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Premier League Files: Kasper Schmeichel

Premier League Career: Manchester City (2007-2009), Leicester City (2014-PRESENT)

Kasper Schmeichel’s place in Leicester City history is already secure. The Dane has been a huge part of the Foxes remarkable journey in the last few years with the peak being that unbelievable Premier League title success in 2016. Kasper is still one of Leicester’s best players and rarely misses a match. His achievements with Leicester mean he is the only son of a father to have won the Premier League title so far. His dad, Peter was of course a major part of Manchester United’s dominance on the English game in the 1990s, winning five league championships.

Schmeichel’s breakthrough in the Premier League came 12 years ago at Manchester City. He was handed his Premier League debut in August 2007 by former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and made a fantastic start, keeping clean sheets in his first three outings against West Ham United, Derby County and Manchester United.

Schmeichel was competing alongside another young talent in Joe Hart for the goalkeeper berth at Eastlands and ultimately, it was Hart who won the battle. Schmeichel made only another six first-team appearances before leaving Manchester City permanently in 2009. During that period, he’d experienced first-team football on temporary loan periods at Cardiff City and Coventry City.

He joined an ambitious Notts County outfit who were in League Two but aiming high with the shock arrival of Sol Campbell too that summer. He played 43 times and was far too good for the standard of football he was playing in. Schmeichel made PFA Team of the Year in the division and County were promoted to League One at the end of the campaign.

His stay at Meadow Lane would be just a solitary season as Championship club Leeds United snapped him up on a free transfer in summer 2010. Again, he was a solid presence and made 40 appearances for the Yorkshire side. However, like at Notts County, his time at Leeds was restricted to a single campaign.

Keen to find some security after plenty of club movements, Kasper moved to Leicester City in 2011 and it is a relationship that has delivered plenty of joy and success for both parties. His outstanding form in his first campaign with the Foxes saw him named the club’s Player of the Year and he was called up to Denmark’s squad at the 2012 European Championship as a back-up goalkeeper.

An ever-present campaign followed in 2012-2013 and in February 2013, he became the second Schmeichel to win a full international cap for Denmark, making his debut in a friendly match against FYR Macedonia. Although there has been competition over the years from the likes of Jonas Lossl and Frederik Ronnow, Schmeichel has rarely looked under threat in the Danish international setup ever since.

Voted into the PFA Championship Team of the Season in 2013, Schmeichel achieved similar accomplishments in 2013-2014 and this time, there was club success too as Leicester finally returned to the Premier League after a 10-year absence, storming to the Championship title.

The 2014-2015 season started well for Kasper and the team with a memorable 5-3 victory over Manchester United among the highlights. In December though, he broke his metatarsal in training and missed three months of the campaign. The experienced Mark Schwarzer was signed in the January transfer window from Chelsea as suitable cover but there was little doubt in manager Nigel Pearson’s mind that Schmeichel would return to duty when fit. He returned just in time for the Foxes’ amazing escape from relegation. Seven points adrift of safety with nine games left to play, Leicester won seven of their last nine games and Kasper kept five clean sheets in that period to ensure their Premier League survival. What happened next was absolutely extraordinary.

Schmeichel was absolutely outstanding in 2015-2016, barely putting a foot wrong and featuring in every single Premier League match. Leicester did struggle defensively in the early weeks under Claudio Ranieri but once he’d settled on a more defensively-minded full-back pairing of Danny Simpson and Christian Fuchs, clean sheets started becoming a regular occurrence. Schmeichel finished with 15 and only narrowly missed out on the Golden Glove award to Arsenal’s Petr Cech. However, that personal disappointment was easily overcome by the team’s incredible achievement.

On 2nd May 2016, Tottenham’s failure to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge meant Leicester became Premier League champions. Amazingly, it was exactly 23 years after Manchester United and Peter Schmeichel’s first title success which that season was also achieved by other results going in the Red Devils favour. The Schmeichels became the only biological father and son to win the Premier League, as well as being in the same position to do so.

Despite rumours of a move away after Leicester’s success, Schmeichel stayed loyal and signed a contract extension in August 2016, even though Ranieri had brought in stiffer competition for him in Ron-Robert Zieler who had arrived from German side Hannover 96. Leicester’s form completely vanished but Schmeichel’s didn’t and he was voted Players’ Player of the Year at the club’s 2016-2017 awards evening. He kept clean sheets in his first four UEFA Champions League matches and the only games he missed were down to groin and hand injuries – the latter keeping him out for six weeks during the winter months.

Ranieri was controversially sacked in February 2017, less than 24 hours after defeat in the UEFA Champions League Round-of-16 first leg tie to Sevilla. Schmeichel was very vocal on both social media and in television interviews in the days afterwards, saying there was no plot whatsoever involving the under fire players wanting to get Ranieri dismissed.

In 2017-2018, he kept eight clean sheets, making an important penalty save in an away win at Brighton & Hove Albion when the score was 0-0 and despite missing the closing five matches with an ankle problem, he was Denmark’s first-choice goalkeeper for their 2018 World Cup effort in Russia. Schmeichel kept clean sheets in the group stage games against Peru and France and in the Round-of-16 match against Croatia; he saved three penalties during the match and penalty shootout. It ended in defeat for the Danes but Schmeichel’s reputation as a great and classy goalkeeper had been enhanced.

2018-2019 has been a tough season for everyone connected with Leicester City Football Club and Kasper witnessed the horrific helicopter crash outside the ground in October 2018 which killed five people including the owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. Former manager Claude Puel confirmed his goalkeeper had seen some terrible things which didn’t need description.

Despite the overwhelming sense of tragedy, Schmeichel has continued to deliver on a regular basis for Leicester and is still one of the best goalkeepers currently in the Premier League.

