley are looking forward to their first back-to-back Premier League campaign and a lot of that is down to the hard work and ethics in Dyche’s management skills.

For him, it is all about the team and not specific individuals and this was a factor throughout his playing career too. He made his professional debut in 1990 and played for six clubs before retiring at Northampton Town in 2007.

Dyche won promotion as a player during his time with both Bristol City and Millwall. In fact, he was part of the Lions’ squad that narrowly missed out on a Premier League place in 2002; losing in the playoff semi-finals to eventual winners Birmingham City.

However, the best spell of his career came at the club where he made his league debut – Chesterfield. He was the skipper of the side that surprised everyone to reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup in 1997. Dyche scored a spot-kick in that semi-final against Middlesbrough at Old Trafford that put the Spireites’ 2-0 infront and dreaming of a Wembley date with Chelsea. The match eventually ended 3-3 and Middlesbrough would win the replay at Hillsborough.

Learning the trade at Watford

After hanging up his boots at Sixfields, Dyche went straight into coaching at Watford, beginning to learn the trade by working with the Under-18s. He became assistant manager in 2009 to Malky Mackay and when the Scot left two seasons later to fill the post at Cardiff City, Dyche stepped up into the managerial vacancy.

Considering he was a rookie, the 2011-2012 season was an impressive debut season in management for Sean. Watford finished a solid 11th in the Championship, having been considered among the pre-season relegation favourites. It was their best finish at this level in four seasons. Unfortunately for Dyche, a change in ownership at the end of the campaign led to his dismissal at Vicarage Road. He would be succeeded by former Chelsea playing legend Gianfranco Zola.

After a summer on the sidelines, he was hired by Burnley in autumn 2012, replacing Eddie Howe who had just agreed to return to AFC Bournemouth for a second spell as manager. Four years after Burnley previously graced the Premier League, he guided them back to the top-flight of English football in 2014. Team spirit and getting the absolute maximum out of every single player were the keys to Burnley’s success. Having been tipped to struggle near the bottom-end of the table, the Clarets’ defied the expectations of many to finish runners-up in the Championship to Leicester City.

Bouncing back at the first attempt

So for 2014-2015, Burnley were back in the Premier League. They showed plenty of dogged resistance and determination. It did take until November before they recorded their first win of the season but the Lancastrians’ improved as the season progressed. There was a surprise victory over champions Manchester City in March and a creditable draw at Chelsea.

However, they lacked the overall quality and experience required to mount a successful survival bid. Burnley were relegated two weeks’ before the season concluded but did go down with a fighting 1-0 victory at Hull. That was a result that would ultimately condemn the Tigers’ on a similar journey with Burnley – down to the Championship.

Dyche stuck with the club despite the disappointment of relegation. They added guile in Joey Barton and finishing prowess in Andre Gray to their ranks. Everything clicked perfectly and promotion was earned at the first time of asking. Victory over Queens Park Rangers ensured their return with an unbeaten run in the division from Boxing Day onwards. Also this time, Burnley went up as champions.

The club transfer record was broken twice in the summer of 2016 to snap up Steven Defour and Jeff Hendrick. Burnley have always been very prudent with their spending allowance and this was evident again on their Premier League return. They will not spend silly money but are prepared to make the investment if it will improve team morale and quality.

Home form at Turf Moor was fantastic in 2016-2017. The likes of Leicester City, Southampton, Everton and Liverpool FC were all beaten in Lancashire and many other sides had to work incredibly hard to take points home with them. There was just one away win all campaign but the 2-0 victory at Crystal Palace in April 2017 ensured that Burnley would be playing Premier League football again in 2017-2018.

Burnley have already managed to bring more experience into their ranks in summer 2017. Jon Walters from Stoke City and Swansea midfielder Jack Cork already look like fine buys ahead of the upcoming campaign.

Sean Dyche is currently one of the longest-serving managers at his current club. His work has been highly commended and it will be interesting to see his development and Burnley’s progress in the months to come.

Premier League Files: Kyle Walker

Premier League Career: Tottenham Hotspur (2010-2017), Aston Villa (2011), Manchester City (2017-PRESENT)

He turned 27 recently and Kyle Walker has impressed many with the journey he has been on. Now established as first-choice right-back for his country, the Sheffield-born defender had been a regular fixture in a hungry and energetic Tottenham Hotspur side that has won the plaudits from many neutral supporters in the past couple of seasons. Now, Walker is embarking on a new challenge for 2017-2018 in the colours of Manchester City.

Walker started his professional career with his local side Sheffield United. Quickly sent to Sixfields to get some Football League experience under his belt at Northampton Town, Walker returned into the fold at Bramwall Lane in January 2009 and was a surprise inclusion in the closing matches of the season as the club struggled with an injury crisis. Walker seized his chance and became the club’s youngest player to ever play at Wembley Stadium when Burnley defeated the Blades’ in the 2009 Championship play-off final.

Tottenham wasted no time in snapping up their man, seeing Walker as part of their future. Harry Redknapp was manager at the time and combined with Kyle Naughton, £9million was paid to the Yorkshire side for Walker to become a Spurs player. He was immediately loaned back to Sheffield United to continue his development before being recalled in February 2010. Less than two months later, he made his Premier League debut in a 2-0 victory over Portsmouth at White Hart Lane.

2010-2011 was another season out on-loan. It began at Queens Park Rangers, before crucial Premier League experience with Aston Villa. It was at Villa Park where he scored his first senior league goal; a 30-yard low drive in the Villans’ 2-2 draw with Fulham on a goalscoring afternoon in February 2011.

