Aston Villa

Aston Villa slideshow

Fabian Delph says he left Aston Villa in 2015 because important signings were not made.
Fabian Delph cleared to fly home during World Cup for birth of third child
Fabian Delph says he left Aston Villa in 2015 because important signings were not made.
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
It sounds like one of those dreaded pub quiz questions: which player turned out for two clubs relegated and promoted in the same season? Lewis Grabban is hoping his name is added to the unique list of players to experience such a capricious campaign, as he prepares for Saturday’s Championship play-off final. Grabban will spearhead Aston Villa’s attack in the £170million shootout at Wembley, five months after playing on loan at crisis-stricken Sunderland. The 30-year-old striker scored 12 goals in 20 games for Chris Coleman’s strugglers, before he was recalled by parent club Bournemouth in January and then sent out to Villa for the remainder of the season. Sunderland’s relegation was “inevitable”, admits Grabban, as the club suffered the nightmare scenario of dropping into the third tier for the first time since 1987. Grabban had a fairly successful stint at Sunderland Credit: Getty images But he is now on the verge of helping guide Villa back to the Premier League after a rollercoaster 12 months he can never have envisaged. “It’s been a weird season and hopefully the relegation won’t go down too much on my record,” he said. “I don’t think anyone thought at the beginning of the season that Sunderland could do that. But everyone expected it after a certain amount of time and it didn’t look like anything was going to change. “They’re not the first big club [to go down] and won’t be the last. Leadership from the top of the club is important, so is investment. “Now I’m at Villa and one of the reasons I came here was to try and get promotion. If we do that, it will be a successful season.” Grabban has scored the goals to power Villa's promotion push Credit: PA Grabban has delivered the anticipated impact at Villa after signing on deadline day, scoring eight goals, and his experience has been vital during the final run-in. With Villa now possessing so many experienced campaigners, such as former England captain John Terry, Mile Jedinak and Robert Snodgrass, Bruce’s squad finally appears capable of coping with such high expectation. Grabban is one player fully in tune with the vagaries of the play-off rollercoaster: Saturday’s showdown with Fulham is the fifth play-off final of his career. Last season he was part of the Reading team which lost to David Wagner’s Huddersfield on penalties. “When you lose, you just want to go home, get out of the stadium as quickly as possible,” he said. “Winning with Norwich [against Middlesbrough in 2015] was the best day of my career. It’s a bigger achievement going through the play-offs than automatic. “You do the season, then you’ve got the pressure of three games to get through. We’ve got through the semi-final but the job is nowhere near done yet.”
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
It sounds like one of those dreaded pub quiz questions: which player turned out for two clubs relegated and promoted in the same season? Lewis Grabban is hoping his name is added to the unique list of players to experience such a capricious campaign, as he prepares for Saturday’s Championship play-off final. Grabban will spearhead Aston Villa’s attack in the £170million shootout at Wembley, five months after playing on loan at crisis-stricken Sunderland. The 30-year-old striker scored 12 goals in 20 games for Chris Coleman’s strugglers, before he was recalled by parent club Bournemouth in January and then sent out to Villa for the remainder of the season. Sunderland’s relegation was “inevitable”, admits Grabban, as the club suffered the nightmare scenario of dropping into the third tier for the first time since 1987. Grabban had a fairly successful stint at Sunderland Credit: Getty images But he is now on the verge of helping guide Villa back to the Premier League after a rollercoaster 12 months he can never have envisaged. “It’s been a weird season and hopefully the relegation won’t go down too much on my record,” he said. “I don’t think anyone thought at the beginning of the season that Sunderland could do that. But everyone expected it after a certain amount of time and it didn’t look like anything was going to change. “They’re not the first big club [to go down] and won’t be the last. Leadership from the top of the club is important, so is investment. “Now I’m at Villa and one of the reasons I came here was to try and get promotion. If we do that, it will be a successful season.” Grabban has scored the goals to power Villa's promotion push Credit: PA Grabban has delivered the anticipated impact at Villa after signing on deadline day, scoring eight goals, and his experience has been vital during the final run-in. With Villa now possessing so many experienced campaigners, such as former England captain John Terry, Mile Jedinak and Robert Snodgrass, Bruce’s squad finally appears capable of coping with such high expectation. Grabban is one player fully in tune with the vagaries of the play-off rollercoaster: Saturday’s showdown with Fulham is the fifth play-off final of his career. Last season he was part of the Reading team which lost to David Wagner’s Huddersfield on penalties. “When you lose, you just want to go home, get out of the stadium as quickly as possible,” he said. “Winning with Norwich [against Middlesbrough in 2015] was the best day of my career. It’s a bigger achievement going through the play-offs than automatic. “You do the season, then you’ve got the pressure of three games to get through. We’ve got through the semi-final but the job is nowhere near done yet.”
It sounds like one of those dreaded pub quiz questions: which player turned out for two clubs relegated and promoted in the same season? Lewis Grabban is hoping his name is added to the unique list of players to experience such a capricious campaign, as he prepares for Saturday’s Championship play-off final. Grabban will spearhead Aston Villa’s attack in the £170million shootout at Wembley, five months after playing on loan at crisis-stricken Sunderland. The 30-year-old striker scored 12 goals in 20 games for Chris Coleman’s strugglers, before he was recalled by parent club Bournemouth in January and then sent out to Villa for the remainder of the season. Sunderland’s relegation was “inevitable”, admits Grabban, as the club suffered the nightmare scenario of dropping into the third tier for the first time since 1987. Grabban had a fairly successful stint at Sunderland Credit: Getty images But he is now on the verge of helping guide Villa back to the Premier League after a rollercoaster 12 months he can never have envisaged. “It’s been a weird season and hopefully the relegation won’t go down too much on my record,” he said. “I don’t think anyone thought at the beginning of the season that Sunderland could do that. But everyone expected it after a certain amount of time and it didn’t look like anything was going to change. “They’re not the first big club [to go down] and won’t be the last. Leadership from the top of the club is important, so is investment. “Now I’m at Villa and one of the reasons I came here was to try and get promotion. If we do that, it will be a successful season.” Grabban has scored the goals to power Villa's promotion push Credit: PA Grabban has delivered the anticipated impact at Villa after signing on deadline day, scoring eight goals, and his experience has been vital during the final run-in. With Villa now possessing so many experienced campaigners, such as former England captain John Terry, Mile Jedinak and Robert Snodgrass, Bruce’s squad finally appears capable of coping with such high expectation. Grabban is one player fully in tune with the vagaries of the play-off rollercoaster: Saturday’s showdown with Fulham is the fifth play-off final of his career. Last season he was part of the Reading team which lost to David Wagner’s Huddersfield on penalties. “When you lose, you just want to go home, get out of the stadium as quickly as possible,” he said. “Winning with Norwich [against Middlesbrough in 2015] was the best day of my career. It’s a bigger achievement going through the play-offs than automatic. “You do the season, then you’ve got the pressure of three games to get through. We’ve got through the semi-final but the job is nowhere near done yet.”
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
It sounds like one of those dreaded pub quiz questions: which player turned out for two clubs relegated and promoted in the same season? Lewis Grabban is hoping his name is added to the unique list of players to experience such a capricious campaign, as he prepares for Saturday’s Championship play-off final. Grabban will spearhead Aston Villa’s attack in the £170million shootout at Wembley, five months after playing on loan at crisis-stricken Sunderland. The 30-year-old striker scored 12 goals in 20 games for Chris Coleman’s strugglers, before he was recalled by parent club Bournemouth in January and then sent out to Villa for the remainder of the season. Sunderland’s relegation was “inevitable”, admits Grabban, as the club suffered the nightmare scenario of dropping into the third tier for the first time since 1987. Grabban had a fairly successful stint at Sunderland Credit: Getty images But he is now on the verge of helping guide Villa back to the Premier League after a rollercoaster 12 months he can never have envisaged. “It’s been a weird season and hopefully the relegation won’t go down too much on my record,” he said. “I don’t think anyone thought at the beginning of the season that Sunderland could do that. But everyone expected it after a certain amount of time and it didn’t look like anything was going to change. “They’re not the first big club [to go down] and won’t be the last. Leadership from the top of the club is important, so is investment. “Now I’m at Villa and one of the reasons I came here was to try and get promotion. If we do that, it will be a successful season.” Grabban has scored the goals to power Villa's promotion push Credit: PA Grabban has delivered the anticipated impact at Villa after signing on deadline day, scoring eight goals, and his experience has been vital during the final run-in. With Villa now possessing so many experienced campaigners, such as former England captain John Terry, Mile Jedinak and Robert Snodgrass, Bruce’s squad finally appears capable of coping with such high expectation. Grabban is one player fully in tune with the vagaries of the play-off rollercoaster: Saturday’s showdown with Fulham is the fifth play-off final of his career. Last season he was part of the Reading team which lost to David Wagner’s Huddersfield on penalties. “When you lose, you just want to go home, get out of the stadium as quickly as possible,” he said. “Winning with Norwich [against Middlesbrough in 2015] was the best day of my career. It’s a bigger achievement going through the play-offs than automatic. “You do the season, then you’ve got the pressure of three games to get through. We’ve got through the semi-final but the job is nowhere near done yet.”
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
Lewis Grabban hopes Aston Villa promotion can help people forget his relegation in same season
The Duke of Cambridge has revealed that Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of the Championship play-off final on May 26. Speaking at an event for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, William admitted he was thinking about the big game.
Duke of Cambridge admits Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of crunch final
The Duke of Cambridge has revealed that Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of the Championship play-off final on May 26. Speaking at an event for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, William admitted he was thinking about the big game.
The Duke of Cambridge has revealed that Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of the Championship play-off final on May 26. Speaking at an event for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, William admitted he was thinking about the big game.
Duke of Cambridge admits Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of crunch final
The Duke of Cambridge has revealed that Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of the Championship play-off final on May 26. Speaking at an event for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, William admitted he was thinking about the big game.
The Duke of Cambridge has revealed that Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of the Championship play-off final on May 26. Speaking at an event for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, William admitted he was thinking about the big game.
Duke of Cambridge admits Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of crunch final
The Duke of Cambridge has revealed that Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of the Championship play-off final on May 26. Speaking at an event for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, William admitted he was thinking about the big game.
The Duke of Cambridge has revealed that Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of the Championship play-off final on May 26. Speaking at an event for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, William admitted he was thinking about the big game.
Duke of Cambridge admits Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of crunch final
The Duke of Cambridge has revealed that Aston Villa is on his mind ahead of the Championship play-off final on May 26. Speaking at an event for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, William admitted he was thinking about the big game.
FILE PHOTO: Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Aston Villa's John Terry celebrates after the match. Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
FILE PHOTO: Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Aston Villa's John Terry celebrates after the match. Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes/File Photo
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Aston Villa's John Terry celebrates after the match Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Aston Villa's John Terry celebrates after the match Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Ahead of Saturday's Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham, the so-called 'richest game in football', we look at how much the shoot-out is worth.
How much is the Championship play-off final REALLY worth to the winners?
Ahead of Saturday's Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham, the so-called 'richest game in football', we look at how much the shoot-out is worth.
Ahead of Saturday's Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham, the so-called 'richest game in football', we look at how much the shoot-out is worth.
How much is the Championship play-off final REALLY worth to the winners?
Ahead of Saturday's Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham, the so-called 'richest game in football', we look at how much the shoot-out is worth.
Ahead of Saturday's Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham, the so-called 'richest game in football', we look at how much the shoot-out is worth.
How much is the Championship play-off final REALLY worth to the winners?
Ahead of Saturday's Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham, the so-called 'richest game in football', we look at how much the shoot-out is worth.
Ahead of Saturday's Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham, the so-called 'richest game in football', we look at how much the shoot-out is worth.
How much is the Championship play-off final REALLY worth to the winners?
Ahead of Saturday's Championship play-off final between Aston Villa and Fulham, the so-called 'richest game in football', we look at how much the shoot-out is worth.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry has started 32 league games for Aston Villa this season.
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry has started 32 league games for Aston Villa this season.
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has insisted he has not thought about his future beyond Saturday’s Championship play-off final, despite speculation that a string of key figures will leave the club if they cannot seal promotion to the Premier League. Jokanovic, who has turned Fulham into one of the Championship’s most attractive sides, has been linked with a move and is likely to be in demand this summer. Speaking ahead of the match against Aston Villa at Wembley, Jokanovic refused to discuss either his future or the prospect of key players leaving. Tom Cairney, Fulham’s captain, warned this month that the club needed to be in the Premier League next season if they wanted to keep the team together. Cairney has been linked with a move to West Ham United, while Ryan Sessegnon and Ryan Fredericks have also been targeted by top-flight clubs. Jokanovic, who has one year remaining on his deal, said: “I have a contract and that’s it. I am not thinking about the future. This game is so huge that I do not know what I am going to do on Sunday morning. “To be honest, I do not care. I am not thinking about this. I am only thinking about the job ahead of us. We want to fight to bring Fulham to the place we believe they belong.” The 49-year-old added that he believed Fulham could “dominate” Steve Bruce’s Villa with their high-intensity, possession-based style of football. Tom Cairney wants to be playing in the Premier League Credit: pa Fulham were defeated 2-1 at Villa Park in October, but won 2-0 when the sides met again in February. Jokanovic said his players would attempt to target Villa’s John Terry, the 37-year-old centre-back who played alongside Jokanovic at Chelsea from 2000 to 2002. “We are going to try to put against him some fast and some stronger players,” said Jokanovic. “I hope he will make some mistakes. This is the kind of impact I expect from his side. All of us can make mistakes. I expect some mistakes from his side and that’s it.” In Terry and James Chester, his defensive partner, Villa boast an experienced back-line, as well as former Premier League players Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan, Robert Snodgrass and Alan Hutton. Jokanovic, however, believes his younger side, who enjoyed a 23-game unbeaten run during the regular season, will have the required energy to overcome the more wily Villa, who finished fourth in the Championship, one place behind Fulham. “When you talk about experience, you are talking about the past,” Jokanovic said. “Terry is a fantastic player, Chester is a fantastic player. They have experience playing in this stadium. But probably they cannot be in their best level right now. “We are the youngest team, the team with more energy. We believe in our style. We believe we can dominate the situation. Experience in life is important but it is not everything.”
