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Iconic Moments: Le Tissier has the final say at The Dell (May 2001)

In May 2001, Southampton were about to bid farewell to The Dell; the ground they had played their football at for over 100 years. Their new state-of-the-art stadium at St Mary’s was ready for use at the start of the 2001-2002 campaign.

Their final match at the historic, tight ground would be against Arsenal and fittingly, the final say had to go to the player Saints fans called ‘Le God.’

Over the years, Matt Le Tissier had scored a glut of sensational goals. A series of special free-kicks, a long-distance stunning away strike at Blackburn Rovers and a fabulous individual solo effort at home to Newcastle United in October 1993 were among some of the best. By the time the 2001 season ended, injuries meant his role was now restricted to limited substitute appearances. He came on in the 74th minute to a rapturous reception and he wasn’t going to leave it at that.

With the scoreline at 2-2 in the closing stages, James Beattie won the ball in the air and when Martin Keown failed to clear, the ball sat up perfectly for Le Tissier. He struck a beautiful left-foot shot on the half-volley and it flew past Alex Manninger.

The ground erupted in noise and ecstasy as he was mobbed by his teammates. Afterwards, he said: “It’s very special to score the last goal and I couldn’t have imagined a better ending. But I don’t see why I can’t score the first goal at the new stadium as well,”

Unfortunately, he would never score another goal in professional football and retired in 2002 but what a way to finish football at The Dell for Southampton’s greatest player.

 

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Premier League Files: Paulo Wanchope

Premier League Career: Derby County (1997-1999), West Ham United (1999-2000), Manchester City (2000-2001, 2003-2004)

Costa Rican Paulo Wanchope was an enigmatic forward who could do amazing things one minute, then completely frustrate you the very next. However, he will still go down as having one of the most amazing debuts in the Premier League.

He joined Derby County in March 1997, costing the club £600,000. His debut would come at Old Trafford against current champions and league leaders Manchester United. Unless you really knew your football, few would have heard of the name Paulo Wanchope at kick-off. It was a completely different story by the full-time whistle.

Derby were already 1-0 up when Wanchope took possession inside his own half. He went on to beat no fewer than four Manchester United players with a gangling, but decisive run through their backline before calmly placing the ball beyond the advancing Peter Schmeichel. It was a moment that Derby supporters would never forget and was actually voted the greatest goal in the club’s history during their 125th anniversary celebrations.

Part of an impressive attacking line-up under Jim Smith’s tenure at Derby, Wanchope combined brilliantly with the likes of Dean Sturridge, Stefano Eranio and Francesco Baiano. He scored another 21 Premier League goals for the club, including a goal to send Arsenal to their first defeat of their 1997-1998 title-winning campaign.

In July 1999, Derby decided to cash in on Wanchope as his form had started to dip in the final months of the previous season. He joined West Ham United for £3.5 million and formed a formidable partnership with the charismatic Paolo di Canio. Between them, they scored 31 times in the Premier League as West Ham United finished ninth. In 1999-2000, Wanchope scored 12 league goals but the Hammers faithful never quite took to him as the supporters did at Derby.

When Freddie Kanoute and Davor Sukur both arrived at Upton Park in the summer of 2000, Wanchope was sold to newly-promoted Manchester City for £3.65 million and made a swift impression for his new side, scoring a hat-trick in their 4-2 victory over Sunderland. This was in Manchester City’s first top-flight game at Maine Road in over four years. He added another six goals but couldn’t prevent Joe Royle’s side slipping out of the top-flight after just a single season back amongst the elite.

He stayed with the Citizens in the First Division and despite injury setbacks; he scored 12 times in just 15 appearances to help them to the title and an immediate return to the Premier League. Unfortunately, a knee injury was now hurting his career. He spent the entire 2002-2003 season on the treatment table and was a bit-part player on his return with Kevin Keegan having the services of Nicolas Anelka and Robbie Fowler on his books.

Nevertheless, Wanchope still scored six times in 2003-2004, including a crucial winning goal at home to Newcastle United that effectively kept the club in the Premier League after severe threats against relegation. He moved to La Liga in the summer of 2004, signing for Malaga. Further spells came in Qatar, Japan and the United States before retiring in November 2007, citing his knee problems as the decisive factor in not being able to demonstrate his best form.

He moved into coaching and even had a spell as national team manager of Costa Rica but resigned in 2015 after video footage emerged of him hitting a match steward.

When fit, Paulo Wanchope had an excellent goalscoring pedigree and Derby County supporters will never forget that incredible debut bow in April 1997 at Old Trafford.

Great Goals: Steve Froggatt – COVENTRY CITY vs. Everton (November 1998)

Not usually a regular goalscorer, Steve Froggatt produced a memorable strike at home to Everton in November 1998. The ex-Aston Villa player was impressing with his consistently strong displays for Coventry City in the early weeks of the 1998-1999 campaign. His form was so good; Glenn Hoddle was considering calling him up for the next England squad before his own sacking in February 1999.

Midway through the first half, he collected possession and went on an advancing forward run. The Everton players back off, tempting him to have a shot from distance. They paid the ultimate penalty. Froggatt launched a spectacular drive that flew into the top corner of the net. It was his first goal for Coventry and quite probably the greatest goal of his career. Coventry would record an impressive 3-0 victory.

