Tuesday, September 27, 2016

27 September 1879 - The Birth Of The Birmingham Derby

On 27 September 1879, Birmingham City hosted the first Birmingham derby, beating Aston Villa by the score of 1-0. Since then, Villa has gotten the better of their crosstown rivals, winning the greater share of the teams' 120 meetings.

For that first match, Birmingham were still going by their original name, Small Heath Alliance (pictured). The contest was played at their Muntz Street ground, which drew heavy criticism for Villa players as being "only suitable for pot-holing."

The first competitive match in the derby came in the FA Cup in 1887, with Villa taking a 2-1 victory. Out of their 120 total matches, 52 have gone to Villa and 38 to Birmingham City, with 31 draws. The derby's top scorer is Villa's Billy Walker, who found the net 11 times between 1919 and 1934. City's top scorer is Joe Bradford, with 8 goals from 1920 to 1935.

Several players have switched teams over the years, including a few who moved directly from one team to the other. The highest profile switch came in 1986, when Villa great Dennis Mortimer (who won the European Cup with Villa in 1982) joined Birmingham after a season at Brighton & Hove Albion.

Managers have also made the crosstown move, starting in 1982 when Villa manager Ron Saunders joined Birmingham. In 2011, manager Alex McLeish left Birmingham for Aston Villa after Birmingham were relegated from the Premier League. Villa were relegated in 2016 and the next-scheduled meeting is October 30 in the Championship.

Monday, September 26, 2016

26 September 1970 - The Number Of This Beast Was 10

On 26 September 1970, DC United playmaker Marco Etcheverry was born in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. Widely regard as one of Bolivia's greatest players, he was named in 2005 as one of the MLS All-Time Best XI.

Nicknamed "El Diablo," he started his professional career in 1986 and played for a handful of teams in South America and Spain before moving to DC United in 1996 for the inaugural MLS season. By that time, he was an established Bolivian international, with over 30 caps, including a single appearance in the 1994 World Cup in which he was sent off for a foul on Germany's Lothar Matthäus only three minutes after coming on as a substitute.

In that first season in DC, he was instrumental in leading United to the MLS Cup, including scoring the only goal in DC's victory over the NY/NJ MetroStars in the Eastern Conference semifinals en route to being named the tournament MVP. In eight seasons with DC, he won two more MLS Cups (1997, 1999), the US Open Cup (1996), and two Supporters Shields for having the league's best record (1997, 1999).

Individually, he was named the league MVP in 1998 and was included in the MLS All-Star team in each of his first four seasons. By the time he left DC in 2003, he was the club's leader in several statistical categories including assists (101) and appearances (191).

After leaving DC in 2003, he played briefly for Bolívar (where he had played in 1990-91), then retired in 2004.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

25 September 1963 - Finney Finally Makes A Move

On 25 September 1963, English center forward Tom Finney, who had spent all 14 seasons of his professional career at Preston North End, came out of retirement for one match. For another club.

One of the most dominant players of the era, Finney signed with Preston, his hometown club, shortly before the outbreak of World War II. But the suspension of football during the conflict meant that he did not make his debut for them until 1946. He was a standout for an otherwise largely unimpressive side, winning the Footballer of the Year award in 1953-54 and again in 1956-57. He stayed with them through the 1959-60 season, scoring a total of 210 goals in 473 appearances before injuries forced his retirement in 1960.

In 1963, George Eastham, the manager of defending Irish League champions Distillery FC, asked the then-41 year old Finney to play for them in a European Cup tie against Benfica, who had won the competition in 1961 and 1962. After convincing Finney that the offer was legitimate, the forward agreed to suit up for the Northern Irish club, but only for the first home leg. It was the only time in his professional career that he played an official match for a club other than Preston.

A crowd of over 19,000 turned out at Windsor Park in Belfast to watch the contest, as Distillery took the lead three times, only to see Benfica equalize each time. An 80th-minute goal from Eusébio in the 80th minute ended the match at 3-3. In the second leg, playing without Finney, Distillery lost 5-0.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

24 September 1962 - The Rise Of The Super Ranger

On 24 September 1962, two-time European Golden Boot winner Ally McCoist was born in Bellshill, Scotland.

The striker, nicknamed "Super Ally," started his professional career in 1979 with St. Johnstone. He had a breakout season in 1980-81, scoring 22 goals in 38 league appearances, which led to a move to Sunderland. But after two unsuccessful seasons there, he returned to Scotland, signing with Rangers in 1983 for a fee of £185,000.

