Sunday, January 31, 2016

31 January 2009 - No More Waltzing For This Matilda

On 31 January 2009, defender Cheryl Salisbury made the last of her record 151 appearances for the Australian women's national team. She also finished as their all-time leading goalscorer.

Salisbury joined the national team, nicknamed "the Matildas," in 1994 and helped them achieve their first honor by winning the 1995 OFC Women's Championship. That victory qualified the Matildas for the 1995 Women's World Cup, their first appearance in the tournament.

After a first-round exit that year, repeated in 1999 and 2003, they advanced to the 2007 quarterfinals thanks to a late goal from Salisbury. Her 92nd minute strike against Canada in the final group stage match leveled the score at 2-2 and earned a critical point for the Australians, who finished one point better than Canada to take the group's last spot in the knockout stage. Although they lost there to eventual runners-up Brazil, it remains their best performance in the World Cup to date.

Salisbury continued her heroics in her last appearance, a friendly against Italy played at Parramatta Stadium in New South Wales. There, after the Italian goalkeeper fouled forward Sarah Walsh, Salisbury put the Matildas up 2-1 with a 66th-minute penalty kick--her record 38th goal for Australia.

But Italy equalized in the 78th minute and Salisbury was subbed out four minutes later. The match ended 2-2. She moved into coaching shortly afterward, taking charge of New South Wales side Broadmeadow Magic in May 2009.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

30 January 1937 - A Good Day To Stay At Home

On 30 January 1937, the home sides went undefeated in all 35 FA Cup and Football League matches.

Of the 16 FA Cup matches that day, only one involved two top-ten First Division clubs, as 6th place Derby County rolled to a comfortable 3-0 win over 3rd place Brentford in the FA Cup. Other First Division match-ups in the Cup included 15th place Preston North End hammering 14th place Stoke City 5-1, 10th place Everton beating 19th place Sheffield Wednesday 3-0, and 1st place Arsenal crushing 22nd place Manchester United, 5-0. Both Sheffield Wednesday and Manchester United would end the season in the two relegation spots.

Arsenal's margin of victory was the largest in the Cup that day, but was both matched and exceeded in Division Two, where Blackburn beat Newcastle 6-1 and, in the day's most lopsided result, Blackpool rode over Bradford Park Avenue, 6-0.

Meanwhile, Luton Town provided the Cup's shock of the day, as the Third Division South side held reigning League champions Sunderland to a 2-2 draw. Two other Third Division South teams provided upsets, as Millwall defeated First Division Chelsea 3-0 and Exeter City beat Second Division Leicester City 3-1. Exeter's victory looked even more impressive at the end of the season, as Leicester won the Second Division, while Exeter finished 21st in the Third Division South.

Four Cup matches went to replays, including York City's scoreless draw at Swansea. It was part of a pattern for York, who had earned home replays in the two previous rounds. But the pattern broke with Swansea, who won at York, 1-3. In fact, the visiting teams won three of the four replays for that round, with the only exception being Sunderland's 3-1 victory over Luton. Sunderland (pictured) proceeded to win the FA Cup that year, beating Preston North End in the Final.

Friday, January 29, 2016

29 January 1995 - The Death Of Vincenzo Spagnolo

On 29 January 1995, 24-year old Genoa supporter Vincenzo Spagnolo was stabbed before a match against AC Milan. He died later that day while undergoing surgery.

According to reports, Spagnolo was on his way into Genoa's Stadio Luigi Ferraris when he and other Genoa supporters were attacked by a group of approximately 20 Milan ultras, who had traveled to the match in disguise, separate from other Milan supporter groups. The attack escalated into a massive brawl, with police using tear gas to subdue the combatants. Spagnolo, who received a stab wound to the stomach, was one of seven people sent to the hospital.

When word reached the teams at halftime, they decided not to continue with the match, which was scoreless. Italian authorities then canceled all national sporting events for the following weekend. The incident caused such sensitivities between Genoa and Milan that their visiting supporters were not allowed into each other's stadiums until 2010.

Witnesses identified Spagnolo's attacker as 19-year old Simone Barbaglia, an apprentice gardener from Milan.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

28 January 2002 - Weah Has The Time Gone?

On 28 January 2002, former FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah ended his 19-year international career as Liberia bowed out of the African Cup of Nations.