The time had come now for Kyle to make the grade at Tottenham. He returned to his parent club that summer and was a regular feature in the teams of Redknapp, Andre Villas-Boas, Tim Sherwood and Mauricio Pochettino. After a highly impressive full debut season in north London, Walker was voted into the PFA Team of the Year and saw off competition from the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to win the coveted PFA Young Player of the Year award. He also scored one of the free-kicks of the campaign; a 25-yard curling effort in the 2-0 success against Blackburn Rovers.

Although his attacking prowess is highly regarded, Walker has at times been found guilty of overplaying at the back or easily getting physically beaten in battles against wingers. One of his worst performances came in a home defeat to Manchester United in 2012 when he was at fault for two of the Red Devils’ goals – both scored by Ashley Young.

By now, Kyle had full international recognition from England. Only a toe injury stopped him taking part at the 2012 European Championships but he did make the squad for the 2016 edition in France. In 2016-2017, his performances were once again recognised by his peers who voted Walker in the PFA Team of the Year for a second time. This encouraged Manchester City to break the British transfer record for a defender in July 2017, signing Walker for £45million which could rise to £50million on instalments.

No-one can doubt that Kyle Walker has been an impressive force at the back for Tottenham Hotspur. His progress at Manchester City will be an interesting development in the 2017-2018 season.

Referees in the Middle: Mike Dean

Premier League Career: 2000-

First Premier League Match: Leicester City 1-0 Southampton (9 September 2000)

From the Wirral, Mike Dean will be entering his 18th season as a Premier League referee in 2017-2018. His presence in many of the big games and longevity must be praised, even though he is a ref who doesn’t give many chances to players and like dishing out cards – sometimes unnecessarily.

He began refereeing back in 1985 and after three seasons in the Football League, was appointed to the Select Group of officials in 2000. His first Premier League game was an uneventful match involving Leicester City and Southampton in September 2000 which the Foxes’ won 1-0.

In total, Mr Dean has taken charge of 429 Premier League matches, flashed out his yellow card a whopping 1545 times and sent off players on 42 occasions. In the 25th season, he sent off five players including two from Sunderland and Nathan Redmond of Southampton. In January 2017, he gave West Ham’s Sofiane Feghouli a highly controversial red card against Manchester United, even though the challenge didn’t look reckless. Many accused Dean of falling for Phil Jones’ exaggerated reaction after the Algerian’s challenge. He later missed a blatant offside for Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal which sealed a 2-0 Manchester United victory at the London Stadium. It is fair to say, this was a poor evening at the office for Dean.

However, he does show humour too and in November 2015, produced a light-hearted moment in the wake of Tottenham Hotspur’s opening goal of their 3-1 win at home to Aston Villa. After allowing a fine advantage early in the move, Mousa Dembele tucked away the first goal of the evening. Dean’s reaction was to show off his dancing, discotheque move which attracted plenty of humour from social media followers and professional pundits.

Mike Dean is one of the Premier League’s highly-respected officials and is held in high regard by many of his fellow peers. Therefore, it is no surprise that although he divides a range of opinions from fans across the country, he does get a fair share of the elite matches in any season. He has been in charge of an FA Cup final in his career back in 2008 as well as Birmingham City’s shock 2011 League Cup final success over Arsenal and three Championship playoff finals.

Expect Mike Dean to be at every ground at some point over the 2017-2018 campaign. With his high penalty percentage award record, don’t be surprised if you will like and loathe his decisions over the course of the next year.

Premier League Rewind: 4th-5th March 2000

Results: Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool FC, Derby County 4-0 Wimbledon, Everton 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday, Newcastle United 0-1 Chelsea, Southampton 1-1 Middlesbrough, Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Bradford City, Watford 1-2 West Ham United, Aston Villa 1-1 Arsenal, Leeds United 3-0 Coventry City, Leicester City 5-2 Sunderland

Manchester United were the favourites to retain their Premier League title in the early weeks of March 2000 but they were still under pressure from David O’Leary’s energised and exciting Leeds United side. Weeks earlier, Sir Alex Ferguson’s team had opened up a five-point lead with a game in hand after winning at Elland Road. However, dropped points away at Wimbledon had seen Leeds stay in striking touch and that would continue on the weekend of 4th-5th March.

The Red Devils’ were first in action for the weekend with a lunchtime kick-off against bitter rivals Liverpool FC. Gerard Houllier had insisted in the build-up to this match that his side were ready to inflict defeat on their great enemy. They came very close to achieving his prediction. Patrik Berger scored a spectacular free-kick to give the visitors’ the lead. United’s equaliser was controversial. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer went unpunished for a high challenge on Sami Hyypia. Whilst the Finn was off receiving treatment, Solskjaer scored the equaliser in stoppage-time at the end of the first half. Only some wasteful finishing by Liverpool FC forwards Titi Camara, Erik Meijer and the returning Michael Owen ensured this encounter would finish all-square.

So, Leeds had the chance to close the gap to four points by the end of the weekend. They achieved this 24 hours’ later with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Coventry City who were still winless away from Highfield Road. The impressive Harry Kewell opened the scoring in the season where he was crowned the PFA Young Player of the Year and Michael Bridges added another two to his growing tally in his only injury-free season in Yorkshire.

Third-place Arsenal were unable to cash in on Manchester United’s dropped points at home as they held to a 1-1 draw by Aston Villa on the same Sunday afternoon. In fact, it looked like they were heading for defeat at Villa Park for the third successive campaign before a rare goal from Lee Dixon in the 84th minute rescued a point.

