Twenty years ago - it sounds like a long time ago but up to around 1995 I was really actively involved in local football. Having successfully ran my own team for several years, we had gained promotions all the way from Division 7 of our local Sunday League - all the way to its very own Premier Division. That statement alone makes it sound quite straightforward and gives the impression that we had a team that were playing for many years below the level that is should have been.
The truth is that it we had tough times too - in fact at the end of our third year we had to apply for re-election having finished second from bottom of the lowest division in the entire league! That was without any doubt the most painful season as we had lost 16 of the 22 matches that we had played of which 12 of those 16 defeats was by the odd goal! We actually finished the season with a far better goal difference than other teams that had finished well above us. If you finish that low you should be able to accept that your players, your team, your club even - are just simply not good enough to compete at that level. If that level is the bottom level as it then maybe you should not be competing at all, If we had been regularly been getting beaten fives, sixes or even worse still then fair enough - we would have all agreed that we were simply that bad. But when you are losing 2-1, 3-2, 4-3 and so on just about every week - it really hurt.
So we did not have a team that were just pot-hunters - we were a team that evolved and for sure, over a period of time the faces changed in the team but at no point did we really have a mass exodus as players were kicked out to make way for a new flock that would take us all the way to the top.
Ray Wilkins picks his best XI
Just a few days ago, there was a very interesting interview by Matt Lawton for the Daily Mail - the subject was Ray "Butch" Wilkins.
It is my opinion that whenever I see Wilkins on TV that he has nearly always come across as being level headed and probably a calming influence in any dressing room. I must admit to being surprised about his driving offences a few months ago as this seemed to be out of character and for an ex-player with so much knowledge of the game, it does seem somewhat surprising that he has found managerial roles really tough to come by.
A year ago all the drama at the end of the season circulated around Manchester and City's two dramatic injury time goals against QPR to take the title in amazing style and never to be forgotten.
Despite all the possibilities, this seasons Premier League ended on quite a damp squib. United had sealed the title a few weeks earlier and even at the bottom of the table despite half the division in apparent relegation trouble - the bottom three places were all confirmed before the final Sunday set of matches.
All that left us with was the "exciting" battle for the fourth Championship League spot (yawn) and with Arsenal victorious at Newcastle, it left Spurs powerless.
No, the real drama this season happened in the divisions below. First of all, a sensational ending at the game at Griffin Park between Brentford and Doncaster Rovers. Brentford needed to win to go up and with the scores level at 0-0 - the two sides were deep into injury time when Brentford were awarded a penalty. If it were to be converted then it would leave the final league table looking like this....
In this short video, Jason McAteer recalls a funny story on the day that both he and John Barnes were sacked as the management team at Tranmere Rovers in 2009 after a short unsuccessful spell.
They won just three games out of the fourteen that they were in charge of and were fired in early October. The pair were allegedly nicknamed "Dumb and Dumber" by the Rovers players and neither have returned to management in any capacity since.
When I was about twelve years old, a friend of mine had a younger brother who was only about five or six years old at the time. He was in the process of losing his baby teeth and had a massive gap at the front and on the top side of his mouth - he was instantly given the nickname "Joe Jordan".
Joe himself became known as "Jaws" or "Lo Squalo" (the shark) when he later played for AC Milan having lost his front teeth during a Leeds United reserve team match. In his time as manager of Bristol City, fans produced giant inflatable teeth instead of the more traditional bananas that for some inexplicable reason were all the rage in the late 80's.
I have a confession to make that I am not particularly proud of. I was one of probably many of the masses that was suckered in by the authorities, the press and all that surrounded them in believing what they told us for such a long time regarding the tragedy of Hillsborough in 1989.
I am not sure at what stage I started to question the official story but when it happened - as an outsider, I felt that I did not have a right to think that what I was being told was wrong and why would there be a need for a cover-up of any description. I just believed that the events that happened that day had been absolutely awful but did not really understand the reasons for why they had happened and nor did I care to question this story as it was being reported to us. It was mainstream media that were telling us - and back then far less of us questioned anything coming from respected sources.
Although I was not old enough to actually remember the FA Cup FInal of 1970, I do remember the nucleus of that team that stayed together at Chelsea for at least the first five years of the seventies. You will often hear people say that football is not the way it used to be and back then it was a "man's game". There is some truth to that because let us not forget that this was an era that also produced some very skill-full players in Britain alone such as George Best, Eddie Gray, Tony Currie, Stan Bowles and Frank Worthington to name just a few of many.
Tackles would go flying in but for the best part these players if they were caught by one would just get up and get on with it unlike modern players. The skill-full players of real talent would also have enough intelligence (or have to learn it quickly) to see many of these challenges coming and from that there is no doubt that it must have made them even better players than today's equivalent that are so well protected by the rules that at times because they know it they can antagonise their opponents knowing that they cannot touch them without the real threat of an easy red card decision going against them.
Apart from Manchester United fans, there were not that many people in England that particularly liked Eric Cantona. The Frenchman portrayed arrogance and an eliteness that he embodied any time that he put on a shirt for United with his collar up swooning around the pitch with a prescience suggesting he owned it and looking down on all other players.
But this article is to do with one particular episode of Cantona's career - the infamous sending off at Crystal Palace in 1995 when after being red carded he then proceded to kung fu kick a Palace fan in the crowd. I can still recall being on the phone at the time and as the 9 o clock news started the first thing shown was the video footage of this incident that had just happened moments earlier. I told my friend on the other end of the line to quickly turn on his TV because I was in a state of disbelief as to what I had just seen. For the next half an hour or so we were still on the phone talking about all the possible ramifications that Cantona now faced.
Legendary Irish defender Paul McGrath was a guest on the couch for Sky's "Goals on Sunday" during the spring of 2012 and during the interview he talked about his international career and playing in the World Cup 1994 and beating Italy in New York.
McGrath came to England in 1982 when he signed for Manchester United from St. Patricks Athletic. A combination of knee problems and alcoholism led to McGrath being side-lined quite often during his seven years at Old Trafford although he still did make over 200 appearances for the club.
Despite the option of retirement and a nice little pay-off in the process, McGrath decided that he wanted to continue to play on and in August 1989 he was bought by Aston Villa for £400,000. Even though the knees still were causing him problems, McGrath managed to make over 300 appearances in the next seven years and won the PFA Player of the Year award in 1993.
McGrath finished his career with short spells at Derby County and Sheffield United finally retired at the age of 39 in 1998. He was selected in the shortlist of players for the best Premier League defenders based on the first twenty years of the Premier League.
Signed by Arsenal in 1997 from Monaco for £2.5 million, Manu Petit joined his old manager Arsene Wenger in North London forming a formidable central midfield partnership with fellow Frenchman Patrick Vierra. During his three year spell with The Gunners it was his first year that was the most memorable as Arsenal completed the Premier League and FA Cup double and was then it capped off with winning the World Cup.
Petit was sold along with Marc Overmars to Barcelona in 2000 for £7 million but failed to settle and returned to England with Chelsea just a year later. A knee injury caused his retirement in 2005 just when he was on the verge of a move back to Arsenal but was unable to regain full fitness and an operation on the knee would mean that he would never be able to achieve this.
In this interview he reveals the troubles that he personally endured at Barcelona, why he should of joined Manchester United on returning to England and why he never felt fully accepted by Chelsea fans.
There were loads of articles on the old site and I have began to transfer some of the most popular ones over to this site.