Friday, 28 November 2014

This Week in Football History (Nov 24-30)

By Adrian North

This Week in Football History (Nov 24-30): The first international ever. Hungary beat England in one of the most influential games ever. Stuart Pearce saw red. The father of Brazilian football was born. Shearer and Anelka scored a couple of screamers. George Best passed away and Pep beat Jose 5-0

**30 November, 1872Scotland 0-0 England, West of Scotland Cricket Club, Glasgow: With a total of 14 forwards on the pitch, how was there not a goal?** 

Between 1870 and 1872 five games of football were played between representative players of Scotland and England. Scottish representatives had grown increasingly frustrated at the fact that all of the Scotland players were selected from people living in London and despite the fact the players were Scottish, they weren’t exactly home grown. 

Scotland had yet to form their own FA, that would happen in 1873 but they did have several teams of their own, the leading team of which was Queen’s Park. The secretary of the English FA and Wanderers FC star player Charles Alcock had challenged Scottish representatives to come up with a side of eleven players and find a suitable venue to host a match between England and Scotland. 
Scotland chose all eleven of their players from Queen’s Park and chose the West of Scotland Cricket Club in Partick, a suburb of West Glasgow. The first official international game in football’s history was ready to take place. 

The goals were made of tape and England field a side that had eight forwards, whilst Scotland took the more defensive approach of playing six forwards. Back then three defenders were required for a through ball to be classed as onside, thus England’s system of one defender and one midfielder was an already implemented offside trap. The Wikipedia description of the match is a very well sourced and a funny read too.  

Scottish forward Robert Smith had a really cool mustache too.

**24 November, 1874 – Sao Paulo, Brazil: Charles Miller introduced football to Brazil, a nation that came to be defined by the sport** 

Religion, technology, invasion and epidemic all arrived from Europe and into Latin America through the same means - Across the Atlantic and into the ports of Rio de Janerio, Sao Paulo and the Rio de la Plata. During the latter half of the 19th century football too would become perhaps the greatest import to South America, for if there is one continent in which football goes hand-in-hand with religion, it’s South America, and more so Brazil. 
The first impression the Brazilians had of the beautiful game was one of bewilderment, David Goldblatt in *The Ball is Round* cited an account from a Rio journalist who watched one of the first organized kickabouts, or *peladas* in Brazil. 

“In Born Retiro, a group of Englishmen, a bunch of maniacs as they all are, get together and kick around something that looks like a bull’s bladder. It gives them great satisfaction when the yellowish bladder enters a rectangle made of wooden posts” 

Perhaps the journalists of Rio did not see the wonderful side of football, but it sure caught on with the locals. But it was not in Rio that football grew its initial roots in Brazil, but Sao Paulo. 
On the 24th November, 1874, Charles Miller was born to an English father and Brazilian mother. His father was a former railway engineer and in Brazil his parents were part of the booming coffee business of Sao Paulo. 

Miller was sent to England for his education and quickly became gifted in both cricket and football, playing occasionally for Southampton FC. Miller was always far more passionate for football rather than cricket and upon his return to Sao Paulo in 1894 he brought with him a couple of footballs, a bunch of kits, a set of the Hampshire FA rules, and an acquired level of skill with a football that amazed the Brazilian elite, although at first the game was picked up by British and German expats in Sao Paulo before the Brazilians took a liking to it. 
Sao Paulo Athletic Club had been established in 1888 but it was with the influence of Miller a decade later that the sports club decided to take up football as their major sport, and whilst it was another ex-pat Thomas Donahue who actually organized the first official game of football in Brazil the growth of the sport in such an exponential way lay firmly with the exploits of Miller. 
By 1902, Sao Paulo Athletic Club had become a very popular side and won the first Brazilian football league – The Campeonato Paulista, or the Sao Paulo football league, a league that is still contested today and most recently won by Corinthians, a team established in 1910. 

