Monday, 3 November 2014

This Week in Football History (November 3rd-9th) by Adrian North

ATTENTION! Here is the first in a new weekly series by football historian supreme Adrian North, where you will learn what happened in the world of football this week, every week. Weekly. It's great and we hope you like it. He's basically like a not famous Jonathan Wilson.

You'll genuinely learn something here. It's ace.

This Week in Football History (Nov 3-9): 

Lyon’s Juninho made Oliver Kahn headbutt a post. Berbatov was a cheeky bastard. Liverpool scored eight. Man City fed their goat. Dion Dublin made a fool out of Shay Given. Marco van Basten scored one of his best goals ever, Ajax were shocked by Bulgarian minnows and Man Utd made their greatest signing. 

**7 November, 1973 – [CSKA Sofia 2-0 Ajax, Norodna Arena, Sofia, Bulgaria]

**European Cup holders shocked by Bulgarian minnows**  

The early 70’s saw Total Football’s glory days. Under Rinus Michels and spearheaded by superstar Johan Cruyff, Ajax, along with Feyenoord, had dominated the dutch Eridivisie in the late 60’s and Early 70’s. Ajax became the first Dutch side to reach a European Cup final in 1969, but were destroyed by an impressive Milan side containing Geovanni Trappatoni and Gianni Rivera. In 1970 Feyenoord shocked the footballing world by beating Jock Stein’s famed Celtic side but it was in 1971, against a surprise package from Greece in Panathinaikos that Ajax won the European Cup for the first time and made their mark on the history books.  

Rinus Michels made a surprise move that summer to Catalonia, but his mantle and Total Football philosophy was continued by Romanian great Stefan Kovacs. And it was during the span of 1971-73 and in particular the 72’ and 73’ European Cup finals that Ajax and Johan Cruyff established their era of dominance. In the 72’ European Cup Final Ajax beat Inter 2-0, both goals scored by Cruyff. This was perhaps Total Football’s finest hour as Inter, clinging on to their catennacio brand of football were destroyed by Ajax’s fluid football. In 1973, Juventus were to be Ajax’s victims, with great Dutch striker Johnny Rep the goalscorer that day. 

In the summer of 1973, Johan Cruyff moved to Barcelona to reunite with Michels and try to bring Total Football to Spain. Ajax had to defend their three-in-a-row European Cup victories without the world’s flagship player. But this was still no weak side and on the the 24th October, 1973 Ajax beat Bulgarian champions CSKA Sofia 1-0 in the first leg of the European Cup Second Round of that year.  
Two weeks later on November 7th, the European Cup saw one of it’s greatest upsets ever. CSKA beat Ajax 2-0 after extra time and Ajax had been beaten in Europe for the first time in three years. Despite not having Cruyff at the helm this was still a side including Johhny Rep, Arie Haan, Johan Keizer, Johan Neeskens and Ruud Krol – A team more than capable of winning the competition once more.

Sofia’s heroes that day were Dimitar Marashiliev and Petar Zhekov whose goals saw that the minnows from Bulgaria achieved their greatest moment on European football’s largest stage. In the next round CSKA were beaten 5-3 on aggregate by eventual champions Bayern Munich. 

Total Football was yet to have its greatest but most heartbreaking moment however. During the 1974 World Cup The Netherlands, coached by Michels and spearheaded by Cruyff and the spine of Ajax played some of the finest football the world had seen. And despite scoring first in the final before any German had touched the ball, the hosts turned around the 1-0 deficit thanks to a Paul Breitner penalty and a Gerd Muller strike. 

This new attacking philosophy had been beaten by the organization and pragmatism of a fantastic West German side. A victory that mirrored the path of club football for the next three years as Bayern Munich emulated Ajax’s European Cup achievements with victories in 74, 75 and 76.   

But it was CSKA Sofia’s shock result in 1973 that remains as one of the European Cup’s greatest Cinderella stories. 

