From Fratton Park to Ljubljana – a love affair with Robert Prosinecki

Duncan Hart fondly recalls Robert Prosinecki’s time at Portsmouth, and beyond…

The transfer deadline countdown on Sky Sports News surely bores even the most ardent football fan.  If you care to check, then you will probably find the latest gossip being repeated ad nauseum on the hour for the rest of August, as the latest mercenary switches between one fat pay cheque to the next.

But, this wasn’t always the case.  Transfers used to take us by surprise.  The world stopped for a few seconds when the news filtered slowly filtered through that Pelé had retired from his only club in Brazil, Santos, to join New York Cosmos in 1975.  Many would have had to double check that it wasn’t April 1st when Middlesbrough signed Fabrizio Ravanelli from Juventus at the peak of his career in 1996.  Even manager Alan Pardew looked startled when Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano landed in his lap at West Ham in 2006.

Many other clubs have had surprise transfers over the years, but I would argue that perhaps none beat the shock in August 2001 when my team Portsmouth FC signed Robert Prosinecki.  Portsea Island shook itself a few further yards further from the mainland; such was the tremor of excitement that spread across the city when Pompey’s Serbian-American owner, Milan Mandaric, announced he had managed to persuade his Croatian “friend” to move to the South Coast. Continue reading

Erhun Oztumer – ‘He came from Turkey to bring us joy’

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(Photo courtesy of Mike Urban)

I heard a rumour, Erhun Oztumer, He came Turkey, To bring us joy

He’s 5 foot 2, He’s pink and blue, Please don’t take, My Erhun away

It is with some sadness that I write of the departure of Erhun Oztumer from Dulwich Hamlet to Peterborough United this summer. For the past two seasons, Oztumer has been the lynchpin of Gavin Rose’s slick Dulwich side who have garnered something of a reputation for attractive, attacking football. No player illustrates this better than Oztumer; his first touch is sublime, his vision is excellent and he is equally adept at beating his man as he is at finding a killer through-ball. He helped Dulwich win the Ryman Division One South in 2013 and last season scored 33 goals as Dulwich chased successive promotions, only to miss out on the final day.

But Oztumer isn’t the sort of player you need to scramble for the stats book for (if you did, you’d see he’s also provided 18 assists last season). He is simply a very pure and talented footballer who knows how to use his skills effectively. For two years, he has been the star attraction at Champion Hill and he will be dearly missed. Continue reading

Michael Owen: from that night in Saint-Étienne to cold nights in Stoke

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TFN’s latest signing Alastair Nasmyth marvels at the career of Michael Owen…

Recently you may have had the opportunity to have seen a rarely broadcast piece of footage amidst the modest pre-tournament build-up of a young England player leaving an Argentinian defence for dead and scoring a goal that was to bring this little known (outside of England) youngster to the attention of the world. That man – boy – was Michael Owen. Now I don’t want to brag but as an experienced manager (3 Premier League titles, 1 FA Cup, 1 UEFA Cup, 1 Champions League – Championship Manager 95/96) I’d been calling for his inclusion from the start of the tournament. Even as a 13 year old I’d seen how well he’d dovetail with Alan Shearer in my fictitious all-conquering Liverpool team. The goal itself was great; the deft touch with the outside of his foot to set himself up and then pace and strength, something not always associated with his game, to get past Jose Chamot. Then the cut grass (as the French say), drifting away from goal to get away from Roberto Ayala he thrakes the ball into the top corner on the far side of the goal.

