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  1. Round 27 Another week, another Tottenham loss. Their complete and absolute loss of form has been something incredible. By my count, it’s one win in nine games for Spurs now, as they lose 1-0 at home against Blackburn. You have to imagine that Arsenal fans everywhere are getting a kick out of the ultimate Spursy moment. (Cue the 11-game winning streak) It has taken a while for any team to catch Tottenham but it finally happened – Leeds pull into a first-place tie following their 2-0 win over Manchester United at Elland Road. Rod Wallace scores again, while David Rocastle also grabs a goal for the home side. QPR are just a point back now in third, following their 2-0 win over Derby. A Dennis Bailey double has put Gerry Francis’s men right in the thick of the title race – will they regret the sale of Les Ferdinand, though? I still expect the answer to that will be yes. Don’t count out fourth-place Liverpool, either. They’re four points back of the leaders following a 2-2 draw at home against Southampton but they are still within striking distance. At the bottom of the table, Sheffield Wednesday have slipped up on a few occasions against struggling sides but they easily turn over Ipswich 2-0 at home. Veteran winger Chris Waddle and his heir-apparent Chris Bart-Williams both score for the Owls. We wrote off Oldham a few rounds ago, but they seem to be finding some form now – after last week’s win, they follow it up with a 2-2 draw at home against Chelsea. Mike Milligan and Andy Ritchie both score for Joe Royle’s men while Andy Townsend and Robert Fleck grab goals for the Blues. Oldham’s point pulls them level with Barnsley on 23 points after the Tykes fall 2-1 at Wimbledon. The Dons are flying under the radar but have put together a strong run of form, led by the performances of winger Aiden Newhouse who scores for the second straight league game. Andy Clarke also scores for Joe Kinnear’s men, while Andy Rammell scores a consolation goal for Barnsley. Round 27 Table: Leeds, Tottenham 49; QPR 48; Liverpool 44 Oldham, Barnsley 23; Ipswich 20 *** Mid-week, it’s Transfer Deadline Day! There is a flurry of action and the major players are Tottenham. Doug Livermore’s men try to arrest their shocking slide by adding some experience in midfield with the pickup of Nigel Spackman, and a goal scoring threat with the pickup of Mike Marsh from Liverpool for a club record £1.9 million. To free up space for the arrivals, Spurs unload Scott Houghton to Chelsea for 900k and Justin Edinburgh to Oldham for 700k. QPR are also active at the deadline bringing in a pair of players from Sheffield Wednesday. Mark Bright signs for 250k, which should help their goalscoring problems and utility man David Howells signs for 800k. Other players on the move include Gordon Cowans, who moves from Blackburn to Forest for 100k, Peter Atherton and Micky Quinn, who both leave Coventry to join Division One side Port Vale, and Steve Froggatt, who departs Aston Villa to join Newcastle for 1 million. Froggatt is an England Under 21 international but he might get the opportunity to play every week in the second tier, something he was not doing at the Premier League level. Coca Cola Cup Semi-Finals, 2nd leg It all seemed pretty easy for Manchester City in the semi-finals. Up 1-0 from the first leg, they grab another 1-0 win in the second leg at home. Gary Flitcroft scores the goal that secures Peter Reid’s side’s advancement to Wembley. In the final City will meet either Arsenal or Stoke, the two teams are even heading into the second leg at Stoke. Arsenal were the better team in the first leg but were playing catchup after Stoke took the lead. The same thing happens in the second leg when Paul Ware scores to give Lou Macari’s side the 1-0 lead. Swedish international Anders Limpar scores for the Gunners to even things up. But it is that man Paul Ware, who seals his status as a Stoke City hero by scoring his second goal of the game and giving the Potters the 2-1 win on the night, a 3-2 win overall, and a ticket to a final at Wembley. Considering Stoke are near the bottom of the third tier it will be an amazing experience for their fans. (ed – A word about club legends and heroes. It’s been a while since I played a post-1990s version of CM/FM, but I know at some point there is an introduction of club heroes and legends. Based on this performance, Paul Ware will be listed as a Stoke legend when that option is included in the game. My reference point was Mickey Thomas of Wrexham – I considered this a similar type of performance that would live on in Stoke’s history, especially as Ware passed away at a very young age due to a brain tumour.) *** Round 28 Let’s call this a week that the teams leading the pack would like to forget. It goes without saying that Tottenham lost – this isn’t even a surprise anymore. Losing to last-place Ipswich just adds insult to injury. Leeds lost, too, thanks to a masterful performance by Matt Le Tissier – the man from Jersey scores twice in a 2-0 Southampton win. That opened the door for QPR to go to the top of the pile, but they ended up losing 1-0 to Barnsley. Liverpool in fourth? Well, they lost, too – dropping 2-1 at Nottingham Forest. That allows Everton to crack the top four after they get a 2-0 win over Chelsea – Billy Kenny and Tony Cottee both score for Howard Kendall’s side. At the bottom of the table, the wins by Barnsley and Ipswich, bomcined with Oldham losing 2-0 at Aston Villa have made things tighter. Right now, Sheffield United are two points above the drop zone with 28 points, while Barnsley are on 26, and Ipswich and Oldham are equal on 23. Round 28 Table: Leeds, Tottenham 49; QPR 48; Everton 45 Sheffield United 28 / Barnsley 26; Ipswich, Oldham 23 Midweek we’re off to Europe and Manchester City continue their good run in the Champions League beating Steaua Bucharest 2-1 in Romania. That result puts City on four points, level with Porto. In Group A, Lillestrom and Inter are both equal on four points. In the UEFA Cup, Liverpool travel to Israel to take on Zefat in their Quarter-Final tie. In the first half, Zefat take a surprising lead but Don Hutchison equalizes for the Reds. Graeme Souness’s side were the better of the two teams but when Torben Piechnik got sent off the Reds were happy to settle for a draw, assuming they can win it back home in Liverpool. They will be the favourites.
