December 13, 2007

Manchester United FC, part 1. (Newton Heath L&YR FC, est. 1878/ Manchester United FC, est. 1902).

Filed under: English Football Clubs — admin @ 8:00 am


Rail workers of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway depot at Newton Heath (3 miles northeast of Manchester city center) formed a football club in 1878.  The club called itself Newton Heath L&YR FC, and played in green and yellow halved jerseys (the colors of the railway).  For their first 15 years, they played on a small, run-down field near the future site of the Manchester Piccadilly railway station.  Their nickname was the Heathens.   {click for L. & Y. R. history}   {click for map of L. & Y. Railway}
After falling out of favor with the L. & Y. Railway, the club moved to the Bank Street Grounds in 1892, in Clayton, 3 miles east of the city.  They switched to red and white quartered jerseys, and changed their name to Newton Heath FC.  The next season, 1892-93, Newton Heath were elected to the Football League, and were allowed to bypass Division 2 straight into one of the two new vacancies in the expanded First Division.  But they finished 16th place two straight seasons, and were relegated to the second division in 1894 [by election].  The club would spend 12 seasons (1894 to 1906) in the second tier.  In 1902, Newton Heath was in debt, and facing dissolution, with their grounds shut by the bailiffs.  They were rescued by local brewer J.H. Davies.  At a board meeting in April, 1902, it was decided that a change of name was in order to reflect the fresh start, and the name Manchester United FC was agreed upon.  The club adopted the uniform of red jerseys and white pants. 

{All images above copyright Historical Football Kits (www.
                                                                        In the fall of 1902, the club appointed Ernest Mangnall as manager.  Over the next couple years, he brought several new players over to the club, including Charlie Roberts from Grimsby Town, in 1904, for a then-record 750 pounds.  The club had been steadily improving, and in 1906, they made it back to the First Division for the first time as Manchester United.  It was during the 1906-07 season that the Football Association penalized cross-town rivals Manchester City FC for financial irregularities.  The club had been paying over a dozen of it’s players a higher wage than was allowed.  5 Manchester City officials, and 17 players were banned from the club.  Manchester United signed several of the players after their suspension ended, most notably Billy Meredith and Sandy Turnbull.  The newly bolstered Manchester United squad went on to win their first League Title the next season (1907-08). 


The following year (1909),  United won it’s first FA Cup.  They defeated Bristol City 1-0 at the old Crystal Palace in London.  Sandy Turnbull scored the goal.  1909fa_cup_2.gif Click the icon to see Manchester United’s 1909 FA Cup jersey.

By this time, Manchester United had outgrown their Bank Street grounds.  They had become a hugely popular club, and were able to draw upwards of 30 to 40,000 for big matches, such as FA Cup ties, and the local Derby (Click here).  The Bank Street Grounds were notorious for becoming a quagmire during the wet winter months.  So in 1909, plans were made to move, and land was purchased in the town of Stretford, in the borough of Trafford, southwest of the Manchester city center.  Once again, J.H. Davies came through, with a 60,000 pounds loan.  The stadium was to be called Old Trafford, and built to hold 80,000 (a capacity never reached).  It opened on February 19, 1910, before a crowd of 45,000, and with defeat to Liverpool, 3-4.  But United would not lose again there until October.  The new stadium provided the club the impetus for a title run, and they won the League in their first full season at Old Trafford, 1910-11.old_trafford_early.gif

  This was a heady time for the club, and few would have foreseen that this second league crown would be their last for half a century.  The first blow was the departure of manager Ernest Mangnall, across town to rivals Manchester City, in the summer of 1911.  United had a huge debt from the building of their new stadium, and were forced to sell off good players.  The club began a decline which left them in 18th place at the start of the Great War (WWI), in 1915.  After the war, they slipped further, and were relegated to the Second Division in 1922.  Manchester United only stayed in the 2nd tier for three seasons, though.  They were promoted back up in 1925.  But they remained a mediocre club, and began to fall out of favor with their supporters.  By the start of the 1930-31 season, the Supporters’ Club had issued a five-point plan for revitalization of the football club.  The board of directors chose to ignore them, and refused to meet with them.  With the team in free fall, losing their first 8 games, the Supporters’ Club issued a boycott of games, and by the second half of the season, attendance was below 10,000 for all matches save the Derby.  The club was relegated.

