Tag Archives: Relegation

Premier League Files: George Boyd

Premier League Career: Hull City (2013-2014), Burnley (2014-2015, 2016-2017)

What do Steve Kabba, Mark Robins and George Boyd have in common? These three players have suffered the ignominy of playing in the same Premier League season for two relegated teams. In Boyd’s case, this happened to him during 2014-2015 when he started the campaign with Hull City but was a Burnley player by the end of the season.

The Scot, who won two caps for his country is a creative player who likes to play out on the wings and lay on chances for his teammates. He left the Premier League in the summer of 2017, turning down a new deal at Turf Moor to sign a two-year contract with Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.

He grew up in Kent and is a Crystal Palace fan. George started his career at fellow London side Charlton Athletic but was rejected at the age of 15. With this early setback, he had to work his way up the football pyramid again, starting with Stevenage. Whilst playing in Hertfordshire, he was working in a sweet shop to earn the money for his train fare to training and was also studying at North Hertfordshire College. He was definitely doing things the busy and hard way.

He made his Stevenage debut at the age of 17 and spent the next five years with the club before joining Peterborough United in 2007. It was with Peterborough that he enjoyed the most productive spell of his career, featuring 263 times for the club during seven seasons at London Road. This included three campaigns in the Championship, having begun with Posh in League Two.

He was the subject of plenty of interest during this time with the likes of Burnley and Nottingham Forest submitting bids that were rejected. Eventually, it looked like he was going to move to the latter in January 2013. Everything was agreed and a medical passed until Forest pulled the plug on the deal due to an “inconclusive eye test.” Peterborough owner Darragh MacAnthony didn’t hold back with his thoughts, saying: “I’m devastated for George. I got a phone call off him in bits… He said that he passed the medical then they made him do an eye test. He’s played 300 matches and scored from the halfway line the other month, but Forest say he has an eyesight problem. The whole thing stinks. Alex McLeish wanted to sign him. It’s the most ridiculous thing that’s happened to me.”

He eventually did move on but to Hull City on-loan before the move became permanent in the summer of 2013 with the club enjoying promotion to the Premier League. His time with Hull in the top-flight was not as successful, scoring just twice in 29 games although one did come in a 6-0 thrashing of Fulham in December 2013.

After starting the 2014-2015 campaign at Hull, making one appearance against Stoke City, he moved to Burnley on a three-year deal on deadline day. His finest Premier League moments would come that season against Manchester City. In December, he scored the first of the club’s two goals in their fine 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium. Three months later, it was his 61st minute strike that saw the champions defeated at Turf Moor. Unfortunately, Burnley didn’t have enough all-round quality to avoid an instant return to the Championship.

The Scot stayed with the club to help them win promotion at the first attempt back to the top-flight and figured 36 times in 2016-2017, scoring twice as Burnley survived in the Premier League for the first time in their history.

Although he was offered a new deal, he decided for a fresh challenge away from Lancashire and signed for Sheffield Wednesday where he has only just made his league debut after injury hampered the early months of his time in Yorkshire.

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The Managers: Alex McLeish

Premier League Clubs Managed: Birmingham City (2007-2008), (2009-2011), Aston Villa (2011-2012)

The Midlands and especially, the city of Birmingham dominated the management career of Alex McLeish in the Premier League. The Scot was a huge success in Scottish football but his English spell wasn’t so rewarding. Despite winning the League Cup in 2011 with Birmingham City, two relegations and an uneasy season at Villa Park in 2011-2012 meant it was an unfulfilling experience in the top-flight for McLeish.

Early Scottish success

As a player, McLeish was a central defender for Aberdeen during their own monopoly of Scottish football in the 1980s. He scored in the 1983 European Cup Winners’ Cup final over the mighty Real Madrid and made 493 appearances for Aberdeen across 16 seasons. His performances saw him voted Scottish Player of the Year in 1990 and it led to international recognition from Scotland on no fewer than 77 occasions.

