Thursday, September 20, 2007

History of Bolton Wanderers F.C.

Early history
The club was founded in 1874 as Christ Church FC, but changed its name to Bolton Wanderers in 1877. Bolton were one of the 12 founder members of the Football League, which formed in 1888. Having remained in the Football League since its formation, Bolton have spent more time in the top flight (Premier League/old First Division) than out of it.

In 1894 Bolton reached the final of football's oldest competition, the FA Cup, for the first time, but lost 4-1 to Notts County at Goodison Park. A decade later they were runners-up a second time, losing 1-0 to local rivals Manchester City at Crystal Palace on April 23, 1904. On April 28, 1923 Bolton won the cup at their third attempt to win their first major trophy, beating West Ham United 2-0 in the first ever Wembley final. The match, famously known as The White Horse Final was played in front of over 127,000 supporters. Bolton's centre-forward, David Jack scored the first ever goal at Wembley Stadium. They became the most successful cup side of the twenties, also winning in 1926 and 1929, beating Manchester City and Portsmouth respectively.

From 1935 to 1964, Bolton enjoyed an uninterrupted stay in the top flight- regarded by fans as a golden era, spearheaded in the 1950s by Nat Lofthouse. They would not return to the top flight until 1978, where they lasted but two seasons before a period of further decline set in.

In 1953 Bolton played in one of the most famous FA Cup finals of all time - The Stanley Matthews Final of 1953. Bolton lost the game to Blackpool 4-3 after throwing away a 3-1 lead. Blackpool were victorious thanks to the skills of Matthews and the goals of Stan Mortensen.

Bolton Wanderers have not won a major trophy since 1958, when two Nat Lofthouse goals saw them overcome Manchester United in the FA Cup final in front of a 100,000 crowd at Wembley. The closest they have come to winning a major trophy since then is finishing runners-up in the League Cup, first in 1995 and again in 2004.

At the end of the 1986–87 season, Bolton Wanderers suffered relegation to the Fourth Division for the first time in their history. But the board kept faith in manager Phil Neal and they won promotion back to the Third Division at the first attempt. The deciding goal was scored by Robbie Savage in a 1-0 win at Wrexham. Neal remained in charge until the summer of 1992 when he made way for Bruce Rioch, who a few years earlier had won two successive promotions with Middlesbrough.

In the early part of Rioch's tenure, Bolton gained a giantkilling reputation in cup competitions. In 1993 Bolton beat FA Cup holders Liverpool 2-0 in a third round replay thanks to goals from John McGinlay and Andy Walker. The club also defeated higher division opposition in the form of Wolves that year before bowing out to Derby County. In 1994 Bolton beat FA Cup holders Arsenal 3-1 in a fourth round replay, and went on to reach the Quarter Finals, bowing out 1-0 at home to local rivals (and then Premier League) Oldham Athletic. Bolton also defeated top division opposition in the form of Everton and Aston Villa that year.

Bolton reach the Premiership
Bolton reached the Premiership in 1995, under the management of Bruce Rioch, thanks to a victory over Reading in the Division One playoff final. After being 2–0 down at half-time, two goals from Bolton in the final 15 minutes of the game forced extra time and they went on to win 4-3 and return to top division football after a 15-year exile. They had been on the losing side at Wembley a few weeks earlier, having lost 2-1 to Liverpool in the League Cup final.

Rioch left to take charge at Arsenal after the promotion success. He was replaced by Derby County manager Roy McFarland, who was joined by his former assistant Colin Todd. Bolton were bottom for virtually all of the 1995-96 Premiership campaign and despite several new signings, Bolton dismissed McFarland on New Year's Day 1996 and appointed Todd in his place. Todd was unable to save Bolton from relegation but the board kept faith in him. It is worth noting, however, that Bolton's form improved noticeably under Todd with 19 points from their last 16 games.

The Bolton board's loyalty in Todd was rewarded when they won promotion back to the Premiership at the first attempt thanks to a season in which they achieved 98 league points and 100 goals in the process of securing the Division One Championship. They could have achieved 100 league points and 100 league goals save for drawing the last game of the season at Tranmere Rovers 2-2.

A second relegation and another promotion
Bolton were relegated on goal difference at the end of the 1997-98 Premiership campaign, going down to Division One with the previous season's other two promoted sides— Barnsley and Crystal Palace. Bolton reached the 1999 Division One playoff final but lost to Watford. Colin Todd resigned as manager soon after and was replaced by Notts County's Sam Allardyce.

1999-00 brought disappointment for Bolton under their new manager as they lost in the semi finals of the Division One playoffs, the League Cup and the FA Cup. However, happier times were around the corner as in 2000–01 Sam Allardyce and his team got it right by beating Preston North End 3-0 in the Division One playoff final with goals from Gareth Farrelly, Michael Ricketts and Ricardo Gardner respectively. The club was then promoted back to the Premiership.

Staying up
In 2000 Bolton reached the Semi Finals of the FA Cup at Wembley but were defeated by Aston Villa in a penalty shoot-out. The defeat meant that Bolton could not achieve the historic feat of featuring in the first and last cup finals at Wembley. Dean Holdsworth, who was the club's record signing at the time, scored his penalty after earlier missing a glorious chance to put Bolton in the final. Wanderers lost after Allan Johnston and Michael Johansen saw their efforts saved by future England goalkeeper David James.

Bolton went top of the Premiership after winning their first three games of the 2001-02 season, but failed to keep up their winning ways and wallowed away to 16th place in the final table - just enough to secure their first-ever Premiership survival, and their first top flight survival since 1979.

