Tag Archives: Paul Alcock

Premier League Rewind: 4th-6th December 1999

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

December 1999 was the final month of the 20th century and the 1999-2000 season was a campaign that was seeing plenty of goals and a lot of drama too. On this particular weekend, fans at Premier League grounds up-and-down the country would see either no goals at all or a host of efforts hitting the back of the net.

The league leaders going into the weekend were David O’Leary young, exciting Leeds United side. Leeds had lost just one of their last 12 matches and been top of the table since early October. They travelled to Derby County looking to protect their narrow advantage over Manchester United. This was the repeat round of fixtures from the opening weekend of the season and for the second time in the campaign; it looked like Derby were going to get a goalless draw.

Then, referee Paul Alcock gave a slightly fortuitous penalty to the away side and Ian Harte dispatched the spot-kick to give the visitors a narrow 1-0 win and regain their two-point cushion at the head of the Premier League table.

Manchester United had spent a day at the summit after thumping Everton 5-1 at Old Trafford. For the second time in 1999, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored four times in a match as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side turned on the style in their first game back since winning the Intercontinental Cup in Tokyo.

Arsenal and Sunderland kept their challenges going with convincing wins. Arsenal enjoyed a good victory at Filbert Street; a ground which had caused them trouble in previous seasons. Marc Overmars was among the scorers in the 3-0 victory, although Leicester would later get revenge by knocking Arsene Wenger’s side out of the FA Cup two months later.

Sunderland’s season had been built around a deadly strike partnership and they tore Chelsea apart at The Stadium of Light. Both Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips scored twice as they raced into a 4-0 lead before half-time. Gianluca Vialli’s side were eventually beaten 4-1 and were miles off the pace. Since beating Manchester United 5-0 in early October, Chelsea had won just one of their last seven matches, slipped to ninth in the table and were now 14 points off the pace.

Liverpool FC recovered from conceding an early goal to Niclas Alexandersson of Sheffield Wednesday, eventually overcoming the league’s bottom side 4-1. This game was notable for the first goal in a Liverpool shirt for a youngster by the name of Steven Gerrard. He would score another 185 goals in all competitions for the club he cared about the most. With just one win from 16 games, Sheffield Wednesday’s situation already looked rather desperate.

They were joined in the bottom three by Derby County and Watford. Graham Taylor’s men were on the receiving end of a 5-0 thrashing by Wimbledon at Selhurst Park. This scoreline was Wimbledon’s biggest victory in their Premier League career and had them closer to mid-table than the drop zone at this stage of the season. Their downward plight would only begin in the new millennium.

What else happened in December 1999?

  • Celebrations take place across the world to herald the millennium. In the UK, this sees the unveiling of the London Eye and the opening of the Millennium Dome.
  • After eight years in power, Boris Yeltsin resigns as President of Russia.
  • Former Beatles singer George Harrison is attacked in his home in Oxfordshire, suffering minor stab wounds.
  • After 442 years of Portuguese settlement, the sovereignty of Macau is transferred to the People’s Republic of China.
  • Tori Murden became the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean by rowboat alone, when she reached Guadeloupe from the Canary Islands. She had been rowing for 81 days.
  • 137 people are killed by Storm Lothar which sweeps through southern parts of Germany, France and Switzerland.
  • Torrential rains cause catastrophic floods and mudslides in coastal regions of Venezuela, killing an estimated 25,000 people and leaving 100,000 others homeless.
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Iconic Moments: Di Canio shoves Alcock (September 1998)

There’s no doubt that Italian Paolo di Canio was a character on the football field. He was fabulously gifted at times but also frustratingly infuriating at other occasions. He represented Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham United and Charlton Athletic during his Premier League playing days and had an explosive reign in charge of Sunderland during 2013. The lowest point of his career came in September 1998.

Sheffield Wednesday were playing the reigning champions Arsenal at Hillsborough and the game was goalless when the match blew up spectacularly. Patrick Vieira and Wim Jonk had a scrap in the middle of the pitch. Vieira didn’t like the challenge and over-reacted, pushing over the Dutch player. Other players started piling in, with di Canio and Martin Keown getting into a heated confrontation, whilst others were trying to play peacemaker.

Referee Paul Alcock took his time before brandishing the red card in di Canio’s direction. What happened next was inexcusable on di Canio’s part. He shoved Alcock to the ground. Whilst the referee made the absolute most of the contact, di Canio had no right to behave like he did. The FA took a dim view to the incident and handed him an 11-match ban. Sheffield Wednesday suspended him immediately after the incident and he would never play for the club again. He moved to West Ham in January 1999.

For the record, Keown was also sent off in the incident and Sheffield Wednesday ended up winning the game 1-0 with a late winner from Lee Briscoe.

It was a sour incident and whilst some do feel Paul Alcock definitely over-exaggerated his fall, showing physical contact to a referee was simply unacceptable. For all the brilliance of di Canio’s career, including that brilliant goal against Wimbledon in March 2000, these incidents are just as fondly remembered for the wrong reasons.

Referees in the Middle: Paul Alcock

Premier League Career: 1995-2000

First Premier League Match: Coventry City 2-1 Manchester City (23 August 1995)

Final Premier League Match: Liverpool FC 0-0 Southampton (7 May 2000)

Born in 1953, Paul Alcock spent over 20 years in professional football and was a Premier League referee from 1995-2000.

Originally from Surrey, Alcock became a linesman in the Football League in 1982 and spent six seasons running the line at many English grounds. He joined the Premier League referee list in 1995 and his first game in charge was on the first midweek round of fixtures in the 1995/1996 season. Dion Dublin scored a late header in Coventry City’s 2-1 win over Manchester City at Highfield Road.

He is most famously known for a dramatic incident in a match at Hillsborough between Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal in September 1998. The trouble began a minute before half-time when Patrick Vieira reacted angrily to a sly challenge from Petter Rudi. Paolo di Canio got involved and as players from both sides attempted to break things up, di Canio kicked out at Martin Keown.

This was spotted by Alcock who sent the charismatic Italian off. Di Canio’s response was to thrust his hands into Alcock’s chest and push him to the ground in a complete moment of madness. He was then involved in a further confrontation with Nigel Winterburn before being ushered from the field of play. Sheffield Wednesday suspended their maverick almost immediately.

At an FA hearing a month later, Di Canio was banned for 11 matches and fined £10,000. Alcock considered quitting the game after the incident and he wasn’t happy with the punishment, saying: “I am concerned that the message being sent out by the FA can be interpreted as being lenient.”

Alcock continued refereeing in the Premier League until May 2000 before dropping back into the Football League for two seasons. His final match was a Division One game between Norwich City and Stockport County in 2002.

After hanging up his whistle, Alcock went into the retail industry, becoming the shopping centre manager of the Malls Chequers in Maidstone. He retired from that role in 2014 and has also held roles with the Maidstone Leisure Trust, along with still being a football referee assessor in the Championship.

In March 2017, he admitted in a newspaper interview that he was battling cancer for a third time. Initially diagnosed in 2015, I would like to wish him well in his battle to beat the cruel disease once more.

UPDATE: (30th January 2018) – It is with great sadness to have discovered that Paul Alcock lost his brave battle with cancer, aged 64 on Monday 30th January 2018. My thoughts are with Paul’s family and friends at this tough time.