This week’s trip down memory lane sees the invention of the penalty kick, the first-ever televised match and the passing of one of the game’s all-time greats.
The humble penalty kick: scourge of England, masterminded by Germany, invented by an Irishman and first seen today in 1891. In order to stop the excessive hacking that was spoiling many-a-game, a mill owner and goalkeeper from Milford in Co Armagh in Northern Ireland called William McCrum came up with an idea that he believed would stop cheating. The first ever player to step up to the 12-yard spot was John Heath of Wolverhampton Wanderers who slotted it home en route to his sides’ 5-0 thrashing of Accrington Stanley at Molineux. Meanwhile, today in 1963, a 17-year-old George Best made his Manchester United debut in a 1-0 win over West Brom.
Derby County were going goal-crazy today in 1976, when they became the first English side to find the net 12 times in a European tie, as they demolished the patriotically-named Finn Harps of Ireland 12-0 in their Uefa Cup first-leg first round match. Today in 2000 the ever-entertaining Claudio Ranieri was appointed Chelsea manager after Ken Bates had given Gianluca Vialli the elbow after he had only picked up just the five trophies during his short spell in charge.
Football appeared on the small screen for the first time today in 1937. The BBC had only been around for a year, but some bright spark thought that John Logie Baird’s new invention might lend itself quite well to the beautiful game. However, viewers weren’t treated to an FA Cup final, an England international or anything that exciting, as Arsenal v Arsenal Reserves was the history making match. Fast forward to 1996 and Sheffield Wednesday’s England striker David Hirst was making history as he lashed home the hardest-ever recorded shot: a 114-mile-an-hour thunderbolt past David Seaman in the Arsenal goal.
St Mirren had their day in the sun today in 1980, as they played their first-ever European tie. The club that is most famous for being the only one to ever sack Alex Ferguson took on IF Elsborg in the Uefa Cup. The Buddies won the tie, only to be knocked out by Michel Platini’s Saint-Etienne in the next round. Derby County’s 2007/08 campaign peaked today in 2007, when the newly promoted side defeated Newcastle 1-0 in what would be their only win of the season, as they went on to set a record for the lowest-ever points total and equaled Loughborough’s 108-year-old record of only one win in an entire season.
Bruce Grobbelaar was proving that the ‘dodgy ‘keeper’ moniker could be taken a couple of ways today in 1998 when he was charged by the FA over betting irregularities. Bryan Robson could be fairly described as a ‘dodgy manager’ and West Brom realized this today in 2006 when they sacked the former England skipper after the Baggies’ slow start to the season.
The BBC’s much-hyped investigation into bungs in football was broadcast today in 2006. The Panorama programme promised much, but delivered little, as it delved into the dealings of, amongst others, Sam Allardyce and Harry Redknapp without rocking the murky world of football transfers to it’s core. A year to the day later Chelsea were ditching another successful manager. This time it was the turn of the Special One, as Jose Mourinho left the club ‘by mutual consent.’
Barry Davies is, for my money, the greatest football commentator ever. Today in 1975 he let loose with one of his best pieces of commentary, in Manchester City’s match with Derby County. As Francis Lee scored the Rams’ winning goal against his former club Davies proclaimed: “Lee. Interesting … VERY interesting! Oh! Look at his face! Just look at his face!”
The legendary former Nottingham Forest, Derby Country and Leeds United manager Brian Clough died today in 2004 at the age of 69 after losing his battle with cancer. We’ll leave the last words this week to Old Big ‘Ead himself:
“I want no epitaphs of profound history or all that kind of thing. I contributed, I hope they would say that and I hope that somebody liked me.”