Tuesday, 27 June 2017

The Red Rose Football Blog (Number 36)



       


                        Number 36                                                               June 27 2017




Red Rose County Footballing Legends (Number 9)

Jimmy Armfield (Blackpool)

One club men such as Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher are the last of the genre, but for many years they were common place in the Football League. One such player was Jimmy Armfield. He was born in Denton, close to Manchester, but was evacuated to Blackpool as a 6 year old during the war. He was re-united with his family who relocated in the seaside resort, there being spotted by the then manager as one for the future. He made his debut in 1954 as a 19 year old, part of the Matthews/Mortensen side and with his pace, his ball skills, tenacity and defensive intelligence; he soon became one of the best right backs in the land. He was the first attacking full back I ever remember seeing. The closest he came to honours for the Tangerines was runners-up spot to the Busby Babes in 1956, but by 1959 he had become a regular in the England side, captaining them on 15 occasions. In total he gained 43 caps and was voted the best right back in the world following the 1962 World Cup in Chile. Unfortunately an injury in the period before the 1966 tournament enabled George Cohen to grab the number 2 shirt and although in the 22, Armfield never featured in any of the games; substitutes not being allowed in those days of course. Blackpool struggled in the late 60s, being relegated in 1967 but Jimmy’s experience helped them back into the top division in 1970. They fell back the following season when the right back played his 569th and final game. Intelligent and with a sky high status in the game, it was no surprise when Bolton Wanderers invited him to manage soon after retiring. He guided them to the 3rd Division Championship in 1973 and a year later, the high-flying Leeds United offered him the manager’s post after the hiatus caused by Brian Clough’s infamous 40 days in charge. The Yorkshire side were unfortunate to narrowly lose the final of the 1975 European Cup to Bayern Munich but after 4 good seasons at Elland Road, he took up the pen, writing regularly on football for the Daily Express and later commentating for Radio 5Live for many years. An OBE, CBE and the title of High Sheriff of Lancashire followed and, still much loved in Blackpool where his statue adorns the street outside Bloomfield Road, he has recently battled cancer. Respected throughout the game, he is a true Red Rose footballing legend.  


Quiz of the Week (Answers at the foot of the Blog)


                  Each question has a Red Rose County club connection


1                    The U/20 World Cup, which saw an England squad packed with Everton youngsters triumph a few weeks ago, was hosted by which country?


2                    Larry Lloyd won a 1st Division winner’s medal with Liverpool in 1973 and then a second one with which other club several years later?





Larry Lloyd; hard man centre half signed by Bill Shankly from Bristol Rovers


3                    Which Scotsman scored a hat-trick of headers for Everton v Bolton in 1997?

4                    Who has been the only Scotsman to score 2 Premier league hat-tricks, doing so for Blackburn Rovers in 1997 and 1998?   

5                    Who was the former Welsh manager who played 139 times for Bolton Wanderers between 2004 and 2008?

6                    Who, having joined Manchester City in July 2010, is the only current City player to have notched up 300 1st team appearances for the club?

7                    Who kept goal for Manchester United between 1966 and 1979, starting on 539 occasions; a record for an Old Trafford keeper?

8                    Who signed for Ipswich Town last week but in 2014 and 2015, was Preston North End’s leading goal scorer?