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Premier League Files: Kolo Toure

Premier League Career: Arsenal (2002-2009), Manchester City (2009-2013), Liverpool FC (2013-2016)

Kolo Toure is part of a unique group of players in Premier League history. He is one of only eight players to have won the league with two different clubs, having been part of ‘The Invincibles’ Arsenal side from 2004 and enjoying success with Manchester City in 2012. Toure also experienced another near-miss when a Liverpool FC player during their 2013-2014 campaign. He represented his country, Cote d’Ivoire at three World Cup finals and no fewer than seven African Cup of Nations finals, winning the main prize in 2015.

Toure first arrived in the Premier League in 2002, joining Arsenal on a long-term contract from ASEC Mimosas. In his first season with the north Londoners, he was a utility player who would fill in when required at either right-back or defensive midfield. He immediately settled into the harmonious dressing room and scored goals away from home at Chelsea and Leeds United as Arsenal narrowly missed out on successfully defending their title, beaten to the prize by Manchester United. Toure was part of the squad that won the FA Cup in 2003, although he was an unused substitute in the final.

At the start of Arsenal’s historic season of 2003-2004, manager Arsene Wenger successfully trained Toure into a new position. Kolo became Sol Campbell’s regular partner at centre-back, replacing Martin Keown in the role with the veteran nearing the end of his awesome Arsenal career. Toure continued his liking for scoring goals against Leeds United, netting in the league and FA Cup against the Yorkshire club and he had a great personal season, with his development coming on leaps and bounds in the new position of the field he was playing in.

By now, Kolo was one of the first men on Wenger’s teamsheet. With Campbell experiencing a difficult final campaign at Highbury, Toure became the main centre-back leader in the 2005-2006 season, forming an effective partnership with the upcoming Philippe Senderos. Both played a major part in the club reaching their first-ever UEFA Champions League final, keeping 10 consecutive clean sheets on their way to the showpiece event. This remains a European competition record. His winning goal in the semi-final victory over Villarreal was the final-ever European goal to be scored at Highbury before Arsenal’s stadium move to The Emirates in the summer of 2006.

It would be a losing experience in the Champions League final against Barcelona for Toure but he signed a new four-year contract that summer and also swapped squad numbers, taking the no.5 jersey that hadn’t been filled since Keown’s departure. When both Thierry Henry and Freddie Ljungberg left the club in the summer of 2007, Toure suddenly became the longest-serving member of the squad.

After seven years in the capital, Toure seeked a new challenge in the summer of 2009, handing in a transfer request which was initially turned down. Eventually though, a bid came in from oil-rich Manchester City which was too good to ignore. Toure moved for £14 million in July 2009. Mark Hughes immediately appointed him club captain on his arrival in Manchester. A year later, his brother Yaya joined him at The Etihad Stadium after the pair had played together in Cote d’Ivoire’s exit in the group stages of the 2010 World Cup finals.

Toure’s 2010-2011 season ended prematurely when it was revealed in March 2011 that he had failed a drugs test after the Manchester Derby game at Old Trafford. He was immediately suspended by the club and potentially faced a two-year ban from the game. Following a seven-hour hearing at Wembley in May 2011, the commission decided that the substance (his wife’s water tablets) was not seen as a performance enhancing substance. He was handed a six-month suspension, backdated from March that year, meaning he missed out on the club’s FA Cup final victory over Stoke City.

Toure admitted afterwards: “This has been a difficult period for me and I am sad to have missed the team’s triumph of securing Champions League football and also the FA Cup victory at Wembley but I am relieved that I will be able to return to football in September and thank the FA’s commission for their understanding about my case in coming to their decision.”

Although he returned to action in September 2011, Toure’s first-team chances became more limited as Roberto Mancini preferred Joleon Lescott and Vincent Kompany as his first-choice centre-back combination. Toure became a squad player but still made 14 appearances in 2011-2012, more than enough to qualify for a second Premier League title winners’ medal. He was released in the summer of 2013 after not being offered a contract extension.

Brendan Rodgers wasted no time in snapping Toure up to add some experience to the Liverpool FC backline following Jamie Carragher’s retirement. Toure was only ever seen as a back-up player at Liverpool behind the likes of Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Dejan Lovren. Nevertheless, he made 46 Premier League appearances for the Reds across three years. He scored once; in the 6-0 rout of Aston Villa at Villa Park in February 2016. It was his first goal of any kind in over five years and he celebrated wildly following this goal. His last appearance for the club came in the UEFA Europa League final loss to Sevilla.

By now, Rodgers had gone to Celtic and he took Toure with him in July 2016 when his Liverpool contract came to an end. He made 20 appearances in Celtic’s first treble-winning season under the Northern Irish manager, which included his second campaign being involved in an unbeaten domestic league season. In September 2017, he retired from football but remained at Celtic as a technical assistant and would follow Rodgers to Leicester City on his coaching staff when he left his position as Celtic manager in February 2019.

Kolo is also an ambassador for the charity Save the Children.

Iconic Moments: Giggs’ last goal (February 2013)

There is often a huge debate for who has been the greatest player in Premier League history. Certainly the most successful is Ryan Giggs and it will take something to beat the Welshman’s incredible tally of 13 Premier League title-winning medals.

Giggs also holds the record for most consecutive seasons to score in the Premier League with his feat standing at 21 campaigns. His first goal in the Premier League was a wonderful individual effort away at Tottenham Hotspur in September 1992. He was still producing the goods two decades later with the second goal in a 2-0 away victory at Queens Park Rangers in February 2013.

It turned out to be Giggs’ last-ever goal for Manchester United. He retired in May 2014 after making a club-record 963 appearances for the Red Devils, scoring 168 goals. After retirement, he spent two years as Louis van Gaal’s assistant before leaving when the Dutchman was sacked. He is now the international manager of Wales but will always be considered one of the finest players to have graced both Manchester United and the Premier League.