The strike was voted the Premier League Goal of the Season for 1998-1999 by Sky Sports viewers.

Memorable Matches: Manchester United 4-2 Blackpool (May 2011)

Goalscorers: Ji-Sung Park 21, Charlie Adam 40, Gary Taylor-Fletcher 57, Anderson 62, Ian Evatt 74 OG, Michael Owen 81

Teams:

Manchester United: Edwin van der Sar, Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, Rafael (Chris Smalling 46), Nemanja Vidic (Wayne Rooney 84), Anderson, Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes, Nani, Ji-Sung Park (Michael Owen 63), Dimitar Berbatov

Blackpool: Matt Gilks, Stephen Crainey, Ian Evatt, Alex Baptiste, Neal Eardley, Keith Southern (Brett Ormerod 86), David Vaughan, Charlie Adam, Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Jason Puncheon (Luke Varney 75), DJ Campbell (Matt Phillips 75)

Referee: Mike Dean, Attendance: 75,400

Blackpool had been an exciting side to watch in the 2010-2011 Premier League season. Ian Holloway’s side had beaten Liverpool FC twice and Tottenham Hotspur during their rollercoaster season and began the final day of the campaign outside of the bottom three. Despite their destiny being in their own hands, that meant the Tangerines’ probably needed to get some kind of result at Manchester United. It was a party atmosphere at Old Trafford.  A week earlier, Manchester United had become the most successful club in English football history, wrapping up their 19th league title to overtake Liverpool’s record. Blackpool respectfully gave the newly-crowned champions a guard of honour before the sides did battle in an end-to-end contest.

Both sides had chances in the first 20 minutes. Keith Southern had the first opportunity of the match but side-footed wide of goal whilst Matt Gilks had to repel efforts from Rafael and Dimitar Berbatov. However, he couldn’t stop Ji-Sung Park giving the home side the lead. A misunderstanding between the goalkeeper and Ian Evatt allowed the South Korean in, who calmly dinked the ball over Gilks to put Blackpool into the relegation zone.

All season, Holloway’s instinct had been to attack opponents and he was not going to change this tactic on the final day. It earned some reward five minutes shy of half-time. Gary Taylor-Fletcher won a free-kick after a clumsy tackle from Nemanja Vidic. Free-kick specialist Charlie Adam placed his effort perfectly beyond Edwin van der Sar, who was making his final Premier League appearance before retirement.

Blackpool did the unthinkable 12 minutes into the second half and took the lead at the Theatre of Dreams. Neat build-up involving Jason Puncheon and David Vaughan saw the Welshman’s cross deftly placed into the back of the net by the excellent Taylor-Fletcher. The away supporters were now beginning to dream. Blackpool were half an hour away from staying up in the top-flight.

Their lead lasted just five minutes though. Park found an unmarked Anderson who curled a strike into the top corner. Blackpool were now only staying up on goal difference. A more catastrophic moment would occur on 74 minutes. Substitute Chris Smalling’s cross was diverted into his own net by the unfortunate Evatt. The expressions on the faces of fans and manager said it all. With eight minutes left, Anderson’s sliding pass found an onside Michael Owen. He made no mistake to send Blackpool towards the Championship exactly a year to the day when they were promoted via the play-offs.

Holloway’s team had made many friends along the way but ultimately, their energetic season ended in disappointment as they went down on the final day along with Birmingham City. For United, they could celebrate another title-winning moment on an afternoon of contrasting emotions.

Premier League Rewind: 25th-27th October 2014

Results: West Ham United 2-1 Manchester City, Liverpool FC 0-0 Hull City, Southampton 1-0 Stoke City, Sunderland 0-2 Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion 2-2 Crystal Palace, Swansea City 2-0 Leicester City, Burnley 1-3 Everton, Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Newcastle United, Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea, Queens Park Rangers 2-0 Aston Villa

Nine games into the 2014-2015 season and Chelsea were in pole position to regain the Premier League title from Manchester City. The Blues were still undefeated in the campaign and looking tough to catch for the chasing pack.

On the 25th-27th October weekend, Jose Mourinho took his team to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United. It was a first meeting between Mourinho and Louis van Gaal since the 2010 UEFA Champions League final. There was plenty of mutual respect between the managers in the build-up to this clash but it looked like Mourinho would have the final say. Didier Drogba headed the visitors infront and it looked like the league leaders would hold onto a 1-0 lead at full-time. However, with moments remaining, Manchester United won a free-kick which led to the late dismissal of Branislav Ivanovic. From the resultant set-piece, Robin van Persie thrashed home an equaliser to ensure Chelsea dropped points for only the second time this season.

Their lead over the Red Devils was still a healthy 10 points. Worse still for Van Gaal, his team had won just three from nine matches so far and were languishing in eighth spot in the table. Chelsea’s nearest pursuers were Southampton. They regained second position after Sadio Mane’s goal was enough to beat Stoke City 1-0.

