Brian Clough, Peter Shilton and a roundabout way of winning in Europe

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In 1980, Brian Clough (below) took Nottingham Forest to their second European Cup triumph in as many seasons. Like the Spurs side of nearly forty years later, Forest had beaten Ajax in their semi to reach the final in Madrid (although the 1980 final was held at the Santiago Bernabéu).

Preperation for such a big match can sometimes be fraught with problems, especially if you are a perfectionist in the same way that Cloughie undoubtedly was. This excellent tale, as told by the legendary Forest and England goalkeeper Peter Shilton (above), possibly explains a lot about Old Big ‘Ead’s more… er… unconventional problem solving methods:

When we got to Madrid, [assistant manager] Peter Taylor told me we had a great training pitch, but it was too hard. ‘You haven’t looked hard enough,’ Cloughie told us. ‘We know a grassed area that’s perfect.’ I couldn’t believe what Taylor was pointing at: we were standing in front of a roundabout, near the city centre, and on it was a circle of grass. It was fairly quiet, but a few cars came past, beeping horns.

Whether or not the roundabout actually had any impact on the eventual outcome of the final is unknown (probably not, or we’d be seeing Alisson and Hugo Lloris preparing for this season’s trip to Madrid in the same way!), but Forest won, beating Germany’s Hamburger SV by a single first half goal scored by John Robertson. In the end, Shilton was left with roundabout nothing to do.

Brian Clough

No, I don’t think he looks very impressed either…

 

 

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Mascot Monday: Chirpy and Lily (Spurs)

Chirpy and Lily

Names: Chirpy and Lily

Club: Tottenham Hotspur

Mascot Since: See below

Species: Cockerel (Chirpy), Chicken (Lily)

Friends & Family: According to the club, they’re best mates – but we reckon Chirpy secretly really fancies Lily!

Notes: Adapted straight from the club crest, there have been various versions of a cockerel mascot at Spurs for many years (see photo below for a terrifying early iteration of Chirpy, and this disturbing video – eek!), but Chirpy’s cheerful female counterpart Lily is a relative newcomer to the Spurs family.

Named after the club nickname ‘The Lilywhites’ (we’d like to think it’s also a nod to the early twentieth-century women’s football pioneer, Lily Parr, but it probably isn’t), little is known about this mysterious mascot except that she seems like the sensible one and she’s obviously a chicken rather than a cockerel!

Chirpy!

On the other hand, we know quite a bit about Lily’s best mate. Chirpy likes to have a go at things – he’s been seen doing tai chi, playing tag in Turin against the Juventus mascot Jay the Zebra, helping make traditional Chinese mooncakes, and taking part in the Mascot Derby, as well as the usual charity work, hanging out with the junior fans on matchdays and kickabouts on the pitch with the players’ kids during the end of season lap of appreciation (even your cynical, hard-bitten ASRV team went ‘awwwww’ at that one!).

The introduction of Lily was not the first time Spurs have added to their mascot roster. In the early 1970s they rather randomly employed a bloke dressed up as an astronaut to wander round pitchside at European home games, waving a placard that read ‘COUNTDOWN TO EUROPEAN ORBIT’.

To be totally honest, we wonder what the Board had been smoking.

Somewhere along the line, this approach must have worked, however – and, it seems, is still working. We wonder if Spurs Astronaut Man will come out of retirement to help Chirpy and Lily into orbit at the Champions League final on Saturday: the biggest European night in the club’s history…

COME ON YOU SPURS!

If you’ve got any suggestions for future editions of Mascot Monday, please get in touch.

FA Cup: The War of the Roses (1890)

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It’s the FA Cup final this weekend, the traditional showpiece end of the football season – so we’ve been looking at some interesting finals of the past. Today’s final is from 1890, when Blackburn Rovers played Sheffield Wednesday in the first battle of the football War of the Roses…

The 1890 FA Cup final was the first time a team from Yorkshire had faced a team from Lancashire in the competition. If you know your history, you’ll know that this fact was guaranteed to add a little spice to the proceedings!

Held again at the Kennington Oval (which, incidentally, is one of only two venues to have hosted England football and cricket internationals as well as FA Cup finals – the other being Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane ground), this final marked the eighth and last appearance of Major Francis Marindin as referee.

An influential figure in the early development of what we would now see as the modern game during the nineteenth century, Marindin began as a player and was later described as “one of the outstanding referees who really knows the rules”.

On the day, poor old Wednesday were absolutely thrashed 6-1, which, I believe, is still a Cup final record score. Another record was set that day, when William Townley (who was later to go on to great success as a coach on the Continent) scored the first ever Cup final hat-trick, which helped send Blackburn home to Lancashire with the FA Cup trophy for the fourth time.

FA Cup: Working Class Heroes (1883)

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It’s the FA Cup final this weekend, the traditional showpiece end of the football season – so we’ve been looking at some interesting finals of the past. Today’s match is from 1883, when Blackburn Olympic took on Old Etonians at the Kennington Oval in front of 8,000 people.