Slavisa Jokanovic unfazed by talk of Fulham players leaving if they do not get promoted
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has insisted he has not thought about his future beyond Saturday’s Championship play-off final, despite speculation that a string of key figures will leave the club if they cannot seal promotion to the Premier League. Jokanovic, who has turned Fulham into one of the Championship’s most attractive sides, has been linked with a move and is likely to be in demand this summer. Speaking ahead of the match against Aston Villa at Wembley, Jokanovic refused to discuss either his future or the prospect of key players leaving. Tom Cairney, Fulham’s captain, warned this month that the club needed to be in the Premier League next season if they wanted to keep the team together. Cairney has been linked with a move to West Ham United, while Ryan Sessegnon and Ryan Fredericks have also been targeted by top-flight clubs. Jokanovic, who has one year remaining on his deal, said: “I have a contract and that’s it. I am not thinking about the future. This game is so huge that I do not know what I am going to do on Sunday morning. “To be honest, I do not care. I am not thinking about this. I am only thinking about the job ahead of us. We want to fight to bring Fulham to the place we believe they belong.” The 49-year-old added that he believed Fulham could “dominate” Steve Bruce’s Villa with their high-intensity, possession-based style of football. Tom Cairney wants to be playing in the Premier League Credit: pa Fulham were defeated 2-1 at Villa Park in October, but won 2-0 when the sides met again in February. Jokanovic said his players would attempt to target Villa’s John Terry, the 37-year-old centre-back who played alongside Jokanovic at Chelsea from 2000 to 2002. “We are going to try to put against him some fast and some stronger players,” said Jokanovic. “I hope he will make some mistakes. This is the kind of impact I expect from his side. All of us can make mistakes. I expect some mistakes from his side and that’s it.” In Terry and James Chester, his defensive partner, Villa boast an experienced back-line, as well as former Premier League players Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan, Robert Snodgrass and Alan Hutton. Jokanovic, however, believes his younger side, who enjoyed a 23-game unbeaten run during the regular season, will have the required energy to overcome the more wily Villa, who finished fourth in the Championship, one place behind Fulham. “When you talk about experience, you are talking about the past,” Jokanovic said. “Terry is a fantastic player, Chester is a fantastic player. They have experience playing in this stadium. But probably they cannot be in their best level right now. “We are the youngest team, the team with more energy. We believe in our style. We believe we can dominate the situation. Experience in life is important but it is not everything.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has insisted he has not thought about his future beyond Saturday’s Championship play-off final, despite speculation that a string of key figures will leave the club if they cannot seal promotion to the Premier League. Jokanovic, who has turned Fulham into one of the Championship’s most attractive sides, has been linked with a move and is likely to be in demand this summer. Speaking ahead of the match against Aston Villa at Wembley, Jokanovic refused to discuss either his future or the prospect of key players leaving. Tom Cairney, Fulham’s captain, warned this month that the club needed to be in the Premier League next season if they wanted to keep the team together. Cairney has been linked with a move to West Ham United, while Ryan Sessegnon and Ryan Fredericks have also been targeted by top-flight clubs. Jokanovic, who has one year remaining on his deal, said: “I have a contract and that’s it. I am not thinking about the future. This game is so huge that I do not know what I am going to do on Sunday morning. “To be honest, I do not care. I am not thinking about this. I am only thinking about the job ahead of us. We want to fight to bring Fulham to the place we believe they belong.” The 49-year-old added that he believed Fulham could “dominate” Steve Bruce’s Villa with their high-intensity, possession-based style of football. Tom Cairney wants to be playing in the Premier League Credit: pa Fulham were defeated 2-1 at Villa Park in October, but won 2-0 when the sides met again in February. Jokanovic said his players would attempt to target Villa’s John Terry, the 37-year-old centre-back who played alongside Jokanovic at Chelsea from 2000 to 2002. “We are going to try to put against him some fast and some stronger players,” said Jokanovic. “I hope he will make some mistakes. This is the kind of impact I expect from his side. All of us can make mistakes. I expect some mistakes from his side and that’s it.” In Terry and James Chester, his defensive partner, Villa boast an experienced back-line, as well as former Premier League players Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan, Robert Snodgrass and Alan Hutton. Jokanovic, however, believes his younger side, who enjoyed a 23-game unbeaten run during the regular season, will have the required energy to overcome the more wily Villa, who finished fourth in the Championship, one place behind Fulham. “When you talk about experience, you are talking about the past,” Jokanovic said. “Terry is a fantastic player, Chester is a fantastic player. They have experience playing in this stadium. But probably they cannot be in their best level right now. “We are the youngest team, the team with more energy. We believe in our style. We believe we can dominate the situation. Experience in life is important but it is not everything.”
Slavisa Jokanovic unfazed by talk of Fulham players leaving if they do not get promoted
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has insisted he has not thought about his future beyond Saturday’s Championship play-off final, despite speculation that a string of key figures will leave the club if they cannot seal promotion to the Premier League. Jokanovic, who has turned Fulham into one of the Championship’s most attractive sides, has been linked with a move and is likely to be in demand this summer. Speaking ahead of the match against Aston Villa at Wembley, Jokanovic refused to discuss either his future or the prospect of key players leaving. Tom Cairney, Fulham’s captain, warned this month that the club needed to be in the Premier League next season if they wanted to keep the team together. Cairney has been linked with a move to West Ham United, while Ryan Sessegnon and Ryan Fredericks have also been targeted by top-flight clubs. Jokanovic, who has one year remaining on his deal, said: “I have a contract and that’s it. I am not thinking about the future. This game is so huge that I do not know what I am going to do on Sunday morning. “To be honest, I do not care. I am not thinking about this. I am only thinking about the job ahead of us. We want to fight to bring Fulham to the place we believe they belong.” The 49-year-old added that he believed Fulham could “dominate” Steve Bruce’s Villa with their high-intensity, possession-based style of football. Tom Cairney wants to be playing in the Premier League Credit: pa Fulham were defeated 2-1 at Villa Park in October, but won 2-0 when the sides met again in February. Jokanovic said his players would attempt to target Villa’s John Terry, the 37-year-old centre-back who played alongside Jokanovic at Chelsea from 2000 to 2002. “We are going to try to put against him some fast and some stronger players,” said Jokanovic. “I hope he will make some mistakes. This is the kind of impact I expect from his side. All of us can make mistakes. I expect some mistakes from his side and that’s it.” In Terry and James Chester, his defensive partner, Villa boast an experienced back-line, as well as former Premier League players Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan, Robert Snodgrass and Alan Hutton. Jokanovic, however, believes his younger side, who enjoyed a 23-game unbeaten run during the regular season, will have the required energy to overcome the more wily Villa, who finished fourth in the Championship, one place behind Fulham. “When you talk about experience, you are talking about the past,” Jokanovic said. “Terry is a fantastic player, Chester is a fantastic player. They have experience playing in this stadium. But probably they cannot be in their best level right now. “We are the youngest team, the team with more energy. We believe in our style. We believe we can dominate the situation. Experience in life is important but it is not everything.”
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Championship play-off final preview: Aston Villa v Fulham
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Championship play-off final preview: Aston Villa v Fulham
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Championship play-off final preview: Aston Villa v Fulham
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Championship play-off final preview: Aston Villa v Fulham
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Terry will make the difference... in Fulham's favour! - Jokanovic
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Terry will make the difference... in Fulham's favour! - Jokanovic
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Terry will make the difference... in Fulham's favour! - Jokanovic
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
How it feels to win - and lose - the most pressurised game in football
Ahead of the Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa this Saturday, Ivan Speck speaks to those caught up in play-off drama of years gone. 'I said to the linesman - if I save this, do we win?' May 30, 1999: League Two play-off final Manchester City 2 (Horlock 90, Dickov 90+5) Gillingham 2 (Asaba 81, Taylor 87) After extra time, City won 3-1 on penalties Blue Moon rising. Carl Asaba and Bob Taylor gave Gillingham a late 2-0 lead. With City fans streaming out of Wembley, Kevin Horlock reduced the deficit before, controversially, referee Mark Halsey added on five minutes. In the last of those, Paul Dickov equalised. In the penalty shoot-out, 20-year-old City goalkeeper Nicky Weaver saved two Gillingham spot-kicks. Nicky Weaver, Manchester City goalkeeper I wasn’t that nervous beforehand. I think I played 55 games that year. I’d just turned 20 and the nerves don’t really kick in at that age. That said, early in the second half, I came out of my area and kicked the ball straight to one of their midfield players, who missed an open goal. If that had gone in, I could have been the villain, not the hero. I remember thinking it was only a few nights before that Manchester United had scored two in the dying minutes in Barcelona against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It wasn’t impossible, but something had to happen quickly. When we equalised, I came running down the pitch and did a big slide, Klinsmann-style. Everyone was just going wild. We’d come back from absolutely nowhere. I can’t imagine how the Gillingham players felt. Carl Asaba tries to break away from Manchester City's Lee Crooks in the 1999 play-off final Credit: PA We’d practised penalties every day after training, but I wasn’t that great at saving them that week. The biggest thing was that they were taken at the City end. When it came to the decisive kick, I remember saying to the linesman: ‘If I save this one, is that it?’ I made myself as big as I could, dived to my left, got two big hands on the ball, pulled a stupid face and went off on a mad run around Wembley. I just didn’t want the feeling inside me to end. I should have gone straight over to their keeper, but I was young and it didn’t enter my mind. It was life-changing for me. I had so much nervous excitement within me that I went on holiday and just sat on a sunbed for two weeks to come back to reality. That game was the first step in City getting back to where they needed to be. I dread to think what would have happened if we hadn’t gone up. To see where City are now, it’s unthinkable. Andy Hessenthaler, Gillingham captain We were massive underdogs. We had finished pretty much neck and neck in the table but on status, City were always going to be favourites. We rode our luck early on. They should have had a penalty in the first minute, but we got stronger and they were getting frustrated. When we scored, we were dreaming. You’d be a liar if you were on that pitch and you didn’t think you had won that match at 2-0. I certainly did. When five minutes went up on the board, my first thought was: ‘Where have the officials got that from?’ I just couldn’t work it out. I still can’t. Extra-time was a non-event because everyone was so shattered. Deep down I wasn’t that confident about penalties because of what had happened. It didn’t surprise me that we lost. There were lots of tears. It took me a while to pull myself together, I was that emotional. When you’re watching their captain lift the trophy, you think it should be you. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Fortunately, we went back to Wembley the year after and beat Wigan this time. 'I missed the penalty, and our fans started singing my name' May 25, 1998: Championship play-off final Charlton Athletic 4 (Mendonca 23, 71, 103, Rufus 85) Sunderland 4 (Quinn 50, 73, Phillips 58, Summerbee 99) After extra-time, Charlton won 7-6 on penalties The most open play-off final ever. Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick with Richard Rufus heading in Charlton’s other goal. Sunderland replied through their attacking duo of Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, as well as Nicky Summerbee. Sunderland-born Michael Gray missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. Alan Curbishley, Charlton manager Going into the final, we had to win it. We had big plans for The Valley, but there were bids on the table from Premier League clubs for three or four of our players. If we didn’t make it, we would have had to sell them. The team would have been broken up. We measured out a training pitch the same size as Wembley to help us, but the heat made it such an open game. I expected goals, but no-one in their wildest dreams expected it to be 4-4. It’s an iconic final. Clive Mendonca was our striker, and he was Sunderland born and bred. I knew we had signed a centre forward who could get us promotion or near promotion. He was a deadly finisher but come the day of the final, he was as nervous as anybody, playing against his boyhood team and trying to get us into the Premier League. But you won’t see a better hat-trick at Wembley for its coolness. None of the goals were ever in doubt. Clive Mendonca scores the opening goal at Wembley Credit: Action Images I felt confident about the penalty shoot-out. Our goalkeeper Sasa Ilic had turned up at the training ground with his kit eight months before and asked if he could have a trial. After the first couple of training sessions, I told him: ‘We’re going to give you some travel expenses.’ I paid it out of my own pocket because I didn’t want him to wait a month for them. I watched every penalty up until Mickey Gray’s last one for Sunderland. My assistant Keith Peacock said: ‘Don’t watch this one. It’s a left-footer and he’s going to miss it.’ I put my head in my hands. When I didn’t hear the roar from their fans, I knew we had won. Peter Reid was the first person to come in our dressing room. He congratulated every one of our players on winning promotion. I’m not too sure I could have done that. The Sunderland coach had inadvertently blocked ours in after the game, so the only way we could get to our reception near Wembley was by walking with the trophy along Wembley Way. The Sunderland fans clapped us and wanted their photo taken with the trophy and the players. So when Sunderland went up the next year, we sent them a case of champagne. Michael Gray, Sunderland defender The heat felt like 120-degrees pitch-side and we had been designated to wear our away shirt, which was double-layered. It felt like you were wearing an overcoat. Every time we scored a goal, we thought that was it, they’re not going to get back into it, but they kept coming and coming. There were some great goals and Clive Mendonca was incredible. We’d practised penalties at the Stadium of Light. I’d taken maybe 20 and stuck every one of them away, but I remember Peter Reid saying: ‘Let’s wait until there are 80,000 there and see if you fancy taking one then.’ He was right. It went to sudden death. I was only 23, but I looked at our two centre-halves Darren Williams and Jody Craddock who were younger than me and then at our centre forward Danny Dichio. His boots were off and he was sat on the floor. That walk to the penalty spot is the loneliest walk you’ll ever make in your life. Even though there are 80,000 people there, you can actually hear yourself put the ball down on the grass. I picked my spot but as I ran up I saw Sasa Ilic shuffling across to his left, which was where I was going. I knew he was going to save it even when it was rolling there. Sasa Ilic celebrates winning the penalty shoot-out at Wembley Credit: Getty Images The kit man came over, then Quinny, Kevin Ball and Lee Clark. Then Peter came across and gave me a big hug. It felt like forever, but it was only five or six minutes. It was a lonely place. And then all I could hear was the Sunderland supporters starting to sing my name. I’ve never forgotten that. Never. That emotion, the feeling of missing that penalty stayed with me for as long as I wore a Sunderland shirt, which was 12-and-a-half years. Peter Reid was first class with me. I got back home after Wembley. He rang up and said: ‘Pack a bag, you’re coming to stay with me for three days.’ It was exactly what I needed. It got me away from everybody. Peter Reid consoles Michael Gray after his missed penalty Credit: ALLSPORT There wasn’t a day went by without someone wanting to ask me about it. I knew what it meant to everybody. My life was Sunderland. It was my club and I didn’t want to let anybody down ever again. I tried to block it out, but my only freedom from that question was crossing the white line and playing football. I went back to pre-season two weeks earlier than everybody else just to get a head start. No distractions. The next season we won the league with over 100 points. But it was always there. I knew what had happened the season before. That penalty miss was probably the defining moment of me becoming an adult. I was a bit of tearaway and it made me a stronger character to reach the goals I dreamed of when I was a young kid – getting promoted with Sunderland, playing for my country, playing at Wembley again. But it still hits you hard, even 20 years on. 'Party? I was in bed by half past 10' May 24, 2014: Championship play-off final Queens Park Rangers 1 (Zamora 90) Derby County 0 Grand larceny. After quietly dominating, Derby exerted total control in the second half when Rangers’ Gary O’Neil was sent off for a 58th-minute professional foul. The Derby onslaught of the QPR goal continued until Rangers broke away in the 90th minute and substitute Bobby Zamora stroked home an undeserved winner. Steve McClaren, Derby manager Harry Redknapp, QPR’s manager, and I were friends and we worked together for three months at Rangers that season. We developed a great relationship over that time - Harry was a delight to work with. Fantastic experience, great stories, nice restaurants and red wine on a Friday night! But going back to Derby was huge for me. It was a job I always wanted because I’d played there and I’d been assistant to Jim Smith, so to return as manager was completing the set. Walking out took me back to the first England game at the new Wembley when we opened it against Brazil. I had the same feeling of pride walking out with my team. Football is all about those moments. In terms of the match, we were exactly where we wanted to be. They had gone down to 10 men, we were camped in their box and I felt it was just a matter of time – wear them down, keep them running and moving. That’s what we’d done to teams all season and that would see us across the line. I could only see one scenario, us winning. I didn’t even mind if we went into extra-time because we were in total control. Until we ran out of control. Bobby Zamora's superb strike seals victory for Derby in the play-off final Credit: Action Images But then came Bobby Zamora’s goal - probably our only mistake of the afternoon. They had barely got across our halfway line, but they got into our box at the worst possible time. It was devastating for us because it was a near perfect performance of controlling the game. The Gods weren’t with us. The commentator said: ‘Harry Houdini’ and he certainly was. We all felt like sinking to the ground because of the injustice and the devastation of losing. Harry Redknapp, QPR manager Steve McClaren’s enthusiasm and coaching were top-class when he worked for us, but the Derby job came along and he was a loss to us when he went. There was very little in the game in the first half - they had a penalty shout - but then the sending-off came. I thought it was a bit harsh. It wasn’t a clear-cut goal-scoring opportunity. All I thought about then was extra-time and penalties. Could we hang on? We came under severe pressure, but it wasn’t like they were peppering us. Everybody thinks they battered us, but I don’t remember Rob Green making many world-class saves. Still, I couldn’t see us scoring. And then what an amazing goal from Bobby Zamora. Poor Richard Keogh made a ricket and had a bad touch. Bobby didn’t hesitate and stuck it straight in the top corner. I went back to Loftus Road and popped my head into the party there for about two minutes. Then I just shot out, had something to eat and had an early night. I think I was in bed by half past 10. Sky Bet is the proud title sponsor of the EFL.
