Chelsea 2-3 Norwich, 12th September 1992
Keepers, eh. Who’d be one?
Certainly not Dave Beasant. As the Chelsea stopper buried his head in the west London turf, he must have considered a career change. Preferably something that didn’t involve using his hands. He couldn’t rely on them anymore.
Beasant had just produced 45 minutes of the sort of hapless misfortune that made Beadle’s About a mainstay of weekend telly.
In that particular LWT production, unsuspecting members of the public would fall victim to bizarre pranks such as cars exploding, caravans falling into the sea or even aliens landing. As they watched in horror, a disbelieving policeman would appear to take their statement, only to later reveal himself as Britain’s favourite prankster, Mr Jeremy Beadle esq.
So calamitous was Beasant’s second-half showing at home to Norwich, that Chelsea fans were looking around for secret cameras. Satisfied they were none, they went back to showering their own goalkeeper with obscenities and wishing him all manner of infectious diseases.
The afternoon had all started so well. In-form Mick Harford started and finished a fine move to put the Blues ahead. After half an hour Andy Townsend - Ireland’s favourite Cockney – steered in an exquisite second. The Canaries had been amongst the early-season pace-setters at the top of the Premier League. Now Chelsea were knocking them off their perch.
Norwich had recovered from a two-goal deficit at Highbury on the opening day. They then proceeded to blow Arsenal away with a second-half display of fearless attacking football. They needed something similar here.
Either that – or for Dave Beasant to have the sort of once-in-a-lifetime, unrelenting shithouse of a performance that only goalkeepers are prone to.
And they were in luck.
It started with a toe poke. Little Mark Robins, all 5’7 of him, stretched his tiny tootsies to reach a cross and could only manage the bare minimum of contact. Just one inch taller and it would have been a certain goal. The striker began to curse his parents for stiffing him with their inferior genetics, only to wheel away in celebration when the ball trickled through Beasant’s fingers and into the net.
He added another minutes later. This time Beasant’s positioning was at fault. As Rob Newman honed in on goal, the keeper wasn’t just in No-Man’s Land, he was sat in the German trenches sharing Churchill’s battle plans over a square of dark chocolate and a cigarette.
Tap-in for Robins. 2-2.
Then the final insult. Dave Phillips decided to let fly from 25 yards. The Welsh winger couldn’t get any purchase on the ball and it rolled like a stray pea towards the goal. Beasant, who by now had lost all faith in his digits, tried to get his entire upper body behind the ball, only to let it bobble mischievously under his frame and over the line. His nightmare was complete.
What you need in these moments is a strong, supportive manager.
Enter Ian Porterfield.
With his keeper distraught in the dressing room after the worst day of his professional career, the Chelsea boss faced the press.
There was no need to panic.
Dave Beasant would never have another day like that in a Chelsea shirt.
You’re right. I’ll bounce back from this.
Because he won’t be playing.
Ok, I’ll do a couple of games in the reserves. You know, get my confidence back.
Not just this season.
Hold on. Where’s this going?
In fact, he’ll never, ever play for this club again.
Is this a joke? It must be. Where’s that f*cker Beadle?
That’s right. To compound Beasant’s misery, not only did he produce one of the most appalling individual performances in Chelsea history, he was also transfer-listed by his manager in a press conference.
I guess that’s why they call it the blues.
Coventry 1 – 0 Tottenham, 14 September 1992
Coventry City’s quick start to the season continued at Highfield Road on Monday Night Football.
A single strike from John Williams, the man dubbed “The Flying Postman”, was enough to sink Spurs in front of the Sky cameras.
Williams had burst onto the scene during the memorable Rumbelows Sprint Challenge earlier in the year. After a series of regional 100m heats, eight men lined up during half-time at the Rumbelows Cup Final between Manchester United and Nottingham Forest to crown the Fastest Footballer in the League.
As if that moniker wasn’t enough, the winner would also pocket a cool £10k for his trouble.