After the dust had settled from David Beckham’s red card and loss on penalties, the one shinning light was this lad from Chester. If he could do this when he was only 18 think what he could achieve over the next 10 years, his first shave perhaps. Liverpool and England fans alike were salivating over the potential this boy (man) possessed and for the next 5 years he was to fulfil it as much as could be expected. The next season he went on to win a second Premiership Golden Boot (I wonder if they gave him a left and right?) including hat-tricks against Newcastle and Forest carrying Liverpool as best he could before injuring his hamstring towards the end of the season, an injury that would re-occur throughout his career. Continue reading

Ghana’s Albert Adomah & the World Cup’s Non-League Connections

wpid-Albert-Adomah-made-thd-provisional-Ghana-squad-for-the-2014-World-CupTFN’s Hugo Greenhalgh profiles Middlesbrough’s Albert Adomah and looks at the other players with non-league connections at this World Cup…

Ghana’s squad for this World Cup might be one of the youngest at the tournament but it still features some illustrious names from Europe’s top leagues. In Michael Essien and Sulley Muntari they possess two Champions League winners with nearly 140 caps between them, while Kevin-Prince Boateng, André Ayew and Kwadwo Asamoah have been recent regulars in the competition.  Yet alongside stars such as these, there are a couple of players who started their careers in England’s non-league.

Albert Adomah currently plays for Middlesbrough but he started out at another ‘Boro, five divisions lower, in the Isthmian Premier with Harrow Borough FC. Adomah used to have kickabouts with his local street wardens when he was a teenager and they encouraged him to play for a Sunday team. This lead to trials at Harrow Borough, in North West London, who Adomah signed for while he continued to take a painting and decorating course at a local college. Continue reading

Ross McCormack – the new Billy Bremner?

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“His Hair is Red and Fuzzy, and His Body’s Black and Blue”

TFN’s Kyle Hulme tells how Ross McCormack manifested the spirit of fellow countryman and former Leeds United legend Billy Bremner to save the club in a season of turmoil…

He watched the ball the whole way. Knowing Matt Smith would win it, he ran in between the two defenders. The flick on was unpredictable, landing awkwardly to his right whilst he had his back to goal. Undeterred, he flicked the ball over his and his marker’s shoulder, pirouetting in the same motion, before striking the ball with his weaker foot – the same weaker foot which launched a season filled with hope against Brighton back in August – past the Barnsley goalkeeper and into the goal.

The travelling Leeds fans erupted, their talisman looking to have all-but condemned their Yorkshire rivals to relegation. It was his 29th goal of the season, an outrageous feat given that Leeds that day confirmed their safety in the division, and a personal record he’ll never forget in a season which Leeds fans can’t wait to see the back of. Continue reading

€100m Gareth Bale proving the Real Deal

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Freddie Mickshik believes Gareth Bale’s sparkling performances could pave the way for a new wave of British players abroad…

Of the numerous British exports to Europe, few have delivered. This is undoubtedly due in part to a long era of Premier League dominance on the field coupled with financial clout off it, leaving little incentive for home-grown talent to fly the nest, and partly perhaps because the typical British-born player does not share the cosmopolitan outlook of his European or Latin-American counterpart.

Much has changed since the days of Kevin Keegan’s back-to-back Ballon d’Ors at Hamburg, let alone John Charles’ prolific spell at Juventus, which belongs to another age altogether. A low ebb of British football reached its nadir in the mid-1980s, with Keegan forging a trail for Brits in Europe followed most prominently and with greatly varying degrees of success by Gary Lineker, Mark Hughes, Ian Rush, Graeme Souness and Paul Gascoigne. Continue reading

Andy van der Meyde: Zlatan’s partner in crime

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TFN regular Elko Born remembers the infamous Andy van der Meyde…

Most of the boys in the Ajax academy are from Amsterdam or the area surrounding the Dutch capital. Boys from other parts of the country usually get picked up by other clubs. PSV Eindhoven, for example, rules the South of the country. Clubs like Heerenveen and FC Groningen rule the North.

Andy van der Meyde was born and bred in Arnhem, a medium sized town in the centre of the Netherlands. Yet it wasn’t Vitesse, his home town side, or any of the other clubs in the Arnhem area who spotted his talent when he was a boy. By some twist of faith, it was an Ajax scout.  Continue reading