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry has started 32 league games for Aston Villa this season.
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry has started 32 league games for Aston Villa this season.
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry could miss Chelsea games under new Aston Villa deal
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has insisted he has not thought about his future beyond Saturday’s Championship play-off final, despite speculation that a string of key figures will leave the club if they cannot seal promotion to the Premier League. Jokanovic, who has turned Fulham into one of the Championship’s most attractive sides, has been linked with a move and is likely to be in demand this summer. Speaking ahead of the match against Aston Villa at Wembley, Jokanovic refused to discuss either his future or the prospect of key players leaving. Tom Cairney, Fulham’s captain, warned this month that the club needed to be in the Premier League next season if they wanted to keep the team together. Cairney has been linked with a move to West Ham United, while Ryan Sessegnon and Ryan Fredericks have also been targeted by top-flight clubs. Jokanovic, who has one year remaining on his deal, said: “I have a contract and that’s it. I am not thinking about the future. This game is so huge that I do not know what I am going to do on Sunday morning. “To be honest, I do not care. I am not thinking about this. I am only thinking about the job ahead of us. We want to fight to bring Fulham to the place we believe they belong.” The 49-year-old added that he believed Fulham could “dominate” Steve Bruce’s Villa with their high-intensity, possession-based style of football. Tom Cairney wants to be playing in the Premier League Credit: pa Fulham were defeated 2-1 at Villa Park in October, but won 2-0 when the sides met again in February. Jokanovic said his players would attempt to target Villa’s John Terry, the 37-year-old centre-back who played alongside Jokanovic at Chelsea from 2000 to 2002. “We are going to try to put against him some fast and some stronger players,” said Jokanovic. “I hope he will make some mistakes. This is the kind of impact I expect from his side. All of us can make mistakes. I expect some mistakes from his side and that’s it.” In Terry and James Chester, his defensive partner, Villa boast an experienced back-line, as well as former Premier League players Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan, Robert Snodgrass and Alan Hutton. Jokanovic, however, believes his younger side, who enjoyed a 23-game unbeaten run during the regular season, will have the required energy to overcome the more wily Villa, who finished fourth in the Championship, one place behind Fulham. “When you talk about experience, you are talking about the past,” Jokanovic said. “Terry is a fantastic player, Chester is a fantastic player. They have experience playing in this stadium. But probably they cannot be in their best level right now. “We are the youngest team, the team with more energy. We believe in our style. We believe we can dominate the situation. Experience in life is important but it is not everything.”
Slavisa Jokanovic unfazed by talk of Fulham players leaving if they do not get promoted
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has insisted he has not thought about his future beyond Saturday’s Championship play-off final, despite speculation that a string of key figures will leave the club if they cannot seal promotion to the Premier League. Jokanovic, who has turned Fulham into one of the Championship’s most attractive sides, has been linked with a move and is likely to be in demand this summer. Speaking ahead of the match against Aston Villa at Wembley, Jokanovic refused to discuss either his future or the prospect of key players leaving. Tom Cairney, Fulham’s captain, warned this month that the club needed to be in the Premier League next season if they wanted to keep the team together. Cairney has been linked with a move to West Ham United, while Ryan Sessegnon and Ryan Fredericks have also been targeted by top-flight clubs. Jokanovic, who has one year remaining on his deal, said: “I have a contract and that’s it. I am not thinking about the future. This game is so huge that I do not know what I am going to do on Sunday morning. “To be honest, I do not care. I am not thinking about this. I am only thinking about the job ahead of us. We want to fight to bring Fulham to the place we believe they belong.” The 49-year-old added that he believed Fulham could “dominate” Steve Bruce’s Villa with their high-intensity, possession-based style of football. Tom Cairney wants to be playing in the Premier League Credit: pa Fulham were defeated 2-1 at Villa Park in October, but won 2-0 when the sides met again in February. Jokanovic said his players would attempt to target Villa’s John Terry, the 37-year-old centre-back who played alongside Jokanovic at Chelsea from 2000 to 2002. “We are going to try to put against him some fast and some stronger players,” said Jokanovic. “I hope he will make some mistakes. This is the kind of impact I expect from his side. All of us can make mistakes. I expect some mistakes from his side and that’s it.” In Terry and James Chester, his defensive partner, Villa boast an experienced back-line, as well as former Premier League players Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan, Robert Snodgrass and Alan Hutton. Jokanovic, however, believes his younger side, who enjoyed a 23-game unbeaten run during the regular season, will have the required energy to overcome the more wily Villa, who finished fourth in the Championship, one place behind Fulham. “When you talk about experience, you are talking about the past,” Jokanovic said. “Terry is a fantastic player, Chester is a fantastic player. They have experience playing in this stadium. But probably they cannot be in their best level right now. “We are the youngest team, the team with more energy. We believe in our style. We believe we can dominate the situation. Experience in life is important but it is not everything.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
John Terry could extend Aston Villa stay with deal that allows him to miss Chelsea games
John Terry is poised to sign a new 12-month deal if Aston Villa are promoted, the terms of which could include him missing games against his former club, Chelsea. Terry has an option to extend his £80,000-a-week contract for another season should Villa beat Fulham in Saturday’s Championship play-off final, while he would rake in a £2 million promotion bonus. The former England captain joined last summer on a free transfer, dropping down to the Championship as he was reluctant to play against Chelsea, the club he served for more than two decades. It can be revealed that if Villa are promoted then Steve Bruce, the manager, is prepared to let Terry decide whether he will face Chelsea in either league game. Villa are focusing on ending their two-year exile from the top flight and extending Terry’s stay. Bruce said: “I genuinely hope he [Terry] triggers it. All those phone calls to him last summer, he hasn’t been disappointed with it. From the training ground, to the stadium, to the support, it has all the makings of a big club. Terry has played a crucial role for Aston Villa this season Credit: Reuters “He has been one of the great defenders of our country. He is a great leader of men, which we don’t produce many of any more. In a quiet way, he is not a ranter and a raver, he is not one who puts heads through doors. He hasn’t exceeded expectations, I just knew what he would give. “I’m sure he will give it a good go if we get promoted and enjoy the challenge of it. We’ll not pick him against Chelsea if that’s he wants.” Terry will be 38 in December but has proved a crucial member of Villa’s squad, playing 32 games in the Championship to help them finish fourth. His experience will be vital on Saturday after winning five FA Cups at Wembley. Bruce said: “That’s what we’ve brought him for, not just to win a game on a Saturday but his overall contribution. He’s never let us down. “What I realised straight away was I needed people who can handle playing for Aston Villa with the demand of a big club and intensity of a big club. “Here you are straight under the pump. You have to play well and handle it. That is why I went down the route of bringing in the likes of [Glenn] Whelan and [Ahmed] Elmohamady, John Terry of course, [Mile] Jedinak. Steve Bruce is chasing another promotion Credit: Getty images “Slowly but surely we have tried to change it around. There were too many bad apples here and we haven’t got them any more.” Bruce has also revealed that Villa will discuss a new contract with defender Alan Hutton next week, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game. Hutton will be a free agent but is in line to be rewarded with an extension after reviving his career under Bruce. The Villa manager is targeting his fifth career promotion in the Wembley showpiece and has already selected his starting XI. “On Tuesday, I had to stop training early because they were champing at the bit – too early. It got a bit feisty, to say the least. It’s not a bad sign. “I’m not against it at all. It’s normal. We just stepped in and cut it a little short “So, it has all the makings of a big game round the corner. It’s what we’re all in it for, to go to Wembley for a big occasion and try and be successful.”
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has insisted he has not thought about his future beyond Saturday’s Championship play-off final, despite speculation that a string of key figures will leave the club if they cannot seal promotion to the Premier League. Jokanovic, who has turned Fulham into one of the Championship’s most attractive sides, has been linked with a move and is likely to be in demand this summer. Speaking ahead of the match against Aston Villa at Wembley, Jokanovic refused to discuss either his future or the prospect of key players leaving. Tom Cairney, Fulham’s captain, warned this month that the club needed to be in the Premier League next season if they wanted to keep the team together. Cairney has been linked with a move to West Ham United, while Ryan Sessegnon and Ryan Fredericks have also been targeted by top-flight clubs. Jokanovic, who has one year remaining on his deal, said: “I have a contract and that’s it. I am not thinking about the future. This game is so huge that I do not know what I am going to do on Sunday morning. “To be honest, I do not care. I am not thinking about this. I am only thinking about the job ahead of us. We want to fight to bring Fulham to the place we believe they belong.” The 49-year-old added that he believed Fulham could “dominate” Steve Bruce’s Villa with their high-intensity, possession-based style of football. Tom Cairney wants to be playing in the Premier League Credit: pa Fulham were defeated 2-1 at Villa Park in October, but won 2-0 when the sides met again in February. Jokanovic said his players would attempt to target Villa’s John Terry, the 37-year-old centre-back who played alongside Jokanovic at Chelsea from 2000 to 2002. “We are going to try to put against him some fast and some stronger players,” said Jokanovic. “I hope he will make some mistakes. This is the kind of impact I expect from his side. All of us can make mistakes. I expect some mistakes from his side and that’s it.” In Terry and James Chester, his defensive partner, Villa boast an experienced back-line, as well as former Premier League players Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan, Robert Snodgrass and Alan Hutton. Jokanovic, however, believes his younger side, who enjoyed a 23-game unbeaten run during the regular season, will have the required energy to overcome the more wily Villa, who finished fourth in the Championship, one place behind Fulham. “When you talk about experience, you are talking about the past,” Jokanovic said. “Terry is a fantastic player, Chester is a fantastic player. They have experience playing in this stadium. But probably they cannot be in their best level right now. “We are the youngest team, the team with more energy. We believe in our style. We believe we can dominate the situation. Experience in life is important but it is not everything.”
Slavisa Jokanovic unfazed by talk of Fulham players leaving if they do not get promoted
Slavisa Jokanovic, the Fulham manager, has insisted he has not thought about his future beyond Saturday’s Championship play-off final, despite speculation that a string of key figures will leave the club if they cannot seal promotion to the Premier League. Jokanovic, who has turned Fulham into one of the Championship’s most attractive sides, has been linked with a move and is likely to be in demand this summer. Speaking ahead of the match against Aston Villa at Wembley, Jokanovic refused to discuss either his future or the prospect of key players leaving. Tom Cairney, Fulham’s captain, warned this month that the club needed to be in the Premier League next season if they wanted to keep the team together. Cairney has been linked with a move to West Ham United, while Ryan Sessegnon and Ryan Fredericks have also been targeted by top-flight clubs. Jokanovic, who has one year remaining on his deal, said: “I have a contract and that’s it. I am not thinking about the future. This game is so huge that I do not know what I am going to do on Sunday morning. “To be honest, I do not care. I am not thinking about this. I am only thinking about the job ahead of us. We want to fight to bring Fulham to the place we believe they belong.” The 49-year-old added that he believed Fulham could “dominate” Steve Bruce’s Villa with their high-intensity, possession-based style of football. Tom Cairney wants to be playing in the Premier League Credit: pa Fulham were defeated 2-1 at Villa Park in October, but won 2-0 when the sides met again in February. Jokanovic said his players would attempt to target Villa’s John Terry, the 37-year-old centre-back who played alongside Jokanovic at Chelsea from 2000 to 2002. “We are going to try to put against him some fast and some stronger players,” said Jokanovic. “I hope he will make some mistakes. This is the kind of impact I expect from his side. All of us can make mistakes. I expect some mistakes from his side and that’s it.” In Terry and James Chester, his defensive partner, Villa boast an experienced back-line, as well as former Premier League players Mile Jedinak, Glenn Whelan, Robert Snodgrass and Alan Hutton. Jokanovic, however, believes his younger side, who enjoyed a 23-game unbeaten run during the regular season, will have the required energy to overcome the more wily Villa, who finished fourth in the Championship, one place behind Fulham. “When you talk about experience, you are talking about the past,” Jokanovic said. “Terry is a fantastic player, Chester is a fantastic player. They have experience playing in this stadium. But probably they cannot be in their best level right now. “We are the youngest team, the team with more energy. We believe in our style. We believe we can dominate the situation. Experience in life is important but it is not everything.”
