Tag Archives: Ruud Gullit

Iconic Moments: Zola arrives in England (November 1996)

In the summer of 1996, the foreign revolution was starting to arrive in English football. This was none more apparent than at Chelsea where new manager Ruud Gullit was beginning to make his mark by signing players from the continent.

Italians Roberto Di Matteo and Gianluca Vialli had already arrived and a third Italian player would join the Londoners before 1996 was over. £4.5 million was paid to Parma for the small, but technically gifted Gianfranco Zola to arrive at Stamford Bridge.

Zola was a lynchpin of the Italian national side but had become frustrated at being forced to play in a deep-lying role for Parma in Serie A. Wanting to access a new challenge; there was just as much attention from the Italian press than from the English media when he was introduced as a Chelsea player.

He made his debut in a 1-1 draw at Ewood Park with Blackburn Rovers days later and made an incredible impact. Having been in the country for only seven months, he had won over the supporters, the neutrals and the football journalists, who crowned him the Football Writers’ Player of the Year for the season.

 

 

Zola left Chelsea in the summer of 2003, just a week before Roman Abramovich’s takeover of the club. He left after seven seasons of enthralling skills, exceptional goals and a set-piece expertise that was among the best in world football. His final gift was to help the Blues into the Champions League that helped Abramovich towards his takeover that turned the club into one of Europe’s real superpowers.

 

 

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Iconic Moments: Gullit drops Shearer (August 1999)

Going into the Tyne & Wear Derby between Newcastle United and Sunderland, Ruud Gullit was a worried man. Newcastle had made a dreadful start to the campaign, conceding 11 goals in their first four matches and only collecting one point in that time too.

It was rumoured that a power struggle was developing at the club between the Dutch manager and his skipper, Alan Shearer. Shearer had been sent off on the opening day during a home defeat to Aston Villa and missed the home game with Wimbledon three days earlier due to suspension.

For a clash as big as this in the north east, it was expected that Shearer would come straight back into the line-up but Gullit decided to throw the dice and make the biggest decision of his managerial career. He left Shearer on the bench and Duncan Ferguson too. If it paid off, it would be an inspired move. If it didn’t, he would surely pay the price.

On an evening where the weather would have been more pleasant for ducks, Newcastle led at half-time but goals after the interval from Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips helped Sunderland to a 2-1 victory. Both Shearer and Ferguson had arrived on the pitch by that stage but the damage had been done.

Gullit defended his selection afterwards but it was clear he had lost the support of the fans. He had lost the battle and quit 48 hours later. He hasn’t managed in the English game since.

Memorable Matches: Newcastle United 1-2 Sunderland (August 1999)

Goalscorers: Kieron Dyer 28, Niall Quinn 64, Kevin Phillips 75

Teams:

Newcastle United: Tommy Wright, Nikos Dabizas, Didier Domi, Alain Goma, Warren Barton, Jamie McClen, Gary Speed, Kieron Dyer, Nolberto Solano, Paul Robinson (Duncan Ferguson 57), Silvio Maric (Alan Shearer 72)

Sunderland: Thomas Sorensen, Michael Gray, Steve Bould, Paul Butler, Chris Makin, Alex Rae, Stefan Schwarz (Kevin Ball 69), Gavin McCann, Nicky Summerbee, Niall Quinn, Kevin Phillips

Referee: Graham Poll, Attendance: 36,420

The Tyne & Wear derby has always been a passionate battle for supremacy and in August 1999, Newcastle United boss Ruud Gullit was under tremendous pressure. His side had made a terrible start to the season, conceding 11 goals in four matches and collecting just one point; a 3-3 draw with Wimbledon days earlier. His next move would ultimately seal his fate.

Captain Alan Shearer had been suspended for the Wimbledon match following a controversial red card on the opening day of the season at home to Aston Villa. He was expected to lead the line for this massive confrontation. However, Gullit incredibly took the decision to bench his skipper along with his strike partner Duncan Ferguson. In came rookie Paul Robinson and the untried Silvio Maric. It was a baffling decision amidst reports of a power struggle for supremacy at the club between the manager and his skipper.

Shearer could only watch on during a match that was played at a high-tempo despite the filthy weather conditions. Newcastle started well and took the lead in the 27th minute. Robinson did a good job in difficult circumstances and he created the opening goal for Kieron Dyer. Dyer, a summer signing from Ipswich Town was played in by Robinson and he chipped the ball over Thomas Sorensen as the Dane came out to block down the angle. It was his first Newcastle goal and good enough to ensure the home side went into the half-time interval 1-0 ahead.

It was the fourth time in a row that Newcastle had led a match this season and on all three previous occasions, they’d thrown away that position. The crowd must have feared the worst then when Sunderland equalised midway through the second half. The towering presence of Niall Quinn was too much for Newcastle’s defenders. His header flew into the back of the net from Nicky Summerbee’s free-kick delivery.

By now, Shearer had been thrown on by Gullit as he finally withdrew Maric who looked completely overawed by the occasion. Less than two minutes after the change, Sunderland were ahead through a wonderful moment provided by Quinn’s strike partner, Kevin Phillips. Back-up goalkeeper Tommy Wright came out from his goal to smother Phillips’ first attempt at goal. The ball returned to Phillips and he produced a swerving lob from an improbable angle that beat Wright all ends up and ended in the top corner.

Although Kevin Ball almost spared the Magpies’ blushes with a spectacular own goal in the final moments, Newcastle general response after going behind was lacklustre. Sunderland had the bragging rights and Gullit was out of a job. He resigned two days later. Sir Bobby Robson was his successor and guided the club to a safe mid-table finish, whilst getting Shearer back in the goals.

This was Sunderland’s night. It was the evening where Ruud Gullit gambled and lost big time.