9                    Burnley striker Sam Vokes was signed by the Clarets from which club in 2012?





Sam Vokes; has proved to be a shrewd signing for Burnley


10                Ian Henderson scored 15 league goals for which Red Rose League 1 club in the 2016-17 season?


Post Weekend Musings


Many of us will remember only too well the shocking scenes at the 1989 semi-final at Hillsborough where 96 football supporters lost their lives as the Liverpool v Notts Forest game kicked off. As we are seeing with the Grenfell Towers tragedy, the authorities only seem to wake up and act when it is too late and this certainly happened 28 years ago when Lord Justice Taylor produced his report within 4 months; a report which changed the face of English football and its grounds. Had it been set in motion several years before when, for all sorts of reasons, everyone knew that soccer stadia were decidedly unsafe places, the majority of the 96 would still be alive. Amongst a raft of recommendations, the honourable judge stated that crash barriers and fences must go and that spectators must all have ticketed seats. For once the various authorities acted in unison and football became a game to watch whilst seated. From its very formation in the 1880s, only the “posh” sat down at games. The grounds were mainly terraced and in all of the countless games I saw prior to 1989, I cannot remember occupying a seat in the stands at Blackburn Rovers. The only time I was seated was as a little boy when I actually sat on a crash barrier supported by my dad or in front of the wall on tiny benches, literally feet away from the players. For the Rovers v Burnley 6th Round replay in 1960, I actually sat on the grass along with hundreds of boys and when they were taking long throws, we somehow had to crawl to one side to enable the thrower to take his a run up. The true spectators stood and it produced hairy moments. I remember regularly watching Leeds United at Elland Road in the 60s when I was a student in the city. When there was a goal or a near miss, those at the back surged forward and your body was propelled in whichever direction. As the crowd settled, you made your way back to meet up with your mates who could have relocated 10 yards away from you. All this has disappeared following the Taylor Report and football is more family orientated, safer for women and children. I have to say however that I much prefer to stand when watching a game. When I watch Non-League, Schoolboy or Boys League matches, I feel more comfortable and enjoy the freedom of movement that it gives, but being realistic, I am not sure that I could cope with the types of scrum that I encountered in Leeds at my current age. The reason why I mention this is that Shrewsbury Town have applied to install “safe standing areas” at their modern Greenhous Meadow ground. Standing was allowed in the Taylor Report for clubs in League 1 and 2 and below, but any ground constructed after 1994 had to follow Taylor legislation. Apparently Glasgow Celtic were given permission to install a 2,000 plus standing area last season and reports say that it is safe and improves the atmosphere at the game. Shrewsbury Town believe that it encourages more singing and vocal support which is probably true and they are not talking about wide open terraces. The expression railed seats is being used and of course many away fans in particular do stand illegally for the full 90 minutes in front of their seats, but the authorities have to think carefully before decisions are made. The game is now safer and fortunately the images from Hillsborough seem from another age. The thought of standing may rekindle my love of nostalgia but “safe rather than sorry” ought to be the mantra for our current football and local authority administrators.

                                         The Kop at Anfield in 1983, pre the Taylor report.

According to legend, it was impossible to reach a toilet during the game so the pocket of the fellow in front would suffice; it was very much a male dominated environment



Old Trafford as it is now, post Taylor report

Seated, structured and safe, with ease of access to clean toilets, bars, food outlets and TV screens. It is appropriate for the whole family, whatever their needs.


What will constitute success for our Red Rose clubs in 2017-18?

It seems like only last week that we were hailing the triumphs or bemoaning the disasters of our clubs as the 2016-17 season drew to a close but here we are in late June, awaiting the results of the Champions’ League 1st qualifying round. Nothing of interest to the Red Rose clubs yet but the players could well be back in training next Monday at the start of a new adventure. We all begin with optimism but this has to be mixed with realistic expectancy and this is what I have tried to do below regarding our Tier 1 to Tier 6 clubs. Last season was largely disappointing in the North West. London took control of the major prizes and although United achieved a double of sorts, it was less than expected from a club with its financial clout and world-wide magnitude. The Championship was a disaster with both Wigan and Blackburn being relegated and only the promotions of Bolton and Blackpool relieved the gloom lower down the pyramid; the exception perhaps being the exploits of the unheralded Fleetwood Town. In the non-league world, AFC Fylde continued to amaze and are now in Tier 5, but can 2017-18 bring back the glory to enhance our football heritage?