So Chelsea finished the weekend in third spot and therefore in the final qualification spot for next season’s UEFA Champions League. Gus Poyet scored the solitary goal in a 1-0 away win at Newcastle United. Newcastle would be sick of the sight of the Uruguayan by the season’s end. A month later, it was his double that beat the Magpies’ in the FA Cup semi-finals.

A month earlier, Leicester City had taken a gamble to sign Stan Collymore. Collymore’s time at Aston Villa had not been good. He had spectacularly fallen out with John Gregory, been treated for depression and attracted unsavoury off-the-field headlines. Days before the club’s televised Super Sunday match with Sunderland; reports emerged of an incident at a hotel in La Manga where Collymore had let off a fire extinguisher during a training camp. The team was kicked out of the resort they had been staying in and the forward was fined two weeks’ wages. Manager Martin O’Neill was unimpressed, saying: “I think it is a warning to Stan. This, in footballing parlance, is a yellow card.”

Collymore responded in the best possible fashion, scoring a brilliant hat-trick in Leicester’s 5-2 victory over the Black Cats’ – his finest display in the Premier League for several seasons. The match also saw Emile Heskey score his final goal for the club. He would be transferred weeks later to Liverpool FC for over £11 million.

The status at the bottom of the table remained unchanged but the plight of Wimbledon was becoming evident. A week after the club’s charismatic guvnor Sam Hamann had left the club, the Dons looked lost away at Derby County. They completely caved in during the last 25 minutes at Pride Park, losing 4-0 and showing a lack of urgency that would signal all was not good between manager Egil Olsen and his players. Wimbledon ended the weekend in 16th and just three points clear of the drop zone. Those spots were occupied by Bradford City, Sheffield Wednesday and Watford.

What else happened in March 2000?

  • Vladimir Putin is elected as the new President of Russia.
  • The PlayStation 2 is released in Japan. Several months later, it becomes the best-selling games console of all-time.
  • There is a change in the official currency of Ecuador with the US dollar replacing the Ecuadorian Sucre.
  • Channel 5 wins the rights to screen Home and Away in the UK, meaning its affiliation with ITV ends. ITV had broadcasted the Aussie soap since 1989.
  • 9-2 shot Looks Like Trouble wins the Cheltenham Gold Cup, ridden by Richard Johnson.
  • Macy Gray, Travis and Robbie Williams are the big winners at the BRITS, winning two awards each.

Seasonal Records: 1995-1996

For all the statistical fans out there, here are some of the season’s records from the 1995-1996 Premier League season which was the first where just 20 clubs took part.

FINAL TABLE

Position Team P W D L F A GD PTS
1 Manchester United 38 25 7 6 73 35 +38 82
2 Newcastle United 38 24 6 8 66 37 +29 78
3 Liverpool FC 38 20 11 7 70 34 +36 71
4 Aston Villa 38 18 9 11 52 35 +17 63
5 Arsenal 38 17 12 9 49 32 +17 63
6 Everton 38 17 10 11 64 44 +20 61
7 Blackburn Rovers 38 18 7 13 61 47 +14 61
8 Tottenham Hotspur 38 16 13 9 50 38 +12 61
9 Nottingham Forest 38 15 13 10 50 54 -4 58
10 West Ham United 38 14 9 15 43 52 -9 51
11 Chelsea 38 12 14 12 46 44 +2 50
12 Middlesbrough 38 11 10 17 35 50 -15 43
13 Leeds United 38 12 7 19 40 57 -17 43
14 Wimbledon 38 10 11 17 55 70 -15 41
15 Sheffield Wednesday 38 10 10 18 48 61 -13 40
16 Coventry City 38 8 14 16 42 60 -18 38
17 Southampton 38 9 11 18 34 52 -18 38
18 Manchester City 38 9 11 18 33 58 -25 38
19 Queens Park Rangers 38 9 6 23 38 57 -19 33
20 Bolton Wanderers 38 8 5 25 39 71 -32 29

THE BASIC STATS

Goals Scored 988
European qualifiers Manchester United (UEFA Champions League), Newcastle United (UEFA Cup), Aston Villa (UEFA Cup), Arsenal (UEFA Cup), Liverpool FC (UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup)
Longest winning run 6 games (Manchester United)
Longest unbeaten run 15 games (Liverpool FC)
Longest winless run 14 games (Coventry City & Wimbledon)
Longest losing run 8 games (Manchester City & Middlesbrough)
Highest attendance 53,926 (Manchester United vs. Nottingham Forest)
Lowest attendance 6,352 (Wimbledon vs. Sheffield Wednesday)

AWARDS

PFA Players’ Player of the Year Les Ferdinand (Newcastle United)
PFA Young Player of the Year Robbie Fowler (Liverpool FC)
Football Writers’ Award Eric Cantona (Manchester United)
PFA Team of the Year David James, Alan Wright, Tony Adams, Ugo Ehiogu, Gary Neville, Ruud Gullit, Steve Stone, Rob Lee, David Ginola, Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand
Manager of the Year Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)
Goal of the Season Tony Yeboah (Wimbledon vs. LEEDS UNITED)