Bolton struggled throughout 2002-03 but managed to stay up, winning their final game of the season 2-1 against Middlesbrough thanks to goals from Per Frandsen and Jay Jay Okocha. The victory condemned West Ham United to relegation. In 2003-04, despite a poor start which saw them lose 6-2 to Manchester City and 4-0 to both Manchester United and Premiership newcomers Portsmouth, Bolton nevertheless enjoyed their best season for some 50 years. They reached the League Cup final, losing 2-1 to Middlesbrough. Despite this setback, Bolton finished eighth - much higher than most pundits had predicted them to finish when the season began, and could even have gone one higher on the final day in mid-May 2004 and qualified for Europe had they won their last match of the season; however, a 2-0 defeat at home to Fulham (Bolton's bogey team in the Premiership) saw their excellent season end on something of a disappointing note. However, although nobody could have known it at this time, better things were still to come...

Qualification for Europe
Bolton's impressive progress continued in 2004-05. They secured an impressive sixth place finish - equal on points with European champions Liverpool, who finished fifth by goal difference - and a 1-1 draw against Portsmouth in their penultimate match of the season guaranteed them qualification for a European competition (the UEFA Cup) for the first time in their history. With the outcome also assuring Portsmouth safety from the relegation trapdoor, the result was a carnival atmosphere that saw both sets of fans invade the pitch at the end of the match.

Bolton's renaissance continued into 2005-06, when they achieved another eighth place in the Premiership. The club's first foray into European football saw them knock out Lokomotiv Plovdiv in the opening round. In the group stage they played Turkish giants Besiktas, Vitória de Guimarães, Zenit St. Petersburg and eventual winners Sevilla in which they were unbeaten. They progressed in the knockout stages where they were knocked out by Marseille in the last 32.

A further sign of the club's recent progression came when Sam Allardyce was linked with the England manager's job after it was announced that Sven-Göran Eriksson would step down after the 2006 World Cup. Allardyce was also linked with the Newcastle manager's job until it was given to Glenn Roeder.

Bolton broke their transfer record in August 2006 with the £8 million signing of French striker Nicolas Anelka from Turkish side Fenerbahce. His first goals came in the 3-1 victory over Arsenal, his old side.

Bolton qualified for the Uefa Cup for the second time in 2007 finishing a point in front of Reading in 7th place courtesy of a 2-2 draw in their final game of the season against Aston Villa coupled with Portsmouth's failure to beat Arsenal on the same day.

Allardyce makes way for Lee
On April 29, 2007, Allardyce announced his resignation as manager after almost eight years in the job. It was revealed he had tendered his resignation two weeks earlier. Allardyce initially refused to disclose the reasons for his shock departure, while the club maintained the reasons for the split were private. Allardyce eventually revealed that his exit from Bolton hinged on the lack of forthcoming silverware amidst heavy speculation that he would be joining Newcastle United F.C.

Following speculation that Gary Speed might replace Allardyce, the club's assistant manager, Sammy Lee, took over as manager the day after Allardyce's resignation. On May 1st, 2007, Lee named Speed as his new first team coach alongside Ricky Sbragia and Jimmy Phillips.

The start to Lee’s managerial career with Bolton proved tense, with his first game in charge a 3-1 loss to West Ham United who were battling relegation. Lee’s second match in charge was at home to the Premiership's in-form side, Aston Villa. This match would decide the fate of Bolton’s hopes of gaining a UEFA cup for the second time in their history. Bolton twice threw away the lead with the game finishing a 2-2 draw after a late Luke Moore equaliser for Villa. However, with Reading and Portsmouth both also drawing their final matches, the result was enough for Bolton to seal 7th position in the league and qualification for the UEFA Cup.

History of Derby County F.C.

Early years
The club was formed in 1884 as an offshoot of Derbyshire County Cricket Club. They originally wanted to name themselves directly after the cricket club as Derbyshire County FC, but objections from the local football association (who thought the name was too long) led them to choose Derby County FC.

The Rams, as Derby County are known, initially played at the Racecourse Ground, like their parent cricket club. As well as competing in a number of friendly matches and informal competitions, Derby County also entered the premier British football competition of the time: the FA Cup.

Derby County were founder members of The Football League when it was launched in 1888. In 1891, they absorbed another Derby club, Derby Midland F.C., who had been members of the Midland League. Steve Bloomer, generally considered to be Derby County's best-ever player, joined the club in 1892. In 1895 the club moved to a new stadium, The Baseball Ground (so called because it was previously used for baseball), which became their home for the next 102 years, and adopted their traditional colours of black and white.

On 16 April 1898, Derby appeared in their first FA Cup final at Crystal Palace, but unfortunately lost 3-1.They were losing finalists again on April 15, 1899 (4-1 to Sheffield United) and April 18, 1903 (6-0 to Bury). Derby's luck didn't get any better and they were relegated to the Football League's Second Division for the first time in 1907, but under Jimmy Methven's management they re-signed Steve Bloomer and regained their First Division place in 1911. Bloomer's captaincy of the side that contained 'The 5 Bs' of himself, ('Major' Frank Buckley, Tommy Barbour, Horace Barnes, Jimmy Bauchop) was a feature just before World War I.

In 1914 they were relegated again, but instantly won the Second Division to get promoted (though World War I meant that they had to wait until 1919 to play First Division football again). After just two seasons, they were relegated yet again in 1921.

However, more successful times lay ahead, instigated by Derby's promotion in 1926. Despite not winning anything, the club became a formidable force, with constantly high finishes, from the late 1920s and all the way through the 1939-1940 season, which was abandoned due to World War II. For example, in the 1929-1930 season Derby County finished in second place in the First Division with 50 points behind Sheffield Wednesday on 60 points.