McLeish’s first management role came at Motherwell where he made the final appearances of his playing time. Under his guidance, the Lanarkshire club finished second to Rangers in 1995 but he was unable to build on this and in the next two campaigns, relegation battles followed. He left Motherwell in 1998 to take over at Hibernian.

McLeish arrived too late to stop the Edinburgh side sliding out of the top-flight but he guided them straight back into the Premiership and soon consolidated Hibs into a comfortable, attractive side to watch. He even managed to tempt the likes of former French international Franck Sauzee to Easter Road. Hibernian finished best of the rest in 2001 behind the Glasgow dominant Celtic and Rangers combination. The latter had noted his good work and at Christmas time in 2001, he was chosen by Dick Advocaat as his future successor.

Stopping the Celtic steamroller

Any doubts about McLeish’s appointment by Rangers supporters were instantly quelled. Although the title was always going to go to Martin O’Neill and Celtic long before his arrival in 2001-2002, McLeish did preside over a domestic cup double against the old enemy. The likes of Barry Ferguson, Peter Lovenkrands and Ronald de Boer made swift contributions as Rangers swept the board in 2002-2003. McLeish was keeping the winning tradition going at Ibrox. How they wish they had these days back nowadays…

Another title followed in 2005 and also under his guidance, Rangers reached the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, becoming the first Scottish side to get through the group stage since the competition’s reformation in 1992. However, Celtic had bounced back and regained the grip on Scottish football. With fan pressure growing, McLeish stood down in the summer of 2006.

After a brief hiatus from the game, he took over as manager of his country in January 2007. Under his reign as Scotland manager, the Scots stunned France in Paris to beat them in qualifying for the 2008 European Championships. Sadly though, a defeat in Georgia ended any realistic hopes of a first major tournament finals’ appearance in 10 years. A loss to Italy in the final round of games ensured Scotland’s brave failure was complete.

Days after the Italian defeat, he resigned and took over the vacancy at Birmingham City which was left open after Steve Bruce went to Wigan Athletic. His chapter in English football was about to begin.

Highs and lows with Birmingham

McLeish’s debut match as Birmingham manager was a memorable one. Sebastian Larsson’s stunning strike helped the Blues’ to a 3-2 away win at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur. They briefly climbed to 11th in early March but a poor run of results towards the end of the season ended with the team’s relegation to the Championship, despite beating Blackburn Rovers 4-1 on the final day of the season.

Things did improve. An immediate promotion back to the top-flight followed and then, he produced a sound 2009-2010 campaign which saw Birmingham finish an impressive ninth; their highest finish in over half a century. Among the achievements was a club-record 12-match unbeaten run in the top-flight and the Manager of the Month award for December 2009.

In 2010-2011, expectations were therefore fairly high and there was a victory over champions Chelsea, plus creditable home draws with Liverpool FC and Manchester United. In February 2011, Birmingham stunned favourites Arsenal at Wembley Stadium to win the Carling Cup 2-1. However, a nightmarish run followed in the Premier League. Just two wins in their last 11 matches saw the club relegated for the third time in just over five years. Birmingham’s plight was confirmed by a 2-1 defeat on the final day to Tottenham Hotspur.

The board wanted to keep McLeish in charge but in June 2011, he controversially resigned from his position via e-mail. Five days later, he liked the Midlands so much; he stayed in the region and became Aston Villa boss. Protests were held outside Villa Park on his appointment. He was not the fans’ popular choice. McLeish signed Shay Given and Charles N’Zogbia on his arrival. Neither signing would ultimately work out well. Villa did remain unbeaten until mid-October but there was never any comfort in the role, or a great brand of football being played by his team.

Chelsea were beaten 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on New Years’ Eve but just four wins were achieved all term at home and relegation was avoided by a mere two points. His contract was terminated by Randy Lerner after defeat at Norwich City on the final day consigned Villa to a lowly 16th-place finish.