Weah, considered my many to be the greatest player Africa has ever produced, was born in Monrovia in 1966. After starring for a handful of African sides, including Mighty Barolle, Invincible Eleven, Africa Sports, and Tonnerre Yaoundé, he joined the Liberian national team in 1988, the same year he moved to Europe to play for Arsène Wenger's Monaco side.

For the next 12 seasons, Weah established himself as one of the world's best strikers, playing for Monaco (1988-92), PSG (1992-95), and AC Milan (1995-2000). In 1995, he won a league and cup double with PSG, while taking them to the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League as the tournament's top scorer. That year's performance earned him several individual awards, including the FIFA World Player of the Year, the Ballon d'Or, and his third African Footballer of the Year award (the previous two came in 1989 and 1994).

Despite his success at the club level, however, Weah never replicated it with Liberia. Like his namesake George Best, he is one of the most famous players never to appear at the World Cup--the closest he came was in 2002, when Liberia fell one point shy of qualification. His appearance on 28 January 2002 was his 60th for Liberia, who were eliminated from the Cup of Nations that day after falling to Nigeria, 0-1.

Weah retired in 2003 after playing for a series of different clubs including Chelsea (2000), Manchester City (2000), Marseille (2000-01), and Al-Jazira (2001-03). Afterward, he moved into politics, making an unsuccessful run for the Liberian presidency in 2005, followed by a successful campaign for the Liberian Senate in 2014.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

27 January 1949 - The Peerless Per Røntved

On 27 January 1949, Werder Bremen captain and Danish Player of the Year Per Røntved was born in Frederiksberg.

Røntved started his professional career as a left winger for Second Division Danish side Brønshøj Boldklub in 1967, but soon switched positions to defense, helping guide the team to promotion at the end of his second season.

He earned his first cap with the Danish senior side in 1970 and captained the side during the 1972 Olympics. The highlight of that campaign was a 3-2 victory over Brazil in the first round, with Røntved scoring in the 50th minute to put the Danes up 2-0. The Brazilians rallied to draw level with goals in the 68th and 69th minutes before an 83rd minute Danish score put Røntved's side ahead for good. That performance led to Røntved winning the 1972 Danish Player of the Year Award.

After the Olympics, Røntved moved to Werder Bremen. He spent the majority of his career there, making 194 league appearances between 1972 and 1979. Although he joined them as a midfielder, he switched positions once more, filling in at sweeper. His new coach, Otto Rehhagel, claimed that Røntved was the second-best sweeper in the world at the time, behind only fellow Bundesliga star Franz Beckenbauer.

In June 1979, Røntved, then 30 years old, moved back to the Danish Second Division with Randers Freja. After three and a half seasons, he rejoined the top flight with Hvidovre IF, then retired in 1983.

He continued to play internationally until 1982 and, in his last appearance, became the first player to make 75 appearances for the Danish national team.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

26 January 1884 - Great Scots

On 26 January 1884, Ireland hosted the very first British Home Championship match, losing 0-5 to eventual winners Scotland.

The previous year, the football associations of the four British Home Nations--England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales--agreed to formalize their regular internationals in an annual tournament. They decided that each of the four members would play single matches against the other three, earning two points for a win and one point for a draw, with the champions being the team with the most points at the end.

The format for the new tournament called for Ireland to play their three matches first, so they welcomed Scotland to Ballynafeigh Park in Belfast for the inaugural match. It wasn't much of a contest, as the Scots rolled to victory with a goal from John Goudie and two each from James Gossland and William Harrower (despite the performance, it was Gossland's only cap for Scotland).

Ireland followed the match with further losses to Wales (6-0) and England (1-8), while Scotland proceeded to win both of their remaining matches (1-0 over England and 4-1 over Wales) to claim the first BHC title. It was the first of four consecutive titles for Scotland, who won the British Home Championship a total of 41 times before the competition came to an end in 1984.

Monday, January 25, 2016

25 January 2006 - Veni, Vidi, Vidić

On 25 January 2006, center back Nemanja Vidić made his first appearance for Manchester United, coming on as a late substitute in a 2-1 win over Blackburn in the Carling Cup.