  2. Coca Cola Cup Semi-Finals Division One Arsenal would have felt confident of their chances of advancing to Wembley after being drawn against Division Two side Stoke in the semi-finals of the Coca-Cola Cup. Any cockiness that they might have felt would have quickly faded when Stoke winger Ian Cranson popped up for a first-half goal in their tie at Highbury. From the time Stoke took a shock lead, Arsenal battered them. In the second half, an equalizer came from captain Steve Bould but despite the best efforts of Ian Wright, Paul Merson, Nick Barmby et al, they weren’t able to find a second goal. 1-1 is the final heading back to Victoria Park and both teams will feel like an appearance at Wembley is within their grasp. In the second semi-final, Manchester City took one step closer to another trip to Wembley by beating Nottingham Forest 1-0 in the first leg of their semi-final tie at the City Ground. The teams were evenly matched throughout, but a second-half goal from Mike Sheron made the difference. It’s proving to be an interesting year for City – they now look likely to make the League Cup finals, they’re in the FA Cup 5th Round and the Champions League group stage. At this point, their hopes of defending the league title seem to be gone, but could they be in line for a Cup treble? Also mid-week, Terry Venables announced his first England squad. There hasn’t been a tremendous turnover from Graham Taylor’s squads; however, young winger Steve McManaman gets his first ever callup. In addition, Arsenal striker Ian Wright makes a return to the England setup. There is no Teddy Sheringham or Tony Cottee, though. The squad to face Denmark is as follows: Goalkeepers: Chris Woods, Sheffield Wednesday (44 caps); John Lukic, Leeds (no caps) Defenders; Gavin Johnson, Manchester City (1 cap); Paul Parker, Manchester United (24 caps); Terry Phelan, Manchester City (no caps); Tony Dorigo, Leeds (15 caps, 1 goal); Gary Pallister, Manchester United (12 caps, 1 goal); Des Walker, Sampdoria (52 caps); Paul Lake, Manchester City (no caps); Keith Curle, Manchester City (3 caps) Midfielders: Chris Bart-Williams, Sheffield Wednesday (1 cap); Steve McManaman, Liverpool (no caps); Kevin Watson, Tottenham (5 caps); Alan Wright, Blackburn (no caps); Nigel Clough, Nottingham Forest (14 caps, 2 goals); David Platt, Sampdoria (35 caps, 12 goals); Paul Gascoigne, Lazio (29 caps, 5 goals); Vinny Samways, Tottenham (no caps) Attackers: Alan Shearer, Blackburn (6 caps, 2 goals); Ian Wright, Arsenal (9 caps,1 goal); David Hirst, Sheffield Wednesday (11 caps, 5 goals); Mike Sheron, Manchester City (2 caps, 1 goal) *** Cup week continues at the weekend with the FA Cup Fifth Round. Our eyes were on the result from Roots Hall, where totally out of form Tottenham travelled to Division One club Southend. The Premier League leaders went in front in the first half thanks to a goal from Scott Houghton, but Southend made a strong effort in the second half, going up 2-1 with goals from Brett Angell and Alex Inglethorpe. A Gordon Durie equalizer for Spurs ensured there would be a replay but Doug Livermore had to admit that Southend were the better side on the day and Spurs dodgy run continues. On a whole, it was a dismal showing by the Premier League sides in the Cup. Blackburn was held by Crystal Palace at Ewood Park, and Derby were beaten 1-0 by Division One Peterborough at the Baseball Ground. For whatever reason, Peterborough always seem to be strong in the Cups. The biggest result of the round came at the Vetch Field where Division One’s bottom club Swansea knocked out Manchester United 2-1. The Swans got first half goals from captain Alan Pardew and young winger Paul Devlin; Lee Sharpe pulled one back in the second half, but no one could deny that Frank Burrows’ side were deserving winners on the day. The only Premier League sides to move into the quarter finals in a relatively straight-forward manner were Manchester City, which beat Swindon 2-0, and Aston Villa, which beat Southampton 3-1 in the only all-Premier League tie. Perhaps spurred on by the pathetic performance in the Cup, Manchester United splash the cash in the transfer market bringing in Scottish defender Colin Hendry for 1 million from Blackburn. Hendry should slide into the starting backline alongside Gary Pallister. Paul Parker had been playing centre back but should shift out to the right side, while Gary Parkinson will probably drop out of the starting lineup. Elsewhere in the transfer market, Stig Inge Bjornbye swaps the red side of Merseyside for the blue side, joining Everton for 400k. In a shrewd move for the future, Chelsea sign Nottingham Forest midfielder Steve Stone for 250k. Stone is a young player with a bright future, but he had yet to break into the Forest first team. With Andy Townsend, Craig Burley and Dennis Wise ahead of him in the Chelsea pecking order, we don’t expect Stone to break right into the lineup right away but he’s one to watch. *** England vs Denmark Friendly Wembley Stadium England: Woods; Parker, Phelan, Pallister, Walker; Watson, Clough (Samways 66), Gascoigne (Bart-Williams 66), Platt; Shearer, I. Wright Denmark: Schmeichel, Christensen (Hogh 70), B. Laudrup, Jensen, Kjelberg, Larsen, M. Laudrup, Vilfort (Frederiksen 70), Dethlefsen, Olsen, Rieper The curtain was raised on the Terry Venables era and the opening night performance ended with a standing ovation. England were vibrant and optimistic under Venables, and even though the deciding goal came from a member of the old guard – David Platt – it felt like a new team. The goal came after 17 minutes when a long ball from debutant Terry Phelan found Alan Shearer 25 yards from goal. He knocked the ball down for Platt who nipped in before the defender and knocked it past Schmeichel. Denmark’s only chance came in the second half from Brian Laudrup, and really England should have beaten the European champions by a couple of more. Platt came close and Kevin Watson should have scored, as well. Over the past year, the most common way for England supporters to mark the end of a game was to chant "We Want Taylor Out". This time, however, it was to a round of applause. Once more, England expects... England 1 (Platt 17) Denmark 0
  3. Thanks, Neil – I think we’re of a similar vintage, so it’s been an enjoyable trip down memory lane for me, as well! I'm glad you're getting a kick out of it. ======================== Midweek we see Manchester City kick off the group stage of the Champions League and they do so by picking up a big point in Portugal against Bobby Robson’s Porto. Fitzroy Simpson scored the goal in the first half for Peter Reid’s side, while winger Jorge Couto pulled one back for the hosts in the second half. It’s important to note that the Champions League group stage only awards two points for a win, so neither team will feel too disappointed with the result. Round 25 It’s a showdown of the division’s two most prolific scorers when Tony Cottee’s Everton takes on Teddy Sheringham and Tottenham. Spurs have started to wobble over the past few games with just one win from their last five fixtures. The game starts with the two teams evenly matched, most of the good work coming down Tottenham’s left side through Andy Hinchcliffe and Kevin Watson. There are no goals in the first half, however. In the second half, the breakthrough comes and it’s the home side who strike through Cottee’s 14th of the season. Down a goal, Spurs come into the ascendency but the lack of a legitimate finisher beyond Sheringham ends up costing them – Samways, Woan and Anderton all come close, but no one can find the equalizing goal. Spurs’ saving grace during their loss of form has been that no other team has been able to pick up a consistent enough string of results to close the gap. In our last post, we hypothesized that it might be Advantage Liverpool with Barmby leaving Spurs, Ferdinand being sold by QPR and Lee Chapman leaving Leeds, so it goes without saying that the Reds lost 2-0 at home against relegation strugglers Sheffield United. A first half double from captain Jamie Hoyland gives the Blades a vital three points and keeps Liverpool six points back of Spurs. A Les Ferdinand-less QPR also get beaten, falling 3-1 to Manchester United at Old Trafford. Mark Hughes scores a brace for Alex Ferguson’s side, while Gary Parkinson scores his first United goal in the win. For QPR, their main man up front is now Gary Penrice, and he scores in the defeat. Over in Nottingham, Les Ferdinand scores on his Forest debut but it isn’t enough as Brian Clough’s men fall 3-1 at home against Wimbledon. Leeds are the only team in the chasing pack to pick up a win in this round of fixtures, beating Barnsley 2-0 at Elland Road. Lee Chapman plays for the visitors and gets sent off in his first game. The numerical advantage suited the hosts just fine and goals from David Rocastle and Paul Williams were enough to give them the win. At the bottom of the table, there is a huge win for Ipswich over Oldham. Goals from Frank Yallop, Jason Dozzell and a double from Chris Kiwomya give John Lyall’s side a 4-0 win on the road. It pulls Ipswich and Oldham level on 19 points but also shows that Ipswich are gaining momentum right now, whilst Oldham are sinking without a trace. We still don’t think Ipswich will escape the drop but they look likely to go down fighting, something we could not have said a month or two ago. Round 25 Table: Tottenham 49; Leeds, Liverpool 43; QPR 42 Barnsley 23; Ipswich, Oldham 19 *** In Division One, Sunderland now lead the way with 50 points. Norwich and Portsmouth are tied on 48 points in the fight for the second automatic promotion place. Crystal Palace, Millwall and Arsenal round out the top six. Top Scorers 14 – Tony Cottee, Everton 12 – Teddy Sheringham, Tottenham 11 – Stan Collymore, Nottingham Forest 10 – Guy Whittingham, Manchester United; Les Ferdinand, QPR/Nottingham Forest 9 – Matt Le Tissier, Southampton; Paul Williams, Leeds; Rod Wallace, Leeds 7- David White, Manchester City; Mark Hughes, Manchester United In the transfer market, Sheffield Wednesday make their second ever million-pound signing, bringing in Eddie Newton from Chelsea. The last time The Owls spent this kind of money, it was on tremendous flop Ronny Rosenthal, so Trevor Francis’s move will be watched with interest. On the other side of the city, Sheffield United bring in striker Bob Taylor from West Bromwich Albion for 200k. Taylor has been reasonably prolific in the lower leagues scoring 83 goals from 233 games and this is his first chance at the top level. Elsewhere in the market, Tottenham pick up young Manchester City striker Adie Mike for 200k, and veteran Irish defender and all around lovely man, Chris Hughton’s Premier League career is over – he leaves Coventry to join Division Three Preston for 20k. Hughton made five appearances during his time with the Sky Blues. *** Round 26 Oh, Tottenham, what are you doing? It’s one win in seven games now after the leaders go down 1-0 against Aston Villa at home. The culprit is a Neil Ruddock own goal, which adds insult to injury. Thus far, Doug Livermore’s side have been able to rely on the equally inconsistent form of the chasing pack, but Leeds seem to be getting up a head of steam now – goals from Frank Strandli and Paul Williams (our pick for signing of the season) give Howard Wilkinson’s men a 2-0 win over Sheffield United. QPR aren’t going to be outdone – they also pick up three points in a 2-1 win over Southampton at home. Simon Barker and Dennis Bailey score for Gerry Francis’s side in the win. Liverpool have clearly been cursed by our prediction that they might have the advantage in the title race a couple of weeks ago -- they lose again, this time falling 1-0 at Selhurst Park to an in-form Wimbledon side. At the bottom of the table, Oldham bounce back from their humiliation last week to pick up a surprising 2-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. Goals from a pair of Neils, Adams and McDonald, give the Latics the win. Ipswich continue to find points, as well, as they grab a draw against Coventry at Portman Road. We can’t say the same for Barnsley who have only one win in seven following a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United at Oakwell. First half goals from Ryan Giggs and Lee Sharpe give Ferguson’s men the win. Round 26 Table: Tottenham 49; Leeds 46; QPR 45; Liverpool 43 Barnsley 23; Oldham 22; Ipswich 20 We book-end this update with another look at Manchester City’s Champions League campaign. Their first home game in the group is against Red Star Belgrade and the game ends in a 1-1 draw. The visitors go up a goal in the first half but are then reduced to ten men. That opens the door for David White to grab a second half equalizer. City have two points from two games, while Red Star top the group with three. In Group A, Norwegian side Lillestrom are the early leaders with three points.