Since then, Alex McLeish had the briefest of spells at Nottingham Forest (7 games) following by stints working in Belgium and Egypt. Alex McLeish has experienced the highs and lows in football management. His teams weren’t the prettiest to watch but they were very successful in his homeland. It didn’t quite work out though in England.

Iconic Moments: A sad goodbye for Cloughie (May 1993)

He was controversial, he was charismatic and he was cherished by all – apart from maybe those at Leeds United. Brian Clough was one of the best managers the game has ever produced. After scoring 251 goals in just 274 league appearances for Middlesbrough and Sunderland respectively, he went into management and achieved great success.

He turned Derby County from a run-of-the-mill Second Division side into the Champions of England and also guided them to the semi-finals of the European Cup. After his ill-fated 44-day spell as Leeds boss in 1974, Clough returned to the Midlands and held the helm at Nottingham Forest for 18 years. He made the club in a serial player in both the English and European game. Forest won the First Division title in 1978, four League Cups and back-to-back European Cups in 1979 and 1980.

Sadly though, his career ended on a low note as Nottingham Forest slid through the Premier League trap door in the league’s first season. Key players like Des Walker and Teddy Sheringham had been sold and there was an increasing battle the manager was having with alcohol. On the week before the club’s final home match of the 1992-1993 season, Clough announced his retirement from football management so he could spend more time with his family.

His final day at the City Ground was a highly-charged occasion but there would be no happy ending to this fairytale. Forest were beaten 2-0 by Sheffield United which consigned them to relegation. Afterwards, Clough revealed to Martin Tyler when asked why the club had gone down: “We’re not good enough, simple as that.”

After retirement, his battles with ill health and allegations of corruption dominated headlines but he still wrote an explosive monthly column for FourFourTwo magazine. He died from stomach cancer in September 2004, aged 69.

It was a sad goodbye and a sad way for one of the game’s great characters to bow out on.

Memorable Matches: Wigan Athletic 2-3 Swansea City (May 2013)

Goalscorers: Roger Espinoza 45, Angel Rangel 49, James McCarthy 52, Itay Shechter 58, Dwight Tiendalli 75

Teams:

Wigan Athletic: Joel Robles, Emmerson Boyce (Ronnie Stam 86), Paul Scharner, Gary Caldwell, Roger Espinoza, James McArthur, James McCarthy, Ben Watson, Shaun Maloney, Callum McManaman (Franco di Santo 64), Arouna Kone

Swansea City: Michel Vorm (Gerhard Tremmel 85), Angel Rangel, Ben Davies, Ashley Williams, Garry Monk, Dwight Tiendalli, Wayne Routledge, Leon Britton, Pablo Hernandez (Kemy Agustein 77), Jonathan de Guzman, Itay Shechter (Nathan Dyer 69)

Referee: Kevin Friend, Attendance: 18,850

They might have been gearing up for an upcoming FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium against Manchester City but Premier League survival was at stake for Wigan Athletic when they entertained Swansea City in a midweek match towards the end of the 2012-2013 season.

Wigan made three changes to the team that had won a five-goal thriller against West Bromwich Albion a few days earlier with skipper Gary Caldwell returning to the side.

Swansea were having a great season. The League Cup was already in their trophy cabinet and Michael Laudrup’s side were looking good for a top 10 finish. They started well with Wayne Routledge pouncing on a misplaced pass by stand-in left-back Roger Espinoza. Only the reflexes of Joel Robles spared Espinoza’s blushes. The visitors’ were missing their top goalscorer Michu, who was being rested with a trip to Old Trafford on the horizon at the weekend.

As the first half wore on, Wigan grew into the game and Roberto Martinez’s side grabbed a priceless lead right on the stroke of half-time. Ben Watson’s cross into the box wasn’t dealt with cleanly by Michel Vorm. The Dutchman’s punch only fell to Espinoza, who drove the ball home to open the scoring. What a great time it was for Espinoza to score his first goal for the club.