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Championship play-off final preview: Aston Villa v Fulham
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Championship play-off final preview: Aston Villa v Fulham
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Championship play-off final preview: Aston Villa v Fulham
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Championship play-off final preview: Aston Villa v Fulham
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce hopes his experience in play-off finals will help his side as they face an in-form Fulham side who have only lost twice in the Championship this year.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Terry will make the difference... in Fulham's favour! - Jokanovic
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Terry will make the difference... in Fulham's favour! - Jokanovic
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
Terry will make the difference... in Fulham's favour! - Jokanovic
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic doesn't hold back in his criticsm of Aston Villa captain John Terry - claiming he feels the player will make mistakes in the Championship play-off final on Saturday.
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Championship - Fulham vs Aston Villa - Craven Cottage, London, Britain - February 17, 2018 Aston Villa's Robert Snodgrass in action with Fulham's Floyd Ayite Action Images/Paul Childs
Championship - Fulham vs Aston Villa
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Championship - Fulham vs Aston Villa - Craven Cottage, London, Britain - February 17, 2018 Aston Villa's Robert Snodgrass in action with Fulham's Floyd Ayite Action Images/Paul Childs
Aston Villa vs Fulham: Championship Play-Off Final 2018 prediction, preview, betting tips, odds, tickets, TV channel, live streaming online, start time, team news, line-ups, head to head
Aston Villa vs Fulham: Championship Play-Off Final 2018 prediction, preview, betting tips, odds, tickets, TV channel, live streaming online, start time, team news, line-ups, head to head
Aston Villa vs Fulham: Championship Play-Off Final 2018 prediction, preview, betting tips, odds, tickets, TV channel, live streaming online, start time, team news, line-ups, head to head
​Aston Villa's Jack Grealish has made the incredible claim that an injury he suffered before the start of the 2017/18 campaign almost caused him to lose his life. ​ The Midlands club were taking on ​Watford in a pre-season friendly match, and the 22-year-old ended up hospitalised after a fairly innocuous challenge from Tom Cleverley. He revealed, as quoted by the ​Mirror: "I took a kick to the kidney and it split in two places. It was pouring with blood, internally, for about five hours. ​...
Villa Star Jack Grealish Reveals He 'Almost Died' From Freak Injury Sustained Earlier This Season
​Aston Villa's Jack Grealish has made the incredible claim that an injury he suffered before the start of the 2017/18 campaign almost caused him to lose his life. ​ The Midlands club were taking on ​Watford in a pre-season friendly match, and the 22-year-old ended up hospitalised after a fairly innocuous challenge from Tom Cleverley. He revealed, as quoted by the ​Mirror: "I took a kick to the kidney and it split in two places. It was pouring with blood, internally, for about five hours. ​...
​Aston Villa's Jack Grealish has made the incredible claim that an injury he suffered before the start of the 2017/18 campaign almost caused him to lose his life. ​ The Midlands club were taking on ​Watford in a pre-season friendly match, and the 22-year-old ended up hospitalised after a fairly innocuous challenge from Tom Cleverley. He revealed, as quoted by the ​Mirror: "I took a kick to the kidney and it split in two places. It was pouring with blood, internally, for about five hours. ​...
Villa Star Jack Grealish Reveals He 'Almost Died' From Freak Injury Sustained Earlier This Season
​Aston Villa's Jack Grealish has made the incredible claim that an injury he suffered before the start of the 2017/18 campaign almost caused him to lose his life. ​ The Midlands club were taking on ​Watford in a pre-season friendly match, and the 22-year-old ended up hospitalised after a fairly innocuous challenge from Tom Cleverley. He revealed, as quoted by the ​Mirror: "I took a kick to the kidney and it split in two places. It was pouring with blood, internally, for about five hours. ​...
Aston Villa invite Duke of Cambridge to Wembley for £170m Championship play-off final against Fulham
Aston Villa invite Duke of Cambridge to Wembley for £170m Championship play-off final against Fulham
Aston Villa invite Duke of Cambridge to Wembley for £170m Championship play-off final against Fulham
Aston Villa have invited the Duke of Cambridge to Wembley as they bid for royal backing in their £170 million shootout with Fulham. Prince William, an Aston Villa supporter, has been asked to attend Saturday’s Championship play-off final and is expected to respond in the next 48 hours. The invite was made by Keith Wyness, Villa’s chief executive, and the club are hopeful the future king will be at the national stadium alongside owner Dr Tony Xia. William was the guest of honour at Villa’s league game against Cardiff in April, sitting with former striker John Carew, and watched Jack Grealish score a spectacular winner. He could now attend his second game of the season, at Wembley, as Villa attempt to reach the Premier League after a two-year exile. Three years ago, before Villa’s FA Cup final against Arsenal – which they lost 4-0 under Tim Sherwood – William revealed the reasons behind his allegiance. Prince Williams is a proud Aston Villa supporter Credit: pa “A long time ago at school I got into football big-time. I was looking around for clubs. All my friends at school were either Man United or Chelsea fans and I didn’t want to follow the run-of-the-mill teams,” he said. “I wanted to have a team that was more mid-table that could give me more emotional rollercoaster moments.” Grealish is expected to play a big role having been hugely influential this season, fuelling hopes of a future England call-up. But he admits he feared for his career after a freak injury last year. The 22-year-old suffered a severely damaged kidney after an accidental collision with Watford’s Tom Cleverley during a pre-season game in July. Jack Grealish has been influential this season Credit: getty images “The doctor said he’d never seen an injury like it before – the only comparison he could make was racing and being kicked by a horse. The pain was unreal, I couldn’t sleep, walk, or anything,” he said. “I didn’t realise how bad it was and at one point I even feared I wouldn’t play again. “I was expecting to be back for the next week but the doctor said no chance - it was three to four months. The timing was awful. I know Clevs [Cleverley] from Villa and he couldn’t believe it. “It was such an innocuous incident and he was messaging me for days, feeling really bad. It was a total accident but something I’ll never forget. “To miss so much of the season was a nightmare, especially when the gaffer had been building me up so much over the summer. It just made me more determined to make an impact when I came back and, fortunately, I think I've done that.”
Aston Villa invite Duke of Cambridge to Wembley for £170m Championship play-off final against Fulham
Aston Villa have invited the Duke of Cambridge to Wembley as they bid for royal backing in their £170 million shootout with Fulham. Prince William, an Aston Villa supporter, has been asked to attend Saturday’s Championship play-off final and is expected to respond in the next 48 hours. The invite was made by Keith Wyness, Villa’s chief executive, and the club are hopeful the future king will be at the national stadium alongside owner Dr Tony Xia. William was the guest of honour at Villa’s league game against Cardiff in April, sitting with former striker John Carew, and watched Jack Grealish score a spectacular winner. He could now attend his second game of the season, at Wembley, as Villa attempt to reach the Premier League after a two-year exile. Three years ago, before Villa’s FA Cup final against Arsenal – which they lost 4-0 under Tim Sherwood – William revealed the reasons behind his allegiance. Prince Williams is a proud Aston Villa supporter Credit: pa “A long time ago at school I got into football big-time. I was looking around for clubs. All my friends at school were either Man United or Chelsea fans and I didn’t want to follow the run-of-the-mill teams,” he said. “I wanted to have a team that was more mid-table that could give me more emotional rollercoaster moments.” Grealish is expected to play a big role having been hugely influential this season, fuelling hopes of a future England call-up. But he admits he feared for his career after a freak injury last year. The 22-year-old suffered a severely damaged kidney after an accidental collision with Watford’s Tom Cleverley during a pre-season game in July. Jack Grealish has been influential this season Credit: getty images “The doctor said he’d never seen an injury like it before – the only comparison he could make was racing and being kicked by a horse. The pain was unreal, I couldn’t sleep, walk, or anything,” he said. “I didn’t realise how bad it was and at one point I even feared I wouldn’t play again. “I was expecting to be back for the next week but the doctor said no chance - it was three to four months. The timing was awful. I know Clevs [Cleverley] from Villa and he couldn’t believe it. “It was such an innocuous incident and he was messaging me for days, feeling really bad. It was a total accident but something I’ll never forget. “To miss so much of the season was a nightmare, especially when the gaffer had been building me up so much over the summer. It just made me more determined to make an impact when I came back and, fortunately, I think I've done that.”
Aston Villa have invited the Duke of Cambridge to Wembley as they bid for royal backing in their £170 million shootout with Fulham. Prince William, an Aston Villa supporter, has been asked to attend Saturday’s Championship play-off final and is expected to respond in the next 48 hours. The invite was made by Keith Wyness, Villa’s chief executive, and the club are hopeful the future king will be at the national stadium alongside owner Dr Tony Xia. William was the guest of honour at Villa’s league game against Cardiff in April, sitting with former striker John Carew, and watched Jack Grealish score a spectacular winner. He could now attend his second game of the season, at Wembley, as Villa attempt to reach the Premier League after a two-year exile. Three years ago, before Villa’s FA Cup final against Arsenal – which they lost 4-0 under Tim Sherwood – William revealed the reasons behind his allegiance. Prince Williams is a proud Aston Villa supporter Credit: pa “A long time ago at school I got into football big-time. I was looking around for clubs. All my friends at school were either Man United or Chelsea fans and I didn’t want to follow the run-of-the-mill teams,” he said. “I wanted to have a team that was more mid-table that could give me more emotional rollercoaster moments.” Grealish is expected to play a big role having been hugely influential this season, fuelling hopes of a future England call-up. But he admits he feared for his career after a freak injury last year. The 22-year-old suffered a severely damaged kidney after an accidental collision with Watford’s Tom Cleverley during a pre-season game in July. Jack Grealish has been influential this season Credit: getty images “The doctor said he’d never seen an injury like it before – the only comparison he could make was racing and being kicked by a horse. The pain was unreal, I couldn’t sleep, walk, or anything,” he said. “I didn’t realise how bad it was and at one point I even feared I wouldn’t play again. “I was expecting to be back for the next week but the doctor said no chance - it was three to four months. The timing was awful. I know Clevs [Cleverley] from Villa and he couldn’t believe it. “It was such an innocuous incident and he was messaging me for days, feeling really bad. It was a total accident but something I’ll never forget. “To miss so much of the season was a nightmare, especially when the gaffer had been building me up so much over the summer. It just made me more determined to make an impact when I came back and, fortunately, I think I've done that.”
Aston Villa invite Duke of Cambridge to Wembley for £170m Championship play-off final against Fulham
Aston Villa have invited the Duke of Cambridge to Wembley as they bid for royal backing in their £170 million shootout with Fulham. Prince William, an Aston Villa supporter, has been asked to attend Saturday’s Championship play-off final and is expected to respond in the next 48 hours. The invite was made by Keith Wyness, Villa’s chief executive, and the club are hopeful the future king will be at the national stadium alongside owner Dr Tony Xia. William was the guest of honour at Villa’s league game against Cardiff in April, sitting with former striker John Carew, and watched Jack Grealish score a spectacular winner. He could now attend his second game of the season, at Wembley, as Villa attempt to reach the Premier League after a two-year exile. Three years ago, before Villa’s FA Cup final against Arsenal – which they lost 4-0 under Tim Sherwood – William revealed the reasons behind his allegiance. Prince Williams is a proud Aston Villa supporter Credit: pa “A long time ago at school I got into football big-time. I was looking around for clubs. All my friends at school were either Man United or Chelsea fans and I didn’t want to follow the run-of-the-mill teams,” he said. “I wanted to have a team that was more mid-table that could give me more emotional rollercoaster moments.” Grealish is expected to play a big role having been hugely influential this season, fuelling hopes of a future England call-up. But he admits he feared for his career after a freak injury last year. The 22-year-old suffered a severely damaged kidney after an accidental collision with Watford’s Tom Cleverley during a pre-season game in July. Jack Grealish has been influential this season Credit: getty images “The doctor said he’d never seen an injury like it before – the only comparison he could make was racing and being kicked by a horse. The pain was unreal, I couldn’t sleep, walk, or anything,” he said. “I didn’t realise how bad it was and at one point I even feared I wouldn’t play again. “I was expecting to be back for the next week but the doctor said no chance - it was three to four months. The timing was awful. I know Clevs [Cleverley] from Villa and he couldn’t believe it. “It was such an innocuous incident and he was messaging me for days, feeling really bad. It was a total accident but something I’ll never forget. “To miss so much of the season was a nightmare, especially when the gaffer had been building me up so much over the summer. It just made me more determined to make an impact when I came back and, fortunately, I think I've done that.”
Aston Villa have invited the Duke of Cambridge to Wembley as they bid for royal backing in their £170 million shootout with Fulham. Prince William, an Aston Villa supporter, has been asked to attend Saturday’s Championship play-off final and is expected to respond in the next 48 hours. The invite was made by Keith Wyness, Villa’s chief executive, and the club are hopeful the future king will be at the national stadium alongside owner Dr Tony Xia. William was the guest of honour at Villa’s league game against Cardiff in April, sitting with former striker John Carew, and watched Jack Grealish score a spectacular winner. He could now attend his second game of the season, at Wembley, as Villa attempt to reach the Premier League after a two-year exile. Three years ago, before Villa’s FA Cup final against Arsenal – which they lost 4-0 under Tim Sherwood – William revealed the reasons behind his allegiance. Prince Williams is a proud Aston Villa supporter Credit: pa “A long time ago at school I got into football big-time. I was looking around for clubs. All my friends at school were either Man United or Chelsea fans and I didn’t want to follow the run-of-the-mill teams,” he said. “I wanted to have a team that was more mid-table that could give me more emotional rollercoaster moments.” Grealish is expected to play a big role having been hugely influential this season, fuelling hopes of a future England call-up. But he admits he feared for his career after a freak injury last year. The 22-year-old suffered a severely damaged kidney after an accidental collision with Watford’s Tom Cleverley during a pre-season game in July. Jack Grealish has been influential this season Credit: getty images “The doctor said he’d never seen an injury like it before – the only comparison he could make was racing and being kicked by a horse. The pain was unreal, I couldn’t sleep, walk, or anything,” he said. “I didn’t realise how bad it was and at one point I even feared I wouldn’t play again. “I was expecting to be back for the next week but the doctor said no chance - it was three to four months. The timing was awful. I know Clevs [Cleverley] from Villa and he couldn’t believe it. “It was such an innocuous incident and he was messaging me for days, feeling really bad. It was a total accident but something I’ll never forget. “To miss so much of the season was a nightmare, especially when the gaffer had been building me up so much over the summer. It just made me more determined to make an impact when I came back and, fortunately, I think I've done that.”
