Tag Archives: Wimbledon

Memorable Matches: Everton 3-2 Wimbledon (May 1994)

Goalscorers: Dean Holdsworth 4 PEN, Gary Ablett 20 OG, Graham Stuart 24 PEN, 81, Barry Horne 67

Teams:

Everton: Neville Southall, Gary Ablett, David Unsworth, Dave Watson, Ian Snodin, Barry Horne, John Ebbrell (Stuart Barlow 80), Anders Limpar, Graham Stuart, Tony Cottee, Paul Rideout

Wimbledon: Hans Segers, Warren Barton, Dean Blackwell, Gary Elkins, John Scales, Peter Fear (Gary Blissett 84), Vinnie Jones, Robbie Earle, Marcus Gayle, Andy Clarke, Dean Holdsworth

Referee: Robbie Hart, Attendance: 31,233

Everton began the final day of the 1993-1994 season inside the relegation zone, a point behind Ipswich Town, Southampton and Sheffield United. The Toffees needed a victory or face up to the realistic possibility that their 40-year top-flight stay would end at the conclusion of this match against an in-form Wimbledon. Joe Kinnear’s side went into this match in an impressive sixth position, having recently defeated both league runners-up Blackburn Rovers and champions Manchester United.

The pressure was on Mike Walker’s side and they made a nightmare start. Anders Limpar stupidly handled the ball from a corner in just the third minute. The anguish on the face of the Swedish international was clear to see and he was punished by Dean Holdsworth, whose weak penalty just evaded the grasp of Neville Southall to put the visitors infront.

After 20 minutes, it was 2-0. Two Everton defenders, Dave Watson and David Unsworth went for the same ball. Andy Clarke’s mishit shot looked like it was going wide before it took a deflection off the unfortunate Gary Ablett and ended up in the back of the net. Relegation was looking likely for the Toffees after this horrendous beginning.

Hope was restored four minutes later. Limpar resorted to desperate measures in an attempt to redeem himself for his earlier error. He threw himself to the ground under minimal contact from Peter Fear. Referee Robbie Hart gave the spot-kick and replays clearly showed Limpar had made a meal of any contact. Graham Stuart showed plenty of composure in such a high-pressure situation to stick his penalty beyond Hans Segers.

Everton were still living dangerously though. Holdsworth missed two glorious opportunities to extend the advantage again before half-time. At the interval, Everton were still looking like favourites for relegation, especially as none of their relegation rivals were losing at the break. Into the second half and Holdsworth had another chance with a header that was cleared off the goal-line by Stuart. Moments later, it was 2-2. Welshman Barry Horne tried his luck from distance and his shot flew into the back of the net. Segers had absolutely no chance.

The comeback was complete with nine minutes left. Stuart played a nice combination of passes with Tony Cottee and then, his first-time shot crept past Segers and into the back of the net. There’s no doubt the Wimbledon goalkeeper was surprised by the effort and probably should have done better. However, Everton’s comeback was complete.

At the full-time whistle, the fans ran onto the pitch in a combination of relief and delight. Everton had produced one of the most unlikely turnarounds to preserve their Premier League status at the expense of Sheffield United, whose own last-gasp defeat at Chelsea meant they were relegated instead.

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Memorable Matches: Chelsea 2-4 Wimbledon (October 1996)

Goalscorers: Robbie Earle 4, Scott Minto 9, Neal Ardley 16, Marcus Gayle 64, Efan Ekoku 78, Gianluca Vialli 84 PEN

Teams:

Chelsea: Kevin Hitchcock, Steve Clarke, Erland Johnsen, Franck Leboeuf, Scott Minto (Ruud Gullit 55), Dan Petrescu, Craig Burley (John Spencer 55), Roberto Di Matteo, Eddie Newton (Dennis Wise 77), Mark Hughes, Gianluca Vialli

Wimbledon: Neil Sullivan, Dean Blackwell, Alan Kimble, Kenny Cunningham, Chris Perry, Neal Ardley, Vinnie Jones, Robbie Earle, Oyvind Leonhardsen, Efan Ekoku (Peter Fear 80), Marcus Gayle

Referee: David Elleray, Attendance: 28,020

Having lost their first three matches of the 1996-1997 season, Wimbledon had produced a phenomenal turnaround and when they travelled across the capital to play Chelsea in October 1996, they were chasing a seventh successive victory. This would equal a club-record and put them one short of Manchester United’s best effort of eight consecutive wins in the early Premier League days.