They replaced Manchester City in the top two after the reigning champions fell to a 2-1 defeat away at West Ham United. It was their second league loss of the season. The decisive goal ultimately came from Diafra Sakho, who scored in his sixth successive Premier League match for the club. Despite a wonderful strike from David Silva, City left Upton Park empty-handed and West Ham climbed into the top four much to the delight of Russell Brand. The Hammers’ fan interrupted a post-match interview to congratulate manager Sam Allardyce.

After their 8-0 mauling a week earlier to Southampton, Sunderland’s woes continued. At home to Arsenal, Vito Mannone made two terrible mistakes, allowing Alexis Sanchez to score twice and allow the visitors to leave with all three points in a 2-0 victory. In fact, just six points covered West Ham in fourth position to Aston Villa in 15th. Villa’s fifth successive defeat came on Monday Night Football, losing 2-0 to Queens Park Rangers. Charlie Austin scored a double which was enough to lift QPR off the foot of the Premier League table. Aston Villa had now failed to score in over 500 minutes of Premier League football. Another team struggling were Leicester City. They were now without a win in four games after losing 2-0 to Swansea City.

QPR were replaced at the bottom of the table by Burnley, who lost 3-1 at home to Everton. Veteran forward Samuel Eto’o scored twice for Everton who moved into the top half with back-to-back victories. Sunderland dropped into the bottom three at the expense of their Tyne & Wear rivals, Newcastle United. Having not won any of their first seven games, the Magpies were about to embark on a five-match winning sequence. The second of these came at White Hart Lane, defeating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1.

What else happened in October 2014?

  • UKIP receives its first MP when Douglas Carswell, who defected to the party from the Conservatives, wins the by-election in Clacton.
  • The SNP confirms Nicola Sturgeon will succeed Alex Salmond as leader of the party after she was the only candidate in a leadership ballot.
  • Johann Lamont resigns as leader of the Scottish Labour Party with immediate effect.
  • Nancy Birtwhistle wins the fifth series of “The Great British Bake Off.”
  • Racing driver Jules Bianchi is left with life-threatening injuries after spinning off and hitting a recovery truck during the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. He will succumb to those injuries in July 2015.
  • EastEnders confirms omnibus editions of the soap from April 2015 will be stopped because of declining viewing figures.
  • IF Elfsborg manager and former Sheffield Wednesday player Klas Ingesson dies at the age of just 46 from the effects of multiple myeloma.

Shock Results: Chelsea 0-1 AFC Bournemouth (December 2015)

Goalscorers: Glenn Murray 82

Teams:

Chelsea: Thibaut Courtois, Abdul Baba Rahman (Bertrand Traore 83), Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic, Kurt Zouma, Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fabregas (Loic Remy 83), Oscar (Diego Costa 45), Willian, Eden Hazard, Pedro

AFC Bournemouth: Artur Boruc, Steve Cook, Charlie Daniels, Simon Francis, Adam Smith, Harry Arter, Dan Gosling, Andrew Surman, Matt Ritchie, Junior Stanislas, Josh King (Glenn Murray 80)

Referee: Mike Jones, Attendance: 41,631

Having cruised to the title in 2014-2015, Chelsea were making a real mess of their title defence. They had already suffered seven defeats and went into this game sitting in a lowly 14th place in the table, having amassed just 15 points from their first 14 matches.

Jose Mourinho’s side had at least tightened up defensively ahead of the visit of newly-promoted AFC Bournemouth. They’d gone 306 minutes without conceding in all competitions. Bournemouth had shown great resilience in coming from behind twice to take a point off Everton in their last match. However, Eddie Howe’s side were in the drop zone and without a league win since September.

Mourinho had controversially left Diego Costa out of his starting line-up for the trip to Tottenham Hotspur a week earlier and he kept the Spaniard on the bench for this one too, electing to play the out-of-form Eden Hazard in a ‘false no.9’ position. However, the home side offered very little in the first half and Costa was therefore summoned from the bench at the interval.

Bournemouth could have been ahead before half-time, as Josh King was denied on no fewer than three occasions by the returning Thibaut Courtois, who was back in the team after three months out through injury. Costa’s impact was almost immediate on his arrival. First, he narrowly missed making contact on a vicious cross from Branislav Ivanovic. Next, the temperamental Spaniard had an effort blocked by visiting goalkeeper Artur Boruc. Then, he claimed for a penalty when his cross was blocked by the recovering Simon Francis with his arm. As it wasn’t a natural movement, his protests fell on deaf ears and Mike Jones waved play on.

Bournemouth looked comfortable throughout, driven on by Harry Arter, who was immense in central midfield. He managed to take control of the game, neutralising any dangerous threat that might have been posed by Cesc Fabregas. Sensing there might be an opportunity to take more than a point back to the south coast; Howe threw on his summer signing Glenn Murray with 10 minutes left to play. 99 seconds later, he had made the decisive impact.

Junior Stanislas produced a wonderful corner which Courtois flapped at, under pressure from Dan Gosling. Steve Cook stabbed the ball back across the face of the goal and Murray beat his teammate Charlie Daniels to the crucial contact, heading the ball into the back of the net and sending the away supporters into ecstasy. There were doubts about whether Murray was offside when he connected with Cook’s pass but the goal counted.

