The Half-Time Whistle

Just another WordPress.com site

On This Day in History – 9th-11th March

9th,10th,11th March

This is a new series where, as a sort of preview for the weekend’s fixtures, we look back at events that happened on the same day, somewhere in the past.

10th March 1997

Lightning Strikes Twice

Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle

In 1996, Liverpool and  Newcastle played out one of the finest matches in Premier League history.  Many people have voted it as the greatest game of the Premier era.  The game ended 4-3 to Liverpool as Stan Collymore scored a dramatic late winner to put paid to Newcastle’s title challenge.

In 1997, the two met again at Anfield.  At the time, Liverpool were 3rd, 5pts behind Man Utd, with Newcastle a further 5pts behind Liverpool, in 4th.

Liverpool came out of the blocks the quicker and Steve McManaman put them in front after 29 minutes.  Patrick Berger then doubled the lead a minute later.  When Robbie Fowler put the home side 3-0 up just before half-time, Liverpool were expecting to ease towards victory and move above Arsenal into 2nd place.

Even with 20 minutes to go, the home side were comfortable.  Keith Gillespie grabbed a goal back for Newcastle, but they struggled to build on that.  That was until Newcastle’s mercurial Colombian, Faustino Asprilla, made it 2-3 with just 3 minutes to go.  Remarkably, Newcastle pushed forward again and Warren Barton was on hand to level for the visitors.  Liverpool had given up a 3-0 lead.  Barely 90 seconds later, Liverpool attacked, Bjornebye crossed from the left and there was Fowler to head the winner for Liverpool.  Another stunning result and what price would you have got for the same scoreline?


That Newcastle side was managed by Kenny Dalglish.  He had taken over from Kevin Keegan in January 1997.  On 10th March 2012, Dalglish is back as Liverpool manager taking his team back to the North East to meet Sunderland

March – A Time for The Sack


Talking of Kevin Keegan.  On this day in 2005 he was sacked as manager of Manchester City.  City appointed a caretaker manager, one Stuart Pearce.  Does that remind you of anything recently?

Another manager to lose his job on 10th March was Howard Wilkinson.  He was given the push from Sunderland, along with his Assistant, Steve Cotterill in 2003.  They were bottom of the Premier League with just 19pts from 29 matches.  His replacement?  Mick McCarthy.

Unfortunately, Mick couldn’t save The Black Cats, mainly due to the fact they lost every game from then to the end of the season, scoring just twice in 9 matches.

Liverpool Pay A Record Fee for a Striker Who Cannot Score

 

No, this isn’t about Andy Carroll or even David N’gog, but in 2000 they spent a record £11m for Emile Heskey.  Noted more for being a targetman rather than a goalscorer, Heskey kept up his career ratio of goals per game at Liverpool as his stats mirrored those from his Leicester days.

£11m seems quite tame now when you consider they paid Sunderland £16m for Jordan Henderson.  He doesn’t score either.

1997

This time of year is often one for FA Cup matches and our last two items focus on that competition.  In 1997 the FA Cup had reached the Quarter-Final stage, and rather unusually contained a tie with two sides from League One (or the old Third Division).  Chesterfield met Wrexham at Saltergate and the game’s only goal came from Chesterfield’s Chris Beaumont, just before the hour mark.

Chesterfield went onto to almost reach the final as they met Premier League, Middlesbro, and finally succumbed in a replay, after a thrilling 3-3 draw at Old Trafford.

Luton Town

On Saturday, Luton Town are at home to Ebbsfleet in a Conference match.  They are currently 3rd in the table and in the play-off places, hoping for a return to the Football League after a 4 year absence.

Back in 1985 things were very different for the Bedfordshire club.  They were a First Division (now Premier League) club back then, and on 9th March they were looking forward to a clash with their nearest rivals, Watford in the FA Cup.  The two were drawn against each other in the Fifth Round.

Originally scheduled for February, this tie was one of four that didn’t get played until Monday 4th March.  Both sides had already played league fixtures on the previous Saturday, and they played out a 0-0 draw.  Such was the fixture pile-up, the replay was arranged for Wednesday 6th March.  At Vicarage Road the two sides couldn’t be separated and drew 2-2 after extra time.

With no penalties to decide games in those days, the two would have to have a Second Replay, and amazingly this was set for Saturday 9th March.  In fact, they were so late trying to reach a conclusion to this tie that two Quarter-Final ties were played that day too.

This time Luton’s Wayne Turner scored the only goal of the game and Luton progressed to meet Millwall in the next round.  That match was then played the following Wednesday, so Luton had played 4 FA Cup games in the space of 9 days.  They won that game 1-0 as well, but eventually fell to Everton, 1-2 in the Semi-Finals

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pJ9Erupb88

Everton went on to win the league that season, but were beaten in the Cup Final by Man Utd.  Luton finished mid-table, something that would’ve seemed unachievable back in early March.  At the time of their battle with Watford, Luton were 2nd from bottom with just 25pts from 26 matches.  They then amassed a further 29pts from their remaining 16 matches to end the season in 13th place.

Unfortunately, their Sixth Round clash with Millwall will be remembered more for the riot which broke out in the ground, and resulted in Luton banning away fans for the next 4 years.

Don’t think they’re expecting much trouble from away supporters this Saturday.

Advertisements

New Kids on The Eastern Block

Ludogorets – Remember the name

These last couple of years a few clubs has seen the emergence of clubs from unfashionable parts of Europe, to start to shake things about.

BATE Borisov from Belarus and APOEL Nicosia from Cyprus, are just two examples of clubs who have exceeded expectations.  Could the next one be PFC Ludogorets from Razgrad in Bulgaria?

The club emerged from the ashes of Ludogorets who went bust in 2006.  They’d only ever managed to compete in Bulgaria’s top division on a couple of occasions since they were formed in 1945.  After the club was dissolved, the new club, PFC Ludogorets was installed in the Third tier of Bulgarian football, V Amateur Football Group (VAFG).

They took four years to get out of that division, but in 2010 a 2nd place finish meant they progressed to the B Professional Football Group (BPFG), Bulgaria’s 2nd Division.  Rather than take their time to find their feet, Ludogorets won the division by 8pts.  So now they were in Bulgaria’s Premier League, known as A Professional Football Group (APFG).

Bulgaria’s top division has been going for 88 years.  57 of those years, the title has been won by either CSKA Sofia (31) or Levski Sofia (26).  With Slavia Sofia also winning 7 titles and Lokomotiv Sofia, 4, clubs from Sofia have won 68 of the 88 league titles.  In the 10 seasons between 2000 and 2009, CSKA and Levski won every title between them, bar one when Lokomotiv Plovdiv won in 2004.

But things are changing in Bulgarian football.  It is now 3 years since a club from Sofia won the league championship, Levski in 2009.  CSKA last won the title in 2008.  The new kids on the block has been Litex Lovech.  Lovech is a town in north-central Bulgaria with a population of just over 36,000.  They won back-to-back titles in 1998 and 1999, but then the Sofia giants took over.

Razgrad is a city in North East Bulgaria, in an industrial centre, about 300km from Sofia.  For some leagues around Europe, any club from outside the capital city, would find it virtually impossible to break the stranglehold of the big clubs.  But Ludogorets and Litex seem to be giving it a good go.

