Tag Archives: Transfers

Seasonal Stories: Portsmouth (2003-2004)

Lucky 13

In 2003-2004, Portsmouth made their Premier League debut after storming to the First Division title in the previous season. Former West Ham United manager Harry Redknapp was the man behind the revival at Fratton Park, ably supported by ex-Derby County boss Jim Smith.

Portsmouth made an incredible start, staying unbeaten in their first five matches and topping the table briefly in mid-August. A catalogue of injuries in mid-season threatened to derail the campaign but a South Coast Derby victory over Southampton in March was the catalyst for a brilliant run towards the end of the season. Pompey finished in a creditable 13th and ahead of some bigger established sides too.

Squad: Shaka Hislop, Pavel Srnicek (Left in February 2004), Harald Wapenaar, Linvoy Primus, Boris Zivkovic (Left in January 2004), Dejan Stefanovic, Hayden Foxe, Arjan de Zeeuw, Sebastien Schemmel, Richard Duffy, John Curtis, Petri Pasanen, Kevin Harper, Tim Sherwood, Nigel Quashie, Amdy Faye, Matt Taylor, Carl Robinson, Steve Stone, Richard Hughes, Gary O’Neil, Alexey Smertin, Patrik Berger, Eyal Berkovic, Vincent Pericard, Svetoslav Todorov, Deon Burton, Ivica Mornar, Lomana Lualua, Teddy Sheringham, Yakubu, Jason Roberts (Left in January 2004)

Early experience pays off

In pre-season, Portsmouth ensured that they would have some useful experience amongst their ranks. First to arrive was former Czech international Patrik Berger, whose contract had expired at Liverpool FC. Berger was also joined by Teddy Sheringham who was in a similar predicament after his second stint at Tottenham Hotspur had come to an end. Neither cost any money and Redknapp wasted no time in getting both added by the end of June.

Further experience arrived from abroad. Boris Zivkovic was another free capture transfer from the Bundesliga. He’d helped Bayer 04 Leverkusen reach the UEFA Champions League final in 2002. Also arriving before the big kick-off was Amdy Faye for an estimated £1.5 million from Auxerre and ex-Sheffield Wednesday defender Dejan Stefanovic from Vitesse Arnhem for £1.85 million. Portsmouth had done some smart business in the summer transfer window.

However, one of their talismanic figures from the previous season wouldn’t be sticking around. Despite captaining the side to their First Division title success, Paul Merson left in July, returning to the second-tier with Walsall. The main reason was to move closer to his family who were based in the Midlands. When paying tribute to his departing captain, Redknapp admitted: “He doesn’t feel he can play in the Premier now and I think he knows himself better than anybody. He said he played in the Premier League two years ago and found it difficult, so he certainly didn’t think it was going to be easier now.”

Portsmouth made a brilliant start to their maiden Premier League campaign and only their second top-flight experience in the last 45 years. They kicked off the campaign with a Saturday lunchtime kick-off at home to Aston Villa. Sheringham opened the scoring before half-time and Berger finished off a flowing team move to double the lead just after the hour mark. Gareth Barry did score a late consolation from the penalty spot but was sent off before full-time and Pompey had their first win on opening day.

The form continued in their next home match, where Sheringham truly rolled back the years. The veteran forward scored a second half hat-trick against Bolton Wanderers and the first treble of the 2003-2004 season. The 4-0 victory took Portsmouth briefly to the top of the table for 24 hours. Three away draws made it an excellent opening and one of those points gained was at Highbury. Sheringham again scoring to keep his rich vein of form going and Arsenal’s equaliser in the 1-1 draw was through a disputed penalty where Robert Pires went down under the challenge of Arjan de Zeeuw even though it looked like the Frenchman had tripped himself up. Thierry Henry converted the spot-kick and Redknapp was not amused. Nevertheless, it was a very encouraging start.

TABLE ON 15th September 2003

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
1 Arsenal 5 4 1 0 11 3 +8 13
2 Manchester United 5 4 0 1 9 2 +7 12
3 Manchester City 5 3 1 1 12 6 +6 10
4 Chelsea 4 3 1 0 10 6 +4 10
5 PORTSMOUTH 5 2 3 0 8 3 +5 9
6 Southampton 5 2 3 0 5 2 +3 9

Slipping down the table

Portsmouth’s first defeat in their Premier League history came a week later when they were beaten 2-1 by Blackburn Rovers on home soil. At Fratton Park, they were formidable and not many sides enjoyed great success on the south coast throughout the season. In fact, they lost only five home matches all season and out of the teams that struggled all campaign, only Leicester City and Everton left with all three points.

Home form saw a couple of major scalps along the way. Liverpool FC visited Fratton Park in mid-October and left with a 1-0 defeat against their name. Against his former club, Berger scored the only goal of the game after four minutes. Three weeks later, Leeds United were destroyed 6-1 in a result that saw Peter Reid lose his job as Leeds boss. The win still remains Portsmouth’s biggest margin of victory in their Premier League history. Gary O’Neil scored twice on the day and he was one of the most consistent performers in the squad all season.

It was a different story away from home with a familiar tale of no points and no goals to show for their efforts. Redknapp and his team endured pointless and goalless trips to Birmingham City, Newcastle United, Manchester United and Chelsea.

When Southampton cruised to a 3-0 victory in the first South Coast Derby match of the season just before Christmas, Portsmouth had dropped into the bottom three after a run of one win in eight games. The early season optimism had somewhat got sour. With a growing injury list, fresh faces were added to the ranks in the January transfer window.

Still no away joy

Boxing Day did bring some light relief. A second half double from Berger helped Pompey to a 2-0 home victory against an out-of-form Tottenham Hotspur side. The opening of the January window gave the experienced Portsmouth manager the opportunity to refresh and reenergise his side.

Creative midfielder Eyal Berkovic was the first addition, coming in after he’d fallen out of favour with Kevin Keegan at Manchester City. Berkovic was one of six additions in a busy window. Also arriving were Lomana Lualua on-loan from Newcastle United, defender John Curtis on a free transfer from Leicester City and Croatian international forward Ivica Mornar for £400,000 from Anderlecht.

Exiting the club was Zivkovic. The Croatian had featured 18 times in the Premier League but a public spat with Redknapp led to the defender being released. A return ticket to the Bundesliga awaited him, as he joined VfB Stuttgart who were still competing in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds.

