They say that London is a
city of two hundred languages and two million immigrants. Add to that some
decent football grounds, great communications with the rest of the world
and seemingly footballers of every nationality plying their trade in
Britain. The result is that Britain - and London in particular - has
become the natural home for far-off countries wanting to stage friendly
making the long trip home. Mighty Brazil, for example, established a
second home in north London playing their first match at the Emirates
Stadium (against Argentina) when Arsenal themselves had only played one
Premier match at their new home.
On the Tuesday February 6th
2007 London set a new world record when four full internationals were
played in the city on the same evening - and none involved England with
the new Wembley still not completed. Brazil were at the Emirates again,
playing Portugal, while Ghana v Nigeria was played at Griffin Park
(Brentford), South Korea v Greece at Craven Cottage (Fulham) and Australia v Denmark at
Loftus Road (QPR). Brazil's match was the only one sold-out but the TV
audiences were impressive - an estimated 300 million worldwide watched
Brazil v Portugal and another 100 million in Africa watched Ghana beat
West Ham United were one of the
first clubs to have a club anthem having adopted 'I'm Forever Blowing
Bubbles' in the 1920's. In 1999 that association saw the Hammers set a
new world record. With each fan attending West Ham's last Premier Division
match of the 1998/99 season, against Middlesbrough at Upton Park on Sunday
May 16th 1999, being given a bubble-blowing pot by kit supplier Fila,
23,680 of them blew bubbles for 1 minute to get into the Guinness Book
of World Records.
Another of the more bizarre records
held by football clubs went to Middlesbrough in the late 1980's. They
asked the club sponsors at the time, Heritage Hampers, if they would
repaint the North Stand at their old Ayresome Park Ground. This they
agreed to do provided they could paint the name of their company on the
- so two giant 'Heritage Hamper' signs with 11 foot high lettering
appeared on the roof. That made the roof of the stand an advertising
hoarding and being 85ft wide and nearly 300ft long it was recognised by
the Guinness Book of Records as the largest advertising hoarding in
"Things were so much
easier when I earned £100 a week." Wolves midfielder Jamie O'Hara - who was reported to earn £35,000
a week - in a Twitter posting in December 2012. I'm sure we all
sympathised with him!
The attendances in the Third Division of the Scottish League for Saturday
August 18th 2012 proved interesting reading - 512 (at Annan Athletic), 401
(Clyde), 631 (Elgin City), 498 (Queen's Park) and 49,118 at Rangers for
their match against East Stirlingshire. It was the first League match that
the new Rangers had played at Ibrox in their new lowly surroundings and
set a new world record attendance for a match in the fourth tier of a
League competition. The previous record was set in England on 31st March
1961 when 37,774 were present at Selhurst Park for a Crystal Palace v
Millwall Football League Fourth Division fixture.
is always good for a quote. One has reached almost legend
status, his comment on Eric Cantona's trawler and seagulls
quote - 'If a Frenchman goes on about
seagulls, trawlers and sardines, he’s called a philosopher.
I’d just be called a short Scottish bum talking crap.'
However reporters beware because
if you ask him a silly question you are liable to get a quote
you hadn't anticipated....
'Bang, there goes your unbeaten run. Can you take it?' Strachan:
'No. I'm just going to crumble like a wreck. I'll go home,
become an alcoholic and maybe jump off a bridge. Um, I think I
can take it, yeah.'
'So, Gordon, in what areas do you think Middlesbrough were
better than you today?' Strachan:
'What areas? Mainly that big green one out there!'
***** Reporter: 'This might sound like a daft question, but you'll be
happy to get your first win under your belt, won't you?' Strachan:
You're right. It is a daft question. I'm not even going to
bother answering that one. It is a daft question, you're spot
'Gordon, you must be delighted with that result?' Strachan:
'You're spot on. You can read me like a book!'
'Any changes?' Strachan:
'Naw, still five foot six, ginger hair and a big nose'
'Gordon, do you think James Beattie deserves to be in the
England squad?' Strachan:
'I don't care, I'm Scottish.'