Premier League Rewind: 24th-25th April 2004

Results: Everton 0-1 Blackburn Rovers, Fulham 2-0 Charlton Athletic, Leicester City 1-1 Manchester City, Manchester United 0-1 Liverpool FC, Middlesbrough 1-2 Aston Villa, Southampton 1-2 Bolton Wanderers, Leeds United 1-2 Portsmouth, Birmingham City 2-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers, Newcastle United 2-1 Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 Arsenal

This was the weekend in the 2003-2004 season where Arsenal could wrap up the Premier League title. A win at North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur would be enough to secure a third championship in the Premier League era and they were still protecting an unbeaten record when they made the short trip to White Hart Lane.

Both Chelsea and Manchester United went into the weekend still with mathematical chances of denying the Gunners but their chances were slim, given Arsenal’s ‘Invincible’ form so far. For Manchester United, that faint hope completely disappeared at Old Trafford when they were beaten 1-0 at home by Liverpool FC. Danny Murphy’s penalty – the first converted spot-kick in the Premier League at Old Trafford since December 1993 was enough to see Liverpool claim three vital points in their own battle to finish in the top four. It was the third time in four years that Murphy had scored the winning goal at The Theatre of Dreams against The Red Devils.

24 hours later and Chelsea slipped up away at Newcastle United, who were among the challengers for that coveted fourth place spot too. Joe Cole gave the visitors an early lead with his first Premier League goal for the Blues but Shola Ameobi equalised and then, Alan Shearer produced a long-range special that flew into the top corner of Marco Ambrosio’s net. John Terry hit the post in stoppage-time but Claudio Ranieri’s side were beaten 2-1 and now winless in five matches in all competitions. So, Arsenal now only required a point to claim the title.

They were never going to settle for a draw and Patrick Vieira gave the visitors the lead inside the first two minutes from a trademark devastating counter-attacking move. Robert Pires continued his run of scoring against Tottenham to double the lead before half-time before the home side, having experienced a poor season, showed some battling qualities in the second half. Jamie Redknapp pulled a goal back midway through the second half before in injury-time, Jens Lehmann got involved in some unnecessary wrestling with Robbie Keane at a Spurs corner. A penalty was awarded which Keane dispatched to earn Tottenham a point in a 2-2 draw. However, Arsenal were champions and they were keen to let everyone know about it on their neighbours’ home ground. The Gunners were now just four games away from ‘Invincibility.’

At the wrong end of the table, relegation rivals Leicester City and Manchester City shared the points in a 1-1 draw. Andy D’Urso awarded a penalty in the 82nd minute when Michael Tarnat was adjudged to have fouled Muzzy Izzet, despite Izzet having handballed in the build-up. Chaotic scenes emerged as both sets of players squared up to one another and it took several minutes for order to be restored. Eventually, Paul Dickov’s penalty was saved by David James. The result was a damaging one for the Foxes, who remained six points adrift of safety and on the periphery of relegation.

At Elland Road a day later, Portsmouth took a giant stride towards safety with a 2-1 victory away at Leeds United. Pompey strike partners Yakubu and Lomana Lualua both scored to guide Portsmouth to a fifth win in six matches. Like Leicester, Leeds’ situation looked desperate – six points behind Manchester City with just three games left to play. Like Portsmouth, Blackburn virtually guaranteed survival with a third successive win, edging out Everton 1-0 at Goodison Park thanks to another goal from January arrival, Jon Stead.

What else happened in April 2004?

  • “The Gherkin” building in the City of London, designed by Norman Foster, opens for the first time.
  • Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi is killed after Israeli helicopters fire missiles at a convoy of vehicles in the Gaza Strip.
  • Michael Grade is appointed as the new chairman of the BBC. He succeeds Gavyn Davies, who stepped down in the wake of the Hutton Report.
  • David Beckham is accused of cheating on his wife Victoria by Dutch glamour model Rebecca Loos. The Beckhams came out in public support of each other, whilst Loos gave an exclusive interview, detailing encounters of their ‘supposed’ romance to Sky One.
  • Prime Minister Tony Blair announces that there will be a referendum on the proposed EU Constitution – a change on previous plans.
  • After 17 years hosting the Capital FM Breakfast show, Chris Tarrant presents his final show. He is replaced in the hotseat by Johnny Vaughan.

Premier League Files: Jason Wilcox

Premier League Career: Blackburn Rovers (1992-1999), Leeds United (1999-2004)

Jason Wilcox was one of the unsung heroes of Blackburn Rovers’ title-winning success in 1995. A product of Blackburn’s youth academy, he enjoyed his career with Rovers, being on their books for a decade. On his departure in December 1999 for Leeds United, he was the club’s longest-serving player. It was during this period that he managed to win three caps for England.

He joined Blackburn at the age of 16. His youth team manager at the time, Jim Furnell described him as “one of the best young midfielders in English football.” He would eventually make 271 league appearances for Blackburn, captaining the side on occasion too. It was at a time where Jack Walker’s multi-millions saw the club emerge from also-rans in the Second Division to become serious challengers for the Premier League title. Walker signed the likes of Alan Shearer, Stuart Ripley and Tim Flowers for vast sums of money but Wilcox was a proven success from Blackburn’s academy and was well-trusted by the management team at Ewood Park of Kenny Dalglish and Ray Harford.

Playing on the left wing of Blackburn’s 4-4-2 formation, he formed an excellent understanding on the left-side of the field with Graeme Le Saux. It was Wilcox’s job to provide the crosses and key passes for the original SAS’ partnership of Shearer and Chris Sutton to gobble up the goals. In the 1994-1995 title-winning campaign, he picked up two early season red cards in away matches against Arsenal and Nottingham Forest. However, he eventually settled down, popping up with some crucial goals and a number of assists to help Blackburn end their 81-year wait for a top-flight championship. Whilst it was the likes of Shearer, Sutton and skipper Tim Sherwood who took the plaudits, it was the likes of Wilcox that played just as a pivotal part to help them to their success.