Aston Villa invite Duke of Cambridge to Wembley for £170m Championship play-off final against Fulham
Aston Villa have invited the Duke of Cambridge to Wembley as they bid for royal backing in their £170 million shootout with Fulham. Prince William, an Aston Villa supporter, has been asked to attend Saturday’s Championship play-off final and is expected to respond in the next 48 hours. The invite was made by Keith Wyness, Villa’s chief executive, and the club are hopeful the future king will be at the national stadium alongside owner Dr Tony Xia. William was the guest of honour at Villa’s league game against Cardiff in April, sitting with former striker John Carew, and watched Jack Grealish score a spectacular winner. He could now attend his second game of the season, at Wembley, as Villa attempt to reach the Premier League after a two-year exile. Three years ago, before Villa’s FA Cup final against Arsenal – which they lost 4-0 under Tim Sherwood – William revealed the reasons behind his allegiance. Prince Williams is a proud Aston Villa supporter Credit: pa “A long time ago at school I got into football big-time. I was looking around for clubs. All my friends at school were either Man United or Chelsea fans and I didn’t want to follow the run-of-the-mill teams,” he said. “I wanted to have a team that was more mid-table that could give me more emotional rollercoaster moments.” Grealish is expected to play a big role having been hugely influential this season, fuelling hopes of a future England call-up. But he admits he feared for his career after a freak injury last year. The 22-year-old suffered a severely damaged kidney after an accidental collision with Watford’s Tom Cleverley during a pre-season game in July. Jack Grealish has been influential this season Credit: getty images “The doctor said he’d never seen an injury like it before – the only comparison he could make was racing and being kicked by a horse. The pain was unreal, I couldn’t sleep, walk, or anything,” he said. “I didn’t realise how bad it was and at one point I even feared I wouldn’t play again. “I was expecting to be back for the next week but the doctor said no chance - it was three to four months. The timing was awful. I know Clevs [Cleverley] from Villa and he couldn’t believe it. “It was such an innocuous incident and he was messaging me for days, feeling really bad. It was a total accident but something I’ll never forget. “To miss so much of the season was a nightmare, especially when the gaffer had been building me up so much over the summer. It just made me more determined to make an impact when I came back and, fortunately, I think I've done that.”
Aston Villa invite Duke of Cambridge to Wembley for £170m Championship play-off final against Fulham
Aston Villa invite Duke of Cambridge to Wembley for £170m Championship play-off final against Fulham
Aston Villa invite Duke of Cambridge to Wembley for £170m Championship play-off final against Fulham
Aston Villa invite Duke of Cambridge to Wembley for £170m Championship play-off final against Fulham
Aston Villa invite Duke of Cambridge to Wembley for £170m Championship play-off final against Fulham
Aston Villa invite Duke of Cambridge to Wembley for £170m Championship play-off final against Fulham
Mauricio Pochettino has held positive discussions with chairman Daniel Levy over his Tottenham Hotspur future, with Chelsea now resigning themselves to the fact there is virtually no chance he will push for a move to Stamford Bridge. Hopes have been raised that Pochettino will stay at Spurs and recommit himself by signing a new contract, with sources claiming talks between the Argentine and Levy have gone well and that more are scheduled. There were doubts over Pochettino’s future last week after he revealed he would speak to Levy about the direction Spurs are heading in and urged the club to be brave. He wants the green light to go ahead with a £150million overhaul of his Tottenham squad and start business, both in terms of ins and outs, earlier than in previous years. It seems Levy may be prepared to grant some of his manager’s wishes and the Spurs chairman remains keen for Pochettino to sign a new deal that could be worth £8.5m a year. Premier League club-by-club review Having last signed a contract two years ago, Pochettino is committed to Tottenham until 2021, but Levy would like him to at least extend that by a further 12 months. Pochettino has been well aware that he has admirers elsewhere, particularly at Chelsea, who are set to replace head coach Antonio Conte. But there is little optimism at Stamford Bridge that Pochettino will force his way out of Tottenham to replace Conte and Chelsea are focussing their attention elsewhere, with Luis Enrique currently rated as the likeliest successor to the Italian. Revealed: The inside story of how Antonio Conte's reign at Chelsea turned sour One of the players Pochettino is interested in signing this summer is forward Anthony Martial, who is also on Chelsea’s radar. Tottenham’s hopes of beating Chelsea to Martial’s signature could be boosted by Manchester United’s interest in central defender Toby Alderweireld. While there is little prospect of a straight swap involving the two players, both clubs could be more inclined to do business if they can get what they want. Spurs want around £45m for Alderweireld, which is similar to the value that has been placed on Martial who has been left out France’s World Cup squad. Tottenham's new stadium in pictures Chelsea would be prepared to pay Martial more than Tottenham, but Pochettino can promise Champions League football and point to the positive impact he has had on most of his players. Crystal Palace are adamant they will not sell Wilfried Zaha, who is another target of Pochettino, for anything other than ‘silly money’. Ryan Sessegnon’s future is set to be decided by the outcome of next weekend’s Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa. Tottenham are at the front of the queue to sign the left-sided teenager should Fulham lose. Other than Alderweireld, Pochettino is willing to listen to offers for Mousa Dembele, Danny Rose, Fernando Llorente, Moussa Sissoko and possibly Victor Wanyama.
Mauricio Pochettino holds positive talks with Spurs hierarchy as Chelsea accept defeat in quest to lure him
Mauricio Pochettino has held positive discussions with chairman Daniel Levy over his Tottenham Hotspur future, with Chelsea now resigning themselves to the fact there is virtually no chance he will push for a move to Stamford Bridge. Hopes have been raised that Pochettino will stay at Spurs and recommit himself by signing a new contract, with sources claiming talks between the Argentine and Levy have gone well and that more are scheduled. There were doubts over Pochettino’s future last week after he revealed he would speak to Levy about the direction Spurs are heading in and urged the club to be brave. He wants the green light to go ahead with a £150million overhaul of his Tottenham squad and start business, both in terms of ins and outs, earlier than in previous years. It seems Levy may be prepared to grant some of his manager’s wishes and the Spurs chairman remains keen for Pochettino to sign a new deal that could be worth £8.5m a year. Premier League club-by-club review Having last signed a contract two years ago, Pochettino is committed to Tottenham until 2021, but Levy would like him to at least extend that by a further 12 months. Pochettino has been well aware that he has admirers elsewhere, particularly at Chelsea, who are set to replace head coach Antonio Conte. But there is little optimism at Stamford Bridge that Pochettino will force his way out of Tottenham to replace Conte and Chelsea are focussing their attention elsewhere, with Luis Enrique currently rated as the likeliest successor to the Italian. Revealed: The inside story of how Antonio Conte's reign at Chelsea turned sour One of the players Pochettino is interested in signing this summer is forward Anthony Martial, who is also on Chelsea’s radar. Tottenham’s hopes of beating Chelsea to Martial’s signature could be boosted by Manchester United’s interest in central defender Toby Alderweireld. While there is little prospect of a straight swap involving the two players, both clubs could be more inclined to do business if they can get what they want. Spurs want around £45m for Alderweireld, which is similar to the value that has been placed on Martial who has been left out France’s World Cup squad. Tottenham's new stadium in pictures Chelsea would be prepared to pay Martial more than Tottenham, but Pochettino can promise Champions League football and point to the positive impact he has had on most of his players. Crystal Palace are adamant they will not sell Wilfried Zaha, who is another target of Pochettino, for anything other than ‘silly money’. Ryan Sessegnon’s future is set to be decided by the outcome of next weekend’s Championship play-off final between Fulham and Aston Villa. Tottenham are at the front of the queue to sign the left-sided teenager should Fulham lose. Other than Alderweireld, Pochettino is willing to listen to offers for Mousa Dembele, Danny Rose, Fernando Llorente, Moussa Sissoko and possibly Victor Wanyama.
Mick McCarthy is ready to take on the challenge of returning Stoke to the Premier League after Paul Lambert’s departure on Friday. McCarthy has told Stoke, via his representatives, that he would be interested in succeeding Lambert as the club prepare for their first season in the Championship since 2008. The former Republic of Ireland manager left Ipswich in April after six years in charge and is thought to be one of the early contenders to take over at the bet365 Stadium. Stoke are considering a number of other options but it is believed that their hopes of appointing either David Moyes, who left West Ham on Wednesday, or former Everton manager Sam Allardyce are remote at this stage. Lambert’s four-month reign was ended by mutual consent after he was summoned for talks with vice-chairman John Coates. Paul Lambert will not be masterminding Stoke's promotion push Credit: Reuters Stoke want to pursue a new direction following their relegation and triggered a clause in his contract that enabled them to part company with minimal compensation. Lambert replaced Mark Hughes in January and although he improved both the overall performances and Stoke’s defensive record, he won just two games out of 15, drawing seven. The former Aston Villa and Wolves manager’s reign suffered due to the poor behaviour of players including Saido Berahino, Jese Rodriguez and Ibrahim Afellay, who were all excluded from his first-team squad. It can be revealed that Lambert was still battling against ill-discipline the day before the final game of the season at Swansea, when one player turned up for training late. Defeat against Crystal Palace confirmed Stoke's relegation Credit: Reuters Stoke, who are now searching for only their fourth manager in 12 years, said in a statement: “The club would like to thank Paul for his work over the past four months and wish him well for the future. “Whilst he was unable to guide us to Premier League safety after being appointed in January, it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort, professionalism and dedication on his part. “Paul would like to thank the board, players and staff for the opportunity and their support. He would also like to thank the fans for their unwavering support. Whilst looking forward to his next challenge, he would like to wish the club every success next season. “The club will appoint a replacement as soon as possible in order to give the new manager time to prepare for the challenge of the 2018/19 season in the Championship.” Premier League club-by-club review Stoke are facing a summer of huge changes, with a number of players – including Jack Butland, Xherdan Shaqiri, Joe Allen and Badou Ndiaye – likely to leave. Yet Stoke are determined to retain a squad capable of promotion and have insisted they will be spending big in the second tier to bring in new signings. They have already begun preparations for next season by informing Stephen Ireland his contract will not be renewed in an email on Friday morning. Berahino, £18 million flop Kevin Wimmer and record signing Giannelli Imbula are also expected to leave this summer, either on loan or permanently.
Mick McCarthy tells Stoke he's interested in replacing Paul Lambert as manager
Mick McCarthy is ready to take on the challenge of returning Stoke to the Premier League after Paul Lambert’s departure on Friday. McCarthy has told Stoke, via his representatives, that he would be interested in succeeding Lambert as the club prepare for their first season in the Championship since 2008. The former Republic of Ireland manager left Ipswich in April after six years in charge and is thought to be one of the early contenders to take over at the bet365 Stadium. Stoke are considering a number of other options but it is believed that their hopes of appointing either David Moyes, who left West Ham on Wednesday, or former Everton manager Sam Allardyce are remote at this stage. Lambert’s four-month reign was ended by mutual consent after he was summoned for talks with vice-chairman John Coates. Paul Lambert will not be masterminding Stoke's promotion push Credit: Reuters Stoke want to pursue a new direction following their relegation and triggered a clause in his contract that enabled them to part company with minimal compensation. Lambert replaced Mark Hughes in January and although he improved both the overall performances and Stoke’s defensive record, he won just two games out of 15, drawing seven. The former Aston Villa and Wolves manager’s reign suffered due to the poor behaviour of players including Saido Berahino, Jese Rodriguez and Ibrahim Afellay, who were all excluded from his first-team squad. It can be revealed that Lambert was still battling against ill-discipline the day before the final game of the season at Swansea, when one player turned up for training late. Defeat against Crystal Palace confirmed Stoke's relegation Credit: Reuters Stoke, who are now searching for only their fourth manager in 12 years, said in a statement: “The club would like to thank Paul for his work over the past four months and wish him well for the future. “Whilst he was unable to guide us to Premier League safety after being appointed in January, it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort, professionalism and dedication on his part. “Paul would like to thank the board, players and staff for the opportunity and their support. He would also like to thank the fans for their unwavering support. Whilst looking forward to his next challenge, he would like to wish the club every success next season. “The club will appoint a replacement as soon as possible in order to give the new manager time to prepare for the challenge of the 2018/19 season in the Championship.” Premier League club-by-club review Stoke are facing a summer of huge changes, with a number of players – including Jack Butland, Xherdan Shaqiri, Joe Allen and Badou Ndiaye – likely to leave. Yet Stoke are determined to retain a squad capable of promotion and have insisted they will be spending big in the second tier to bring in new signings. They have already begun preparations for next season by informing Stephen Ireland his contract will not be renewed in an email on Friday morning. Berahino, £18 million flop Kevin Wimmer and record signing Giannelli Imbula are also expected to leave this summer, either on loan or permanently.
Mick McCarthy is ready to take on the challenge of returning Stoke to the Premier League after Paul Lambert’s departure on Friday. McCarthy has told Stoke, via his representatives, that he would be interested in succeeding Lambert as the club prepare for their first season in the Championship since 2008. The former Republic of Ireland manager left Ipswich in April after six years in charge and is thought to be one of the early contenders to take over at the bet365 Stadium. Stoke are considering a number of other options but it is believed that their hopes of appointing either David Moyes, who left West Ham on Wednesday, or former Everton manager Sam Allardyce are remote at this stage. Lambert’s four-month reign was ended by mutual consent after he was summoned for talks with vice-chairman John Coates. Paul Lambert will not be masterminding Stoke's promotion push Credit: Reuters Stoke want to pursue a new direction following their relegation and triggered a clause in his contract that enabled them to part company with minimal compensation. Lambert replaced Mark Hughes in January and although he improved both the overall performances and Stoke’s defensive record, he won just two games out of 15, drawing seven. The former Aston Villa and Wolves manager’s reign suffered due to the poor behaviour of players including Saido Berahino, Jese Rodriguez and Ibrahim Afellay, who were all excluded from his first-team squad. It can be revealed that Lambert was still battling against ill-discipline the day before the final game of the season at Swansea, when one player turned up for training late. Defeat against Crystal Palace confirmed Stoke's relegation Credit: Reuters Stoke, who are now searching for only their fourth manager in 12 years, said in a statement: “The club would like to thank Paul for his work over the past four months and wish him well for the future. “Whilst he was unable to guide us to Premier League safety after being appointed in January, it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort, professionalism and dedication on his part. “Paul would like to thank the board, players and staff for the opportunity and their support. He would also like to thank the fans for their unwavering support. Whilst looking forward to his next challenge, he would like to wish the club every success next season. “The club will appoint a replacement as soon as possible in order to give the new manager time to prepare for the challenge of the 2018/19 season in the Championship.” Premier League club-by-club review Stoke are facing a summer of huge changes, with a number of players – including Jack Butland, Xherdan Shaqiri, Joe Allen and Badou Ndiaye – likely to leave. Yet Stoke are determined to retain a squad capable of promotion and have insisted they will be spending big in the second tier to bring in new signings. They have already begun preparations for next season by informing Stephen Ireland his contract will not be renewed in an email on Friday morning. Berahino, £18 million flop Kevin Wimmer and record signing Giannelli Imbula are also expected to leave this summer, either on loan or permanently.