  4. We know there will be no managerial merry-go-round as the result of England hiring Venables; however, there will obviously be a big change in the squad selection logic as he immediately looks towards Euro 1996. We will watch with interest how his picks differ from Taylor’s. *** Round 23 With big-name transfers, cup rounds, European ties, and the appointment of a new national team boss, it feels like an eternity since the last round of league fixtures was completed, but we’re finally back at it. The round’s glamour tie is a first vs second encounter when Tottenham hosted Liverpool. In the first half it is the hosts who jump out in front through a Gordon Durie goal. Although Spurs controlled the possession, in the second half it was Liverpool who generated all the chances—in the second half that paid off when Steve McManaman cut in from the wing and fired one past Erik Thorstvedt. The game ended in a 1-1 draw and the gap between first and second remained at seven points. At Ewood Park, Blackburn hosted third place QPR and the two teams proved to be evenly matched, each ending with 50% possession and 5 attempts on target. The difference ended up being a goal from Irish defender Eddie McGoldrick in a 1-0 win. Fourth-place Leeds were held to a scoreless draw by Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, which allowed Manchester City to equal them on points when Peter Reid’s side beat Manchester United 1-0 at Maine Road. The goal scorer was 26-year-old substitute forward Paul Stephenson who scored his first goal for City in his second appearance since moving from Brentford. At the bottom of the table, Ipswich grind out a point at home in a 1-1 draw against Nottingham Forest. Midfielder Simon Milton scored his first ever goal for Ipswich in the game, while Nigel Clough scored for the visitors. Strugglers Oldham are unlucky to lose 1-0 against Sheffield United – the Latics are clearly the better team but Paul Rodgers’ goal gives Dave Bassett’s men the three points and pulls them away from the drop zone. Also staying in the bottom three are Barnsley who lose 2-0 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – a double from Roy Wegerle is the difference. Round 23 Table: Tottenham 49; Liverpool 42; QPR 39; Man City, Leeds 37 Barnsley 20; Oldham 18; Ipswich 15 *** Midweek we’re back to the Cups and it’s the Coca-Cola Cup Quarter-Finals on tap. With only three Premier League teams among the last eight, we start at Selhurst Park where Wimbledon took on Manchester City in the only all-top-flight tie. David White gave the visitors the lead, but John Fashanu pegged City back before half time. Although the teams were relatively evenly matched, it was the experience of Manchester City that made the difference – a second goal from David White puts Peter Reid’s side through to the last four. In the semi-finals they will play Nottingham Forest who were in tough against Division One side Newcastle but a second-half goal from Stan Collymore gave Brian Clough’s side the 1-0 win. Also in to the last four are Arsenal, who got past Leicester 2-1 thanks to goals from John Jensen and Paul Merson, and Division Two Stoke who beat fellow third-tier side Bolton 3-2 in extra time. *** Round 24 Tottenham navigated last round’s challenge against second-place Liverpool but they’re in tough again this week with a trip to third-place QPR up next. In the first half there is no score, although Tottenham perhaps get the better of the game. In the second half, Les Ferdinand pops up and scores a goal for the hosts against the run of play. It’s nail-biting stuff towards the end, especially when defender Brian Law is sent off for Gerry Francis’s men, but they’re able to hang on for the 1-0 win. That cuts the gap between the two sides to seven points. With Tottenham losing, Liverpool had a great chance to close the gap to the leaders as they were hosting last-place Ipswich. We’ve seen a number of similar situations arise in which the higher-placed club is beaten but when Ipswich defender Paul Mardon is sent off, it seems to be a matter of when, not if, the goal will come. It doesn’t. 0-0 is the final, the Kop is not impressed, but the gap is now six points. Leeds also move closer to the leaders with a 2-1 win over Blackburn at Elland Road. Rod Wallace scores his eighth and ninth goals of the season in the win, while Eddie McGoldrick scores in his second straight game for Rovers. At the bottom of the table, Oldham pick up a point in a 2-2 draw at Derby. The Rams have been in a slide the past few weeks, but the point keeps them in 10th in the league, while it does little to increase Oldham’s chances of avoiding the drop. Barnsley, however, look like they have some fight in them and grab a 1-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday. With Sheffield United losing against Coventry, Barnsley are only one point off safety. Round 24 Table: Tottenham 49; Liverpool 43; QPR 42; Leeds 40 Barnsley 23; Oldham 19; Ipswich 16 During the week we see a huge bit of transfer news as Tottenham sell their star young forward/midfielder Nick Barmby to their supposed biggest rivals, Arsenal, for a fee of 2.4 million. That surpasses the Premier League record 2.3 million paid for Stuart Ripley a couple of months ago, but as it’s a Division One team buying the player, I am not sure whether to consider it a new record. Equally stunning, if not more so, is the announcement that Nottingham Forest have signed Les Ferdinand from QPR for 1.7 million. Ferdinand has really started to come in to his own this year and this decision reeks of QPR giving up on their title hopes, which is sort of disappointing. Other pieces of business that catch our eye include the move of veteran striker Lee Chapman from Leeds to Barnsley for 100k. We think this is a shrewd signing for Mel Machin’s side. Kevin Pressman, Sheffield Wednesday’s backup goalkeeper, is on the move to Wimbledon for 350k, and Paul Cook also joins Wimbledon from Wolves, for a fee of 450k. With three of their biggest rivals in the title race all selling forwards this week, is it advantage Liverpool?