A Serbian international, Vidić started his professional career in 2000 with Red Star Belgrade, who promptly loaned him out to Second Division side Spartak Subotica for his first season. He returned to Belgrade in 2001 and became a regular feature in the league's second-best defense, allowing only 28 goals all season.

For the next two seasons, Vidić and Red Star reduced that number to 26, then 13--both league bests--while winning a league and cup double in 2004. That drew the attention of Manchester United, but Vidić moved instead to Spartak Moscow for two seasons (reportedly, as the most expensive defender in the history of the Russian league, though details of his contract were not made public).

Vidić eventually signed with United in January 2006 for a fee close to £7 million. With United leading Blackburn 2-1 in the second leg of their Carling Cup semifinal (and winning 3-2 on aggregate), Vidić came on in the 86th minute as a defensive replacement for striker Ruud van Nistelrooy. 

He went on to make 300 appearances for United, winning five league titles, three League Cups, and the UEFA Champions League. In August 2010, he became the team captain, a position he held until his departure for Inter in 2014.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

24 January 1947 - The Start Of Giorgio's Journey

On 24 January 1947, Lazio and New York Cosmos star Giorgio Chinaglia was born in Carrara, Italy.

His family moved to Wales when he was 8, resulting in the striker starting his professional career in 1964 with Swansea Town. But after only six league appearances in two seasons, he moved back to Italy, where he spent three seasons in Serie C--one with Massese and two with Internapoli--before joining Lazio in 1969.

At Lazio, he became a dominating center forward, scoring 123 goals in seven seasons, including the matchwinner in a 1974 Rome derby. After the goal, he taunted the Roma supporters, a move that endeared him to Lazio's fans. That season, Lazio won their first-ever Scudetto.

In 1976, Chinaglia joined the New York Cosmos. Although other international stars preceded him to the US, he was the first to join the NASL while still in the prime of his career, as evidenced by his 242 goals in 254 matches. He was a six-time NASL all-star and was instrumental in delivering four of the team's five league titles.

He retired from playing when the Cosmos folded in 1985. A naturalized American, Chinaglia was inducted into the USA National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2000. He passed away in 2012 at the age of 65.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

23 January 1919 - Liverpool's Other Greatest Manager

On 23 January 1919, Liverpool legend Bob Paisley was born in Sunderland, England. Although Bill Shankly is widely--and correctly--recognized as Liverpool's greatest manager, Paisley actually produced a better record and more silverware than his former boss.

Paisley joined the club as a half-back in May 1939, making the move from non-League side Bishop Auckland FC. But World War II intervened, so he did not make his first appearance until January 1946, almost 7 years later. Despite the delay, he quickly established himself as a regular in the first team, making 253 League appearance before his retirement in 1954, winning both the 1947 League title and the 1950 FA Cup (Paisley did not play in the Cup final, but played in enough matches to earn a winner's medal).

After hanging up his boots, he remained with the club as a staff member, first as a physiotherapist, then as a reserve coach. He was there when Shankly arrived in December 1959 and helped the new boss guide the Reds to unparalleled heights, winning three League titles, two FA Cups, one UEFA Cup, and one European Cup Winners' Cup. When Shankly retired unexpectedly after the 1973-74 season, Paisley took up the reins.

Under Paisley, Liverpool amassed a monumental silverware collection, including 6 League titles, 3 European Cups, one UEFA Cup, 3 League Cups, one European Super Cup, and one Intercontinental Cup. Paisley himself won 6 Manager of the Year Awards. When discussing his amazing run of success, Paisley once quipped "Mind you, I've been here during the bad times, too. One year we came second."

He retired in 1983, after winning that 6th League title. All told, he had spent 44 years at Anfield. He died in 1996 at the age of 77.

Friday, January 22, 2016

22 January 2005 - Menez Scores Many Goals

On 22 January 2005, Sochaux winger Jérémy Menez became the youngest player in Ligue 1 history to score a hat-trick. And he did it in the span of six minutes.

Menez already had one record under his belt as the league's youngest-ever player when he signed with Sochaux in 2004 at the age of 16. He became an instant first-team choice, making his inaugural start in August of that year and scoring his first goal in November.

That month, Sochaux rose as high as third in the table, but they dropped to 10th by the time Bordeaux came to town in January, following a 6-match winless streak. The Girondins, meanwhile, were 7th.