The team news was dominated by Ruud Gullit’s controversial decision to drop Dennis Wise after some recent error-strewn displays. Eddie Newton was chosen as his replacement for his first start in eight months. If Gullit was looked for a good start, he wasn’t going to get it. Wimbledon took the lead inside four minutes with one of their trademark, unfashionable goals. Vinnie Jones’ deep throw-in provided chaos in the Chelsea defence. Efan Ekoku put off Kevin Hitchcock and Robbie Earle was braver in a challenge against Franck Leboeuf to score his fourth career goal at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea had won just once in their last four matches but provided an instant response. From a pre-planned free-kick routine, Dan Petrescu teed-up Scott Minto and the full-back, only starting because of an injury to Andy Myers, scored his first-ever goal for Chelsea. Wimbledon regained their lead on 16 minutes. Neal Ardley got away from Newton and his shot seemed to completely deceive Hitchcock who was going in one direction and the ball went in another. It was the strangest of goals but Wimbledon weren’t complaining. They were back infront. It was nearly 3-1 before half-time too. Marcus Gayle was too clever for Steve Clarke and was desperately unlucky not to score as his shot was deflected onto the crossbar by a relieved Hitchcock.

10 minutes into the second half and Gullit decided to make a bold decision with a double substitution, bringing himself into the game along with another forward in John Spencer. It was Gullit’s first appearance since being appointed player-manager in the summer. The gamble backfired. Although there was an initial lift in terms of the atmosphere, it was Wimbledon who installed a two-goal cushion nine minutes after this tactical alteration.

From a punt up the park by Dean Blackwell, Gayle was given too much time and space, committed Clarke into a challenge he was always second-best to and then curled a wonderful shot with the outside of his left-foot into the goal. Gullit had a goal disallowed for offside and the match as a contest was firmly put out of Chelsea’s reach with 12 minutes left to play. Leboeuf woefully misjudged a clearance and his miscue put Ekoku in. The Nigerian provided a brilliant finish into the bottom corner to score his sixth goal in as many matches.

In the closing stages, a frustrated Gianluca Vialli was brought down by Kenny Cunningham in the penalty area, allowing the home side the chance to score a second goal. Vialli’s penalty was audacious and fortuitously crossed the line, with Neil Sullivan saving it behind the goal-line. However, this was one of Wimbledon’s finest away performances and it took them into second position in the Premier League table. The Dons eventually finished in eighth spot.

Chelsea’s season took a tragic turn just days after this game. Following a League Cup defeat in midweek away at Bolton Wanderers, Chelsea vice-chairman Matthew Harding was killed in a helicopter crash. The Blues rallied from this devastating news to finish sixth in the Premier League and win the FA Cup, beating Wimbledon in the semi-finals at Highbury.

Memorable Matches: Wimbledon 3-3 Newcastle United (December 1995)

Goalscorer: Les Ferdinand 8, 29, Dean Holdsworth 19, 65, Efan Ekoku 21, Keith Gillespie 35

Teams:

Wimbledon: Paul Heald, Kenny Cunningham, Alan Kimble, Andy Pearce (Alan Reeves 46), Chris Perry, Robbie Earle, Oyvind Leonhardsen, Jon Goodman, Efan Ekoku (Marcus Gayle 46), Mick Harford, Dean Holdsworth

Newcastle United: Shaka Hislop, Warren Barton, John Beresford, Steve Howey, Darren Peacock, Lee Clark, Rob Lee, Keith Gillespie, David Ginola, Peter Beardsley, Les Ferdinand

Referee: Gerald Ashby, Attendance: 18,002

Newcastle United had made a flying start to the 1995-1996 Premier League campaign. Kevin Keegan’s side had only failed to win twice when they travelled to Selhurst Park in early December to play Wimbledon. Their record at Selhurst Park against the Dons was dismal, having lost six of their previous seven visits there. This would be another difficult afternoon against Joe Kinnear’s side that needed points themselves. Wimbledon came into this match in the bottom three in the table.

It was the league leaders who broke the deadlock inside eight minutes. Mick Harford lost possession and Newcastle made a sweeping break forward. Former Wimbledon player Warren Barton produced a super ball for Les Ferdinand to score his 16th Premier League goal of the season. It was his fourth of the current campaign against Wimbledon, having grabbed a hat-trick on Tyneside back in October.

However, if Newcastle thought it was going to be a routine afternoon from that point onwards, they would be seriously mistaken. Wimbledon often raised their game for matches against the more prestigious clubs in the division and they demonstrated this with two quick-fire goals to lead 2-1 by the 21st minute. First, Dean Holdsworth levelled the game, finding some space in the box to curl the ball beyond Shaka Hislop after being picked out by Jon Goodman. Then, Hislop made a mess of a looping ball into the box from Alan Kimble. Goodman lobbed the ball back across the box and ex-Newcastle player Harford’s shot was diverted into the net by Efan Ekoku.