FA Cup triumph
The FA Cup restarted in the 1945-1946 season. Derby got to the final again, but this time managed to go all the way and win by beating Charlton Athletic 4-1 after extra time. (Derby's previous lack of success in the FA Cup — they also regularly lost at the semi-final stage — gave rise to a superstition that the club was subject to a gypsy curse, supposedly because of Gypsy anger that the Baseball Ground was built on a Gypsy camping ground. Prior to the 1946 final, Derby County players went so far as to ask the Gypsies to lift the curse.)

The Football League restarted the following season and, despite the Cup win, Derby could not reproduce their pre-War form and were eventually relegated in 1953. Things went from bad to worse and in 1955 they were relegated to the Third Division North for the first time in their history. The third tier proved easy for Derby, though: they finished second at the first attempt and then bettered it by finishing first (and gaining promotion) the following season.

The Brian Clough years
In 1967, the now-legendary Brian Clough took over Derby County (in partnership with assistant manager Peter Taylor) and led them to their greatest glories. When Clough took over the team, the Rams were treading water in the Second Division and the club's only honour, the 1946 FA Cup win, was becoming a distant memory. There was little expectation that the young manager was going to lead his team to the club's first League Championship.

With Clough having clinched the influential signing of Dave Mackay, Derby were promoted to the First Division in 1969, finished fourth in 1970, got banned from competing in Europe due to financial irregularities in 1971, and won their first ever Football League Championship in 1972. With their season ended, Clough traveled to the Scilly Islands with his family while his Derby side flew to Majorca. Back home, Leeds United and Liverpool failed to get the results necessary in their last games and the Rams clinched the title on May 8, 1972.

Though Derby did not retain their title the following season, they did reach the semi-finals of the European Cup, eventually losing to Italian side Juventus in a controversial match which was subject to subsequent allegations that the Italian club had bribed the match officials, leading Clough to call the Italians "cheating bastards".

Clough's frequent outspoken comments against football's establishment (which had led to Derby being threatened with expulsion from the Football League) eventually led to him falling out with the board of directors at the club, and Clough and Taylor both left in 1973, to widespread uproar from Rams fans, who demanded the board resign and Clough be reinstated.

Second Football League Championship
With the high profile signings of Francis Lee and Bruce Rioch, Derby's League success was repeated in 1974-1975 season when they won the title again, this time under Dave Mackay. Before the 1975-1976 season the Rams made another big name signing in Charlie George and that season saw the Rams face mighty Real Madrid in the European Cup. In one of the greatest games at the Baseball Ground, Charlie George scored a hat-trick as Derby ran out 4-1 winners. Progress in the competition was halted by a 1-5 loss in the second leg at Madrid's Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.

Declining fortunes
Derby's form declined towards the end of the 1970s and they went down to the Second Division in 1980.

Though they challenged well in their first season, Derby's stay in the Second Division was not a happy one and they were relegated to the now-national Third Division in 1984, their centenary year and just nine years after their last Championship.

Return to the top
After the relegation, the club appointed former Newcastle United manager Arthur Cox to stop the rot — and stop it he did. After a two year stint in the Third Division, Cox's emerging side were promoted to the Second Division and won it at the first attempt, returning to the old First Division in 1987.

The club finished fifth in the 1988-1989 season, with the team now containing stars like Peter Shilton, Mark Wright, Dean Saunders and Ted McMinn. However, English clubs were banned from European competition at the time, so the Rams missed out on a place in the UEFA Cup that their high finish otherwise would have earned.

This was Cox's team at its peak; a lack of further investment from controversial chairman Robert Maxwell lead to a decline shortly after. With Maxwell soon dead from suspected suicide, the club was relegated back to the Second Division in 1991 (which became the "new" First Division a year later when the old First Division clubs broke away to form the FA Premier League). At this time, local newspaper businessman Lionel Pickering became the majority shareholder of the club.

Derby's hopes of earning immediate promotion to the new FA Premier League in 1992 were ended when they lost to eventual winners Blackburn Rovers in the play-off semi-finals. The same year, Derby paid £2.5 million for Notts County's central defender Craig Short. At the time — and for five years afterwards — he was the most expensive player to be signed by a club outside the top flight.

The FA Premier League (or, more precisely, the money it brought) made it even more difficult for Derby to gain promotion to the Premier League, let alone stay there. Cox resigned in late 1993 citing health problems, and Roy McFarland returned as manager. Despite big spending, however, McFarland failed to get the side anywhere near the top of the division apart from a defeat at the hands of Leicester City in the 1993-1994 play-off final and was sacked in 1995 after a mid-table finish. Jim Smith was appointed as the club's new manager. Although the season started slowly, the hugely influential signing of sweeper Igor Stimac proved pivotal. Throwing his brief of 'a top-half finish' out the window, Smith guided the Rams to a second-place finish and, more importantly, the Premier League.

Premier Rams and Pride Park Stadium
Derby County made an excellent Premiership début in the 1996-1997 season, finishing 12th in the final table with a side containing quality players like Paulo Wanchope, Aljosa Asanovic, Igor Stimac and Jacob Laursen.

The club moved into the new 30,000-seat (later upgraded to 33,597-seat) Pride Park Stadium for the 1997-1998 season and was able to attract quality signings like Stefano Eranio and Francesco Baiano.

Progress continued in the next two seasons. The Rams finishing ninth and eighth places before a decline in form saw the club finish 16th at the end of the 1999-2000 Premiership campaign. Another relegation battle followed in 2000-2001 when Derby narrowly avoided the drop by finished 17th in the Premiership — one place clear of relegation.

Jim Smith resigned as manager in October 2001 after rejecting an offer to become the club's director of football. He was replaced by assistant manager and former player Colin Todd. Todd remained in charge for just three months before he was sacked in the aftermath of a humiliating FA Cup Third Round home defeat against Third Division strugglers Bristol Rovers.