Unfortunately, lengthy injury problems restricted Jason’s impact on the first-team spotlight in the seasons to come and eventually, Blackburn’s decline saw them slip out of the Premier League just four seasons after winning the title. With the emergence of the promising Damien Duff, Blackburn elected to cash in on Wilcox just before the end of the 20th century and Leeds paid £4 million for his services.

He scored on his Leeds debut and his excellent initial form saw him called into Kevin Keegan’s provisional squad for the 2000 European Championships, winning caps in pre-tournament matches against France and Argentina. Unfortunately, injury denied him his place in the competition as he was replaced by Gareth Barry.

Jason bounced back from this crushing disappointment and helped his club side reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League in 2001. Leeds though couldn’t take their promise onto the next level and eventually, crippling financial pressures saw them being forced to sell their top stars. In 2004, the inevitable happened and they were relegated. Wilcox was released following their demise from the Premier League and he joined Leicester City on a one-year deal. He finished his career with Blackpool in 2006.

After retiring from football, he took time out from the game before joining the commentary staff of BBC Radio Lancashire for a year, as well as having his own weekly column in the Lancashire Telegraph. In 2013, he joined Manchester City as an Academy Director which is a position he still holds today.

Iconic Moments: Wenger bids farewell (May 2018)

On Friday 20th April 2018, Arsenal announced that Arsene Wenger was to step down as the club’s longest-serving manager after 22 years at the helm.

Wenger was a revolutionary for the English game, changing the way managers approach training regimes, player diets and data analysis. It was his dream to complete an entire Premier League season unbeaten and that feat was achieved with ‘The Invincibles’ side of 2003-2004. The likes of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Patrick Vieira, Sol Campbell and Dennis Bergkamp playing a crucial role in the Gunners going through a season undefeated. They eventually went 49 league matches without losing.

In recent seasons, success had given way to frustration and protests which included banners, aeroplanes calling for his departure and eventually, supporters deciding not to turn up to home matches. This was despite keeping Arsenal in the top four for 19 successive seasons and becoming the most successful foreign manager in the history of the FA Cup. The end was near and it was time for a change as Arsenal started to slip further away from the other prime Premier League challengers.

In his final home match as the club’s manager, Arsenal put in a splendid display of attacking football, beating Burnley 5-0 with goals from Alexandre Lacazette, Sead Kolasinac, Alex Iwobi and two from his final-ever signing, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. A final day victory at Huddersfield meant Wenger finished with three titles and 476 Premier League wins. He has been succeeded by Unai Emery.

Although there were some very awkward moments in the closing years of his reign, Wenger’s legacy should never be tarnished. He has to be considered as one of the most influential figures the Premier League has ever seen.

Iconic Moments: Manchester United’s record-breaking 19th title (May 2011)

When Sir Alex Ferguson arrived from Scotland in November 1986, his mission was to make Manchester United successful again.

In 2002, he famously said: “My greatest challenge is not what’s happening at the moment, my greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their ******* perch. And you can print that.”

Seven years after his arrival, Manchester United won their first top-flight title in 27 years and soon afterwards, league championship after league championship followed. When he arrived, Manchester United had only seven titles. By May 2011, they had drawn level with Liverpool on 18 top-flight championships.

They travelled to Ewood Park on the penultimate weekend of the 2010-2011 season looking to make history and claim not only a 12th Premier League title but a record-breaking 19th crown which would take them to the top of the list as England’s most successful club.

It was a nervy afternoon with just a single point required to seal the title and they fell behind to a Brett Emerton strike. However, with 17 minutes left, Paul Robinson’s foul on Javier Hernandez saw a penalty awarded by referee Phil Dowd after some consultation. Wayne Rooney kept his nerve to dispatch the spot-kick, level the game at 1-1 and ensured Manchester United made history.

It was a great achievement and Ferguson’s mission was well and truly complete.

Memorable Matches: Manchester United 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur (May 1999)

Goalscorers: Les Ferdinand 24, David Beckham 42, Andy Cole 47

Teams:

Manchester United: Peter Schmeichel, Denis Irwin, Gary Neville, Ronny Johnsen, David May, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes (Nicky Butt 69), David Beckham, Ryan Giggs (Phil Neville 79), Teddy Sheringham (Andy Cole 45), Dwight Yorke

Tottenham Hotspur: Ian Walker, Stephen Carr, Justin Edinburgh, Sol Campbell, John Scales (Luke Young 70), Steffen Freund, Tim Sherwood, Darren Anderton, David Ginola (Jose Dominguez 9), (Andy Sinton 76) Steffen Iversen, Les Ferdinand

Referee: Graham Poll, Attendance: 55,189

On the final day of the 1998-1999 season, Manchester United needed to win to secure the championship. They started the day one point clear of reigning champions Arsenal and faced the Gunners bitter rivals in Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford. Tottenham had only won once in their last 17 league meetings against Manchester United and the Red Devils were unbeaten in 30 matches in all competitions since losing at home to Middlesbrough before Christmas. Many before kick-off thought victory would be a forgone conclusion but it turned into a nervy afternoon for the home faithful.

Alex Ferguson’s first big decision came before kick-off as he elected to start with Teddy Sheringham ahead of Andy Cole. Immediately from the outset, the home side seeked to take control and nearly took the lead in fluky circumstances. Ian Walker’s attempted clearance was charged down by Dwight Yorke and the ball spun onto the post, back into Walker’s grasp.

Spurs suffered another blow when the Player of the Year, David Ginola disappeared from the contest after just nine minutes because of injury. The visitors hadn’t showed any attacking instincts in the opening 20 minutes. So, it was a big surprise when they took the lead. From Walker’s goal-kick, Steffen Iversen flicked a header on and Les Ferdinand beat Ronny Johnsen to the loose ball. Ferdinand’s effort managed to beat a scrambling Peter Schmeichel in his farewell Old Trafford appearance before he moved to Sporting Lisbon on a free transfer.