Within half an hour, Newcastle were back on level terms in a free-flowing match where attacks were definitely doing better than defences. Ferdinand scored his second. David Ginola dropped a ball into the near post and Ferdinand evaded his marker in the penalty area to make it 2-2. It was only early December and in all competitions, Ferdinand already had 20 goals to his name – firmly justifying the £6 million price tag Newcastle had paid Queens Park Rangers in the summer for his services.

By half-time, Keegan’s Magpies’ were leading for the second time. Ferdinand turned goal provider. He had the beating of Chris Perry on the left-hand side, before cutting the ball back into the danger area. Keith Gillespie went for the ball with Kenny Cunningham and the ball came off one of them and trickled into the net. Replays later showed that Gillespie had got the faintest of touches and so could be credited with the goal. Injuries to Andy Pearce and Ekoku at half-time forced Kinnear into two half-time substitutions but Wimbledon showed great character to level the match again with 25 minutes remaining. Kimble did brilliantly to shake off Gillespie, before delivering a brilliant cross. 36-year-old Harford won the header in the air against John Beresford and Holdsworth was there to score his second of the contest, despite Hislop getting a strong hand to his header.

The final outcome was a fair result in an enthralling contest. Newcastle had trouble in the capital all season, failing to win in London and that was one of the reasons why they surrendered a 12-point lead in January to finish runners-up to Manchester United.

Premier League Files: Oyvind Leonhardsen

Premier League Career: Wimbledon (1994-1997), Liverpool FC (1997-1999), Tottenham Hotspur (1999-2002), Aston Villa (2002-2003)

Oyvind Leonhardsen played for four different Premier League clubs across a nine-year period. His most productive spell was at his first English top-flight club, sparkling as a creative asset in a Wimbledon side that wasn’t always the most attractive, but quite effective in the mid-1990s.

Leonhardsen started his career in his native Norway, playing for top domestic clubs Molde FK and Rosenborg. He was voted Player’s Player of the Year in Norway for 1994 and for several seasons, was considered as the top midfielder in the division. He won 86 caps for his country, winning cult hero status and playing in two World Cup final tournaments.

Joe Kinnear brought him to the Premier League in time for the 1994-1995 season and he impressed constantly on the left-wing for Wimbledon. Across three campaigns, he scored 13 times. Towards the end of his final season in south-east London, Leonhardsen informed the Dons hierarchy that he wouldn’t be extending his contract which was due to expire in 1998. Rather than lose a talented player for nothing, Wimbledon cashed in on his services and he joined Liverpool FC in May 1997 for £3.5 million.

He was initially a regular in Roy Evans’ starting line-up but he never quite found his best form at Anfield. Sometimes, the expectation to deliver seemed to weigh too much on his shoulders. He netted seven times in 37 league games before switching to Tottenham Hotspur in 1999.

Leonhardsen was a victim of George Graham’s sacking in 2001. He got frozen out of Glenn Hoddle’s first-team plans and went on-trial to Bundesliga club FC Schalke 04 despite having another year to run on his deal at White Hart Lane. Schalke didn’t offer him a permanent deal but like fellow compatriot Ronny Johnsen, Graham Taylor did at Aston Villa. Tottenham allowed him to leave on a free transfer in August 2002 and he moved to the Midlands in a bit to kick-start his career again.

He spent just one campaign at Villa Park before returning to Scandinavia, finishing his playing days in 2007 with Strømsgodset aged 37. Leonhardsen is now working as a youth coach at his former club, Lyn Fotball.

In total, Oyvind scored 30 Premier League goals in his career and impressively, never finished on the losing side whenever he found the back of the net. That is an impressive feat considering the clubs he played for during his Premier League spell weren’t world-beaters.

Great Goals: Dalian Atkinson – Wimbledon vs. ASTON VILLA (October 1992)

Aston Villa were one of the most exciting Premier League teams in the 1992-1993 season and they pushed Manchester United very close in the title race. Ron Atkinson’s side produced great entertainment and they were spearheaded by a formidable attacking partnership of Dean Saunders and Dalian Atkinson.

At Selhurst Park in October 1992, Atkinson scored the Goal of the Season and it was all his own work. He won possession in his own half and went on a mazy run through the heart of the pitch, evading three Wimbledon defending challenges. He had options, including Saunders to his left-hand side but Atkinson was only interested in scoring himself.

Spotting the goalkeeper slightly off his line, he then produced a delicious chip which found the back of the net. It was a goal extremely fitting to win any contest when Dalian was at the peak of his powers.

Dalian Atkinson died on 15th August 2016. He was just 48-years-old. His legacy will always be marked by this world-class goal.