Bournemouth comfortably saw out the final 10 minutes to record one of the greatest results in the club’s history. They finished 16th whilst Chelsea recovered from this defeat to scrape into the top 10. However, it would be without Jose Mourinho. He was sacked less than a fortnight after this shock defeat – Chelsea’s first at home to a newly-promoted side since Charlton Athletic won in April 2001.

The Clubs: Swindon Town

All-Time Premier League Record

Played Won Drew Lost Scored Conceded Goal Difference Points No of Seasons
42 5 15 22 47 100 -53 30 1

 

Most Premier League Appearances

Player Appearances Total
Shaun Taylor 42
John Moncur 41
Kevin Horlock 38
Nicky Summerbee 38
Jan Aage Fjortoft 36
Adrian Whitbread 35
Martin Ling 33
Paul Bodin 32
Luc Nijholt 32
Andy Mutch 30

 

Most Premier League Goals

Player Goals Total
Jan Aage Fjortoft 12
Paul Bodin 7
Andy Mutch 6
Shaun Taylor 4
John Moncur 4
Keith Scott 4
Nicky Summerbee 3
Craig Maskell 3
Adrian Whitbread 1
Martin Ling 1

 

Biggest Premier League Victories

Match Date Season
Swindon Town 3-1 Coventry City 5th February 1994 1993-1994
Queens Park Rangers 1-3 Swindon Town 30th April 1994 1993-1994
Swindon Town 2-1 Southampton 18th December 1993 1993-1994
Swindon Town 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur 22nd January 1994 1993-1994
Swindon Town 1-0 Queens Park Rangers 24th November 1993 1993-1994

 

Worst Premier League Defeats

Match Date Season
Newcastle United 7-1 Swindon Town 12th March 1994 1993-1994
Swindon Town 0-5 Liverpool FC 22nd August 1993 1993-1994
Aston Villa 5-0 Swindon Town 12th February 1994 1993-1994
Swindon Town 0-5 Leeds United 7th May 1994 1993-1994
Everton 6-2 Swindon Town 15th January 1994 1993-1994
Southampton 5-1 Swindon Town 25th August 1993 1993-1994
Swindon Town 0-4 Arsenal 27th December 1993 1993-1994
Wimbledon 3-0 Swindon Town 6th November 1993 1993-1994
Leeds United 3-0 Swindon Town 27th November 1993 1993-1994
Manchester United 4-2 Swindon Town 25th September 1993 1993-1994

 

Managers

Player Seasons in charge
John Gorman 1993-1994

 

Highest Home Attendances

Match Date Attendance Figure Season
Swindon Town 2-2 Manchester United 19th March 1994 18,102 1993-1994
Swindon Town 0-4 Arsenal 27th December 1993 17,651 1993-1994
Swindon Town 0-5 Leeds United 7th May 1994 17,539 1993-1994
Swindon Town 0-5 Liverpool FC 22nd August 1993 17,017 1993-1994
Swindon Town 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur 22nd January 1994 16,563 1993-1994

 

Intro

Swindon Town graced the top-flight of the Premier League in 1993-1994. The Wiltshire-based club broke many records – for the wrong reasons. The Robins conceded 100 goals in their 42 matches during the season, the most by any side in a Premier League season. They were relegated three games from the end of the campaign with just five wins. Nevertheless, they did provide plenty of entertainment and recorded the occasional eye-catching result.

 

1993-1994

Having defeated Leicester City 4-3 in the play-off final, Swindon reached the top-flight and were hoping to have a successful spell with Glenn Hoddle in-charge. The former Tottenham Hotspur playing legend was in a player-manager capacity and had been instrumental in helping Swindon to promotion. However, he left the club to take the managerial vacancy at Chelsea and offered his assistant manager, John Gorman the chance to join him.

Swindon chairman Ray Hardman was desperate not to lose Gorman as well, so offered him the managerial position, something which he accepted. The fans were delighted as he was a popular figure in the area when he arrived on the coaching staff in 1991.

Life would be tricky for Gorman and he found out pretty quickly how tough life at the highest level of English football would be. Swindon lost their first four matches, shipping five goals in back-to-back games against Liverpool FC and Southampton. They didn’t get their first point until 28th August, when they earned a 0-0 draw away at Norwich. This was one of only four clean sheets they kept all campaign.

Swindon were winless for the first 16 matches of the season and were quickly rooted to the foot of the table. They had just six points on the tally until beating Queens Park Rangers at the County Ground 1-0 in late November. Keith Scott, a recent arrival from Division Three side Wycombe Wanderers scored the only goal. This victory gave the Robins some confidence. Scott scored again at Anfield in mid-December as Swindon came mighty close to shocking Liverpool FC on Merseyside. Mark Wright scored a late header to ruin what would have been one of the biggest shocks in Premier League history.

Back-to-back home victories were recorded in early 1994 over Tottenham Hotspur and Coventry City and there was a thrilling 3-3 draw at Hillsborough with Sheffield Wednesday where Craig Maskell scored twice. Maskell would leave though in late January to join Southampton and it was left to Jan Aage Fjortoft to come up with the goals. The Norwegian scored 12 times and his treble against Coventry was the first hat-trick from a Scandinavian player in the Premier League.

