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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teams:

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

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

Referee: Steve Dunn, Attendance: 13,409

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Managers: Eddie Howe

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

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

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

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

Saving Bournemouth from extinction

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

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

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

A tough challenge with Burnley

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

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

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

Taking The Cherries up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Premier League Rewind: 16th-18th December 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What else happened in December 2006?

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

Premier League Files: Steven Caulker

Premier League Career: Swansea City (2011-2012), Tottenham Hotspur (2012-2013), Cardiff City (2013-2014), Queens Park Rangers (2014-2015), Southampton (2015), Liverpool FC (2016)

Defender Steven Caulker has already played for six different Premier League clubs. He will be hoping to reach the heights of the top-flight again. Currently at Queens Park Rangers in the Championship, Caulker has opened up in 2017 about a dark and grim period in his life which saw him battle mental illness. In recent years, the product of the Tottenham Hotspur academy has lost his way in his career but his courage in speaking out deserves praise and many will hope to see him back to his best in the near future.

Caulker supported his hometown club Brentford in his youth. Despite being a talented athlete as a teenager, especially at 400m, Caulker chose to pursue a career in football. It was one of his youth coaches who saw traits of a central defender in the player and encouraged him to move back from his early days when Caulker was trying out a career as a central midfielder.

He impressed at youth level with Tottenham and signed his first professional contract with the north London club in July 2009. It was time for Caulker to go and play at first-team level. For the 2009-2010 season, he was sent out on-loan to League One outfit Yeovil Town, alongside a fellow future Tottenham first-team player in Ryan Mason. He impressed throughout his loan period with them, starting 44 games. After a brief cameo with Tottenham in a League Cup defeat to Arsenal in September 2010, he signed a contract extension and went out on-loan again, this time to Bristol City. Again, he did well and despite his loan spell being cut short by a knee cartilage injury in March 2011, he was voted Bristol City’s Young Player of the Year.

Another loan would follow in 2011-2012 but this time, it would be in the Premier League with newly-promoted Swansea City. He made his top-flight debut in Swansea’s opening game; a 4-0 defeat to Manchester City. Unfortunately, a collision with the goalpost at the Emirates Stadium ruled him out of action for three months. After this absence, he became a regular fixture in the Swansea side, featuring 26 times as the south Welsh club finished an excellent 11th in their maiden Premier League campaign.

In the summer of 2012, he represented the Great Britain team during the football tournament at the 2012 London Olympics. In the same year, he won his one and only international cap with England and scored too in the 4-2 defeat to Sweden in Gothenburg.

In 2012-2013, Caulker would spend the entire season with his parent club. He made his Premier League bow for Tottenham as a half-time substitute in a home win over Queens Park Rangers in September 2012. A fortnight later, he scored his first Tottenham goal in a 2-0 home win against Aston Villa and would add another away at Manchester City in November, although this would end in a narrow 2-1 defeat. He was contracted to Tottenham until 2016 but when newly-promoted Cardiff City made a bid of £8 million for the player, Spurs accepted the offer and Caulker was heading back to Wales but this time on a permanent basis.

A lot was expected considering the fee paid by the Bluebirds and he would justify the price tag, scoring five goals and playing every single minute of the campaign. Highlights included two goals in a 3-1 victory over relegation rivals Fulham and a headed winner in the first Premier League Welsh derby as Cardiff edged out Swansea 1-0. However, Caulker couldn’t prevent his side from being relegated as they finished bottom of the Premier League. Unfortunately, Caulker’s career has fizzled out pretty dramatically since. He stayed in the top-flight following Cardiff’s demise by joining Queens Park Rangers. Although he scored in a home draw with Stoke City, Caulker’s form was not as strong as it had been at Cardiff and he experienced the bitter pain of relegation in back-to-back seasons.

Nevertheless, Southampton signed the centre-back on a loan deal in July 2015 which was meant to last the whole campaign. He failed to break-up the formidable axis of Jose Fonte and Virgil van Dijk and played just eight times in all competitions for the Saints. After an insipid display in the 6-1 League Cup battering by Liverpool FC, Caulker would never play for Southampton again. In January 2016, he joined Liverpool FC on yet another loan deal and featured three times, all as a substitute. He did claim one assist and it was a big one too, as Adam Lallana scored a 95th minute winner in the incredible 5-4 victory over Norwich City.