  5. Round 22 The key determining factor in whether Tottenham will be champions (in our minds, at least) will be how they deal with a temporary wobble in form. Heading in to this week’s game Spurs were winless in two and their ten-point lead has quickly shrunk to a five-point advantage over the last two rounds. With a trip to fourth-place Southampton on deck, it looks like a tough test for Doug Livermore’s side. But when the game starts, they are the better side and control the game. Kevin Watson scores in the first half and Teddy Sheringham adds an insurance marker in the second half. Southampton generate several chances in an attempted comeback, but the finishing is poor and the game ends 2-0. Within the chasing pack, Liverpool are held to a 0-0 draw at home by Blackburn even though they looked by far the more likely to score. Third-place QPR dominate their game with Oldham, the 1-0 scoreline not doing the result justice as Gerry Francis’s side had 70% possession. Les Ferdinand, who has improved a lot this season grabbed the only goal in the win. For Oldham it’s another worrying effort and we are nearly ready to write them off. With Southampton’s loss, Leeds jump back in to the top four with a 2-1 win over Coventry. Howard Wilkinson’s men get goals from Rod Wallace and Paul Williams in the win. At the bottom of the table, Barnsley and Oldham split the points in a 1-1 draw at Oakwell. Neil Redfearn scores Barnsley’s goal while Chris Price gets a rare marker for Ipswich. The point really helps neither side. The last game with implications at both ends of the table was the Steel City Derby between Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday at Bramall Lane. Dave Bassett’s men jump out to an early lead with first half goals from Mick Harford and Franz Carr but second half goals from David Hirst and an equalizer by substitute Dean Howells left the game a 2-2 draw. United stay one point above the drop zone, while Wednesday remain in fifth. Round 22 Table: Tottenham 48; Liverpool 41; QPR 39; Leeds 36 Barnsley 20; Oldham 18; Ipswich 14 *** Midweek we hop over to Portugal to see how England’s two remaining European representatives could do in the second legs of their respective ties. As a reminder, Manchester City were in tough against defending Champions League winners Benfica in the third round of their tie but headed back to Portugal with a 1-0 lead. Liverpool also carried a one-goal advantage to Portugal in their UEFA Cup tie against Estoril. A wild first half in Estoril put the result of the Liverpool tie beyond doubt. First half goals from Don Hutchison and Paul Stewart gave the Reds a 3-0 aggregate lead. Estoril then fought back with two first-half goals to level the score 2-2 on the night but maintaining Liverpool’s one goal lead overall. The second half saw Liverpool dominate but unable to add to their advantage – Estoril could barely manage a touch and didn’t threaten Neville Southall’s goal again for the rest of the game. Liverpool will now face Zefat of Israel in the quarter-finals. In Lisbon we confirmed that the Champions League will not have a repeat winner. Peter Reid’s Manchester City squad surprised us all with its performances on the domestic front last season and they’re now doing it in Europe. Sergei Yuran’s opening goal for Benfica erased City’s one goal deficit and it looked like the champions were going to go through when Michael Vonk put one in to his own net but two goals on the counter-attack by David White booked City’s spot in the group stages of the competition. Champions League Groups A: Legia Warsaw, PSV, Lillestrom, Inter B: Steaua Bucharest, Porto, Manchester City, Red Star If I were a betting man (and, well, I am), I would put a flutter on Inter cruising through Group A. Group B is much more open, and although I’d put City as fourth-favourite, I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the four teams made it through. *** After the highs of the Champions League, it’s back to action in the FA Cup Third Round. Manchester City cruise through to round four with a win at home over Division Three Barnet. Liverpool are also easy winners, knocking out Conference side Yeovil 4-1. There are also easy wins over lower-division opponents for Leeds, Manchester United Derby, Blackburn and Tottenham. In the all-Premier League ties, Southampton beat Sheffield Wednesday, while Villa beat Chelsea, Nottingham Forest beat Barnsley, and Crystal Palace knocked out Everton at Selhurst Park. In the transfer market, the biggest news comes from Nottingham where Scot Gemmill is sold by Forest to Aston Villa for £2.2 million. It’s the second-highest transfer fee in Premier League history. It’s a surprising sale but Nottingham Forest are underachieving this year—perhaps they think the money can be better spent elsewhere. In London, Chelsea make a big upgrade in the goalkeeping department. Kevin Hitchock will certainly lose his spot at the Blues’ number one keeper now that David Seaman has arrived at Stamford Bridge. Dave Webb only had to pay 450k for Seaman, who was desperate for a move away from Highbury now that Kasey Keller had taken the role as Arsenal’s number one. Also in the transfer market, former England international defender Alvin Martin leaves West Ham after 18 years to join Division Two strugglers Plymouth Argyle on a free transfer. Lastly, to put a wrap on 1993, Peter Reid was named Manager of the Month for December. QPR’s Gary Penrice is named Player of the Month. Up next … there's a new man in charge of the national team
  6. Love this. A better, simpler time.
  7. Good question, Hawk. I’d say a basic version will be posted at the end of Season Two. I have built a master spreadsheet already but it’s just a fraction of what I want it to become over time. (Only two years’ worth of data doesn’t make for particularly interesting all-time stats) So far, I’ve captured every goalscorer in each of the first two seasons, club record transfers, as well as the top 50 transfers overall, England internationals (current and all-time), Premier League Hat Tricks, Manager and Player of the Month Awards and the Annual Awards and Team of the Year. Those pieces will grow out every year. Over time we’ll include club and competition histories, managerial histories and maybe some other things, too. =============== We kick off the second half of the season with a foray back into Europe where both Manchester City and Liverpool are in action, and both teams are hosting sides from Portugal. City take on defending Champions League winners Benfica, while Liverpool host Estoril. Manchester City will know that they will need a bit of luck to knock out the defending champions. They seem capable of hanging with Benfica in the first half, and actually take the lead through an Ian Brightwell goal. Russian striker Sergei Yuran, who scored the winning goal in last year’s Champions League final is especially threatening for the Portuguese side and he imposes himself on the game as it progresses. Benfica pepper Tony Coton’s goal with chances, registering 20 shots throughout the game, but City’s defense holds and the game ends 1-0! Benfica will still feel very confident about their chances of advancing though. It isn’t exactly routine for Liverpool, either, but they also pick up a 1-0 win in their UEFA Cup tie. They benefit from an own goal in the first half, but when David Burrows is sent off, it’s nail-biting stuff for the Kop. Ultimately, Neville Southall holds strong and the Reds hold the advantage heading back to Portugal. *** Round 20 We went on record as predicting Leeds would end the year as champions despite being 12 points back of Tottenham. Suffice it to say they lost their next game, going down 1-0 at home against Everton. Tottenham lost, too, though – going down 1-0 to Sheffield United thanks to a Dion Dublin goal. Although the Blades generated more chances throughout the game, the match was pretty even, and a draw might have been a fairer result. Two teams near the top of the table managed to close the gap on Spurs: Liverpool, fresh off their UEFA Cup win, beat Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 at home. Steve McManaman grabbed the goal, and although the hosts went down to ten men for the second straight game when Martin Keown was sent off, Liverpool were deserving winners. The other team to close the gap was Southampton who got two goals from Irish defender-cum-forward Garry Kelly in a 2-0 win over hapless Ipswich. QPR keep chugging along in fourth place after a 2-2 draw at home against Chelsea. Les Ferdinand and Gary Penrice score for the hosts while Andy Townsend and Damian Matthew grabbed the goals for the Blues. At the bottom of the table, Oldham slipped to 19th after Sheffield United’s win and the Latics’ loss to Wimbledon at Selhurst Park. The Dons were 1-0 winners thanks to a John Scales goal but should have won by a wider margin, a worrying sign for Joe Royle’s side. We still expect Barnsley to go down at the end of the year and they slide into the bottom three after losing 2-1 at home against Blackburn. If the Tykes are to have any chance of staying up, they’ll rely heavily on Martin