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Author Archive for Steven Pye

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When Arsenal showed France tough love on Valentine’s Day

Michel Platini thought playing a ‘very British’ Arsenal team at Highbury would prepare France for a World Cup qualifier in Scotland, but the plan backfired. France lost both matches 2-0By Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports BlogIt’s hard to imagine Arsena…

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When Arsenal first played Tottenham at Wembley – and hammered them 4-0

Arsenal thumped Spurs on 13 August 1988 and then returned to Wembley the very next day to see off Bayern Munich 3-0 By Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog of the Sport NetworkIf you ask a football fan to name the first time Arsenal played Tottenham a…

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When Brian Clough came between Bristol City and the League Cup final

Bristol City will have to overcome Pep Guardiola to reach the final this season. In 1989 they nearly humbled Brian CloughBy Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog of the Sport NetworkAfter a few years of turmoil in the early 1980s – three relegations, b…

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How Northern Ireland qualified for their last World Cup 32 years ago

Northern Ireland started their qualifying campaign for the 1986 World Cup by losing to part-timers in Finland but they ended it by triumphing at WembleyBy Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog, part of the Guardian Sport NetworkWhen the draw was made f…

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When Tottenham first faced Real Madrid they cursed their luck – and the referee

Real Madrid were underdogs when they came to London for the Uefa Cup quarter-finals in 1985 but they slipped through and ended up lifting the trophyBy Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog, part of the Guardian Sport NetworkReal Madrid were underdogs w…

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When Tottenham Hotspur first hosted Real Madrid … and lost 1-0 to an own goal

Real Madrid were underdogs when they came to London for the Uefa Cup quarter-finals in 1985 but they slipped through and ended up lifting the trophyBy Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog, part of the Guardian Sport NetworkReal Madrid were underdogs w…

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When Arsenal lost two league games to Watford in as many days

Arsenal didn’t have the happiest Easter in 1986. In the space of a week they lost their manager, lost a north London derby and lost twice to Watford in two daysBy Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog, part of the Guardian Sport NetworkIn this modern w…

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When Chelsea won a league game and a Wembley cup final in the same weekend

Chelsea beat Southampton in the league on the Saturday and then went to Wembley on the Sunday for a nine-goal thriller with Manchester City

By Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog, part of the Guardian Sport Network

English football was constantly hitting new levels of rock bottom in 1985. Fans were violent, stadiums were decaying and attendances were dropping across the country. The European ban imposed was the inevitable conclusion to the spreading English disease that had swept the continent. Slightly less football during the 1985-86 season might not have been a bad thing but the Football League and club chairmen had different ideas; greed was good, so two new competitions were introduced to the calendar.

Step forward the Screen Sport Super Cup and the Full Members’ Cup. The former was set up as a consolation competition for the six teams that had qualified for Europe but could not participate due to the ban. Look deep enough and you can see some logic in offering an alternative event for European qualifiers. But the Full Members’ Cup was a complete mystery.

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Frank de Boer left Crystal Palace after 77 days. Dave Bassett didn’t make 77 hours

Frank de Boer didn’t win a league game in his short tenure at Selhurst Park. Back in 1984, Dave Bassett didn’t stick around long enough to see the team play

By Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Dave Bassett’s stock was on the rise in the summer of 1984. After guiding Wimbledon to the Fourth Division title with 98 points in the 1982-83 season, he had just led them to a second consecutive promotion. His style of play may not have been to the taste of the football purists but, with the club jumping up to the Second Division, the ends definitely justified the means.

Attention from Football League clubs up and down the country was inevitable and in May 1984 a vacancy opened up that tested Bassett’s loyalty to the Dons. Crystal Palace chairman Ron Noades thought his squad was “good enough to have finished in the top eight” but he had just watched manager Alan Mullery produce 15th- and 18th-placed finishes in the Second Division. With average attendances dropping, Noades decided to wield the axe.

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The best debut in English football? Micky Quinn’s four-goal start for Newcastle

So far this season Newcastle have played twice, lost twice and failed to score twice. If only Rafa Benítez could sign a player with Micky Quinn’s eye for goal

By Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog, part of the Guardian Sport Network

It was hardly the welcome Micky Quinn dreamed of when he signed for Newcastle United in the summer of 1989. Walking through the city with his girlfriend after agreeing terms with the club, Quinn was understandably cock-a-hoop. “I turned to Sheila and said: ‘Darling, this is one of the proudest moments of my life. It’s what I’ve been struggling to achieve since I practised kicking a tennis ball against a wall every night.’”

But he was soon brought down to earth as he stumbled upon a protest group called the Boardbusters, who, as their name would suggest, were not best pleased with the Newcastle directors. The club had just been relegated from Division One and many fans were prepared to boycott matches at St James’ Park to get their views across to the club hierarchy. Quinn’s move from Portsmouth had apparently not improved their mood.