However, there was still no away joy. Portsmouth put in one of their best away displays of the campaign at White Hart Lane in early February against Tottenham. They equalised three times on the afternoon with new signings Berkovic, Lualua and Mornar all finding the back of the net. However, Gus Poyet’s 89th minute strike gave Spurs a fortunate 4-3 victory. By 20th March, Portsmouth were in desperate trouble. Just one win in 2004 in the Premier League left them in the bottom three with 10 games to play and two points adrift of safety. Victory was paramount in their next fixture against bitter rivals Southampton.

South Coast Derby revenge

On an afternoon in mixed conditions with sunshine and hailstorms, Portsmouth simply had to win the second South Coast Derby of the season. It was only Paul Sturrock’s second match as Southampton manager and he ended up on the losing side. Steve Stone’s cross found Yakubu and the Nigerian settled a scrappy contest in the 68th minute in Pompey’s favour. The 1-0 win was the lift-off needed for a fantastic end to the season.

A week later, the away hoodoo was finally broken. Yakubu, who would finish as the club’s top scorer in the league with 16 goals, struck the decisive goal in the 82nd minute for a 2-1 win on the road at Blackburn Rovers. It was a massive victory for the travelling faithful and took Portsmouth out of the bottom three for the first time since mid-January. They wouldn’t fall into it again for the remainder of the season.

In fact, Portsmouth lost only one of their last 10 fixtures and that was on the penultimate weekend away at already relegated Leicester City. Survival had already been clinched a week earlier by a 1-1 home draw with Fulham, whilst other results condemned the Foxes and Wolverhampton Wanderers. One of the season’s main highlights was a home victory over outgoing champions Manchester United. Stone scored his only goal of the season in the 1-0 win. Out of the division’s final top 10 – only Chelsea and Charlton Athletic claimed all three points on their visits to Fratton Park.

Portsmouth and in particular, Yakubu finished the season in the grand manner at home to Middlesbrough. The forward scored four goals and Sheringham concluded his one-season stay with an 80th minute goal in the 5-1 win over Boro. Portsmouth finished in 13th and ahead of four clubs on much bigger budgets in Tottenham Hotspur, Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City and Everton.

It had been a very successful debut season in the Premier League for Portsmouth and a reminder of how good a manager Harry Redknapp was.

FINAL 2003-2004 TABLE – 11th to 16th  

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
11 Middlesbrough 38 13 9 16 44 52 -8 48
12 Southampton 38 12 11 15 44 45 -1 47
13 PORTSMOUTH 38 12 9 17 47 54 -7 45
14 Tottenham Hotspur 38 13 6 19 47 57 -10 45
15 Blackburn Rovers 38 12 8 18 51 59 -8 44
16 Manchester City 38 9 14 15 55 54 +1 41
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Seasonal Stories: Fulham (2003-2004)

Breaking into the top ten

Fulham’s third full Premier League campaign saw the Cottagers break into the top half of the table for the first time. Under the guidance of Chris Coleman, who was enjoying his first full season in management, the west Londoners picked up some impressive results early in the season, including a marvellous 3-1 away victory at Old Trafford in October.

Their form levelled out when top scorer and star player Louis Saha was sold to Manchester United in the January transfer window. Nevertheless, it was an impressive season for all connected with Fulham as they prepared to return to Craven Cottage for the following campaign after continuing to groundshare at Loftus Road with Queens Park Rangers.

Squad: Edwin van der Sar, Mark Crossley, Moritz Volz, Zat Knight, Martin Djetou, Alain Goma, Jerome Bonnissel, Carlos Bocanegra, Ian Pearce, Adam Green, Jon Harley, Dean Leacock, Zesh Rehman, Andy Melville (Left in January 2004), Sylvain Legwinski, Sean Davis, Lee Clark, Steed Malbranque, Junichi Inamoto, Mark Pembridge, Bobby Petta, Malik Buari, Darren Pratley, Luis Boa Morte, Brian McBride, Collins John, Barry Hayles, Facundo Sava, Louis Saha (Left in January 2004), Steve Marlet (Left in August 2004)

Saha makes an impact

With Craven Cottage still being redeveloped, Fulham continued to groundshare at Loftus Road with Queens Park Rangers and had a new permanent manager to start the 2003-2004 season. After impressing in his five-game reign at the end of the previous campaign, former club captain Chris Coleman was given the chance to prove his credentials as a manager on a full-time basis.

It was a quiet summer for the club in the transfer market. The only notable arrival was Mark Crossley for £500,000 from Middlesbrough. Crossley would fill the gap as a deputy to Edwin van der Sar. It was a couple of defenders though who would make more of a mark on Coleman’s first-team plans. Frenchman Jerome Bonnissel arrived on a free transfer from Rangers and Moritz Volz joined on an initial four-month loan deal from Arsenal also this would later turn into a season-long loan arrangement with the Gunners.

Among those leaving was Maik Taylor on a season-long loan switch to Birmingham City and Republic of Ireland international Steve Finnan, who switched to Liverpool FC for around £3.5 million. Steve Marlet started the season and scored in the opening day 3-2 victory over Middlesbrough. However, he wouldn’t see August out and moved to Marseille on-loan after a largely disappointing two-season spell on these shores.

After that opening victory, Fulham got a rude awakening in their first away fixture of the season, trailing 3-0 at half-time to Everton before eventually losing 3-1. However, they enjoyed their short trip across the capital to White Hart Lane a week later. Barry Hayles scored twice and Luis Boa Morte also found the target in a 3-0 success at Tottenham Hotspur which piled the pressure on beleaguered Spurs boss Glenn Hoddle.

Louis Saha scored in the opening day victory over Middlesbrough and in September, he started to make a real impact on Fulham’s campaign. It started with a 2-2 draw away at Birmingham infront of the Sky Sports cameras with the Frenchman scoring twice. One of those goals came in the very first minute. Saha scored four goals in the month and Fulham ended September with just one defeat from their opening six games. Better was to follow with an October visit to Old Trafford.

Van der Star at Highbury

Fulham travelled to Manchester United in high spirits but their supporters went there more in hope of gaining a positive result. The team put in their best performance of the entire campaign. Skipper Lee Clark gave the Cottagers the dream start with a goal inside three minutes. Diego Forlan did equalise on the stroke of half-time but Fulham bounced back brilliantly from this setback. Marvellous goals in the second half from Steed Malbranque and Junichi Inamoto helped them record a stunning 3-1 victory. This was a real statement victory for Coleman who seemed to be finding management an enjoyable and easy task.

November began with back-to-back defeats to Liverpool FC and Charlton Athletic before Saha rediscovered his goalscoring touch after a four-game drought with two quick-fire first half goals to sink Portsmouth 2-0.

