Blackburn 7 – 1 Norwich, 3 October 1992
Well, it was fun while it lasted.
High-flying Norwich City came down to Earth with a bump after an absolute spannering at Ewood Park, where Alan Shearer was once again amongst the goals.
The Canaries had been the surprise package of the inaugural Premier League, having been hotly tipped for relegation at the start of the season. They’d barely escaped the drop last year and the summer’s transfer activity – whereby star striker Robert Fleck was sold to Chelsea and replaced with Manchester United reserve Mark Robins – had given little reason for optimism.
Yet somehow Mike Walker, all perma-tan and silver fox – some 20 years before Alan Pardew made them his brand pillars - had galvanised this assortment of also-rans into a very tidy little unit. They’d conquered Arsenal at Highbury on the opening day and since then had hummed along nicely at the top of the league. Mark Robins had scored early goals, Ian Crook bossed the midfield without breaking sweat, and Ruel Fox was quicker than a rat up a drainpipe on the right flank. With their fearless attacking game, they were quickly becoming everybody’s second-favourite team, even if most pundits dismissed their early-season form as an anomaly.
A top-of-the table clash with Blackburn would have been the perfect place to silence the doubters. And for eight minutes Norwich held their own. Then it all went horribly, horribly wrong.
Alan Shearer was at the heart of their demise. Following a long punt by Colin Hendry, the £3.4m striker tore out of the blocks like a bulldog chasing a sausage roll, scorching past Ian Butterworth to set up Roy Wegerle for the opener.
Wegerle was only playing because of an injury to Mike Newell. The USA international seized his chance to impress here, easily beating Mark Bowen to set up Gordon Cowans for the second goal, then tapping in a third after some brute strength from Shearer. The latter showed his more artful side with a sublime chip to send Rovers into a 4-1 half-time lead.
Norwich had a reputation for extraordinary comebacks, but even Mike Walker’s magic wand was no use here. In the end they were grateful to only concede seven. Rovers leap-frogged them to the top of the league and Shearer, whose record fee had raised a lot of eyebrows over the summer, looked like the best striker in the country on current form.
QPR 4 – 1 Tottenham, 3 October 1992
Tottenham achieved the impossible. After their shithouse of a performance at Sheffield Wednesday last week, they actually managed to get worse.
Not only that, but they made Gary Penrice look like Gary Lineker in the process.
Aside from bolstering the moustache quota, Penrice had done little of note in England’s top flight. Prolific in the lower leagues with Bristol Rovers, he’d not replicated that form in the upper echelons. A disastrous, injury-hit spell at Aston Villa was followed by a debut season at QPR that yielded only three goals.
He was probably due a change of luck and there was nothing more generous than the Tottenham back four when it came to dishing out good fortune. On a day of unlikely scorers, the Spurs rearguard handed out hospitality passes to Ian Holloway and then Ray Wilkins, who defied his advancing years with a diving header to put Rangers into a 2-1 lead.
“Butch” Wilkins was enjoying something of an Indian summer with QPR. At the grand old age of 36, he was still amongst the most cultured midfielders in England. He’d moved back to London after a career that had included stops at Chelsea, Manchester United, AC Milan, PSG and Rangers. He’d graced the best stadiums and played with and against the most iconic players in the world. Now here he was in Shepherd’s Bush, spraying passes to Andy Impey.
Andy Sinton crossed for Penrice to give the home side some breathing space and a clever dummy by Dennis Bailey gave Penrice the freedom of Loftus Road to smash home a fourth.
QPR went into the international break as the top London club, whilst Spurs’ miserable excuse for a season continued.
Wimbledon 2 -3 Aston Villa, 3 October 1992
Call off the search.
Tell the Lightning Seeds we won’t be needing their Goal of the Month music. October’s done and dusted.
In fact, we might as well cancel Goal of the Season while we’re at it. Le Tissier, Cantona, Ndlovu – it doesn’t matter what tricks you’ve got up your sleeve. You won’t beat this.
Trust me, lads. Dalian Atkinson’s got this sewn up.
The striker scored an unbelievable solo goal to earn Villa a win a topsy-turvy encounter in South London.
For their part, Wimbledon contributed to a bloody good afternoon’s entertainment. The home side were weakened by the absence of Vinnie Jones, serving a ban for his use of industrial language against Blackburn, whilst also fending off an FA charge for his starring role in Soccer’s Hard Men.
The video was due to be released in time for the Christmas rush. The premise was Jones celebrating the likes of “Chopper” Harris, Graeme Souness and Norman Hunter in 76 minutes of festive thuggery. Vinnie revealed all the tricks of the trade, from tugging your opponent’s armpit hair, to treading on their toes, and, if all else failed, maiming them at the knee.
Unsurprisingly, the bigwigs at Soho Square weren’t too impressed. They’d spent 20 years cleaning up the mess of hooliganism. Now Vinnie had taken it off the terraces and put it on the pitch – at Christmas, no less. Whitney Houston was primed for the Christmas #1 slot and the thought of families listening to “I Will Always Love You” whilst their sons watched Jones try to cripple Steve McMahon, was simply unpalatable.
What would have happened had Jones been on the field for this game? We might have been deprived of one of the greatest goals in Premier League history.
When Dalian Atkinson picked up the ball 30 yards from his own goal, with Villa holding on to a 2-1 lead, few could have expected what would follow.
Atkinson, building speed like a stream train, surged through the Dons’ midfield. Ordinarily, Jones would have been lying in wait, ready to take aim at his limbs. Instead the Villa striker left Lawrie Sanchez, Gary Elkins (twice) and Scott Fitzgerald in his wake before uncorking a delightful chip over Hans Segers.
The away end erupted in delight. These are the moments that football supporters long for: the uncontrollable joy. Some scream their lungs hoarse, others grab their loved ones in delight. And occasionally, someone runs on to the pitch to hand Dean Saunders an umbrella.
Barely two months into the Premier League’s existence, we’d seen one of its most enduring images. Meanwhile, Dalian Atkinson had written his name into the history books.