'You don't take losing lightly, do you Gordon?' Strachan:
'I don't take stupid comments lightly either.'
'Welcome to Southampton Football Club. Do you think you are
the right man to turn things around?' Strachan: 'No. I was asked if I thought I was the right man for
the job and I said 'No, I think they should have got George
Graham because I'm useless.'
'Gordon, can we have a quick word please?' Strachan:
'Velocity' and he walks away!
Brian Clough was one of those
unpredictable characters. Prior to the 1980 European Cup final in Madrid
Cloughie ordered Garry Birtles off the bus taking the team from their
hotel to the match and insisted he had a shave. So was that due to
Clough's hatred of scruffiness or was it as Birtles thought 'He could
see I was nervous and wanted to take my mind off the game'. I wonder! Cloughie Quotes
not unusual nowadays to come across a statute commemorating a famous
player or manager but a statute of a fan is just a bit unusual. Especially
of a 'fan' who only ever saw the club play once! Singer Michael Jackson
was a friend of former Harrods and Fulham Football Club owner
Mohamed Al-Fayed and 'Wacko Jacko' was a guest of
Al-Fayed at Craven Cottage for the Division 2 match against Wigan on
Saturday April 10th 1999. He didn't buy a season ticket but 12 years
later, almost to the day - Sunday April 3rd 2011 - before a Fulham v
Blackpool Premier League match, a statute of Michael Jackson was unveiled
at Craven Cottage. To say it wasn't universally popular was a bit of an
understatement and the owner didn't do much to build bridges with critical
real fans when he said:
"If some stupid fans don't understand and
appreciate such a gift this guy gave to the world they can go to hell.
I don't want them to be fans. If they don't understand and don't
believe in things I believe in they can go to Chelsea, they can go to
Shahid Khan bought Fulham from
Mohamed Al-Fayed in July 2013
and by the end of September of that year the statue was taken down and
returned to Al-Fayed.
Michael Jackson at Fulham...but I guess in the hierarchy of celebrity
visits Cardiff City had the better of Fulham. Back in 1982 shortly after
visiting Wembley, Cardiff City's Ninian Park had a visit from.... The
Pope! No, not to watch the Bluebirds play - June 2nd 1982 was in the
close-season - but to preach to the faithful, over 30,000 attending a
National Youth Rally to hear the Polish Pope John Paul II speak. And no,
he didn't get a statue!
Perhaps I'm too much of a traditionalist but for me weekend football
should kick off at 3 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon but the demands of
television have seen an assortment of KO times develop over both days of
the weekend. Television dictated the earliest kick-off in Premier League
history on Sunday October 2nd 2005 at the City of Manchester Stadium when
Manchester City were desperate for TV income. Their match against Everton
was screened on PPV (pay per view) TV and kicked off at 11.15 on the
Sunday morning in front of a 42,681 crowd. TV also dictated the kick-off
time of the 2008 Champions League final between Manchester United and
Chelsea in Moscow. Us armchair fans saw the match kick off at 7.45 which
was perfect for the British and western European TV audience. But the
match was played in Moscow and 7.45 for us was 10.45pm local time in
Russia. When extra time was over and the penalties were taken it was 1.30
in the morning in Moscow, and the cup still had to be presented!
But TV couldn't be blamed for the earliest kick off in
senior football in England - it happened in 1892! Football League side
Burton Swifts were double-booked on Saturday 1st October 1892 - a Second
Division match at Crewe Alexandra and a home FA Cup Preliminary Round
match against Singers of Coventry (a forerunner of Coventry City). They
solved the problem by bringing forward the cup tie to the previous
Wednesday - with an 8am kick off, yes that's 8 o'clock in the morning!
Swifts won 3-0 although there is no record of the attendance!