At the end of January 2002, John Gregory was appointed Derby manager less than a week after walking out on Aston Villa. Derby won their first two games under Gregory's management and also held title chasing Manchester United to a draw, suggesting that Gregory might be able to save Derby from relegation. But seven defeats from their final eight fixtures condemned Derby to relegation from the Premiership after six successive seasons of top division football.

Back in The Football League
Derby County's relegation back to The Football League saw the club enter a serious financial crisis, which forced them to sell many key players and build a team mostly of home-grown youngsters like Tom Huddlestone and Lee Grant. Gregory was suspended from his managerial duties over alleged misconduct and former Ipswich Town boss George Burley was drafted in as a temporary manager. An 18th place finish was secured. At the end of the season Gregory's contract was terminated and Burley received the job on a permanent basis.

The club's parent company went briefly into liquidation in October 2003 and the majority shareholder Lionel Pickering gave way to a new board of John Sleightholme, Jeremy Keith and Steve Harding, who bought the club for £3. Derby finished 20th in the 2003-2004 First Division campaign, but improved dramatically in the 2004-2005 season and finished 4th in the Football League Championship (the new name for the Football League First Division) and qualified for a promotion play-off spot, though lost in the semi-finals to Preston North End.

Soon afterwards, Burley resigned citing differences between himself and the board. He was replaced by Phil Brown. Brown failed to find much success in the job, however, and was sacked in January 2006, after a bad run of results, including a 6-1 hammering at Coventry City and an embarrassing 3-1 FA Cup exit to League One side Colchester United. Terry Westley, the academy coach at the time, took over first team duties until the end of the season and saved Derby from relegation.

Recent times
Derby's Chairman, John Sleightholme, resigned in April 2006, saying his position had become untenable. The rest of the board followed him later that month. A popular consortium of local businessmen led by former vice-chairman Peter Gadsby bought the club, reducing its debt and returning Pride Park Stadium to the club's ownership in the process. In June 2006, former Preston North End boss Billy Davies was appointed Derby County's new permanent manager, with Julian Darby as his first-team coach. In his first season, Davies took Derby to the Championship play-offs, where they beat Southampton on penalties in the semi-finals before defeating West Bromwich Albion 1-0 with a second-half Stephen Pearson goal (his first for the club) at the new Wembley Stadium to secure a return to the Premier League and the £60m windfall that achievement is reputed to bring.

History of Reading F.C.

Reading were formed on 25 December 1871. They were originally nicknamed the The Biscuitmen after one of the main trades in the town, Huntley & Palmers biscuits, but changed to the Royals in the 1970s, when the company closed their factory[2]. This history is reflected in the name of the club's unofficial fanzine, Hob Nob Anyone?, named after a popular British biscuit.

The club played at Reading Recreation Ground until 1878, before moving on to Reading Cricket Ground (1878–1882), Coley Park (1882–1889) and Caversham Cricket Ground (1889–1896). The switch to professionalism in 1895 resulted in the need for a bigger ground and, to this end, the club moved again, to the purpose-built Elm Park on 5 September 1896. The crest design is based upon the club colours, a crown which in heraldry represents royal sovereignty for the County of Berkshire and a lion which is an image of Reading most famous landmark, the Forbury lion.

In 1913 Reading toured Italy and beat Genoa 4-2 and A.C. Milan 5-0, narrowly lost 2-1 to Casale, before beating Italian champions Pro Vercelli 6-0 and the full Italian national team 2-0, prompting the leading sports newspaper Corriere della Sera to write "without doubt, Reading FC are the finest foreign team seen in Italy." Reading were invited back for another tour the following year, but there is no evidence it took place. It is possible it was cancelled due to the imminence of World War I, which claimed the lives of many Reading F.C. players, including Alan Foster, who put a hat-trick past Milan.

Reading were elected to the Third Division of the Football League in 1920, and have spent the majority of the time since then in the third tier of the league, with occasional flirtations with the second and fourth tiers.

Reading's best performance in the FA Cup came in 1926–27 when they lost to eventual winners Cardiff City in the semi-final. The side's moment of cup glory came in 1988 when they won the Simod Cup, beating a number of top flight sides en-route to their Wembley win over Luton Town.

Reading were promoted to the Second Division as champions in 1986 under the management of Ian Branfoot, but were relegated back to the Third Division in 1988. Branfoot left in October 1989, having failed to get the Royals back into the Second Division. His successor, Ian Porterfield, lasted just 18 months before further failures cost him his job. The appointment of Mark McGhee as player-manager in June 1991 saw Reading move forward.

They were crowned champions of the new Division Two in 1994 and, when McGhee moved to Leicester City halfway through the following season, Reading still appeared in with a chance of a second straight promotion. 35-year-old striker Jimmy Quinn was put in charge of the first team alongside midfielder Mick Gooding and guided Reading to runners-up in the final Division One table — only to be denied automatic promotion because of the streamlining of the Premier League, from 22 teams to 20. Reading had eased past Tranmere Rovers in the play-off semi-finals and looked to have booked their place in the Premiership after building up a 2-0 lead over Bolton Wanderers by half time in the final. Two late goals from Bolton forced extra time and the match ended 4-3 to Bolton. Quinn and Gooding's contracts were not renewed two years later after Reading had slid into the bottom half of Division One.

Their successor, Terry Bullivant, lasted less than one season before being sacked in March 1998. The Royals finished that season bottom of Division One and slipped into Division Two. Former Celtic boss, Tommy Burns lasted just 18 months before being replaced by Alan Pardew who had previously been reserve team manager before being released. 1998 also saw Reading move into the new 24,200-seat Madejski Stadium — named after chairman John Madejski — in the Smallmead area of the town.

