Sunday, February 25, 2018

25 February 1967 - The Death Of Tony Allden

On 25 February 1967, Highgate United's Tony Allden was struck by lightning in an FA Amateur Cup quarterfinal against Enfield. He died the next day.

The 22-year old, 6'1" center half helped propel the small Worcestershire Combination club into the quarterfinals of  the tournament where they hosted Enfield, a Isthmian League side sitting two levels above Highgate in the English football pyramid. Enfield were clear favorites, but the stands were humming with anticipation from a capacity crowd of over 2,000 as the teams took the pitch under a heavy downpour.

But at 3:27 pm, with just under half an hour played, a bolt of lightning struck Allden, who was standing in the center circle. According to one report, Allden was left "crumpled in an aura of blue smoke." Two other players, brothers Eric and Roy Taylor, also collapsed due to shock. All three were rushed to the hospital where the Taylors soon recovered, but Allden did not. He passed away from his injuries the following afternoon.

Because of media attention, the replay drew a crowd of over 30,000, forcing its move away from Highgate's Tythebarn Lane to the larger Villa Park, where Enfield won 0-6 (they went on to win the cup over Skelsmerdale United in a final reply at Manchester City's Maine Road ground).

That April, a memorial match was played in Allden's honor between a Midlands XI and an International XI. He was also recognized with the creation of the Tony Allden Memorial Cup.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

24 February 2010 - A Sign Of A Season To Come

On 24 February 2010, a friendly between the Philadelphia Union and the Atlas U-20s ended early when hostilities erupted on the pitch.

The Union were down in Guadalajara to prepare for their first MLS season and scheduled the friendly against the U-20 squad of local team Atlas. But the match failed to love up to the name, with a total of five ejections--three Union players and two from Atlas.

Tempers continued to flare to the point where the referee ended the match with twelve minutes left in order to avoid an incipient riot. Atlas still got the win, though, 3-2.

The match set the stage for the Union's season, as they finished with the league's third-worst record (just above Chivas USA and DC United) and failed to qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs.

Friday, February 23, 2018

23 February 2000 - The Late Great Stanley Matthews

On 23 February 2000, Stanley Matthews, winner of the first Ballon d'Or, passed away at the age of 85.

A winger who is widely considered one of the greatest players in football history, Matthews acquired a long list of accomplishments over the course of his 33-year career, which he spent with only two clubs, Stoke City (1932-47, 1961-65) and Blackpool (1947-61). In all, he made a total of 783 appearances and scored 80 goals. But he won only one major trophy, claiming the 1953 FA Cup with Blackpool with an outstanding performance that led the game being called "the Matthews Final."

He came close twice before, reaching the FA Cup Final with Blackpool in 1948 and 1951, and also finished as league runners-up in 1956, the year he won the inaugural Ballon d'Or as Europe's greatest player. The following year, he was made a Commander of the British Empire, becoming the first (and so far only) English footballer to be knighted while still an active player.

Matthews also starred at the international level, making 54 England appearances and winning nine British Home Championships (three of which were shared titles).

His dedication to fitness and training sustained his career so that, at 50, he became the oldest player to appear in the English top flight. He is also the oldest person ever to play for England, making his last appearance at the age of 42 years, 104 days.

Upon his death in 2000, testimonials flew in from all around the world, including comments from Pelé, who said that Matthews "taught us the way football should be played" and Berti Vogts, who said "All over the world, he is regarded as a true football genius."

Thursday, February 22, 2018

22 February 1931 - Vélez Takes A Fall

On 22 February 1931, Vélez Sársfield suffered the only loss of their 25-game Pan-American tour, losing to Fall River 5-2.

Vélez had already played fifteen matches of their tour, which included stops in Chile, Peru, Cuba, Mexico, and three games in the United States. The first of the US matches was a 3-1 win over the New York Stars in Brooklyn on 21 February. They then traveled down to Rhode Island for their next match against Fall River.

But they were not facing the Fall River Marksmen, the defending ASL champions. Owner Sam Mark had moved that team to New York where they merged with New York SC to play as the Yankees. Mark offered the use of his Rhode Island stadium to any team willing to relocate there, however, so the Providence Gold Bugs took him up on the offer and became the new Fall River FC.

The 5-2 was the only loss of the tour for Vélez, to go along with 20 wins and 4 draws. And it was one of the high points of Fall River's season, followed by another friendly win three months later over Celtic.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

21 February 1974 - Best Arrested

On 21 February 1974, George Best, recently retired from Manchester United, was arrested on charges of burglary and theft.

The superstar winger had last played for United the previous month after a falling out with manager Tommy Docherty and spent the intervening days in a series of flings, including a high-profile outing in London with the newly-crowned Miss World, Marjorie Wallace (pictured, with Best), a few days earlier.

But his relationship with Miss Wallace apparently soured quickly. When a collection of items disappeared from her apartment, including a fur coat, some jewelry, and about £20 worth of alcohol, she called the police, who arrested Best at his Manchester nightclub, Slack Alice, in the early hours of the morning on 21 February. They interviewed him for about five hours, then drove him down to London for formal charges.

He denied any wrongdoing and the case was dropped in April when Miss Wallace failed to appear for the trial. In dismissing the charges, the judge noted that, under the circumstances, they left no stain on Best's character.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

20 February 2011 - Deportivo Cuts It Close

On 20 February 2011, Deportivo de La Coruña earned a draw with Almería thanks to the first La Liga goal scored by a goalkeeper in open play.

Deportivo had been struggling all season in the bottom half of the table and had just climbed into thirteenth with a shock win over Villareal. Almería, meanwhile, were sitting one spot off the bottom in nineteenth with only four wins in their first twenty-three games (though one of those was a 2-0 away win over Deportivo).

Playing at Almería's Juegos Mediterráneos, the hosts went up 1-0 with a 48th-minute goal from winger Pablo Piatti and looked likely to get the season sweep when they kept the lead deep into the second half. But the referee awarded four minutes of extra time, which proved to be almost enough time for Deportivo to get the equalizer.

The clock actually read 94:02 when Deportivo won a corner kick that the referee allowed them to take. Goalkeeper Dani Aranzubia raced the length of the pitch to be there when the kick came in, delivered by Pablo Álvarez, and headed it past his opposing number. The final whistle sounded immediately afterward.

It was the first goal by a keeper in La Liga since 2002 and the first ever that was not a penalty.

Unfortunately, despite the draw, both Deportivo and Almería ended the season in relegation, though Deportivo returned to La Liga for the 2012-13 season.

Monday, February 19, 2018

19 February 1910 - Back When It Was Just "Trafford"

On 19 February 1910, Liverpool spoiled the debut of Manchester United's new stadium, winning there 3-4.

Originally named United Football Ground, the stadium was designed by architect Archibald Leitch and cost approximately £60,000 to complete. It opened with a capacity of 80,000--substantially higher than the 50,000 of their previous Bank Street ground--but only 45,000 people turned out for that opening match.

United's opponents were Liverpool, who had already beaten them at Anfield earlier in the season. They completed their sweep of the Red Devils with a 3-4 win thanks to a brace each from Arthur Goddard and James Stewart (United's scorers were Tom Homer, Sandy Turnbull, and George Wall).

Renamed Old Trafford in 1936, it has remained United's home ever since, except for a brief spell after World War II when bombing damage rendered it temporarily unusable. Its highest attendance, however, did not involve United; that was set at 76,962 for a 1939 FA Cup match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Grimsby Town when Old Trafford was still a terraced stadium. The record after conversion to an all-seater is 76,098, set during a league game between United and Blackburn Rovers in 2007.