Manchester United spent 6 of the 7 next seasons in the Second Division.  They made it back up in 1939.   But the club, one of the biggest in all of England, had become chronic underachievers.  World War II interrupted League play until 1946.  Manchester United had hired former Liverpool coach Matt Busby in 1945, and he started the post-War era with some decidedly unorthodox ideas.  First of all, he insisted on being able to choose his own squad, from players he had selected to sign for the club.  All this had been done by the board.  This stance had led to his departure from Liverpool, but the board at MUFC decided to give him free rein.  A more successful club at the time might have not done so, but by 1946,  with no silverware since 1911, the board at Manchester United was probably willing to try anything.

End, part 1.

Thank you to Historical Football Kits (historicalkits[dot]co[dot]uk), Lancashire & Yorkshire Railways site (lyrs[dot]org[dot]uk); (viewimages[dot]com); (manutdzone[dot]com).

December 12, 2007

Middlesbrough FC.

Filed under: English Football Clubs — admin @ 6:26 am


In 1876, members of the Middlesbrough Cricket Club organized a football team, to stay fit during the winter months.  This club became Middlebrough FC.  The club remained amateur in it’s first two decades, and twice won the FA Amateur Cup: in 1895, 2-1, over Old Carthusians; and in 1898, 2-1 over Uxbridge.  Refusal to turn professional resulted in a group breaking off to form Middlesbrough Ironopolis FC, in 1889.  Ironopolis joined the Football League in 1893, but folded in 1894.  MFC turned professional in 1899, and that same year were elected to join the Second Division of the League.  They were promoted three seasons later, in 1902, and remained in the First Division for 18 seasons.  Their best finish was in 1914, at third place.  The Great War (WW I) intervened soon after.  The club was relegated and then promoted, twice, between 1924 and 1929.  George Camsell, from nearby County Durham, scored 59 goals to help Boro get promoted in 1927.  He went on to play 14 seasons for Middlesbrough, scoring 325 league goals (5th highest, all-time). {see George Camsell bio, here}  They stayed in the First Division from 1929 to 1954 (18 seasons). 

World War II interrupted an up and coming Boro side that finished 4th in 1939.  In 1951, the club achieved their highest attendance, averaging 36,100 (they finished 6th).  Relegated in 1954, the club would remain out of the top flight for 20 seasons.   Middlesbrough was relegated in 1954.  The club would remain out of the top flight for 20 years.  In 1958, a young Brian Clough (pronounced “Cluff”) debuted for the team.  Born in Middlesbrough, he would go on to score 197 goals in 213 games for his home-town club, before moving on to Sunderland.b_clough6.gif

In 1973, World Cup hero Jack Charlton took over as manager, and guided Middlesbrough back up.  The club finished in 7th place in 1975, their first season back in the First Division.  But by 1982, Boro was back down to the second division.  In the summer of 1986, Middlesbrough faced it’s darkest hour.  Relegated to the third tier, the club had severe financial difficulties, and faced liquidation.  The club was actually dissolved.  However, a group led by Steve Gibson was able to gather the support necessary to register the club for the next season.  The newly re-formed club became officially known as Middlesbrough Football and Athletic Club, and their new crest showed the year 1986 on it.  The club gained promotion back to the second division the next season, and in 1988, Boro made it back to the top flight.  They only stayed there one year, though, and for the next decade, Middlesbrough became the classic yo-yo club.  They were relegated, and promoted back, three times between 1989 and 1998.  In 1994, former Manchester United star Bryan Robson took over as player/manager.  In 1995, Riverside Stadium was opened, with a capacity of 30,000 .  The club made the surprise signing of 22-year old Brazillian footballer of the year Juninho Paulista.  In 1996, they finished 12th in the Premier League.  The next season (1996-97) showed promise, but ultimately turned out to be a disaster.  The club had strong cup runs in both the League and FA Cups, but were deducted 3 points for failing to fulfill a fixture.  They ended up losing both Cups: the FA Cup 0-2, to Chelsea, and the League Cup 0-1, to Leicester City, in the replay.  And those 3 points proved to be devastating, as they finished 19th, and were relegated by 2 points.  They made it back to the League Cup Final the next year, while in the second tier, but lost to Chelsea 0-2, in added extra time.  Nevertheless, Boro gained promotion back to the top flight that year (1998), and haven’t been down since.