Many a match has had a delayed kick off because of the
late arrival of the visiting team - back in 1961 a nightmare journey led
to an abandoned Football League match between Barrow and Gillingham (abandoned
matches). Over 50 years later in what was an almost identical
journey Ebbsfleet United travelled to Barrow for a Conference match, the
team coach leaving Kent at 10.45am on the morning of the match (Wednesday
3rd April 2013) for a 7.45pm kick off in Cumbria. They were soon delayed
by an accident on the M25 and then a serious delay on the M6 when a lorry
shed its load of baked beans. Ebbsfleet finally arrived at the ground at
8.40pm with kick off being put back to 9.15 and the final whistle in the
1-1 draw being blown a little after 11 o'clock. Then it was back on the
coach and a 300-mile plus journey home for Ebbsfleet. The joys of being a
However the prize for the craziest kick off time must
surely go to Barcelona when they entertained Sevilla in a Spanish La Liga
fixture in September 2005. The match was scheduled for Wednesday 3rd
September which was the day they had to release many of their
international players to their countries for a weekend of international
fixtures. Not wishing to play with a weakened team Barcelona tried to get
the date brought forward to the Tuesday, without success, but what they
did control was the kick off time. So they decided to kick off on the
Wednesday at 12.05am - 5 minutes past midnight - in the hope that all
their star players could play, get a reasonable night's sleep and then
leave to join their international squads on the Wednesday morning as the
rules required. That ploy wasn't a complete success as far team selection
was concerned but the match was a success. Attracted by the novelty of the
fixture, cheaper tickets and free snacks an amazing 80,237 turned up at
the Nou Camp to witness a 1-1 draw.
In January 2013 Swansea City had
beaten European champions Chelsea in the first leg of the League Cup
semi-final 2-0 at Stamford Bridge and so were on the verge of their first
major cup final. Then came the second leg and the headlines were all
about...a ball boy! When Swansea ball boy Charlie Morgan apparently
slipped and fell on the ball and was seemingly kicked by Chelsea's Eden
Hazard who was trying to retrieve the ball few had any sympathy for Hazard
when he was red-carded. Twenty-four hours latter sentiments had
changed. Endless TV replays seemed to suggest that Morgan grabbed hold of
the ball and wasn't going to let it go and that Hazard had kicked the ball
rather than the boy (or youth, he was 17). It emerged that Morgan had
tweeted before the match that he would waste time if that was needed.
Then, worst of all, Morgan was 'exposed' as the son of a Swansea director
and was an heir to a £43 million fortune. The newspapers had the ball boy
as living a more affluent lifestyle that the Chelsea superstars so there
wasn't going to be much sympathy there! What happened? Well, Charlie
Morgan became a Twitter sensation with his followers increasing from 400
before the match to nearly 90,000 immediately after it...and Swansea drew
and went through to the Wembley final.
was a time when a local solicitor or butcher brought welcome financial
strength to the Board of Directors of football clubs. Then came the
millionaires, then the multi-millionaires and then finally the
billionaires. It now seems you can't have a successful club unless you
have a billionaire owner, the odd hundred million in the back pocket just
isn't enough. Manchester City acquired their billionaire owner in 2008 in
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi. City fans commemorated
the event with these fake £500 billion notes and sat back waiting for the
money to be spent and success to arrive. OK, £500 billion as his wealth
was a tad optimistic but it is believed his piggy bank was a lot better
financed than the owners of Chelsea or Manchester United and so, four
years after taking over, City won their first League Championship in 44
While at Liverpool Neil 'Razor'
Ruddock didn't get on with Manchester United's Eric Cantona - but in later
years he was to have 15,000 reasons to thank him. Cantona scored the
winning goal for United against Liverpool in the 1996 FA Cup Final and
exchanged shirts with Liverpool captain John Barnes after the match.
Disappointed by the result Barnes threw the number 7 shirt on the dressing
room floor and Ruddock - who hadn't played in the match or been a sub -
asked to keep it to make up for the disappointment of not taking part in
the Wembley final. He did keep it - well until May 2013 when he sold it at
auction - for £15,000.
would have thought that in any walk of life somebody losing 7 stone to
combat the effects of diabetes would be congratulated. Not so in football.
In 2013 Lenny Berry lost his job after nearly 20 years as the Bradford
City mascot 'City Gent' after dropping from 17 stone to 10 stone. He
was told that was too thin and 'no longer matched the original concept' of
the City Gent who is a rather 'rounded' figure in a bowler and with
briefcase and based on a former club chairman, Stafford Heginbotham.