HAT-TRICK HEROES

Player Teams Score Date
Matt Le Tissier Southampton vs. Nottingham Forest 3-4 19th August 1995
Robbie Fowler (4) Liverpool FC vs. Bolton Wanderers 5-2 23rd September 1995
Alan Shearer Blackburn Rovers vs. Coventry City 5-1 23rd September 1995
Tony Yeboah Wimbledon vs. Leeds United 2-4 23rd September 1995
Les Ferdinand Newcastle United vs. Wimbledon 6-1 21st October 1995
Gary McAllister Leeds United vs. Coventry City 3-1 28th October 1995
Alan Shearer Blackburn Rovers vs. Nottingham Forest 7-0 18th November 1995
Alan Shearer Blackburn Rovers vs. West Ham United 4-2 2nd December 1995
Dion Dublin Sheffield Wednesday vs. Coventry City 4-3 4th December 1995
Savo Milosevic Aston Villa vs. Coventry City 4-1 16th December 1995
Robbie Fowler Liverpool FC vs. Arsenal 3-1 23rd December 1995
Alan Shearer Blackburn Rovers vs. Bolton Wanderers 3-1 3rd February 1996
Gavin Peacock Chelsea vs. Middlesbrough 5-0 4th February 1996
Alan Shearer Tottenham Hotspur vs. Blackburn Rovers 2-3 16th March 1996
Mark Hughes Chelsea vs. Leeds United 4-1 13th April 1996
Andrei Kanchelskis Sheffield Wednesday vs. Everton 2-5 27th April 1996

TOP SCORERS

Position Player Teams No of Goals
1 Alan Shearer Blackburn Rovers 31
2 Robbie Fowler Liverpool FC 28
3 Les Ferdinand Newcastle United 25
4 Dwight Yorke Aston Villa 17
5= Andrei Kanchelskis Everton 16
5= Teddy Sheringham Tottenham Hotspur 16
7= Ian Wright Arsenal 15
7= Chris Armstrong Tottenham Hotspur 15
9= Eric Cantona Manchester United 14
9= Stan Collymore Liverpool FC 14
9= Dion Dublin Coventry City 14
12 John Spencer Chelsea 13
13= Savo Milosevic Aston Villa 12
13= Tony Yeboah Leeds United 12
13= David Hirst Sheffield Wednesday 12
16= Andy Cole Manchester United 11
16= Dennis Bergkamp Arsenal 11
16= Robbie Earle Wimbledon 11
16= Ryan Giggs Manchester United 11
20= Tony Cottee West Ham United 10
20= Paul Scholes Manchester United 10
20= Dean Holdsworth Wimbledon 10
20= Danny Dichio Queens Park Rangers 10
20= Julian Dicks West Ham United 10
25 Graham Stuart Everton 9

BIGGEST VICTORIES

Blackburn Rovers 7-0 Nottingham Forest 18th November 1995
Bolton Wanderers 0-6 Manchester United 25th February 1996
Liverpool FC 6-0 Manchester City 28th October 1995
Newcastle United 6-1 Wimbledon 21st October 1995
Manchester United 5-0 Nottingham Forest 28th April 1996
Liverpool FC 5-0 Leeds United 20th January 1996
Chelsea 5-0 Middlesbrough 5th February 1996
Coventry City 5-0 Blackburn Rovers 9th December 1995
Sheffield Wednesday 6-2 Leeds United 16th December 1995
Blackburn Rovers 5-1 Coventry City 23rd September 1995

HIGHEST SCORING GAMES

No of Goals Teams Date
8 Sheffield Wednesday 6-2 Leeds United 16th December 1995
7 Blackburn Rovers 7-0 Nottingham Forest 18th November 1995
7 Newcastle United 6-1 Wimbledon 21st October 1995
7 Liverpool FC 5-2 Bolton Wanderers 23rd September 1995
7 Sheffield Wednesday 2-5 Everton 27th April 1996
7 Liverpool FC 4-3 Newcastle United 3rd April 1996
7 Southampton 3-4 Nottingham Forest 19th August 1995
7 Sheffield Wednesday 4-3 Coventry City 4th December 1995
6 Bolton Wanderers 0-6 Manchester United 25th February 1996
6 Liverpool FC 6-0 Manchester City 28th October 1995
6 Blackburn Rovers 5-1 Coventry City 23rd September 1995
6 Nottingham Forest 1-5 Blackburn Rovers 13th April 1996
6 Arsenal 4-2 Sheffield Wednesday 21st November 1995
6 Wimbledon 2-4 Manchester United 3rd February 1996
6 Liverpool FC 4-2 Nottingham Forest 1st January 1996
6 Aston Villa 4-2 Queens Park Rangers 9th March 1996
6 Arsenal 4-2 Southampton 23rd September 1995
6 Blackburn Rovers 4-2 West Ham United 2nd December 1995
6 West Ham United 4-2 Manchester City 23rd March 1996
6 Middlesbrough 4-2 West Ham United 23rd December 1995

YOUNGEST PLAYERS USED

Player Teams Age at the time Date
Mark Platts Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Wimbledon 16 years, 8 months, 18 days 10th February 1996
Andy Campbell Middlesbrough 3-1 Sheffield Wednesday 16 years, 11 months, 18 days 5th April 1996
Neil Finn Manchester City 2-1 West Ham United 17 years, 3 days 1st January 1996
Jody Morris Chelsea 5-0 Middlesbrough 17 years, 1 month, 14 days 5th February 1996
Michael Branch Manchester United 2-0 Everton 17 years, 4 months, 3 days 21st February 1996
Nigel Quashie Manchester United 2-1 Queens Park Rangers 17 years, 5 months, 10 days 30th December 1995
Alan Maybury Aston Villa 3-0 Leeds United 17 years, 5 months, 26 days 3rd February 1996
Rio Ferdinand West Ham United 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday 17 years, 5 months, 28 days 5th May 1996
Harry Kewell Leeds United 0-1 Middlesbrough 17 years, 6 months, 8 days 30th March 1996
Frank Lampard West Ham United 3-2 Coventry City 17 years, 7 months, 11 days 31st January 1996