Whilst Sao Paulo saw the influence of the British and German elite dominate their footballing culture up until the outbreak of the First World War, in Rio football had become a very much Brazilian affair by 1900, albeit an affair led by the super wealthy. Oscar Cox, a Swiss-Brazilian established Fluminense in 1902 and put forth a set of rules that saw only other mega-rich and ultra-elite members able to join and play for the club. So strict were the rules that just nine years later a group of players had broken away from Fluminense and set up Flamengo FC, creating the rivalry of the Marvelous City. 

After WW1 the influence of European powers in Latin America had been severely diminished. The aristocratic clubs that had been founded in Rio and Sao Paulo tried to hold on to their concepts of amateurism and selectively choosing players but by the mid 1930’s football had truly become the game of the working class in Brazil. A vast working class of millions of people who embraced the game arguably more than any other nation on Earth.

**25 November, 1953 – England 3-6 Hungary, Wembley: Has one game ever changed the sport as much as this one?** 

“We invented football, therefore we are the best” – Common English sentiment during the 1930’s, 40’s and early 50’s. 

Austria’s *wunderteam* came to London in 1932 to test the arrogance of the English, they lost 4-3. Next came World Champions Italy in 1934 – they lost 3-2. England, having not participated in any of the first three pre-war World Cups had just about held on to the unofficial title of “The best team in the world” until 1939. 
Six years and 50 million deaths later football was once again a key influence in healing many of the wounds of the Second World War. To most of those living in post WW2 society football quickly their chosen sport. Attendances soared and millions flocked to the radio for every Cup final or international game.  

In Hungary a revolution was brewing both on and off the pitch. Somewhat ironically, during a time that saw Hungary in the midst of staunch Stalinist oppression where any expression of individuality could receive the death penalty, the Hungarian football team, led by legendary manager Gustav Sebes, was awash with innovation, originality, spontaneity and a level of unrivalled footballing skill.
Gustav Sebes, a long-standing man of socialist and communist ideology was hired in 1949 and established a footballing dynasty with the Hungarian national team that saw his side only lose once in a span of five years between 1951-56. Despite losing this only game to the Germans in the 1954 WC final, Sebes had created *The Mighty Magyars*, one of the greatest national sides to have ever played the game. 
And it was at Wembley in November 1953 that Hungary were to prove their credentials in front of the cocky English. 

England had been eliminated from the 1950 World Cup in Brazil after shocking defeats at the hands of Spain and an amateur USA side. (England’s 1-0 loss to the USA in 1950 may well be the greatest upset in football history). The English FA had blamed their terrible showing in Brazil on exhaustion due to the fact they had to travel by boat across the Atlantic. At the time this seemed like a reasonable excuse, England had still never lost a game in the British Isles and the 1950 World Cup was chalked up as a one-off occurrence. This was still an England side containing legends Stan Mortensen, Stanley Matthews, Billy Wright and Alf Ramsey and surely no one could beat the World’s self-proclaimed greatest side, and inventors of the sport at the iconic Wembley stadium. 

Within 45 seconds Hungary had scored, Nandor Hidegkuti firing past goalkeeper Gil Merrick and despite England equalizing Hungary’s pressure was relentless. Hidegkuti scored once again in the 20th minute before Hungary’s star player Ferenc Puskas scored one of the most iconic goals Wembley has ever seen. (At 2:00 of the video).    
Receiving the ball on the edge of England’s six-yard box Puskas saw Billy Wright charging in at him. Puskas casually dragged the ball backwards around the sliding Wright and smashed past goalkeeper Merrick at this near post. Billy Wright was out of play on his arse at this point. At half time the Hungarians led 4-2, and after eight second half minutes it was 6-2. It seemed at this point that Hungary would go on to get nine or ten goals, such was the clear difference between the two sides. The game finished 6-3, and an amazed 105,000 spectators inside of Wembley had just witnessed the greatest power-shift in football history.  