Allen and he scores Barnsley’s goal in this one, but they were more than cancelled out by Graham Hyde’s double. Round 20 Table: Tottenham 44; Liverpool 37; Southampton 34; QPR 33 Barnsley, Sheff Utd 19; Oldham 18; Ipswich Top Scorers 12 – Tony Cottee, Everton 11 – Teddy Sheringham, Tottenham 8 – Guy Whittingham, Man Utd; Stan Collymore, Nottingham Forest 7 – Les Ferdinand, QPR; Paul Williams, Leeds 6 – David White, Man City; Paul Stewart, Liverpool; Rod Wallace, Leeds; Tommy Widdrington, Southampton *** During the week we see a Premier League Record Transfer. During our mid-year report cards, we predicted we might see Blackburn sell some of their assets because their current approach didn’t seem to be working. They wasted no time. The Premier League transfer fee record is smashed when they sell 26-year-old midfielder Stuart Ripley to Everton for £2.3 million. The previous record was £1.7 million for the transfer of Gavin Johnson from Ipswich to Manchester City in the summer. It is worth noting that although this is a Premier League transfer record, it’s less than half of the British transfer record of £5.5 million Marseille paid for Trevor Steven in 1991 and Lazio paid for Paul Gascoigne in 1992. Premier League Record Transfers Stuart Ripley Blackburn --> Everton £2.3m Gavin Johnson Ipswich --> Man City £1.7m Ronny Rosenthal Liverpool --> Sheff Wed £1.675m David McEnroe QPR --> Man Utd £1.6m Roy Wegerle Coventry --> Chelsea £1.6m Paul Stewart Blackburn à Liverpool £1.6m *** Round 21 Getting nervous, Tottenham fans? Spurs hosted Nottingham Forest in one of the round’s feature ties and jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first half thanks to goals from Andy Hinchcliffe and Kevin Watson. In the second half Stan Collymore took over – a brace from the mercurial Forest striker meant the teams split the points. Meanwhile, up in Oldham, Liverpool were turning over a battling Oldham side. One of the surprises of the season, Torben Piechnik, opened the scoring in the first half for the Reds but Latics winger Neil Adams tied it up before the break. In the second half, Don Hutchison grabbed a winner – Oldham will feel hard done by as their efforts deserved a point but just like that the gap between first and second is down to five points. Third-place Southampton were in tough this week with a trip to Hillsborough to take on Sheffield Wednesday. Young defender Richard Hall has been one of the Saints’ stars this season, but he puts one into the wrong net to give the Owls a 1-0 lead. American John Harkes doubles the lead in the second half and Wednesday end up winning the game 2-0. That result puts both teams on 34 points. Up at Highfield Road, QPR are continuing their strong run with a 1-0 win over Coventry – Gary Penrice scores in the second straight game for Rangers to give them the win. At the bottom of the table, Ipswich pick up a point at home against Derby. Club record signing Niall Quinn scored for the hosts while Craig Ramage replied for Arthur Cox’s side. Sheffield United seem to be starting to get their season on track. After beating Spurs last week, they travel to London and pick up a draw at Stamford Bridge. Glyn Hodges and David Barnes score for the Blades in the first half. Damian Matthew and Graham Stuart scored for the Blues. That result, combined with Barnsley’s 2-0 loss at Villa Park means the Blades are out of the bottom three, while Mel Machin’s side are in the relegation spaces. Round 21 Table: Tottenham 45; Liverpool 40; QPR 36; Southampton, Sheff Wed 34 Barnsley 19; Oldham 18; Ipswich 13
  8. Mid-Year Report Cards - Part Three 7th – Manchester United Halfway Grade: 6 out of 10. Same as last year – never able to string together a run of results. What we said: " 3rd. Too inconsistent last season to hang with the leaders last year, but this is a team that should be full of excitement, pace and goals, and should be near the top of the pile all year.” Star Man: Mark Hughes. The inconsistency has continued but the Welsh forward has been leading the line all year. What to expect: Bragging rights at the end of the year for finishing higher than their Manchester rivals and a couple of players offloaded. 6th – Sheffield Wednesday Halfway Grade: 7 out of 10. After taking a step back last year they’ve solidified themselves in the second tier of teams. What we said: “9th. The pieces are there to contend, but the team would benefit from one or two more signings, specifically on the left side or in the centre of midfield.” Star Man: Chris Bart-Williams. We picked him to have a big year and he has come through in spades, now plays primarily up front. Honorable mention to Phil King who we saw as a weakness but has played so well he’s in consideration for an England setup. What to expect: A top six push and David Hirst announcing a move abroad. 5th – Southampton Halfway Grade: 9 out of 10. Note to self: stop picking Southampton to go down. What we said: “18th. Too good to go down on paper, but we think Southampton's defence and midfield leaves them vulnerable to the drop.” Star Man: Richard Hall. This has really been a team performance with no true standout, but Hall has been a rock at the back. What to expect: Okay, okay, they’re a good young side. We expect them to continue to prove us wrong and finish somewhere in the top half. 4th – QPR Halfway Grade: 8 out of 10. Consistent without being spectacular, but in a division plagued by inconsistency and parody that will always have you among the leaders. What we said: “10th. Consistent and unspectacular, destined for another season mid-pack.” Star Man: Ian Holloway. Yes he’s a bit of a character but he’s been the lynchpin in the centre of the park. What to expect: The signing of a strike partner for Les Ferdinand and trying to ready themselves for a title run next year. 3rd – Leeds Halfway Grade: 7.5 out of 10. Got off to a slow start but have climbed the table all year. What we said: “2nd. We like the business they've done this year, clearing out some of the aging squad and bringing in a new number one in Nigel Martyn and a useful forward in Paul Williams. We expect they'll be among the leaders again.” Star Man: Gary McAllister. The heart of the midfield, the Scottish international has been massive all year and looks a near certainty to be in the Premier League team of the Year at the end of the season. What to expect: With a couple of key players destined for the continent next year, we have a sneaking suspicion they might try to add one or two more players and make a real run at the title because this will probably be their last shot. 2nd – Liverpool Halfway Grade: 8 out of 10. Snuck up the table and have flown under the radar doing it. The sign of a champion? What we said: “7th. We can't help but feel like this team is moving backwards. The midfield is aging and not good enough, and there is an obvious lack of goals unless one of Marsh, Stewart or Don Hutchison steps up a lot.” Star Man: Torben Piechnik. Solid at the back and has chipped in with a few goals, which is a huge bonus. What to expect: Objectively we still think this team is flawed and too old to last the season but considering the team in front of them has no experience, too much experience may not be a bad thing. We’ll be curious to see how they respond to Tottenham’s first wobble. 1st – Tottenham Halfway Grade: 10 out of 10. A 10-point lead in the Premier League at the halfway mark – Spurs fans could not have asked for more. What we said: “14th. We really like what they’re building, but we think they're still 1-2 years away from competing.” Star Man: Teddy Sheringham. On track to being the top scorer this year, Sheringham’s goals have made Spurs contenders now. What to expect: We don’t expect Spurs to run away with the title but with a 10 point lead it’s tough to see who will catch them. There will be a loss in form at some point, how they respond will prove whether they’re pretenders or champions-elect. All things considered, we don’t feel that bad about our predictions, but there's still plenty of time for us to be proven wrong. As we look back in to our crystal ball, this is how we now see things shaping up at the end of the year. Manager of the Year: 1) Howard Wilkinson, Leeds (surprise! -ed); 2) Doug Livermore, Tottenham; 3) Ian Branfoot, Southampton Player of the Year: 1) Nigel Clough, Nottingham Forest; 2) Gary McAllister, Leeds; 3) Tony Adams, Aston Villa First Manager Sacked: Dave Webb, Chelsea. Can we just admit this isn’t working? The board and supporters have been very patient but that team is better than consecutive 16th-place finishes. Champions: Leeds. Before you roll your eyes, faithful reader, let us explain! In the summer Leeds are likely to lose McAllister, Gary Speed and Tony Dorigo to moves abroad. We expect Howard Wilkinson will double down and add to his squad with one or two more players to make a real title run. On the other hand, we aren’t sold on Tottenham yet – we think they need at least one season as contenders before they can become champions. Flawed logic? We’ll see. Relegated: 18th – Oldham; 19th – Barnsley; 20th – Ipswich. Up next… the second half of the year!