Swansea increased the pressure after the restart and quickly levelled the match. Routledge’s wonderfully measured cross found Angel Rangel and the full-back finished like a forward, with his crisp shot going into the net off the post. Wigan needed to respond quickly to this setback and they did. Just three minutes later, they were back infront. Caldwell’s pass found James McCarthy who broke from midfield. He just beat Ashley Williams to the decisive final contact and his shot was placed nicely out of Vorm’s reach. Wigan were back ahead.

Defensive errors though had cost Martinez’s side all season and they didn’t stop here. A sloppy pass from Caldwell in the 58th minute allowed Pablo Hernandez to pick out Itay Shechter. His shot took a deflection off the unfortunate Emmerson Boyce to beat Robles and make it 2-2. There always looked like a winner would emerge and it would be a devastating blow for the home side. With 15 minutes remaining, Shaun Maloney and James McArthur got in each other’s way at the back post. With neither taking decisive action, Dwight Tiendalli was in the right position to punish Wigan. His goal sealed the three points for Michael Laudrup’s team.

Wigan did enjoy an unbelievable day at Wembley to stun Manchester City and win the FA Cup final but were relegated the following Tuesday at Arsenal. This defeat was the crucial blow in their fight to survive.

Great Goals: Loic Remy – QUEENS PARK RANGERS vs. Wigan Athletic – (April 2013)

Both of these teams were in a real relegation scrap at this stage of the season. It was a game Wigan Athletic couldn’t afford to lose. It was a match QPR simply had to win. The home side were up against it for 70 minutes when Bobby Zamora’s high challenge on Jordi Gomez resulted in a red card.

QPR stayed in the game at 0-0 and when a Wigan set-piece broke down, they sprung on their opposition with a brilliant breakaway. Stephane Mbia ran and ran, before playing in Loic Remy. The Frenchman still had plenty to do but he unleashed a corker of a strike on the edge of the area past a helpless Joel Robles.

Wigan recovered to snatch a point in stoppage time but it would be tears for both when the season concluded. The pair were both relegated. However, Remy’s goal was a standout moment in a forgettable campaign at Loftus Road.

Iconic Moments: Boro’s deduction (December 1996)

Hopes were high at Middlesbrough when the 1996/1997 season got underway. UEFA Champions League winner Fabrizio Ravanelli had joined Brazilians Juninho, Emerson and Branco at the club. Bryan Robson was putting together a decent squad on Teeside.

It didn’t take long for that to fall apart though. Despite three wins from their opening five games, Boro went on a wretched run in the autumn and winter months and slipped towards a perilous relegation battle. Christmas 1996 looked like it would be a make-or-break period for the club.

On Saturday, 21 December 1996, the club were scheduled to make a trip to Ewood Park to play relegation rivals Blackburn Rovers. However at late notice, the game was postponed and it wasn’t down to the weather either. A flu bug had hit the Middlesbrough squad and the manager insisted he did not have enough players to fulfil the fixture due to illness and injury. 23 players were unavailable and the club had medical evidence to back their point up.

Blackburn were incensed at the postponement at 24 hours’ notice and the FA didn’t believe Robson and the club’s claim. Middlesbrough were charged and a month later, fined £50,000. The punishment didn’t end there either. The club were deducted three points which was the first time this happened in Premier League history.

Despite a revival towards the end of the season, Boro’s fixture pile-up having got to the League Cup and FA Cup final got the better of them. On the final day, a draw at Elland Road was not enough to keep them in the top-flight. They were relegated and finished two points adrift of safety. Chairman Steve Gibson revealed later that the team had gone down not on the field, but because of the decision of “three men in grey suits.” To top things off, the Teesiders lost both domestic cup finals that season.

Right or wrong of what happened; Middlesbrough’s no-show at Ewood would turn out to be a costly error.