The FA Cup final of 1883 was a quietly important one, not only for its role in changing the tactics of the game but also its impact on the social standing and wider appeal of football. The public school dominance of the game was beginning to shift.

Blackburn were the eventual winners, beating the Old Etonians 2-1 after extra time and becoming the first working class side to triumph in the competition. Their victory was of  particular interest as they were playing a more modern passing and dribbling style that contrasted strongly with their public school opponents’ long-ball game.

It’s arguable that this final laid the foundations for the modern game, although neither of the teams involved played much of a role in the competition thereafter – Old Etonians never reached another FA Cup final after 1883, and for Blackburn Olympic, it was the pinnacle of their brief existance.

Pick that one out!: the oddity of the goalscoring goalkeeper

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CB writes…

Picture the scene. It’s deep into injury time of a crucial cup match, and you’re desperately in need of a goal to take the game into extra time. The opposition have conceded a corner, and you’re all up in the box to try and scramble a goal – and by all up, that means your goalie too. The corner arcs in and rattles round the box until your keeper leaps high into the air, his head making contact with the ball…. and it’s in the back of the net!

It is often said that goalkeepers are a breed apart, and they certainly seem to be made of different stuff to your average primadonna of a centre forward. For a start, they have to have a thick skin since they will frequently be blamed for losses (as ex-England goalie David ‘Calamity’ James once put it “It’s not nice going into the supermarket and the woman at the till thinking ‘dodgy ‘keeper'”).

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They are often at least mildly eccentric, and always acrobatic (René Higuita (above) and his scorpion kick save, anyone?). These bursts of physicality are very different to the constant movement of the rest of the team, which may be why their playing careers are often much longer than your average striker or midfielder.

Aloof, solitary, impassive, the crack goalie is followed in the streets by entranced small boys. He vies with the matador and the flying aces, an object of thrilled adulation. He is the lone eagle, the man of mystery, the last defender – Vladimir Nabokov, Russian novelist and goalkeeper.

They don’t always necessarily make good managers (coaching outfield players is a completely different skillset and attitude, really, but there are exceptions like Nuno Espirito Santo at Wolves) – they can, however, be excellent captains (most of the time), and at the very heart and soul of their team.

And sometimes they even score goals too…

Jennings, Stepney, and the pre-Premier League era

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Almost as far back as football records go, goalkeepers have been hitting the back of the opposition’s net. It is said that Manchester City’s Charlie Williams was the first, thumping a long clearance down the pitch and into the Sunderland goal during a match in April 1900.

Nearly 120 years later, the goalkeepers are still at it (as you will see) – and we still love them for such improbable scoring oddities. Whether they score via a penalty, a free kick or from open play, the sight of the goalkeeper turned goalscorer never gets old. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it’s always worth a look…

Probably the most celebrated of such goals in the twentieth century English game came from Northern Ireland’s greatest ever keeper, Pat Jennings (above) – who is also remarkable for being one of very, very few players to be considered a legend on both sides of the North London divide. He famously scored a real cracker of a goal for Spurs in the 1967 Charity Shield match against Manchester United.

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This is a classic goalkeeper’s goal – the ball powerfully punted upfield and past the United keeper Alex Stepney, who clearly doesn’t anticipate it going in. Indeed, you can almost feel Stepney’s dejected bemusement in the wonderful image (above) of him picking the ball out of the net afterwards. Interestingly enough, Stepney himself perhaps went on to redeem himself somewhat by scoring two penalties for Manchester United during the 1970s!

Other pre-Premier League goalscoring goalies in the British game included Peter Shilton, Mark Crossley, Andy Goram, Steve Ogrizovic, Bruce Grobbelaar, and, in other corners of the Football League, Kevin Pressman and Mart Poom.

On the scoresheet elsewhere

Jens Lehmann

A number of goalkeepers familiar to fans of Premier League and Football League clubs have hit the back of the net for teams elsewhere in the world too. Ex-Arsenal keeper Jens Lehmann (above) was the first goalie to score from open play in the Bundesliga – and both Manchester City’s Claudio Bravo and ex-United keeper Massimo Taibi have similarly scored in other European leagues.

More often than not though, goalkeepers are penalty scorers. Former Manchester United and Fulham shot stopper Edwin van der Sar is one such, scoring from the spot for Ajax. He joins a list of keeper spot kick specialists from around the world that includes Mark Bosnich, Artur Boruc, Simon Mignolet, and Nuno Espirito Santo.

Heading back to the English game and outside the top flight, there has to be an honourable mention for Jimmy Glass, whose famous last-minute goal for Carlisle United in 1999 saved the club from relegation out of the Football League and provoked the club’s chairman Michael Knighton to flights of fancy:

I believe in a Methuselah, Frankenstein, alien beings, flying saucers and the hand of God. But most of all, I believe in on-loan goalkeepers from Swindon who score goals in the dying seconds.

Incidentally, almost twenty years later, another temporary goalkeeper scored another crucially important last-gasp goal – this time in Italy’s Serie A. After a number of loan deals elsewhere, journeyman keeper Alberto Brignoli (below) had ended up at Benevento, then in their first (and thus far only) season in Serie A.