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When Brighton last played in the top flight – and the FA Cup final – 34 years ago

Brighton have not played in the top division of English football since 1982-83, the most topsy-turvy season in their historyBy Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog, part of the Guardian Sport NetworkAfter gaining promotion under Alan Mullery in the 19…

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When Arsenal last let in five at home in Europe fans stayed to clap the opposition

Arsenal fans did not turn on their team or manager after their 5-2 defeat to Spartak Moscow in 1982 – they stayed to the end to pay tribute to the winners

By Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog, part of the Guardian Sport Network

There are times in the life of a football fan when you have to simply take defeat on the chin. You can’t always blame the referee, manager, board or players for your team being on the receiving end of a tonking. One such example for Arsenal fans was the visit of Spartak Moscow to Highbury on 29 September 1982. The visitors’ performance on that early autumn evening was terrific and terrifying, scintillating and shocking, entertaining and eye-opening, as they crushed Arsenal’s hopes in the Uefa Cup.

In this internet age of ours, there is no longer an air of mystery surrounding European teams or players. Not so in 1982. We were still a few months away from the launch of the UK’s fourth TV channel when the draw for the Uefa Cup first round was made. Some fans would have known of Rinat Dasayev, who had gained a reputation as one of the world’s best goalkeepers, and midfielder Yuri Gavrilov, who was seen as the danger man, but Spartak largely came to London as an unknown quantity.

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When Arsenal last let in five at home in Europe fans stayed to clap the opposition

Arsenal fans did not turn on their team or manager after their 5-2 defeat to Spartak Moscow in 1982 – they stayed to the end to pay tribute to the winners

By Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog, part of the Guardian Sport Network

There are times in the life of a football fan when you have to simply take defeat on the chin. You can’t always blame the referee, manager, board or players for your team being on the receiving end of a tonking. One such example for Arsenal fans was the visit of Spartak Moscow to Highbury on 29 September 1982. The visitors’ performance on that early autumn evening was terrific and terrifying, scintillating and shocking, entertaining and eye-opening, as they crushed Arsenal’s hopes in the Uefa Cup.

In this internet age of ours, there is no longer an air of mystery surrounding European teams or players. Not so in 1982. We were still a few months away from the launch of the UK’s fourth TV channel when the draw for the Uefa Cup first round was made. Some fans would have known of Rinat Dasayev, who had gained a reputation as one of the world’s best goalkeepers, and midfielder Yuri Gavrilov, who was seen as the danger man, but Spartak largely came to London as an unknown quantity.

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How Partizan Belgrade overcame QPR after losing the first-leg 6-2 at Highbury

QPR won the first leg – which was played at Highbury as they couldn’t use the plastic pitch at Loftus Road – but lost 4-0 in Belgrade and went out on away goals

By Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog, part of the Guardian Sport Network

The early 1980s were an exciting time for QPR supporters. Under the management of Terry Venables the club went to the FA Cup final in 1982, won Division Two in 1983 and secured a fifth-place finish in the top flight in 1984, earning them a place in the Uefa Cup for the 1984-85 season. But there was trouble ahead.

Venables departed for Barcelona, with Alan Mullery arriving from Crystal Palace for an ill-fated spell at Selhurst Park. Lasting only six months, Mullery was frank in blaming the “moaning, groaning bunch of players who treated me, themselves and their profession with contempt”. Mullery crammed a lot into his time in West London – including a 5-5 draw with Newcastle and away thrashings at Tottenham, Sunderland and Leicester – but QPR’s adventures in Europe grabbed most of the headlines in the early part of the season, but not for the right reasons.

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How Australia and India produced the second tied Test in cricket history | Steven Pye

Australia are currently in India for a four-Test series, but it is hard to imagine any of their matches being as dramatic as their meeting in Madras in 1986

By Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog, part of the Guardian Sport Network

It seems that the debate relating to the future of Test cricket is not just a recent trend. Back in 1986, Richard Streeton wrote in the Times about the growth of limited overs cricket and the impact it was having on the longer form of the game, especially in India. “The simple reason is that, in common with the worldwide trend, Indian spectators are now fully converted to limited-overs cricket.” The lack of interest in Test cricket was a major concern.

Streeton’s article made it to press just a couple of days after a match that had done its best to provide Test cricket with a much needed boost. The nerve-wracking tied Test in Madras between India and Australia had been fairly standard-fare for large parts, although there were a few notable personal achievements during the first four days. But it exploded into life on a final day that showed off the beauty of Test cricket, proving that all things come to those who wait.