Caulker returned to Queens Park Rangers but continued to struggle to find his best form. In the summer of 2017, he admitted in an interview with The Guardian about struggles with mental illness, plus addictions to drinking and gambling. He said: “For too long I’ve hated everything about myself and I needed to learn to love myself again. I miss the game like crazy. I don’t feel as if I’ve enjoyed playing football since Cardiff. I don’t want to type my name into Google and just see a list of humiliating stories. I want people to remember I am a footballer who was good enough to represent his country at 20 and still has 10 years left in the game.”

“Wherever the opportunity arises, I’m just thankful still to be alive.”

It is hard to believe that he is still only 25. If he can beat his demons, Steven Caulker still has a future in the game and the chance to fulfil his early talent.

Iconic Moments: The greatest Manchester Derby ever? (September 2009)

Some say it is one of the greatest games the Premier League has ever seen.  Certainly, it is one of the finest Manchester derbies to have ever been played. The meeting of Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in September 2009 was a special occasion.

It was the first time back at the Theatre of Dreams for Carlos Tevez since his controversial switch across the city that summer but his new club were quickly behind. Wayne Rooney opened the scoring inside three minutes.  It was 1-1 at half-time though. Tevez robbed Ben Foster of possession and Gareth Barry scored his first Manchester City goal.

Goals were exchanged throughout a belting second half. There were braces for both Darren Fletcher and Craig Bellamy. Bellamy’s second goal came on the brink of time added on and made the score 3-3. It looked like the points would be shared. However, this was Manchester United in “Fergie Time.”

Ryan Giggs picked out a wonderful pass for substitute Michael Owen. Owen kept his composure to beat Shay Given and score his first goal at Old Trafford since his summer arrival from Newcastle United. On the touchline, Mark Hughes was seething.  He felt the allotted time had been played well before Owen’s winner.  For now, the noisy neighbours had been silenced but the rivalry between the two clubs was greater than it ever had been.

It was an entertaining and dramatic contest which was voted the ‘Greatest Match’ by fans at the 20 Seasons awards in 2012.

Shock Results: Aston Villa 3-1 Manchester United (August 1995)

Goalscorers: Ian Taylor 14, Mark Draper 27, Dwight Yorke 36 PEN, David Beckham 82

Teams:

Aston Villa: Mark Bosnich, Alan Wright, Gareth Southgate, Ugo Ehiogu, Paul McGrath, Gary Charles, Ian Taylor, Andy Townsend, Mark Draper, Dwight Yorke (Riccardo Scimeca 86), Savo Milosevic (Tommy Johnson 50)

Manchester United: Peter Schmeichel, Paul Parker, Denis Irwin, Gary Pallister (John O’Kane 59), Gary Neville, Phil Neville (David Beckham 45), Roy Keane, Nicky Butt, Lee Sharpe, Paul Scholes, Brian McClair

Referee: Robbie Hart, Attendance: 34,655

Manchester United felt like a wounded club in the summer of 1995. Having won the double in 1994, they ended up empty-handed one season later.

Alex Ferguson’s response was to sell star players Paul Ince, Andrei Kanchelskis and Mark Hughes. Ince moved to a new culture of football of Serie A with Inter Milan, Kanchelskis switched to Everton and Hughes moved to Chelsea. With injuries keeping out Steve Bruce, Andy Cole and Ryan Giggs, plus Eric Cantona’s lengthy suspension, it was a much-changed Red Devils line-up that travelled to Villa Park on the opening weekend of the 1995-1996 campaign. Aston Villa had undergone a huge squad overhaul themselves. The likes of Ray Houghton, Dean Saunders, Dalian Atkinson and Kevin Richardson were discarded and in came Gareth Southgate, Mark Draper and from Yugoslavia, Savo Milosevic. Villa produced a quality display on a sun-drenched afternoon in Birmingham.

Brian Little opted for a three-man defence, comprising of Southgate, Ugo Ehiogu and Paul McGrath. This allowed the more attack-minded Gary Charles to push forward and his tactics worked, especially as Charles played a significant part in the opening goal on 14 minutes. His dangerous cross into the penalty area was turned in by Ian Taylor. Taylor was in his first full season at the club after moving from Sheffield Wednesday in December 1994. He was already a hero of the Holte End.

It was a speedy counter-attack that led to Villa’s second. The new strike partnership of Dwight Yorke and Milosevic combined to tee-up Draper on 26 minutes for a debut goal. United were struggling without many of their regulars and a third goal came nine minutes before the interval. Goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel fouled Milosevic in the penalty area. Yorke routinely converted the spot-kick to make the scoreline 3-0. It was already a result that would raise plenty of eyebrows.