The two sides were evenly matched until Sochaux left back Sylvain Monsoreau put the hosts ahead in the 73rd minute. Then Menez ensured that there would be comeback, adding goals in the 78th and 82nd minutes. He completed his hat-trick with a tasty chip over Girondins keeper Ulrich Ramé in the 85th minute. (The goals start at 1:17 in the clip below.) He was 17 years, 8 months, and 15 days old at the time.

Menez currently plays for AC Milan.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

20 January 1985 - Maldini Joins The Family Business

On 20 January 1985, 16-year old defender Paolo Maldini made his first professional appearance, coming on as a second-half substitute for AC Milan. He would go on to become the club's all-time appearance leader with 902 matches.

Maldini was following in the footsteps of his father, Cesare, who played defense at Milan from 1954 to 1966, winning 4 Serie A titles and the 1963 European Cup. Paolo was born in 1968 and joined the Milan youth team at the age of 10. By 1985, he had earned a spot on the bench and then, in a match against Udinese, he took the pitch for the first time, coming on for the second half.

The match ended in a draw and was Maldini's only appearance that season. But he became an established starter at left back the next season, making a total of 40 appearances in all competitions. In his 25 seasons with the Rossoneri, they won 7 Scudettos and 5 European Cup/Champions League titles.

Although Maldini maintained an incredibly high performance level for his entire career, his annus miribilis came in 1993-94. That season, Milan won both Serie A and the Champions League, while Maldini advanced to the World Cup Final with Italy, losing to Brazil on penalties. For his performance, World Soccer Magazine named him the 1994 World Player of the Year, the first time the award went to a defender.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

19 January 2008 - The Man With The Golden Boot

On 19 January 2008, Landon Donovan became the US national team's all-time leading scorer with a penalty kick against Sweden.

Donovan, who played his first full international in 2000, was already the team's all-time assist leader, having passed his LA Galaxy teammate Cobi Jones for that honor in 2006. And in 2007, he tied Eric Wynalda's scoring record of 34 goals in dramatic fashion, converting a 62nd-minute penalty kick to equalize against Mexico in the Gold Cup Final as the US went on to win 2-1.

The match against Sweden was a friendly, played at the Galaxy's Home Depot Center in Carson, California as both teams geared up for their World Cup 2010 qualifying campaigns. Defender Eddie Robinson, in his first international appearance, drove a shot home from a rebound in the 15th minute to put the hosts up 1-0. Then, in the 48th minute, the referee awarded the US a penalty kick when Sweden's Mattias Bjarsmyr fouled US forward Jozy Altidore in the box. Donovan stepped up and converted the spot kick for his record 35th goal.

Donovan increased his record goal tally to 57 before his retirement in 2014.

Monday, January 18, 2016

18 January 1961 - The Ceiling Is Lifted (And The Sky's The Limit)

On 18 January 1961, England finally lifted the wage restriction for footballers that had previously capped their earnings at £20 per week (£17 in the close season).

The wage limit was one of two concerns for players of the time. The other was the retain-and-transfer system, which gave the clubs complete authority regarding player movement from one club to another. Together, the two matters nearly prompted a player strike in January 1961, backed by the Professional Footballers' Association and their chairman, Jimmy Hill (pictured, at left).

Hill, who played for Brentford from 1949-52, then for Fulham from 1952-61, became the PFA chairman in 1957 and continued the organization's longstanding opposition to the wage restriction. The Football Association and the Football League, however, argued that the £20 weekly wage was a fair one, being 25% higher than the average industrial wage at the time. But at a PFA meeting earlier that January, Bolton's Tommy Banks generated support for a challenge, pointing out that anyone could take a crack at being a miner, but few miners could play football in front of 30,000 spectators every week.

The threat of the impending strike forced the authorities to capitulate and lift the wage. While many players saw their wages doubled as a result, Hill's Fulham teammate Johnny Haynes was the greatest beneficiary, becoming England's first £100-a-week player. 

Since then, wages have increased dramatically, with several of the Premier League's top players pulling in a reported £200,000 per week.

The retain-and-transfer system remained in place until 1963.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

17 January 1970 - Haynes Makes His Fulham Farewell

On 17 January 1970, Fulham icon Johnny Haynes played his last match for the London club, a 1-1 home draw with Stockport County.