Club
Tier
Success Criteria
Manchester City
1
It has to be Champions for Guardiola. No excuses this time
Liverpool
1
Top 3 will be seen as progress for J├╝rgen Klopp’s side
Manchester United
1
No excuses for Mourinho this time. Top 2 will be the aim.
Everton
1
Progress will be to break into the Top 6 for Ronald Koeman
Burnley
1
It can only be survival once again for the over-achieving Clarets
Preston North End
2
On the current budget,  a Play-Off place will be seen as progress
Bolton Wanderers
2
It has to be consolidation with a mid-table position their goal
Blackburn Rovers
3
Anything less than a Play-Off spot will be seen as a disaster
Wigan Athletic
3
Mid-table and consolidation will be Paul Cook’s aim
Fleetwood Town
3
As lightning does not strike twice, mid-table consolidation
Rochdale
3
Another Top 10 finish will be seen as a success at Spotland
Oldham Athletic
3
John Sheridan will be looking at mid-table as progression
Bury
3
On their budget, the Shakers will accept anything 20th or above
Blackpool
3
With all the off-field problems, they will be looking at survival
Accrington Stanley
4
A look at the Play-Offs will be John Coleman’s goal this season
Morecambe
4
Anything safe will be a bonus with their off-field problems
Barrow
5
After last season, a slight progression will be the Play-Offs
AFC Fylde
5
In spite of moving up a level, the Play-Offs will be in their sights
Southport
6
The club has to consolidate for a season, so survival is vital
Salford
6
With their budget, promotion will be their only goal
Chorley
6
They will do well to reach the Play-offs yet again
Curzon Ashton
6
This over-achieving club will be happy to finish mid-table yet again
FC Utd of Manchester
6
For this sleeping giant, it must be the Play-Offs


Gazing at the picture in Tiers 7-10, can Warrington Town continue to improve and make the Northern Prem Play-Offs and how will the newly promoted Lancaster City fare? Similarly can Atherton Collieries continue their form up in Tier 8 and is it time for Clitheroe to leave their comfort zone and battle for honours? In the North West Counties League, all eyes will be on City Of Liverpool. Can they make it 2 promotions on the bounce in only their 2nd ever season but will their landlords at Bootle FC put them in their place? Watch this space.


Review of the EFL League 1, 2016-17

A quartet of Greater Manchester clubs headed the Red Rose contingent in League 1 last season with a solitary Lancashire club adding to the number. All five found themselves in either a promotion or relegation battle, with the Trotters returning to the Championship. Bolton Wanderers were always favourites to go back straight back up. In spite of the unseemly Board Room wrangling and threats of folding, they are still a big club with a substantial ground and they brought in the experienced Phil Parkinson from Bradford City to steer them away from troubled waters. They were in the top 3 for virtually the whole of the season in spite of selling Zach Clough their best player, finally finishing comfortably behind Sheffield United in the second promotion place. Fleetwood Town were the season’s shock side. Miraculously sustaining winning form on measly gates which averaged out at 3,272, they pushed the top 3 every inch of the way before having to finish in a club record 4th place in Tier 3. Uwe Rosler was only appointed manager a week before the season commenced but he quickly found the winning formula for the players at his disposal. Tight at the back, fast to break forward, they were involved in the closest of close Play-Off semi-finals. They lost 1-0 at Bradford City and try as they might, they could only manage a goalless draw at Highbury Stadium in the 2nd leg. Conor McLaughlin took his tally of Northern Ireland caps into the mid-20s and he is now a regular fixture in the Michael O’Neill’s side. The words “Rochdale FC” and “promotion” are rarely found in the same sentence, particularly promotion to the Championship but Keith Hill’s men gave it their best shot, finally finishing in 9th place, 4 points adrift of the Play-Offs. The manager certainly has made Spotland into something of a fortress and no side relished a trip to the western Pennines to face “The Dale”. The other two Greater Manchester clubs spent the majority of the season facing relegation. Oldham Athletic were in their 20th year of consecutive League 1 football, something of a record below the Premier League these days, but they hovered on the brink for much of the year. They failed to win a game for almost 2 months but the return of John Sheridan as manager was the catalyst for much improved defensive performances. They only conceded 6 goals in their last 15 matches, sufficient to escape relegation by 4 points and 4 league positions. Bury made a fine start under David Flitcroft and they won all 5 league matches in September, including a 3-1 away win at the newly relegated Milton Keynes. Unfortunately for Flitcroft, the good run came to an abrupt end as they embarked on a 12 game losing spree which culminated in the manager being sacked. Chris Brass steadied the ship but it was only when Lee Clark arrived from Kilmarnock that safety was assured by 1 point. Fortunately they had James Vaughan’s 24 goals to thank for pulling off a rescue act. Bolton have left for pastures new but the Red Rose clubs will increase to 6 this season as Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic drop down from the Championship.


