Defender suspended for reacting to monkey chants
1 October ~ Last weekend during a Moscow derby, Dinamo defender Chris Samba was the target of monkey chants from some Torpedo fans. After initially reporting the incident to the match officials, Samba reacted by showing his middle finger to the Torpedo fans. He did not return to the pitch in the second half. The Russian Football Union have closed part of Torpedo's stadium for one match but given Samba a two-game suspension for the gesture, though UK reports do not take into account reaction from supporters in Russia. Saul Pope has collated a range of responses from message boards and newspaper comment sections.
29 September ~ An early goal from Robin van Persie secured the points for Arsène Wenger's most cosmopolitan Arsenal side to date. There were no British players among the 14 who played at West Ham and only two, Theo Walcott and Justin Hoyte, started league matches; Mark Randall made one substitute appearance. Arsenal stayed top, barring a couple of weeks, until late March. After 2-1 away defeats to challengers Chelsea and Manchester United in the run-in, they finished third.
28 September ~ Genoa face Sampdoria today at the Luigi Ferraris Stadium in the first Derby della Lanerna (Derby of the Lighthouse) of the Serie A season. While Genoa are 121 years old and the fourth-most successful team in the country with nine titles, it is the young Sampdoria – formed in 1946 – who have the most recent Scudetto. In 1991 a team featuring Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Pagliuca won the club’s only League championship. While Genoa trailed in a respectable fourth place, they at least had the edge on the derbies, drawing one 0-0 and winning the other 2-1, goals from Stefano Eranio and Branco cancelling out a Vialli strike.
28 September ~ Not that many footballers have had songs dedicated to them. But Brazilian midfielder Robson Ponte clearly impressed during his time in Germany, prompting techno producer Reinhard Voigt to pen this (slightly repetitive) tribute. Sent in by Chris Hill
Notable kits of yesteryear
25 September ~ Changing of club colours may be frowned upon, but Eastleigh have paid little heed. This season's Conference newcomers have had three major changes recently, turning out in white, royal blue and sky blue before reverting once again to royal blue; a predominantly white kit was worm for their debut season in the Conference South in 2005. Shirt sponsor Southern Exhaust Supplies had been with the club since the days of the Jewson Wessex League – a league which Eastleigh helped to found in 1986 – and no doubt harboured similar ambitions to cement a strong regional profile.
October issue available online and in stores
The new WSC is out now, dispatched on the day of order from the WSC shop
- Fans protest ticket prices
- Can standing return?
- Broadcasting special: MOTD at 50
- Brazil goes backwards
- Shildon v Crook – FA Cup starts here
- Where are the black managers?
25 September ~ Birmingham led Division One for the first and only time this season after two penalties from Paul Furlong beat QPR. They slipped back to fifth after losing three of their next four games and finished in the same position, losing in the play-off semi-finals to Dave Bassett's Barnsley who were beaten at Wembley by Ipswich. Manchester City had a chance to regain the top spot with a match at Ipswich the following day but they lost 2-1.
Torsvollur stadium is the Faroe Islands' 6,040 national stadium in Torshavn. It was built in 1999, replacing the Svangaskaro ground in Toftir. The distinctive angular floodlights were not added until 2011 and were used officially for the first time against Italy in September that year.
It's only September and Arsenal fans are already struggling with the ups and downs of modern football – and Danny Welbeck.
21 September ~ Manchester United topped the table throughout the season with an average crowd of 48,388, nearly 20,000 higher than the next best supported club, Sunderland. Striker Stuart Pearson, signed from Hull in the summer, was their top scorer with 17 goals, ahead of Irish midfielder Gerry Daly who converted five penalties in the first seven games. After their 4-0 defeat of Norwich, Fulham fell out of the promotion race, winning won only one of their next ten games.
But you need a hole for it to work.
Despite three play-off semi-final defeats on the trot, the early 1990s were heady times for Merseyside's third team. Karl Sturgeon recalls
“Tranmere,” Johnny King once said, “will never be able to compete with Liverpool and Everton. They’re big liners like the Queen Mary, but I see Tranmere like a deadly submarine.”
In 1987, when Johnny King rolled into Birkenhead for a second go as Tranmere boss, Rovers weren’t the kind of team who inspired elaborate metaphors or poetic flights of fancy. If you wanted glory or romance, you took a trip across the Mersey to either Everton or Liverpool. Tranmere fans had no such pretensions. Prenton Park regulars Half Man Half Biscuit illustrated the difference in mentality when they sang: “Friday night and the gates are low... bastard slip of a sub’s ruined my weekend.” Tranmere were the archetypal lower-league stragglers, forever in the slipstream of their powerful, big-city rivals. They were Merseyside’s third team and everyone knew it. Everton and Liverpool’s dominance was set in stone, as surely as the world-famous Liverpool skyline, which is seen easily from the other side of the river and taunts Birkenhead residents every day.
But as the Eighties turned to the Nineties something happened. Those giant cruise-liners didn’t look quite so majestic and the submarine that had plumbed the Mersey finally struck. This was a time, as a post-Dalglish Liverpool fell from their perch and Everton’s ambitions had shrunk to just staying up every season, when Tranmere fans could genuinely say they supported the Merseyside team on the rise.