The month ended with a trip to Highbury to face unbeaten Arsenal who were on their own crest of a wave following a 5-1 midweek rout of Inter Milan at The San Siro in the UEFA Champions League. Fulham’s goal took a beating but Edwin van der Sar put in a simply heroic display. He made seven first half saves and despite 27 shots on-goal, Arsenal couldn’t find a way through. Fulham earned a 0-0 draw and ended the month in the UEFA Champions League qualifying positions. It was some achievement for a team that looked like being a relegation struggler in pre-season.

However, fresh investment was coming for the team in the January transfer window.

TABLE ON 30th November 2003

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
1 Chelsea 14 11 2 1 28 9 +19 35
2 Arsenal 14 10 4 0 28 10 +18 34
3 Manchester United 14 10 1 3 25 9 +16 31
4 FULHAM 14 6 4 4 24 18 +6 22
5 Charlton Athletic 14 6 4 4 20 17 +3 22
6 Liverpool FC 14 6 3 5 21 15 +6 21

Louis departs for Manchester United

December was a mixed month for the club with two wins and three defeats. Chelsea came to Loftus Road and left with all three points thanks to Hernan Crespo’s second half header and there was also a bad performance and result at Villa Park, going down 3-0 to an ever-improving Aston Villa side.

Saha was still banging in the goals though. Two more arrived in a 2-0 win on Boxing Day over Southampton and he now had 13 Premier League goals for the campaign. It became clear in January 2004 that Fulham were going to struggle to be able to persuade Saha to stay at the club.

Manchester United were on the search for a new striker with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer out long-term with injury and Ruud van Nistelrooy not quite displaying his devastating form he’d shown in his first two Old Trafford campaigns.

They got their man towards the end of January in a £12.8 million transfer although the way Saha left the club left a bitter taste in the mouths of some Fulham supporters. Coleman immediately started to reinvest the squad with the funds from the transfer. Brian McBride arrived from the MLS having previously auditioned in the Premier League in a loan spell with Everton in the previous campaign. Collins John also arrived on an undisclosed fee from Dutch side FC Twente whilst Volz’s loan switch from Arsenal became a permanent move having impressed greatly in the right-back role.

Regrouping for the future

Saha’s departure ultimately had a damaging effect on Fulham’s chances of a shot at European contention. The likes of Liverpool FC and Newcastle United, who had underachieved for much of the campaign, started to take command of the Champions League qualification battle and their main challengers turned out to be from the Midlands in Aston Villa and Birmingham City rather than from London in Fulham and Charlton Athletic.

Saha scored on his first return to Fulham just a month after his departure but he couldn’t help Manchester United to victory as they were held to a 1-1 draw. There was also an excellent point gained at Anfield where Van der Sar saved a penalty from Steven Gerrard in the second half.

The Dutchman had his best campaign but he was still prone to the odd costly error. In Fulham’s last home match of the season against Arsenal, he stupidly attempted to dribble around Jose Antonio Reyes, who simply stole possession from him and put the ball into an empty net to give Arsenal a 1-0 victory in their penultimate match of ‘The Invincibles’ campaign.

Fulham finished their best-ever Premier League campaign to this point with a 2-0 win on the final day away at Bolton Wanderers with McBride endearing himself to his new supporters with a brace. A 9th place finish was fair reward for an exciting campaign and just five points behind Newcastle United in fifth was a good basis for seasons to come under Coleman’s shrewd and calm management.

FINAL 2003-2004 TABLE – 6th to 11th  

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
6 Aston Villa 38 15 11 12 48 44 +4 56
7 Charlton Athletic 38 14 11 13 51 51 0 53
8 Bolton Wanderers 38 14 11 13 48 56 -8 53
9 FULHAM 38 14 10 14 52 46 +6 52
10 Birmingham City 38 12 14 12 43 48 -5 50
11 Middlesbrough 38 13 9 16 44 52 -8 48

Premier League Files: Andre Gray

Premier League Career: Burnley (2016-2017), Watford (2017-PRESENT)

Andre Gray is one of Watford’s most expensive signings. He is playing a role in their best-ever Premier League campaign to-date, helped by scoring a couple of recent matchwinners in the 2018-2019 season. Gray starred in his career previously as a proven goalscorer for Luton Town and Brentford and helped Burnley achieve promotion to the top-flight in 2015-2016.

A product of the youth system at Shrewsbury Town, he signed his first professional contract at the start of the 2009-2010 season. He made five appearances in their first-team but was released at the end of the campaign. He dropped into the non-league in a bid to revive his career and joined Hinckley United in June 2010, having previously experienced a one-month loan with them in the previous campaign. He scored 14 goals in 35 appearances in 2010-2011, including four goals in a 7-2 thumping of Solihull Moors in late April 2011. Hinckley were a part-time club at the time but Gray stayed with them until the summer of 2012 when he joined Luton Town who had plunged into the non-league themselves after years of financial mismanagement.

He became the first player in Hatters history to score in each of his first four matches for the club and scored 47 league goals in 88 appearances, helping Luton to the fifth round of the FA Cup in 2013 which included a giant-killing victory over Premier League outfit Norwich City in round four. At the third time of asking, he helped Luton earn promotion back to the Football League as Conference champions in 2014 and he ended that season as top goalscorer in the division too.

Local rivals Milton Keynes Dons expressed an interest in his signature in the summer of 2014 but in the end, he made the leap up to the Championship, signing a three-year deal with Brentford. He won the Championship Player of the Month in November 2014, scored five goals in five matches and ended with 18 goals in all competitions as the Bees made the Championship play-offs before bowing out to Middlesbrough in the semi-finals.

His season in London attracted interest from Hull City who had three transfer bids rejected. Eventually, it was Burnley who won the race to sign him with the Clarets paying Brentford a club-record fee for his services in August 2015. He was an immediate hit with the Burnley supporters, shooting them back to the Premier League at the first attempt. He scored 25 times to win the Championship Golden Boot and was named Championship Player of the Season by his peers. Sean Dyche’s decision to pay Brentford approximately £6 million was a shrewd piece of business.

In August 2016, he made his Premier League debut in a home defeat to Swansea City and scored in his next match as the Clarets defeated Liverpool FC 2-0. A few days later, he was charged with misconduct by the FA after a series of homophobic tweets he posted on Twitter in 2012 came out in the public spectrum. Despite a strong public defence from the player and his club, the FA suspended him for four matches, fined him £25,000 and reminded him about his future conduct.