Quiz Answers

1 South Korea, 2 Nottingham Forest, 3 Duncan Ferguson, 4 Kevin Gallagher, 5 Gary Speed, 6 David Silva, 7 Alex Stepney, 8 Joe Garner, 9 Wolverhampton Wanderers, 10 Rochdale FC.   

Friday, 23 June 2017

The Red Rose Football Blog (Number 35)




                          Number 35                                                               June 19 2017




Red Rose County Footballing Legends (Number 8)

Bobby Charlton (Manchester United)

I do not believe that there has ever been a bigger legend in English football than this knight of the realm. He was born into the wider Milburn family in the Northumberland mining town of Ashington, his mother having 4 brothers who all played the game professionally and her cousin was Jackie Milburn, a centre forward still revered at his hometown club of Newcastle United. Bobby’s older brother was Jack Charlton of course, defensive lynch pin of England’s 1966 World Cup winning side. The younger Charlton played for England Schoolboys before Manchester United secured his services and he quickly became a schoolboy idol. He forced his way into the United 1st team (reigning Football League champions) on the approach of his 19th birthday and played in the 1957 FA Cup final when the Busby Babes surprisingly lost 2-1 to Aston Villa. His England call up came the following season shortly after recovering from injuries inflicted in the Munich Air Disaster where the 20 year old was fortunate to escape with his life. He was selected for the 1958 England World Cup squad but he never actually played. He was to make up for that disappointment by playing in 62, 66 and 70, finally gaining a then record 105 caps to complement his then record 49 England goals, as well as a much coveted World Cup winner’s medal. At club level he collected 3 League Championship medals, an FA Cup winner’s medal and in 1968, a European Cup winner’s medal, scoring twice including a rare headed goal in a 4-1 defeat of Benfica. So why was he such a great player? He had pace, a wonderful first touch, could take on and beat opponents, passed long and short with ease and had dynamite in both boots. He could score from 30 yards with either foot and as he matured into a mid-field general, we saw a footballing intelligence that enabled him to control a game whatever the level. Voted World Footballer of the Year in 1966, he was never sent off and only booked twice. For many players, physicality has to be a vital part of their armoury but Bobby Charlton was so good that he never had recourse to stoop to foul tactics. In retirement, his demeanour makes him respected by all. A wonderful advert for both club and country, he is a true gentleman and a legend of English football, inferior to no-one before or since.
A young Bobby Charlton at Wembley post Munich in 1958


Quiz of the Week (Answers at the foot of the Blog)


                  Each question has a Red Rose County club connection


1                    Charlton (2) and Best scored for Manchester United in the 1968 European Cup Final win v Benfica but which future Blackburn Rovers manager also scored?


2                    Which club eliminated Manchester City from the Champions’ League at the last 16 stage in both 2015 and 2016?

3                    Which club does Mason Holgate play for, the only Red Rose County player to have so far started for England U/21s in the current European Championships?

4                    John Hollins who played with distinction for Chelsea, Arsenal and QPR, gaining 1 England cap, managed which Red Rose club from 2001-2002?




John Hollins; FA Cup winner with Chelsea in 1970


5                     Burnley scored their first ever Premier League hat-trick on New Year’s Eve 2016. Who was the scorer v Sunderland?

6                     Who was the Frenchman who managed Liverpool immediately prior to Rafa Benitez?

7                     Who, with 12 league goals and 1 in the League Cup, was Preston North End’s leading scorer in the 2016-17 season?

8                     The Premier League has had only 3 Title Sponsors in its 26 year history, Barclaycard, Barclays and which other company?