England’s arrogance had been destroyed by the skill and tactical innovation of Sebes’ Hungary. Hidegkuti, the man of the match, had been deployed in the deep lying “playmaker” role, leaving center-half Harry Johnston utterly confused as to stay back or follow Hidegkuti when he had possession.  England had long since been lacking in any tactical innovation since Herbet Chapman’s pioneering WM formation of the 20’s and 30’s. Hungary showed up in London with overlapping and interchanging wingers and full-backs, two deep lying midfielders, one of whom would often drop back as a third defender and Hidegkuti’s new playmaker role. When Brazil followed this tactic and formation in 1958 it became known as 4-2-4, but it was the Mighty Magyars, not Brazil that first pioneered this system. 

The result changed the face of football. The role of playmaker had been born, a role that Pele would famously play in 1958. Hungary’s innovations spread globally throughout the next two decades and one could argue that Hungary, along with Brazil over the next ten years were the precursor to 1970’s Total Football. Ideas such as tactical awareness, physical fitness and rigorous training drills, along with the idea of picking the national teams’ players from a core club (Budapest Honved), were largely unheard and un-thought of concepts. Sebes and his great team that included the legends Sandor Kocsis and Zoltan Czibor along with Puskas and Hidegkuti implemented all of these ideas. 
The English FA were forced to concede that their training methods and tactics were vastly inferior to those used by their continental and South American rivals. Of course, 13 years later England, under the tactical nous of Alf Ramsey, a man who had been massively influenced by this game against Hungary, would win the World Cup at Wembley. 

Hungary, despite being the victims of the [Miracle of Bern] continued to dominate World football until 1956. On the 23rd October, 1956 that was all to change when a student demonstration in Budapest led to a nationwide revolution against the socialist Hungarian government. Despite initial success from the revolutionaries, Soviet forces swiftly destroyed the revolutionary movement in the first week of November 1956 and by January 1957 had installed a strong communist government that crushed any remaining political dissent. With the nation in turmoil football had become an afterthought. The Mighty Magyars were no more and only Puskas, Kocsis, and Czibor managed to take their careers abroad.  

**30 November, 1988 – Leicester City 0-0 Nottingham Forest, Filbert Street: When he did shit like this, it’s easy to tell why he was nicknamed Psycho

It would seem that Stuart Pearce was always a pretty decent and nice bloke away from the football pitch. His autobiography *Psycho* is one of the best I have read. A very complex yet brutally straightforward and honest guy Stuart Pearce has never been afraid to speak his mind. Ever since the end of his playing days Pearce has dramatically mellowed out. He has developed a keen interest of travel and once claimed it was an ambition of his to visit every country in the world.
For all accounts Pearce seems to be a well read, analytical and chilled out dude as manager of Nottingham Forest who has promised an attractive brand of football under his tenure. (*I haven’t been following Forest’s results much this season so if Stuart Pearce has done something nuts then please let me know). All this is seemingly a polar opposite to the way he was as a player. 

Stuart Pearce never enjoyed the violent nature of his game. Where players like Roy Keane would clatter into their opponents without an almost sadistic pleasure, Stuart Pearce always seemed remorseful after scything down an opponent, my favorite example being for England against Yugoslavia in 1989.

 Pearce never seemed to like hurting the opposition, but it was just the way he played the game – violence whilst on the pitch was the personification of Stuart Pearce. 

The absolute manifestation of “Psycho’s” approach to football was there for all to see during Nottingham Forest away trip to Leicester in the fifth round of the 1988/89 League Cup, a competition Forest would end up winning, with it being the last trophy Brian Clough ever won.  
Midway through the first half Leicester midfielder Paul Reid received a pass deep in his own half. Pearce promptly came charging in like a derailed freight train and ploughed down poor Paul Reid with a challenge that would see an instant three-match ban in today’s game. Commentator Alan Parry simply claimed “Well I think he’ll get cautioned for that”. 
Cautioned!? Being mentally sectioned would perhaps have been a more appropriate punishment. Despite tackling exactly none of the ball and both physically and mentally traumatizing the unfortunate Paul Reid Pearce had escaped with a yellow card. But he hadn’t learnt his lesson. 
At the beginning of the second half, Reid received the ball once more and yet again Pearce charged into the back of him (at 1 minute of the linked video), this time with both feet raised and Reid was left in a wallowing pile of agony on the cold grass of Filbert Street. Psycho was sent off. 