Dubbed "the Maestro," Haynes started his professional career with Fulham in 1952. Before his departure in 1970, he made a club record 658 appearances and scored a then-record haul of 158 goals (later surpassed by Gordon Davies in 1991). Haynes, however, preferred creating goal opportunities to scoring them and was once described by Pelé as "the best passer of the ball I've ever seen." He broke yet another record in 1961 when Fulham made him the first player in England to earn a weekly wage of £100.

Fulham were in the Second Division when Haynes joined the club. He helped them earn promotion to the top flight in 1959 on the heels of his 26 league goals, a career best. But after 9 seasons in the First Division, they suffered back-to-back relegations and played Haynes' last season in Division Three.

After leaving Fulham, he spent five seasons in South Africa before retiring. After his death from a brain hemorrhage in 2005, Fulham renamed a stand a Craven Cottage in his honor and also retired his number 10 shirt. Three years later, the club unveiled a statute of Haynes outside the stadium.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

16 January 2004 - How Popular Is Women's Volleyball, Anyway?

On 16 January 2004, former FIFA President Sepp Blatter drew criticism for suggesting that female footballers could increase their appeal by wearing, among other things, tighter shorts.

During a discussion on ways to improve the popularity of women's football, Blatter said "Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts." He went on to say "Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men, such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?"

Predictably, the response from female footballers was not enthusiastic. England goalkeeper Pauline Cope remarked that Blatter "doesn't know what he is talking about. We don't use a lighter ball for one thing, and to say we should play football in hotpants is plain ridiculous." Fulham manager Marieanne Spacey pointed out that "Ten years ago, we did play in tighter shorts. Nobody paid attention then."

The incident was neither the first nor last time Blatter received criticism. As soon as he took the post of FIFA president in 2002, rumors immediately surfaced claiming he had bribed his way to the office. More recently, he came under fire for saying that homosexuals worried about traveling to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup should "refrain from any sexual activities" while there (see video).

Friday, January 15, 2016

15 January 2010 - Lyon Pays For Their Bad Gamble

On 15 January 2010, Lyon secured a domestic shirt sponsorship agreement with Sony, filling a gap left when their original sponsor ran afoul of French law.

French law is more restrictive than other countries with regard to shirt sponsors, including a prohibition on alcohol advertisements that has forced visiting foreign sides like Liverpool, Celtic, and Rangers to either cover or remove their sponsors before playing matches in France. Nevertheless, before the 2009-10 season, Lyon reached an agreement with Paris-based gambling website BetClic despite the fact that existing French law prohibited the advertising of such websites on football shirts.

Lyon officials pressured the French government to lift the ban before the season started. The authorities refused, however, and warned Lyon to expect penalties should they proceed to wear the BetClic shirts. Lyon capitulated and, for the first five months, played without a sponsor. But by January, the loss of sponsor-related income proved too much to bear and the club reached out to Sony. The Japanese company used Lyon's shirts to advertise their Playstation 3 console, but the agreement was limited and did not include European matches. That led to an awkward moment for Lyon and BetClic in the Champions League, when Lyon wore sponsorless shirts for a match at Real Madrid, who were sponsored by BetClic's rival, Bwin (see video below). 

France eventually lifted the ban in 2010, allowing both Lyon and Marseille, who signed with the website for the 2010-11 season, to wear the BetClic shirts.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

14 January 1996 - Chastain Is (A) Back

On 14 January 1996, the US women's national team crushed Russia 8-1 in a match that marked the return of Brandi Chastain after a 3-year absence.

Chastain had made 17 appearances for the national team from 1988 t0 1993 as a forward and was part of the team that won the 1991 Women's World Cup. But she dropped off the national radar in 1993 after contributing only 7 goals and 2 assists. She was called back in 1996, but as a defender.

Her first match back was the blowout win against Russia in the Torneio do Brasil, held in Campinas. Chastain was part of a stout backline that helped the US to a close victory over Brazil (3-2) and a shutout win over the Ukraine (6-0). They met Brazil again in the Final, winning on penalty kicks, 1-1 (3-2).