**6 November, 1986Old Trafford, Manchester, England: 
Bill Shankly, Jock Stein, Matt Busby; All names synonymous with Scottish football. And then this one bloke called Alex went on to surpass them all**   

People tend to forget that Alex Ferguson was a really good player. A journeyman within Scotland during his playing days saw him rack up fairly hefty goal tally for an impressive 17-year career. Once he was done playing Ferguson immediately decided to turn his hand to management. What transpired during the next four decades is seemingly stuff of Football Manager fantasy.  At the age of just 32 he joined East Stirlingshire as head coach before quickly moving on to St Mirren, and it was at St Mirren where he established his name as one of the nations most promising young coaches. Consecutive promotions with third tier St Mirren saw Fergie land the head role at Aberdeen.   

In just his second season in charge of Aberdeen he broke the stranglehold on the Scottish Premier Division that had been held by Celtic and Rangers for the past 15 years. Aberdeen consolidated themselves as new Scottish power with a Scottish Cup win in 1982 and most incredibly of all, by beating Real Madrid 2-1 in the final of the 1983 Cup Winners Cup. After the victory Ferguson stated he now felt he had now “done something worthwhile with his life”. 

Just two years on he found himself as the head coach of the Scottish National team due to the tragic death of Scottish footballing legend Jock Stein during the last minutes of Scotland’s final qualification game for the 1986 World Cup.

Ferguson led Scotland to Mexico in 1986 where they lost their opening two games before being shamefully eliminated by a particularly nasty and violent Uruguayan performance. The following summer saw speculation of Ferguson landing a prized job at a leading English clubs, with Spurs and Arsenal being likely candidates. 

But it was on the 6th November, 1986, just days after the Man Utd board had sacked Ron Atkinson, that those in charge of the Old Trafford side made their greatest signing ever. 

What happened over the next 27 years was simply astonishing. Of course, Fergie didn’t have it all his own way at first. Indeed, it has been a long time rumour that had his underperforming Man Utd side lost to Nottingham Forest in the 1990 FA Cup third round he may well have got the sack. 
 United went on to win the FA Cup in 1990. 
 23 years on from that game that may well have saved his career, Alex Ferguson had become a Sir, won the Premier League 13 times, FA Cup four more times, and won two Champions League titles in 1999 and 2008. We all remember or have watched highlights of both those finals I’m sure.  
 So is Alex Ferguson the greatest manager ever? 
This is always a tough one. Where the greatest player ever debate can go on and on forever, the greatest manager ever comes down to the same seven or eight names: Shankly, Clough, Herrera, Sacchi, Michels, Stein or Ferguson. 

Sir Alex is leagues ahead of anyone else who has ever managed at the top level when it comes to silverware count. His inspiration on players that went on to become world class stars (Cantona, Schmeichal, The Class of 92, Ronaldo etc) may well be unparalleled also. 
So where Fergie leads the way in trophy haul and perhaps in player influence there are two further categories I see as necessary when looking at a manager’s legacy: 
 1) Tactical innovation
 2) Standing with the fans  
 Fergie will never be remembered in the same light as Helenio Herrera, Rinus Michels or Arrigo Sacchi when it comes to tactical innovation. Those three came up with almost futuristic versions of how to play football and forever changed the landscape of football tactics into the ultra-tactic heavy game we see today. But where Sacchi, Michels and Herrera only succeeded with their revolutionary visions for a decade at most, Ferguson kept going strong for two full decades, eventually retiring as a champion.  

Catenaccio had it’s peak in the 60s, Total Football in the 70s and Sacchi’s attacking 4-4-2 in the 90s. Fergie was only ever tactically good enough to be the best. He wasn’t an ideologist who wanted to progress the game with a never-before-seen vision. Fergie simply wanted to win, and win he did. When a certain Frenchman joined Arsenal and threatened his reign, Fergie adapted and rebuilt his team to be better than ever. And he did the same thing when the Russian and Arab oligarchs showed up.  
As for his standing with the fans - Well, along with Bobby Charlton he is the most beloved figure to ever be involved with Man Utd, and Bobby even won a World Cup to help his idolization. But is he as beloved as Shankly and Clough?
Fergie never had the “football is more than a matter of life and death” or “I wouldn’t say I was the best, but I’m definitely in the top one” type quotes, and Shankly and Clough were essentially Gods in Liverpool and Nottingham, the only two managers in my opinion to ever reach the deity status normally reserved for the legacies of the likes of, well, actually, I don’t think any player ever achieved the level of deity status those two did. Where managers generally retire towards the latter stages of their lives, unfortunately legendary players still have decades to sour their legacies through Viagra commercials, cocaine use and domestic violence. Perhaps only Cruyff, Socrates, di Stefano and maybe Eusebio ever achieved this level of reverence throughout their lives?   
Give it ten or fifteen years for all the mythologizing of Fergie’s career to settle and who knows, maybe he will reach that plane of idolization amongst all football fans, regardless of their club affiliation, that only Shanks and Ol’ Big Head have reached before. 