There was a fighting 2-2 draw with champions Manchester United in March but still, Swindon took some heavy beatings. They lost 5-0 to Aston Villa and caved in 7-1 at Newcastle United. Five points from their last eight games sealed their fate. Despite completing a league double over Queens Park Rangers with their only away win of the season on the penultimate weekend, Gorman’s men were already down. A 4-2 home loss to Wimbledon a week earlier had proved to be the final blow. A final day 5-0 defeat at home to Leeds ensured Swindon became the first – and so far – only side in Premier League history to concede 100 goals in a season.

The Robins are now in League Two so they are some way away from achieving the heights of playing Premier League football again but their one-season stay in the top-flight will be one fans from the County Ground will remember.

Iconic Moments: A devastating LFC start (February 2014)

Arsenal travelled to Anfield in February 2014 looking to cement their place as the title favourites. Liverpool FC were fighting for a top-four finish but still harboured an outside shot of a title challenge. After all, they had been top on Christmas Day. However, a 1-1 draw a week earlier away at struggling West Bromwich Albion had seen the Reds slip further behind the top three of Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea.

They needed to make up for the dropped points at The Hawthorns and they did so in the most spectacular fashion with one of the most devastating spells ever seen in Premier League football. Less than a minute had been played, when Arsenal failed to deal with an early Steven Gerrard free-kick and Martin Skrtel headed the ball past Wojciech Szczesny.

Nine minutes later, the same duo combined, this time from a corner with Skrtel guiding a brilliant header into the net from distance despite Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s best efforts to keep the ball out. Liverpool ran riot and had further opportunities to extend their lead. Daniel Sturridge missed a great chance and Luis Suarez smashed a strike against the post as Arsenal wilted under the intense pressure.

Goal number three arrived in the 16th minute. Raheem Sterling finished from close-range, guiding in Suarez’s cross. Then, four minutes later – Philippe Coutinho robbed a woeful Mesut Ozil of possession before playing the perfect pass for Sturridge to add his name onto the scoresheet. It was simply breathtaking stuff. Four goals in the first 20 minutes that made a mockery of Arsenal’s title challenge.

Sterling added a fifth goal in the second half and the final scoreline of 5-1 didn’t flatter Liverpool. They closed the gap on Arsenal to five points and would begin an 11-match winning run that would take them within an ace of the title. It was one of those moments which get the purists so excited about ‘The Beautiful Game.’

Great Goals: Ruud van Nistelrooy – MANCHESTER UNITED vs. Fulham (March 2003)

Ruud van Nistelrooy was one of Europe’s great goalscorers. His habit was being in the right place at the right time to score from close-range or play off high offside traps and exposing weaknesses in defensive strategies.

This goal was all about skill, class and pace as well – the latter never being one of Van Nistelrooy’s true qualities. He collected possession from just inside his own half and spun away from Sylvain Legwinski who claimed he had been fouled by this movement. After this though, the rest is all about genuine class.

Van Nistelrooy beats no fewer than five Fulham players who either back off or put in feeble challenges. When in the penalty area, you always would back him and this was no exception, scooping the final effort beyond the Cottagers back-up goalkeeper, Maik Taylor.

This was the second goal of a Van Nistelrooy hat-trick in United’s 3-0 victory which set them up for an eighth Premier League title in 11 seasons. Van Nistelrooy won the Golden Boot that season too and there weren’t many better efforts in his Manchester United spell that this special solo strike.

Premier League Files: Emmanuel Petit

Premier League Career: Arsenal (1997-2000), Chelsea (2001-2004)

Arsenal’s first Premier League title success in 1997-1998 was built around a strong defensive core unit. Whilst Arsene Wenger might have been slightly fortunate to inherit the famous Arsenal defence of Seaman, Bould, Adams, Dixon, Winterburn and Keown, his signings of Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit was crucial in helping the Gunners get the better of Manchester United.

Some of Petit’s game wasn’t pretty. He would often break play up, foul players to stop counter-attacks and ensure referees got a hard time from him too. Nevertheless, he was still an excellent player whose partnership with Vieira remains one of the best central midfield combinations in Premier League history. He also was part of the French squad that won back-to-back major international competitions, scoring the third goal in the 1998 World Cup final.

Petit’s connections with Arsene Wenger went back before their link-up at Arsenal. He was signed by Wenger when just 18. Arsene was the manager of AS Monaco at the time and he would spend nine years in the Principality, appearing 222 times, scoring four goals. During his time with Monaco, he captained them to the French league title in 1997 and also played in the 1992 European Cup Winners’ Cup final when Monaco were beaten by German side SV Werder Bremen.

It was Jean Tigana who was manager when Petit won the league with Monaco and it became clear that he would move on to pastures new in the summer of 1997. Scottish champions Rangers were interested in signing him but the lure of working for Wenger again was simply too hard for Petit for ignore. He joined Arsenal for £2.5 million and Wenger immediately switched him from a box-to-box to defensive-minded player. It was a shrewd move.