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When Sutton United last went on a stunning FA Cup run … and then lost 8-0

Sutton United’s players became heroes when they beat top-flight Coventry in the third round in 1989 but they didn’t fare so well against Norwich City

By Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Mention Sutton United to football fans and many will recall the day in January 1989 when Coventry City, winners of the FA Cup just two years before, went to Gander Green Lane and were beaten by the Conference team. But how many remember the following act in Sutton’s FA Cup story that year, the difficult second album, if you like? If beating Coventry had been Sutton’s successful debut, then their visit Norwich City away was their Neither Fish Nor Flesh moment.

In fairness, Sutton were more than one-hit wonders. Even before their exploits against Coventry, Barrie Williams’ team had made some ripples in the FA Cup in 1988, knocking out league opposition in Aldershot and Peterborough, before taking Second Division Middlesbrough to a replay at Ayresome Park. The 1-0 defeat against a Boro side that would gain promotion to the top flight highlighted Sutton’s capabilities, but the Coventry match put the club firmly on the map.

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Blackburn v Manchester United: the Cup tie that made Mick Rathbone famous

Blackburn were on the up when they last hosted Manchester United in the FA Cup fifth round in 1985, but Mick Rathbone’s dreadful mistake proved pivotal. United won the game – and the Cup – and Blackburn’s season never recovered

By Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Back in winter 1985, no one kicked up much of a fuss when it was announced that Manchester United’s FA Cup fifth round match away at Blackburn Rovers would be screened live on BBC1. Firstly, it wasn’t the 57th time in a row that TV executives had decided to screen Manchester United in the Cup; and secondly, the match between the Division Two leaders and Ron Atkinson’s unreliable United team looked to have all the ingredients of a potential FA Cup giantkilling.

For one man, though, the night would not turn out as he would have hoped. Blackburn’s Mick Rathbone had experienced a few highs and lows in his career before 7.21pm on Friday 15 February 1985, yet, at that precise moment, he probably wanted the frozen Ewood Park pitch to swallow him up. For his very public mistake would prove costly, allowing Manchester United to clear a tricky obstacle on their ultimately glorious Cup run.

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Graham Taylor’s greatest season: when Watford finished runners-up in 1982-83

Graham Taylor led Watford from the Fourth Division to the First Division in five years and then pulled off an even more impressive feat in the top flight

By Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog, part of the Guardian Sport Network

When you look back at what Graham Taylor achieved at Lincoln City and Aston Villa, it’s not hard to see why England came calling in 1990. But his most glorious spell in management came with Watford, where he achieved three promotions in five years and then led an inexperienced group of players to second place in their debut season in the top flight. Watford received a lot of criticism for their approach but this was a victory for substance over style for Taylor and chairman Elton John.

Related: ‘The nicest man in football’: our readers pay tribute to Graham Taylor

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Burton 1-6 Leicester: the FA Cup tie that was replayed after a fan injured a player

Gary Lineker thought his hat-trick had settled the tie but Burton’s goalkeeper had been injured by a missile thrown from the crowd so the FA called for a replay

By Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog, part of the Guardian Sport Network

When Burton Albion of the Northern Premier League were drawn against Division One side Leicester City in the third round of the FA Cup in 1985, it appeared to be a romantic tie: a David v Goliath clash that the part-timers of Burton in the spotlight and in the hunt for an upset. It had all of the ingredients required for a third round classic but, sadly, the tie ended up making headlines for different reasons.

Neil Warnock’s Burton team took hope from the memory of Leicester’s surprising defeat to Harlow Town in the Cup in 1980. Leicester had drawn with the Athenian Premier League side at Filbert Street, before suffering a 1-0 defeat in the replay. Leicester defender Tommy Williams had played in that tie did not want to suffer another embarrassment against Burton. “We realise we are on a hiding to nothing,” said Williams. “We were terrible that night at Harlow and it would have been no injustice if they had won by three or four clear goals. So some of us know what to expect. That’s why we are going out against Burton determined not to let it happen again.”

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How Arsenal won the Centenary Trophy, the least celebrated title in their history

To commemorate their 100th birthday, the Football League put on a naff tournament that was unloved by fans and forgotten quickly by the winners

By Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog, part of the Guardian Sport Network

There have been a number of awful football competitions organised throughout the history of the sport, from the Anglo-Scottish Cup to the Zenith Data Systems, taking in such delights as the Texaco Cup, ScreenSport Super Cup and Watney Cup along the way. Fortunately my club, Arsenal, have managed to steer clear of most of these, but in 1988 the club qualified for a cup competition that was organised by the Football League to commemorate their 100th anniversary.

The Football League were naturally eager to celebrate their 100th year as the 1987-88 campaign kicked off. In August 1987, a Football League Representative side defeated a World XI 3-0 at Wembley. Maradona was roundly booed every time he touched the ball, with the majority of the 61,000 crowd unable to forgive or forget his Hand of God goal from the previous summer. But this would not be the only chance to mark the Football League’s centenary.

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