Mick McCarthy tells Stoke he's interested in replacing Paul Lambert as manager
Mick McCarthy is ready to take on the challenge of returning Stoke to the Premier League after Paul Lambert’s departure on Friday. McCarthy has told Stoke, via his representatives, that he would be interested in succeeding Lambert as the club prepare for their first season in the Championship since 2008. The former Republic of Ireland manager left Ipswich in April after six years in charge and is thought to be one of the early contenders to take over at the bet365 Stadium. Stoke are considering a number of other options but it is believed that their hopes of appointing either David Moyes, who left West Ham on Wednesday, or former Everton manager Sam Allardyce are remote at this stage. Lambert’s four-month reign was ended by mutual consent after he was summoned for talks with vice-chairman John Coates. Paul Lambert will not be masterminding Stoke's promotion push Credit: Reuters Stoke want to pursue a new direction following their relegation and triggered a clause in his contract that enabled them to part company with minimal compensation. Lambert replaced Mark Hughes in January and although he improved both the overall performances and Stoke’s defensive record, he won just two games out of 15, drawing seven. The former Aston Villa and Wolves manager’s reign suffered due to the poor behaviour of players including Saido Berahino, Jese Rodriguez and Ibrahim Afellay, who were all excluded from his first-team squad. It can be revealed that Lambert was still battling against ill-discipline the day before the final game of the season at Swansea, when one player turned up for training late. Defeat against Crystal Palace confirmed Stoke's relegation Credit: Reuters Stoke, who are now searching for only their fourth manager in 12 years, said in a statement: “The club would like to thank Paul for his work over the past four months and wish him well for the future. “Whilst he was unable to guide us to Premier League safety after being appointed in January, it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort, professionalism and dedication on his part. “Paul would like to thank the board, players and staff for the opportunity and their support. He would also like to thank the fans for their unwavering support. Whilst looking forward to his next challenge, he would like to wish the club every success next season. “The club will appoint a replacement as soon as possible in order to give the new manager time to prepare for the challenge of the 2018/19 season in the Championship.” Premier League club-by-club review Stoke are facing a summer of huge changes, with a number of players – including Jack Butland, Xherdan Shaqiri, Joe Allen and Badou Ndiaye – likely to leave. Yet Stoke are determined to retain a squad capable of promotion and have insisted they will be spending big in the second tier to bring in new signings. They have already begun preparations for next season by informing Stephen Ireland his contract will not be renewed in an email on Friday morning. Berahino, £18 million flop Kevin Wimmer and record signing Giannelli Imbula are also expected to leave this summer, either on loan or permanently.
Mick McCarthy is ready to take on the challenge of returning Stoke to the Premier League after Paul Lambert’s departure on Friday. McCarthy has told Stoke, via his representatives, that he would be interested in succeeding Lambert as the club prepare for their first season in the Championship since 2008. The former Republic of Ireland manager left Ipswich in April after six years in charge and is thought to be one of the early contenders to take over at the bet365 Stadium. Stoke are considering a number of other options but it is believed that their hopes of appointing either David Moyes, who left West Ham on Wednesday, or former Everton manager Sam Allardyce are remote at this stage. Lambert’s four-month reign was ended by mutual consent after he was summoned for talks with vice-chairman John Coates. Paul Lambert will not be masterminding Stoke's promotion push Credit: Reuters Stoke want to pursue a new direction following their relegation and triggered a clause in his contract that enabled them to part company with minimal compensation. Lambert replaced Mark Hughes in January and although he improved both the overall performances and Stoke’s defensive record, he won just two games out of 15, drawing seven. The former Aston Villa and Wolves manager’s reign suffered due to the poor behaviour of players including Saido Berahino, Jese Rodriguez and Ibrahim Afellay, who were all excluded from his first-team squad. It can be revealed that Lambert was still battling against ill-discipline the day before the final game of the season at Swansea, when one player turned up for training late. Defeat against Crystal Palace confirmed Stoke's relegation Credit: Reuters Stoke, who are now searching for only their fourth manager in 12 years, said in a statement: “The club would like to thank Paul for his work over the past four months and wish him well for the future. “Whilst he was unable to guide us to Premier League safety after being appointed in January, it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort, professionalism and dedication on his part. “Paul would like to thank the board, players and staff for the opportunity and their support. He would also like to thank the fans for their unwavering support. Whilst looking forward to his next challenge, he would like to wish the club every success next season. “The club will appoint a replacement as soon as possible in order to give the new manager time to prepare for the challenge of the 2018/19 season in the Championship.” Premier League club-by-club review Stoke are facing a summer of huge changes, with a number of players – including Jack Butland, Xherdan Shaqiri, Joe Allen and Badou Ndiaye – likely to leave. Yet Stoke are determined to retain a squad capable of promotion and have insisted they will be spending big in the second tier to bring in new signings. They have already begun preparations for next season by informing Stephen Ireland his contract will not be renewed in an email on Friday morning. Berahino, £18 million flop Kevin Wimmer and record signing Giannelli Imbula are also expected to leave this summer, either on loan or permanently.
Mick McCarthy tells Stoke he's interested in replacing Paul Lambert as manager
Mick McCarthy is ready to take on the challenge of returning Stoke to the Premier League after Paul Lambert’s departure on Friday. McCarthy has told Stoke, via his representatives, that he would be interested in succeeding Lambert as the club prepare for their first season in the Championship since 2008. The former Republic of Ireland manager left Ipswich in April after six years in charge and is thought to be one of the early contenders to take over at the bet365 Stadium. Stoke are considering a number of other options but it is believed that their hopes of appointing either David Moyes, who left West Ham on Wednesday, or former Everton manager Sam Allardyce are remote at this stage. Lambert’s four-month reign was ended by mutual consent after he was summoned for talks with vice-chairman John Coates. Paul Lambert will not be masterminding Stoke's promotion push Credit: Reuters Stoke want to pursue a new direction following their relegation and triggered a clause in his contract that enabled them to part company with minimal compensation. Lambert replaced Mark Hughes in January and although he improved both the overall performances and Stoke’s defensive record, he won just two games out of 15, drawing seven. The former Aston Villa and Wolves manager’s reign suffered due to the poor behaviour of players including Saido Berahino, Jese Rodriguez and Ibrahim Afellay, who were all excluded from his first-team squad. It can be revealed that Lambert was still battling against ill-discipline the day before the final game of the season at Swansea, when one player turned up for training late. Defeat against Crystal Palace confirmed Stoke's relegation Credit: Reuters Stoke, who are now searching for only their fourth manager in 12 years, said in a statement: “The club would like to thank Paul for his work over the past four months and wish him well for the future. “Whilst he was unable to guide us to Premier League safety after being appointed in January, it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort, professionalism and dedication on his part. “Paul would like to thank the board, players and staff for the opportunity and their support. He would also like to thank the fans for their unwavering support. Whilst looking forward to his next challenge, he would like to wish the club every success next season. “The club will appoint a replacement as soon as possible in order to give the new manager time to prepare for the challenge of the 2018/19 season in the Championship.” Premier League club-by-club review Stoke are facing a summer of huge changes, with a number of players – including Jack Butland, Xherdan Shaqiri, Joe Allen and Badou Ndiaye – likely to leave. Yet Stoke are determined to retain a squad capable of promotion and have insisted they will be spending big in the second tier to bring in new signings. They have already begun preparations for next season by informing Stephen Ireland his contract will not be renewed in an email on Friday morning. Berahino, £18 million flop Kevin Wimmer and record signing Giannelli Imbula are also expected to leave this summer, either on loan or permanently.
Paul Lambert is leaving Stoke by mutual consent as the club prepare for next season in the Championship. Lambert’s four-month reign is over after he was summoned for talks with vice-chairman John Coates on Friday morning. Stoke want to pursue a new direction following Premier League relegation and have opted to end his tenure, with the club triggering a clause in his contract that enables them to part company with minimal compensation. Lambert replaced Mark Hughes in January and though he improved performances and Stoke’s defensive record, he won just two games out of 15, also drawing seven. The former Aston Villa and Wolves manager’s reign suffered due to the poor behaviour of players including Saido Berahino, Jese Rodriguez and Ibrahim Afellay, who were all excluded from his first-team squad. Defeat against Crystal Palace confirmed Stoke's relegation Credit: Reuters And it can be revealed that Lambert was still battling against ill-discipline the day before the final game of the season at Swansea, when one player turned up for training late. But Stoke are now searching for only their fourth manager in 12 years after both parties agreed to part company. Stoke's statement read: "The club would like to thank Paul for his work over the past four months and wish him well for the future. Whilst he was unable to guide us to Premier League safety after being appointed in January, it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort, professionalism and dedication on his part. "Paul would like to thank the Board, players and staff for the opportunity and their support. He would also like to thank the fans for their unwavering support. Whilst looking forward to his next challenge, he would like to wish the club every success next season. "The club will appoint a replacement as soon as possible in order to give the new manager time to prepare for the challenge of the 2018/19 season in the Championship." Premier League club-by-club review David Moyes, who departed West Ham on Wednesday, is admired by the Stoke board and has worked with the club’s chief executive, Tony Scholes, at Preston North End. There is also likely to be support for ex-Everton manager Sam Allardyce, though persuading him or Moyes to work in the Championship will be a big ask. Gary Rowett, the Derby manager, was high on Stoke’s list of targets earlier this year when they sacked Hughes and could come into contention again. Stoke are facing a summer of huge changes, with a number of players including Jack Butland, Xherdan Shaqiri, Joe Allen and Badou Ndiaye likely to leave. Yet Stoke are determined to retain a squad capable of promotion and have insisted they will be spending big in the second tier to bring in new signings.
Stoke and Paul Lambert part ways following Premier League relegation
Paul Lambert is leaving Stoke by mutual consent as the club prepare for next season in the Championship. Lambert’s four-month reign is over after he was summoned for talks with vice-chairman John Coates on Friday morning. Stoke want to pursue a new direction following Premier League relegation and have opted to end his tenure, with the club triggering a clause in his contract that enables them to part company with minimal compensation. Lambert replaced Mark Hughes in January and though he improved performances and Stoke’s defensive record, he won just two games out of 15, also drawing seven. The former Aston Villa and Wolves manager’s reign suffered due to the poor behaviour of players including Saido Berahino, Jese Rodriguez and Ibrahim Afellay, who were all excluded from his first-team squad. Defeat against Crystal Palace confirmed Stoke's relegation Credit: Reuters And it can be revealed that Lambert was still battling against ill-discipline the day before the final game of the season at Swansea, when one player turned up for training late. But Stoke are now searching for only their fourth manager in 12 years after both parties agreed to part company. Stoke's statement read: "The club would like to thank Paul for his work over the past four months and wish him well for the future. Whilst he was unable to guide us to Premier League safety after being appointed in January, it certainly wasn’t due to a lack of effort, professionalism and dedication on his part. "Paul would like to thank the Board, players and staff for the opportunity and their support. He would also like to thank the fans for their unwavering support. Whilst looking forward to his next challenge, he would like to wish the club every success next season. "The club will appoint a replacement as soon as possible in order to give the new manager time to prepare for the challenge of the 2018/19 season in the Championship." Premier League club-by-club review David Moyes, who departed West Ham on Wednesday, is admired by the Stoke board and has worked with the club’s chief executive, Tony Scholes, at Preston North End. There is also likely to be support for ex-Everton manager Sam Allardyce, though persuading him or Moyes to work in the Championship will be a big ask. Gary Rowett, the Derby manager, was high on Stoke’s list of targets earlier this year when they sacked Hughes and could come into contention again. Stoke are facing a summer of huge changes, with a number of players including Jack Butland, Xherdan Shaqiri, Joe Allen and Badou Ndiaye likely to leave. Yet Stoke are determined to retain a squad capable of promotion and have insisted they will be spending big in the second tier to bring in new signings.