Despite being red-carded in a goalless draw with Aston Villa in October 1997 for shoving referee Paul Durkin in an unsportsmanlike manner, Petit was one of Arsenal’s heroes of the season. He settled in very quickly into his new surroundings and his partnership with Vieira was a real plus point for all supporters. As the season wore on, he got stronger and stronger as Wenger’s team erased an 11-point margin in the New Year to be crowned champions at the beginning of May. Petit helped Arsenal on their way with a vital home winner from outside the area against Derby County a few days before the title crowning.

1998 was a golden year for Petit. Not only did he win the Premier League title, he also won the FA Cup and then, he played a significant contribution to France’s success on home soil in the World Cup finals. Emmanuel scored a winning goal in the group stages against Denmark, before starting and finishing a swift counter-attack in the final moments of the rather one-sided final in the Stade de France against Brazil. It had been a memorable 12 months for the Frenchman and he showed his caring side later that year when he was fortunate enough to win £17,000 worth of francs on a fruit machine in a Monte Carlo hotel and gave it all to a local charity. Later in 1998, he even played himself as a special guest in the Christmas episode of ITV police drama “The Bill,” visiting parents of a young girl who was recovering from injuries in hospital with flowers and a match ball signed by the team.

No more trophies followed at Arsenal but Petit added another six league goals to his tally, including another cracking goal against Derby County, this time in a 2-1 win at Pride Park in August 1999. He also made the PFA Team of the Year in 1998-1999. However, he moved to Barcelona in the summer of 2000 alongside his club teammate Marc Overmars in a £7 million transfer. That was after helping the French to victory at EURO 2000. His time in Spain was disappointing, as he suffered a number of frustrating injuries and he often played as a makeshift centre-back, something ‘Manu’ was never comfortable with.

After just one season with the Catalans, he returned to English football and London in the summer of 2001, joining Chelsea for £7.5 million who beat Tottenham Hotspur to his services. Petit played 55 times in the Premier League for the Blues. His best time with the club was the 2002-2003 season where he and Frank Lampard were among the core of a settled squad that finished in the top four and secured Champions League football just before Roman Abramovich came in to buy the club. There was also a rare goal away at of all places, Highbury in January 2003 although this did come in a losing cause.

The 2003-2004 campaign was one of immense disappointment for Petit. He was restricted to just four Premier League appearances all term due to a long-standing knee injury. His final appearance in Chelsea colours came in February 2004 in a 3-2 away win at Blackburn Rovers, where he set-up a goal for Lampard in the first half. He was released at the end of the season.

After turning down a summer approach from Bolton Wanderers and realising he wouldn’t return to his peak fitness levels, Petit announced his retirement from the game in January 2005, with the knee problem that was similar to the ones that ended the playing careers of Glenn Hoddle and Marco van Basten. He often appears today as an analyst on French television and is a brand ambassador for online trading broker UFX.com.

When Petit made the decision to retire, Wenger said: “He was fantastic. I feel his home is at Arsenal Football Club. We were lucky at Arsenal to have Petit at the peak of his career. He was a tremendous player.”

Most Arsenal supporters would agree with that.

Premier League Files: Marc Albrighton

Premier League Career: Aston Villa (2009-2014), Leicester City (2014-PRESENT)

Leicester City’s incredible Premier League title triumph in 2015-2016 saw plenty of heroes. Whilst the likes of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante stole most of the headlines, there were plenty of unsung players who played such a vital part in the greatest story ever played out in Premier League history.

One of those unsung heroes was Marc Albrighton. The Tamworth-born player figured in every single match that campaign and put in the best performances of a career which has flourished in the colours of the Foxes’ after a frustrating end to his time with Aston Villa. He is also in the Premier League record books for scoring the 20,000th goal in the league’s proud history, achieving this feat against Arsenal in December 2011.

Albrighton could have actually started his career out at West Bromwich Albion, who offered him a trial but ultimately rejected him. Aston Villa took him into their academy at the age of just eight and he would spend the next 17 years within their surroundings. His Premier League breakthrough came in 2009. After featuring prominently in pre-season, he made his debut in the top-flight on the opening weekend at home to Wigan Athletic. Wigan might have won the match 2-0 but this was a proud moment for Albrighton when he came on as a substitute in the second half. A month later, he extended his contract at Villa Park by three years and Martin O’Neill admitted he was impressed by his rapid rate of development.

O’Neill left abruptly before the start of the 2010-2011 campaign but reserve team coach Kevin McDonald had every confidence in Albrighton’s abilities and handed him his first start in the Premier League for the opening day match against West Ham United. Villa won 3-0 and Albrighton caught the eye, setting up two of the goals. His first goal at this level came in a 2-1 loss at Tottenham Hotspur two months later and he also found the target with a clinical finish at home to Manchester United when the home side produced one of the best counter-attacking moves of the season.

He returned impressive figures of five goals in 29 appearances in 2010-2011 and would make Premier League history the following season. In December 2011, he scored the equaliser at home to Arsenal and therefore, scored the league’s 20,000th goal. Albrighton won a £20,000 cheque from the league’s sponsors, Barclays which he donated to his chosen charity, the Acorns Children Hospice.