OLDEST PLAYERS USED

Player Teams Age at the time Date
Ray Wilkins Nottingham Forest 3-0 Queens Park Rangers 39 years, 7 months, 21 days 5th May 1996
Gordon Strachan Nottingham Forest 0-0 Coventry City 39 years, 2 months, 8 days 17th April 1996
Bryan Robson Middlesbrough 4-2 West Ham United 38 years, 11 months, 12 days 23rd December 1995
Steve Ogrizovic Coventry City 0-0 Leeds United 38 years, 7 months, 23 days 5th May 1996
Bruce Grobbelaar Aston Villa 3-0 Southampton 38 years, 5 months, 23 days 8th April 1996
Les Sealey Newcastle United 3-0 West Ham United 38 years, 5 months, 18 days 18th March 1996
Alvin Martin West Ham United 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday 37 years, 9 months, 6 days 5th May 1996
Neville Southall Everton 1-0 Aston Villa 37 years, 7 months, 19 days 5th May 1996
Nigel Spink Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Aston Villa 37 years, 4 months, 15 days 23rd December 1995
Mick Harford Southampton 0-0 Wimbledon 37 years, 2 months, 23 days 5th May 1996

CLEAN SHEETS

Position Player Teams No of Clean Sheets
1 Peter Schmeichel Manchester United 18
2= David James Liverpool FC 16
2= David Seaman Arsenal 16
4= Mark Bosnich Aston Villa 15
4= Neville Southall Everton 15
6= Ian Walker Tottenham Hotspur 11
6= Ludek Miklosko West Ham United 11
8= Tim Flowers Blackburn Rovers 10
8= Dmitri Kharine Chelsea 10
8= Dave Beasant Southampton 10

Premier League Files: Nicky Butt

Premier League Career: Manchester United (1992-2004), Newcastle United (2004-2005), (2006-2009), Birmingham City (2005-2006)

Part of the young talent that were dubbed “Fergie’s Fledglings,” Nicky Butt enjoyed a lengthy and fruitful Premier League career, winning six Premier League titles at Manchester United. He is back at the club where he received his big break helping today’s youngsters in the academy as well as being one of the five ‘Class of 92’ owners at Salford City FC.

The midfielder turned professional in 1993 but he had already made his Premier League debut by then, appearing as a late substitute in Manchester United’s 3-0 victory over Oldham Athletic in November 1992. It wasn’t until the 1994-1995 season though that the Old Trafford faithful got to see Butt play on a regular basis.

Roy Keane and Paul Ince were the main central midfielders at the time but with Paul Parker injured and Gary Neville still an emerging talent, Keane was often asked to deputise as a right-back. That meant Butt got more opportunities than expected and when Ince departed in the 1995 pre-season for Serie A with Inter Milan, Ferguson elected to draft Butt into the team on a regular basis as Ince’s replacement.

Goals were not a crucial part of Nicky’s game. Instead, his job was to be the ball-winner in midfield and allow the creative talents to take control going forwards. Nevertheless, he could still chip in with the odd strike. This included a goal in the opening minute of a fixture with Liverpool FC in October 1995 which was Eric Cantona’s comeback match after his nine-month ban for his kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace supporter. In 1997-1998, Butt made the PFA Team of the Year and many believed this was his best season in the colours of Manchester United as he developed leadership qualities after a knee injury robbed the club of Keane’s presence for much of that season.

Although he started the 1999 UEFA Champions League final victory in Barcelona as Keane was suspended, Roy’s return to fitness, coupled with Paul Scholes dropping back into a central role meant Butt’s first-team opportunities got more limited into the millennium. As competition increased in the midfield, he realised it was time to leave the club that developed him. In January 2004, Nicky Butt handed in a transfer request. Sir Alex Ferguson admitted: “Nicky Butt has asked to leave; it is a very sad situation. Nicky has given Manchester United great service but he wants to play first-team football.”

After turning down a move to Birmingham City, Butt was signed by Sir Bobby Robson for Newcastle United in July 2004. Signing a four-year deal, he was seen as a replacement for Gary Speed who had departed for Bolton Wanderers. Robson was sacked though four games into the new season and Graeme Souness was not convinced by Butt’s performances. He signed Emre, Amdy Faye and Scott Parker and sent Butt packing on-loan to ironically, Birmingham City in August 2005.

He scored on his Blues’ home debut in a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City and played 24 times but after finding out that Steve Bruce had picked his son Alex ahead of him for an away trip to West Ham United, he walked out of the squad and was fined for his lack of discipline. He apologised and returned to the squad but Birmingham were relegated at the end of the season and he returned to Newcastle.

Butt became an integral part of the Newcastle line-up on his return and would captain the side on many occasions when Parker and Michael Owen were injured. He won over the fans’, who had been sceptical about his arrival in the first place and stayed with the club even after their relegation from the top-flight in 2009. He helped get them back into the Premier League before retiring from football.

He might not have attracted major headlines but Nicky Butt had a medal-winning career.

Great Goals: Thierry Henry – ARSENAL vs. Tottenham Hotspur (November 2002)

Voted as Goal of the Season by viewers of ITV’s ‘The Premiership’ during the 2002-2003 season, this was Thierry Henry at his absolute best as Tottenham couldn’t live with him in the North London Derby.

Just over 15 minutes had been played when Henry controlled the ball inside his own half and turned past Matthew Etherington. The Frenchman started running away from Etherington and burst past the centre circle. He had options in Dennis Bergkamp and Sylvain Wiltord but Henry only had one thing on his mind and that was to score.

Drifting away from Stephen Carr and Ledley King, Henry found the space to shoot and beat Kasey Keller to complete one of the greatest solo goals we’ve seen in this classic rivalry. He promptly completed his long-distance run with a long-distance celebration back to his own half to celebrate with the Gunners’ supporters.