The Clubs: Wimbledon

All-Time Premier League Record

Played Won Drew Lost Scored Conceded Goal Difference Points No of Seasons
316 99 94 123 384 472 -88 391 8

 

Most Premier League Appearances

Player Appearances Total
Robbie Earle 243
Marcus Gayle 204
Kenny Cunningham 201
Alan Kimble 181
Neil Sullivan 179
Vinnie Jones 177
Dean Holdsworth 169
Neal Ardley 168
Chris Perry 167
Dean Blackwell 157

 

Most Premier League Goals

Player Goals Total
Dean Holdsworth 58
Robbie Earle 45
Efan Ekoku 38
Marcus Gayle 34
Jason Euell 21
John Fashanu 17
Carl Cort 16
Oyvind Leonhardsen 13
Neal Ardley 12
Vinnie Jones 12

 

Biggest Premier League Victories

Match Date Season
Wimbledon 5-0 Watford 4th December 1999 1999-2000
Wimbledon 4-0 Crystal Palace 9th April 1993 1992-1993
Wimbledon 4-0 Everton 7th September 1996 1996-1997
Wimbledon 5-2 Oldham Athletic 12th December 1992 1992-1993
Wimbledon 4-1 Blackburn Rovers 29th March 1994 1993-1994
Wimbledon 4-1 Barnsley 23rd September 1997 1997-1998
Wimbledon 3-0 Norwich City 20th March 1993 1992-1993
Wimbledon 3-0 Swindon Town 6th November 1993 1993-1994
Wimbledon 3-0 Oldham Athletic 26th April 1994 1993-1994
Queens Park Rangers 0-3 Wimbledon 23rd August 1995 1995-1996

 

Worst Premier League Defeats

Match Date Season
Aston Villa 7-1 Wimbledon 11th February 1995 1994-1995
Newcastle United 6-1 Wimbledon 21st October 1995 1995-1996
Aston Villa 5-0 Wimbledon 22nd December 1996 1996-1997
Arsenal 5-0 Wimbledon 18th April 1998 1997-1998
Oldham Athletic 6-2 Wimbledon 3rd April 1993 1992-1993
Wimbledon 2-6 Tottenham Hotspur 2nd May 1998 1997-1998
Manchester United 5-1 Wimbledon 17th October 1998 1998-1999
Arsenal 5-1 Wimbledon 19th April 1999 1998-1999
Sheffield Wednesday 5-1 Wimbledon 2nd October 1999 1999-2000
Leeds United 4-0 Wimbledon 2nd October 1993 1993-1994

 

Managers

Manager No of Seasons managed Left the Club
Joe Kinnear 7 9th June 1999
Egil Olsen 1 1st May 2000
Terry Burton 1 25th April 2002

 

Highest Home Attendances

Match Date Attendance Figure Season
Wimbledon 1-2 Manchester United 8th May 1993 30,115 1992-1993
Wimbledon 1-0 Manchester United 16th April 1994 28,553 1993-1994
Wimbledon 2-5 Manchester United 22nd November 1997 26,309 1997-1998
Wimbledon 2-2 Manchester United 26th February 2000 26,129 1999-2000
Wimbledon 1-1 Manchester United 3rd April 1999 26,121 1998-1999
Wimbledon 1-1 Liverpool FC 9th August 1997 26,106 1997-1998
Wimbledon 1-2 Liverpool FC 16th April 2000 26,102 1999-2000
Wimbledon 1-0 Liverpool FC 13th December 1998 26,080 1998-1999
Wimbledon 1-0 Arsenal 21st November 1998 26,003 1998-1999
Wimbledon 1-3 Arsenal 1st April 2000 25,858 1999-2000

 

Intro

Often defying the odds in the 1990s, going to Selhurst Park to play the tenants of Wimbledon was often a fearful thought. “The Crazy Gang” had the ability to completely upset an opponent’s gameplan with their intimidating approach to the game. It might not have been everyone’s cup of tea but Wimbledon did make the critics eat their words on many occasions. They finished sixth in 1993-1994 and eighth in 1996-1997. Relegation did follow in 2000 and Wimbledon eventually made a controversial move to Milton Keynes in 2002, reforming as Milton Keynes Dons two years later.

 

1992-1993

Tipped as relegation favourites by many football experts at the start of the inaugural Premier League season, it looked like they might be right when Wimbledon spent Boxing Day in the drop zone. That was despite a shock 1-0 victory away at Old Trafford in October thanks to a Lawrie Sanchez goal.

However, the south Londoners rallied in the second half of the season, doing the league double over Liverpool FC and thrashing their landlords Crystal Palace 4-0 in April. Wimbledon finished 12th in the table and only Les Ferdinand and Teddy Sheringham scored more goals than Dean Holdsworth in the division. He netted 19 times.