**9 November, 1986 – Ajax 3-1 Den Bosch, Amsterdam Olympic Stadium: 

Marco van Basten’s incredible bicycle kick - My favorite bicycle kick ever scored

I love Marco van Basten. He is one of my favorite players of all time. I don’t remember his playing days at all, but being raised on VHS highlights of him and being the footy history nerd I am has made me idolize one of the greatest strikers of any generation.  
Also, someone once said I look a lot like a young Marco van Basten, which is one of the better compliments I’ve ever received.    

As much I want to wax lyrical about his career I shall refrain myself from doing so and talk briefly about this goal, his greatest in an Ajax shirt, a goal I think this is best bicycle kick ever. [Here is the goal with Dutch commentary]

I could go on for quite a while analyzing my shortlist for best bicycle kick ever. Zlatan vs England Rooney vs City, Rivaldo vs Valencia, Trevor Sinclair vs Barnsley, Bressan vs Barca. And whilst any of these could easily be called the best bicycle kick ever, it is the casual nature of van Basten’s overhead that makes me love this goal as much as I do. For Zlatan, Rivaldo, or Bressan the actual volleying of the ball is easier than it is for Sinclair, Rooney or van Basten. To bicycle kick a cross first time is a more difficult technique than to perform an overhead volley on a slowly dropping ball as in the instance of Rivaldo or Bressan. 

And it’s the way the ball hits the inside of the post on the way in that makes this goal so perfect. It’s almost too perfect, van Basten didn’t hit the ball too hard, he almost placed it into the top corner, even with a tiny amount of curve. He doesn’t even celebrate it too much either, merely just pulls a cheeky smile and a has group hug with his teammates. His nonchalant way of celebrating to go along with the casual nature of the goal makes this moment one of the best from the short but glorious career of one of football’s great strikers.   

Although, as I said, any one of the six bicycle kicks on my shortlist could really be considered better than each other    

**8 November, 1997 – [Coventry City 2-2 Newcastle Utd, Highfield Road]

**Dion Dublin sneaks up on Shay Given.**    

Of all the moments that showed up on early 2000’s football DVD’s such as *Mark and Lard’s Football Nightmares* or *James Nesbitt’s Eat my Goal* this one of Dion Dublin sneaking up behind a young Shay Given and rolling the ball into an unguarded goal is perhaps the most overplayed fail moment of the 1990’s Premier League. 

Still funny though. 

You know it was the mid 1990’s Premier League when Coventry City finished higher in the table than an Alan Shearer inspired Newcastle, albeit Shearer was injured for half the season. 
97/98 was a really fucking weird season. Arsenal won the double in Wenger’s first full season in charge, Everton famously survived relegation on the last day of the season, Dalglish’s Newcastle finished 13th but incredibly beat Barcelona 3-2...

... at St James’ thanks to a Tino Asprilla hat-trick before Kenny unbelievably decided to sell the Columbian in January. Alan Shearer then came back to lead Newcastle to the FA Cup final where they would lose 2-0 to Arsenal and Coventry finished 11th with Dion Dublin ending as the Premier League’s joint top scorer with 18 goals.
The other two top scorers? – Blackburn’s Chris Sutton and an 18-year old Michael Owen.  

These were also the days of Newcastle’s amazing Brown Ale kits and the incredible Georgian turned Geordie hero Temuri Ketsbaia, and the awful Danish flop Jon Dahl Tomasson – fuck me, this was a bizarre season, Dion Dublin’s goal being maybe the most bizarre moment of the lot.   