In 2001, Reading became the first football club to register their fans as an official member of their squad, in recognition of the fact that the supporters in the stadium on a match day can sometimes influence the match just as much as a player on the pitch. The idea came from supporter Andy Manson in the summer of 2001 when the number 13 was left vacant by then boss Alan Pardew after the departure of the club's number 13, Keith Scott. Since then the "player" registered with squad number 13, has been named 'Reading Fans'.

Reading made it back to Division One in 2002 after finishing runners-up in Division Two. Good form the following season saw them finish fourth in Division One and qualify for the play-offs. Their promotion hopes were ended by a defeat against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the semi-finals, Reading's third unsuccessful attempt to gain promotion via the play-offs. Pardew acrimoniously moved to West Ham United the following October and was replaced at Reading by Brighton & Hove Albion's Steve Coppell.

In 2004–05, Reading finished seventh in the Football League Championship and just missed out in the play-offs.

Reading reach the Premiership
On 25 March 2006, Reading won promotion to the Premier League for the first time in their history. A 1-1 draw away at Leicester, coupled with Watford's defeat against Millwall, and Leeds United only drawing with Stoke City, secured Reading one of the top two automatic promotion places in the Championship. MPs congratulated Reading's successful season with two early day motions shortly after Reading finally secured promotion. The following week, they celebrated winning the Championship after defeating Derby County 5-0, while Stoke City held Sheffield Utd 1-1. This sparked a pitch invasion and the players celebrated in front of the fans from the safety of the directors' box. The Club also secured a record amount of points for the second tier — 106 — and fell only one short of scoring 100 goals. Reading lost only two games during the season.

First Premier League season - 2006–07
The 2006–07 season saw Reading make their first ever appearance in the top flight of English football. In the club's first Premiership game, Reading found themselves down 2-0 inside the first twenty minutes to Middlesbrough, but in a stunning turnaround the Royals netted home their first Premiership goals and won 3-2. Striker Dave Kitson became the first player to score for Reading in the top flight of football. While it is commonplace for teams who get promoted to the Premiership to experience a one-and-done season before being relegated, Reading distanced themselves from that curse (rather like fellow promoted clubs in the past, e.g. Wigan Athletic and Portsmouth), proving themselves more than worthy opposition for any team in the division.

Reading notched up some impressive results during the early stages of the season, including a draw against Manchester United and a narrow defeat to defending champions Chelsea, leading many commentators to change their opinion of the Premiership's newest member.

Perhaps one of the highlights of the season came on 1 January 2007, when Reading beat West Ham United 6-0. It represents the club's first ever 'double' in the top flight, as Reading had won at Upton Park 1-0 previously in the season. The 2-0 victory over Manchester City on 3 February 2007 took Reading to 40 points in the Premiership, the total seen by some as that required to avoid relegation. After that impressive start to 2007, the Royals recorded three defeats in quick succession to Middlesbrough, to Manchester United in an FA Cup Fifth Round replay, and to Arsenal. John Oster scored his first Premiership goal for the club against Middlesbrough, and his first goal in the top flight since scoring for Everton in the club's 4-2 win over Barnsley in September 1997. The FA Cup replay against Manchester United was notable in that Reading contrived to concede three goals in the opening six minutes of the game. The final score was 3-2 to Manchester United. Reading's final game of the season was an away fixture to Blackburn Rovers, which ended 3-3 from which Reading came from behind three times, with goals from Seol Ki-Hyeon, Kevin Doyle and Brynjar Gunnarsson. The result was not enough for qualification for the UEFA Cup for the 2006–07 season as it meant that Reading finished the season in eighth place with 55 points. Reading also turned down the chance to play in the Intertoto Cup meaning it was passed down to Portsmouth, who also rejected it, passing it to Blackburn who accepted the offer. The club's top scorer in the league was Kevin Doyle with 13 goals, whilst top scorer overall was Leroy Lita with 14.

Peace Cup 2007
Reading took part in the 2007 Peace Cup in South Korea. After defeat to River Plate and victories over Lyon and Shimizu S-Pulse, Reading failed to qualify for the final on goal difference.

2nd Premier League Season - 2007–08
Reading's second season in the Premier League began on 12 August 2007, with an away fixture against champions Manchester United, in which the match ended in a scoreless draw, Dave Kitson being controversially sent off after less than a minute for a challenge on Patrice Evra. On 15 August 2007 Reading's first home game of the season finished with a 1-2 defeat to Chelsea. Reading took the lead through André Bikey, but two goals in the five minutes immediately after half time from Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba condemned Reading to their first defeat of the season. Reading's next home game on 18 August 2007 against Everton finished with a 1-0 win for Reading as a consequence of Stephen Hunt's 44th minute volley. Reading then took on Bolton Wanderers and were defeated 3-0 away. Reading next played Swansea City away on 27 August 2007 in the first round of the League Cup, Reading won 1-0 because of Leroy Lita's goal in extra time, Sam Sodje was sent off for two controversial yellow cards in this match. Reading were yet again defeated 3-0 this time at home to West Ham United with two goals from Matthew Etherington and one goal from Craig Bellamy. Reading's next game was away to Sunderland at the Stadium of Light where they lost 2-1, with Kenwyne Jones and Danny Wallace scoring for Sunderland, and Dave Kitson getting Reading's goal.

Reading hold the English league record for the longest winning sequence at the start of a season with 13 victories in succession at the beginning of season 1985-86.

In 1979, Reading goalkeeper Steve Death went 1103 minutes without conceding a goal, also an English league record.