In October 2010 a businessman, Kiril Domushiev bought the club with just one aim, which was to take them into the top division of Bulgarian football.  By May 2011 they had achieved that goal at their first attempt.  But it is what has happened since that has grabbed the headlines.

As things stand at the halfway stage of the season, Ludogorest sit 3pts clear at the top of the table.  They’re clear of three clubs, including Levski and CSKA.  Litex are back in 5th place, 8pts off the pace.  Ludogorets has lost just 1 match in the 16 they have played so far.

Ludogorets are coached by Ivaylo Petev, who won league championship medals with Litex in 1998 and 1999.  Petev has begun to build on last season’s success with players such as French defender, Alexandre Barthe, from Litex, centre-back Lubomir Guldan and experienced midfield player, Stanislav Genchev.  He has also signed Emil Gargorov, formerly a star at CSKA.  These players have fitted in straight away alongside the South American talent that helped them win promotion last season.  In a squad of 24 players, only 11 are from Bulgaria.  Brazilians, Guilerme Choco, Marcelinho Nascimento da Costa and Juninho Quixada play alongside three Slovakians, including Guldan.  Bulgarian striker, Ivan Stoyanov is also in the team.  He is the nephew of former Bulgarian international Yordan Letchkov, who was key member of the Bulgarian side that reached the Semi-Finals of USA ’94.

Ludogorets first match of the season was at home to Lokomotiv Plovdiv, who’d finished 5th last season and just missed out on a place in the Europa League on goal difference.  The game ended in a 0-0 draw, and many would’ve thought Ludogorets had done well to gain a point in their first match in the big time.  They went onto win the next 8!  This run of games included a 6-0 thrashing of Slavia Sofia, with Gargorov getting a hat-trick.  People really started to take notice when, in September, they took on Levski Sofia and goals from Ivanov and Gargorov gave them a 2-1 win.

This run came to an end when they travelled to Lovech to meet the champions.  Goals from Yanev and Milanov had the home side 2-0 up in 21 minutes.  Marcelinho then got a goal back for Ludogorets with his 4th of the season.  But the visitors couldn’t get the equaliser and Litex were satsifed they’d put the ‘young pups’ in their place.

Rather than knock them off their perch, that result seemed to strengthen Ludogorets resolve.  They were unbeaten in their next 4 matches, although they dropped 4pts during that period, but that was to teams in 2nd and 3rd place.  Whereas Litex have since lost to Lokomotiv Plovdiv and CSKA Sofia.

Bulgarian football is now back after its winter break and the chase is on to catch Ludogorets.  Of the 4 clubs immediately below them, only CSKA have already visited the Ludogorets Arena, and as Ludogorets are unbeaten at home, they would feel confident of holding off the challenge.

Whether Ludogorets has the ability to replicate APOEL or BATE remains to be seen, but it is another example of opportunities opening up parts of Europe once considered remote, in football terms.

Champions League – An Exclusive Club?

Champions League, An Exclusive Club

Have you noticed how some teams are always in the Champions League, year after year?  I decided to look a bit closer and a worrying trend has appeared over the past ten years.

In most European leagues only 2-3 clubs will ever win their domestic title.

Think about it.  In the England, only 4 clubs have ever won the Premier League title and the 4th club, Blackburn Rovers, only won it once, back in 1995.  Look around the other leagues in Europe and you will find a similar trend.

In England we have often sniggered at Scotland and how only Celtic or Rangers can win the SPL, but the rest of Europe seems to have caught up with this.  In France, Lyon won the title 7 years in a row.  In the Netherlands, PSV has won 7 of the past 12 titles and in Italy, Inter won Serie A 5 times in a row.  In Spain, either Barcelona and/or Real Madrid have finished in the top 2 every season for the past 10 years.

Possibly the worst example is Croatia.  It is 9 years since a club other than Dinamo Zagreb or Hajduk Split has won the title.  Only 3 clubs, other than those two, have managed to finish 2nd in the past 10 years and no club has managed that feat more than once.

Although, Scotland pushes them close, as Celtic and Rangers have won every one of the past 26 league titles. There has only been one occasion in the past 13 seasons where a club other than those two has finished as high as 2nd.

The reason for this?  Champions League money and tv revenue.

For example, in Spain the winner of La Liga receives prize money 19 times the amount of the lowest paid club.  In England, the difference is less than 2 times.  For example, in 2009/10 when Chelsea won the title they received 65m euros. Portsmouth (who finished bottom) earned an amount equivalent to 60% of that figure.  (Deloitte – Football Money League 2011)

In Italy, the difference between the tv revenue the champions receive and the bottom club gets is 10 times (source – GMG)

Michel Platini is concerned about the riches within English clubs, but he could do with looking a little closer to home.

In the French league, Lyon has finished in the top 3 in every one of the past 13 seasons.  Yet, before Champions League money, they were nowhere.  Even in places like Bulgaria where Levski Sofia has finished in the top 2 in every one of the past 10 seasons, you see examples of the top places being occupied by the same clubs each year.

Nearly every European League is dominated by just a couple of clubs.  If you’ve been following my ‘A Moment in Time’ series, you will gradually see how the top positions in English football keep changing.  I agree the period I’m covering is when Liverpool were the dominant club and won the majority of the titles, but they rarely had the same club challenging them season after season.

At the start of every season you didn’t really know who the top 4 teams would be, but if you had your last £10 and were asked to predict the top 2 for next season, would you really go for anyone other than the two Manchester clubs?

In England, between 1975 and 1992 10 different teams finished in 2nd place during those 17 seasons.  In 19 seasons of the Premiership, just 7 different clubs have finished 2nd, with just 4 different clubs managing that feat over the past 14 seasons.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe football was better back then.  Football, as an overall package, is such as vastly superior product these days than it was 20-30 years ago.  It’s better for the fans, the players and the clubs (even Portsmouth), in terms of playing conditions, wages, and the general spectator experience, either in the ground or on TV.

But if you’re a club other than the privileged few in Europe, then you have no hope of winning the title, unless you can find a rich Arab.  Let’s face it Manchester City would be nowhere near the top echelons of the Premier League without Sheikh Mansoor.

Is this something we all have to accept?  If we demand a product such as Champions League football, and are quite happy to watch it take over the domestic game, can we really be too surprised if players migrate towards the clubs who compete in that competition?

In England, you increasingly hear of supporters who would rather watch club football, especially Champions League, than the international game.  You could argue that games involving Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United or Inter Milan, will include more world class players than a World Cup Final between Spain and Netherlands.

In our endless pursuit of perfection, is this not an inevitable consequence?

One thing surely without dispute, is that the equality in TV revenue distribution in the Premier League provides more exciting matches between sides from the bottom half of the table than it would in Spain, France or Italy.

But then, if we didn’t have 92 league clubs to look after, maybe more money would go to the bigger clubs.  Have you ever watched a game from the Italian Third Division?