As a defender, Chastain secured her place in the national team, earning a total of 192 caps before retiring in 2004. In the time she scored over three times as many goals as defender (23) than she had as a forward, including her memorable penalty kick that won the 1999 Women's World Cup Final over China.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

13 January 1999 - Swansea's Shock Of The Season

On 13 January 1999, Swansea City upset West Ham in a Third Round FA Cup Replay despite being separated by 73 places in the English football pyramid.

The two sides met at Upton Park 11 days earlier, where Swansea were denied a victory by a late West Ham equalizer three minutes from time. For the replay at Swansea's Vetch Field, the hosts were sitting in 14th place in Division Three, while West Ham were holding down the 8th position in the Premier League, three levels higher.

The Hammers created a handful of early chances, thanks in part to the return of midfielder Frank Lampard, who had missed the previous match. But they were unable to convert, with Lampard's 11th-minute header falling just inches wide of the post. Swansea keeper Roger Freestone then made a brilliant save to deny another shot from the midfielder.

Swansea nearly claimed the lead in the 21st minute when midfielder Martin Thomas beat West Ham keeper Shaka Hislop, but his shot struck the bar. Thomas was not to be denied, however, and 8 minutes later he fired a 25-yarder that curled into the bottom corner of the net. Several home supporters rushed onto the pitch, forcing a few minutes' delay while officials restored order.

West Ham pressed forward, but were repeatedly denied by Freestone as Swansea reaped a deserved 1-0 win.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

12 January 2008 - Enough Clubs To Fill A Golf Bag

On 12 January 2008, Nicolas Anelka debuted for Chelsea, his eighth club in 14 years.

His appearance that day against Tottenham was a surprise, even to manager Avram Grant. The forward had signed for Chelsea just the day before and he had not even participated in a training session. But an injury to Claudio Pizarro forced Grant to bring Anelka on in the 58th minute with the Blues up 1-0. Although he didn't score, he quickly made an impact, hitting the bar once and forcing a difficult save from the Spurs keeper as Chelsea won 2-0.

Chelsea had paid £15 million to Bolton for the French forward. Combined with the fees paid for previous transfers, Anelka's various clubs had paid a total of £84.8 million for him, an amount that made him the world's most expensive footballer at the time. In addition to Bolton (2006-08), Anelka had played for PSG (1994-97, 2000-02), Arsenal (1997-99), Real Madrid (1999-2000), Liverpool (2002), Manchester City (2002-04), and Fenerbahçe (2004-06).

Anelka scored only 2 goals for Chelsea in that first season, but bagged a league-best 19 in his second season. He scored 59 across all competitions before leaving the club in 2012.

Monday, January 11, 2016

11 January 2007 - Birmingham Plucks The Vine

On 11 January 2007, Birmingham City signed striker Rowan Vine from Luton Town. It turned out to be a bad decision for both of them.

At the time Vine made the switch, Birmingham were on the top of the Championship table, but had suffered injuries to their strike force of Cameron Jerome, Nicklas Bendtner, and Mikael Forsell, prompting manager Steve Bruce to look to the transfer window. Vine, then 24 years old, had gotten Bruce's attention by scoring three goals against Birmingham that season, helping Luton taking four points from the teams' two meetings. And he had a scorer's pedigree with 31 league goals for the Hatters from 2004 to 2007. He also sat near the top of the club's assist charts for those seasons.

Luton, who had paid close to £250,000 for Vine, made a generous profit on the move, receiving £3 million from Birmingham, including a £500,000 bonus when Birmingham were promoted to the Premier League at the end of the season. Vine, however, did not share the club's good fortune.

He scored only 1 goal in 17 league appearances for Birmingham and went on loan to QPR in October 2007, then signed for them permanently in 2008. Since then, he has moved around England and Scotland and currently plays for semi-professional side Gosport Borough in the National League South, which is in the sixth tier of England's football pyramid.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

10 January 2007 - Apparently, You Can Go Home Again

On 10 January 2007, Rangers confirmed the return of manager Walter Smith, who had previously led the club to a massive haul of silverware from 1991 to 1998.

Smith originally joined the Glasgow club in 1986 as an assistant to Graeme Souness. The pair provided immediate rewards, delivering the league title in their first season. When Souness left in 1991 for Liverpool, Smith stayed to take the reins and proceeded to win the league for 7 consecutive seasons, including a treble win in 1993. That success came at a price, however--in his 6 seasons in charge at Ibrox, Rangers spent £50m in transfer fees, the most of any UK club over that period.