They also hold the embarrassing honour of having experienced more FA Cup defeats than any other team. This is because Reading are the oldest club still competing in the competition never to have won the Cup. Notts County entered the competition at the same time as Reading, in 1877-78. However, because County won the cup in 1894 (and so were unbeaten in that season), they have suffered one fewer defeat in the competition than Reading. In the year that County won the Cup, Reading suffered their worst ever defeat, losing 18-0 to Preston North End, at least partly because the Preston players used studs on their quagmire of a pitch.[citation needed]

During their successful 2005-06 Premiership promotion campaign, Reading broke another record when they went 33 matches unbeaten, the longest in the history of England's second tier, from 9 August 2005 until they lost to Luton Town on 17 February 2006. In the same season, Reading broke Sunderland's record for most points in a season in English football history, finishing with 106 points, and breaking the previous record by a single point.[16] Reading narrowly failed to become the first team to finish a season with both 100 goals and 100 points, but fell short by one goal, scoring "only" 99 times.

Reading staked its claim to one of English football's more unlikely records in the FA Cup competition of its fledgling Premiership campaign. Having reached the 5th round of the competition for the first time in nearly a decade, Reading secured a creditable 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford, only to concede three goals in the first 5 minutes and 41 seconds of the replay, eventually losing the game 3-2. The Independent suggests that this represents the worst ever start to a game by a team in English football[18], superseding the three goals conceded by Derby County in the first nine minutes of its home Premiership match with Leicester City in 1997-98.

History of Tottenham Hotspur F.C.

From formation to the first league title
In 1882 the Hotspur Football Club was formed by grammar school boys from the bible class at All Hallows Church. They were also members of Hotspur Cricket Club and it is thought that the name Hotspur was associated with Sir Henry Percy (Sir Harry Hotspur) who lived locally in the 14th century. The team later became Tottenham Hotspur to distinguish itself from another team called London Hotspur.

At first Spurs played in navy blue shirts. The club colours then varied from light blue and white halved jerseys, to red shirts and blue shorts, through chocolate brown and old gold and then finally, in the 1899-00 season, to white shirts and navy blue shorts as a tribute to Preston North End, the most successful team of the time.

In 1888 Tottenham moved their home fixtures from the River Lee marshes to Northumberland Park where the club was able to charge for spectator admission. They turned professional just before Christmas 1895 and were then admitted to the Southern League and attracted crowds nearing 15,000. Charles Roberts became chairman in 1898 and stayed in post until 1943.

In 1899 Spurs made their final ground move to a former market garden in nearby High Road, Tottenham. In time the ground became known as White Hart Lane, a local thoroughfare. Tottenham were the considerable beneficiaries of the escalating unionisation of the northern professional game in the 1890s. Both John Cameron and John Bell, formerly Everton players came to play for Tottenham as a result of the conflict caused by their organisation of the Association Footballers' Union, a forerunner of the Professional Footballers' Association. As a direct result of this in 1900, Tottenham won the Southern League title and crowned this achievement the next year by winning the FA Cup - becoming the only non-League club to do so since the formation of the Football League.

Tottenham won election to the Second Division of the Football League for the 1908-09 season, immediately winning promotion as runners-up to the First Division. Their record between 1910 and the Great War was poor and when football was suspended at the end of the 1914-15 season, Tottenham were bottom of the league.

When football resumed in 1919, the First Division was expanded from 20 to 22 teams. The Football League extended one of the additional places to 19th-place Chelsea (who would have been relegated with Spurs for the 1915-1916 season) and the other to Arsenal. This promotion - Arsenal had finished only fifth in Division 2 the previous season - was controversial, and cemented a bitter rivaly (begun six years earlier, with Arsenal's relocation to Tottenham's hinterland) that continues to this day. Tottenham were Division Two Champions in 1919-20 and in the following year, on April 23, 1921, Spurs went all the way to their second FA Cup Final victory beating Wolves 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.

After finishing second to Liverpool in the League in 1922, Spurs experienced a steady decline, culminating in 1928's relegation. Spurs were unable to advance beyond the quarter finals of the FA Cup, getting that far three years running 1935-1938. On September 3 1939, as Neville Chamberlain declared war, Spurs were seventh in the Second Division. League Football was abandoned for the "duration".

Following the war, football was an extremely popular interest attracting thousands of supporters each week-end. By 1949 Arthur Rowe was manager at the club and developed the “push and run” tactical style of play. This involved quickly laying the ball off to a team-mate and running past the marking tackler to collect the return pass. It proved an effective way to move the ball at pace with players' positions and responsibility being totally fluid. Rising to the top of the Second Division, Tottenham ran away with their first ever league title, winning the First Division Championship in 1951. Playing heroes included Alf Ramsey, Ronnie Burgess, Ted Ditchburn, Len Duquemin, Sonny Walters and Bill Nicholson.

The 1960s and 1970s
Nicholson had joined Tottenham Hotspur as an apprentice in 1936. The following 68 years saw him serve the club in every capacity from boot room to president. In his first game as manager on 11 October 1958, Spurs beat Everton 10-4. This was their record win at the time and a sign of things to come. He subsequently guided Tottenham to major trophy success three seasons in a row in the early 1960s: the double in 1961, the FA Cup and European Cup Semi-final in 1962, and the Cup Winners' Cup in 1963. Key players included Danny Blanchflower, John White, Dave Mackay, Cliff Jones and Jimmy Greaves.

After 1964, the "Double" side began to disintegrate due to age, injuries and transfers. Nicholson rebuilt a second successful team with imports like Alan Gilzean, Mike England, Alan Mullery, Terry Venables, Joe Kinnear and Cyril Knowles. They beat Chelsea to win the 1967 FA Cup Final and finished third in the league.