Ferguson probably peeled the paint off the visitors’ dressing room walls at half-time. He made a number of tactical changes, including reverting to a traditional 4-4-2 formation. He brought on David Beckham at half-time and his long-range strike with eight minutes left at least ensured some reward for a better second half display. However, the damage had been inflicted long before Beckham’s very first Premier League goal.

Ferguson defended his team in the media but the written press had a field day and BBC Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen famously said a few hours after the result: “He has to buy players. You can’t win anything with kids!”

Manchester United would end the season with their second league and cup double in three seasons.

The Managers: Mike Walker

Premier League Clubs Managed: Norwich City (1992-1994), Everton (1994)

Mike Walker turned 72 in late November 2017. He had a professional career that nearly spanned 700 games and is remembered fondly by Norwich City fans as one of their finest-ever managers. By contrast, Everton fans remember his 10-month reign at Goodison Park for all the wrong reasons. He is widely considered by many supporters on Merseyside as Everton’s worst boss.

During his playing days, Walker played as a goalkeeper and this was something that ran through his family. His son, Ian Walker would later be capped at international level by England and play in the Premier League in-goal for Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City. He most notably played for Colchester United, spending 10 seasons as their first-choice goalkeeper. He played 451 times for the club and also turned out in the Football League for Shrewsbury Town, York City, Watford and one appearance for Charlton Athletic.

Taking Norwich to the brink

The highlight was being a part of the Watford side that knocked out Bill Shankly’s mighty Liverpool FC outfit from the FA Cup in 1970. He saved a spot-kick too which endeared himself to many Everton fans. 24 years later, they wouldn’t be so endearing after his ghoulish Goodison reign.

Having ending his playing days with Colchester in 1983, his first managerial role came at the Essex club three years later. Colchester were top of the Fourth Division table in November 1987 and Walker had won 35 of his 79 games in charge, yet was mysteriously sacked by owner Jonathan Crisp to the amazement of everyone at Layer Road. He had just won Manager of the Month honours for the previous month too.

Norwich City were quick to snap Walker up following his shock exit from Colchester. He took charge of their youth team which was a role he would keep until 1992. He was promoted to take control of the first-team just two months before the start of the inaugural Premier League campaign. The Canaries were considered among the favourites for relegation but they continued to defy the odds all season. They beat the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Southampton in the season’s early weeks to top the table and they remained top of the pile at Christmas. Eventually, Manchester United and Aston Villa managed to wear the East Anglian club down but Norwich still finished a fabulous third, despite ending with a negative goal difference.

Walker was seen as one of the most promising managers in British football. His Norwich side were attack-minded, positive and never afraid to take teams on at their own game. It made them one of the most attractive sides in England. In October 1993, Norwich produced one of the biggest shocks in the history of the UEFA Cup. They stunned Bayern Munich in their own backyard to beat them 2-1 in the second round. They became the first English team to win at the Olympic Stadium. A draw back at Carrow Road was enough to see the Bundesliga heavyweights eliminated. They were edged out in the next round by the eventual winners of the competition that season, Inter Milan.

However, relations had soured between Walker and his owner Robert Chase. The manager wanted to take the club forward but couldn’t as Chase was more interested in cashing in on the most prized assets. With Ruel Fox on the verge of being sold to Newcastle United in January 1994, that was the final straw for Mike and he abruptly quit, taking over as Everton manager. Everton had been without a manager for a month before his arrival and they had to pay substantial compensation to Norwich for Walker’s services.

The nightmare of Merseyside

His first game was an exciting 6-2 victory over Swindon Town but it wouldn’t get much better than that. Everton were in the midst of a relegation battle and went into the final day of the season in the bottom three. They needed to beat Wimbledon and hope results went their way. It started disastrously with the Toffees 2-0 down inside 20 minutes but they produced a remarkable recovery to win 3-2. Results did go for the Merseysiders and they stayed up with Sheffield United going down instead.

Walker had signed Anders Limpar and in the summer of 1994, added Vinny Samways from Tottenham Hotspur and Nigerian Daniel Amokachi who had starred at the World Cup. However, fans were annoyed to see fan favourites Peter Beagrie and Tony Cottee discarded so easily. Everton fans were desperate to see the ‘Silver Fox’ as he was nicknamed succeed but his lack of defensive principles and refusal to change tactics would cost him his job.

Everton started 1994-1995 so poorly. They made their worst start to a league season in their proud history and were propping up the table. With four clubs going down that campaign, desperate action was required. A win did arrive at home to West Ham United in early November but the damage had already been done.