The Manchester United fans had a sense it might not be their day. Walker made two great saves to deny Paul Scholes in quick succession. Seconds later, David Beckham put a header over the crossbar from point-blank range. His frustration was clear. He knew he should have scored. Persistence was the key to this performance and three minutes before half-time, the league leaders finally managed to find a way through Walker and Tottenham’s defences.

Scholes tackled Tim Sherwood who felt he had been fouled. Referee Graham Poll disagreed and Scholes continued his run, picking out Beckham. This time, the England international made no mistake with his finish, launching his strike into the top corner for his ninth goal of the season. As things stood, Ferguson’s Red Devils would regain the Premier League title from Arsenal who were drawing 0-0 at the same time with Aston Villa.

At half-time, Cole was introduced for Sheringham and two minutes into the second half, the substitution had the inspired impact. Gary Neville found Cole with an incisive ball. Staying onside, the forward’s control was devastating and he lobbed the ball over the advancing Walker. It felt like redemption for him after missing all the guilt-edge opportunities on the final day in 1995 at Upton Park when Manchester United lost the title to Blackburn Rovers.

Tottenham had given it a good go and Arsenal got their goal to beat Villa but it was all in vain. For the fifth time in seven seasons, Manchester United were Premier League champions and the first part of the historic ‘Treble’ was signed, sealed and delivered.

The Managers: Roberto Mancini

Premier League Clubs Managed: Manchester City (2009-2013)

Roberto Mancini will always go down in folklore as the man who ended Manchester City’s long quest without silverware. The Italian was a fiery figure as a player and even more so as a manager. It worked though at City and he was the man on the touchline when Sergio Aguero scored that injury-time goal in May 2012 which saw City snatch the Premier League title away from their rivals across the city, Manchester United.

Mancini is still in management in 2018 and is set to become the new boss of the Italian national team. His most recent club spell was with Russian side Zenit Saint Petersburg.

A Sampdoria legend

Mancini made his playing debut in 1981, featuring for Bologna in Serie A. Sampdoria bought him a year later for £2.2 million and he would remain there for the next 16 years, becoming a legend with the club’s supporters.

During his time with them, he helped Sampdoria win the Italian league title in 1991 which is the only time they’ve managed to break the regular dominance of Juventus and the two Milan clubs. There was success on the European stage too with Sampdoria winning the 1990 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, beating Anderlecht 2-0 in the final after extra-time. The two goals came from Gianluca Vialli and Vialli and Mancini struck a super understanding leading the attack for them. In fact, their knowledge and cohesion of each other’s game meant they earned the nickname “I Gemelli del Gol” (The Goal Twins).

Two years later, Sampdoria reached the European Cup final but were beaten in extra-time by Barcelona at Wembley Stadium. By now, Mancini was one of the most influential figures in the dressing room at Sampdoria. He was part of the interview panel when Sven-Goran Eriksson was appointed the club’s manager and was often used to help promote the club to new players, including Englishman David Platt.

He wasn’t the easiest person to get on with and if his authority was questioned, he didn’t like it. Mancini had falling outs with the likes of Trevor Francis, Liam Brady and Juan Sebastian Veron during his time in Italian football.

When Eriksson took the Lazio job, he took Mancini with him and Roberto won his second Serie A and Cup Winners’ Cup prizes as a player. He retired from playing in 2000 to become the Swede’s assistant manager but when Eriksson left shortly afterwards to take the England international job, Mancini decided to come out of retirement for one final brief spell with Leicester City in England. He made five appearances for the Foxes before a return to Italy beckoned – this time as manager of Fiorentina.

Coaching success in Italy

When he took the Fiorentina job, he required special dispensation from Italian authorities as he hadn’t yet completed his coaching badges. The club were in serious financial trouble and star assets had to be sold, like Francesco Toldo and Rui Costa. Mancini still managed to win the Coppa Italia before resigning in January 2002 with the club in the Serie A relegation zone.

Five months later, he took over at Lazio and like in Florence; he had to deal with big financial constraints. Yet again, star players had to go. Alessandro Nesta joined AC Milan and Hernan Crespo was sold to Inter Milan but Mancini managed to galvanise the Rome giants to two top-six finishes and another Coppa Italia triumph in 2004.

Next stop was Inter Milan who appointed him in the summer of 2004 after Lazio agreed to release him from his contract. The Coppa Italia was fast becoming Mancini’s specialist competition. He achieved a third victory as a manager in his first Inter season, beating AS Roma 3-0 in the final and he guided them to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals where they lost to bitter rivals, AC Milan.

Inter were to become the dominant force in Italian football after Juventus were stripped of their domestic title and relegated in 2006 because of the Calciopoli scandal. He won three successive Serie A titles, two Super Cups and broke numerous records domestically; including a historic run of 17 successive top-flight victories in 2005-2006 which is one of the best runs ever seen in European football.

However, Inter owner Massimo Moratti was unimpressed by the lack of impact being made by the club in the UEFA Champions League and this would ultimately lead to a separation between the club and Mancini. Back-to-back defeats in the round-of-16 to Valencia (2007) and Liverpool FC (2008) along with disciplinary problems in these losses would seal his fate. He was sacked by the club in May 2008 and replaced by Jose Mourinho. He wouldn’t manage again for nearly 18 months.

Checking in at City

Six days before Christmas in 2009, Mancini checked into the Premier League as the new boss of Manchester City, replacing Mark Hughes. He immediately made it clear that his target was for the oil-rich Citizens to finish in the top four and qualify for the following season’s UEFA Champions League.

Four straight wins followed but there was a late semi-final defeat in the League Cup to Manchester United and they were pipped to fourth spot by Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs defeated City 1-0 in early May at The Etihad Stadium to leave the most expensive squad in the club’s history in fifth and with the meek consolation prize of playing in the UEFA Europa League.