 

1993-1994

Unlike the previous campaign, Wimbledon started the 1993-1994 season in good form, losing just one of their first nine matches. A run of one win in nine games followed which saw them drop into the mid-table positions by Christmas but Wimbledon rallied fantastically in 1994 and were the form side in the division by the end of the campaign.

Holdsworth struck 24 goals in all competitions and the Dons won seven of their final 10 matches to finish sixth in the standings – equalling their highest top-flight finish set back in 1987. Out of the London clubs, only Arsenal finished higher and there were notable home successes against runners-up Blackburn Rovers and champions Manchester United.

 

1994-1995

In the summer of 1994, Joe Kinnear elected to sell a Wimbledon stalwart in the form of John Fashanu. He departed to join Aston Villa for £1.35 million. His replacement was Efan Ekoku, who arrived from Norwich City two months into the campaign. Ekoku finished as the club’s top goalscorer with nine goals as Wimbledon finished ninth in the table after a steady season.

Among the highlights were a four-game winning sequence in March and a 3-2 victory in November over Newcastle United which knocked the Geordies off top spot. They did suffer their worst-ever Premier League loss though, going down 7-1 at Aston Villa in February.

 

1995-1996

In the close season, Wimbledon sold Warren Barton to Newcastle United for a British transfer record fee for a defender but started the campaign very well, with just one defeat from their first five games which came at Old Trafford. However, after a 1-0 success over Liverpool FC, the Dons didn’t win another Premier League game until a Boxing Day triumph in a London Derby at Chelsea.

Wimbledon’s defence was their Achilles heel throughout the season. Only relegated Bolton Wanderers conceded more goals (71) than Kinnear’s side did (70) and he didn’t seem to settle on a regular goalkeeper throughout the season with Paul Heald, Hans Segers and Neil Sullivan all having spells in-goal. They finished 14th but only three points clear of trouble in a campaign that didn’t fulfil pre-season expectations.

 

1996-1997

Wimbledon were involved in one of the Premier League’s most iconic goals on the opening day of the season as David Beckham managed to score from inside his own half in stoppage-time of Manchester United’s opening day 3-0 victory. Further defeats in away games at Newcastle United and Leeds United followed. It seemed like tough days were ahead for the Dons.

Then, they defied the critics again, going on a 19-match unbeaten run, which included seven Premier League victories in a row. After Dean Holdsworth’s late header beat Blackburn Rovers 1-0 in mid-December, Wimbledon sat in third position in the table and just a single point behind league leaders Arsenal.

However, they were hammered 5-0 in their very next match by Aston Villa and just five further wins followed. Despite making the semi-finals of both domestic cup competitions, Wimbledon missed out on European football, finishing in eighth position. However, it was still considered a remarkable season given the small fanbase and lack of resources that were available to manager Joe Kinnear.

 

1997-1998

“The Crazy Gang” spirit was once more fully shown throughout the 1997-1998 season which was a tougher campaign after the club’s all-time leading Premier League goalscorer, Dean Holdsworth was transferred to newly-promoted Bolton Wanderers in October. Another icon to depart before the season’s end was Vinnie Jones who was sold to Queens Park Rangers in March 1998 for £750,000.

Wimbledon did reach ninth place in the table when Marcus Gayle’s header beat Leicester City 1-0 at Filbert Street but once again, form dropped alarmingly in the second half of the season. Although never in any real danger of being relegated, Wimbledon ended in 15th place which was their worst-ever top-flight finish at this point.

 

1998-1999

With 11 matches left in the 1998-1999 season, Wimbledon were right in the race to qualify for the UEFA Cup. Among their victims at Selhurst Park in the season were Arsenal and Liverpool FC, whilst champions-elect Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw. They were sixth in the table ahead of a trip to Hillsborough to play Sheffield Wednesday in March.

Manager Joe Kinnear was taken to hospital after suffering a heart attack. He would be sidelined for the remainder of the season and without their leader, Wimbledon seemed to lose all direction. In their last 11 games, they claimed just two points and dropped to 16th in the final standings, their lowest finish since entering the top-flight in 1986.

The club did break their transfer record in January to sign John Hartson for £7.5 million from London rivals, West Ham United.

 

1999-2000

On health grounds, Joe Kinnear stepped down in the summer after seven years as the Wimbledon gaffer and he was replaced by Norwegian Egil Olsen, whose style of football was fairly similar to Kinnear’s preferences.

For much of the season, Wimbledon seemed fairly comfortable in the lower reaches of mid-table but a run of eight straight defeats in March and April saw them dragged into the relegation dogfight. Owner Sam Hamann left in February and star striker Hartson fell out with the manager after a planned move to Tottenham Hotspur collapsed.