Williams, a former postman, was enjoying his first season in league football at Swansea and had scored the winner at Darlington 24 hours earlier. Ten large would be very welcome for a man in the lower leagues and he quietly fancied his chances.
But he was up against some big names. Notts County flyer Kevin Bartlett led the betting and Reading’s jet-powered Michael Gilkes was also amongst the favourites.
On commentary, the ever-professional Alan Parry managed to conceal his disappointment that his tip, Keith Curle, had gone out in the semi-finals. Alongside him Olympian Steve Cram went to great length to point out the challenges of wearing full kit and boots in a 100m race. Linford Christie didn’t have to work in these conditions.
Maybe those doubts crept in Williams’ mind. He made a slow start before finding his stride to win in 11.49 seconds. In the ITV studio, Elton Welsby ribbed Jack Charlton about his lack of pace, whilst Gary Lineker bemoaned the absence of Des Walker from the competition (he was actually playing in the cup final).
Sitting at home, Coventry boss Bobby Gould had seen all he needed to see. City parted with £250,000k for Williams’ services.
By a quirk of the fixture list, Premier League teams were playing a return fixture three weeks after the original. Williams had been chief tormentor at White Hart Lane in August, firing a quick double as Coventry eased to a 2-0 win.
He was at it again at Highfield Road. For 60 minutes it had been dismal fare for Sky Sports viewers. Then Peter Ndlovu wriggled and jiggled before letting fly with a hopeful shot that deflected skyward. After an eternity in the air, Williams’ prodigious spring allowed him to outjump Dean Austin and loop a header over Erik Thorstvedt.
The postman had delivered again and Coventry, normally so slow out of the blocks, were flying.
Aston Villa 4 – 2 Liverpool 19 September 1992
Ronny Rosenthal. How did you f*cking miss that?
Mankind has wrestled with that question for 25 years and we’re still no closer to the answer.
Let’s go back to the moment in time. Villa are hosting Liverpool on a fine autumnal afternoon. The visitors were desperate for a win after a sluggish start to the season. The Graeme Souness Era had thus far been defined by bad signings, mystifying team selection and abject performances.
Souness said they were a team still searching for their identity post-Dalglish. The more cynical observers said they’d found it: they were crap.
With the pressure mounting, three points at Villa would be most welcome. And when the ever-reliable Shaun Teale made a catastrophic error early in the game, it seemed Souness’s luck had turned.
Misjudging a routine hoof from David James, Villa’s centre-half let the ball bounce freely over his head, unaware that Ronny Rosenthal was waiting to pounce.
It was the sort of chance the Israeli gobbled up early in his Anfield career. He arrived from Standard Liege on loan in 1990 and scored a blistering 7 in 8 games to secure Liverpool’s 18th title. The crowd christened him “Rocket Ronny” and a new hero was born.
Since then the rocket had misfired. There were still occasional moments of magic, alongside long spells of mediocrity. He didn’t fit the Boot Room philosophy. He was a maverick. Why pass and move when you can get your head down, dribble round a few players and then try and smash one in from 30 yards?
By the start of 92-92 he’d been relegated to an impact substitute. Most players would have retreated into their shell. Not Rocket Ronny. Bring on the razzle dazzle.
So when Teale cocked up, he reverted to type. Skipping past goalie Nigel Spink with an exquisite flick of his boot, he left himself the luxury of an open goal. Most players would have rolled it in. You could almost hear Souness on the bench… play it safe, son.
That wasn’t Ronny’s style.
With the goal gaping Ronny decided to nonchalantly clip it into the roof of the net. Only he got his angles wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.
To the amazement of all in Villa Park the ball bounced off the bar to safety.
Souness looked to the heavens. The Holte End erupted in laughter. And they still do now, as it gets repeated in every Premier League gaffes collection.
As for the game? Villa won 4-2. Dean Saunders scored twice against the side he’d left a fortnight earlier. But no one remembers that.
They don’t remember that Rosenthal actually scored later in the game with a neat header.
And they certainly don’t remember much else of his 20-year career that included 60-odd caps for his country.
All they remember is that he missed. How did he f*cking miss?