Gray put aside this misdemeanour and rediscovered his goalscoring touch after his ban. He scored a New Years’ Eve hat-trick in 2016 to sink Sunderland 4-1, becoming the first Burnley player to score a top-flight treble since Peter Noble in 1975. He finished with decent figures of nine goals in 32 appearances but with his contract entering its final 12 months and no sign of an agreement between player and club representatives, he left Burnley for Watford in August 2017 for a club-record fee at the time.

He has shown glimpses of his previous form at Vicarage Road, scoring on his second return to Turf Moor earlier this season and also, scoring recent winning goals at home to Everton and Leicester City. As of early March 2019, a return of 10 goals in 50 appearances is not what anyone was hoping for. However, still just 27, there’s more to come from Andre Gray. It will be interesting to see how long though he can play second-fiddle to the likes of Troy Deeney, Gerard Deulofeu and Roberto Pereyra in Hertfordshire.

Seasonal Stories: Bolton Wanderers (2001-2002)

Target achieved

Bolton Wanderers were tipped by many as favourites to make an instant return to the First Division ahead of the 2001-2002 Premier League campaign. Without a great deal of money to spend following promotion, Sam Allardyce had to rely on the bulk of his promotion-winning squad and they did him proud. Top of the table in August and a memorable win at Old Trafford over the reigning champions were among the early highlights.

A winter wobble gave way to a successful spring and a 16th-place finish which meant the Trotters avoided relegation for the first time in their Premier League existence.

Three wins from three

Having won promotion to the Premier League after defeating Preston North End in the play-off final in late May, Sam Allardyce was about to face a big challenge as a top-flight manager and with little summer investment. Bolton spent a meagre £650,000 in pre-season and that was on one player, Henrik Pedersen from Danish outfit Silkeborg.

Allardyce had to rely on the majority of his promotion-winning squad but they made a fabulous start on the opening day at Filbert Street, handing down a 5-0 thrashing to Leicester City. Kevin Nolan scored twice on his Premier League debut and Per Frandsen struck two fantastic free-kicks in a scoreline that left everyone surprised by the way Bolton had trounced a team who had comfortably finished in mid-table in the previous campaign.

Michael Ricketts had also scored in that victory and he made a brilliant individual start to his maiden season in the top-flight. Ricketts got the only goal of the game in Bolton’s first home match of the season against Middlesbrough three days later, then opened the scoring against Liverpool FC in a shock 2-1 victory over the side that held five trophies to their name at this stage of the season. A record crowd at The Reebok Stadium saw Sander Westerveld allow a weak Dean Holdsworth shot to defeat him in stoppage-time and ensure Bolton ended August top of the Premier League table.

Surprising the elite

September was a winless month but Bolton still remained in fourth place and picked up more vital points on their travels. The Premier League elite were struggling against ‘Big Sam’ and his battling squad. Liverpool FC had lost to them and after the first international break of the season, Leeds United couldn’t break Bolton down at Elland Road, drawing 0-0.

Later in the month, Ricketts came off the bench to snatch an equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Highbury with Arsenal. He later admitted he had been dropped by the manager for a poor performance in the previous match but seemed happy to play the rotational role. He would strike a more significant blow a month later on the reigning champions.

When Bolton travelled to Old Trafford to play Manchester United in mid-October, they had slipped to eighth in the table and were winless in six matches. They fell behind to Juan Sebastian Veron’s free-kick and needed a splendid double-save from Jussi Jaaskelainen to stop the Red Devils increasing their advantage. Then, Nolan scored a brilliant equaliser before Ricketts raced clear of Wes Brown in the last five minutes and silenced the home support with a stunning winning goal. Bolton had just stunned Manchester United and left with all three points. They were mixing it in decent company in the upper echelons of the Premier League table.

21st OCTOBER 2001 TABLE

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
1 Leeds United 9 5 4 0 12 3 +9 19
2 Arsenal 9 5 3 1 21 8 +13 18
3 Aston Villa 9 5 3 1 14 6 +8 18
4 Manchester United 9 5 2 2 26 16 +10 17
5 Liverpool FC 8 5 1 2 15 9 +6 16
6 BOLTON WANDERERS 10 4 3 3 12 11 +1 15

Momentum lost

The fine start Bolton made to the season seemed to have silenced the critics who had believed they had little hope of staying up at the start of the campaign. However, winter would leave a real freeze over The Reebok.

After the win at Old Trafford, Allardyce’s side lost all sense of momentum, only winning one of their next 15 matches which was a 2-1 success infront of the Sky Sports Super Sunday cameras away at struggling Ipswich Town in mid-November.

Bolton plummeted down the table and were beginning to concede goals at an alarming rate too. Chelsea beat them 5-1 at Stamford Bridge despite Nolan giving them a third-minute lead. Days later, Robbie Fowler scored his first Leeds United hat-trick as David O’Leary’s side cruised to a 3-0 victory on Boxing Day.

When they lost an end-to-end contest in early February on Tyneside to Newcastle United 3-2, the club had dropped into the bottom three for the first time in the season. Maybe the doubters were about to be proven right.

Allardyce knew he needed to add some proven experience to his squad and swooped into the European market to bring in defender Bruno N’Gotty from Marseille, tough-tackling midfielder Stig Tøfting from Hamburger SV and experienced forwards Youri Djorkaeff and Fredi Bobic. The latter pair would have a huge influence on Bolton’s fortunes in the spring months.

Fredi and Youri do the business

Bolton did record a 1-0 victory over West Ham United in mid-February but the genuine turning point came in late March when the Trotters travelled to The Valley to play Charlton Athletic. Djorkaeff scored his first goals for the club as Bolton recorded a 2-1 victory to climb out of the drop zone and it started a run of three victories in four games.

On Easter Saturday, Bobic broke his duck at home to Aston Villa and Nolan rediscovered his goalscoring form to send Villa to a 3-2 defeat. A week later, Bobic was in sensational form at home to Ipswich. In a game that was a genuine relegation six-pointer, he scored a first half hat-trick and Djorkaeff chipped in with another strike as Allardyce’s side enjoyed a memorable first half. Ipswich were 4-0 down at the interval and their season never truly recovered. The final scoreline was 4-1 and it was a result that virtually secured Bolton’s place in the Premier League for another season.

The magical 40-point mark was achieved a week later with a 1-1 home draw against Tottenham Hotspur and although they lost their final three matches against a trio of London sides in Fulham, Arsenal and West Ham United, Bolton had achieved survival for the first time in their Premier League life – finishing four points above danger. It was a job well done from a team considered the favourite for the drop at the start of the season.