The first signs of success came in the Italian’s first full season at Eastlands. He spent heavily in the summer transfer window, bringing in the likes of David Silva, Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov. City moved into fourth position in mid-September after a victory away at Wigan Athletic and never surrendered a spot in the top four from that point onwards.

There were moments where things didn’t go to plan. Mancini had a bust-up with Carlos Tevez just before Christmas as the skipper submitted a transfer request citing personal reasons for a desire to move back to Argentina. Those differences were eventually resolved and the manager came in criticism for negative tactics on home soil in successive goalless draws with Manchester United and Birmingham City.

However, not many teams finished the 2010-2011 season in better form than Manchester City. They secured UEFA Champions League qualification for the first time when they beat Tottenham Hotspur in early May and two further victories on the final week of the campaign ensured a top-three finish above Arsenal. There was further success with victory in the FA Cup final over Stoke City, with Toure scoring the only goal. It was the club’s first major honour since the League Cup in 1976.

Taking the main prize

In the 2011 close season, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri were added to the squad, along with Gael Clichy. The target this time was to take the main prize and land the Premier League title.

Manchester City made an outstanding start to the season, staying unbeaten until mid-December when they lost 2-1 at Stamford Bridge to Chelsea. During this run, Mancini’s side won 6-1 at Old Trafford and also dished out heavy defeats to Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur and Norwich City. There were still issues. He had another public row with Tevez, claiming he refused to come off the bench during a UEFA Champions League match with Bayern Munich. In the post-match press conference, he told journalists that Tevez would never play for the club again. Never say never though and the temperamental forward would return to the fold in March 2012.

The Champions League campaign ended in a disappointing group stage exit and Manchester United ended their FA Cup defence at the first hurdle but this season, it was all about the Premier League. The two Manchester giants were locked together for much of the season. It was a new experience for the club and there was a major wobble in March. Defeat at Swansea and a home draw with Sunderland gave the Red Devils the advantage in the title race. When City lost 1-0 at Arsenal and had Balotelli sent off, an eight-point gap had been opened up. Mancini insisted in public the title dream was over but an extraordinary turnaround was about to follow.

City would win their next five matches, including a second victory over United in the season. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were stumbling to defeat at Wigan and threw away a two-goal lead to draw 4-4 with Everton. Now, it was the Citizens who had the advantage on goal difference going into the final day of the season. They had a home fixture against relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers whilst Manchester United travelled to Sunderland.

United won 1-0 so as long as City matched that result, they would become champions. In true fashion, they made incredibly heavy weather of this routine scenario. Despite QPR being reduced to 10 men, they took a 2-1 lead midway through the second half. However, injury-time produced the most dramatic finale to a Premier League match. First, Edin Dzeko’s header levelled the scores before Balotelli poked the ball through for Aguero to score the title-winning goal with seconds remaining. Cue pandemonium around The Etihad Stadium. Mancini had just become the second Italian manager to win the Premier League title.

No happy conclusion

There would be no happy conclusion though for the relationship between the manager and club. A quiet summer transfer window, coupled with another timid showing in the UEFA Champions League put Mancini back under pressure. City went into 2013 seven points off top spot and further poor showings away at Southampton and Everton allowed Manchester United to romp into a sizeable advantage in the table which they were never going to throw away this time around. In his final season as a manager, Sir Alex Ferguson regained the Red Devils’ superiority and the title was back at Old Trafford by the end of April.

Two days after being beaten by Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup final, Mancini was sacked as Manchester City manager with relations with the board and players reported to be at its lowest ebb. With Manchester City, Mancini achieved the fourth-best win percentage in Premier League history.

Since then, he has had spells as manager of Galatasaray, a second stint at Inter Milan and Zenit Saint Petersburg, where he was trying to guide them to become the dominant force in Russia again before moving into international management in May 2018.

Despite having been a support striker during his playing career, Mancini places great emphasis on building from the back and his approach, whilst not always popular, ensured he will always go down as one of Manchester City’s greatest managers.

Premier League Files: Steve Bould

Premier League Career: Arsenal (1992-1999), Sunderland (1999-2000)

Steve Bould spent two decades as one of the game’s most challenging and uncompromising defenders. His partnership at the heart of the Arsenal backline alongside skipper Tony Adams is one of the best pairings the English game has ever seen. Arsenal has been a huge part of his career and he remains an integral member of the club today, now in his sixth season as Arsene Wenger’s assistant manager.

Born in Stoke-on-Trent, Bould signed for his hometown club Stoke City as a schoolboy in 1978 and turned professional in November 1980. He would spend the next eight years with the Potters, although he did have a nine-game loan period with Torquay United in 1982 to enhance his playing experience. Initially training as a right-back, it was Mick Mills who converted him into a centre-back. Not only was this a shrewd decision, it ensured Bould would excel in this position for the remainder of the 20th century. Despite his rapid improvements, Stoke were still a Second Division club and in 1988, the time came for him to move onto pastures new with a higher reputed side. Both Arsenal and Everton registered an interest and for £390,000, Steve moved to Highbury in the summer of 1988 and started a relationship with the club that has largely held together over the next 30 years.

He became part of the much-talked about ‘Arsenal back four,’ together with Adams, his former Stoke teammate Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn. There was instant success in his new surroundings. Bould won the English Division One title in his maiden season with the Londoners as Arsenal recorded a dramatic victory on the final evening of the campaign against Liverpool FC to snare title glory away from the Merseysiders.

A second league title followed in 1991 and a year later, he was voted the club’s Player of the Season despite a slightly underwhelming campaign for the team which included an embarrassing FA Cup exit at the hands of lowly Wrexham. In August 1992, Steve Bould ensured his name with be in Arsenal’s Premier League record books forever. After 28 minutes of the club’s first match of the new era, he headed home the opening goal at home to Norwich City. Norwich stormed back from 2-0 down to claim a very surprising 4-2 victory but no-one could take this feat away from the centre-back. Fittingly, it was another centre-back in Shkodran Mustafi who recently scored the Gunners’ 1000th home Premier League goal against Watford in March 2018.