9                     From which club did Manchester United sign Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2001?


                         
                               Ruud van Nistelrooy; post goal celebrations v Blackburn Rovers


10                 In 1995 Bolton Wanderers won promotion to the Premier league for the first time. How many seasons did they stay there before being relegated with just 29 points?


Post Weekend Musings


The onset of summer has definitely put a spring in the step of English football, Reaching the final of the European U/17 Championships, being crowned as U/20 World Cup winner’s and now further progress in the even more important European U/21 Championships represents a level of performance rarely seen in the modern English game. A semi-final berth has already been booked against opponents currently unknown. It could be the Germans and apparently Spain, who are potential final opposition, has a side packed with “wunderkinds”. England first entered the competition in 1978, twice winning in 1982 and 1984 under the managership of Dave Sexton. Many lean years followed until we reached the semi-final in 2007 and the final in 2009, Stuart Pearce being heavily involved on both occasions. The names of Hart, Milner, Walcott, Richards and Rose were in that squad captained by Mark Noble of West Ham. There is no doubt that it is extremely competitive at this level and to be fair to coach Adie Boothroyd, the likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Marcus Rashford are all eligible, but certainly in the Slovakia and Poland games, we have seen skill and pace not always on view in our senior national side. An English triumph would be wonderful and give our game the lift it needs as our big clubs continue to throw money at foreign imports, so good luck to Boothroyd and his boys in Poland,



Hart of England but where to next for Man City’s nomadic keeper?

Pep Guardiola apparently wants someone to pay £25million for a goalkeeper that he doesn’t rate and surprise, surprise, there are no takers. Most of us were astonished when Joe was allowed to leave for Torino on loan, being replaced by a footballing keeper who struggled to stop a shot. In spite of a successful year in Italy, there are many question marks about his future at both club and international level as England suddenly appears to be producing quality goalkeepers once again. Hart has his faults but no one doubts his passion and leadership. Surely he must reappear somewhere in the Premier League this coming season.

Mohamed Salah moving from Roma to Liverpool? A good player and a good signing, even at £34million, but should he be Klopp’s number one target? Surely they would have pushed the London clubs more last season with a better centre half and goalkeeper, so why splash out on yet another offensive player. It seems strange to me.


When did your club last fall through the trap door?

Winning a trophy is the most satisfying feeling in football, hence the reason why Manchester United, now the country’s all-time greatest club, is possibly the best supported club world-wide; commercially speaking. But if it is a form of ecstasy to win a trophy at the end of a season, it is certainly totally demeaning to be relegated. So if stability is your thing, there are advantages to supporting a side which rarely if ever drops down a division. The critics of Arsene Wenger will tell you that consistency is nothing without silverware, but those statistical minded folks out there will know of Arsenal’s greatest achievement; never being relegated since 1913. And if you want to put that into perspective, no-one alive can possibly have seen them play in the old 2nd Division. So if the Gunners are England’s most consistent club, who else joins them in the top ten? Be prepared for a surprise or two. The names of several of our current big hitters all feature, but the likes of Man United, Liverpool, Everton, Chelsea and Spurs all have to give precedence in the chase for second spot to one of the Red Rose County’s football minnows. Take a drive up the M6, exit at Lancaster and you will soon find the Globe Arena, home of Morecambe FC. It is 97 years since they started to play semi-professional football and they have never…..yes that is never been relegated. Whether the good people of the seaside resort are conscious of the gradual upwardly mobile nature of their club is another matter. I was shocked when I stumbled upon the statistic, but it can perhaps be used by Jim Bentley in one of his motivatory dressing room rants, helping to prolong the record for another few years. Journey south towards the West Midlands and you will come across one of country’s most famous brewery towns (Bass, Marston’s) which is also the home of Burton Albion. Currently England’s most successful small club, they were last relegated in 1977. Carrying on the mystery tour, travel west of the Cotswolds and you will discover the village of Nailsworth, home of the Football League’s most recent recruit Forest Green Rovers, never relegated since they joined the Hellenic League in 1975. And finally of course there is Oldham Athletic. They are starting their 21st consecutive season in League 1. Will the Football League give them the key to the door?