In the spring of 1987 it didn’t look possible. Everton and Liverpool were battling at the top of the First Division but Tranmere had spent the decade lurching from one financial crisis to another. Crowds for the 1986-87 Fourth Division season had dwindled to less than 2,000. Hamper millionaire Peter Johnson’s purchase of the club from American lawyer Bruce Osterman offered some hope, but the club were in real danger of dropping out of the League, maybe forever. Johnson turned to Johnny King.
King had played for Tranmere in the Sixties and initially managed the club in the late Seventies, during which time he had been something of a protege for the recently retired Bill Shankly. King certainly shared some of Shanks’s flair for a soundbite – when Elvis Costello appeared on the BBC’s Fantasy Football League, he called his team The Deadly Submarine as a tribute – and propensity for thinking big. He needed to. When Johnson brought King back to Prenton Park in 1987, King said, in his Shanklyesque way: “I can’t promise anyone success, but I can promise a trip to the moon.”
Before they could fly into orbit, however, Tranmere needed to avoid being sucked under. On the last day of the 1987 season, Rovers needed to beat Exeter to avoid relegation from the League. Chief executive Frank Corfe did everything he could to promote the game, talking to local newspapers and radio stations. “I think I realised,” he said, “the only way we could win the game was to... suck it into the net by the supporters. And 1,200 people weren’t going to do it.”
It worked. Tranmere won 1-0 to stay up and lifelong fan and director George Higham spoke of fans: “Hanging on the rafters... standing on the roof. Although the figure for the gate was 6,900, I know there were more there.” A day of celebration, then, but even amid the relief, the realities of lower-League life bit. Peter Johnson later bemoaned the players celebrating by throwing their kit into the crowd. “We hadn’t arranged for boots and shirts... and we had nothing to start the following season with.”
But with safety secured, Tranmere could set about building their own mythology. They played at Wembley five times in three years, reaching two play-off finals, two Leyland Daf Cup finals and representing the Fourth Division in the 1988 Centenary Cup tournament, in which 16 teams played a series of 40- and 60-minute matches over two days. Tranmere were the surprise hit of the tournament, beating First Division clubs Newcastle and Wimbledon to make it through to the second day of games. Rovers, expecting to go out early on, hadn’t bothered to arrange overnight accommodation. Luckily, Liverpool had been knocked out in their opening game and Tranmere were able to take over the bigger club’s hotel booking.
In 1989 Rovers were promoted to Division Three. Two years later they beat Bolton Wanderers in the play-offs to win promotion to English football’s second tier for only the second season in their history.
In the summer of 1991, with the Second Division awaiting, King was bold in the transfer market. John Aldridge, scorer of so many goals for Liverpool, joined from Real Sociedad. Later that season, winger Pat Nevin made the short journey from Everton. The symbolism was obvious – Tranmere were serious about joining Everton and Liverpool in the top flight.
And they nearly made it. Backed by Peter Johnson’s money, Tranmere played without fear in the second tier and made the play-offs in three successive seasons between 1993 and 1995. They lost in the semi-finals on all three occasions, but Rovers had a reputation for being easy on the eye. Nevin, on the right, linked up with left-winger Johnny Morrissey and between them they set up plenty of goals for Aldridge and strike partner Ian Muir, Rovers’s all-time top goalscorer. In 1994 Tranmere played Aston Villa in the semi-finals of the Coca Cola Cup and, after winning the first leg 3-1, looked ready for another trip to Wembley. It wasn’t to be – in the return at Villa Park, the home team pulled level on aggregate and edged past Rovers 5-4 on penalties.
That was probably the peak. Peter Johnson was casting coveting glances across the Mersey towards Everton, who were skint, haunted by relegation, but still one of England’s biggest clubs. Even at their lowest ebb for a generation, the Blues had a fanbase and a history that Tranmere would never have. Despite Tranmere’s long-standing tradition of playing home matches on a Friday night to attract punters who might have otherwise ventured to Goodison or Anfield, average gates in 1994 were still only around the 8,500 mark.
For the big games that had become a regular occurrence, Rovers could pull in crowds of up to 15,000, hinting at potential but still falling well short of the attendances Everton could expect. Johnson took control at Goodison later that year. He kept a stake in Tranmere – something he managed to keep quiet for a decade – but his attentions were now elsewhere. Symbolism again came into play. Merseyside’s natural order was
Tranmere finished mid-table in 1995-96 and in March 1996 Johnny King moved upstairs. John Aldridge took over as player/manager. Some of the old magic remained. Rovers remained cup upstarts, reaching the Worthington Cup final in 2000 and enjoying a famous 3-0 victory at Goodison in the 2001 FA Cup. Even that glory was quickly snuffed out when Liverpool won 4-2 at Prenton Park in the quarter-finals. Gravity eventually pulled Tranmere back to earth, and Rovers were relegated back to the third tier later in 2001. They’ve been there ever since.
Peter Johnson is back involved with Tranmere and this summer he again delved into Merseyside’s football past, appointing John Barnes as manager. Johnson had dismissed the previous boss, Ronnie Moore, because he was worried about falling attendances, but this time bringing in an ex-Liverpool man didn’t help. Barnes was sacked in October, with Rovers 22nd and with the worst goal difference in the country. The Johnson era is drawing to a close, he’s made no secret of wanting to sell up and over the summer the club was listed on eBay, to the amusement of the papers. Perhaps the fascination with Liverpool and Everton will end with it.
From WSC 274 December 2009
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