The following table covers the last 10 years. The last column shows the club who has won most titles during that period

Obviously, I am not suggesting the Bulgarian and Croatian leagues are on a par with Spain, Italy or England, they’re merely there by way of comparison.  But Spain, Italy and England would all claim to have more competitive leagues than either Bulgaria or Croatia, but maybe things are changing.  The German Bundesliga is in stark comparison with the other major European Leagues as more clubs seem to be in with a chance of winning the title, and a lot of the reason for that can be linked to their more equal financial distribution.

It’s difficult to be certain whether the Bulgarian league has been affected by Champions League money, although Litex Lovech, winners of the past 2 titles, has managed to break the domination of CSKA and Levski Sofia.  Champions League money each year is going to help them maintain that control.

But in Croatia, it looks almost impossible now to challenge Hadjuk Split or Dinamo Zagreb, as those clubs get richer every season, at the expense of the rest of the league.

Scotland is possibly the worst example in Europe. Celtic and Rangers have won every one of the past 26 league titles. There has only been one occasion in the past 13 seasons where a club other than those two has finished as high as 2nd.

England take Group C

Welcome back, well what a night of international football we’ve had here.

England has won Group G, N.Ireland book a play-off place and Ireland are still in with a chance of the play-offs too. Wales takes part in one of the most remarkable international matches for years.

So, let’s start with Group G and England went to Montenegro knowing a draw would be enough. They started poorly and went behind to a goal from Vukcevic, but then Rooney equalised before half-time. Then in the second half, Billy Wright headed in a Matthews corner and England won 2-1.

Enlarge this image Click to see fullsize

In the other game in the group, Wales and Switzerland played out a remarkable 5-5 draw.

Enlarge this image Click to see fullsize

Wales took the lead when Ian Rush scored after just 7 minutes. Jack Collison then made it 2-0 after 16 minutes. Mario Gavranovic then got one back for the Swiss in 34 minutes, before Rush got his 2nd of the game and Wales restored their 2-goal advantage at 3-1.

In the second half, Andy King then put Wales 4-1 up, before Gavranovic got another one back to make it 4-2. Gokhan Inler then made it 2 goals in 3 minutes for the Swiss, to make it 4-3. Innocent Emeghara then completed an amazing comeback when he equalised in the 70th minute, 4-4. Into the final 10 minutes and James Collins converted a penalty to put Wales back in front, 5-4, but then Emeghara broke Welsh hearts with a dramatic equaliser 2 minutes into injury time.

Enlarge this image Click to see fullsize

In Group C, N.Ireland did what they had to in Belfast as they beat Estonia, 3-1. Serbia and Italy played out a 2-2 draw and so N.Ireland has confirmed 2nd place in the group.

Enlarge this image Click to see fullsize

Group B saw Ireland travel to Andorra and win comfortably, 4-0. But it was the result in Zilina that was most surprising, as Slovakia beat Russia, 5-1. This now makes the final matches on Tuesday, really tight. Ireland need Russia to slip up at home to Andorra otherwise you can see the top 3 sides all winning.

Enlarge this image Click to see fullsize

In Group H, Portugal and Denmark both won and so we go to a decider between the two in Copenhagen on Tuesday. Norway can’t win the group now, but they could still reach the play-offs

In Group F, Greece sealed qualification with a 1-0 win over Croatia. Croatia will now need Israel to lose against Malta for them to reach the play-offs, or else Israel will take that spot.

Group E saw a remarkable individual performance from Holland’s Johann Cruyff. He scored 6 in a 7-1 win over Moldova. With Finland beating Sweden, 2-1 that means Holland has qualified. Sweden’s defeat now opens the door for Hungary to reach the play-offs at their expense.

In Group D, France has won the group, with Belarus finishing 2nd.

Group A, well Germany won this a while back, but Belgium has now got the advantage over Turkey, but they have to go to Germany on Tuesday needing a point. Turkey are at home to Azerbaijan and will qualify for the play-offs if they win and Belgium lose.

Cloughie gets aggressive in the second half

Second Half

News of any substitutions, Kammy?

“yes, Jimmy Greaves has come on as Clough moves to a more attacking formation. This could be a bit reckless, but I guess its his intention to force the home side back on their heels. Scott Parker makes way, as the poor guy started on the bench and has now returned to it.”

46 mins: B – SLOVAKIA 2 – 1 Russia
52 mins: C – Serbia 1 – 2 ITALY
52 mins: I – Czech Republic 0 – 2 SPAIN
52 mins: H – Cyprus 1 – 3 DENMARK
54 mins: C – SERBIA 2 – 2 Italy
54 mins: E – Finland 1 – 1 SWEDEN

Let’s go back to Poda Gorica and Chris Kamara

“unbelievable, Jeff. Billy Wright has scored again for England. Another header from a corner and he has got quite a scoring record for his country already. 2 goals against Bulgaria and now another one. He was unmarked at the corner and England are in front, and much more in control of the game now they’ve made changes. Montenegro 1, England 2”

57 mins: G – Montenegro 1 – 2 ENGLAND, Vukcevic; Rooney, Wright
57 mins: E – FINLAND 2 – 1 Sweden
60 mins: G – WALES 4 – 1 Switzerland, Rush (2), Collison, King; Gavranovic
62 mins: B – SLOVAKIA 3 – 1 Russia
63 mins: G – Wales 4 – 2 SWITZERLAND, Rush (2), Collison, King; Gavranovic (2)
64 mins: E – HOLLAND 7 – 1 Moldova
64 mins: A – BELGIUM 3 – 0 Kazakhstan
66 mins: C – N.IRELAND 2 – 0 Estonia, Lafferty, Best

George Best has just doubled N.Ireland’s lead and with Italy winning in Serbia, they’re in a good position for the play-offs.

66 mins: G – Wales 4 – 3 SWITZERLAND, Rush (2), Collison, King; Gavranovic (2), Inler
67 mins: A – BELGIUM 4 – 0 Kazakhstan
70 mins: G – Wales 4 – 4 SWITZERLAND, Rush (2), Collison, King; Gavranovic (2), Inler, Emeghara

Amazing game at the Millenium Stadium, as Switzerland have just come back from 1-4 down. If Switzerland take the lead, then that has concerns for Montenegro

78 mins: B – SLOVAKIA 4 – 1 Russia
81 mins: G – WALES 5 – 4 Switzerland, Rush (2), Collison, King, Collins (pen); Gavranovic (2), Inler, Emeghara

Quite amazing in Cardiff as Wales go back in front

85 mins: C – N.Ireland 2 – 1 ESTONIA, Lafferty, Best; Kutt
89 mins: B – SLOVAKIA 5 – 1 Russia
90+2 mins: B – Andorra 0 – 4 IRELAND, McGeady, Hunt, Wilson, Walters
90+2 mins: C – N.IRELAND 3 – 1 Estonia, Lafferty (2), Best; Kutt
90+2 mins: G – Wales 5 – 5 SWITZERLAND, Rush (2), Collison, King, Collins (pen); Gavranovic (2), Inler, Emeghara (2)

90 minutes are up and in Montenegro, England are still 2-1 up, Chris

“yes, the fourth official has just put the board up with 3 minutes of injury time to be added on. Clough has shuffled the pack again and Rooney has been taken off with Phil Jones coming on. That means Ashley Young has gone up front to partner Greaves, with Barry moving to the left and Jones in at DM”

And the final whistle has gone in Pod garica and England have won. They’re through to the European Championships as group winners.