Smith retired in May 1998, but not for long; he became Everton's manager the next month. But the successes did not follow and he was sacked after three seasons. After a brief spell as an assistant at Manchester United, the Scottish FA tapped him to lead the national team.

Meanwhile, Rangers found it difficult to fill Smith's shoes. His two immediate successors, Dick Advocaat (1998-2001) and Alex McLeish (2001-2006), both started well but soon faltered. And McLeish's replacement, Paul Le Guen, lasted only 10 months, prompting the club to send the distress call to Smith. He repaid them by returning Rangers to the top of the league in 2009 and 2010.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

9 January 2001 - Eriksson's Early Arrivederci

On 9 January 2001, the 101st anniversary of Lazio's founding, manager Sven-Göran Eriksson gave the club a surprise present--his resignation.

Arriving in Rome from Serie A rival Sampdoria in 1997, the Swede quickly established himself as one of Lazio's most successful managers by winning the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana in 1998, while taking the club to that season's UEFA Cup Final. Although Lazio lost the final to Inter, Eriksson delivered European glory the following season, winning both the 1999 Cup Winner's Cup and 1999 UEFA Super Cup and finishing as runners-up to Milan in Serie A.

In the 1999-2000 season, Eriksson again brought success, delivering Lazio's second-ever Serie A title as part of a domestic treble that included repeat victories in the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana.

In October 2000, England approached Eriksson to replace departing national team manager Kevin Keegan. He agreed, on the condition he could make the switch at the end of the season. But that January, he decided not to wait any longer. He resigned from Lazio on the 9th and that month became the first-ever foreign manager of England.

Friday, January 8, 2016

8 January 2010 - Togo Attacked

On 8 January 2010, gunmen fired upon two Togo team buses, killing 3 people and wounding 7 others.

The buses--one containing the national team and the other holding their luggage--were traveling through the Angolan province of Cabinda, where Togo were scheduled to begin their Africa Cup of Nations campaign three days later. Although part of Angola, Cabinda is an exclave, separated by the rest of the nation by the Republic of the Congo. Shortly after the team crossed the border separating the two, a group of Cabindan separatists ambushed the traveling party in a machine gun attack that lasted approximately 30 minutes.

Two different rebel groups later claimed responsibility for the attack, though one claimed that it was not directed at Togo, but instead at the Angolan security forces guarding them. The gunmen fired multiple shots into both buses, however, killing three people--assistant coach Amelete Abalo, press officer Stan Ocloo, and driver Mário Adjoua. The list of wounded included 5 players as well as the team doctor and physiotherapist.

Togo withdrew from the Cup of Nations following the attack, prompting a CAF ban and a $50,000 fine. Togo appealed the ban, which was lifted later that year.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

7 January 2006 - Alonso's Long-Distance Delivery

On 7 January 2006, Liverpool overcame a two-goal second half deficit against Luton Town in the FA Cup Third Round, capping the win with a 65-yard goal from midfielder Xabi Alonso.

The reigning Champions League winners, Liverpool were sitting third in the Premier League table, having just ended a 10-match winning streak with a draw against Bolton. So it was no surprise when they opened the scoring with a 16th-minute Steven Gerrard to take the lead against Luton, then a mid-table Championship side freshly promoted from League One.

But the tide turned midway through the first half, as the Luton midfield took control of the match. They were rewarded with a 31st-minute equalizer from forward Steve Howard, then took the lead 12 minutes later with a goal from midfielder Steve Robinson. In the second half, the hosts were awarded a penalty when Liverpool goalkeeper Scott Carson brought striker Rowan Vine down in the box. Luton captain Kevin Nicholls converted the 53rd-minute spot kick to extend the lead to 3-1.

But the hosts began to wear down, conceding three goals in the space of 12 minutes, including a brace from substitute Florent Sinama-Pongolle (62', 74') and one from Alonso (69'). Alonso secured the win with a flourish in stoppage time, collecting the rebound from a Luton corner, rounding the keeper who had come up for the kick, then driving a left-footed shot from inside his own half that curled into the center of the unguarded Luton net.

Liverpool used the victory as a springboard, going on to win the Cup that year.