Nicholson added the League Cup (1971 and 1973) and the UEFA Cup (1972) to Tottenham's illustrious history before he resigned at the start of the 1974-75 season due to both a poor start, and his disgust at seeing rioting fans in Rotterdam in a UEFA Cup final, which Spurs lost.

Nicholson had won 8 major trophies in 16 years and his spell in charge was without doubt the most glorious period in the club's history. However, what he left behind was an ageing squad and Spurs could no longer claim to be a true force in English football. Nicholson wished to select his replacement and lined up a 'dream team' of Johnny Giles and Danny Blanchflower to take over, but the Spurs board ignored his advice and appointed ex Arsenal player Terry Neill, who narrowly avoided relegation at the end of 1974-5. Never accepted by the fans, Neill left the club in 1976 and was replaced by his assistant Keith Burkinshaw that summer.

Tottenham slipped out of the First Division at the end of the 1976-77 season, after 27 years in the top flight. This was soon followed by the unwise sale of their Northern Ireland international goalkeeper Pat Jennings to arch rivals Arsenal, a move that shocked the club's fans and proved to be a serious error. Jennings played on for another eight years for Spurs' rivals, while Tottenham took until 1981 to replace him with a goalkeeper of genuine class in Ray Clemence from Liverpool.

Despite relegation, the board kept faith with Burkinshaw and the team immediately won promotion to the top flight. In the summer of 1978 Burkinshaw rocked the football world by signing two Argentinian World Cup stars Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa which was the kind of transfer coup never seen before in British football. But it took time for a new team to be forged into a successful unit.

The 1980s
It was not until 1981 that Burkinshaw was rewarded with a trophy - the FA Cup - by beating Manchester City 3-2 in a replay, with Ricky Villa scoring his memorable solo goal. Spurs retained the trophy the following year again after another replay, beating QPR. During this season the club chased four trophies and only a fixture pile up prevented a much closer challenge for the league title. At Easter, Spurs had games in hand which, if they had won, would have put them top ahead of Liverpool. But it was too much to ask and they had to settle for a fourth place finish.

Spurs reached the League Cup Final and were just 3 minutes away from victory before Liverpool equalised and then won in extra time. In the Cup Winners' Cup a disappointing semi-final with Barcelona was lost by a single goal in Spain, following a 1-1 draw at home.

Most neutrals agreed though Spurs deserved a trophy and, while the Cup Final was not the most exciting (Spurs were in fact holding on for the entire second half), it was a just reward. Key players in this successful Tottenham side included Steve Archibald, Garth Crooks, Glenn Hoddle, Osvaldo Ardiles, and Steve Perryman who, in 17 seasons, played 655 league games for Spurs. These players inspired Tottenham to UEFA Cup glory in 1984, but several weeks before this victory Burkinshaw announced he would be leaving at the end of that season. Hindsight shows that the failure to hold on to Burkinshaw was a major turning point in the club's history. He had won three trophies in four seasons with a brand of football not seen for many years. It is worth considering that prior to the 1984 UEFA Cup win, Spurs had won eleven major trophies - virtually one trophy every two seasons. This remains a prime reason why many still regard Spurs as a major club and why success is still expected by the fans.

The board initially approached Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson to succeed Burkinshaw and a deal came close to being signed, but when he opted to stay in Scotland the board turned to Burkinshaw's assistant, Peter Shreeves.

In 1982 the club was bought by Monte Carlo-based property tycoon Irving Scholar. He arrived in a boardroom which had seen just one or two proficient directors since the forties. The challenge for Scholar was to reinstate financial stability after the construction of the new West Stand which had almost bankrupted the club. Peter Shreeves was in charge for two seasons, achieving a third place finish in 1984-85 when Spurs were close contenders for the title all the way until Easter when a run of terrible home results ruined their chances. Shreeves lost his job after a slump in 1985-86.

Luton Town manager David Pleat was appointed the new manager, and for much of 1986-87 it looked as though it would be a very successful season. Playing with a five man midfield (Hoddle, Ardiles, Hodge, Allen, Waddle) supplying the prolific Clive Allen, Tottenham mounted a sustained challenge on all fronts. At one point in March, if they had won their remaining 13 matches, they would have claimed all domestic honours. As it was, they were defeated in an agonising League Cup semi final by rivals Arsenal.[1] After faltering at the final hurdle in the league, Spurs' hopes hinged on the FA Cup. Spurs had never before lost a domestic cup final while their opponents, Coventry, had never before even reached a Cup Final. Spurs were the favourites but suffered a 3-2 defeat at the hands of John Sillett's team. That a season of such splendid quality could produce no honours was hard to take for Spurs, but the future still looked bright.

However, as was to become a pattern in years to come, just when things appeared settled a 'banana skin' appeared. Pleat quit in October 1987 following allegations about his private life. He returned a decade later, but his short spell in charge was one of the great 'if only' stories in the club's history. Former Spurs player Terry Venables was named Pleat's successor, and after two league seasons, guided the club to third place in 1989-90 and an FA Cup win in 1991. The new-look Tottenham team included two players who starred in England's run to the semi-finals of the 1990 FIFA World Cup – Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker.

Premier League
In 1990, a slump in the property market left chairman Scholar on the verge of bankruptcy. Venables joined forces with businessman Alan Sugar to take over Tottenham Hotspur PLC and pay off its £20 million debt, part of which involved the sale of Gascoigne. Venables became chief executive, with Shreeves again taking charge of first-team duties. His second spell as team manager lasted just one season, before he was dismissed in favour of joint coaches Ray Clemence and Doug Livermore. Tottenham's first Premier League season ended with a mid-table finish and Venables was removed from the club's board after a legal dispute with Sugar. Ossie Ardiles became the club's next manager in 1993.