FINAL 2001-2002 TABLE – THE BOTTOM SIX

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
15 Everton 38 11 10 17 45 57 -12 43
16 BOLTON WANDERERS 38 9 13 16 44 62 -18 40
17 Sunderland 38 10 10 18 29 51 -22 40
18 Ipswich Town 38 9 9 20 41 64 -23 36
19 Derby County 38 8 6 24 33 63 -30 30
20 Leicester City 38 5 13 20 30 64 -34 28

Seasonal Stories: Norwich City (1994-1995)

A dramatic collapse

Norwich City’s Premier League season of 1994-1995 was a case of two halves. Less than two years after finishing third in the table, the Canaries slipped out of the top-flight after a dreadful 1995 that saw them win just once after New Years’ Day. Selling star assets such as Chris Sutton, Efan Ekoku and Mark Robins and not replacing them adequately enough eventually caught up with owner Robert Chase and the board.

That was despite sitting in sixth position in the table in December 1994…

Summer concerns

Norwich City went into the summer of 1994 fearing the worst. Only one win in their last nine matches had seen them finish the previous campaign in 12th position, having been as high as third spot in November.

Having scored 25 goals in the previous season, Chris Sutton was hot property and realistically, it was always going to be difficult for Norwich manager John Deehan to be able to persuade Sutton to stay. Sure enough, he did leave in a British transfer record fee for Blackburn Rovers with Norwich receiving £5 million.

Mike Sheron eventually arrived as Sutton’s replacement after finding his chances limited at Manchester City with Deehan trusting on Mark Robins and Efan Ekoku to provide the goals missing from Sutton’s departure. Other new arrivals included midfielder Mike Milligan from Oldham Athletic and a seven-figure fee was paid to Leeds United for defender Jon Newsome.

A strong first half

Norwich had shown in recent seasons that they would often start well and 1994-1995 was more proof of that. The Canaries conceded just two goals in their first five matches and they came in an opening day 2-0 defeat to Chelsea.

At the start of October, Blackburn Rovers and Leeds United were beaten and Queens Park Rangers shipped four goals on their visit to East Anglia. In fact, Norwich would remain unbeaten at Carrow Road until Boxing Day when they lost at home to Tottenham Hotspur.

Ekoku was controversially sold to Wimbledon during October for £900,000. Two weeks on from his departure, he scored the only goal of the game at Selhurst Park for his new club against his old employers infront of the Sky Sports cameras. It was another example of Robert Chase’s seeming desire to cash in on his talents having done the same with both Sutton and Ruel Fox.

Money was spent in December to bring in Ashley Ward who had a great goalscoring record in the lower divisions with Crewe Alexandra. He made a dream debut, scoring twice in a 3-0 victory at home to Chelsea. Ward would finish the season as the club’s top goalscorer with eight strikes. Despite the Tottenham loss on Boxing Day, Norwich were sitting in seventh position at close of play, 11 points clear of danger and ahead of some far more illustrious sides including Arsenal, Leeds United and Tottenham.

BOXING DAY 1994 TABLE

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
7 NORWICH CITY 20 8 6 6 19 17 +2 30
8 Tottenham Hotspur 20 8 5 7 34 34 0 29
9 Chelsea 20 8 4 8 28 26 +2 28
10 Manchester City 20 8 4 8 31 34 -3 28
11 Arsenal 20 6 7 7 23 22 +1 25
12 Coventry City 20 6 7 7 20 29 -9 25

Season-changing injury

Norwich travelled to Nottingham Forest on Tuesday 27th December 1994 boasting an impressive defensive record. Only the top two, Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United had conceded fewer goals. However, a season-changing injury at The City Ground would change that statistic drastically.

Scottish goalkeeper Bryan Gunn broke and dislocated an ankle whilst blocking a long-range shot from Ian Woan. It was a cruel blow and an injury that would rule him out for the rest of the season. Gunn was a big character, both on-the-pitch and in the dressing room and his absence was instantly felt. 19-year-old Andy Marshall came off the bench and promptly conceded the only goal of the match direct from a corner by Lars Bohinen.

Efforts were made to bring in emergency cover on-loan but nothing happened and Marshall would remain as the number one for the remainder of the campaign. It was another major error in a season that was about to fall apart for the club.

They did beat high-flying Newcastle United 2-1 on New Years’ Eve but that win was followed by an 11-match winless sequence that saw Deehan’s side drop into the bottom half of the table. Robins was the next star player to be sold, departing for Leicester City in January.

There was some light relief in mid-March when John Wark’s dismissal in the East Anglian Derby helped Norwich to a comfortable 3-0 victory over bottom-placed Ipswich Town. It did briefly take Norwich back into the top half of the table but it turned out to be their last win of the season.

Deehan departs

After a 3-0 defeat away to Newcastle United on 9th April, John Deehan handed in his resignation as manager after 15 months in the post. Three worrying defeats in eight days was the final straw. Supporters, growing impatient with both form on-the-pitch and players being sold by the board started to demonstrate against Chase’s running of the club. They even started a petition in vain to try and get their former manager Mike Walker back to the club after his nightmare reign at Everton.

The under-fire owner decided to hand the position of manager to Gary Megson but there was to be no happy ending. On 6th May 1995, Norwich slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Elland Road against Leeds United which confirmed their relegation from the Premier League. It was a seventh successive Premier League defeat. In total, the club picked up just 10 points from 20 Premier League matches in 1995 and that turned this campaign into an absolute disaster.

After failing to keep the Canaries up, Megson quit and Martin O’Neill was chosen as the man to take over in Division One. They would only finish 16th in the season afterwards and didn’t return to the Premier League until 2004.