Arsenal won 3-0 in a period when they were the class of north London.

Iconic Moments: A Fratton thriller (September 2007)

On the face of it, Portsmouth vs. Reading in September 2007 didn’t sound like a very exciting game to the neutral. However, these sides put on a real thriller at Fratton Park. They still hold the record for the most goals scored in a Premier League match of 11.

There were nine different scorers in the match. The exception was Benjani. Portsmouth’s forward, who couldn’t find the back of the net in his early period with the club, hit the jackpot. The Zimbabwean scored a hat-trick although the goalkeeping from Marcus Hahnemann was not the best on the day.

For the record, the other scorers were Stephen Hunt, Dave Kitson, Hermann Hreidarsson, Niko Kranjcar, Shane Long, Sulley Muntari from the penalty spot and two own goals by Ivar Ingimarsson and Sol Campbell. Portsmouth won the game 7-4 and David James saved a penalty from Nicky Shorey.

Reading boss Steve Coppell tried to put a positive spin on events afterwards, commenting: “It’s difficult to analyse a match like that and if you try you will be there a very long time…we scored four goals away from home and had a chance for another with a penalty. We played a full part in the game – I don’t think many teams will come here this season and score four.” 

Portsmouth would record their best Premier League finish of eighth and won the FA Cup at the end of the season. Reading were relegated on the final day of the campaign.

Whilst the defending by both teams was horrendous, this still goes down as an unforgettable contest in the Premier League archives.

Seasonal Records: 1994-1995

For all the statistical fans out there, here are some of the season’s records from season three of the Premier League – 1994-1995.

FINAL TABLE

Position Team P W D L F A GD PTS
1 Blackburn Rovers 42 27 8 7 80 39 +41 89
2 Manchester United 42 26 10 6 77 28 +49 88
3 Nottingham Forest 42 22 11 9 72 43 +29 77
4 Liverpool FC 42 21 11 10 65 37 +28 74
5 Leeds United 42 20 13 9 59 38 +21 73
6 Newcastle United 42 20 12 10 67 47 +20 72
7 Tottenham Hotspur 42 16 14 12 66 58 +8 62
8 Queens Park Rangers 42 17 9 16 61 59 +2 60
9 Wimbledon 42 15 11 16 48 65 -17 56
10 Southampton 42 12 18 12 61 63 -2 54
11 Chelsea 42 13 15 14 50 55 -5 54
12 Arsenal 42 13 12 17 52 49 +3 51
13 Sheffield Wednesday 42 13 12 17 49 57 -8 51
14 West Ham United 42 13 11 18 44 48 -4 50
15 Everton 42 11 17 14 44 51 -7 50
16 Coventry City 42 12 14 16 44 62 -18 50
17 Manchester City 42 12 13 17 53 64 -11 49
18 Aston Villa 42 11 15 16 51 56 -5 48
19 Crystal Palace 42 11 12 19 34 49 -15 45
20 Norwich City 42 10 13 19 37 54 -17 43
21 Leicester City 42 6 11 25 45 80 -35 29
22 Ipswich Town 42 7 6 29 36 93 -57 27

 

THE BASIC STATS

Goals Scored 1,195
European qualifiers Blackburn Rovers (UEFA Champions League), Manchester United (UEFA Cup), Nottingham Forest (UEFA Cup), Liverpool FC (UEFA Cup), Leeds United (UEFA Cup), Everton (UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup)
Longest winning run 7 games (Blackburn Rovers)
Longest unbeaten run 13 games (Nottingham Forest)
Longest winless run 12 games (Everton & Southampton)
Longest losing run 8 games (Ipswich Town)
Highest attendance 43,868 (Manchester United vs. Sheffield Wednesday)
Lowest attendance 5,268 (Wimbledon vs. Manchester City)

 

AWARDS

PFA Players’ Player of the Year Alan Shearer (Blackburn Rovers)
PFA Young Player of the Year Robbie Fowler (Liverpool FC)
Football Writers’ Award Jurgen Klinsmann (Tottenham Hotspur)
PFA Team of the Year Tim Flowers, Graeme Le Saux, Rob Jones, Colin Hendry, Gary Pallister, Paul Ince, Tim Sherwood, Matt Le Tissier, Chris Sutton, Alan Shearer, Jurgen Klinsmann
Manager of the Year Kenny Dalglish (Blackburn Rovers)
LMA Manager of the Year Frank Clark (Nottingham Forest)
Goal of the Season Matt Le Tissier (Blackburn Rovers vs. SOUTHAMPTON)

 

HAT-TRICK HEROES

Player Teams Score Date
Chris Sutton Blackburn Rovers vs. Coventry City 4-0 27th August 1994
Robbie Fowler Liverpool FC vs. Arsenal 3-0 28th August 1994
Andrei Kanchelskis Manchester United vs. Manchester City 5-0 10th November 1994
Alan Shearer Blackburn Rovers vs. Queens Park Rangers 4-0 26th November 1994
Teddy Sheringham Tottenham Hotspur vs. Newcastle United 4-2 2nd December 1994
Tony Cottee West Ham United vs. Manchester City 3-0 17th December 1994
Alan Shearer Blackburn Rovers vs. West Ham United 4-2 2nd January 1995
Alan Shearer Blackburn Rovers vs. Ipswich Town 4-1 28th January 1995
Tommy Johnson Aston Villa vs. Wimbledon 7-1 11th February 1995
Andy Cole (5 goals) Manchester United vs. Ipswich Town 9-0 4th March 1995
Peter Ndlovu Liverpool FC vs. Coventry City 2-3 14th March 1995
Tony Yeboah Leeds United vs. Ipswich Town 4-0 5th April 1995
Ian Wright Arsenal vs. Ipswich Town 4-1 15th April 1995