But it is players like Stuart Pearce who remain our favorites. For every pretty boy trickster who dazzles us with each rabona and roulette those players who inflict the most pain always continue to be the players with which the fans idolize with the most. Maybe it’s the English obsession with football’s “hard-men”, or maybe it’s that players like Pearce remind us of the no-nonsense “get stuck in” attitude of every Sunday League team we played for. Or perhaps it’s just the fact that despite all the red cards players like Pearce received it was his incredible passion and drive to win that resonates with us fans the most. 

**26 November, 1994 – Blackburn Rovers 4-0 QPR, Ewood Park: Alan Shearer hit this shot so hard the camera couldn’t even keep up with the ball

There are few better sights in football than when someone with an absolute rocket-for-a-shot blasts the ball at mach-speed past a helpless goalkeeper. Alan Shearer did this quite a bit, his [volley against Everton] perhaps being his most remembered. But on the 26th November, 1994, during Blackburn’s glorious Premier League winning season of 94/95 Shearer achieved what is the holy grail of scoring a screamer, an achievement I can think only Tony Yeboah has also accomplished in Premiership history.  

The best way to score a screamer, or a blooter, or thunderbastard, is to make it smash the underside of bar before going in. [John Arne Riise](, [Michael Essien](, [Tony Yeboah](, Tim Cahill (see below), [James Rodriguez]( and [Nelson Cuevas in the 2002 World Cup]( are a few examples that spring to mind. 
But only Shearer and [Yeboah vs Wimbledon] have gone a step further – They have both scored screamers that hit the underside of the bar twice. 

It looks so fucking cool when a long-range blast hits the underside of the bar before going in, and it is almost infinitely more aesthetically pleasing when it hits the bar twice. It’s as though Shearer knew scoring a goal wasn’t enough, he had to try and break the goal frame.
After controlling Chris Sutton’s knockdown (what a great partnership that was) Shearer smashed the ball off of the crossbar, onto the goal-line and back up on to the crossbar once again before nestling into the goal. 

I can just imagine Shearer yelling “Get fucked! Get absolutely fucked QPR!!” as that ball careened against the bar. 

28 November 2004, Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal, Anfield: Liverpool shock Arsenal thanks to Neil Mellor’s last minute wondergoal

Arsenal were no longer the Invincibles at this point, their record of unbeaten games had ended six weeks previously as Manchester United ended their streak at 49. But the Gunners were still the champions, and now had a record of one loss in their last 55 Premier League games.
Liverpool meanwhile were a new-look side under Rafa Benitez, and having Djibril Cisse out for the rest of the season with a broken leg and Milan Baros also injured the Reds’ front line was led by the great flop Florent Sinama-Pongolle and one-hit wonder Neil Mellor. Fortunately for Mellor, a young lad who had grown up in Sheffield and played for Liverpool since he was 14, he picked his one moment of glory at a hell of a time – 93rd minute, Kop end against Arsenal, game level at 1-1, 30 yards from goal. Bang, what a volley. 

All of the goals in this game were absolutely incredible. I believe all three were contenders for Match of the Day’s Goal of the Month competition that month. I remember both Gerrard and Alonso completely dominating this game and I believe it was actually Xabi Alonso’s goal after a brilliant Gerrard pass that won goal of the month for November 2004. 

**25 November, 2005 – Cromwell Hospital, London: “If I had been born ugly, people would never have heard of Pele”**   

Is there a better quote that sums up the hilarious cockiness of one football’s greatest talents? Had he been ugly, Best argued, he would never have had the distractions of alcohol, drugs and women and would have been such a great player, Pele would never have been remembered. 
George Best was one of the greatest players ever, a genius dribbler he formed one part of the holy trinity at Manchester United in the 1960’s along with Dennis Law and Bobby Charlton. 181 goals and a highlight reel that is stupendous even by today’s standards saw Best become one of the greatest players in United’s distinguished history.  