We’ll be back after the break with a full rundown of tonights results

A Moment in Time – Part One : When QPR Almost Won The League


When QPR almost won the League Title


The season is 1975-76, and QPR are about to embark on their most remarkable season in their 93 year history (to that date).

Promoted to the First Division in 1973 when they finished 2nd to Burnley, they ended 8th in season 73-74, and 11th in 74-75.

They were positive about their prospects under manager, Dave Sexton
Sexton

After a career that involved clubs like West Ham, Luton, Crystal Palace and Brighton, Sexton embarked on a management career. After a position as first team coach at Arsenal, he joined Chelsea as manager in 1967. In 1970 he guided Chelsea to the FA Cup and then the European Cup Winners Cup a year later. Sexton was sacked by Chelsea and then took over at Loftus Road in 1974.

QPR had a tough start to the season with a home fixture against Liverpool and also a trip to Derby County in their first three matches.

Liverpool had finished 2nd to Derby County in the previous season, and 2nd to Leeds the year before that. In 72-73, they were champions. Derby were champions in 74-75 and 3rd in 73-74.

Sexton had assembled a playing squad that was a mixture of youth and experience.

Phil Parkes (age 26), Goalkeeper
parkes
Parkes was one of several keepers around in the 70’s who would’ve played many more internationals had Shilton and Clemence not been around. After a couple of years as Walsall, he made his debut for QPR at the start of the ’70-71 season. Parkes went onto make 344 appearances for QPR and then went onto make a similar amount for West Ham, but only won 1 England cap.

Dave Clement (age 27), Right Back
Clement
Clement made his debut for QPR in ’67, he eventually moved on in ’79, having made 472 appearances.

Ian Gillard (age 25), Left Back
Gillard
Gillard started out in Spurs youth team before moving to QPR and making his debut in ’68.

John Hollins (age 29), Centre-Back, Midfield
Hollins
Hollins, was another player who’d spent time at Chelsea. He’d made 436 appearances in 12 years, he’d joined QPR during the summer of ’75.

Frank McLintock (age 36), Centre-Back
McLintock
McLintock had spent most of his career at Arsenal where he was captain when they won the double in 1971. He played for Arsenal for 9 years, he’d previously spent 7 years at Leicester before that. He joined Rangers at the start of the ’74-75 season

Dave Webb (age 29), Centre-Back
Webb
Where McLintock had been a stalwart at Arsenal, Webb had been an integral part of Chelsea’s defence for 6 years, before joining QPR at the same time as McLintock. The two were to form an important partnership at the back for The Hoops.

Dave Thomas (age 25), Left Winger
Thomas
Thomas was a typical 70’s winger. Every team seemed to have one. He spent 6 years at Burnley before joining QPR in ’72.

Gerry Francis (age 25), Midfield
Francis
QPR was Francis’ first club, in an impressive career that saw him return to Loftus Road in ’81 and then with 2 stints as manager in the ‘90’s

Don Masson (age 29), Midfield
Masson
Masson, a Scot, had begun his career at Middlesbrough in ’64. He moved to Notts County in ’68 and then onto QPR in December ‘74

Stan Bowles (age 27), Midfield, Forward
Bowles
For many QPR fans, Bowles is the finest player to have ever worn the blue & white hoops. A mercurial talent, of which there were plenty around in the ‘70’s, he started at Man City in ’67, before brief stints at Bury, Crewe and Carlisle. He joined QPR at the start of their promotion season in ’72 and was an important part of their successful campaign that year.

Don Givens (age 26), Forward
Givens
Irish international, Givens played just one season at Man Utd in ’69, before spending a couple of seasons at Luton. It was QPR where he made his name, though, joining at the same time as Bowles

Mick Leach (age 28), Midfield
Leach
Mick Leach was QPR through and through. Making his debut in ’65, he eventually spent 13 years at Loftus Road

Ron Abbott (age 22), Centre-Back, Forward
Abbott never advanced beyond a fringe-player after making his debut in 1973

Tony Tagg (age 17), Centre-Back
Youngster, Tagg, only played 4 times for QPR before moving onto Millwall at the end of the 75-76 season

QPR opening fixtures for ’75-76

Liverpool (H)
Aston Villa (H)
Derby County (a)
Wolves (a)
West Ham (H)

Date: 16th August 1975
Venue: Loftus Road
Visitors: Liverpool

QPR had never beaten Liverpool before. Liverpool finished 2nd in the league in the past two seasons. They were in their 2nd season under Bob Paisley, who’d taken over from the legendary, Bill Shankly.

QPR were embarking on their 3rd successive season in the top flight, after promotion in 1973. Over 27,000 packed into the West London ground, eager for the start of a new season.

QPR were scintillating that day. They took the lead through a wonderful goal from Gerry Francis

That goal was later voted Match of the Day goal of the season.

Mick Leach, a 2nd half substitute for debutant John Hollins (Chris’s dad), then doubled the lead and QPR ran out 2-0 winners. A cracking start and Rangers fans were soon to get used to a free-flowing passing brand of football they kept producing that year.

Newly promoted, Aston Villa, were the visitors to Loftus Road, three days later, and Gerry Francis was again on strike but the spoils were shared in a 1-1 draw.

The following Saturday, Rangers were at the home of the champions, Derby County. Derby had beaten West Ham to win the Charity Shield (now Community Shield), 2-0 at Wembley just a fortnight earlier, but drawn their opening two league matches.

QPR were forced to make changes as their 2 central defenders, McLintock and Webb, were both out injured. With a combined age of 65, the two stalwarts were replaced by Ron Abbott and Tony Tagg who had a combined age of just 39. They were up against the formidable Kevin Hector and Francis Lee, as well as players like Charlie George, Archie Gemmill and Bruce Rioch. Derby also boasted one of the best defensive pairings the First Division has ever seen in Roy McFarland and Colin Todd.

QPR exploded out of the traps as talisman, Stan Bowles scored a first half hat-trick, including one from the spot. Just before the break, McFarland grabbed a goal back for the home side, but Rangers carried on in the 2nd half with further goals from Dave Thomas and Dave Clement and QPR celebrated a famous 5-1 win away to the champions.

These were indeed, heady times.

QPR finished off the month with a 2-2 draw at Wolves and a 1-1 draw at home to West Ham. Don Givens scored all 3 goals for ‘the hoops’.

5 games in and QPR were sitting in 3rd place.

Into September and a Dave Thomas goal saved a point away to Birmingham in a 1-1 draw. They then travelled to 3rd Division, Shrewsbury in the 2nd Round of the League Cup. 0-1 down at half-time, QPR responded with goals from Webb, Masson, Thomas and Leach in the 2nd half, and went through 4-1 winners.

Back in the league, and a season record crowd of over 29,000 witnessed the visit of Manchester United. United, promoted from the 2nd Division the previous season, were sitting at the top of the table in their first season back, but they too succumbed as Dave Webb scored the only goal of the game, as QPR won 1-0.