Lenny, pictured in his more rotund days, said
‘I'm absolutely gutted. I am a grown man and this is
something I have cried over. I used to have supporters chant things at me,
like 'who ate all the pies?'
records show that if Tottenham had won their last Premier League match
of the season in 2005/06 they would not only have finished one place above
Arsenal but would also have pipped their great rivals to the fourth
Champions League place. Sadly for Spurs they were not only up against West
Ham in that final match but also a far more troublesome opponent. Spurs
stayed the night before the match at the five-star Marriott Hotel in
Canary Wharf and enjoyed an evening meal of lasagne. That enjoyment turned
to horror during the night when practically the whole squad became
violently sick with suspected food poisoning. There was one place every
suffering player wanted to be - and that wasn't playing a Premier League
football match! Without a great deal of guidance from the Premier League
authorities Spurs considered postponing the match but fearful of a points
deduction (as happened to Middlesbrough in 1996/97) decided against it.
West Ham were happy for the kick off to be put back from 3 o'clock to 7
but the police were against that fearing the consequences of the extra
drinking time. So the match kicked off as scheduled at 3 and although
Spurs put up a good fight the match ended in a 2-1 West Ham victory and
Arsenal - who played their last match at Highbury that day - had got the
better of Tottenham yet again.
the conspiracy theorists had a field day checking the Marriott kitchen
staff to see if any were related to Arsene Wenger, the police were called
and samples taken and Spurs tried to get the match replayed, all to no
avail. But as disappointed as Spurs were they must have been pleased by
the sporting attitude of the West Ham fans. The Hammers faithful knew
exactly what the Spurs players needed and were happy to provide it to
them, see picture!
After Peter Hartley and James Poole each scored a goal for Hartlepool
against Notts County on Saturday February 2013 their shirts were put up
for auction with £1000 being raised for the club's Youth Development Fund.
Get it - Hartley and Poole score for Hartlepool!
The busiest turnstiles in English
football were at Manchester City's Maine Road ground in the 1946/47 season
when Old Trafford was closed due to wartime bomb damage and City shared
their ground with Manchester United. Attendances were generally high in
the first post-war League season but particularly so in Manchester were
City finished as Second Division champions and United were runners-up in
the First Division. When those crowds were added to the numbers who
attended an England v Wales international, an FA Cup semi-final and the
Wigan v Dewsbury Rugby League Championship play-off final played at the
ground some two and a quarter million attended fixtures at Maine Road, a
record for any English football ground.
After a dire 2-0 defeat at
Arsenal in September 1980 a journalist told Stoke City manager Alan
Durban that there was no entertainment value in watching his Stoke
side play. Durban replied... "If you want entertainment go and watch a bunch of clowns."
I think that many managers since would say exactly the same if they
were being honest!
One export that Britain has supplied to every corner of the world is
football. In 1909 a group of teenagers in Chile formed a football club and
named it Everton after our Everton who had toured South America that year.
The South American Everton have proved to be one of the top sides in
Chile, winning the national championship four times. In August 2010 the
South American side made a pilgrimage to Goodison Park as a delayed part
of their centenary celebrations to play a unique match...Everton v
Everton. The English Everton beat the Chilean Everton 2-0 to win the
Brotherhood Cup in a match that was shown on live TV in Chile.
The title of the loudest fans in the
world goes to the supporters of Turkish side Galatasaray. On 18th March
2011 in a local derby against Fenerbahçe at their Türk Telekom Arena in
Istanbul a peak noise level was recorded of over 131 decibels. In England
a noise survey was held in the 2010/11 season and found that Liverpool
fans were the loudest at 97 decibels followed by Manchester United at 94
decibels and Aston Villa on 89. As a comparison continued exposure of
noise at the 90 decibel level can result in hearing loss, the pain
threshold is about 115 decibels while the noise from the Galatasaray crowd
is about the same as listening to a jet engine 100ft away.
Which former Coronation
Street actor bought a
Premier League club?