Middlesbrough has been a decent mid-table Premiership club throughout the last decade.  In 2001, Steve McLaren was hired as manager.  Under him, they finally won a major trophy, in 2004, claiming the League Cup with a 2-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers.  They then signed Australian striker Mark Viduka, and in 2005 finished 7th, good enough to qualify for Europe, in the UEFA Cup.  Their 2005-06 UEFA Cup run produced two stunning results.  They came back from 3 goals down (aggregate), twice in a row.  First, they did it versus FC Basel, in the quarter finals.  Then they did it versus Steaua Bucharest, in the semi-finals  {see these highlights from the Middlesbrough v. Steaua Buchrest 2006 UEFA Cup semi-final}.   Even so, they were outclassed by repeat winners Sevilla, in the 2006 UEFA Cup Final, 0-4.  In early 2006, Mclaren left to become manager of the national team of England, and captain Gareth Southgate was made manager.  In 2006-07, the club finished in 12th place.

The city of Middlesbrough is, to put it mildly, charm-deficient.  It has much heavy industry, but little in the way of amenities.  The city was voted the worst place to live in England, in a recent Channel 4 program.  Attracting top shelf players is not easy.  So it is a good thing that Middlesbrough FC has made it a priority to have a solid football academy.  It is, in fact one of the best in the country, and it’s system has produced more Premier League players in recent years than any other club’s  {see chart, from a recent issue of FourFourTwo magazine, below}.  Players like Lee Catermole, England international Stewart Downing, David Wheater, and the promising young forward Adam Johnson.  Their academy should be able to provide enough talent to keep manager Gareth Southgate’s team in the top flight for the foreseeable future.

Thanks to: Historical Football Kits for the 5 older kits on the chart (historicalkits[dot]uk[dot]uk); Colours Of Football for the 3 sets of newer kits on the chart (colours-of-football[dot]com).  Photos: Stadium Guide (stadiumguide[dot]com); Groundhopping Blog (btsv[dot]de); (rovers[dot]premiumtv[dot]co[dot]uk); Middlesbrough FC website (mfc[dot]premiumtv[dot]co[dot]uk); Ayresome Park tribute site (ayresome[dot]co[dot]uk); FourFourTwo magazine.

December 10, 2007

Newcastle United FC.

Filed under: English Football Clubs — admin @ 7:02 am


In 1881, the Stanley Cricket Club of Byker (an inner-city ward of Newcastle) decided to form an off-shoot of the club, to play football during the winter.  In 1882, they changed the name to Newcastle East End FC.  Another cricket club in the city formed Newcastle West End FC, also in 1882.  East End turned professional in 1889.  West End avoided dissolution by merging with East End, in 1892.  This club became Newcastle United FC, and wore red, then red-and white vertically striped jerseys.  The club joined the Second Division in 1893.  In 1894, they adopted their famous black-and-white vertically striped jerseys, after frequent color clashes with other clubs in red kits.  Also, their hated local rivals Sunderland AFC had begun wearing red and white stripes (in 1886).  It is for this black and white scheme that the club is known as the Magpies.  In 1898, Newcastle was elected to the First Division.  By the early 1900′s, with a squad dominated by Scotsmen, Newcastle became a football power.  They won the League Title in 1905, 1907, and 1909.  In the FA Cup, Newcastle were runners-up in 1905, 1906, and 1908.  They won their first FA Cup in 1910, beating Barnsley 1-0, in the re-play at Goodison Park (in Liverpool).  They were runners-up in this competition again in 1911.  The FA Cup Finals, from 1895 to 1914, were played at the old Crystal Palace, in south London.  Newcastle played 6 Finals there, the most of any club. 

