To celebrate the life of the late Graham Taylor, TFN editor Hugo Greenhalgh reflects on the documentary that cemented his legacy as a genuine and honest football man…
In the early 1990s, Channel 4 began filming a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary about the England football team’s qualifying campaign for the 1994 World Cup.
The film was unique, offering unprecedented access inside the England camp that would be almost unimaginable today. Yet it also left a comedy legacy seen in characters like David Brent, Alan Partridge and most potently, Mike Bassett. This is the story of Do I Not Like That and it is one of the most understatedly brilliant in sport.
The tragic protagonist of the film is England manager Graham Taylor. After successful spells at the helm of Watford and Aston Villa, Taylor took the job in 1990, after Sir Bobby Robson had taken the Three Lions to the semi-finals. However, England’s early exit at Euro 1992 saw press criticism mount, particularly from The Sun who gave Taylor the flattering nickname of ‘Turnip’. Continue reading
Fifteen years after David Beckham’s brilliant free-kick against Greece, James Dutton looks back at the moment that defined the England captain…
In English football there has always been a fascination with the individual. From the cult of the manager to the star player, the influence of one has often been viewed as greater than the collective.
It is why the job of England manager continues to be sold as among the biggest in world football; the idea that one man can turn around years of infrastructural complacency and negligence.
The Roy of the Rovers phenomenon that has gripped English football for over 50 years still dominates. It is why Manchester United ‘owe it’ to Wayne Rooney to fit him into the first eleven, why dropping Steven Gerrard in his final season at Liverpool became such a seismic issue.
All-action super-heroes and chest-thumping talismanic captains are what England specialise in. And yet, it is a country without a major honour in 50 years, who haven’t since defeated a major nation at the knockout stage of a tournament in normal time. Continue reading
15 years after a 5-1 win over Germany in Munich, James Dutton looks back at the greatest result in England’s recent history and the lessons that have not been learned…
‘It’s Neville to Campbell, Campbell to Rio,
Rio to Scholesy, Scholesy-Gerrard,
Gerrard to Beckham, Beckham to Heskey,
Heskey to Owen, it’s a goal, 5-1!’
It is perhaps a sign of the times that Ant and Dec soundtracked the greatest moment of the English football team in the last 15 years. Ignoring the fact the lyrics are incorrect – Michael Owen did not score the fifth goal – ‘We’re on the Ball’ reflected the fresh optimism that had been injected into the national side at the start of the Sven-Goran Eriksson era.
It was England’s official song as they travelled half-way across the world to Japan and South Korea for the 2002 World Cup, a journey that had looked a remote fantasy when Kevin Keegan resigned in the Wembley toilets after a 1-0 defeat to the Germans in October 2000. Continue reading
With the race for Champions League places at its tightest in history, James Dutton takes a closer look…
Another chastening week for English football in the Champions League and Europa League. Much like many knock-out round evenings in the last five years, a lack of quality, adaptability and in-game intelligence, a naivety that has once again exposed the flaws of the best sides in the rough-and-tumble Barclay’s Premier League on the European stage. All the money, facilities and resources but barely a hint of nous between them; English teams obsess over qualifying for the continental competitions yet have little idea what to do when they get there.
Qualification for the Champions League is that pot of gold at the end of a 38-game-long rainbow; as equally exalted as silverware now is the opportunity to be knocked out by a side from a second-rate European league in the knock-out stage. Priorities may be skewed but when the financial reward for a top four finish is so grandiose it becomes, as Tim Sherwood would say, a no-brainer.
As money has proliferated in the Premier League so the Race for the Champions League™ has become ever increasingly hard-fought. This is where it has been heading since Jesper Gronkjaer sank Liverpool in 2003 and scored the biggest goal in the history of Chelsea Football Club. TV deals have increased manifold since, and with that prize money and the desperation to gatecrash the party. Continue reading
Making his TFN debut, Will Lawrence reflects on a prank gone wrong at Stoke City…
Back in spring 2013, The Beast was simply the childish nightmare of some stranded boys in the classic novel Lord of the Flies. Premier league footballers, too caught up in the making of daisy chains and the arranging of cones into flower patterns, were blissfully unaware of the sinister secret that lay within their sport.
But one day in May, The Beast was summoned to what became one of the darkest and most desperate places on earth: the Stoke City dressing room. The culprit was reportedly Glen Whelan, known previously as an average midfield player, but since exposed as the ruler of a savage, otherworldly kingdom which exists somewhere near the M6.
Having not been satisfied with the egging of Michael Owen’s Mercedes, The Beast demanded the sacrifice of Kenwyne Jones’ dignity. “We are going to have fun on this island. Understand?”. Whelan and friends duly delivered. The Trinidad born striker found a bloody, severed pig’s head hidden in his locker. Jones is a Rastafarian and so does not eat pork. He was understandably furious, going on to hit the target with a well-aimed brick smashed through Whelan’s windscreen. Continue reading
TFN’s Piers Barber recalls Derby County’s 2007-08 season, the worst in Premier League history…
Ungainly own goals, inevitable late defeats, Dejan Lovren’s defending: each passing week seems to confirm the idea that practically every team in this season’s Premier League is almost entirely useless. Perhaps, then, a little perspective is in order. Derby County, relegated at the end of the 2007-08 season with a record low points total of just 11 points, may be just the tonic.
Despite a foreboding late season slump, Derby secured promotion in 2006-07 thanks to a narrow play-off victory against West Bromwich Albion. Despite operating on a proverbial shoestring budget, manager Billy Davies made a few not insubstantial outlays over the summer, bringing in Kenny Miller from Celtic and Robert Earnshaw from Norwich City to bag the goals to keep them up. Peculiarly, the club also deemed it sensible business to part company with £3 million to secure the services of Claude Davis from Sheffield United. Continue reading
TFN’s Hugo Greenhalgh remembers two teams who left a lasting impression in the 2001-02 Champions League…
The football memories of our youth are naturally the most rose-tinted. We all remember our first World Cup and for the core group of writers behind this blog, it is France ’98. We’ll be sharing some of our favourite World Cup memories in the run-up to Brazil, but what of football’s other major tournaments? These days the Champions League has been raised to the same plinth as the World Cup and is viewed as the real test for any player worth his salt. Yet early memories of Europe’s stellar competition are somewhat complicated. While we all remember Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s winner against Bayern Munich, its context seemed confusing. What was its relevance and why was this the crown jewel in Manchester United’s treble? A few seasons on and all these questions had answers.
Champions League nights were genuinely exciting evenings and crucially they were available to watch on terrestrial television. It is almost hard to imagine a time when world football was not there to watch at our fingertips. Today it is possible to become an expert in a foreign league without leaving one’s sofa. But at the turn of the century, opportunities to watch Europe’s hottest stars were few and far between so European nights were to be made the most of. Step forward Bayer Leverkusen and Deportivo La Coruna – two sides who made the 2001/2 Champions League a memorable and enjoyable tournament. Continue reading