Although Arsenal did end up winning the match 2-1, Albrighton knew the significance of his strike. He told talkSPORT: “It’s something to tell the kids and the grandkids. It is a massive thing; the Premier League is one of the greatest leagues in the world, if not the greatest, so to score the 20,000th goal is definitely special to me.”

Unfortunately, his form started to fade at Villa and a throat operation in the early weeks of the 2013-2014 campaign didn’t help matters. He had a brief one-month loan at Wigan Athletic to help regain match fitness. After returning, he figured 19 times so it was a surprise that the club decided to release him at the end of the season. Leicester City wasted no time in snapping him up from their Midlands rivals.

Initially, he looked like a spare part at Leicester too and struggled to break into the starting XI on a regular basis. That changed nearer the end of the season when manager Nigel Pearson started to integrate wing-backs into his formation. Albrighton was used frequently in this position and he scored twice towards the backend of the campaign as Leicester rallied from bottom of the table at the start of April and seven points adrift of safety to finish 14th, winning seven of their last nine matches.

Pearson was sacked by the club’s owners in the summer and in came Claudio Ranieri. This could have put another stumbling block in Albrighton’s career in a summer where he was hit by a personal tragedy. His partner, Chloe Fulford suffered the terrible loss of her mother in the terrorist attacks in Tunisia in June 2015. This was a dreadful shock to the entire family and was a reminder that football was a secondary matter. It did seem to inspire Marc onto even greater levels of performance and he scored on the opening weekend in the 4-2 win over Sunderland. He pointed straight to the sky in his celebration. It was clear who he dedicated that goal to.

In 2015-2016, Albrighton was part of a regular four-man midfield alongside the energy of Kante, the world-class talents of Mahrez and the revival in the form of Danny Drinkwater. Ranieri later said: “He is a great worker who embodies the spirit of Leicester.”

Even when he was scarified from the start of the game at home to Swansea to combat with a Vardy suspension, Albrighton came on and made a big impact, scoring the fourth goal in a 4-0 victory which took Leicester closer to Premier League paradise. He became a title-winner a week later after Tottenham failed to beat outgoing champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Albrighton richly deserved his place in the realms of Premier League winners.

There was more personal success for Marc in 2016-2017. He scored Leicester City’s first-ever goal in the UEFA Champions League, scoring inside six minutes of their Matchday 1 3-0 win away in Belgium over Club Brugge. He later scored in the round-of-16 home leg over Sevilla as Leicester reached the quarter-finals in their maiden Champions League adventure. League form did dip though and reports emerged that Albrighton was one of the main figures to meet the Leicester owner after the first-leg defeat to the Spanish side which ultimately led to Ranieri’s shock sacking as manager.

Albrighton was furious and upset. He put out a strong statement, denying his involvement in Ranieri’s downfall. Part of it read: “At the worst time of my family’s life, the manager helped me achieve something I didn’t think in my wildest dreams would be possible. It helped us to be positive about something when everything was negative.

“The first day I met the manager he told me he believed in me; before the last game of his LCFC reign, he told me the same.

“I will never be truly able to thank him for everything he has helped me achieve and the faith he has shown in me and he knows that I always did my best for him.”

Albrighton has rediscovered his title-winning season form in 2017-2018. He set-up two goals on the opening night in a narrow 4-3 loss to Arsenal and has scored for new manager Claude Puel in positive results against West Ham United and Huddersfield Town.

Marc Albrighton has had to work hard for his success. He had to endure some tricky challenges and always come out of them as a tougher person for these experiences. No-one should forget his role in the 2015-2016 Leicester City fairytale and still only 28, he has plenty more football ahead of him.

Referees in the Middle: Mark Clattenburg

Premier League Career: 2004-2017

First Premier League Match: Crystal Palace 1-3 Everton (21 August 2004)

Final Premier League Match: West Bromwich Albion 0-1 Leicester City (29 April 2017)

In 2017, the Premier League bid farewell to Mark Clattenburg. The 42-year-old from County Durham accepted the opportunity to become the Head of Refereeing for the Football Federation in Saudi Arabia.

A referee since 1990, Clattenburg officiated 292 Premier League matches over a 13-year career in the English top-flight. He flashed the yellow card to players 946 times and showed nearly 50 red cards but his controlling influence on matches made him one of the regulars in some of the league’s most tempestuous and key fixtures. The peak of his career came in 2016, when he took charge of the FA Cup final, UEFA Champions League final and the European Championships final in a space of a few weeks.

He took up refereeing through the rewarding Duke of Edinburgh scheme and three years later, became an assistant referee in the Northern League. He made the National List of Football League refs in 2000 and his first match came that year as Chesterfield beat York City 4-1 in a Division Two clash. He was just 25 at this appointment, breaking several post-war records.

Clattenburg spent the next four years plying his trade in the Football League, often called in to take charge of crucial semi-finals in the play-offs. He was the man in the middle for the 2004 Third Division play-off final between Huddersfield Town and Mansfield Town and was promoted to the Select Group of officials later that year.