Three days after earning a gutsy 0-0 draw at his former club Norwich in a dire game of football, Walker was sacked. On leaving, he said he was “disappointed” and believed the club had “turned the corner.” He took charge of 35 league matches, losing over 50% of these games and winning just six times. It remains the worst reign of any Everton manager in terms of statistics since the end of World War II. After his dismissal, Everton would eventually survive and win the FA Cup under the guidance of Joe Royle.

None of the players would miss him. Mark Ward, who had been a senior figure before his arrival and was eventually banished to the reserves said in his autobiography: “He was a phoney from the start and, although he’d had an impressive 18 months at Norwich, I knew this job was just too big for him.”

With Norwich on a stiff decline, fans at the Norfolk club were very keen to see Walker come back to the club. They had been relegated by the time he was back at the helm in June 1996. He stayed with the Canaries for two seasons but couldn’t rediscover the winning formula from his first reign and left via mutual consent in April 1998 after they failed to return to the Premier League. Since leaving Norwich, Walker has had a spell managing in Cyprus for APOEL, where he resides to this day.

Great Goals: Dimitar Berbatov – MANCHESTER UNITED vs. Liverpool FC (September 2010)

With Wayne Rooney struggling for form after a difficult summer at the World Cup in South Africa, Manchester United turned to Dimitar Berbatov to fill the goalscoring void. Seen as a misfit after struggling to find any serious form in 2009-2010, the Bulgarian could be brilliant on his day. In September 2010 against Liverpool FC, he was outstanding.

Berbatov had already put the home side infront, evading some slack marking from Fernando Torres to head home from a corner. In the 58th minute, he made it 2-0 with a sublime bicycle kick. Darren Fletcher started the move with a long ball that found Nani out wide. Paul Konchesky backed off the winger, allowing the Portuguese to cross the ball into the Liverpool box. It found Berbatov who controlled it superbly in the air. Still with his back to goal, he produced a special overhead kick that left Pepe Reina completely stranded.

A quick-fire double from Steven Gerrard pulled Liverpool FC back into the contest but it was Berbatov’s day. He headed home a late winner to complete his hat-trick. This was his match and a vintage moment from a player who was always capable of the spectacular.

Iconic Moments: Phil Brown’s half-time dressing down (December 2008)

Hull City were a breath of fresh air into the Premier League in the early weeks of the 2008-2009 season. They won on the opening weekend at home to Fulham and then pulled off a famous London away double in successive weekends against Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. They even were joint-top in late October after a 3-0 away triumph at West Bromwich Albion.

By Boxing Day, results had dried up slightly but the Tigers’ still sat in a creditable seventh spot in the table – only behind the traditional big four teams plus Aston Villa and Everton. They travelled to Manchester City, hoping to pull off another away scalp. This trip won’t be remembered for a shock result though.

Mark Hughes’ side were rampant in the first half and led at the interval 4-0. Stephen Ireland was in sparkling form, setting up three of the goals as Felipe Caicedo (2), Robinho and Shaun Wright-Phillips all found the back of the net. Hull were simply not at the races and manager Phil Brown was incensed with their opening 45 minutes.

So, rather than take out his fury behind closed doors, he took his players over to the supporters at the visiting end of the ground and furiously berated them for everyone to see. This must have been public humiliation for the players as Brown was seen wagging his finger at various individuals for several minutes. They did improve in the second half but still lost the game 5-1. Afterwards, Brown defended his decision to carry out his team talk in the public eye. He told the BBC: “I thought it was nice and cold and I thought I would keep the boys alive because they looked as if they were dead. Our 4,000 travelling fans deserved some kind of explanation for the first half performance and it was difficult for me to do that from the confines of a changing room. We owed them an apology for the first half performance.”

That decision seemed to have a negative effect on the rest of Hull’s season. They won just one more match all campaign in the Premier League and only managed to avoid relegation by a single point.

A year later, Hull returned to Eastlands and performed far better to leave with a 1-1 draw. Jimmy Bullard’s penalty ensured they would return to east Yorkshire with a point and he decided to mimic Brown’s team talk in a hilarious celebration that luckily, everyone saw the funny side of!