  9. Mid-Year Report Cards: Part Two 14th – Aston Villa Halfway Grade: 5 out of 10. Too inconsistent for a team that had hopes of being amongst the leaders this year. What we said: "5th. The signing of Tony Adams is a great bit of business. A strong squad on paper, our only concern is whether there is enough depth in midfield.” Star Man: Tony Adams. We stand by our pre-season evaluation: the former Arsenal captain has been a great buy for Ron Atkinson’s side, and he won Premier League Player of the Month in October. What to expect: Improvement! The all new central defence pairing of Adams and recent signing Steve Redmond from Oldham will become more comfortable together, Dean Saunders and Dalian Atkinson will score goals and the young midfield will get better. 13th – Wimbledon Halfway Grade: 6 out of 10. Pretty much exactly as expected. What we said: “11th. We don't expect John Fashanu to win another Golden Boot, but we like the pieces here enough to feel confident the Dons will ensure another season of survival.” Star Man: John Fashanu. The goals haven’t come like they did last year, but he has regularly been the Dons best player. What to expect: Mid-table anonymity – exactly what Joe Kinnear would have been hoping for this year. 12th – Everton Halfway Grade: 5 out of 10. Slightly underachieving so far this campaign despite the best efforts of Tony Cottee. What we said: “8th. Need to sell before they can buy but their defense needs some additional quality and a young forward wouldn’t go amiss either.” Star Man: Tony Cottee. He has really surprised us by being the Premier League’s joint top scorer. Considering how little Peter Beardsley has been used, someone needed to carry the torch. What to expect: We said at the start of the year that Everton needed to sell before they could buy. They’ve sold some squad players in the first half, we expect a couple of key signings will help lift them up the table. 11th – Nottingham Forest Halfway Grade: 4 out of 10. We considered them a darkhorse title contender, but they’ve proven to be too inconsistent. What we said: “4th. We're probably nearing the end of the line for Brian Clough but with his son and Stan Collymore up front, and a centre midfield pairing of Keane and Gemmill, he has assembled one of the best squads in the country.” Star Man: Nigel Clough. Maybe he doesn’t score as many goals as his old man would like but he’s got 10 man of the match awards in the first half of the year, which is a testament to his incredible influence on a game. What to expect: Cloughie to announce his retirement and Forest to rally around him and finish in the top six. 10th – Blackburn Halfway Grade: 5.5 out of 10. Another team stuck in mid-table that we expected more from. What we said: “6th. We anticipated it would take a year for the team to get up to speed in the Premier League. They've had their year - now it's time to step up.” Star Man: Mike Newell. A perfectly useful player but shouldn’t be leading a team that aspires to be a contender. What to expect: We’re not sure. We think it might be time to admit the plans to buy a title just aren’t going to work. There are too many comings and goings for them to be a contender so it’s a case of whether they’re happy in mid-table or sell some players to try and rebuild. 9th – Manchester City Halfway Grade: 4 out of 10. Up at the top of the table for the first quarter of the season but playing in four competitions is proving to be too much. What we said: 1st. We remain slightly unsure about the midfield but this is the best squad in the league right now. They have enough goals to shrug off the sale of Quinn, and the addition of Gavin Johnson is a great pickup. Star Man: Rick Holden. Mike Sheron would have been the obvious answer for his goals but Holden’s play on the wing has been responsible for most of the team’s good work. What to expect: A lot of games in the second half of the year! Something’s got to give, but we expect a very tired team that ends up sacrificing league form to focus one two (or three) cup runs. Good news for the other contenders. 8th – Derby County Halfway Grade: 9 out of 10. Starting to fade away now but were the early pace-setters and turned a lot of heads. What we said: “15th. We don't like the transfer business made over the off-season (80k players from Division Three aren’t likely to help you stay up), but the young strike force should be enough to keep them up.” (Update: The two 80k Division three players in question, Gareth Bull and Ian Rodgerson, have managed two combined appearances in the first half of the year) Star Man: Tommy Johnson. Has adjusted to life in the top-flight with ease scoring five goals. What to expect: We expect the team will sink to its true level, around 14th to 16th, by the end of the year. Youngsters Johnson and his partner Paul Kitson will begin to attract attention from bigger clubs.
  10. Thanks, Minuy. If you end up trying to take on something similar, I hope you write about it! =================================== Welcome, everyone, to one of my personal favourites times of the year – mid-season report cards! Not only do I get to pass judgement on others’ performance, but I also get to look like a fool as we revisit my pre-season predictions. Win-win! Mid-Year Report Cards: Part One 20th – Ipswich Halfway Grade: 3 out of 10. Not just last but look some ways off the other relegation strugglers. Disappointing, even by the low expectations we had in advance. What we said: "19th. …their squad seems unbalanced and prone to being overrun in midfield. We think their time is up." Star Man: Niall Quinn – tough to fairly evaluate the Irish striker so far. From an absolute perspective, needs to score more goals, but has been the best player on a very bad team. What to expect: Relegation and John Lyall getting the sack. Sorry, Ipswich fans. 19th – Sheffield United Halfway Grade: 2 out of 10. It’s difficult to avoid using last year’s form as the benchmark, even though we knew they were going to take a step back from finishing second. However you look at it, this has been a disappointing first half of the year. What we said: "12th. The Blades were a magnificent story last year but realistically this is a mid-table team and they'll come back to earth.” Star Man: John Gannon… maybe? He’s been decent in midfield but the fact we’re singling out a decent midfielder as the star is a pretty damning indictment on what’s gone wrong for Dave Bassett’s men. What to expect: They’ll be in a relegation fight all year long. We still expect them to find a decent run of form and escape the drop. If things continue to regress, we’d also look for a managerial change, although we know Bassett will have built up a lot of cache with the Blades board. 18th – Oldham Halfway Grade: 4.5 out of 10. Started well but have quickly been exposed as one of the thinnest squads in the division. What we said: "17th. This is a paper-thin squad, but Joe Royle’s management ability and tactical nous should be enough to see the Latics stay up. Just.” Star Man: Devon White. Who would have seen his performances coming? A 30-year-old who had only played in one top-flight game before this year and managed only two goals in Division One last year, has 5 Premier League goals already this campaign. What to expect: More of the same. They’ve been well-beaten on several occasions already this year, which concerns us, but we think Royle’s managerial ability will be the difference and they’ll grind out another 20-25 points in the second half of the year, which should be enough to survive. But it’ll be close. 17th – Barnsley Halfway Grade: 7 out of 10. A team that looked hopelessly overmatched have done surprisingly well so far. What we said: "20th. Promotion was a great story, but this lineup is horribly overmatched. They’ll fight hard but they need serious investment in quality players to stay up.” Star Man: Lee Butler. It’s always a worry when your keeper is the star man but no outfield player has been particularly noteworthy while Butler has been an ever-present and helped the Tykes steal a few points already. What to expect: The signing of a striker. The top scorers on the team have two goals – someone is going to need to do more if they are to have any chance of staying up. 16th – Chelsea Halfway Grade: 5 out of 10. Deep down I just want to believe they’re better than the mediocre stuff we’ve seen the past 18 months… I might be wrong. What we said: "16th. There is a decent squad here but it would be in Chelsea's best interest to find a better manager quickly, as the Blues have consistently under-performed for Dave Webb.” Star Man: Andy Townsend. The captain has been really impressive in the centre of the midfield. Roy Wegerle looks like an inspired signing and has hit the ground running, too. What to expect: Either a climb up the table or a sacking. 16th just isn’t good enough, even if I predicted that to be their final position. 15th – Coventry Halfway Grade: 5 out of 10. A completely forgettable first half of the year, and we don’t mean it was bad, just not memorable in any way). What we said: "13th. There is the potential for it all to go wrong but we think there are enough goals in the front line to keep them up.” Star Man: Stewart Robson. A player who gets no love, he’s been the Sky Blues’ most consistent midfielder over the past two years. What to expect: Peter Ndlovu to hit double digits in goals. With Roy Wegerle gone, Ndlovu will take on a lot of the additional expectations. We think he can handle it.