This was the start of a 4-game run where Phil Parkes was unbeaten in the Rangers goal. A 0-0 draw in Middlesbro was followed by two 1-0 home wins against Leicester and Newcastle. Mick Leach scoring both goals.

At the end of September, QPR had hit the top, and were still unbeaten.

Sept_75

October, and QPR travelled to Elland Road to play 4th placed, Leeds United. A Stan Bowles penalty wasn’t enough to avoid Rangers first defeat of the season as they went down, 1-2. QPR were then in action in the League Cup as Charlton were the visitors to Loftus Road, and they again had to come from behind as Bowles equalised for a 1-1 draw.

October 11th saw Everton visit Loftus Road. QPR again put together an impressive performance as they thoroughly overran their more illustrious opponents. Givens put the home side in front and then a pile-driver from Masson gave QPR a 2-0 lead at the break.

In the 2nd half, 2 goals from Francis and another from Thomas saw QPR round off a fine 5-0 win. Now top scorers in the division, they were also the only side whose goals against was still in single figures.

The trip to Charlton for the League Cup replay, saw QPR progress to the 4th Round as they won 3-0, with goals from Thomas, Masson and Bowles.

When they travelled to Burnley, QPR’s progression this season was in comparison. When they came up from the 2nd Division in 1973, Burnley finished above them as champions. Now in 18th, Burnley were desperate for the points and won 1-0.

At the end of October, they entertained bottom club Sheffield United. Surprisingly, they proved tougher opponents than was expected but a Don Givens goal in the end, made all the difference as QPR won 1-0.

QPR went into November, still top of the table, although only on goal average from Manchester United and West Ham, with champions, Derby County, just 1pt behind.

Oct_75

November was a busy month for the boys from Loftus Road. 6 games, including the 4th Round of the League Cup.

They started with a trip to Coventry. A 1-1 draw saw them drop to 3rd in the table as Man Utd beat Norwich, 1-0 to go top. West Ham moved into 2nd as they thumped Birmingham, 5-1 at St.Andrews. The following weekend, their stuttering form continued as Tottenham came to visit and walked away with a 0-0 draw. It was the first time this season the Loftus Road faithful had not seen their side score at home.

During the week they entertained Newcastle at home in the League Cup and went out losing 1-3. As they then drew 1-1 at Ipswich, the early season ambitions looked a long way off. 1 win in 6 matches in all competitions, and they’d yet to score more than once in a game during that period.

So when Stan Bowles grabbed the only goal of the game at home to Burnley towards the end of November, the QPR fans were greatly relieved. Despite recent form, they were lying in 2nd, just 1pt behind leaders, Derby. In fact, just 1pt separated the top 4 and it was clear the season would be close.

November ended with QPR returning to their free-flowing attacking play as Stoke were the visitors and QPR won 3-2, with goals from Masson, Clement and Webb. As Derby had beaten Middlesbro by the same score, QPR remained 2nd going into the final month of 1975. It may have been a frustrating month, but QPR’s only defeat was in the League Cup, and after the 2 league defeats in October, this was vital.

Nov_75

December was often a real test for sides during the ‘70’s. Back then, Christmas and Easter were crucial periods as 3 games were often squeezed into a few days. It wasn’t that many years ago that some clubs played twice on the same day, and playing games on consecutive days was not uncommon. A great viewing spectacle as there were plenty of matches going on, but for small squads, it meant many players just played through pain that would eventually catch up with them, come May.

A trip to Maine Road to meet Man City was first up in December, and another draw, 0-0. Then December 13 was the big one. That point against City had propelled QPR back to the top of the table as Derby lost at Birmingham. Now 1pt separated 6 clubs, but QPR’s goal average was worth a point at that stage. Hot on their heels were Derby, Leeds, Man Utd, Liverpool and West Ham.

December 13, QPR v Derby. 1st v 2nd. QPR were hopeful after their 5-1 demolition of County back in August, but it was a tight encounter this time which ended 1-1 and was most memorable for the first ever goal for Phil Nutt, who’d come on as a second half substitute for Rangers and was making only his 2nd appearance for the club.

Into the Christmas period and QPR had 3 games in a week, including a trip to Anfield on the 20th, a home game with Norwich in Boxing Day and then a trip to Arsenal a day later.

The trip to Liverpool was another 1st v 2nd, as the top 4 clubs were all on 28pts. Rangers couldn’t repeat their performance on the opening day of the season and goals from John Toshack and Phil Neal gave the home side a 2-0 win.

That ended an 8-game unbeaten run for QPR in the league, but they responded well as Masson and Bowles gave them a 2-0 win over Norwich on Boxing Day. The Christmas spirit didn’t last onto the next day as a trip to Highbury saw QPR beaten 0-2.

Liverpool’s form over Christmas had seen them hit the top, above Man Utd on goal average. Leeds and Derby were 1pt behind and now QPR were 3pts behind the leaders.

QPR were still unbeaten at home, but had picked up just 1 win on the road. 1976 was going to be a crucial year.

Dec_75

January 1976

1976 was a big year for Queen’s Park Rangers Football Club. They put their league aspirations aside to compete in the FA Cup. The Third Round is often the most anticipated date on the football calendar, and QPR looked forward to entertaining Newcastle. Unfortunately the game was a tight affair with no goals. Back then, replays were held the following Wednesday. QPR travelled up to St.James’s Park, but were beaten 1-2, and that would be the end of their cup dreams.

On the plus side, it allowed them to fully concentrate on the league.

Following their FA Cup exit they travelled to Old Trafford. United went top of the table with a 2-1 win. Sammy McIlroy and Gordon Hill scoring either side of Don Givens goal.

Since beating Stoke, 3-2 at the end of November, QPR had won just 1 of the following 8 matches they’d played in all competitions. That win had taken them to the top of the table, but now they were down in 5th, 5pts behind the leaders, United.

They then hosted Birmingham at Loftus Road and seemed to get themselves back on track as two Don Masson goals gave them a 2-1 win. They weren’t completely back in form as they went to West Ham and lost 0-1.

That was their 6th defeat of the season and the 4th in their last 6 league matches. But that was the time when it all changed for Rangers. They wouldn’t lose again until mid-April. 12 games unbeaten with 7 clean sheets, 27 goals scored. Many who remember this season fondly, will point to this period as being probably one of the best times to be a QPR fan.

January ended with a 2-0 win away to Aston Villa. Second half goals from John Hollins and Gerry Francis gave QPR, 2 valuable points, on the same day that Man Utd, Liverpool and Derby all won. QPR were still 4pts behind Man Utd, and had played a game more. More consistency would be needed in February.

Jan76

February

QPR were just about to hit a rich vein of form. Wolves were the visitors on 7th February and a 2-1 lead became a 4-2 win for the Hoops. Givens (2), Thomas and Francis (pen) were the scorers.

QPR moved up to 2nd with that win, as Leeds and Derby both lost. Liverpool hit the top with their win over Leeds.

A week later and they made the short journey to North London to take on Tottenham. A 3-0 win showed the gulf between the two sides. Givens and Francis (2) again were the scorers. Francis had now scored 4 goals in his last 3 games, Givens 3 in his last 2. Rangers were now 1pt behind Liverpool and Man Utd, but had played 2 games more at that stage.