Memorable Matches: Bolton Wanderers 2-3 Arsenal (March 2008)

Goalscorers: Matt Taylor 14, 43, William Gallas 62, Robin van Persie 68, Jlloyd Samuel 90 OG

Teams:

Bolton Wanderers: Ali Al-Habsi, Jlloyd Samuel, Gary Cahill, Andy O’Brien, Gretar Steinsson, Ivan Campo, Danny Guthrie, Gavin McCann, Matthew Taylor (Nicky Hunt 78), (Grzegorz Rasiak 81), El-Hadji Diouf (Stelios Giannakopoulos 78), Kevin Davies

Arsenal: Manuel Almunia, Gael Clichy, Philippe Senderos (Theo Walcott 59), Kolo Toure, William Gallas, Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby (SENT OFF), Cesc Fabregas, Aleksandar Hleb, Nicklas Bendtner (Emmanuel Adebayor 60), Robin van Persie (Justin Hoyte 90)

Referee: Chris Foy, Attendance: 22,431

Arsenal visited the Reebok Stadium in March 2008 knowing they desperately needed to win to keep alive their title hopes. Having set the pace for the majority of the season, the Gunners had slipped to third in the standings and were without a win in five matches. This included a defeat to Chelsea the previous weekend.

The Gunners’ record at the Reebok was shambolic too. They hadn’t won here since April 2002 and after a nightmare opening 45 minutes in the driving rain, that run looked set to continue. 14 minutes had been played when Bolton took an unlikely lead. Gretar Steinsson produced a wonderful cross and Matt Taylor’s well-executed header flew into the back of the net. Steinsson was exposing Arsenal’s weakness at right-back. Kolo Toure had to play out of position due to an injury to regular full-back Bacary Sagna. His lack of experience in this position was clearly evident.

Arsene Wegner’s side were a goal down and soon a man down too. On 30 minutes, Abou Diaby was dismissed following a poor tackle on Steinsson. Chris Foy had no hesitation in showing the red card and replays proved he had made the right decision. Wenger was left shaking his head and the damage wasn’t over yet.

Two minutes before half-time, Mathieu Flamini was pressured into losing possession on the edge of his own penalty area. The ball dropped to Taylor and his shot deflected off captain William Gallas, leaving Manuel Almunia with no chance. Bolton led 2-0 at the break and looked to be heading towards a vital victory in their battle to preserve their Premier League status.

On the hour mark, Wenger knew he had to change things and threw his last remaining attacking substitutions on. Theo Walcott and Emmanuel Adebayor arrived. Within two minutes, Bolton’s advantage had been halved. Cesc Fabregas’ corner was inadvertently flicked on at the near post by Trotters’ skipper Ivan Campo. Steinsson failed to track the run of Gallas, who couldn’t miss from only a few yards out. All of a sudden, nerves were around the Reebok Stadium with both sets of supporters.

Six minutes later, the scores were improbably level. Gary Cahill overstretched and tripped Aleksandar Hleb in the box. Robin van Persie kept his composure to send Ali Al-Habsi the wrong way and score his first Premier League goal in five months. There always looked like being a winner in this game and it came in the 90th minute. Once again, Hleb got to the touchline and pulled the ball back to Fabregas. His shot took a crazy three deflections off Campo, Andy O’Brien and lastly, Jlloyd Samuel before nestling into the back of the net. Cue euphoria in the Arsenal away supporters’ end.

This was the best comeback victory of the 2007-2008 Premier League season and although Arsenal fell short in their bid to win the title, they fell just four points short of champions Manchester United.

Great Goals: Matt Le Tissier – SOUTHAMPTON vs. Newcastle United (October 1993)

Matt Le Tissier was a one-club man and a player who loved to score spectacular goals. Time and again, he would come up with mastery trickery that dazzled opponents and left supporters gasping with shock and delight.

In October 1993, manager Ian Branfoot disagreed. He was unhappy with Le Tissier’s approach, especially when it came to defensive duties and training regimes so he dropped him. This decision angered the Southampton fans who already were rebelling against Branfoot’s negative tactics.

For a televised match at home to Newcastle United, Branfoot recalled the Saints’ hero to the starting line-up and at 0-0 in the early moments of the second half, he scored one of the great individual Premier League goals. Receiving the ball from an Iain Dowie knockdown, Le Tissier took complete control. He flicked the ball over two advancing Newcastle defenders in Barry Venison and Kevin Scott. With both out of the game, this gave the attacking midfielder his moment. Although he scuffed the shot slightly, it easily beat Mike Hooper and Southampton led with a moment to savour from their iconic leader.

15 minutes later, Le Tissier scored another memorable goal which wasn’t quite on the levels of his first goal for skill but even he admits was a cleaner contact in terms of the finishing strike. He netted 25 goals in 1993-1994 as Southampton narrowly avoided relegation. There were many more memorable moments to come in seasons to follow from the ‘Super Saint.’