Injury ruled him out of Arsenal’s double domestic cup success of 1993 and it was his deputy, Andy Linighan, who scored the winner in the FA Cup final replay victory over Sheffield Wednesday. However, he returned to the first-team fold in time for the second Premier League season, winning the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1994. By now, Martin Keown had arrived from Everton and was a serious challenger to Bould’s regular place in the team. When Adams was fully fit, the pair would often alternate roles and initially on his arrival at the club in 1996, Wenger seemed to prefer using Keown. Bould saw this as an extra challenge and his desire to prove his use was never greater than in Arsenal’s double-winning 1997-1998 season. He featured 24 times and famously set-up his central defensive partner Adams for the fourth goal against Everton that sealed Arsenal’s first league championship in seven seasons.

After one further season in north London, Bould briefly severed his ties with the club to continue his playing days at Sunderland. When Kevin Ball departed in December 1999, Black Cats boss Peter Reid made Bould the club captain and he played 20 times as Sunderland finished an excellent seventh in their first season back in the top-flight. However, he was forced to retire from the game in September 2000 due to arthritis.

In June 2001, he returned to Arsenal and began working with the club’s youth teams, whilst studying for his UEFA coaching qualifications. He was head coach of Arsenal’s Under-18 Academy side that won back-to-back Premier Academy League titles as well as the 2009 FA Youth Cup.

In May 2012, long-serving senior assistant manager Pat Rice decided to retire and Wenger promoted Bould to the role as Rice’s replacement. On appointing him, Wenger said: “His qualities are that he has the experience of the top-level game. He has managed here. He knows our football philosophy and therefore there will be continuity.” It is a role he has held since then and therefore, has experienced being part of the coaching staff to win three FA Cups in the last five seasons.

A stalwart of the Arsenal defence for over a decade, Steve Bould has shown his desire as a highly-rated coach since being forced to retire 18 years ago. Whilst his name is never linked as a long-term successor to Arsene Wenger, he should be a figure that remains at the club for many years to come, due to his outstanding knowledge of the DNA within Arsenal and their excellent youth system.

Premier League Files: Chris Sutton

Premier League Career: Norwich City (1992-1994), Blackburn Rovers (1994-1999), Chelsea (1999-2000), Birmingham City (2006), Aston Villa (2006-2007)

Chris Sutton was once the most expensive player in British football when Blackburn Rovers paid Norwich City £5 million in the summer of 1994. It was money well spent by Kenny Dalglish. Sutton paired up with Alan Shearer and they formed one of the deadliest strike partnerships the Premier League has ever seen. The original ‘SAS’ combination scored 49 league goals as Blackburn ended their 81-year drought and became champions of England.

Sutton’s playing career lasted 16 years. A title winner at Blackburn, he also enjoyed immense success in Scottish football with Celtic but also had a difficult season in London with Chelsea and his international career was unnecessarily short due to his differences with Glenn Hoddle.

Chris began his career in Norfolk with Norwich City. He was initially a centre-back and would often play there when emergency measures were called for by any of the managers he worked under. It was Dave Stringer who would convert him into the deadly forward that he would become. He made his professional debut in 1991 against Queens Park Rangers and started to make a regular contribution to the first-team setup a year later.

In the first Premier League season, Sutton was still at Norwich and played in both defensive and attacking roles for Mike Walker. He scored eight times as the Canaries finished a fabulous and unexpected third in the final table, despite ending with a negative goal difference tally. He also bagged his first career hat-trick with a treble in a 4-2 victory over outgoing champions Leeds United in April 1993.

It was the 1993-1994 season that really saw Sutton’s star begin to rise and therefore, his valuation in the transfer market too. He scored 25 Premier League goals – only outscored by Andy Cole of Newcastle United and Blackburn’s main marksman, Shearer. He was part of the Norwich side that dumped Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich out of the UEFA Cup but league form regressed when Walker left his role as team manager to take the job at Everton. With a willing owner in Robert Chase who was keen to cash in, Sutton was set to leave for pastures new in the summer of 1994.

Norwich valued Sutton at £5 million and two clubs, Blackburn and Arsenal agreed to meet the valuation put on him. In July 1994, he met both teams for talks and elected to choose Blackburn as his next destination, despite a transgression in Norwich’s nightclub district which saw him arrested.

He settled quickly, forming a great partnership with Shearer and the pair even shared the Carling Player of the Month award for November 1994. He scored a hat-trick at home to Coventry City, twice in a narrow triumph over Liverpool FC and the winning goal at Chelsea as Rovers went up another level in their quest to win their first league championship since 1914. Sutton scored 15 league goals and was the perfect foil for Shearer, who would win the Golden Boot for the first time in his career. On the final day, Blackburn went to Anfield needing to beat Liverpool FC to be certain of the title. They lost 2-1 but Manchester United failed to beat West Ham at Upton Park, so the championship was Blackburn’s.

The 1995-1996 campaign was not so positive for both parties. Injuries restricted Sutton to just 13 appearances and even in these games; he failed to score a single league goal. This gave Mike Newell the chance to establish a partnership with Shearer but both left in the summer of 1996, leaving Sutton to become Blackburn’s main man.

The heady days of title wins in 1995 were now a distant memory for the Lancastrians. He was Blackburn’s top scorer in 1996-1997 but he sparked controversy in April 1997 at Highbury against Arsenal. In the dying stages of the match, Arsenal were 1-0 ahead and the ball was kicked out of play by them to allow treatment to an injured Stephen Hughes. The sporting rule is for the ball to be returned to the team that had possession unchallenged but Sutton elected to chase the ball immediately when play restarted and won his team a corner. Blackburn scored from the resulting set-piece to earn a 1-1 draw and the home faithful and Arsenal team were livid. Sutton refused to apologise for his actions.