After a 3-0 defeat away to relegation rivals Bradford City at the end of April, Olsen paid for strained relations with most of his playing squad and lost his job. Kinnear’s former no.2, Terry Burton stepped into the breach and a 2-2 draw at home to Aston Villa ensured they went into the final day in control of their own destiny.

However, Bradford’s shock final day victory over Liverpool FC, combined with the Dons 2-0 defeat to Southampton ended their 14-year stay in the top-flight. Their relegation was confirmed 12 years to the day of their biggest triumph which was victory in the 1988 FA Cup final.

Premier League Rewind: 4th-6th December 1999

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What else happened in December 1999?

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

Memorable Matches: Wimbledon 2-6 Tottenham Hotspur (May 1998)

Goalscorers: Les Ferdinand 18, Peter Fear 21, 30, Jurgen Klinsmann 41, 54, 58, 60, Moussa Saib 79

Teams:

Wimbledon: Neil Sullivan, Alan Kimble, Brian McAllister, Chris Perry, Andy Roberts, Ben Thatcher (SENT OFF), Peter Fear, Michael Hughes, Mark Kennedy (Ceri Hughes 63), Carl Leaburn (Marcus Gayle 46), Jason Euell (Damien Francis 36)

Tottenham Hotspur: Ian Walker, Stephen Carr, Colin Calderwood, Sol Campbell, Nicola Berti, Allan Nielsen, Darren Anderton, Ruel Fox (Moussa Saib 72), David Ginola, Les Ferdinand (Chris Armstrong 61), Jurgen Klinsmann

Referee: Graham Barber, Attendance: 25,820

Tottenham Hotspur’s 1997-1998 Premier League season had not gone to plan. Gerry Francis resigned as manager in mid-November and Swiss Christian Gross had struggled to galvanise the team from their slumber. Relegation was still a distinct possibility going into the final Saturday of the season.

Only a win would guarantee their Premier League status before the final day and a trip to Selhurst Park to take on a fiery Wimbledon side was not the ideal fixture to have at this stage of the season. Luckily for Tottenham supporters, they had a 33-year-old forward who used this day to roll back the years.

Jurgen Klinsmann had arrived for a second spell at the club just after Christmas and his presence back in north London had got supporters excited. He was in electrifying form here as Tottenham chalked up their biggest win of the season at just the right time. 18 minutes had been played when he made his first contribution, setting up Les Ferdinand for the opening goal. Ferdinand had now scored in back-to-back games but these were to be his only two goals of a disappointing first campaign at White Hart Lane.

In typical Wimbledon fashion, they responded brilliantly and two quality strikes from midfielder Peter Fear had Tottenham fearing the worst. 2-1 down and with relegation rivals Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers winning in games that were kicking off simultaneously, the need for victory became even greater. Cue Klinsmann’s next moment as the German international skipper reached a cross from David Ginola four minutes before half-time to level the game at 2-2.

The game completely changed early in the second half. A wild challenge on Allan Nielsen by Ben Thatcher left referee Graham Barber with little option but to send the Wimbledon defender off. This allowed Klinsmann more space and his finishing was absolutely clinical. He put Tottenham ahead on 54 minutes after Nicola Berti had robbed Brian McAllister of possession. Then, he latched onto Ferdinand’s flick-on to complete his hat-trick. 120 seconds later and the game was all over with Klinsmann producing another ferocious strike into the far corner. There was still time for substitute Moussa Saib to complete the scoring.

Tottenham were safe and finished 14th, above Wimbledon ultimately in the final standings. Klinsmann played one more match for the club and hung up his boots after Germany’s exit from the World Cup 1998 quarter-finals. His place in Spurs folklore was now firmly guaranteed.

Iconic Moments: A striking star is born at Selhurst (May 1997)

Michael Owen had a knack throughout his schoolboy days of scoring goals for a living. As he climbed rapidly through the youth ranks at Liverpool FC, it looked like the Merseysiders had another young superstar about to make a sudden emergence on the first-team.

Owen was looking to follow in the footsteps of Robbie Fowler back in 1993 when he emerged from nowhere to become a prolific goalscorer for LFC as soon as he reached the senior side. Rated as the best attacker of his age in the country, Owen was put on the bench for Liverpool’s penultimate match of the 1996-1997 Premier League campaign which was a tricky trip to Selhurst Park to play Wimbledon.

Liverpool still had an outside shot of winning the title but those faint chances evaporated when they went 2-0 down thanks to goals from Jason Euell and Dean Holdsworth. Boss Roy Evans decided to throw Owen on in the vain hope of finding three goals to take the title fight to the last day.