Despite his undoubted genius on the pitch George Best suffers from the same legacy as the Brazilian great Garrincha. You can’t mention the career of Besty without saying the words “What if?”. What if he had kept his alcoholism under control? What if he hadn’t have been such a playboy? What if he had entirely concentrated on his football?
Of course, these questions never occurred to George Best. He played football the way he lived his life – to an absolute excess. Very few players have ever entertained the fans with such a footballing wonder as George Best, but unfortunately for *El Beatle* his life of excess off the pitch led to a sadly short peak on the pitch as he left Man Utd at 27 to become a club journeyman in the NASL. 

On the 25 November, 2005 George Best passed away in London after a heart failure as a consequence of a long-suffering illness due to alcoholism. The football world lost one of its greatest yet most complex characters.
So much more could be said for George Best, but I’ll leave you with this - A 30-minute documentary from Sky Sports.

**25 November, 2006 – Bolton 3-1 Arsenal, Reebok Stadium: It took him 11 games to score for Bolton, but what a goal this was 

Nicolas Anelka, a true football journeyman decided in the summer of 2006 that his career trajectory would be best served in the Greater Manchester borough of Bolton.
Bolton Wanderers were Anelka’s most bizarre choice of club as up until this point in his career he had had spells at Arsenal, Real Madrid, PSG, Liverpool and Manchester City.  

Nicolas Anelka ended up enjoying his time at Bolton more than anyone could have predicted. During a period when Bolton were the definition of a mid-table club, Anelka was their star man, scoring 23 goals in two seasons at the Reebok Stadium. But it took him eleven games to score his first, but what a way to end a goal-drought. 
Having chased a long Kevin Davies pass Anelka turned, looked up, and smashed an absolute bullet over Jens Lehmann right into the top corner. 

**29 November, 2010 – Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid, Camp Nou. Tiki-Taka reached it’s peak** 

On the 28th April, 2010, Jose Mourinho led his Inter Milan side to the Nou Camp in the Champions League semi-final holding a 3-1 lead from an incredible counter attacking performance a week earlier at the San Siro. Jose had Inter park the mother of all buses and hold on to 1-0 loss, but a 3-2 aggregate win thus seeing the Italians through to the final where they would beat Bayern Munich to seal a famous treble.  
Seven months later, with Mourinho now in-charge of Real Madrid’s more updated Galactico’s side, Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona destroyed Los Blancos 5-0 at the Nou Camp.

In a decade that has been unquestionably defined by club football this is perhaps its most iconic and complete victory. Given the nature of the match and the stature of the opposition calling this game the most complete performance ever by a club side is not too much of a stretch.
Indeed, this 5-0 has gone a long way to cementing the legacy of Pep’s Barca. The victory saw Barcelona overtake Madrid at the top of La Liga, a position they would hold on to for the rest of the season. This game also made Mourinho realize that even with the superstars of Real Madrid he could not approach another el Clasico with such an open style of play. During April/May of 2011 Mourinho adopted a more Inter-like approach to both the Copa del Ray final and the Champions League semi final’s against their Catalan rivals. This worked a treat in the Copa del Ray final as Madrid stifled Barca’s possession and ran out 1-0 winners. Despite the same tactics in the Champions League semi-final however Madrid were to fall victim to genius of Lionel Messi. 

The goalscorers during the famous 5-0 were Xavi, Pedro, David Villa twice and young Venezuelan prospect Jeffren. Barca’s relentless pressing and possession, coupled with Madrid’s suicidally high defensive line saw that this game came to be remembered as not only a crushing victory for Pep’s Barca, but as *the* victory for the entire philosophy of that Barcelona side. 

**Next Week – Del Piero is featured. Liverpool hired a very quotable scot. Austria’s wunderteam and FIFA made a ludicrous decision.**