In 1997-1998, he scored 18 times and finished joint-winner of the Golden Boot, along with Coventry City’s Dion Dublin and Michael Owen of Liverpool FC. This is something he has cheekily reminded people in an advert for BT Sport’s Score service in recent months.

His form for Blackburn that season earned him his one and only international cap from England, coming off the bench in an international friendly against Cameroon in November 1997. Three months later, he was asked to play for an England B team which he plainly refused. He fell out over this issue with Hoddle and his Three Lions career was over before it hardly begun.

In 1999, Blackburn were relegated to Division One, just four short seasons after becoming champions of England. Sutton was sold to Chelsea that summer for £10 million but endured a horrid campaign with the west Londoners. He scored just once in the Premier League – a header in the 5-0 rout of Manchester United in October as he struggled to fit into their style of play. He didn’t even make the squad for their FA Cup final win over Aston Villa and was sold that summer to Celtic. Chelsea had to accept a £4 million loss just to get rid of Sutton from their wage bill.

Chris enjoyed a wonderful six seasons at Parkhead, forming another prolific partnership, this time with the Super Swede, Henrik Larsson. He was voted SPFA Player of the Year in 2004, scored 63 times in 130 appearances for Celtic and won eight major honours, including four league championships. He was also part of the Bhoys team that reached the 2003 UEFA Cup final before losing in extra-time to Jose Mourinho’s FC Porto in Seville.

In January 2006, he returned to English football with Birmingham City on a short-term contract. Injuries restricted him to just 11 appearances and one goal which came in defeat to bitter rivals Aston Villa in the Second City Derby. He would join Villa in October 2006 following Birmingham’s relegation, linking up briefly with Martin O’Neill, who had inspired some great performances from him at Celtic. He scored a winning goal at Goodison Park against Everton but suffered blurred vision in a match against Manchester United on 23rd December. He missed the entire second half of the campaign and after seeing consultants about the issue, he retired in July 2007. He had one season in management with Lincoln City but left in 2010 for personal reasons. He now works as a television pundit for BT Sport and also is often part of the commentary team on BBC Radio Five Live.

Often outspoken as a pundit, Chris Sutton certainly draws interest with his opinions and he certainly had defences concerned throughout a successful playing career which saw him become a league champion in both England and Scotland.

Memorable Matches: Chelsea 8-0 Wigan Athletic (May 2010)

Goalscorers: Nicolas Anelka 6, 56, Frank Lampard 32 PEN, Salomon Kalou 54, Didier Drogba 63, 68 PEN, 80, Ashley Cole 90

Teams:

Chelsea: Petr Cech, Alex, Ashley Cole, Branislav Ivanovic (Juliano Belletti 58), John Terry, Michael Ballack (Nemanja Matic 70), Frank Lampard, Florent Malouda, Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou (Joe Cole 58)

Wigan Athletic: Mike Pollitt, Emmerson Boyce, Gary Caldwell (SENT OFF), Maynor Figueroa, Steve Gohouri, Mario Melchiot, James McCarthy, Ben Watson (Hendry Thomas 61), Mohamed Diame (Paul Scharner 72), Charles N’Zogbia, Hugo Rodallega (Victor Moses 82)

Referee: Martin Atkinson, Attendance: 41,383

The 2009-2010 title battle had gone down to the final day of the season. It was a straight shootout between Chelsea and Manchester United. Chelsea had the advantage with a one-point lead over Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. If they beat Wigan Athletic at Stamford Bridge, they would become Premier League champions for the third time and end United’s three-year stranglehold on the crown.

Wigan had nothing to play for with safety secured a fortnight earlier and many believed it should be a routine afternoon for Carlo Ancelotti’s champions-elect. They were to be proven right as Chelsea put in a dominant and emphatic display on an afternoon of goals, rather than tense nerves in west London.

Any doubts the home supporters might have had before kick-off were silenced inside six minutes. Wigan failed to clear Didier Drogba’s free-kick and from a flick-on by Florent Malouda, Nicolas Anelka drilled a shot inside Mike Pollitt’s near post. It was a perfect start for the Blues. The visitors did enjoy plenty of possession but rarely threatened Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal and their task got even harder 13 minutes before half-time.

Frank Lampard was played through by Drogba and was hauled to the ground by defender Gary Caldwell. Referee Martin Atkinson gave a penalty and with Caldwell being the last man, had little option but to send him off. Drogba wanted to take the penalty but was stopped from doing so by Lampard. The midfielder dispatched the spot-kick with ease to virtually end any lingering hopes of a slip-up. Drogba had wanted the penalty so he could topple Wayne Rooney in the race for the Golden Boot. He showed clear petulance at not being allowed his personal glory but that would come later.

There was now a party atmosphere around the ground and Chelsea really turned on the style in the second half. Salomon Kalou made it 3-0 nine minutes into the second half, exchanging passes with Lampard before slotting the ball beyond Pollitt’s grasp. Two minutes later, Branislav Ivanovic, with virtually his last contribution of the afternoon, picked out Anelka who produced a brilliant right-foot strike that left the goalkeeper without any hope of saving.

This allowed Ancelotti the chance to bring on Juliano Belletti and Joe Cole for their farewell appearances before the pair were to be released in the summer. Drogba had been sulking after not getting his earlier chance to score but his mood lifted when he headed home goal number five of the afternoon. This prompted the Ivorian to score a 17-minute hat-trick which ensured he would pip Rooney to the Golden Boot. There was still time for Ashley Cole to put the seal on a magnificent display of shooting excellence.

Manchester United might have beaten Stoke City 4-0 but it counted for nothing. With more wins than any other side and over 100 Premier League goals, Chelsea had sealed the 2009-2010 title in style. It was also their biggest victory in their 105-year history. The celebrations could well and truly begin.