16 minutes from time, Stig Inge Bjornebye steered a pass through and Owen raced onto the ball and showed great maturity in dispatching the ball into the Wimbledon net. It wasn’t enough on the night as Liverpool lost 2-1 but Owen’s cameo was a sign of things to come. The Liverpool Echo said a day later: “Only teenage substitute Michael Owen could emerge with any credit from a performance that mocked Anfield’s rich traditions before time started running out.”

In all competitions, Owen scored 158 goals for Liverpool FC before leaving for Real Madrid in the summer of 2004. The Premier League title eluded him in his Anfield days but he did win five trophies in 2001, and was crowned the European Football of the Year – the last Englishman to do so.

And it all started on a lifeless night for Liverpool in general where a striking star was born at Selhurst.

Premier League Files: Efan Ekoku

Premier League Career: Norwich City (1993-1994), Wimbledon (1994-1999)

Efan Ekoku made some early Premier League history in September 1993 against Everton when he became the first player to score four goals in the same match. He was always a constant threat in the opposition penalty area and possessed a decent scoring record for the teams he represented.

Born in 1967, it wasn’t until the age of 22 before Ekoku made his breakthrough in the English game, playing initially for non-league side Sutton United before turning professional in 1990 with AFC Bournemouth. He was signed by Harry Redknapp just weeks after the club had been relegated to the Third Division. He produced a goal return of one goal in every three matches for the Cherries and that was enough for Norwich City manager Mike Walker to part with £500,000 to snap Ekoku up on transfer deadline day in March 1993.

He was brought in as the club seeked to make a late challenge for the championship and also to try and take some of the pressure off Mark Robins and Chris Sutton in the goalscoring department. Ekoku scored three times in the final 10 matches of the Premier League season but Norwich’s leaky defence meant they finished off the pace of champions Manchester United. Nevertheless, they still came a fine third in the league table.

September 1993 was the peak of Ekoku’s Norwich career. He will always go down in the club’s history books because he scored their first-ever goal in European competition, striking in the 3-0 UEFA Cup victory against Vitesse Arnhem. Days later, Norwich travelled to Goodison Park to take on an Everton side that had started solidly and were in the top six. The Toffees were the better team in the first half and led through a Paul Rideout goal but Ekoku cancelled that advantage out just before half-time. He then ran riot in the second half, adding another three goals to become the first Premier League player to score four goals in a match. It was a remarkable achievement as Norwich ended the game 5-1 winners.

Ekoku finished with 12 goals that season in the Premier League but manager Walker quit mid-season to take over the post at Everton. Norwich’s form nose-dived and they finished down in 12th. It was still a happy season for Efan though, as he was part of the Nigeria squad that won the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations. He also was part of the Super Eagles squad that made the round-of-16 at that summer’s World Cup in the United States.

Norwich owner Robert Chase had a habit of cashing in on the club’s hottest properties and Ekoku was no exception. A bid of £900,000 was accepted in October 1994 for the striker to move to Wimbledon. Two weeks later, infront of the Sky Sports cameras, he scored his first Wimbledon goal to beat…Norwich City at Selhurst Park! The anger Norwich supporters had towards their chairman increased greatly after this transaction.

Ekoku was part of the Wimbledon squad that consistently punched above their weight in the Premier League. He was their top scorer in 1996-1997 with 11 goals as the club finished eighth in the table and reached the semi-finals of both domestic cup competitions. He did well to regularly hold down a striking berth in those days with the likes of Dean Holdsworth, Marcus Gayle and Jason Euell amongst his competition.

Ekoku moved to Grasshoppers Zurich in Switzerland in August 1999 before returning to England for spells in the Football League with Sheffield Wednesday and Bradford City. He retired in 2004.

Today, Efan works as a commentator for the Premier League’s world feed and is a weekly guest on Football Dynamics on Bloomberg Africa.

Premier League Files: Robbie Earle

Premier League Career: Wimbledon (1992-2000)

Robbie Earle spent his entire playing career with just two clubs. He played professionally for 18 years until a nasty injury forced him to quit the game he loved in November 2000. In that time, he became a cult hero at Port Vale and was a major part of the ‘The Crazy Gang’ squad at Wimbledon that often was able to defy the odds against relegation.

Earle’s youth career started at Stoke City but a broken leg put paid to any hopes of a professional deal with the Potteries. Stoke’s local rivals Port Vale took a chance on Earle and he signed a pro contract with them in 1982. He spent nine years with Vale, helping them during that time from the Fourth Division to the Second Division in 1989.