The 10 most stable clubs in England; according to one set of statistics

Pos
Club
Relegated
From where to where
1
Arsenal
1913
1st Division to 2nd Division (Tier 1-2)
2
Morecambe
Never
Entered Lancashire Combination 1920 (Tier 9).
3
Everton
1951
1st Division to 2nd Division (Tier 1-2)
4
Liverpool
1954
 1st Division to 2nd Division (Tier 1-2)
5
Manchester United
1974
 1st Division to 2nd Division (Tier 1-2)
6
Forest Green Rovers
Never
Entered Hellenic League 1975 (Tier 9)
7
Tottenham Hotspur
1977
 1st Division to 2nd Division (Tier 1-2)
8
Burton Albion
1977
Southern League Premier to Southern League 1 North (Tier 7-8)
9
Chelsea
1987
            1st Division to 2nd Division (Tier 1-2)
10
Oldham Athletic
1997
            1st Division to 2nd Division (Tier 2-3)



Review of the EFL League 2, 2016-17

There were just 3 Red Rose County clubs in League 2 during the 2016-17 season, Accrington Stanley, Blackpool and Morecambe. Since the Third Division North and South became the 3rd and 4th Tier of English football in 1958-59, a Red Rose club has only sat proudly at the top of the 4th Tier tree on 4 occasions. Southport achieved the feat in 1972, Burnley 20 years later and following on in quick succession, Preston North End in 1996 and Wigan Athletic 12 months later. None of our three candidates ever looked like improving that figure this time round, but each of them had interesting seasons nonetheless. Stanley could have and should have gained automatic promotion the previous year but they made a disappointing start to this season. A total of 27 points from 32 games by the end of February was classic relegation form, but following a 1-0 home win to Barnet, the next 11 games yielded 27 points and all the talk was about the Play-Offs. Sadly defeats by Newport County and Luton Town spoiled the script, but a 13th place finish was a satisfactory end to a season where they beat Burnley in the League Cup and reached the 4th Round of the FA Cup. Morecambe’s form was similarly topsy-turvy. They flew out of the traps, winning 4 of their first 5 but then stuttered for a while. As soon as the New Year was ushered in, they commenced a run of 11 games with only 1 defeat only for them then to lose the next 7 on the spin, before finishing in a less than complimentary 18th position, albeit well clear of relegation. They qualified from the group stage of the EFL Trophy only to lose on penalties at high-flying Scunthorpe United, but the season will be long remembered for the Board Room shenanigans where once again, a foreign owner attempted to take the money and run. For Blackpool supporters, there was a golden ending to what had been a generally non-descript season for the most part. A total of 33 points from 23 games up to the end of December was mid-table form, followed by 10 points from the next 30 which dropped them down the league. March gave them 5 wins and a draw and suddenly the Play-Offs were within sight, an achievement which they accomplished with a steady if unspectacular end to the season. They qualified in 7th and last position, but the late season form of striker Mark Cullen produced the goals to overcome Luton Town 6-5 on aggregate after two pulsating ties and they had enough in the tank to see off Exeter City in the final at Wembley. Their cup performances also brought joy, eventually losing at Blackburn in Round 4 of the FA Cup and qualifying and reaching Round 3 of the EFL Trophy. League 1 now beckons and only 2 clubs will fly the Red Rose County flag in League 2 this forthcoming season. Managers Gary Bowyer, John Coleman and Jim Bentley all managed to stay in post throughout the year, and although all 3 sides struggled to attract support, their on field performances merited much bigger average gates than 3,456 at Bloomfield, 1,704 at the Globe and 1,699 at Accrington’s Wham Stadium.

Quiz Answers

1 Brian Kidd, 2 Barcelona, 3 Everton, 4 Rochdale, 5 Andre Gray,  

6 Gerard Houllier, 7 Jordan Hugill, 8 Carling, 9 PSV Eindhoven, 10 One season.