  11. Thanks, Chris, for confirming how we’re running the internationals on the CM1 engine. As I said, it is not ideal but once we move over to CM2 (and for the 20-odd seasons to follow) there will be no such concerns. And I felt like it was important to incorporate CM1’s international squad selections somehow, rather than ignore the feature. ========= And then there were three. After the third round of the Coca-Cola Cup we noted that there was a decent possibility of an unlikely winner or finalist in the competition, thanks to a lot of the Premier League clubs being bounced early on. Only five of the last 16 clubs in the draw were from the top flight, that has been reduced to three from eight. Manchester City advanced to the quarter finals thanks to a shambolic performance by Brighton – 29% possession, zero shots on target and two own goals in a night to forget for the Seagulls. Nottingham Forest were able to get by Division One Wolves at Molineux. Although Brian Clough’s side were the visitors, they shut down Wolves and Graham Turner’s side didn’t get a shot on target. Forest’s lone goal in the 1-0 win came from Northern Irish winger Kingsley Black. In the lone all-Premier League tie Everton hosted Wimbledon at Goodison Park. The hosts took the lead in the first half through a Tony Cottee goal, but Joe Kinnear’s men surged back in the second half and got goals from John Fashanu and a winner from Andy Clarke to book the Dons’ place in the quarter finals. The only Premier League team to lose to lower division opponents were Chelsea, who fell 2-1 in extra time to Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle. Craig Burley put the Blues in front in the first half, substitute John Spencer scored to tie it up in the second half and Andy Cole (remember him?) fired in the winner in extra time. In the quarter finals, Newcastle will take on Forest, Wimbledon will take on Man City, Arsenal will face Leicester in an all-Division One matchup, and Stoke will face Bolton in an all-Division Two contest. In a pre-taped segment aired during half-time of the Chelsea Newcastle game, November's Manager of the Month award is handed to Graeme Souness, while Nottingham Forest man Nigel Clough is named Player of the Month. When Nigel's manager (and father) Brian Clough is asked to comment on Nigel's performance, he responds: "Who's that? Number 8? He should score more goals." Parents... *** Round 19 We end the first half of the season with a first vs second matchup. Hopefully, we’ll see something similar 19 rounds from now, but without the nine-point gap that exists between Tottenham and Leeds today. Without spoiling too much from our mid-year report cards, we are not surprised to see Leeds in second, but Spurs performance has been somewhat unexpected. We knew they were building something good, but they’ve exceeded all of our expectations so far, especially when contrasted to the fortunes of their North London neighbours Arsenal. Spurs leading man this year has been Teddy Sheringham who has surged straight to the top of the goal scoring charts with 10 so far. The game was cagey in the first half, with three bookings and no goals, both sides not wanting to be left exposed to a counter-attack. In the second half, though, a goal came, and 10 goal Teddy Sheringham became 11 goal Teddy Sheringham after he latched on to a Scott Houghton cross. It was the only goal of a very even, nervous contest but Spurs’ lead over Leeds is now up to 12 points. Liverpool managed to keep pace with Tottenham, thanks to a 1-0 win over Aston Villa at Villa Park. Much was hoped for from Don Hutchison but he has yet to fulfill his promise. Liverpool fans will be hoping that his game winner is the start of the 22-year-old achieving his potential. With the win, Graeme Souness’s side remain 10 points behind Tottenham. Sheffield Wednesday were not able to keep pace with the leaders, losing 2-0 at home to Nottingham Forest. Carl Tiler and Stan Collymore score for Forest in the deserving win. At the bottom of the table, we predicted Ipswich would go down before the start of the year then doubled down on our prediction a couple of weeks into the year. At the halfway point we have yet to see anything (other than our horrible record with predictions) that leads us to believe they’ll be able to escape the drop zone. They round out the first half by losing 1-0 at home against QPR in a typically uninspired performance. We can’t help but wonder how much longer John Lyall will be left in charge. Sheffield United’s fall from grace has saddened us all year. Theirs was such a great story last year but it looks like all of the magic is used up. While we predicted a regression to the mean this year, we didn’t expect them to go down – now it seems quite likely. They, too, end the first half of the season with a lifeless 1-0 loss, in this case it’s at Everton. If Oldham are to avoid the drop, they’re going to have to stop beating themselves. Down 2-0 against Manchester United in the first half, Nick Henry exacts his form of revenge on one of the goalscorers, Ryan Giggs, with a fierce two-footed tackle. Henry is sent off and the result becomes a mere formality. The Latics are one point off safety and are more than capable of surviving but need to be smarter and more disciplined. Round 19 Table: 1) Tottenham – 44 2) Liverpool – 34 3) Leeds – 32 4) QPR - 32 5) Southampton – 31 6) Sheffield Wednesday – 31 7) Manchester United – 30 8) Derby – 30 9) Manchester City – 29 10) Blackburn – 26 11) Nottingham Forest – 26 12) Everton – 25 13) Wimbledon – 22 14) Aston Villa – 22 15) Coventry – 20 16) Chelsea – 19 17) Barnsley – 19 18) Oldham – 18 19) Sheffield United – 16 20) Ipswich - 12 Division One Table: Norwich, Crystal Palace 37 / Sunderland, Portsmouth 34; Arsenal 33; Millwall, Wolves 31 Up next: The Mid-Year Report Cards…
  12. King Jeff

    Heart of Asia: Going Back to the 2002 World Cup

    Another one of those delightful little scheduling quirks for Seoul to get two quarter-final fixtures on the same day, eh? I'm thinking Italy Argentina final. As an old guy, this story has been just delightful to read. So much nostalgia and so many great names! It also made me realize how little I remember about the tournament itself -- sadly, my only lingering memories were the farcical refereeing in the Korea games, Senegal beating France, Robbie Keane being brilliant (but I might be totally off on that), and Beckham scoring against Argentina. I'm curious how 16 years of hindsight has changed my perspective so I'm going to dive into some highlights on YouTube in the next few days.
  13. After eliminating AC Milan in the first round of the UEFA Cup, Liverpool must have felt confident heading into their second-round tie against Swiss side FC Zurich. However, this was the same FC Zurich side that beat Leeds in the previous round so they, too, must have felt confident of a win. The first leg at Anfield started as well as Graeme Souness could have hoped for, with Paul Stewart scoring two goals in the first half. Pundits often say there’s nothing like Anfield on a European night but the Swiss side were not intimidated by the atmosphere – instead they controlled the second half and pulled one goal back to make the final score 2-1 Liverpool. Heading back to Switzerland with a one-goal deficit and a crucial away goal, Zurich will feel confident of their chances of getting through. *** Last year Ronny Rosenthal signed for Sheffield Wednesday for a Premier League record transfer fee of £1.675 million. 18 appearances and one goal later, Rosenthal is shipped back to Merseyside for a pittance. The Israeli international will now line up on the Blue side of Liverpool, however, signing for Everton for just 650k. Honestly, we rated Rosenthal and are surprised that he’s been a complete bust at Hillsborough. At 30, we think he has a couple of good years left in him. Elsewhere in the transfer market, Leeds pick up left-sided player Mark Stimson from Newcastle for 350k. Stimson was a fringe player at Newcastle making just nine appearances last year and no appearances this season, so we don’t expect him to make much of an impact. Round 17 Ronny Rosenthal is in the lineup for Everton when they travel to Oakwell to face Barnsley. The new man plays alongside top-scorer Tony Cottee up front but it’s another recent signing to ends up stealing the headlines, as million pound man Don Goodman comes off the bench to grab the winner in a 2-1 Everton victory. Defender Matt Jackson opened the scoring in the first half then Keith Jones equalized for the home side, but when Michael Johnson was sent off it became advantage Everton. Cottee was replaced by Goodman, and the former Sunderland man grabbed the points for a deserving Everton side. At the top of the table, Tottenham are starting to pull away from the pack. Teddy Sheringham (who else?) scores the lone goal in Spurs’ 1-0 win at Old Trafford. Meanwhile, a David White double saw Manchester City knock off QPR 2-0 at Loftus Road. The home side were reduced to ten men after Brian Law saw red early on. That means the gap between first and second is now nine points. Leeds are up to second place after beating Chelsea 2-1 at Elland Road. Set piece goals from David Kerslake and Jon Newsome gave the hosts the victory; Damian Matthew scored in the loss. Elsewhere, Paul Stewart capped off a brilliant week by scoring his second brace in a matter of days in Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Coventry. One of the forgotten men, Steve Nicol, grabbed the other goal in a rare appearance. After being an ever-present for nearly a decade, it was only the Scot’s third league start of the season. Sheffield United’s win streak is halted at one thanks to a 1-0 defeat at home against Blackburn. Mike Newell has been Rovers’ star man this year and scores the only goal in this one, however the hosts were not helped by David Barnes getting sent off. It’s another loss for Ipswich, as well. They, too, fall 1-0 this week, losing to Wimbledon at Selhurst Park. Robbie Earle grabs the goal for the Dons. Everton’s win propels them out of the bottom three, with Coventry replacing them. Oldham stay outside of the drop zone on goal difference after drawing 1-1 with Southampton at the Dell. Richard Hall scored for the hosts while Darren Beckford picked up the goal for Joe Royle’s side. Round 17 Table: Tottenham 38; Leeds, QPR 29; Liverpool, Southampton, Derby, Sheff Wed 28 Oldham, Coventry 18; Sheff Utd 16; Ipswich 11 *** The transfer market is busy during the week with both Ipswich and Coventry splashing the cash in an attempt to avoid the drop. Ipswich spend 1 million on 24-year-old defender Paul Mardon. Mardon, who was signed from Birmingham last year, had become a regular starter for Everton this year so it’s surprising they’d sell; however, this does seem like an awfully high transfer fee. Coventry spend a total of 900k on upgrading their midfield. 700k is spent on Hungarian winger Istvan Kozma, signed from Liverpool, while the other 200k goes towards Vaughan Ryan of Plymouth. The 25-year-old Ryan made 61 appearances for the Pilgrims since signing from Wimbledon at the start of last season. Elsewhere in the league, Wimbledon make the curious decision to let Dean Holdsworth leave for Millwall. Holdsworth had 6 goals from 14 appearances in all competitions for the Dons this year. Millwall, on the other hand, have a forward who might be capable of helping them secure promotion to the Premier League. Lastly, we look to the bottom of Division One where Swansea are rooted to the foot of the table. How will they find a way to embolden the team spirit and results they need to fight their way out of the relegation zone? This man. Alan Pardew dad-dances his way to South Wales to sign on with the Swans. Charlton recoup a transfer fee of 50k for Pards and Alan Curbishley is probably tempted to do a little dance himself for that deal. In Switzerland, Liverpool are in tough against FC Zurich in the second leg of their UEFA Cup tie. But, as he has done so many times, John Barnes puts together a moment of brilliance, storming down the left, breaking through the defence, rounding the keeper and finishing a great individual goal to give the Reds the first half lead. From that point on, the result was never in doubt – Zurich pressed for a goal and had the better of the chances the rest of the way but Neville Southall and the Liverpool back four stood tall and the game ended 1-0 for the Reds. Up next is Estoril of Portgual. *** Round 18 With the teams nearly at the half-way mark, the league table makes for some happy reading if you’re a Spurs fan. Tottenham go from strength to strength winning again, this time 1-0 over Barnsley at home. Ian Woan scores his first ever goal for Spurs in the win. Remaining nine points back of the leaders is Leeds. Howard Wilkinson’s men turn over Aston Villa at Villa Park thanks to a brace from Paul Wiliams. QPR fall 12 points back, though, after they are beaten 3-2 by Everton at Goodison. Tony Cottee gets his nose in front of the scoring charts with a double, while Peter Beardsley scores his first of the season in the win. Ian Holloway and Simon Barker score for Gerry Francis’s side in defeat. In the relegation places, Ipswich are picking up a lot of draws but they’re not picking up enough wins. They hold Manchester United to a scoreless draw at Portman Road to inch one point closer to safety. The problem is that the team in 17th, Coventry , also picked up a draw against Derby so it’s as you were. The draws are better results than either Oldham or Sheffield United could muster – Oldham lose 2-0 at home against Nottingham Forest, while Sheffield United are easily turned over 3-0 by Manchester City. Round 18 Table: Tottenham 41; Leeds 32; Liverpool, Sheff Wed 31 Oldham 18; Sheff Utd 16; Ipswich 12 Up next -- we reach the halfway mark of the season...