An attacking midfielder who loved to score goals, Earle was well-known for late runs into the penalty area and was a formidable competitor in heading challenges. He won a regular place in the Port Vale team for the start of the 1984-1985 campaign. He showed his durability by making 142 consecutive appearances for Vale between September 1984 and January 1987. That run ended with a groin strain that required a hernia operation and forced him to miss most of the early part of the 1987-1988 campaign. Considered one of the best midfielders to play for the club, Earle would feature 357 times and score 90 goals. He was sold to Wimbledon for a fee of £775,000 in July 1991.

His first year in south London was his best in terms of goalscoring return, scoring 14 times despite Wimbledon having three managers during the course of the season. His strikes kept them in the top-flight which became the Premier League in 1992. He scored seven times in the inaugural season of the new top division in English football and another nine goals in 1993-1994 when Wimbledon finished above several elite clubs including Liverpool FC, Aston Villa and Chelsea to finish sixth in the table.

Injury restricted Earle to just nine appearances in 1994-1995 but he regained fitness for the following season and was appointed club captain ahead of the 1995-1996 term by manager Joe Kinnear. This was Earle’s best top-flight campaign. He scored 11 goals including strikes in victories over Chelsea, Arsenal and Bolton Wanderers. Another strong aspect of Robbie’s game was his ability to link-up with the other Wimbledon attack-minded players, including Mick Harford, Efan Ekoku and Dean Holdsworth.

Under his captaincy in 1996-1997, Wimbledon enjoyed a brilliant season, going on a lengthy unbeaten run in the Premier League between early September and late December. They also made the semi-finals of both domestic cup competitions before losing to eventual winners, Leicester City and Chelsea respectively. Robbie’s consistency earned him the Premier League Player of the Month award in February 1997.

Although he harboured ambitions of playing international football for England, Earle was eligible to play for Jamaica as both of his parents were Jamaican. He accepted the offer to play at international level for the Jamaicans and would play at their only major international tournament so far – the 1998 World Cup finals in France. He scored their first-ever goal in the competition against Croatia in Lens and played all three of their group stage matches. His services to football saw him earn an MBE in 1999.

Earle was part of the Wimbledon squad that waved goodbye to Premier League football in 2000, relegated on the final day at The Dell by Southampton. Later that year, during a reserve team game, he sustained a heavy blow to the stomach that ruptured his pancreas. He admitted years later: “One afternoon in hospital, I was told that I had picked up an infection again. By this time I had lost four stone. My breathing was irregular, I was in agony. If somebody had told me that death was the best choice, I’d have accepted it – anything to take away the pain.”

At the age of 35, he was forced to retire from playing. He moved into the world of football journalism and has worked for the likes of Capital Radio, ESPN, BBC Radio 5 Live and ITV. A familiar face with ITV, he was sacked by them days into the 2010 World Cup for giving away tickets for a group stage match between Netherlands and Denmark which were sold to a brewery company. He admitted to his “naivety” after this error of judgement. Earle is now a commentator for the Premier League on NBC and has also done some analytical work on the MLS.

Iconic Moments: Everton escape the drop (May 1994)

On Saturday, 7 May 1994, Everton’s Premier League future looked in severe jeopardy. They began the day in the bottom three after a shocking campaign and faced the real prospect of being relegated to the Endsleigh League Division One.

On the final day, they faced Wimbledon at home. The Crazy Gang were the most in-form side in the division coming into the game, having won seven of their last nine matches. After 20 minutes, things looked very gloomy for the Toffees’ faithful. A Dean Holdsworth penalty and an own goal by Gary Ablett had the home side 2-0 down.

A lifeline was thrown by Graham Stuart’s own penalty in the 24th minute but at half-time, Everton were the only team of the strugglers to be losing. They were going down at this stage.

With nothing to lose, manager Mike Walker threw everything available to him off the bench. On 67 minutes, Barry Horne hit the goal of his life. The Welshman’s rocket into the top corner made it 2-2 and gave the supporters real belief of the great escape. With nine minutes left, ecstasy swept the ground.

Stuart played a fairly untidy one-two combination with Tony Cottee and the midfielder took a weak shot on which somehow squirmed past Hans Segers and into the net. This moment came under further scrutiny when the Dutchman became at the centre of match-fixing allegations less than a year later. In his autobiography, ‘The Final Score,’ his claim was: “He (Stuart) hit a shot that took a deflection off another player’s leg, so that made the ball change direction slightly. The pitch was uneven and the ball hit a bump and spun beyond my control as I dived.”

At the full-time whistle, fans ran onto the pitch in celebration. Everton’s win meant they were safe as long as the other teams they were fighting with all hadn’t won. None of them did. Sheffield United’s late loss at Stamford Bridge meant the Blades went down instead with Oldham Athletic and Swindon Town.

It wouldn’t be the only escape Everton would have against the drop in the 1990s on the final day either. This one was down to fighting spirit, luck and a very poor piece of goalkeeping.