By the time Ipswich came to Loftus road in mid-Feb, QPR were in full flow and saw them off 3-1.

Man Utd lost to Villa, so QPR were back up to 2nd place, just 2pts behind Liverpool and one of 3 teams on 40pts with Man Utd and Derby.

When Dave Thomas scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win over Leicester, QPR were now level with Liverpool who were beaten at Arsenal. This was now QPR’s 5th straight win and they were the form side in the league. They also only conceded in 2 of those games and their defence bore comparison with Liverpool.

Their final game of February was against the bottom club, Sheffield United. United were in a dire situation. 10pts from safety with just 10 games to go, and with only 2pts for a win, they seemed doomed. They managed to galvanise themselves to hold QPR to a 0-0 draw.

With Liverpool suffering a surprise 0-2 defeat at home to Middlesbro, QPR ended the month level on points with Liverpool and Man Utd, although they’d played a game more.

Feb76

March

If QPR fans thought February was good, 5 wins and a draw, March was out of this world. 4 games, 4 wins, 8 goals scored and just 1 conceded.

Coventry scored the only goal against Phil Parkes in March, but that was hardly any consolation as Thomas, Francis, Givens and Masson gave QPR a 4-1 at Loftus Road on 6th March.

That win took Rangers back to the top of the table, and by this time they were flying. They travelled to Merseyside next, to Everton, who were keen to avenge their 0-5 mauling at Loftus Road. It wasn’t to be and Stan Bowles and Mick Leach scored in each half to give QPR a 2-0 win. Liverpool, Man Utd and Derby all won too, and they were all on 45pts, just 2 behind QPR who’d played a game more than Liverpool & Derby and two more than United.

It was clear Rangers would need to keep this run going, as United then drew at Norwich in one of their games in hand, to move into 2nd just 1pt behind QPR with a game in hand. On 20th,Man Utd were involved in an exciting 4-3 win at Newcastle, Liverpool went to Norwich and won 1-0 and Derby won 2-0 at Middlesbro. QPR were at Stoke and Dave Webb scored the only goal of the game to give QPR a 1-0 win, and a 3rd successive win at that. Derby were then held at home by Stoke, and moved into 3rd place, 1pt behind QPR but no longer having a game in hand.

At the end of March, the top 4 clubs were all at home, Derby beat Birmingham 4-2, Man Utd beat Middlesbro 3-0, and Liverpool beat Burnley, 2-0. QPR entertained Man City and again Dave Webb scored the only goal of the game.

QPR ended March having won every game they could, yet were still just 1pt ahead of Man Utd and Derby and 2pts ahead of Liverpool. Both Man Utd and Liverpool had a game in hand on Rangers too. As April approached, QPR, still unbeaten at home, could look forward to 3 of their last 5 games at Loftus Road. They were now in pole position, 10 games unbeaten and had only conceded goals in 3 of those 10 games.

Mar_76

Things were finely poised

The final month, and the final push. 4 clubs were in with a chance of the title. QPR, Man Utd, Liverpool and Derby. QPR lead by 1pt from Man Utd and Derby, with Liverpool a further point behind. QPR and Derby only had 5 games left, Man Utd and Liverpool, 6.

Liverpool still had the Merseyside derby at Anfield to come, Man Utd had the Manchester derby at Old Trafford to look forward to. Derby had both Man City and Everton to play, as well as an FA Cup Semi-Final against Man Utd to go as well. Liverpool were also heavily involved in the UEFA Cup (now the Europa League) and had reached the Semi-Finals. For QPR, only their final game against Leeds would see them meet an opponent in the top 9. They were on a run of 19pts from a possible 20 from their last 10 games.

Saturday, April 3 1976

QPR travelled to Newcastle. Mick Leach had scored the only goal of the game at Loftus Road last September, but Newcastle had put QPR out of both the League and FA Cups. Newcastle scored first but McLintock and Bowles gave Rangers a crucial 2-1 away win.

On the same day, Liverpool beat Everton 1-0 with a late goal from supersub, David Fairclough. Man Utd and Derby played in the FA Cup Semi-Final, which Utd won 2-0.

Tuesday, April 6

Liverpool beat Leicester 1-0 at Anfield with a goal from Kevin Keegan

QPR and Liverpool were now equal on 53pts from 38 games.

Saturday, April 10

Liverpool travelled to Villa Park and were held 0-0. Man Utd went to Portman Road and were beaten 0-3 by Ipswich. Derby were involved in a cracker with Man City at Maine Road. City won 4-3.

QPR had a crucial game at home to Middlesbro. No score at half-time and locals could be forgiven for getting nervous. Their mood wouldn’t have improved when Phil Boersma (fomer Liverpool player) gave the visitors the lead early on in the second half. But Don Givens, Stan Bowles and 2 from Gerry Francis (1 from the spot) gave QPR a 4-2 win

QPR 39-55
Liverpool 39-54
Man Utd 37-50
Derby 38-50

Those results probably put paid to the title hopes of Derby and Man Utd, so it would become a two-horse race,

Saturday, April 17

Man Utd bounced back from their Ipswich defeat by beating Everton, 2-1. Derby drew 2-2 at home to Leicester and Liverpool won a thriller when they beat Stoke, 5-3.

QPR were away to Norwich. They were hopeful, after their 2-0 win on Boxing Day, and were also in great form. 6 straight league wins, and unbeaten in 12, winning 11 of those. But this was just one game too far for a QPR side who finally looked to be getting tired. Norwich took the lead, QPR equalised with a good goal from Dave Thomas, but Norwich then scored twice, although Phil Boyer looked offside. QPR managed a goal back when Powell lobbed his own keeper, but the defeat hurt.

Liverpool were now top by 1pt, and QPR needed them to slip up against either at Man City or at Wolves.

Monday, April 19

The Easter programme in the ‘70’s was a busy affair with 2 games in 3 days. QPR were back at home for the visit of Arsenal. Still unbeaten at home, Rangers were keen to avenge their defeat at Highbury in late December. Goals from Frank McLintock and another penalty from Gerry Francis, gave QPR a 2-1 win.

Liverpool had to go to Maine Road and play Man City. Heighway and 2 more from David Fairclough, sealed a 3-0 win for Liverpool. Man Utd won 1-0 at Burnley and were still in with a chance, although a slim one.

Liverpool 41-58
QPR 41-57
Man Utd 39-54

QPR had just one game left, a home match against Leeds, who were 4th. Liverpool’s final match was away to Wolves, who were battling relegation. Because of UEFA Cup fixtures, there would be an anomaly to the schedule. These days the final matches are played all on the last day. Back in 1976 QPR played their final match on 24th April, and Liverpool wouldn’t go to Wolves until 10 days later on the 4th May.

Before that, Man Utd were at home to Stoke and saw their feint hopes of a title vanish in a 0-1 defeat.

Saturday 24th April

QPR at home to Leeds. A goalless first half was interrupted by Dave Thomas opening the scoring midway through the second half. Suddenly, QPR seemed to play much more confidence and less nervy. Then the moment that every QPR fan had wanted, a breakaway saw Stan Bowles in acres of space and he finished calmly and with less than 10 minutes to go, QPR had confirmed victory with a 2-0 win. Queue celebrations. QPR were 1pt ahead of Liverpool and needed Wolves to win in their match in 10 days time.