FINAL 1994-1995 TABLE – THE BOTTOM SIX

POS TABLE P W D L F A GD PTS
17 Manchester City 42 12 13 17 53 64 -11 48
18 Aston Villa 42 11 15 16 51 56 -5 48
19 Crystal Palace 42 11 12 19 34 49 -15 45
20 NORWICH CITY 42 10 13 19 37 54 -17 43
21 Leicester City 42 6 11 25 45 80 -35 29
22 Ipswich Town 42 7 6 29 36 93 -57 27

The Clubs: Brighton & Hove Albion

All-Time Premier League Record

Played Won Drew Lost Scored Conceded Goal Difference Points No of Seasons
38 9 13 16 34 54 -20 40 1

 

Most Premier League Appearances

Player Appearances Total
Lewis Dunk 38
Pascal Gross 38
Mathew Ryan 38
Shane Duffy 37
Solly March 36
Dale Stephens 36
Glenn Murray 35
Davy Propper 35
Anthony Knockaert 33
Jose Izquierdo 32

 

Most Premier League Goals

Player Goals Total
Glenn Murray 12
Pascal Gross 7
Jose Izquierdo 5
Anthony Knockaert 3
Tomer Hemed 2
Lewis Dunk 1
Jurgen Locadia 1
Solly March 1
Leonardo Ulloa 1

 

Biggest Premier League Victories

Match Date Season
Brighton & Hove Albion 4-1 Swansea City 24th February 2018 2017-2018
West Ham United 0-3 Brighton & Hove Albion 20th October 2017 2017-2018
Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 West Bromwich Albion 9th September 2017 2017-2018
Brighton & Hove Albion 3-1 West Ham United 3rd February 2018 2017-2018
Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 Arsenal 4th March 2018 2017-2018

 

Worst Premier League Defeats

Match Date Season
Brighton & Hove Albion 1-5 Liverpool FC 2nd December 2017 2017-2018
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-4 Chelsea 20th January 2018 2017-2018
Liverpool FC 4-0 Brighton & Hove Albion 13th May 2018 2017-2018
Manchester City 3-1 Brighton & Hove Albion 9th May 2018 2017-2018
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-2 Manchester City 12th August 2017 2017-2018

 

Managers

Manager No of Seasons managed Left the Club
Chris Hughton 4  

 

Highest Home Attendances

Match Date Attendance Figure Season
Brighton & Hove Albion 1-5 Liverpool FC 2nd December 2017 30,631 2017-2018
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-2 Leicester City 31st March 2018 30,629 2017-2018
Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 Arsenal 4th March 2018 30,620 2017-2018
Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 Manchester United 4th May 2018 30,611 2017-2018
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-4 Chelsea 20th January 2018 30,600 2017-2018

 

Intro

Brighton & Hove Albion made a successful debut in the Premier League. Chris Hughton’s side secured their survival on the penultimate weekend of the season but in truth, they were relatively comfortable all campaign. The Seagulls produced some fine performances on home soil and aided by the goals of Glenn Murray and creativity from Pascal Gross, they can look forward to a second successive season in the top-flight.

 

2017-2018

Having been promoted to the Premier League as Championship runners-up, Brighton & Hove Albion couldn’t have asked for a tougher start as title favourites Manchester City were their opening opponents. Chris Hughton’s side performed admirably but eventually lost 2-0 at home to the would-be champions at The Amex Stadium. August saw just one point gained and no goals scored.

However, Brighton started going in the right direction in September. Summer signing Pascal Gross scored the club’s first Premier League goal in their 3-1 victory at home to West Bromwich Albion which was also Brighton’s first victory in their Premier League life. Forward Tomer Hemed also scored in the win over the Baggies and a fortnight later, it was Hemed’s diving header that ensured back-to-back home victories as Newcastle United were defeated 1-0.

Home form was excellent all season for the men from the south coast. Just Manchester City, Liverpool FC, Chelsea and Leicester City left with all three points and there were some notable scalps along the way. Lewis Dunk’s only goal of the season started Hughton’s side on their way to a famous 2-1 victory over struggling Arsenal in March; Brighton’s first victory over the Gunners since 1982. Gross, who was voted the club’s Player of the Season, then made major contributions in two other impressive results. His spot-kick earned a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur in April and a month later, it was the ex-Ingolstadt player who produced the winning goal against Manchester United that ultimately secured Brighton’s safety.

Hughton’s deals in the transfer market were impressive too. Gross had been signed for a bargain amount and other astute deals included the signings of Davy Propper from PSV Eindhoven, Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge and the January arrival of Jurgen Locadia, also from PSV. The highlight away from home was a stunning 3-0 triumph at The London Stadium over West Ham United in October. Glenn Murray scored twice and he was the top goalscorer with 12 goals in an excellent campaign for him personally.

Brighton finished the season in 15th place and have already started to put the foundations in-place for a second campaign in the Premier League.

Iconic Moments: Shearer comes home (July 1996)

In July 1996, Newcastle United were still reeling from having thrown away a glorious opportunity to become champions of England. They held a 12-point lead over Manchester United in January, yet had somehow presided to lose the title to the men from Old Trafford by May. Kevin Keegan wanted to have one final throw at the dice to give the Geordie supporters the silverware they craved.

Alan Shearer was one of the hottest properties in world football. He had finished as top Premier League scorer for the past two seasons and just claimed the Golden Boot honours at the 1996 European Championship for England. It looked certain that he was going to leave Blackburn Rovers after his international heroics but where was he going to go?

Manchester United wanted to sign Shearer after missing out on him in 1992 and entered the race to get his signature. However, United chairman Martin Edwards stated that Blackburn refused to do any business with their former title rivals. However, Blackburn did decide to do business with Newcastle United.

It was Shearer’s boyhood club and his hero growing up was Kevin Keegan. On 30th July 1996, Blackburn received a world-record transfer fee of £15 million from Newcastle for Shearer’s services. He was coming home to Tyneside.

He became Newcastle’s record all-time goalscorer before retiring in 2006 but would never win any silverware for his hometown club. However, this signing was for the fans and Keegan’s last gift to them. He would resign as first-team manager in January 1997.

Premier League Files: Juan Sebastian Veron

Premier League Career: Manchester United (2001-2003), Chelsea (2003-2004)

The British transfer record was broken in the summer of 2001 on two separate occasions by Manchester United. First, they completed the protracted signing of Ruud van Nistelrooy from PSV Eindhoven and then they swooped to sign Juan Sebastian Veron from Serie A giants Lazio. Although he won a Premier League title in 2003, Veron largely disappointed in United colours and endured another wretched season in the top-flight at Chelsea before heading back to Italy.

Veron made his professional debut in Argentine football in 1993 and even had a spell playing alongside the country’s national hero, Diego Maradona at Boca Juniors. He made the move into European football in 1996, when future England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson took him to Italian football with Sampdoria.

After making over 60 league appearances for Sampdoria, Parma paid £15 million for him after he sparkled in Argentina’s run to the 1998 World Cup quarter-finals. Parma were a decent team who always gave the leading Italian sides a run for their money but specialised primarily in cup competitions. Veron experienced this in 1998-1999, as Parma won both the UEFA Cup and the Coppa Italia.

His stay at Parma lasted just a solitary season. Eriksson was now manager of Lazio and took him to Rome for the 1999-2000 campaign in an £18.1 million deal. He scored eight goals as Lazio achieved the treble of UEFA Super Cup, Coppa Italia and the Serie A title.

