Premier League: It wasn’t always so easy to cancel games as past stars reveal
The Premier League season has been turned upside down by the postponement of 22 games due to Covid and injuries – but it hasn’t always been so easy to have a game called off.
In the dressing room when Tottenham lost 2-1 at West Ham on the final day of the 2005-06 season to give Arsenal a Champions League place. Ten Spurs players suffered from food poisoning the morning of the match.
Jermaine Jenas was part of a Tottenham side chasing Champions League football in 2006
“It was a scene of pure chaos. The guys were in absolute turmoil. On the morning of the game, most of our players were in a very bad state.
“Michael Carrick was one of the worst. Michael Dawson was bad too. If it had been in the middle of the season, something could have been done. But it was the last day when all the games had to start at the same time.
“That was the hurdle the club came up against. It was “Get in the coach and go play.”
“It wasn’t a pretty trip – one in and one out of the toilet the whole way and others slumped, exhausted, against the windows. We always knew we were going to struggle.
“Afterwards, I was sitting in a locker room with a group of players who had had a fantastic season and had been undone by food poisoning.
“It was the worst locker room moment I’ve ever had. An entire season’s work was gone. As told to cbssports.com.
But the Spurs stars were struck down with illness on the final day of the season in a defeat at West Ham
Played for non-league Wimbledon in their incredible 69 game 1974-75 season. They won the Southern League and the London Senior Cup and became the first non-league team to knock out a top side from the FA Cup in 55 years when they won 1-0 at Burnley.
“Talking about congestion in modern fixtures makes me laugh. This season has been chaotic – we played 33 times between February 1 and the end of the season and had a squad of around 16 players.
“We played 11 games in March and 12 in April. You don’t have to be a math whiz to realize that it’s a game every two and a half days and it was often on bad pitches in terrible conditions.
“We actually asked if we could pull out of the London Senior Cup to try to lighten the load and we were told no! So we got down to it. The thing with footballers is that they just want to play, really.
“That’s what makes the situation in the Premier League so ridiculous.
“It’s not the players who want games postponed, it’s the coaches. Managers right now are only looking for an edge and that’s wrong.
“In the 1970s games were called off because of the weather, especially outside of the League. That’s what happened to us. The matches piled up.
Dave Basset is pictured with the stars of Wimbledon in 1985 during his managerial days
It took a full Luton squad to play a benefit game four days before the biggest game in club history. They had to win against relegation rivals Manchester City on the last day of the 1982-83 season to stay in place – and they did.
“We had a bad end to the season. We lost 5-1 at home to Everton on Saturday and then 3-0 at Manchester United on Monday.
“On Tuesday we had agreed to play a testimonial at Watford. We could have pulled out – we certainly had the excuse – but we had made a commitment to Graham Taylor and his team and I thought we had to honor it.
“I also thought it might help distract my players from what awaited them at Maine Road.
“We were big rivals with Watford and got a terrible stick from their fans that night. They sang that we were going to fall, but at halftime Graham took the microphone in the center circle and told his fans to shut up. It was class.
“Did playing this game allow us to beat City?” It certainly didn’t hurt us. Players like to play.
David Pleat miraculously kept Luton Town in the top flight during a difficult 1982-83 season
Liverpool’s “super sub” in the 1970s. Of his 154 appearances for Liverpool, 62 were as a substitute.
“Bill Shankly was the man behind the thinking at Liverpool. In the 1965-66 title season, Liverpool only used 14 players and two of them only played six games between them. When I was there, it was really the same.
‘Somebody was asking Bob Paisley for the team and he was saying ‘like last year’. It was a joke but it was also almost true!
“No one at Liverpool would ever admit to being injured. They knew that if they left the team for a week, they would wait two months to come back!
“Players were taking painkillers to get through games or just relying on adrenaline.
“But no one has ever complained of feeling tired. You don’t feel tired when you win.
Ex-Liverpool star David Fairclough recalls a culture where players didn’t admit injuries
The Middlesbrough team manager was fined and picked up three points for failing to manage a Premier League game against Blackburn in the 1996-97 season. They ended up being relegated by two points.
“We did everything we could to convince the Premier League that we had no choice. Our doctor actually wrote up a report on each of the 24 players who were unavailable and sent it to the league.
“I have no idea if they read it or not. We just couldn’t get a response. We were told that three of the people we needed to speak to were actually on the golf course that afternoon.
“The only option I had would have been to play the YTS kids. Myself and Viv Anderson, my assistant, could have played but we too were injured!
“If I had known we would have anchored points, I might have played all the kids. I just assumed we would be fined and had to concede the three points to Blackburn.
“At the end of the day, it wasn’t the only thing that brought us down, but obviously it had a huge impact. It looks different now, clubs just seem to be going their own way.
“At the time, we didn’t get much help or even sympathy from anyone else. I still think about it today.
Bryan Robson’s Middlesbrough suffered a costly points deduction in the 1996-97 season
Played 223 consecutive games for Ipswich between 1997 and 2003 and 115 consecutive Premier League games for Ipswich and Charlton, second on the all-time list behind Frank Lampard.
“I can understand why managers worry and complain about congestion because it’s an unforgiving world and they have less time than ever to keep their jobs.” Playing without key players can cause them to lose games.
“Personally, I always wanted to play. I hated being substituted or rested. I had arguments with physios who told me I was out of shape. I just wanted to play so I would.
“Very few players play in top form anyway and I often had a problem.” I had injections and stuff to go through but rarely felt tired. I liked it.
“For me, Saturday was payday and if I wasn’t involved it just didn’t feel right. If you talk about congestion in the Premier League, think also of the Championship. It’s a 46-game season there.
“Yes, I have aches now, but I don’t regret anything.”
Matt Holland thinks players in the modern game rarely play in top form