Many QPR fans will point to them being champions for the next 10 days.

Anyone recognise themselves in that crowd?

Tuesday, May 4th

Liverpool had just won the first leg of the UEFA Cup Final, 3-2 against Bruges. Southampton had beaten Man Utd in the FA Cup Final, and now attention turned to the final match of the season. You’d never have it happen now, but the championship decider was played the same night at the Manchester derby. United won 2-0.

Wolves v Liverpool

Wolves were 3rd from bottom and a win would see them safe. Liverpool just needed a draw.

Steve Kindon put the home side ahead in the first half. 15 minutes left and then Kevin Keegan put away a Toshack header. Then Toshack, himself made it 2-1, before the best finish of the night as Ray Kennedy gave Liverpool a 3-1 victory.

2 years after taking on the ‘impossible job’, Bob Paisley had won the League Championship for Liverpool. He would go onto win more trophies per season than any other manager in the English game (but that’s for another story)

Final

QPR were left to dream about what might have been. Their form in December and early January probably cost them the title, as did the defeat to Norwich, with just 2 games left. After they lost to West Ham at the end of January, they played 15 games, won 13, drew 1, lost 1, scored 31, conceded 11.

Several players were capped by their countries, with Clement, Gillard, Thomas, Bowles and Francis all playing for England. Don Masson became a Scotland international. Don Givens became a regular in the Republic of Ireland squad.

They have yet to come anywhere near emulating this. Maybe with the money they now have they could at least consider a European place, but for now 1975-76 will go down as their greatest ever season.

Here’s the goals !

7 mins: G – WALES 1 – 0 Switzerland, Ian Rush
7 mins: D – ROMANIA 1 – 0 Belarus
8 mins: B – SLOVAKIA 1 – 0 Russia
8 mins: H – PORTUGAL 1– 0 IcelandThat goal in Cardiff for Wales is good news for England as that means Montenegro will be happy with a draw tonight, although news from there is that Frank Lampard has gone off injured and Scott Parker comes on.

10 mins: D – ROMANIA 2 – 0 Belarus
10 mins: B – Andorra 0 –1 IRELAND, McGeady
10 mins: E – HOLLAND 1 – 0 Moldova, Cruyff
11 mins: A – BELGIUM 1 – 0 Kazakhstan
12 mins: C – SERBIA 1 – 0 Italy
13 mins: A – Turkey 0 – 1 GERMANY

That goal for Ireland really makes things very tight in Group B. Russia, Ireland and Slovakia are all on 19pts.

15 mins: H – PORTUGAL 2 – 0 Iceland
16 mins: A – Turkey 0 – 2 GERMANY
16 mins: G – WALES 2 – 0 Switzerland, Rush, Collison
18 mins: B – Andorra 0 – 2 IRELAND, McGeady, Hunt
18 mins: C – N.IRELAND 1 – 0 Estonia, Lafferty

Laffery has put N.Ireland in front, and as Serbia are winning, that could prove crucial

21 mins: E – HOLLAND 2 – 0 Moldova, Cruyff (2)
21 mins: A – BELGIUM 2 – 0 Kazakhstan

24 mins: E – HOLLAND 3 – 0 Moldova, Cruyff (3)

And we have news from Montenegro of a goal.

“and it’s gone to the home side, I’m afraid. It’s been all Montenegro as England has been camped in their own half, but have managed to keep them out so far. England had to clear a ball into the area and Vukcevic picked it up on the edge of the area, dribbled to the left and then hit a low shot into the opposite corner, past Hart. Montenegro 1, England 0”

26 mins: G – MONTENEGRO 1 – 0 England

Defeat for England would see them go into the play-offs rather than win the group. That’s the first goal Clough’s side has conceded under his reign.

28 mins: H – Cyprus 0 –1 DENMARK
30 mins: E – HOLLAND 4 – 0 Moldova, Cruyff (4)
32 mins: D – FRANCE 1 – 0 Albania
33 mins: B – Slovakia 1 – 1 RUSSIA
34 mins: G – Wales 2 – 1 SWITZERLAND, Rush, Collison; Gavranovic

England are still unable to find a way past the Montenegran defence. Barry heads just wide froma corner and Matthews shot just wide when cutting in from the wing.

36 mins: E – Holland 4 – 1 MOLDOVA
37 mins: C – Serbia 1 – 1 ITALY
37 mins: H – CYPRUS 1 – 1 Denmark
38 mins: H – PORTUGAL 3 – 0 Iceland
38 mins: G – WALES 3 – 1 Switzerland, Rush (2), Collison; Gavranovic
38 mins: I – Czech Republic 0 – 1 SPAIN
40 mins: E – HOLLAND 5 – 1 Moldova, Cruyff (5)

Back to Pod Garica and news of a goal, who’s it gone to Kammy?

“unbelievable, Jeff. England have equalised. They’ve been awful in this first half, really up against it, but it was quick thinking from Matthews who intercepted a pass across the Montenegro defence and then squared it across the area. It went to Savic, who dwelled too long on the ball and Rooney slid in and got there first and it crept into the goal. They don’t deserve it, but it could be so, so important. Montenegro 1, England 1”

43 mins: G – Montenegro 1 – 1 ENGLAND, Vukcevic; Rooney
44 mins: H – Cyprus 1 – 2 DENMARK
45 mins: E – HOLLAND 6 – 1 Moldova, Cruyff (6)
45+1 mins: B – Andorra 0 –3 IRELAND, McGeady, Hunt, Wilson
45+2 mins: F – GREECE 1 – 0 Croatia
45+3 mins: E – FINLAND 1 – 0 Sweden

So that’s half-time in tonight’s matches. Let’s get a report from Chris Kamara out in Montenegro

“England are 1-1, Jeff, but they’re lucky to still be in the game. They’ll need to change things around, they’re defending much too deep and when they counter, there’s not enough support for Rooney. Having said that, this scoreline suits both countries, although Montenegro might feel they can take this. Ferdinand and Wright have looked a bit suspect, Johnson has been beaten too many times on the right. We’ve yet to see Gerrard take charge of the game, either. But I reckon Clough will get into them at the break and we’ll see a different side in the second half. Half-time, Montenegro 1, England 1”

Euro Championship Friday

Euro Championship Friday

Welcome to our special coverage of the penultimate round of matches in the qualifiers for the Euro Championships. Already we have Germany, Italy and Spain certain of competing in Poland & Ukraine next summer, tonight we should see several other countries join them. Will one of them be England?England are at the Pod Gorica Stadium in Montenegro, knowing that a draw is enough to win the group.

We should also see the likes of Holland and Greece join them, and possible France. There is a final round of fixtures on Tuesday when all the play-off contenders will be decided, and of course that could include Northern Ireland, Ireland and Scotland.

So, in Group A, the issue to be decided is who finishes Second, Turkey or Belgium.

Belgium v Kazakhstan
Turkey v Germany

Belgium may well move into 2nd place tonight, but they have to travel to Germany on Tuesday and Turkey are at home to Azerbaijan.