Sir Alex Ferguson was impressed and in July 2001, signed Veron for £24.3 million. He scored three early season goals, including the fourth goal at White Hart Lane as Manchester United completed a sensational turnaround from 3-0 down to beat Tottenham Hotspur 5-3. However, he really struggled to adapt to the Premier League as players didn’t allow him the time to dictate proceedings as he could in Italian football.

He saved his best performances at Old Trafford for the UEFA Champions League and scored four goals in the 2002-2003 group stages but league form remained erratic. The highlight of his two seasons in the Premier League was scoring the opening goal in a 2-0 victory over chief rivals Arsenal in December 2002. Ferguson tried to defend him in the media and even used expletives at times against journalists who picked on his inconsistent performances. Most United fans agreed with the general media consensus though that he was nothing short of an expensive flop.

In 2016, Veron admitted: “Games were intense for 90 minutes. In Italy, it was more tactical and about closing down the games. In England, the games were more open, the ball came back and forward. It was more physical too.”

In the summer of 2003, Chelsea had money to spend following Roman Abramovich’s takeover and Veron was one of the new arrivals, despite having a determination to stay and fight for his place at Old Trafford. He made a brilliant start with the west Londoners and scored the first Premier League goal of the Abramovich era at Anfield in August 2003. Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Liverpool FC set them up for an excellent campaign under Claudio Ranieri which saw them finish runners-up in the Premier League and reach the UEFA Champions League semi-finals.

Veron struggled with injuries though and even when fit, couldn’t break into the team on a regular basis. When Jose Mourinho replaced Ranieri as manager in the summer of 2004, Veron was sent packing on-loan back to Italy, joining Inter Milan. He returned to his homeland in 2007, winding down his career in 2014 with Estudiantes where he is now chairman of the club.

Technically gifted and talented, Juan Sebastian Veron won a clutch of honours in his career but his best moments were few and far between in the Premier League.

Iconic Moments: Cole swaps Newcastle for Manchester (January 1995)

In January 1995, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was on the lookout for a new English forward to take the pressure off Eric Cantona. His team were not setting the pace in the title race and he wanted to shift the momentum away from league leaders, Blackburn Rovers.

It was anticipated that the player on the move would be the in-form Nottingham Forest striker, Stan Collymore. However, the Red Devils were about to cause a surprise which left everyone within football stunned. They broke the British transfer record to sign Andy Cole for £6 million from Newcastle United.

Cole had an incredible goalscoring record. He’d scored 68 goals in 84 matches for Newcastle, finishing with a phenomenal strike ratio rate of 81%. However, his relationship with manager Kevin Keegan had deteriorated and it was Keegan who was happy to sell his star asset, with Northern Ireland winger Keith Gillespie going in the other direction to St James’ Park. Ferguson admitted it was a “pleasant surprise” to get him and Cole said himself it was a “big shock.”

Keegan gave a passionate plea outside Newcastle’s ground to stunned supporters, defending the deal saying: “I felt we can take it on and you’ve got to allow me to do that. If it doesn’t work, I know what the implications are.”

When Cole left Manchester United for Blackburn in December 2001, he’d won nine major honours, including five Premier League titles and the UEFA Champions League. Newcastle United won absolutely nothing.

The Managers: Trevor Francis

Premier League Clubs Managed: Sheffield Wednesday (1992-1995)

The name of Trevor Francis will always go down in British football folklore. He became Britain’s first-ever £1 million footballer when he signed for Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest in the 1970s and won the European Cup in 1979 when his header beat Swedish outfit Malmo in the final.

For 15 years, Francis experienced the highs and lows of football management, winning the League Cup with Sheffield Wednesday in 1991 and taking Birmingham City to the final of the same competition a decade later.

The million pound man

A skilful forward at an early age, Trevor joined Birmingham City as a schoolboy and was in their first-team by the age of just 16 in 1970. In one of the early matches of his career, he scored four times against Bolton Wanderers, showing everyone how good he really could be.

At this point, Birmingham were a regular side in the top-flight during the 1970s but never had the budget or the playing squad to launch a serious challenge to the main sides in the decade – Liverpool FC, Leeds United and Derby County.

In 1978, he went to experience another country as he joined Detroit Express on-loan in the United States and played alongside the great German, Franz Beckenbauer. He scored an incredible 36 goals in 33 matches in two separate off-season spells in the States. After his first period in Detroit, he returned to the Midlands to make the move that would define the history of the football transfer.

Reigning First Division champions Nottingham Forest put in a £1 million transfer bid which was accepted by Birmingham. Francis was famously introduced to the media next to Clough who was keen to wrap the press conference up quickly so he could play a game of squash!

Forest retained the League Cup shortly after his arrival but Francis was ineligible to take part. He could play though in the European Cup from the semi-final stage and he repaid all of the money spent on him just before half-time in the showpiece event in Munich.

Winger John Robertson curled a cross towards the far post. Francis managed to sprint into the perfect position and his low header ended up in the roof of the Malmo net. Forest won the match 1-0 to become Champions of Europe and an iconic photograph of his header is still present on the main entrance to The City Ground today.

Attempting to crack Serie A

An injury to his Achilles tendon meant Trevor missed out on the 1980 European Cup final which Forest defended successfully and in truth, he struggled to show the consistency that Clough really wanted from a player he’d paid plenty of money for (in those days).

In September 1981, he was sold to Manchester City for £1.2 million and although he scored 12 goals in 26 games, his transfer did cause some friction between manager John Bond and the board. Finances were a problem for City and with injuries still a bugbear, Francis moved to Serie A in 1982 for a four-year stint with Sampdoria.

On the international scene, he played 52 times for England across a nine-year period, scoring 12 goals and was part of Ron Greenwood’s squad at the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain, scoring in group stage games against Kuwait and Czechoslovakia.

He was part of the Sampdoria side that won the Coppa Italia for the first time in their history in 1985; playing alongside former Liverpool FC captain and future Premier League boss Graeme Souness. They’d link-up again in September 1987 when he returned to British shores to play for Rangers via an unsuccessful season with Atalanta. He won the Scottish League Cup in 1988 but management was about to take more of a prime focus in his career.

His first crack at management was as a player-manager at Queens Park Rangers, taking over when Jim Smith departed to fill the vacancy at Newcastle United. He spent a year in the position at Loftus Road but it proved to be a tough baptism in this form of the game. He was replaced by Don Howe in November 1989 and would eventually move away from the capital for what turned out to be a much better experience in Yorkshire with Sheffield Wednesday.

