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

From where to where
1st Division to 2nd Division (Tier 1-2)
Entered Lancashire Combination 1920 (Tier 9).
1st Division to 2nd Division (Tier 1-2)
 1st Division to 2nd Division (Tier 1-2)
Manchester United
 1st Division to 2nd Division (Tier 1-2)
Forest Green Rovers
Entered Hellenic League 1975 (Tier 9)
Tottenham Hotspur
 1st Division to 2nd Division (Tier 1-2)
Burton Albion
Southern League Premier to Southern League 1 North (Tier 7-8)
            1st Division to 2nd Division (Tier 1-2)
Oldham Athletic
            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.   

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