Liverpool 2-1 Chelsea, 5th September 1992
You know things are bad when Ken Bates is called in as peacemaker. The Chelsea chairman, roundly feted as a total and utter bastard in football circles, was in the visitors’ changing room trying to calm his troops after an acrimonious first-half at Anfield.
The Blues were raging. Centre half Paul Elliott was on his way to hospital, desperately holding together pieces of his knee like a drunk cradling a doner kebab.
As Chelsea’s Player of the Year writhed in agony, Vinnie Jones, Mick Harford and co. were dreaming up more retaliatory acts of violence.
Dean Saunders was going to get it, make no mistake.
The Welshman had sparked an otherwise dull game into life in the 12th minute. He’d taken exception to Elliott’s attempt to win the ball by hammering his studs into the defender’s right knee cap. It was as horrific a sight as we’d seen all season – and we’d sat through four weeks of Richard Keys’ jackets on Super Sunday.
To rub salt into that gaping wound, Saunders had nodded Liverpool in front from a free-kick awarded after David Lee unsuccessfully attempted to kick him into the Mersey.
Chelsea momentarily regained their composure to level through Harford, but words had been exchanged in the tunnel and tempers were raging again during the break.
With manager Ian Porterfield wielding the authority of a substitute teacher at Grange Hill, Bates had taken it upon himself to restore calm.
The second half was slightly less vitriolic, though Chelsea’s mood darkened further when Dave Beasant inexplicably let a cross from Mark Walters slip through his fingers and Jamie Redknapp scored the winner.
The match would be Saunders’ last for Liverpool ahead of a fresh start at Aston Villa. For Paul Elliott it was the beginning of a long and painful road to the end.
Wimbledon 3-2 Arsenal 5th September 1992
There were plenty of lumps and bumps at Selhurst Park where winless Wimbledon entertained Arsenal.
Talismanic Wimbledon striker John Fashanu was making his first home start of the season after a frustrating spell on the sidelines. “Fash” had spent the summer recording the first series of Gladiators, which he co-hosted alongside former TV-am weathergirl Ulrika Jonsson.
The premise for the series was that a cast of agile competitors would use their guile to overcome the brainless bulk of the Gladiators. And a similar task awaited Arsenal as they travelled south to play their London rivals.
The official season review of Wimbledon’s 1992-93 campaign politely described their own playing style as “robust”. Whatever your outlook, the gist was to knock it long and then claw, kick, scratch and punch for that second ball. Some fifteen years before football fell in love with tiki-taka, fouling the tits off the opposition was entirely acceptable in the Premier League.
Sure enough, with Fash back in the team, the Dons wasted no time in getting down to business.
Trailing to an early strike from Ian Wright, Warren Barton clipped a hopeful ball into the box. Fash, all arms and elbows, nodded down for Lawrie Sanchez to poke in an equaliser. He was at it again in the second half, slotting the Dons ahead after Arsenal’s offside trap dozed off.
The coup de grace came with the scores level at 2-2.
After Dean Holdsworth nodded on a goal kick, Fash wrestled Tony Adams to the ground with a modified belly-to-belly suplex, allowing Robbie Earle space to drive a shot under a despairing David Seaman.
The Dons had won a game at last.
Blackburn 4-1 Nottingham Forest 5th September 1992
Where’s Des Walker when you need him?
Whilst the former Forest favourite was settling into his new club Sampdoria, his old team-mates were rooted to the bottom of the league.
Without his presence in the centre of defence, Forest were the softest of touches. And the last person you wanted to face when your defence was in disarray was Alan Shearer.
Since arriving from Southampton for a British record fee, Shearer had been in sensational form for Blackburn Rovers. The Lancastrians had surprised everyone with their impressive start. Kevin Moran and David May kept things tight at the back whilst Tim Sherwood and Mark Atkins were neat in midfield. In attack, Stuart Ripley’s conveyor belt of crosses from the flanks gave Shearer and Mike Newell the service they thrived on.
It took just three minutes for Shearer to break the deadlock and despite a fine volley from Gary Bannister to draw Forest level, the visitors brittle confidence was shattered in ten second-half minutes. Atkins belted Blackburn in front and Shearer hammered a penalty to make it three.
The final insult came when a Colin Hendry header gave Mark Crossley the most routine of routine catches, only for him to fumble it over his own goal line.
Forest were in freefall and all the pundits who insisted they were “too good to go down” started to look nervously at the table.