Rangers hadn't won the league since 1978, but with McCoist contributing 34 goals, they won it in 1987 and followed that one with nine straight between 1989 and 1997. In both 1992 and 1993, McCoist matched his tally of 34 league goals, winning the European Golden Boot for both seasons. Along the way, McCoist also won nine Scottish League Cups and the 1992 Scottish Cup. While at Rangers, he made 61 appearances for Scotland, where his 19 goals rank him fifth on their list of all-time scorers.

His played the last three seasons of his career for Kilmarnock (1998-2001), then moved into management. In 2004, he served under Scotland manager Walter Smith, then moved with Smith back to Rangers in January 2007. Upon Smith's retirement in 2011, McCoist took the reins for the 2011-12 season, which ended with the club in administration and re-forming as a fourth-tier club. McCoist guided them back to the second tier before resigning in 2014.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

23 September 1919 - Better Late Than Never

On 23 September 1919, the Italian Football Association declared Genoa the champions of the top flight. For the 1914-15 season.

In the 1914-15 season, the Italian title was determined by a tournament that divided the country into a Northern bracket on one side and a Central and Southern bracket on the other. Genoa won their group in the Northern bracket qualification round, then won their semifinal group as well, to reach a final Northern group that included Torino, Inter, and Milan.

With one match left to play in the group, and Genoa leading by two points, the outbreak of World War I forced the cancellation of the competition. The Central and Southern bracket had not even reached the semifinal stage. Thus the league did not have an official winner for the 1914-15 season.

After the conclusion of the war, play resumed in 1919. Not wanting to leave the champions' seat vacant, the Italian Football Association awarded the 1915 title to Genoa based on their position before the suspension of the competition. It was the seventh overall title for the Rossoblu, who lost several players and club founder James Richardson Spensley to the conflict. They won additional titles in 1923 and 1924, but none since.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

22 September 2007 - City Sends Schmeichel Mixed Messages

On 22 September 2007, fresh off a string off seven successful appearances, 20-year old Manchester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel signed a new 4-year deal worth a reported £18,000 per week. And played for the club only three more times.

Schmeichel, the son of Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel, signed his first professional contract with City in 2004, but spent the majority of the first few years of his contract on loan. But injuries to keepers Andreas Isaakson and Joe Hart before the start of the 2007-08 season pushed Schmeichel to the forefront.

He started City's first seven matches of the season, earning a record of four wins, one draw, and two away losses (both by the narrow score of 1-0) and getting his new deal as a reward. But, in the meantime, Joe Hart returned to fitness and manager Sven-Göran Eriksson chose him for City's next match, a 3-1 victory over Newcastle.

Hart became the permanent starter, relegating Schmeichel to the bench. He spent portions of the season on loan with Cardiff City, then Coventry City, before returning to Manchester for 2008-09. But he was still stuck behind Hart and made only three appearances for City that season, one as a substitute.

In August 2009, he joined Notts County, managed at the time by Eriksson, and then joined Leeds United in May 2010. In June 2011, Schmeichel rejoined Eriksson, this time at Leicester City, his current club.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

21 September 2003 - And The Gunners Kept Rolling Along

On 21 September 2003, Arsenal preserved their unbeaten streak by the narrowest of margins, drawing 0-0 after a missed Manchester United penalty.

When the Gunners arrived at Old Trafford, they were enjoying a modest seven-game unbeaten streak that stretched back to the last two matches of the previous season--a season that had ended with United beating Arsenal to the top of the final table after some heated confrontations between the two sides. In February 2003, Arsenal won a heated FA Cup contest over United in a match that saw a slew of yellow cards. Then, in April 2003, the teams played to a draw after Arsenal defender Sol Campbell received a straight red for an elbow to the face of United's Ole Gunnar Solskjær.

Campbell missed the match on 21 September, but the emotions still ran high. The day's first yellow card went to United's Roy Keane in the 21st minute, with seven more to follow. Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira was ejected in the 80th minute after receiving a second yellow for a confrontation with United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.

In the 91st minute, the referee awarded United a penalty for Martin Keown's challenge on striker Diego Forlan. Van Nistelrooy stepped up to take the kick, despite missing his previous two attempts. True to form, he slammed the ball against the bar, drawing an emotional taunt from Keown.

The match ended as a scoreless draw and Arsenal proceeded to go undefeated for the remainder of the season.