 

TOP SCORERS

Position Player Teams No of Goals
1 Alan Shearer Blackburn Rovers 34
2 Robbie Fowler Liverpool FC 25
3 Les Ferdinand Queens Park Rangers 24
4 Stan Collymore Nottingham Forest 22
5 Andy Cole Newcastle United & Manchester United 21
6= Jurgen Klinsmann Tottenham Hotspur 20
6= Matt Le Tissier Southampton 20
8 Teddy Sheringham Tottenham Hotspur 18
8= Ian Wright Arsenal 18
10= Chris Sutton Blackburn Rovers 15
10= Uwe Rosler Manchester City 15
10= Dean Saunders Aston Villa 15
13= Andrei Kanchelskis Manchester United 14
13= Paul Rideout Everton 14
15= Bryan Roy Nottingham Forest 13
15= Peter Beardsley Newcastle United 13
15= Tony Cottee West Ham United 13
15= Dion Dublin Coventry City 13
19= Eric Cantona Manchester United 12
19= Ian Rush Liverpool FC 12
19= Tony Yeboah Leeds United 12
19= Paul Walsh Manchester City 12
23= John Spencer Chelsea 11
23= Mark Bright Sheffield Wednesday 11
23= Guy Whittingham Aston Villa & Sheffield Wednesday 11

BIGGEST VICTORIES

Manchester United 9-0 Ipswich Town 4th March 1995
Aston Villa 7-1 Wimbledon 11th February 1995
Sheffield Wednesday 1-7 Nottingham Forest 1st April 1995
Crystal Palace 1-6 Liverpool FC 20th August 1994
Manchester United 5-0 Manchester City 10th November 1994
Newcastle United 5-1 Southampton 27th August 1994
Arsenal 5-1 Norwich City 1st April 1995
Sheffield Wednesday 5-1 Coventry City 28th December 1994
Blackburn Rovers 4-0 Coventry City 27th August 1994
Leicester City 0-4 Manchester United 15th April 1995

 

HIGHEST SCORING GAMES

No of Goals Teams Date
9 Manchester United 9-0 Ipswich Town 4th March 1995
8 Sheffield Wednesday 1-7 Nottingham Forest 1st April 1995
8 Aston Villa 7-1 Wimbledon 11th February 1995
8 Aston Villa 4-4 Leicester City 22nd February 1995
7 Crystal Palace 1-6 Liverpool FC 20th August 1994
7 Manchester City 5-2 Tottenham Hotspur 22nd October 1994
7 Sheffield Wednesday 3-4 Tottenham Hotspur 20th August 1994
7 Wimbledon 4-3 Aston Villa 9th November 1994
7 Leicester City 3-4 Wimbledon 1st April 1995
7 Southampton 4-3 Tottenham Hotspur 2nd April 1995
7 Tottenham Hotspur 3-4 Aston Villa 19th November 1994
7 Leicester City 4-3 Southampton 15th October 1994
6 Newcastle United 5-1 Southampton 27th August 1994
6 Arsenal 5-1 Norwich City 1st April 1995
6 Sheffield Wednesday 5-1 Coventry City 28th December 1994
6 Blackburn Rovers 4-2 West Ham United 2nd January 1995
6 Blackburn Rovers 2-4 Manchester United 23rd October 1994
6 Leicester City 2-4 Nottingham Forest 11th March 1995
6 Newcastle United 4-2 Chelsea 10th September 1994
6 Tottenham Hotspur 4-2 Newcastle United 3rd December 1994

 

YOUNGEST PLAYERS USED

Player Teams Age at the time Date
Emile Heskey Queens Park Rangers 2-0 Leicester City 17 years, 1 month, 25 days 8th March 1995
Richard Wright Ipswich Town 2-0 Coventry City 17 years, 6 months, 1 day 6th May 1995
Matt Oakley Everton 0-0 Southampton 17 years, 8 months, 19 days 6th May 1995
Kevin Ellis Arsenal 4-1 Ipswich Town 17 years, 11 months, 4 days 15th April 1995
Phil Neville Manchester City 0-3 Manchester United 18 years, 21 days 11th February 1995
Stephen Hughes Arsenal 0-0 Aston Villa 18 years, 3 months, 8 days 26th December 1994
Brian Launders Crystal Palace 0-1 Chelsea 18 years, 3 months, 16 days 24th September 1994
Keith O’Neill Southampton 1-1 Norwich City 18 years, 8 months, 17 days 2nd November 1994
Marcus Hall Coventry City 0-4 Tottenham Hotspur 18 years, 9 months, 7 days 31st December 1994
Jon Wright Aston Villa 1-1 Norwich City 18 years, 10 months, 21 days 15th October 1994

 

OLDEST PLAYERS USED

Player Teams Age at the time Date
John Burridge Manchester City 2-3 Queens Park Rangers 43 years, 5 months, 11 days 14th May 1995
Ray Wilkins Chelsea 1-0 Queens Park Rangers 38 years, 7 months, 15 days 29th April 1995
Gordon Strachan Coventry City 0-0 Everton 38 years, 3 months, 5 days 14th May 1995
John Wark Ipswich Town 2-0 Coventry City 37 years, 9 months, 2 days 6th May 1995
Steve Ogrizovic Nottingham Forest 2-0 Coventry City 37 years, 7 months, 5 days 17th April 1995
Graham Rix Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal 37 years, 6 months, 21 days 14th May 1995
Glenn Hoddle Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal 37 years, 6 months, 17 days 14th May 1995
Bruce Grobbelaar Liverpool FC 3-1 Southampton 37 years, 5 months, 20 days 5th April 1995
Nigel Spink Norwich City 1-1 Aston Villa 36 years, 9 months, 6 days 14th May 1995
Neville Southall Coventry City 0-0 Everton 36 years, 7 months, 28 days 14th May 1995