**9 November, 2002 – [Man City 3-1 Man Utd, Maine Road]: 

“Feed the goat and he will score!” – Well he did score, and he made a fool out of Gary Neville in the process**   

Oh Shaun Goater. Sometimes you don’t have to accomplish much to be idolized, you merely need to be a happy-go-lucky guy with a permanent smile and the ability to make Gary Neville look like a Sunday League player. 

“Feed the goat and he will score” will always be a favorite chant of mine and 12 years ago, during the last derby at Maine Road Shaun Goater scored twice in a famous 3-1 derby day victory over their much superior rivals including his first goal, and City’s second where he charged in on Gary Neville like a freight train, nicked the ball away from the touchline and slotted past Barthez.   

Shaun Goater was perhaps the key player in Man City’s leap from the Second Division to The Premier League in consecutive seasons between 1999 and 2001. Whilst Paul Dickov’s immortalized striker at Wembley in 1999 is one of the lasting memories of City’s pre-Mansour days it was Goater’s goals that saw the initial rise of Manchester City.  

**5 November, 2003 – Bayern Munich 1-2 Lyon, Olympic Stadium: 

[One of Juninho’s best free-kicks. So good Oliver Kahn smashed his face on the post trying to save it]**    

Juninho vs Oliver Kahn from 35 yards. The Brazilian was perhaps the only player on the planet in 2003 to have the balls and technique to score from such a position. 
Both Lyon and Bayern were to progress from Group A of the 03/04 Champions League but it was Juninho’s goal in Lyon’s 2-1 victory on November 5th that is possibly the defining moments from one of the greatest free-kick specialists of all time.  

Oliver Kahn smashing his face on the post is pretty funny too. 

**3 November, 2004 – AS Roma 1-1 Bayer Leverkusen, Stadio Olimpico: 

[For Berbatov, he actually put in a lot of effort with his strike]**   

A true Berba goal this. In his early Leverkusen days he really introduced the lazy attitude to all of his teammates – [check this fucking casual team goal out from the same season]

In 2004, Berbatov pulled off a piece of genius during a Champions League game against Roma. The flick, turn and lob are all staples of everyone’s favorite suave footballer. 

Leverkusen would beat Real Madrid to top spot in Group B during 04/05 before losing to eventual champions Liverpool in the second round. Roma managed only a solitary point in six games, strangely enough it was during this encounter with Leverkusen. 

**6 November, 2007 – [Liverpool 8-0 Besiktas, Anfield]: 

Andriy Voronin had four assists and Benayoun scored a hat-trick**   

What is the largest win in Champions League history? 

This is always a good trivia question. One would expect the answer to be Cruyff or Pep’s Barca, one of Madrid’s Galactico incarnations or even Fergie’s Man Utd. But it was in fact during 2007/2008 that Rafa Benitez’s Livepool handed out a record beating at Anfield to Turkish side Besiktas. 
The Liverpool heroes that day? – Peter Crouch, Yossi Benayoun, Ryan Babel and Andriy Voronin. Not exactly the star cast you would expect to be behind the largest Champions League thrashing ever (excluding qualifying rounds).   

Having surprisingly only earned one point from their first three Champions League games during 07/08, Liverpool were faced with the scenario of winning all three of their remaining games or be eliminated from the tournament. They promptly did, destroying Besiktas 8-0, Porto 4-1 and Marseille 4-0. But where the last two of those games saw Gerrard and Torres at their peak, it was the 8-0 in which Andriy Voronin and Yossi Benayoun stole the show.  

Benayoun is somewhat of a cult hero at Anfield, always seemingly popping up at the right time and right place during his time with Liverpool, and he popped up for three tap-in’s during this rout. Andriy Voronin however was an undisputed flop, but even flops can have a good day from time to time. Voronin had four assists in this 8-0, including a brilliant back heel flick to Gerrard.  

**Next Week: A great day for Australia. The best friendly match I’ve ever watched, whilst another international friendly gets abandoned. A classic from 1934, I get to rip into Sepp Blatter and yes, I will include Zlatan’s bicycle kick.**