Newcastle’s form dropped after that, and for the next 13 seasons they were basically a mid-table club.  They won their second FA Cup in 1924, defeating Aston Villa 2-0, at the old Wembley Stadium.  Three years later (1927), Newcastle won the League Title, their fourth.  And the Magpies won their third FA Cup in 1932, with a 2-1 victory over Arsenal.  However, they were relegated two years later.  From 1935 to 1939/1946 to 1948 (7 league seasons, with WW II in between),  Newcastle was in Division Two.  Their first season back in the top flight, 1948, Newcastle had an astounding average gate of 53,800, the nation’s highest.  The club won back to back FA Cups in 1951 (2-0, over Blackpool), and 1952 (1-0, over Arsenal).  By the mid-fifties, the club was mired in the bottom half of the league table, but they still won the FA Cup again, in 1955 beating Manchester City 3-1.  {see this newsreel of the 1955 FA Cup}  The club was led by Jackie Milburn and Bobby Mitchell.  This was their sixth FA Cup.  It was also their last major trophy.
Through the late 1950′s, the club continued to slide down the league table, and was relegated in 1961.  They returned to the First Division in 1965, but remained as a bottom-half-of-the-table club.  However, they did win the Inter-City Fairs Cup in 1969.  This defunct trophy was the forerunner of the UEFA Cup (the second echelon championship of Europe).  They defeated Sporting (Lisbon), Feyenoord, Zaragoza, and Rangers on the way, and Ujpest, of Hungary, in the final.   The squad was led by Welshman Wyn Davis.  The Fairs Cup is not recognized by UEFA as a trophy.  The Magpies made it to 2 “real” Cup finals in the 70′s, though.  But they lost both: the FA Cup, in 1974, to Liverpool; and the League Cup, in 1976, to Manchester City.  From 1971-76, Malcolm McDonald was the driving force, scoring 97 goals in 5 seasons.  But Newcastle was relegated once again, in 1977.  After 6 seasons they were promoted back to the first tier, in 1984.  It was Kevin Keegan, in the twilight of his famous career, who led the club back up.  {see this 1983-84 highlight reel.  There are nice background views of St. James’ Park at the link.  Even then, the stadium had a lop-sided shape, with some large stands, and some smaller.  (#9 in some of the goals is Chris Waddle)}

  But it was back to the second level in 1989, with the club in massive debt, and forced to sell off players like Paul Gascoigne.  In 1992, Sir John Hall took over the club, and appointed Keegan as manager.  His heavy investment in the club saw quick results, as Newcastle went from 20th to 1st place, and were promoted to the new English Premier League, playing an exciting brand of attacking football.  The next season, Newcastle continued their impressive form, finishing 3rd best in the country.  A dip to 6th place, in 1995, was answered with the signings of David Ginola and Les Ferdinand.  In the 1995-96 season, the club looked set to finally regain the crown.  They led the league by as much as 12 points, but squandered the lead, and finished second.  One game stands out, a 4-3 loss to Liverpool that many call one of the greatest matches ever {see this footage}.  The club then signed Geordie Alan Shearer for a then-record 15 million pounds.

The prolific scorer had just led underdog Blackburn Rovers to their first Title in 81 years.  Even so, in 1997, Newcastle finished second, again, to Manchester United.  More disappointment followed, as Newcastle lost back-to-back FA Cup Finals: to Arsenal 0-2, in 1998, and Manchester United 0-2, in 1999.   Sir Bobby Robson became manager in 1999, and the club improved from 13th to 11th to 4th place.  In 2003, they finished 3rd, and qualified for the European Champions League.  But failure to maintain this level cost Robson his job.  For new manager, the board, led by Chairman Freddy Shepherd, made an uninspired choice: the authoritarian Graeme Souness.  The taciturn Scot had left the Liverpool clubhouse rife with dissension, in the early 90′s; he left Blackburn in 2004 with bitterness all around, and the situation at Newcastle played out similarly.  Although the club made it to the semi-finals in the UEFA Cup and the FA Cup in 2005, by February, 2006, Newcastle was near the foot of the table, and Souness was sacked.  The signing of 2001 European Player of the Year Michael Owen had helped, but Owen was constantly being injured.  Glen Roeder was the next manager, and was instrumental in turning their season around: they finished 7th.  But injuries helped make the 2006-07 season into a disaster: 13th place, and Roeder resigned.  Sam Allardyce, former manager of the Bolton Wanderers, was hired.   Allardyce had worked wonders with Bolton, a medium-sized club that was traditionally a second division team.  He relished the opportunity to manage a big club, like Newcastle, with a big transfer kitty.  New ownership emerged during the summer of 2007.  Mike Ashley, a retail billionaire, took over controlling shares of the club, and appointed Chris Mort, in place of Freddy Shepherd, as Chairman.  Newcastle is now one of the richest clubs in England.  But big spending has not won anything during the half-century of underachievement that is Newcastle United.  This is a club that pulls in 50,000 per game, but continues to win nothing but media overexposure.  Bitter Geordie fans in the Toon Army are already calling for Allardyce’s head, as the club sits in 11th place.  You would think Newcastle supporters would give someone a little more time than 12 games to turn around a club that for 50 years has produced nothing but dashed hopes.