Never mind who plays in goal: keeping England squads happy is a mighty challenge for a manager, and Gareth Southgate will treat his players as adults rather than infants as he draws on his own experiences in more permissive times. “I’m not interested in what they do over the next few days. It’s four weeks before we have a game,” Southgate said at Wembley. “Before Euro 96 I had three days in Magaluf with Aston Villa so it would be a bit hypocritical to discuss what the correct preparation was. But I went for a run on a couple of mornings. It might have been run back home, rather than a run.” Southgate is not rolling out the barrel for his young England squad, but Fabio Capello’s martinet approach will not be making a comeback. In an age when the World Cup squad was announced by teenagers in a social media video, England’s manager is adapting to the zeitgeist. “Look, everything in a player’s life now is fill this bloody form in, how do you feel?” Southgate said. “There’s a danger we overfill them with professionalism and doing the right thing. A lot of them don’t drink but some do and some need to wind down in a different way. “I have a drink at times when I need one. Maybe there will be more of that in the future, I don’t know.” England players were bored at Capello’s boot camp in Rustenburg, South Africa Credit: PA England’s footballers would have to go some to match the country’s cricketers on the recent Ashes tour. Throwing pints over one another would render them pariahs in their own land. A challenge for Southgate’s coaching staff is to keep the players stimulated and cheerful against a backdrop of heavy security, social media scrutiny and the quietness of Repino, their base outside St Petersburg, which will feel like Las Vegas compared to Capello’s boot camp in Rustenburg in South Africa, where nothing happened and everything felt closed. All managers face these dilemmas. Roy Hodgson, Southgate’s predecessor, says: “It’s very rare that we have these four- to five-week periods when we’re divorced from everybody – your family life, your routine. It’s something that has to be dealt with. Why we haven’t been as good at dealing with that as some people, I really don’t know.” Southgate has begun by granting holiday time. He says: “They need a switch-off and I don’t see an issue with it in the next three or four days. Most have gone away with their partners and they have young kids anyway. “But those that don’t, they are physically in good shape, they need a mental switch-off. “The mental freshness is key. They’ve got little programmes to be working through. The days are gone where players come back to pre-season stones overweight, it just doesn’t happen.” England Formation Builder At the same time Southgate rejected the chance to set up an overseas training camp: “We’re not going abroad. We felt St George’s Park is a great asset to us. It’s a home base, everyone knows it. Periods of time there, but with gaps to get home. If we go abroad again, we lose a day’s training. “There’s more travel, more fatigue. It’s a big operation for the staff to organise. you get to the tournament and they can be worn out before you’ve even started.” In Russia, the players will be allowed to see their families “between games” and Southgate expects Repino not to be deluged by fans. “They [the players] should be able to go down to the seafront and have some freedom around that,” he says. “In terms of how they occupy their time in the hotel, a lot of them are young kids really, it’ll be Fortnite or whatever it is.” The players will have access to a psychology department, headed by Pippa Grange. “And then there is the environment we create. People take the lead from the leader,” Southgate says. “So how I am around it, how relaxed I am in terms of them being given opportunities to go out of the hotel, to go sightseeing, just to escape the bubble …. it can’t just be 24-hour-a-day football. OK, they might do a couple of things that get criticised on the back of that but I have to be brave enough to say I am prepared for them to go into St Petersburg to sightsee or see families or whatever. “Obviously there is some trust in that which has to be respected but I think they know where that sits. You are creating an adult environ-ment. Most of them have young children. I am not going to treat them like children. It’s important you give them responsibility.” World Cup 2018 | All you need to know On smartphones, the opium of our age, Southgate says there will be “cut-offs” but not hard and fast rules, while social media is best avoided but not banned: “Yeah, look, I think it’s good for players to communicate with the fans. It’s always important [to remember] that everything you put out in writing can be misconstrued. And when you’re emotional it’s not a good time to do it. “Personally I’m not sure there’s value to reading comments that come in. It comes back to what creates pressure, or what creates misery in your life. Generally I think there’s a lot of social media that can be negative, so why would you invite that into your life? “I can’t ban them from looking at it – because who knows what they’re doing when they go to their room. But I would make the suggestion that – is it a good idea to read all of that? I wouldn’t advise it, but I accept that it’s part of life.” This uncommonly reasonable and balanced approach will be applauded by players, media and public. As ever, it awaits the acid test of tournament results.
Gareth Southgate 'will not treat England squad like children' in Russia
Never mind who plays in goal: keeping England squads happy is a mighty challenge for a manager, and Gareth Southgate will treat his players as adults rather than infants as he draws on his own experiences in more permissive times. “I’m not interested in what they do over the next few days. It’s four weeks before we have a game,” Southgate said at Wembley. “Before Euro 96 I had three days in Magaluf with Aston Villa so it would be a bit hypocritical to discuss what the correct preparation was. But I went for a run on a couple of mornings. It might have been run back home, rather than a run.” Southgate is not rolling out the barrel for his young England squad, but Fabio Capello’s martinet approach will not be making a comeback. In an age when the World Cup squad was announced by teenagers in a social media video, England’s manager is adapting to the zeitgeist. “Look, everything in a player’s life now is fill this bloody form in, how do you feel?” Southgate said. “There’s a danger we overfill them with professionalism and doing the right thing. A lot of them don’t drink but some do and some need to wind down in a different way. “I have a drink at times when I need one. Maybe there will be more of that in the future, I don’t know.” England players were bored at Capello’s boot camp in Rustenburg, South Africa Credit: PA England’s footballers would have to go some to match the country’s cricketers on the recent Ashes tour. Throwing pints over one another would render them pariahs in their own land. A challenge for Southgate’s coaching staff is to keep the players stimulated and cheerful against a backdrop of heavy security, social media scrutiny and the quietness of Repino, their base outside St Petersburg, which will feel like Las Vegas compared to Capello’s boot camp in Rustenburg in South Africa, where nothing happened and everything felt closed. All managers face these dilemmas. Roy Hodgson, Southgate’s predecessor, says: “It’s very rare that we have these four- to five-week periods when we’re divorced from everybody – your family life, your routine. It’s something that has to be dealt with. Why we haven’t been as good at dealing with that as some people, I really don’t know.” Southgate has begun by granting holiday time. He says: “They need a switch-off and I don’t see an issue with it in the next three or four days. Most have gone away with their partners and they have young kids anyway. “But those that don’t, they are physically in good shape, they need a mental switch-off. “The mental freshness is key. They’ve got little programmes to be working through. The days are gone where players come back to pre-season stones overweight, it just doesn’t happen.” England Formation Builder At the same time Southgate rejected the chance to set up an overseas training camp: “We’re not going abroad. We felt St George’s Park is a great asset to us. It’s a home base, everyone knows it. Periods of time there, but with gaps to get home. If we go abroad again, we lose a day’s training. “There’s more travel, more fatigue. It’s a big operation for the staff to organise. you get to the tournament and they can be worn out before you’ve even started.” In Russia, the players will be allowed to see their families “between games” and Southgate expects Repino not to be deluged by fans. “They [the players] should be able to go down to the seafront and have some freedom around that,” he says. “In terms of how they occupy their time in the hotel, a lot of them are young kids really, it’ll be Fortnite or whatever it is.” The players will have access to a psychology department, headed by Pippa Grange. “And then there is the environment we create. People take the lead from the leader,” Southgate says. “So how I am around it, how relaxed I am in terms of them being given opportunities to go out of the hotel, to go sightseeing, just to escape the bubble …. it can’t just be 24-hour-a-day football. OK, they might do a couple of things that get criticised on the back of that but I have to be brave enough to say I am prepared for them to go into St Petersburg to sightsee or see families or whatever. “Obviously there is some trust in that which has to be respected but I think they know where that sits. You are creating an adult environ-ment. Most of them have young children. I am not going to treat them like children. It’s important you give them responsibility.” World Cup 2018 | All you need to know On smartphones, the opium of our age, Southgate says there will be “cut-offs” but not hard and fast rules, while social media is best avoided but not banned: “Yeah, look, I think it’s good for players to communicate with the fans. It’s always important [to remember] that everything you put out in writing can be misconstrued. And when you’re emotional it’s not a good time to do it. “Personally I’m not sure there’s value to reading comments that come in. It comes back to what creates pressure, or what creates misery in your life. Generally I think there’s a lot of social media that can be negative, so why would you invite that into your life? “I can’t ban them from looking at it – because who knows what they’re doing when they go to their room. But I would make the suggestion that – is it a good idea to read all of that? I wouldn’t advise it, but I accept that it’s part of life.” This uncommonly reasonable and balanced approach will be applauded by players, media and public. As ever, it awaits the acid test of tournament results.
Never mind who plays in goal: keeping England squads happy is a mighty challenge for a manager, and Gareth Southgate will treat his players as adults rather than infants as he draws on his own experiences in more permissive times. “I’m not interested in what they do over the next few days. It’s four weeks before we have a game,” Southgate said at Wembley. “Before Euro 96 I had three days in Magaluf with Aston Villa so it would be a bit hypocritical to discuss what the correct preparation was. But I went for a run on a couple of mornings. It might have been run back home, rather than a run.” Southgate is not rolling out the barrel for his young England squad, but Fabio Capello’s martinet approach will not be making a comeback. In an age when the World Cup squad was announced by teenagers in a social media video, England’s manager is adapting to the zeitgeist. “Look, everything in a player’s life now is fill this bloody form in, how do you feel?” Southgate said. “There’s a danger we overfill them with professionalism and doing the right thing. A lot of them don’t drink but some do and some need to wind down in a different way. “I have a drink at times when I need one. Maybe there will be more of that in the future, I don’t know.” England players were bored at Capello’s boot camp in Rustenburg, South Africa Credit: PA England’s footballers would have to go some to match the country’s cricketers on the recent Ashes tour. Throwing pints over one another would render them pariahs in their own land. A challenge for Southgate’s coaching staff is to keep the players stimulated and cheerful against a backdrop of heavy security, social media scrutiny and the quietness of Repino, their base outside St Petersburg, which will feel like Las Vegas compared to Capello’s boot camp in Rustenburg in South Africa, where nothing happened and everything felt closed. All managers face these dilemmas. Roy Hodgson, Southgate’s predecessor, says: “It’s very rare that we have these four- to five-week periods when we’re divorced from everybody – your family life, your routine. It’s something that has to be dealt with. Why we haven’t been as good at dealing with that as some people, I really don’t know.” Southgate has begun by granting holiday time. He says: “They need a switch-off and I don’t see an issue with it in the next three or four days. Most have gone away with their partners and they have young kids anyway. “But those that don’t, they are physically in good shape, they need a mental switch-off. “The mental freshness is key. They’ve got little programmes to be working through. The days are gone where players come back to pre-season stones overweight, it just doesn’t happen.” England Formation Builder At the same time Southgate rejected the chance to set up an overseas training camp: “We’re not going abroad. We felt St George’s Park is a great asset to us. It’s a home base, everyone knows it. Periods of time there, but with gaps to get home. If we go abroad again, we lose a day’s training. “There’s more travel, more fatigue. It’s a big operation for the staff to organise. you get to the tournament and they can be worn out before you’ve even started.” In Russia, the players will be allowed to see their families “between games” and Southgate expects Repino not to be deluged by fans. “They [the players] should be able to go down to the seafront and have some freedom around that,” he says. “In terms of how they occupy their time in the hotel, a lot of them are young kids really, it’ll be Fortnite or whatever it is.” The players will have access to a psychology department, headed by Pippa Grange. “And then there is the environment we create. People take the lead from the leader,” Southgate says. “So how I am around it, how relaxed I am in terms of them being given opportunities to go out of the hotel, to go sightseeing, just to escape the bubble …. it can’t just be 24-hour-a-day football. OK, they might do a couple of things that get criticised on the back of that but I have to be brave enough to say I am prepared for them to go into St Petersburg to sightsee or see families or whatever. “Obviously there is some trust in that which has to be respected but I think they know where that sits. You are creating an adult environ-ment. Most of them have young children. I am not going to treat them like children. It’s important you give them responsibility.” World Cup 2018 | All you need to know On smartphones, the opium of our age, Southgate says there will be “cut-offs” but not hard and fast rules, while social media is best avoided but not banned: “Yeah, look, I think it’s good for players to communicate with the fans. It’s always important [to remember] that everything you put out in writing can be misconstrued. And when you’re emotional it’s not a good time to do it. “Personally I’m not sure there’s value to reading comments that come in. It comes back to what creates pressure, or what creates misery in your life. Generally I think there’s a lot of social media that can be negative, so why would you invite that into your life? “I can’t ban them from looking at it – because who knows what they’re doing when they go to their room. But I would make the suggestion that – is it a good idea to read all of that? I wouldn’t advise it, but I accept that it’s part of life.” This uncommonly reasonable and balanced approach will be applauded by players, media and public. As ever, it awaits the acid test of tournament results.
Gareth Southgate 'will not treat England squad like children' in Russia
Never mind who plays in goal: keeping England squads happy is a mighty challenge for a manager, and Gareth Southgate will treat his players as adults rather than infants as he draws on his own experiences in more permissive times. “I’m not interested in what they do over the next few days. It’s four weeks before we have a game,” Southgate said at Wembley. “Before Euro 96 I had three days in Magaluf with Aston Villa so it would be a bit hypocritical to discuss what the correct preparation was. But I went for a run on a couple of mornings. It might have been run back home, rather than a run.” Southgate is not rolling out the barrel for his young England squad, but Fabio Capello’s martinet approach will not be making a comeback. In an age when the World Cup squad was announced by teenagers in a social media video, England’s manager is adapting to the zeitgeist. “Look, everything in a player’s life now is fill this bloody form in, how do you feel?” Southgate said. “There’s a danger we overfill them with professionalism and doing the right thing. A lot of them don’t drink but some do and some need to wind down in a different way. “I have a drink at times when I need one. Maybe there will be more of that in the future, I don’t know.” England players were bored at Capello’s boot camp in Rustenburg, South Africa Credit: PA England’s footballers would have to go some to match the country’s cricketers on the recent Ashes tour. Throwing pints over one another would render them pariahs in their own land. A challenge for Southgate’s coaching staff is to keep the players stimulated and cheerful against a backdrop of heavy security, social media scrutiny and the quietness of Repino, their base outside St Petersburg, which will feel like Las Vegas compared to Capello’s boot camp in Rustenburg in South Africa, where nothing happened and everything felt closed. All managers face these dilemmas. Roy Hodgson, Southgate’s predecessor, says: “It’s very rare that we have these four- to five-week periods when we’re divorced from everybody – your family life, your routine. It’s something that has to be dealt with. Why we haven’t been as good at dealing with that as some people, I really don’t know.” Southgate has begun by granting holiday time. He says: “They need a switch-off and I don’t see an issue with it in the next three or four days. Most have gone away with their partners and they have young kids anyway. “But those that don’t, they are physically in good shape, they need a mental switch-off. “The mental freshness is key. They’ve got little programmes to be working through. The days are gone where players come back to pre-season stones overweight, it just doesn’t happen.” England Formation Builder At the same time Southgate rejected the chance to set up an overseas training camp: “We’re not going abroad. We felt St George’s Park is a great asset to us. It’s a home base, everyone knows it. Periods of time there, but with gaps to get home. If we go abroad again, we lose a day’s training. “There’s more travel, more fatigue. It’s a big operation for the staff to organise. you get to the tournament and they can be worn out before you’ve even started.” In Russia, the players will be allowed to see their families “between games” and Southgate expects Repino not to be deluged by fans. “They [the players] should be able to go down to the seafront and have some freedom around that,” he says. “In terms of how they occupy their time in the hotel, a lot of them are young kids really, it’ll be Fortnite or whatever it is.” The players will have access to a psychology department, headed by Pippa Grange. “And then there is the environment we create. People take the lead from the leader,” Southgate says. “So how I am around it, how relaxed I am in terms of them being given opportunities to go out of the hotel, to go sightseeing, just to escape the bubble …. it can’t just be 24-hour-a-day football. OK, they might do a couple of things that get criticised on the back of that but I have to be brave enough to say I am prepared for them to go into St Petersburg to sightsee or see families or whatever. “Obviously there is some trust in that which has to be respected but I think they know where that sits. You are creating an adult environ-ment. Most of them have young children. I am not going to treat them like children. It’s important you give them responsibility.” World Cup 2018 | All you need to know On smartphones, the opium of our age, Southgate says there will be “cut-offs” but not hard and fast rules, while social media is best avoided but not banned: “Yeah, look, I think it’s good for players to communicate with the fans. It’s always important [to remember] that everything you put out in writing can be misconstrued. And when you’re emotional it’s not a good time to do it. “Personally I’m not sure there’s value to reading comments that come in. It comes back to what creates pressure, or what creates misery in your life. Generally I think there’s a lot of social media that can be negative, so why would you invite that into your life? “I can’t ban them from looking at it – because who knows what they’re doing when they go to their room. But I would make the suggestion that – is it a good idea to read all of that? I wouldn’t advise it, but I accept that it’s part of life.” This uncommonly reasonable and balanced approach will be applauded by players, media and public. As ever, it awaits the acid test of tournament results.
