Saturday, April 19, 2014

19 April 1958 - A Striking Debut

On 19 April 1958, 20-year old Manchester United striker/midfielder Bobby Charlton made his international debut for England in a British Home Championship match against Scotland at Hampden Park, Glasgow. England won 4-0, with two goals from Derek Kevan, one from Bryan Douglas, and one from Charlton - his first in an English record of 49 international goals. His last international goal came in England's 4-0 win over Colombia in a friendly played on 20 May 1970 in Bogotá.

Charlton played for the English national team through the 1970 World Cup, where England was knocked out in the quarterfinals by Franz Beckenbauer's West German side. In all, he made 106 national team appearances, a record at the time, though later surpassed by Bobby Moore (108), David Beckham (109), and Peter Shilton (125), so he is now the fourth most-capped player for England. 

His goal-scoring record still stands, however, almost 39 years after that last goal in Colombia.

Friday, April 18, 2014

18 April 1955 - Once Again, Ganymede Gets Shafted

On 18 April 1955, a group including Switzerland's Ernst Thommen, Italy's Ottorino Barassi, and England's Stanley Rous founded the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, an annual football tournament for European club teams.

As reflected in its name, the tournament was designed originally to promote international trade fairs, with participation limited to teams from cities participating in such fairs. The rules limited each participating city to one team each.

Because the matches themselves were scheduled to coincide with the fairs, the tournament's first season ran for three years, from 1955 to 1958. That first season included teams from Barcelona, Basel, Birmingham, Cologne, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Lausanne, Leipzig, London, Milan, Vienna, and Zagreb, with the team from Barcelona (consisting primarily of players from FC Barcelona, along with one player from RCD Espanyol) claiming the first title.

In 1971, UEFA took control of the tournament and rebranded it as the UEFA Cup, with Leeds United winning the first UEFA Cup trophy.

Starting in the 2009-2010 season, the tournament was rebranded again and is now called the Europa League.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

17 April 2004 - Adu A-Does It

On 17 April 2004, D.C. United's Freddy Adu became the youngest goalscorer in MLS history before a crowd of 31,419 at New York's Giants Stadium.

At 14 years, 320 days, the Ghanian-born U.S. international entered the match in the 54th minute, replacing Alecko Eskandarian. D.C. was trailing 3-1 when Adu put a six-yard shot past MetroStars goalkeeper Jonny Walker in the 75th minute. That was the last goal of the match, however, which ended 3-2 in favor of the MetroStars.

Despite the loss, D.C. went on to win the MLS Cup that year, with Eskandarian claiming the honors for the league's Most Valuable Player.

Adu stayed with United through the 2005-06 season, making a total of 87 appearances and scoring 11 goals. 

Photo copyrighted by Bill Kostroun - AP.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

16 April 1960 - A Long, Strange Trip Indeed

On 16 April 1960, Rafael Benítez Maudes was born in Madrid.

A midfielder, he played his youth football for Real Madrid Aficionados, the secondary reserve team for Real Madrid C.F. His senior career started in 1974, when he joined Real's primary reserve team, Real Madrid Castilla C.F. He played there from 1974 to 1981, making 247 appearances and scoring 73 goals. He subsequently played for Spanish sides A.D. Parla (1981-85; 124 appearances, 28 goals) and C.D. Linares (1985-86; 34 appearances, 17 goals) before injuries forced him to end his playing career at the age of 26.

Benítez stayed in football, however, joining Real Madrid's coaching staff from 1986 to 1994, working at first with the reserve squads, then advancing to assistant manager for the first team. After the 1993-94 season, he left Real to become manager of Real Valladolid in the Primera División, but was sacked after winning only two of his first 23 matches in charge. He then moved to C.A. Osasuna in the Segunda División, but was again sacked after achieving only one win in his first nine matches.

Benítez's fortunes soon turned, however, as the peripatetic coach led both C.F. Extremadura (1997-99) and C.D. Tenerife (2000-01) to promotion to the Primera División. In 2001, he moved to Valencia C.F., where he won La Liga twice (in 2002 and 2004) and the UEFA Cup (2004).

After his double-winning season in 2004, Benítez resigned from Valencia over disagreements with the sporting director and moved to Liverpool for the 2004-05 season. He led them to immediate success by winning the 2005 UEFA Champions League, followed shortly after by the FA Cup trophy in 2006.

In 2010, he left Liverpool, spending time with Inter (2010) and Chelsea (2011-12) before taking charge of his current club, Napoli, in 2013.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

15 April 1989 - Hillsborough

On 15 April 1989, 94 Liverpool supporters died at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England during an FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool F.C. and Nottingham Forest F.C. Two people died later as a result of injuries sustained that day, raising the total number of fatalities to 96. A total of 766 fans were injured.

The stadium - like many around the world at the time - had standing room only areas called terraces, which were sectioned off into a number of fenced pens.

A number of fans showed up late to the match, having been held up by unscheduled roadworks. Large crowds formed at the entrances as the match started and the police, in order to ease the congestion and avoid injuries, opened two side gates into the central pens for the Liverpool supporters. The police failed to monitor the number of supporters in the central pens, however, so that the ensuing rush of supporters filled them far beyond capacity.

The people in the front were forced up against the fencing between the terraces and the pitch, crushed by the weight of the crowd behind them. Because of an absence of stewards or police to direct the crowd, the entering supporters did not know what was happening at the front and continued to press their way in to see the match. The pressure of the crowd was so great that many of the 96 casualties died while standing up.

The British government appointed Lord Justice Taylor to investigate the circumstances leading to the disaster. His conclusion, known as the Taylor Report, led to the elimination of fencing between the supporters and the pitch and the conversion of many of the larger stadiums in Britain to all-seaters.

To this day, the incident at Hillsborough is the deadliest stadium-related disaster in British history.

Monday, April 14, 2014

14 April 1917 - They've Had A Bit Of Success Since Then, As Well

On 14 April 1917, Celtic beat Hibernian in Edinburgh by the score of 0-1. The win put a bookend on Celtic's record streak of 62 unbeaten league matches, a streak that started the previous season with a 2-0 home win over Kilmarnock on 20 November 1915.

The streak was a small part of Celtic's overall dominance of the Scottish league of the period, which saw them them win four consecutive league titles from 1915-1918 under manager Willie Maley. Maley was one of the first players signed by Celtic in their inaugural season in 1888 and became their first manager in 1897. He retired in 1940, making him Celtic's longest-serving manager. In those 43 years, Maley helmed Celtic to 30 major trophies, including 16 league titles.

Coincidentally, the team at the front end of Celtic's unbeaten streak - Kilmarnock - ended it on 21 April 1917, beating the Hoops in Glasgow by the score of 0-2.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

13 April 1936 - Bristol Rovers Feel The Pain

On 13 April 1936, Luton Town crushed Bristol Rovers 12-0 in a Division Three (South) match. 10 of the goals were scored by one player, Joe Payne, whose tally remains the record number of goals scored by one individual in a League match.

Payne (pictured, on the left in the white shirt) joined the Hatters the previous season at the age of 20. By the time of the match against Rovers, he was primarily a reserve team player, but was forced into starting at center forward on 13 April due to injuries among his teammates. His 10 goals, however, secured his place in the first team and he led Luton Town to promotion the next season, scoring 55 goals.

In addition to Payne's record haul, the match remains Luton Town's greatest victory and Bristol Rovers' worst loss.