Thanks to Historical Football Kits, for the 5 older jerseys on the chart, reproduced by permission (historicalkits[dot]co[dot]uk); Colours Of Football, for the 3 sets of newer kits (colours-of-football[dot]com); Photos:  (soccerati[dot]net); (nufc[do]pics[dot]com),;(empics[dot]co[dot]uk, (stadiumguide[dot]com); (sporting-heroes[dot]net).

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December 7, 2007

Portsmouth FC.

Filed under: English Football Clubs — admin @ 7:11 pm


Portsmouth FC was formed in 1898, from the ashes of the Royal Artillery Football Cub, which was forced to disband due to breach of its amateur status.  PFC began play in September, 1899, in the Southern league.  For their first decade they wore pink jerseys with maroon trim, and were known as ”the Shrimps,” though the name “Pompey” has been associated with them from the beginning. {for origin of the name Pompey, see # 10 on this list}  In 1911, dissolution was averted by a new board, with guarantees to the banks for debts.  After the war (1920), the League expanded, and Portsmouth joined the new Third Division.  Four seasons later, in 1924, the club gained promotion to the Second Division.  They made it to the First Division,  for the first time, in 1927.  They did this by the slenderest of margins, a goal average only .005% higher than Manchester City.  Jack Tinn became manager that same year .  He would remain until 1947, and is credited for building the side that eventually won the Title (in 1949).  Portsmouth initially had to stave off relegation , though, with two successive 20th place finishes.  However, they did well enough in the FA Cup to make it to the final in 1929, losing to Bolton Wanderers 2-0, at Wembley.  Portsmouth began to secure their foothold in the top flight, finishing as high as 4th place (in 1931), and reached the top ten 6 times in 9 seasons (1931-39).  In 1934, another good Cup run ended with the club losing to Manchester City, 2-1, in the Final.  Pompey finally won the FA Cup in 1939, beating heavily favored Wolverhampton 4-1.  Goals were scored by ex-Wolves player Bert Barlow (twice), Jock Anderson, and Cliff Parker.

{Pictured above, the 1939 FA Cup winners.} 

From the… British Pathé archive: Portsmouth win the 1939 FA Cup.

War broke out soon after, and Portsmouth ended up holding the Cup until 1946, when the competition was finally resumed.  Portsmouth’s status as one of the nation’s chief naval centers meant an influx of investment and talent to the area during World War II.  In 1947, in recognition of the city’s association with the military, Pompey began wearing their distinctive red stockings (blue for navy, red for army).  After the war, the club improved from 12th (1947), to 8th (1948).  And in 1949, under manager Bob Jackson, Portsmouth won their first League Title.   The squad played an attacking style of football, and featured midfield anchor Jimmy Dickinson, bustling left-winger Jack Froggatt, fleet right winger Peter Harris, and prolific forward Duggie Reid  {see this article}.  The club also reached their peak attendance that season, averaging 37,082.  In 1950, Pompey repeated as champions, beating Aston Villa 5-1, on the final day.  This allowed them to finish 2/5ths of a goal higher than Wolverhampton, for the Title.  

 {Below is Jimmy Dickinson, who holds the all-time appearance record for Portsmouth FC, with 764 games played (1946-65), as well as 48 caps for England.}

As the 1950′s wore on, the club failed to replace their aging veterans, and Portsmouth’s decline began.  {here is Peter Harris, ca.1953}   Though they finished 3rd in 1954, by 1959 they were relegated.  And in 1961, it was back to the Third Division, with a second relegation in 3 years.  Portsmouth bounced back to the 2nd tier the next season, though.  There they remained for 13 seasons, with a forgettable average finish of 15th place.  A financial crisis in 1976 forced the club to sell off their best players.  The predictable result was relegation, to the 3rd Division, in 1976, and down to the 4th Division, in 1978.  Pompey began the climb back up, by returning to the third tier in 1980, and the second tier in 1983.

Portsmouth made it back to the top flight in 1987, under manager Alan Ball, but for just one season.  Back in the second level, the club spent 14 seasons barely treading water, with an average finish of 16th place.  On six occasions, they had to struggle to avoid relegation, most notably in 1998, when returning manager Alan Ball helped the club avoid the drop.  By this time, Portsmouth had became known as “the Sleeping Giant” of the south coast.  The one real highlight of the decade was a good FA Cup run in 1991-92, with Pompey losing to eventual Cup winner Liverpool, in the semi-finals.  In their centenary season of 1998-99, Portsmouth went into financial crisis.  Competing factions could not raise sufficient capital, and the off-field battle over control of the club affected on-field results.  The club was under threat of dissolution in their 100th year.  In December, 1998, Portsmouth went into financial administration.  In May, 1999, the club was rescued by Serbian-American Milan Mandaric.  Before owning the San Jose Earthquakes, of the North American Soccer League, Mandaric had made his fortune in Silicon Valley, as a manufacturer of computer components. After the NASL’s demise, Mandaric returned to Europe, first as owner of Standard Liege (Belgum), and then OGC Nice (France).  Out of the blue, Mandaric took on the task of bringing Portmouth FC out of administration, and began investing heavily in the club.  He was attracted to the English game by the passion of the fans, something he found lacking in Belgium and the south of France.