Alan Hutton is in line for a new contract at Aston Villa, regardless of the £170m Championship promotion shootout with Fulham. Hutton, the Scotland international, is winning his battle to earn a deal at Villa after a remarkable resurgence under Steve Bruce. The 33-year-old is a free agent at the end of this season but it is highly likely that he will be given fresh terms to extend his Villa career. Bruce has held preliminary talks with the defender over his future and it is understood Hutton will be offered terms, whatever the outcome of the play-off final on May 26. “I thought Alan Hutton, over the two legs, was absolutely outstanding,” said Bruce. “If ever he deserves a contract and if I get my way, he will get one. Since we have moved him to left-back he has gone to a different level. Hutton has enjoyed a new lease of life under Bruce Credit: Getty Images “He has really enjoyed it and is everything I enjoy in a player. “He rolls his sleeves up and gives you everything he has got in training and works like a beast. He is first in, and is a manager’s delight.” Villa secured their place in the Wembley final with victory over Middlesbrough, where they will play Fulham for a chance to reach the Premier League. Conor Hourihane, the midfielder, has lit the blue touch paper by warning Fulham their over-exuberant celebrations after the win over Derby will be used as inspiration. Villa will face Fulham in the Championship play-off final Credit: Reuters Many of Fulham’s players were lifted off the field by fans while pictures of the triumphant dressing room also circulated on social media. Hourihane said: “That's been mentioned, don't worry. They celebrated like they won the league or something like that. “We had calm celebrations, everyone was just in the dressing room high fiving each other. There was nothing major going on in the dressing room at all because there's more business to be done. “Fulham are a good side, they finished ahead of us in the league, deservedly so. The league table doesn't lie. They might be slight favourites going into it, but all the best to them if they fancy themselves more than us because we'll be ready for it, that's for sure.”
Alan Hutton in line for new Aston Villa deal - regardless of outcome of play-off final
Alan Hutton is in line for a new contract at Aston Villa, regardless of the £170m Championship promotion shootout with Fulham. Hutton, the Scotland international, is winning his battle to earn a deal at Villa after a remarkable resurgence under Steve Bruce. The 33-year-old is a free agent at the end of this season but it is highly likely that he will be given fresh terms to extend his Villa career. Bruce has held preliminary talks with the defender over his future and it is understood Hutton will be offered terms, whatever the outcome of the play-off final on May 26. “I thought Alan Hutton, over the two legs, was absolutely outstanding,” said Bruce. “If ever he deserves a contract and if I get my way, he will get one. Since we have moved him to left-back he has gone to a different level. Hutton has enjoyed a new lease of life under Bruce Credit: Getty Images “He has really enjoyed it and is everything I enjoy in a player. “He rolls his sleeves up and gives you everything he has got in training and works like a beast. He is first in, and is a manager’s delight.” Villa secured their place in the Wembley final with victory over Middlesbrough, where they will play Fulham for a chance to reach the Premier League. Conor Hourihane, the midfielder, has lit the blue touch paper by warning Fulham their over-exuberant celebrations after the win over Derby will be used as inspiration. Villa will face Fulham in the Championship play-off final Credit: Reuters Many of Fulham’s players were lifted off the field by fans while pictures of the triumphant dressing room also circulated on social media. Hourihane said: “That's been mentioned, don't worry. They celebrated like they won the league or something like that. “We had calm celebrations, everyone was just in the dressing room high fiving each other. There was nothing major going on in the dressing room at all because there's more business to be done. “Fulham are a good side, they finished ahead of us in the league, deservedly so. The league table doesn't lie. They might be slight favourites going into it, but all the best to them if they fancy themselves more than us because we'll be ready for it, that's for sure.”
Alan Hutton in line for new Aston Villa deal - regardless of outcome of play-off final
Alan Hutton in line for new Aston Villa deal - regardless of outcome of play-off final
Alan Hutton in line for new Aston Villa deal - regardless of outcome of play-off final
Alan Hutton is in line for a new contract at Aston Villa, regardless of the £170m Championship promotion shootout with Fulham. Hutton, the Scotland international, is winning his battle to earn a deal at Villa after a remarkable resurgence under Steve Bruce. The 33-year-old is a free agent at the end of this season but it is highly likely that he will be given fresh terms to extend his Villa career. Bruce has held preliminary talks with the defender over his future and it is understood Hutton will be offered terms, whatever the outcome of the play-off final on May 26. “I thought Alan Hutton, over the two legs, was absolutely outstanding,” said Bruce. “If ever he deserves a contract and if I get my way, he will get one. Since we have moved him to left-back he has gone to a different level. Hutton has enjoyed a new lease of life under Bruce Credit: Getty Images “He has really enjoyed it and is everything I enjoy in a player. “He rolls his sleeves up and gives you everything he has got in training and works like a beast. He is first in, and is a manager’s delight.” Villa secured their place in the Wembley final with victory over Middlesbrough, where they will play Fulham for a chance to reach the Premier League. Conor Hourihane, the midfielder, has lit the blue touch paper by warning Fulham their over-exuberant celebrations after the win over Derby will be used as inspiration. Villa will face Fulham in the Championship play-off final Credit: Reuters Many of Fulham’s players were lifted off the field by fans while pictures of the triumphant dressing room also circulated on social media. Hourihane said: “That's been mentioned, don't worry. They celebrated like they won the league or something like that. “We had calm celebrations, everyone was just in the dressing room high fiving each other. There was nothing major going on in the dressing room at all because there's more business to be done. “Fulham are a good side, they finished ahead of us in the league, deservedly so. The league table doesn't lie. They might be slight favourites going into it, but all the best to them if they fancy themselves more than us because we'll be ready for it, that's for sure.”
Alan Hutton in line for new Aston Villa deal - regardless of outcome of play-off final
Alan Hutton is in line for a new contract at Aston Villa, regardless of the £170m Championship promotion shootout with Fulham. Hutton, the Scotland international, is winning his battle to earn a deal at Villa after a remarkable resurgence under Steve Bruce. The 33-year-old is a free agent at the end of this season but it is highly likely that he will be given fresh terms to extend his Villa career. Bruce has held preliminary talks with the defender over his future and it is understood Hutton will be offered terms, whatever the outcome of the play-off final on May 26. “I thought Alan Hutton, over the two legs, was absolutely outstanding,” said Bruce. “If ever he deserves a contract and if I get my way, he will get one. Since we have moved him to left-back he has gone to a different level. Hutton has enjoyed a new lease of life under Bruce Credit: Getty Images “He has really enjoyed it and is everything I enjoy in a player. “He rolls his sleeves up and gives you everything he has got in training and works like a beast. He is first in, and is a manager’s delight.” Villa secured their place in the Wembley final with victory over Middlesbrough, where they will play Fulham for a chance to reach the Premier League. Conor Hourihane, the midfielder, has lit the blue touch paper by warning Fulham their over-exuberant celebrations after the win over Derby will be used as inspiration. Villa will face Fulham in the Championship play-off final Credit: Reuters Many of Fulham’s players were lifted off the field by fans while pictures of the triumphant dressing room also circulated on social media. Hourihane said: “That's been mentioned, don't worry. They celebrated like they won the league or something like that. “We had calm celebrations, everyone was just in the dressing room high fiving each other. There was nothing major going on in the dressing room at all because there's more business to be done. “Fulham are a good side, they finished ahead of us in the league, deservedly so. The league table doesn't lie. They might be slight favourites going into it, but all the best to them if they fancy themselves more than us because we'll be ready for it, that's for sure.”
Alan Hutton is in line for a new contract at Aston Villa, regardless of the £170m Championship promotion shootout with Fulham. Hutton, the Scotland international, is winning his battle to earn a deal at Villa after a remarkable resurgence under Steve Bruce. The 33-year-old is a free agent at the end of this season but it is highly likely that he will be given fresh terms to extend his Villa career. Bruce has held preliminary talks with the defender over his future and it is understood Hutton will be offered terms, whatever the outcome of the play-off final on May 26. “I thought Alan Hutton, over the two legs, was absolutely outstanding,” said Bruce. “If ever he deserves a contract and if I get my way, he will get one. Since we have moved him to left-back he has gone to a different level. Hutton has enjoyed a new lease of life under Bruce Credit: Getty Images “He has really enjoyed it and is everything I enjoy in a player. “He rolls his sleeves up and gives you everything he has got in training and works like a beast. He is first in, and is a manager’s delight.” Villa secured their place in the Wembley final with victory over Middlesbrough, where they will play Fulham for a chance to reach the Premier League. Conor Hourihane, the midfielder, has lit the blue touch paper by warning Fulham their over-exuberant celebrations after the win over Derby will be used as inspiration. Villa will face Fulham in the Championship play-off final Credit: Reuters Many of Fulham’s players were lifted off the field by fans while pictures of the triumphant dressing room also circulated on social media. Hourihane said: “That's been mentioned, don't worry. They celebrated like they won the league or something like that. “We had calm celebrations, everyone was just in the dressing room high fiving each other. There was nothing major going on in the dressing room at all because there's more business to be done. “Fulham are a good side, they finished ahead of us in the league, deservedly so. The league table doesn't lie. They might be slight favourites going into it, but all the best to them if they fancy themselves more than us because we'll be ready for it, that's for sure.”
Alan Hutton in line for new Aston Villa deal - regardless of outcome of play-off final
Alan Hutton is in line for a new contract at Aston Villa, regardless of the £170m Championship promotion shootout with Fulham. Hutton, the Scotland international, is winning his battle to earn a deal at Villa after a remarkable resurgence under Steve Bruce. The 33-year-old is a free agent at the end of this season but it is highly likely that he will be given fresh terms to extend his Villa career. Bruce has held preliminary talks with the defender over his future and it is understood Hutton will be offered terms, whatever the outcome of the play-off final on May 26. “I thought Alan Hutton, over the two legs, was absolutely outstanding,” said Bruce. “If ever he deserves a contract and if I get my way, he will get one. Since we have moved him to left-back he has gone to a different level. Hutton has enjoyed a new lease of life under Bruce Credit: Getty Images “He has really enjoyed it and is everything I enjoy in a player. “He rolls his sleeves up and gives you everything he has got in training and works like a beast. He is first in, and is a manager’s delight.” Villa secured their place in the Wembley final with victory over Middlesbrough, where they will play Fulham for a chance to reach the Premier League. Conor Hourihane, the midfielder, has lit the blue touch paper by warning Fulham their over-exuberant celebrations after the win over Derby will be used as inspiration. Villa will face Fulham in the Championship play-off final Credit: Reuters Many of Fulham’s players were lifted off the field by fans while pictures of the triumphant dressing room also circulated on social media. Hourihane said: “That's been mentioned, don't worry. They celebrated like they won the league or something like that. “We had calm celebrations, everyone was just in the dressing room high fiving each other. There was nothing major going on in the dressing room at all because there's more business to be done. “Fulham are a good side, they finished ahead of us in the league, deservedly so. The league table doesn't lie. They might be slight favourites going into it, but all the best to them if they fancy themselves more than us because we'll be ready for it, that's for sure.”
Alan Hutton in line for new Aston Villa deal - regardless of outcome of play-off final
Alan Hutton in line for new Aston Villa deal - regardless of outcome of play-off final
Alan Hutton in line for new Aston Villa deal - regardless of outcome of play-off final
Alan Hutton in line for new Aston Villa deal - regardless of outcome of play-off final
Alan Hutton in line for new Aston Villa deal - regardless of outcome of play-off final
Alan Hutton in line for new Aston Villa deal - regardless of outcome of play-off final
Aston Villa survive late Stewart Downing scare to reach Wembley final
Aston Villa survive late Stewart Downing scare to reach Wembley final
Aston Villa survive late Stewart Downing scare to reach Wembley final
Stewart Downing’s free-kick from the edge of the penalty area beats the Aston Villa wall but went on to hit the bar.
Aston Villa survive late Stewart Downing scare to reach Wembley final
Stewart Downing’s free-kick from the edge of the penalty area beats the Aston Villa wall but went on to hit the bar.
Aston Villa survive late Stewart Downing scare to reach Wembley final
Aston Villa survive late Stewart Downing scare to reach Wembley final
Aston Villa survive late Stewart Downing scare to reach Wembley final
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Middlesbrough's Rudy Gestede looks dejected as he gives his shirt to a fan after the game Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Middlesbrough's Rudy Gestede looks dejected as he gives his shirt to a fan after the game Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Middlesbrough's Stewart Downing shoots at goal from a free kick Action Images via Reuters/Craig Brough
Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Middlesbrough's Stewart Downing shoots at goal from a free kick Action Images via Reuters/Craig Brough
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Aston Villa's Jack Grealish and Albert Adomah in action with Middlesbrough's Adama Traore Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Aston Villa's Jack Grealish and Albert Adomah in action with Middlesbrough's Adama Traore Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Aston Villa fan holds up a poster as he celebrates after the match Action Images via Reuters/Craig Brough
Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Aston Villa fan holds up a poster as he celebrates after the match Action Images via Reuters/Craig Brough
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Middlesbrough's Adama Traore and Ben Gibson look dejected as a fan looks on after the match Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Middlesbrough's Adama Traore and Ben Gibson look dejected as a fan looks on after the match Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Aston Villa fans invade the pitch after the game Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Aston Villa fans invade the pitch after the game Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Middlesbrough's Adama Traore is helped up by Middlesbrough's Ben Gibson and Aston Villa's Mile Jedinak after the match Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Middlesbrough's Adama Traore is helped up by Middlesbrough's Ben Gibson and Aston Villa's Mile Jedinak after the match Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Aston Villa's John Terry celebrates after the match. Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Aston Villa's John Terry celebrates after the match. Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Middlesbrough's Darren Randolph makes a save Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Middlesbrough's Darren Randolph makes a save Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Middlesbrough's Adama Traore looks dejected after the match. Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes
Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough
Soccer Football - Championship Play Off Semi Final Second Leg - Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Villa Park, Birmingham, Britain - May 15, 2018 Middlesbrough's Adama Traore looks dejected after the match. Action Images via Reuters/Ed Sykes

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