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Benevento had had a rough season, their fans suffering through a European record of 14 consecutive defeats. In December 2017, they played the usually all-powerful AC Milan, who might have thought they’d won 1-2 – until Brignoli sprinted up to head in an equaliser in the 95th minute! Brignoli’s goal gave Benevento their first ever Serie A point, but he couldn’t prevent them from being relegated to Serie B at the end of the season, sadly.

Robinson, Schmeichel, and the modern record-breakers

Paul Robinson (above, top) is another keeper well known for having scored twice in his career – once for Leeds United, and once for Spurs. The Leeds goal – an injury time header in a League Cup game against Swindon – is the one described at the beginning of this post (he also saved a penalty in that match). Conversely, his goal for Spurs was from a free kick, lofted high and long to bounce over the head of the Watford keeper Ben Foster, who frankly didn’t stand a chance.

His goalscoring antics still make him a bit of a hero in both West Yorkshire and North London even now. In a recent interview with the official Spurs website, Robinson commented:

My goal for Leeds was probably a better goal because it was intentional. There was a lot of luck involved in my Spurs goal. As much as I would like to say I meant it, I can say that!

Robinson is one of only five goalkeepers to have scored in an English top-flight league game in the twenty-seven years since the Premier League began. The other four are Peter Schmeichel (below, who racked up an astonishing total of thirteen goals over the course of his long career), Brad Friedel, Tim Howard (the two Americans scoring once each, for Blackburn and Everton respectively), and Asimir Begovic (whose record-breaking goal for Stoke hit the back of his opposite number’s net after a mere 13 seconds).

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But these Premier League goal tallies are as nothing compared to those of some modern keepers elsewhere in the world. The all-time record is held by the Brazilian São Paulo FC stalwart Rogério Ceni (below), who eventually scored a jawdropping 131 goals over the course of a 25 year career, including 14 in the prestigious Copa Libertadores. That’s more than some strikers manage!

A long way behind Ceni, with a mere 67 goals, is José Luis Chilavert of Paraguay.  However, he is also the only professional goalkeeper who is known to have scored a hat-trick, which is a pretty impressive feat in its own right. René Higuita is another keeper to have scored an impressive number of goals, with a final tally of 41 for an equally impressive number of teams.

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Then there’s Hans-Jörg Butt, third choice Germany keeper at the turn of the millennium, who scored 32 goals in total during his career, and who holds the unusual record of being the only goalkeeper to score three times from the spot against Juventus – for three different teams. To make this record even odder, one of these penalties was against his fellow goalscoring goalie, Edwin van der Sar!

There are many more keepers who have hit the back of the net, but this blog post is long enough already. However, taking the subject to its logical conclusion, what about goalkeeper assists? There are plenty of those too – a few choice examples can be found here. In the Premier League, the ‘keeper who has been of most help to his goalscorers is…. oh look, it’s that Paul Robinson again, with five…

Many thanks to Sid, who not only suggested the topic of this post but also dug out some very useful source material for it!

Mascot Monday: Boilerman (West Brom)

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Welcome to a new series of posts designed to brighten up your Mondays! First off, we’re heading to West Brom to meet Boilerman, the hot water hero we didn’t know we needed. As aficionados of bonkers football mascots (and there are many out there), we here at ASRV absolutely love Boilerman – although we’re still trying to work out how he actually sees anything at all out of that suit…

Name: Boilerman

Club: West Bromwich Albion

Mascot since: 2018

Species: Er… a combi boiler. On legs. Wearing a cap.

Friends & Family: Baggie Bird (see photo below)

Social Media: Twitter, Facebook.

Notes: A promotional mascot for WBA sponsors Ideal Boilers, Boilerman was introduced to the fans at the Hawthorns in August 2018. He was an instant social media hit, discussed on both local and national news websites – and has even released his own clothing line (a first for a football mascot?).

Boilerman and Baggie Bird
Boilerman hanging out with his mate Baggie Bird.

If you’ve got any suggestions for future Mascot Mondays, let us know!

 

(George) Best of Both Worlds?

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Algorithms. Dontcha just love them? Sometimes they do amazing things (like imaging black holes), and sometimes…. well, sometimes they get a little ahead of themselves (no, Twitter, we really don’t want to follow Piers Morgan).

We particularly liked this amusing instance of what can only be called algorithm confusion (above), found while we were updating the ASRV Pinterest recently (our Pinterest is definitely worth a look, btw. Lots and lots of amazing images from over a century of football).

Like many social media-type sites, Pinterest will suggest what it decides is the most relevant of your subject boards for each picture you save, but sometimes it gets it just a little bit wrong…

For example, you might assume that it would recommend filing a pic of the legendary footballing genius, bad boy and inveterate ladies man George Best on, say, the Football or Northern Ireland boards. We certainly did.

But if you look at the top right hand corner of the screenshot above, you’ll see that, according to the Pinterest algorithm, the most appropriate board for George is actually… guess what?

That’s right. Women’s Football.

Well, yes. And no. We’re still giggling.

We suspect Georgie Boy would definitely approve though…

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