There was another relegation scare in 2001, when Graham Rix was manager.  A final-day victory, coupled with a Huddersfield loss, kept them up.  Mandaric hired Harry Redknapp as director of Football that summer, after he left West Ham (where he had managed for 6 seasons).  The inevitable happened the following spring, as Rix was out, and Redknapp in, as manager.  During the summer of 2002, Redknapp embarked on a flurry of transfer activity.  Svetoslav Todorov, an unknown Bulgarian striker, was bought from West Ham.  People wondered why, but stopped wondering after he ended up leading the second tier in scoring the next season, with 26 goals.  He sold Portsmouth’s most valuable asset to raise cash.  This was beanpole striker Peter Crouch (who now plays for Liverpool, and England),  dealt to Aston Villa, for 5 million pounds.  He unearthed gems in young left back Matt Taylor, whom he prised from  Luton Town for a mere .75 million pounds; and solid center back Arjan De Zeeuw, on a free transfer from Wigan.  Then he made the key signing of veteran midfield general Paul Merson, from Aston Villa.  Merson was faced with the prospect of spending the season on the bench at Villa.  He knew Redknapp was putting together something special on the south coast, and joined.  There were more brought in, most prominent being crafty midfieder Steve Stone, also from Aston Villa.  And the wily Redknapp wrangled deals that had Villa paying around half of Merson and Stone’s wages.  Portsmouth shot out of the gate, and never looked back.  The transformation in the club was astounding.   Merson captained a squad that simply dominated the league.  The club began scoring at a prolific rate, and ended with 97 goals.  They won the division by 6 points, and were promoted, along with Leicester City, and Wolverhampton.

Back in the promised land of the English Premier League, Pompey started out very good, but by January, 2004, they were in the relegation zone.  Young striker Ayegbeni Yakubu began to find his stride, though, and his goals helped propel Portsmouth to a strong finish: 13th place.  The next season started promising, but rumours began of a rift between Redknapp and Mandaric.  The problem was exacerbated when Mandaric hired the Croatian Velimir Zajec as Executive Director.  Redknapp bristled at this affront to his status, resenting the fact that there would be someone else, besides the owner, that he would have to answer to.   So he stepped down, in October, 2004, when Portsmouth was sitting in 10th place in the table.  Zajec, and assistant coach Joe Jordan co-managed the club, until Frenchman Alain Perrin was hired, in February, 2005.  Meanwhile, Redknapp angered Pompey fans by becoming manager of hated rivals Southampton.  Both clubs became involved in the relegation battle.  Pompey clinched safety on the second-from-last game; Southampton went down. 

 The next season, defensive lynchpin De Zeeuw left, returning to Wigan.  It surfaced that he disliked Perrin (he wasn’t the only one).  Zajec’s additions to the squad were by and large underwhelming, and Pompey sat bottom of the Premier League all though the fall of 2005.  Perrin was sacked in November.  And in December, the prodigal son returned: Redknapp resigned from Southampton, and was re-hired by Mandaric.  The club faced an uphill battle, but was helped by a cash infusion from Alexandre Gaydamak, who became co-owner of the club.  Three acquisitions from Tottenham proved crucial.  Sean Davis, Pedro Mendes, and Noe Pamarot strengthened the midfield and defense.  Mendes’ last second 30-yard strike against Manchester City, in March, 2006, was the impetus for Pompey’s miracle escape from relegation.  They had sat 9 points below safety, with 10 games remaining, but survived. 