The Sheffield experience

He joined Sheffield Wednesday initially as just a player in February 1990 but couldn’t stop them dropping out of the First Division. Promotion was achieved a year later and Trevor won the League Cup in the same year as the Second Division side conquered Manchester United at Wembley Stadium.

He got his opportunity to manage the club when Ron Atkinson left acrimoniously to take the role at Aston Villa. He made a brilliant start, helping an exciting and ambitious Wednesday side finish in third place in 1992 behind Leeds United and Manchester United. He even had the chance to sign Eric Cantona after a trial period but elected against this and Cantona ultimately spearheaded Leeds to win the championship.

The 1992-1993 season turned into a near-miss for Sheffield Wednesday. They experienced one of the best runs of the league campaign and finished in seventh position. The club reached both domestic cup finals, playing Arsenal on both occasions. In the League Cup final, John Harkes put the Owls ahead after just eight minutes before Paul Merson equalised. In the 68th minute, Merson set-up Steve Morrow who scored the winner and ensured Arsenal won the first of three Wembley finals between the teams.

A month later, it was FA Cup final time and this time, a replay was required. The first match finished 1-1 with goals from Ian Wright and David Hirst. Five days later, over 60,000 fans returned to Wembley in driving rain for the third instalment of this gripping rivalry. Again, Wright opened the scoring but the Owls responded again when Football Writers’ winner, Chris Waddle saw his shot deflect off Lee Dixon to beat David Seaman and level the match up. The match went to extra-time and just when it looked like penalties would be needed, Andy Linighan outjumped Mark Bright at a corner and the Gunners had the domestic cup double.

It was desolation for the players, fans and manager of Sheffield Wednesday and it would be as good as it got for Trevor. Another seventh-place finish was achieved in 1993-1994 but 1994-1995 didn’t go well. The club weren’t officially safe until a final day victory over Ipswich Town but finished 13th in the final standings. Francis was sacked shortly after the season concluded.

Trevor moved into the media and was a regular co-commentator for Sky Sports Premier League coverage over the next five years, dovetailing this commitment with a spell in the second-tier as manager of Birmingham City. He took over in 1996 and stayed with them for five years. Birmingham regularly finished in the play-offs but failed to win promotion and lost the League Cup final in 2001 on penalties to Liverpool FC.

His last managerial spell came with Crystal Palace before stepping down in April 2003. He has since worked in media on a regular basis for the Premier League’s world feed service.

Iconic Moments: Cantona joins Manchester United (November 1992)

In the very first Premier League season, one of the pre-season title favourites were Manchester United. However, they were misfiring badly, struggling in mid-table by the middle of November and falling off the pace of surprise pacesetters Norwich City.

Manager Alex Ferguson needed a new forward to help the team shoot themselves to the top. He ended up with one of the best bargains in the history of the football transfer. His initial top target was Sheffield Wednesday’s David Hirst but he rejected the move to stay in Yorkshire. His eventual buy started when Leeds United owner Bill Fotherby had telephoned his counterpart at Manchester United, Martin Edwards to enquire whether they would be willing to sell full-back Denis Irwin to the reigning champions.

That enquiry was quickly rebuffed by the Red Devils. At the same time, Edwards was asked by Ferguson to enquire about the availability of talismanic Frenchman Eric Cantona. Fotherby then spoke to Leeds boss Howard Wilkinson, who confirmed he would be happy to get Cantona off his roster. Cantona had sparkled in helping Leeds win the last Football League title in 1992 but he was a difficult person to please and Wilkinson decided that his presence at Elland Road was now having an impact on squad harmony.

A few days later, Cantona’s move across the Pennines was done. Manchester United paid Leeds just £1.2 million to sign him on the 26th November. 10 days later, he made his debut as a substitute in the Manchester Derby and the rest was history.

Cantona was considered the final jigsaw in the puzzle at Old Trafford. Manchester United stormed to their first league title in 26 years and the Frenchman won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award in 1994. As future captain Roy Keane said: “Collar turned up, back straight, chest stuck out, Eric glided into the arena as if he owned the place.”

In five years in Manchester, Cantona won four league titles and two FA Cups, scoring 82 times before retiring in 1997. His move still remains one of the most important transfers in the first 25 years of the Premier League.

Iconic Moments: An Argentine ownership opera at West Ham (August 2006)

The East End of London has seen some unbelievable drama down the years in the Premier League but even EastEnders would have struggled to have matched the ownership opera of two star Argentine players that could have had severe repercussions for West Ham United in 2006.

When West Ham signed South American superstars Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez on the August transfer deadline day from Corinthians, it was seen as a real coup. Both players had sparkled in the World Cup finals that summer in Germany and had been linked to leaving their home continent and joining one of the European superpower sides. It was even a surprise to Hammers manager Alan Pardew but he was never going to pass up the opportunity to sign these two players.

The club claimed they had agreements with the players’ representatives but there was suspicion seen by several of the Londoners rivals about the legality of the transfers. It came more to light in January 2007 when Mascherano left after an unhappy few months at Upton Park and joined Liverpool FC, initially on-loan before it became a permanent deal more than a year later.

Also that month, West Ham were asked to provide details of their agreement with the representatives of Tevez and Mascherano and this was something they failed to comply with. They were linked with Media Sports Investment, a company formerly run by Kia Joorabchian.

In March, West Ham were given two charges of breaching transfer regulations over third-party ownership which was strictly forbidden. In a statement, the Premier League said: “It is the board’s complaint that there were agreements in relation to both these transfers that enabled third parties to acquire the ability materially to influence the club’s policies and/or the performance of its teams in League matches and/or the competitions set out in Rule E10. The board’s view is this constitutes a breach of rule U18.”

A points deduction was expected. As they were 10 points adrift of safety before the charges were made, a docking of points would have seen the club all-but relegated. At this stage, Tevez finally clicked into form, scoring goals on a regular basis as West Ham began a late season surge towards safety. Before the season ended, West Ham pleaded guilty at a tribunal to the charges. They were given a hefty £5.5 million fine but escaped a points deduction. This infuriated their relegation rivals, Sheffield United, Fulham and Wigan Athletic. Ultimately, West Ham survived on the final day with a victory at Old Trafford and it was the Blades who were relegated to the Championship.

Tevez scored the winner that day at Old Trafford and would spend the next two years playing at the Theatre of Dreams and winning back-to-back titles. He was the driving force behind the Hammers’ escape act of 2006-2007 but it still remains one of the most controversial transfer dealings in Premier League history.