 

CLEAN SHEETS

Position Player Teams No of Clean Sheets
1 Peter Schmeichel Manchester United 21
2= Tim Flowers Blackburn Rovers 17
2= David James Liverpool FC 17
2= John Lukic Leeds United 17
5= Pavel Srnicek Newcastle United 14
5= Neville Southall Everton 14
5= Nigel Martyn Crystal Palace 14
8= Mark Crossley Nottingham Forest 13
8= Ludek Miklosko West Ham United 13
10= Ian Walker Tottenham Hotspur 11

Memorable Matches: Manchester City 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur (May 2010)

Goalscorer: Peter Crouch 82

Teams:

Manchester City: Marton Fulop, Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Kolo Toure, Wayne Bridge, Nigel de Jong, Gareth Barry (Patrick Vieira 57), Adam Johnson (Shaun Wright-Phillips 71), Craig Bellamy (Roque Santa Cruz 84), Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor

Tottenham Hotspur: Heurelho Gomes, Michael Dawson, Ledley King, Younes Kaboul, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Tom Huddlestone, Luka Modric (Wilson Palacios 88), Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon (David Bentley 71), Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe (Roman Pavlyuchenko 81)

Referee: Steve Bennett, Attendance: 47,370

This was effectively a shootout for a UEFA Champions League qualification spot. Tottenham Hotspur travelled to Eastlands for their penultimate game of the season knowing that a victory would clinch their place in Europe’s premier club competition for the first time since the Champions League had been reformed in 1992. A win for their rivals Manchester City would put them into the driving seat for fourth place going into the final day. The prize was estimated to be worth £30 million.

Roberto Mancini had to rely on ex-Spurs shot-stopper Marton Fulop as his goalkeeper. Injury to Shay Given and with Joe Hart unable to be recalled from his loan period at Birmingham City, it meant the cash-rich club had been forced to ask the Premier League to use the emergency loan system to bring a goalkeeper in. Fulop had been made available after being deemed surplus to requirements by Sunderland.

He would have a busy evening. Tottenham started the brighter and were by far, the most threatening side. Their first opportunity came in the 18th minute. Peter Crouch smashed a header off the crossbar having met Gareth Bale’s free-kick. Moments later, the visitors’ thought they had taken the lead when Ledley King connected with Bale’s corner and headed home. However, referee Steve Bennett had spotted King was stopping Gareth Barry from jumping fairly, so correctly disallowed the goal.

By contrast, City looked flat. Heurelho Gomes made an early save from Carlos Tevez and also reacted well to his left-hand side when Bale almost inadvertently turned Craig Bellamy’s cross over the line. Into the second half and the pattern didn’t change. Bale was causing huge problems for City’s full-backs in Pablo Zabaleta and Wayne Bridge. He played Jermain Defoe in on 58 minutes but Fulop came to the rescue with a fine save. By this point, Barry had been forced off the pitch by an ankle injury and former Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira was brought on as his replacement.

Fulop was in great form. He denied Crouch from close-range, saving his header with his legs. As the game entered the last 10 minutes, it looked like the match was destined to finish goalless when Tottenham finally got the crucial breakthrough. Younes Kaboul made a run into the penalty area, skipping past Craig Bellamy. He fired a shot in from a tight angle. This time, Fulop parried the shot but only into the path of Crouch who was in the right position to head home and send the travelling supporters into exultation.

Spurs had done it. Harry Redknapp had guided them into the UEFA Champions League for the first time. Defeat for Manchester City meant their expensive squad would have to spend the 2010-2011 season playing in the UEFA Europa League. Redknapp’s only final worry was to get soaked with a bucket of water whilst finishing a post-match television interview. It will always remain one of the finest nights Tottenham Hotspur ever experienced in the Premier League.

Iconic Moments: Saints thrash Black Cats (October 2014)

Sunderland arrived on the south coast in October 2014 boosted from their first Premier League win of the season a fortnight earlier at home to Stoke City. What happened next went down as one of their worst days in Premier League history. They left humiliated, shell-shocked and embarrassed as Southampton routed the Black Cats 8-0.

The writing was on the wall from an early stage. Saints took the lead through a nightmare for Santiago Vergini. The hapless full-back managed to smash the ball into his own net from 20-yards out. The reaction from his fellow defenders afterwards spoke volumes.

Sunderland were 3-0 down by the interval as the home side’s attackers had a field day. Graziano Pelle scored twice, there were two further own goals and midfielders Dusan Tadic, Jack Cork and Victor Wanyama all managed to get on the scoresheet too. Southampton had 11 shots on target in the game and eight of them found the back of the net.

It was Sunderland’s biggest defeat in 32 years. Manager Gus Poyet was understandably fuming afterwards, admitting: “It is the most embarrassing game I have ever been involved in.”

Things didn’t improve much at the Stadium of Light as the season progressed. Poyet was axed in March after a 4-0 loss at home to Aston Villa and Dick Advocaat somehow managed to galvanize the players to beat the Premier League drop again.

However, some of the Sunderland players who featured on this day have had to deal with being on the end of one of the Premier League’s most one-sided games in the last quarter of a century.