That summer, there was a buzz around Pompey similar to the summer of 2003.  Good players started to want to be part of what Harry was doing, like goalkeeper David James, who put in a transfer request at Man City.  And Redknapp landed quality England international, and Arsenal ex-captain, Sol Campbell.  The 2006-07 season saw Portsmouth playing less reckless, and more defensively sound.  They were in the top 4 up until the Holiday season, ultimately finishing in 9th place, only 2 points shy of qualifying for Europe.  Mandaric sold his half-share to Gaydamak, saying his work was done.  He has since bought Leicester City, a club similar to Portsmouth, in a sleeping-giant sort of way.  Portsmouth currently sits 6th in the table.  Pompey has gone from the brink of liquidation, to the upper echelon of the Premier League, knocking on Europe’s door, in nine years.   

Thanks to these sites: The 5 kits on the lower left, on the chart: copyright Historical Football Kits, reproduced by kind permission. (historicalfootballkits[dot]co[dot]uk).  The 3 sets of newer kits: Colours Of Football (colours-of-football[dot]com),  Some People Are on The Pitch (spaotp[dot]com).  Photos: The Stadium Guide (stadiumguide[dot]com), (blogs[dot]warwick[dot]ac[dot]uk), (cache[dot]viewimages[dot]com), Pompey Web (pompeyweb[dot]co[dot]uk).

Special thanks to Pat Symes, who wrote “Sleepimg Giant Awakes,” published by the Parrs Wood Press (parrswoodpress[dot]com), and Mike Walker, whose great photos comprised the Portsmouth promotion run gallery here.

December 6, 2007

Football Clubs of Northeast Italy.

Filed under: Hand Drawn Maps,Italy — admin @ 8:37 pm


This map is part of my map of Italian Football Clubs (unfinished).   Crests are sized proportionally to average attendances from 2006  [To see "Italian Calcio" post of September 24, 2007:  Click on "italy" in Categories.  It will be right below this post].

December 5, 2007

Reading FC.

Filed under: English Football Clubs — admin @ 7:58 am


Reading Football Club was formed in 1871.  The club remained amatuer for it’s first 24 years, and was a founding member of the Southern League, in 1894.  In 1895, they turned professional.  Reading’ s nickname throughout it’s first century was “the Biscuitmen,” after a local industry.  (They changed their nickname to the Royals in the 197o’s, as a reference to Berkshire’s status as the Royal County; Windsor Castle is located there.)  The highlight of their early days was a tour of Italy in 1913, where they defeated Genoa, AC Milan, and champs Pro Vercelli.  Reading was elected to the League in 1920, as part of a group of teams allowed to join, to fill the new Third Division.  They moved up to the Second Division in 1926, but only remained there for five seasons.  33 seasons (1931-1971) in the Third Division followed.  For the next 13 seasons, they vacillated between the 4th and 3rd Divisions.  In the 1982-83 season, the club was under the threat of dissolution.  Robert Maxwell, the nefarious press-baron, had recently bought the nearby club Oxford United, and tried to bring about a merger of the two clubs, as the Thames Valley Royals.  Supporters of both clubs were successful in preventing this.  The club won the Third Division in 1986, and reached the second tier of English football for the first time in 55 years.  However, they were relegated 2 seasons later.

In 1990, John Madejski bought the club.  He had made his fortune publishing a second-hand car magazine.  Five years into the new ownership, results could be seen: a doubling of the fan base (from 4,000 to 9,000 average attendance), and a return to the second tier.  In fact, had it not been for the streamlining of the Premier League, in 1995-96 (from 22 clubs to 20), Reading would have been automatically promoted.  Madejski has said, in retrospect, that this would ultimately have impeded the club’s progress, as their new stadium was not ready, and they surely would have gone straight back down.  As it was , the Royals did have another set-back, 4 seasons back down in the third level (1998-2002), before their next assault on the top flight.  By 2003, Reading was drawing 16,000, and their small-club days looked to be behind them.  Steve Coppell, a former Manchester United and England winger, took over from Alan Pardew, who left acrimoniously to West Ham.  A 7th place finish in 2005 was followed up by a record-breaking run: Reading clinched promotion to the top flight (on March 25, 2006) quicker than any club in the post-War era.  The next season, Reading’s first ever in the top flight, saw an essentially unchanged squad.  And not one player on the squad had a single game of Premier League experience.  Under the steady leadership of Coppell (see this article), and with very vocal and enthusiastic sell-out crowds behind them, Reading produced a string of results that saw them finish one point shy of qualifying for the UEFA Cup.  Under Madejski, and with Coppell, Reading had gone from a century-old football backwater struggling in the lower divisions, to 8th place in one of the 3 top leagues in the world.  From barely drawing 4,000 paid customers, to a sold out 24,000 seat stadium, with plans for expansion to 36,000, all in under 20 years. 