  14. San Marino vs England World Cup 94 Qualifying England: Chris Woods; Tony Dorigo (c), Des Walker, Gary Pallister, Gavin Johnson; Kevin Watson, Nigel Clough, David Platt, Tony Daley; David Hirst, Mike Sheron Over to you, John Motson… 8.3 seconds, the fastest goal in World Cup Qualifying history. And that was that. For the remaining 89 minutes and 51 seconds it was one-way traffic and David Hirst, Nigel Clough and Mike Sheron used the game as an opportunity to pad their international stats – Hirst grabbed four, Clough two and Sheron his first international goal – but the result was inconsequential thanks to Holland winning in Poland. Graham Taylor announced his resignation days after the result. That’s yer allotment. San Marino 1 – Gualtieri 1’ (0:08) England 7 – Clough 22’, 73’; Hirst 34’, 46’, 78’ 90’; Sheron 38 *** Round 15 Back in the Premier League, new leaders Tottenham travel to third-place Sheffield Wednesday in the round’s feature tie. Doug Livermore’s Spurs embrace their role as leaders and are the far better side throughout the game. Vinny Samways didn’t feature in the England squad mid-week, but he stamps his authority on this one and scores the game’s only goal in a 1-0 win. Second-place Derby might be suffering from their first wobble of the year as they drop points for the second straight game, after being held to a 0-0 draw at home by Leeds. The latest team to fly under the radar but are now in a position to take on the leaders are Gerry Francis’s QPR. Equal fourth place heading in to the game, the Rs send a warning shot to the lead pack by travelling to Anfield and taking apart Liverpool 2-0. Andy Impey and Les Ferdinand score the goals for the visitors, while Russell Beardsmore gets himself sent off in the dying minutes of the fixture. At the bottom of the table, Ipswich and Everton play out a goalless draw that helps neither side. Sheffield United break their eight-game winless streak by surprising Wimbledon 3-1 at Selhurst Park, and Coventry breakout of the bottom three by beating Chelsea 2-1 at Highfield Road. Ex-Coventry man Roy Wegerle scores his second goal in two games since joining the Blues but his replacement in the starting lineup Graeme Sharp does one better and hits both goals for Bobby Gould’s side. Round 15 Table: Tottenham 32; Derby 28; QPR 26; Sheff Wed 25 Everton, Barnsley 16; Sheff Utd 15; Ipswich 10 Top Scorers 9 – Teddy Sheringham, Tottenham; Tony Cottee, Everton 7 – Guy Whittingham, Man Utd; Stan Collymore, Nottingham Forest 6 – Les Ferdinand, QPR 5 – Devon White, Oldham; Matt Le Tissier, Southampton; Paul Williams, Leeds; Rod Wallace, Leeds; Tommy Johnson, Derby Down in Division One, Crystal Palace have 34 points and lead the way by one point over Norwich. Millwall, Arsenal, Wolves and Portsmouth are all tied on 28 points, with a five-point gap to seventh-place Grimsby. To end the month, Gerry Francis of QPR is named Manager of the Month, while Tony Adams of Aston Villa is named Player of the Month. With monthly account ledgers cleared, there is a flurry of transfer activity in England. Sunderland forward Don Goodman joins Everton for a club record fee of 1 million. The proceeds are clearly burning a hole in Terry Butcher’s pocket as he signs two right away: ex-Liverpool and England man Steve McMahon joins from Manchester City for 100k, while young Aston Villa defender Ugo Ehiogu arrives for a club record 820k. Ehiogu played twice for Villa last year and four times this year – at 21 he is just starting to break through, and we think this will prove to be a very good signing for Sunderland. Elsewhere in the top flight, Chelsea unload striker Steve Livingstone, who is now surplus to requirements with the arrival of Roy Wegerle. Livingstone joins West Ham for 550k. Division One front-runners Crystal Palace sign Blackburn’s backup keeper Darren Collier for 250k – Palace hadn’t replaced Nigel Martyn, instead relying on 22-year-old Andy Woodman, but now they’re in a legitimate promotion fight more cover was required. *** Round 16 It’s first v second at White Hart Lane when Tottenham host Derby and the gulf in class is obvious. Led by Premier League top scorer Teddy Sheringham and his strike partner Gordon Durie, Spurs control the game throughout and end up 2-1 winners. Martin Kuhl pulls back a consolation marker for Derby. “We showed the country and our supporters what we’re capable of,” said Spurs boss Doug Livermore after the match. Derby is now winless in three and have to contend with their first wobble in form all season. It’ll be an interesting test to see what they’re capable of. Tottenham’s nearest contender is now QPR. Fresh off Gerry Francis being named Manager of the Month, his side send off Aston Villa 1-0 at Loftus Road. Darren Peacock gets the goal for the Rs. At Old Trafford, fourth-place Sheffield Wednesday go down a man when Paul Warhurst gets sent off and from there it’s pedestrian stuff as Manchester United cruise past Wednesday 2-0. Paul Ince and Mark Hughes get the goals for United. That opens the door for Southampton to make our pre-season pick of them going down look more and more ridiculous, and sure enough they deliver. Goals from Tommy Widdrington and Gary Kelly give Ian Branfoot’s men a 2-1 win over Everton at Goodison Park. Tony Cottee, the division’s joint top scorer, scores for the Toffees in a losing effort. At the bottom of the table, there’s a relegation six-pointer between the two bottom clubs in the division, and they put on a show. Sheffield United get a hat trick from Brian Deane, while Chris Kiwomya scores twice and Jason Dozzell adds Ipswich’s third goal in a 3-3 tie. Sheffield United’s point puts them level with Everton on 16, while Ipswich stay five adrift. Barnsley were tied with Everton heading into the round but they move three points clear of the drop zone with a big 1-0 win over fellow strugglers Coventry at Oakwell. Recent signing Martin Allen scores his first Barnsley goal in the win. Round 16 Table: Tottenham 35; QPR 29; Derby 28; Southampton 27 Everton, Sheff Utd 16; Ipswich 11