Our weekly trawl through the history books takes in some epic England losses, a madcap Finn, the Football League’s first matches and the publication of a book that revolutionised football literature.
Not a good day for the Three Lions, as England suffered two of their most embarrassing defeats. Today in 2005 a David Healy strike stunned Sven’s men, as it gave Northern Ireland their first win over the English since 1972. Eriksson was clearly in shock saying: “This is my worst experience as England manager because it’s a qualification game. We shouldn’t lose here. We should not even draw.” Back in 1981 an unfancied Norway side prompted one of the most famous pieces of football commentary ever heard, as they recorded their first ever win over England. We’ll hand over to commentator Bjørge Lillelien: “Lord Nelson! Lord Beaverbrook! Sir Winston Churchill! Sir Anthony Eden! Clement Attlee! Henry Cooper! Lady Diana! Maggie Thatcher – can you hear me, Maggie Thatcher! Your boys took one hell of a beating! Your boys took one hell of a beating!”
An historical day back in 1888, as the Football League kicked off for the first time. Records are so sketchy that even Jeff Stelling wouldn’t be able to tell you who scored the first ever Football League goal, but Preston’s Jack Gordon is believed to have the honour as the eventual champions’ match kicked off 45 minutes ahead of everyone else. As all students of the game know, Notts County are the world’s oldest league club, but today in 2003 they came within a whisker of extinction after 141 years of experience after a lengthy spell in administration before a consortium rode in to save the day. Things have since perked up remarkably for Magpies.
Manchester United were the subject of an audacious takeover bid from BSkyB today in 1998, as the city’s second biggest club accepted a £623.4m bid from Rupert Murdoch and his cronies. The move eventually fell through when the Monopolies and Mergers Commission blocked the sale. It’s happy birthday to one of football’s eccentric, forgotten characters. Former Crystal Palace defender Aki Riihilahti was born today in 1976 and used to write a hilarious column in the Times (check the archive here), with titles such as ‘I’m Not the Borat of the Bundesliga’ and ‘Gold Medal? I Prefer Pizza. And described himself thusly: “a motor of midfield, writer, a human”. Have a good one Aki!
Today in 1905 a merry band of workers at London’s Crystal Palace decided they’d like to have the occasional kick-about, so created Crystal Palace FC. As well as picking up the 1991 Zenith Data System Cup, Crystal Palace also have the honour of being one of the very few clubs that Dave Beasant has never turned out for. Today in 2002 the ‘keeper signed on the dotted line for his 11th club, Bradford City, as the 43-year-old showed no signs of hanging up his gloves.
The twice-stolen Jules Rimet Trophy doesn’t have the monopoly on being half-inched. Today in 1895 the most famous trophy in English football was yoinked out a football equipment shop in Birmingham after Aston Villa had beaten West Brom to the prize. Without Pickles to dog, the police had no leads to speak of and Villa had to stump up £25 for a replacement. Fast forward to 2000 and Australian company Multiplex signed up to build the new Wembley Stadium, with the aim of it being ready for the 2003 FA Cup Final. We all know what happened next.
Graham Taylor began the second-most mocked tenure as England manager (sorry Schteve, you’re untouchable at number one) when he took charge of the Three Lions for the first time in a friendly at Wembley against Hungary. Two years later Nick Hornby revolutionised the world of football literature, as his debut tome Fever Pitch was released, with even Spurs fans appreciating its genius.
Ian Wright secured his place in the Arsenal history books (at least until Thierry Henry rolled into town) as he struck his record-breaking 179th goal for the Gooners to break Cliff Bastin’s 50-year-old record in a win over Bolton. Also celebrating today is World Cup-winning Italian captain Fabio Cannavaro who will bellowing out 36 candles on his birthday cake.