In August 2004, Mark was given his first Premier League appointment as Everton won 3-1 away at Crystal Palace, awarding the visitors a penalty in this match which was converted by Thomas Gravesen. His first difficult moment came five months later when Tottenham Hotspur were denied a late win at Old Trafford. Pedro Mendes’ goal-bound effort from distance was dropped over the goal-line by Roy Carroll but wasn’t spotted by the linesman. Clattenburg was in a poor position, so couldn’t award the goal as he wasn’t 100% sure it had crossed the line.

He became a FIFA referee in 2006 and even took charge of a testimonial match for Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer on his retirement from playing. His allegiance towards the Magpies’ means he has never refereed a competitive match involving Newcastle United.

Clattenburg has shown the red card over the years on nearly 50 occasions. Some of his key dismissals include:

  • His first red card came on his Premier League debut, with Gary Naysmith dismissed for dragging back Wayne Routledge in Everton’s 3-1 win at Crystal Palace in August 2004.
  • Everton were on the receiving end in a Merseyside Derby in October 2007 – losing Tony Hibbert and Phil Neville to red cards in a 2-1 loss to Liverpool FC at Goodison Park. David Moyes said afterwards: “The referee has had a very bad day at the office!”
  • Sent off Manchester City defender Dedryck Boyata just four minutes into a clash with Arsenal in October 2010 for a professional foul. Arsenal win the match 3-0.
  • Jonny Evans was dismissed in the Manchester Derby of October 2011 for hauling down Mario Balotelli in a goalscoring opportunity. Manchester City take full advantage to beat their local rivals 6-1 at Old Trafford.
  • Dismissed West Bromwich Albion full-back Goran Popov for spitting during a home match with Tottenham Hotspur in February 2013.
  • Awarded Liverpool FC three penalties at Old Trafford in March 2014 and sends Nemanja Vidic off in LFC’s 3-0 win over the reigning champions.
  • Gave two penalties to Leicester City and sends off Manchester United youngster Tyler Blackett during an eight-goal contest between the teams in September 2014.
  • Per Mertesacker saw red in January 2016 as Chelsea win 1-0 at The Emirates Stadium to complete a league double over Arsenal.

In 2008, Clattenburg was appointed as referee for the FA Community Shield match between Manchester United and Portsmouth but this was later given to Peter Walton after an investigation that led to him missing the majority of the 2008-2009 campaign. He was suspended during the investigation which was looking into alleged debts incurred by companies with which he was connected to. Citing a breach of contract, the referees’ governing body dismissed Clattenburg but he appealed the decision, denying any wrongdoing. The PGMOB reinstated him in February 2009 but back-dated his suspension to eight months meaning he took charge of just one Premier League match all season, the final day encounter at The Etihad Stadium between Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers.

He re-established his integrity over the next four seasons, earning the 2012 League Cup final for his rewards and also, took charge of the men’s football final at the 2012 London Olympics when gold medal favourites Brazil were humbled by Mexico 2-1 at Wembley Stadium. Controversy was never that far away though for Mark.

In October 2012, Manchester United ended Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the domestic season, winning 3-2 at Stamford Bridge. Clattenburg sent off Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres during the match and also allowed United’s winner to stand even though Javier Hernandez was clearly in an offside position. After the game, Chelsea accused him of using racist language towards their Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel when he was booked.

The FA took him out of the firing line for a month but cleared him of any wrongdoing nine days after the fixture in west London and charged Mikel with using “threatening and/or abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour” towards Clattenburg after the match. Mikel was found guilty and received a three-match ban and a £60,000 fine.

In a statement afterwards, he said: “I know first-hand the ramifications of allegations of this nature being placed into the public domain ahead of a formal process and investigation. I hope no referee has to go through this in the future.”

2016 was Mark’s big break. First, he was appointed to the Emirates FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium between Crystal Palace and Manchester United. He sent Chris Smalling off in extra-time but Louis van Gaal’s side still prevailed to win 2-1. A week later, he was in Milan to officiate the biggest game in European club football, the final of the UEFA Champions League. Real Madrid played city rivals Atletico Madrid and won 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Then, he went to France as one of the English officials at the 2016 European Championships. He was given the showpiece final gig which saw hosts France shocked 1-0 by Portugal, again after an extra-time conclusion.

Never one to accept the appointments quietly, he had the logos of the UEFA Champions League and the 2016 UEFA Euros tattooed on his arm to remember the final of the two competitions that he officiated in a few months later.

In February 2017, it was confirmed that he was to leave his post as a Premier League official to educate younger referees in Saudi Arabia. Replacing another huge figure in Howard Webb, the PGMOL said in a statement: “Mark is a talented referee; he has been a great asset to the English game and hopefully an inspiration to those who want to get into refereeing at the grassroots of the game.

His final top-flight match in this country was a fairly uneventful Midlands Derby in April 2017 between West Bromwich Albion and Leicester City which Leicester won 1-0 thanks to a Jamie Vardy goal. Even though he isn’t in the middle in England, he has still made headlines recently from infidelity allegations about his love life to admitting that he let Tottenham Hotspur self-destruct at Stamford Bridge in May 2016 on the night where their 2-2 draw handed the title to 5000-1 outsiders Leicester City.

However, he is one of the best referees we’ve seen in the Premier League and his achievements in the game can’t be ignored despite some of the controversy.