Thanks to Historical Football Kits (historicalfootballkits[dot]co[dot]uk) for the older kits (the 5 kits on the lower left of the chart), which are reproduced by kind permission.  Thanks to Colours Of Football, and Some People Are On The Pitch for the newer kits.  Thanks to (stadiums[dot]football[dot]co[dot]uk) and (readingfcpremiumtv[dot]co[dot]uk) for photos.

December 4, 2007

College Football, the WAC. 2006 Attendance Map.

Filed under: NCAA Gridiron Football,NCAA/fb-WAC — admin @ 6:46 am


In 1996, the Western Athletic Conference over-expanded, from 9 schools to 16.  They paid a serious price, as 8 schools eventually left [see my post of November 18, "...The Mountain West," for details, here].  The conference has been in flux ever since.  If it weren’t for the very recent emergence of Boise State and Hawaii as national powers, the conference would be in serious trouble.  Just look at the paltry average attendances of two thirds of the conference. 

December 3, 2007

Sunderland AFC.

Filed under: English Football Clubs — admin @ 8:24 am


Sunderland & District Teachers Association Football Club was formed in 1879.  Glasgow-born James Allan was the driving force behind the club’s formation.  One year later, membership was opened to all, and they became Sunderland AFC.  The club was elected to the Football League in 1890.  They were the only club in the league from the north-east of england, and had to pay travel expenses for visiting clubs.  With a board of directors made wealthy by the region’s coal and shipbuilding industries, the club was able to assemble a strong, primarily Scottish, squad.  Sunderland quickly won 3 Titles: in 1892, 1893, and 1895 (and were runners-up in 1894).  They were famously called “the Team of All Talents.”  In 1898, they moved into their new ground, Roker Park, which had a capacity of 30,000.  1902 saw them win their fourth League Title.  In 1913, Sunderland won the league for the fifth time, and were runners-up in the FA Cup, losing to Aston Villa 1-0, in front of 120,000, at the old Crystal Palace.   They won their sixth, and final title 71 years ago, in 1936.  In 1937, they won their first FA Cup, beating Preston North End 3-1, at the old Wembley.   After World War II, Sunderland began drawing huge crowds.  Roker Park (see picture) became famous for it’s noise: “the Roker Roar.”  Their peak was 1950, when they averaged 47,700, and finished in 3rd place.  Investing heavily in players, they were derisively nicknamed “The Bank of England,” as they broke transfer records.    But the money spent was for nought, and they were relegated to the 2nd division in 1958.  Their 68-year run in the First Division (1890-1958) is the second-longest in English league history, exceeded only by Arsenal (currently at 81 seasons).  After six seasons in the second tier (1958-64), the club returned to the top flight for six seasons (1964-70), but they never finished above 15th place.  Sunderland won the FA Cup, while in the 2nd Division, in 1973.  (see this article)  Their surprise defeat of Leeds, 1-0, was marked by a great double-save by goalkeeper Jimmy Montgomery, and a winning volley by Ian Porterfield.  It was the Black Cat’s last trophy. (see this You Tube tribute)  The club returned to the First division in 1977, only to be relegated again.  This began a pattern of relegation (7 times) and promotion (7 times) that has continued to this day.   Their low point was the one season spent in the Third Division (1987-88).  They had a brief spell of promise in the 2000 and 2001 seasons, twice finishing in 7th.  But since then, they have went up and down twice.  This pattern may have been halted, though.  Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane was hired as manager, in September, 2006, when Sunderland was bottom of the second tier.  Keane, who has shown a legendary level of intensity throughout his career, (see this article) has been surprisingly restrained, and extremely effective, in this his first shot as boss.  Sunderland went on to steamroll up the table, and win promotion as champs.  This season, the Black Cats will do well to avoid the drop, but Keane seems to have fashioned aside that is up to the challenge.

Thanks to all the sites I linked up to on this post, plus Historical Football Kits website (www[dot]historicalkits[dot]co[dot]uk), whose kits (the five on the bottom left of the chart) are reproduced by kind permission.  Also thanks to Colours of Football website (www[dot]colours-of-football[dot]com, for the newer kits. Thanks to Curley’s Corner Shop (www[dot]south-shields[dot]myby[dot]co[dot]uk), and www[dot]omrawan[dot]forumslog[dot]com for photos.  Also thanks to the Roker Roar, whose catchy Sunderland ’73 FA Cup song is now stuck in my head.

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