sabato 15 gennaio 2011

Derby Day

Tomorrow (Sun, Jan 16) will see three of the biggest English derby games played, in a day which has been billed as the ultimate 'Super Sunday.'

Brummies like to think Birmingham is England's second city and they say that Aston Villa against Birmingham is the most important game in the calender.

In the North East, where the locals' love for foootball is as strong as the Geordie accent (for evidence think of Gazza's magical command of English), Sunderland host Newcastle and are hoping to make amends for the five nil drubbing the Magpies dished out to the Black Cats earlier in the season.

Over in Liverpool, in the port city which backs on to the Irish Sea in the west of the country, David Moyes' Everton will make the short walk across Stanley Park - a sort of grassy Scouse no mans land - from Goodison Park to Anfield. They are aiming to inflict a third straight defeat on Reds' folk hero Kenny Dalglish, who has been parachuted into the club's hot-seat following the untimely departure of Roy Hodgson.

Aside from the desperate need to win to grant their fans' bragging rights for the rest of the year, each club is experiencing a mini-crisis of its own.

Birmingham are one point off the relegation zone. Their boss Alex McLeish has just picked up the underperforming David Beckham-alike David Bentley from Spurs on a six-month loan deal and, from the same club, aging Irish striker Robbie Keane for £6 million.

Aston Villa are routed in the bottom three and in a transition period with new manager Gerard Houllier struggling to steady a ship still rocking after the departure of the best young British manager right now, Martin O'Neill.

On Wearside (Sunderland is on the River Wear) a minor miracle is happening. Former Manchester United striker Steve Bruce has only been in the job a couple of years but has taken the club to the brink of a European place and assembled a young, overperforming squad, helped in part by some clever loan deals, including Danny Welbeck from his old boss in Manchester, Alex Ferguson. Bruce is also getting the best out of the club's elder players such as Darren Bent and promoting local talent from the region such as dynamic midfielder Jordan Henderson.

Newcastle, on the other hand, are a club at the mercy of a ruthless owner: businessman Mike Ashley, who is the owner of Sports International. He is a man who made his money buying brands (namely high street sports shops) and turning their fortunes around. Try as he might, Ashley's shrewd business approach has so far not paid dividends at Newcastle United. He is mainly to blame.

He sacked one of the most promising young English managers only a few weeks a ago, Chris Hughton - despite the Londoner having turned the club into a solid top ten team - and replaced him with Alan Pardew, the former Charlton Athletic boss who, most recently, was sacked by Southampton for failing to take The Saints up to The Championship from the Division 1.

Yet is it in Merseyside (Liverpool is on the River Mersey) where things are really afoot. 20 years after he was last in charge at Anfield, when he won the old first Division (and Liverpool last won the title), Kenny Dalglish is back at the helm. He had visions of being Roy Hodgson's long-term replacement but after two games and two losses there is discontent behind the scenes.

Ironicallly, it was a dramatic 4-4 draw with Everton in the Merseyside derby in 1991 which spelt the end for the Scot last time. That game is remembered as one of the greatest derby matches ever played, because Tony Cottee scored two late goals to help Everton hold their rivals to a draw after extra-time in a fifth-round FA Cup replay at Goodison Park.

Pundits say the immense strain occasioned first by the Heysel disaster, which was compounded by the Hillsborough disaster a short while later, finally told on the man. Characterised by kamikaze defending, Liverpool threw away a seemingly unassailable lead and, a few days later, in February 1991, the stress Dalglish had been internalising for far too long prompted his resignation.

The question on everyone's lips now is, with shear survival at stake, might the same happen again?

Watch the clip of Everton v Liverpool in 1991 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jt616hEtp38&feature=related - with Ian Rush, Peter Beardsley and Neville Southall, true 90s greats, and ask yourself: was that the best derby ever played?

5 commenti:

  1. Dear Mr Schmitt, I don't know if that was the best derby ever played but of course it must have been the best derby ever to watch...for someone who wasn't neither a Liverpool nor a Everton fan.

    It's strange anyway how sometimes a draw can be the best memory of a derby you have, apart from some amazing exploits (the 4 goals in the first half, the 4 goals of Montella...), my best memories of the roman derbies are the dismal 1-1 of my youth, when everyone used to say that they were arranged because each team had too much fear to lose, it was the typical derby where the strikers make the gol, usually Rudi Voeller and Ruben Sosa, and at least one on penalty.
    Then there was the infamous 3-3, we were not as good as Lazio and in fact we were desperately losing 1-3, but Totti made it 3-3 and eventually Delvecchio scored the regular 4-3 with the head but the referee saw an off-side only his sister had seen...

    If you want me to foresee the sunday, I think the Merseyside derby will be a great match again. A lot of fear means a great derby. An old time derby. A derby for midfielders. It will end up 3-2 for Liverpool with decisive gol by el Nino Torres. The only pity is that they don't wear anymore the short shorts like in the 90's, and that noone goes anymore for the wedge cut like our myth Peter Beardsley...

    RispondiElimina
  2. ps Maybe one day we should spend some words on John Barnes. What an amazing player!

    (What really strucks me of english football of the 90's is how much it has changed from the current Premier League. It's the same thing that I feel when I see black and white italian football. But in this case 50 years have passed, not 15! Today, Tony Cottee won't find room in League One.

    And not to talk about Gegenschlag's idol Neville Southall).

    RispondiElimina
  3. My favourite one this season is Andy Carroll. Unbealievably improved in this top flight year.

    I spent a few minutes today reading a Sunday Times article on Kenny Dalglish. The article describes the first days of work of Liverpool's legend and points out how Dalglish is tryng to make the team react by brushing up old values and glory.
    Ecc ecc
    What I was wondering on however is: could it be so appropriate to give the helm of a sinking boat to one of the most important glories of England football..
    Why this way?
    The risk is too big in my opinion. Liverpool could fall while seeing a legend falling as well.

    RispondiElimina
  4. @sigo
    you mean "the suarez effect"?

    i think talking about liverpool glory and past (even recent past)doesn't touch anyone's heart in anfield locker room.
    this strategy can work with us (i mean LB readers i.e. football addicts)not sure withe the likes of babel, ngog etc...

    this is a disaster waiting to happen, too pity kenny dalglish will sink with the boat.

    RispondiElimina
  5. I agree with Kalle (anyway, it could also be called "the Bruno Conti effect"...).

    I think that, until ten days ago, folks like Ngog or Babel thought that "a dalglish" was a new spicy dish to try at the curry house round the corner rather than a legend of the club they were playing for...

    RispondiElimina