Group B, Russia could secure the group with a win in Slovakia. If that happens, then the play-off door is open to Ireland, who should win in Andorra.

Andorra v Ireland
Slovakia v Russia

Group C, Italy are already qualified, Northern Ireland could gain a play-off place with a win over Estonia tonight. If they lose, then they go to Rome on Tuesday needing to get something out of that game. Serbia are in with an outside chance of a play-off place, but will need to win tonight against Italy and on Tuesday against Slovenia

N.Ireland v Estonia
Serbia v Italy

Group D, France and Belarus are battling it out for the group win here, but France has a game in hand and so victory tonight over Albania should clinch things. Even a draw would be ok, but then they’d have to beat Bosnia on Tuesday

France v Albania
Romania v Belarus

Group E, Holland are in pole position in this group. A win over Moldova won’t confirm them as group winners, but will mean that Sweden need to win tonight and then overturn a 2-4 deficit in head-to-head matches on Tuesday. If Sweden slip up in Finland, Hungary could stand a chance of a play-off place

Finland v Sweden
Holland v Moldova

Group F, Greece just need a point tonight against Croatia, who themselves must win if their play-off hopes remain. If Croatia don’t win, then Israel should secure 2nd place.

Greece v Croatia

Group G, England’s group. A draw is good enough for England tonight, but Montenegro will be keen to keep Switzerland at bay. The two meet each other on Tuesday, so a draw for Montenegro will secure 2nd place, if the group win is beyond them

Montenegro v England
Wales v Switzerland

Group H, Portugal, Denmark and Norway all stand a chance of winning the group. Norway sits out tonights fixtures as Portugal are at home and Denmark away. It’s still not clear who will gain the advantage and this could go right to the wire

Cyprus v Denmark
Portugal v Iceland

Group I, Spain have walked this group, and even 2nd place may not get a play-off place, but Scotland will remain hopeful. They play in Liechtenstein tomorrow and the Czech Republic may only need a point tonight against Spain

Czech Republic v Spain

So, let’s have a look at the two line-ups in Pod Gorica. It looks like Clough has reverted to 4-5-1 with Rooney as the only attacker. Steven Gerrard comes into midfield for his first match under Clough. Ferdinand replaces Lescott in defence.

Enlarge this image Click to see fullsize

We’ll have the goals right after the break

YOUNGSTERS STAKE THEIR CLAIM

 

In a few days time, England manager, Brian Clough has to sit down and decide his squad for the crucial Euro 2012 qualifying match in Montenegro.

Clough knows that England need just a point from that match to confirm themselves as winners of Group G. Does he go with the tried and tested, or does he start to look at some young players who are starting to press their claims for selection.

Players like, Steve Bloomer, the Derby striker who has been exciting the crowds at Pride Park. 4 goals in 10 games for the 19 year old. He also scored on his debut for the Under-21s when they won 2-1 in Czech Republic.

Tom Finney is another who is starting to get noticed. He scored for the Under-21s when they beat Lithuania 3-0 at Vicarage Road. He has made a good start for Preston scoring twice this season. Goalkeeper, Gordon Banks is another who has a rich future ahead of him. He’s made two Under-21 appearances, conceding just 1, and has also conceded just 7 times in 9 league appearances for Chesterfield.

It may well be too early for these young guns, but one player certain to be in Clough’s squad is Steven Gerrard who is now back to full fitness and putting in some strong appearances for Liverpool, who are now 2nd in the table, just 1pt behind Aston Villa.

Euro 2012 Update

Enlarge this image

European Championship 2012 Qualifiers

The qualifying stages of the European Championships reaches its final month. Here’s look at each group to see who the qualifiers are likely to be

Group A

Enlarge this image Click to see fullsize

Germany had this group sewn up long ago, but 2nd place looks interesting. Both Turkey and Belgium have to play Germany, and both are then at home to one of the bottom two nations. If both sides finish on the same number of points, then it’s the head-to-head results that seperates them. Turkey are ahead on that, having won 3-2 at home and then a 1-1 draw.

Group B

Enlarge this image Click to see fullsize

Russia is in pole position to win this group, but Ireland may run them close. Ireland should win their final 2 matches, but unless Russia only gain 1 pt from their final two matches, then Ireland are likely to finish 2nd. Slovakia still has a chance of winning the group too. If they beat Russia and Macedonia, they have to hope that Ireland and Russia only draw their last matches.

Group C

Enlarge this image Click to see fullsize

Italy has won the group, dropping just 2pts in their draw in Belfast. Northern Ireland has put themselves in with a great chance of 2nd place, with 3-0 win over Faroe Islands, 4-2 v Serbia and 5-1 against Estonia.

The Irish just need a win over Estonia to be certain of 2nd place, as they won’t want to rely on having to go to Rome to get a result

Group D

Enlarge this image Click to see fullsize

This group has contained many surprises, but France should win the group, although Belarus will push them hard. Romania has been very disappointing, but Albania and Belarus have really impressed. Belarus 1-0 win in Paris in the opening game, was evidence of this.

France only need draws in their final matches to stay ahead of Belarus, as the head-to-head has France ahead at 2-1.

Group E

Enlarge this image Click to see fullsize

Holland should have the upper hand here. A win at home to Moldova should give them the group win, although Sweden will give them competition. Sweden may need to win both their last matches, including a game at home to Holland. The first meeting between Holland and Sweden ended with a 4-1 win for Holland. Sweden will need to overturn that deficit if they’re to finish top. Defeat for Sweden in both matches, could let Hungary in. It’s 29 years since they qualified for a major championships, and this could represent their best chance since.

Group F

Enlarge this image Click to see fullsize

Greece has been impressive in this group, dropping just 4pts. They’ve already clinched victory in the group, but 2nd place is still up for grabs. Israel has just an away trip to Malta to look forward to, which they should win. That means Croatia has to win both its final matches, one of them in Athens.

It would look like Israel will finish 2nd then, but everything could depend on the Greece v Croatia match.

Group G

Enlarge this image Click to see fullsize

England need just a draw in Montenegro to confirm the group win. Defeat for England, would mean Montenegro could win the group with a draw in Switzerland. Mathematically, Switzerland could overhaul Montenegro. They need to win both their final matches, hope England beat Montenegro and then they need to beat Montenegro themselves by at least 2 goals.

Group H

Enlarge this image Click to see fullsize

This is the closest of all 9 groups. Portugal, Denmark and Norway are all on 13pts. Norway are at a disadvantage win just 1 match left. The winner of the group could all depend on the final match in Copenhagen between Denmark and Portugal. Portugal won the first meeting in Lisbon, 3-1 so Denmark will need to beat that, unless Portugal slip up against Iceland.

Group I

Enlarge this image Click to see fullsize

Spain has rarely looked in trouble at all in this group and have already confirmed qualification. Scotland has a chance of 2nd place, although that might not be enough for the play-offs. At the moment, Czech Republic are the lowest ranked of all 2nd placed nations. For Scotland to overtake the Czechs, they must win in Liechtenstein and then get something from their trip to Madrid. If Czech Republic lose in Lithuania, that could open the door for the Scots.

Enlarge this image Click to see fullsize

Post Navigation