Under Ardiles, Tottenham employed the Famous Five: Teddy Sheringham and Klinsmann up front, Nick Barmby just behind, Darren Anderton on the right and Dumitrescu on the left. Klinsmann was a sensation, scoring freely and becoming a firm fan favourite. Ultimately these expensive signings made little difference to Tottenham's form and Ardiles was sacked in September 1994.

During the 1994 close season, Tottenham was found guilty of making illegal payments to players and given one of the most severe punishments in English football history: a 12 point deduction, a one year FA Cup ban, and a £600,000 fine. Sugar protested and the Cup ban and points deduction were quashed.

Ardiles was replaced by Gerry Francis. He initially turned around the club's fortunes dramatically. Tottenham climbed to seventh in the league, and reached the FA Cup semi-finals, a mere 4-1 defeat against eventual winners, Everton, blocking them. Francis was unable to take the club forward from this point and his judgement in the transfer market was flawed.

1996-97 saw Tottenham finish in tenth place, and at the end of the season star striker Teddy Sheringham was sold to Manchester United after contract negotiations broke down. In November 1997, with Spurs second from bottom and in danger of relegation, Francis was sacked. Christian Gross, coach of Swiss champions Grasshoppers, was appointed. He failed to turn around the club's fortunes, however, and the team battled against the drop for the remainder of the campaign. Legendary striker Jürgen Klinsmann was re-signed in January, but initially failed to recreate the form of his first spell at the club. Four goals in a 6-2 win away to Wimbledon in the penultimate game of the season was, however, enough to secure survival.

Gross was sacked just three games into the following season, and George Graham was soon hired to take over. Despite heavy criticism from fans due to Graham's previous association with Arsenal, in his first season as Spurs manager the club secured a mid-table finish and won the League Cup. In the final against Leicester City at Wembley, full-back Justin Edinburgh was sent off after an altercation with Robbie Savage on the hour mark, but Spurs secured a dramatic victory through Allan Nielsen's diving header in the 93rd minute of the game. Spurs also reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup, where they were beaten 2-0 by Newcastle after extra-time, after the referee had not given Spurs a definite penalty for handball in normal time. To cap a good season, star player David Ginola won both the PFA and Football Writers' Player of the Year awards.

However, another disappointing league finish followed in 1999-00. In 2001, Sugar's patience broke. He sold his controlling interest to ENIC Sports PLC, run by Daniel Levy.

Team management passed to Tottenham legend Glenn Hoddle who took over in April 2001 with the team lying thirteenth in the table. His first game saw defeat to Arsenal in an FA Cup semi-final. The club captain, Sol Campbell, defected to Arsenal on a Bosman free transfer that summer.

Hoddle turned to more experienced players in the shape of Teddy Sheringham, Gus Poyet and Christian Ziege for inspiration, and Spurs played some good football in the opening months of his management. Season 2001-02 saw Spurs finish in ninth place, as well as reaching the League Cup final, where they lost to Blackburn Rovers, having been the favourites after their 5-1 demolition of Chelsea in the previous round.

The only significant outlay prior to the following campaign was £7 million for Robbie Keane, who joined from Leeds United. 2002-03 started well, with Tottenham in the top six as late as early February. But with just seven points in the final 10 games, the club finished in tenth place. Several players publicly criticised Hoddle's management and communication skills. Six games into the 2003-04 season, Hoddle was sacked and David Pleat took over on a caretaker basis until a full-time successor could be found.

In May 2004, Tottenham signed French team manager Jacques Santini as head coach, with Martin Jol as his assistant and Frank Arnesen as Sporting Director. Santini quit the club in bizarre circumstances after just 13 games. He was replaced by Jol. The big Dutchman became a favourite with the passionate Spurs crowd and in his first season he almost managed to secure a European place. In the event, Spurs missed out on the final day of the season, and finished in ninth place. It was clear progress was being made. When Arnesen defected to Chelsea, Spurs appointed Damien Comolli as Sporting Director.

During 2005-06 Spurs spent six months in fourth place but ended fifth. Going into the final game of the season, they led rivals Arsenal by a point, but were forced to play their match at West Ham with a team suffering from an illness picked up the evening before. Spurs lost and were pipped to a Champions League place, but it was success nevertheless in gaining a place in the UEFA Cup.

Season 2006-07
For the 2006-2007 season, Tottenham changed kit sponsors to PUMA and shirt advertisers to Mansion.[2] Spurs home shirt saw the removal of the blue shoulders, with the away kit changing from cyan shorts to navy shorts, and the alternate kit changing from yellow to chocolate brown. Spurs wore an 'all-white' kit where possible for European fixtures, continuing a long-standing tradition. A notable signing was Dimitar Berbatov from Bayer Leverkusen.

The season began with Jol losing holding midfielder Michael Carrick to Manchester United and club captain Ledley King to injury for the best part of the season. The acquisition of Pascal Chimbonda, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Didier Zokora, Berbatov and Steed Malbranque essentially meant a new side had to gel.

2006-07 was marred by injuries, particularly in defensive areas with Ledley King, Paul Stalteri, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Young-Pyo Lee, Anthony Gardner, Jermaine Jenas, Steed Malbranque and Teemu Tainio all suffering long-term injuries while Didier Zokora, Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane and Aaron Lennon all suffered injuries causing Jol to rarely have a settled XI to pick for a extended periods.

Premiership form in the first half of the season was erratic, although there was a rare home win over reigning-champions Chelsea in November. Away form was poor during the first half of the season but saw a vast improvement in the second half with just two away losses from January to the end of the season and just one defeat in their final six away games, against Chelsea just 36 hours after playing a UEFA Cup tie in Spain.

The improvement in Spurs' away form, good home performances and an excellent late season lifted Spurs into fifth position in the final table and therefore into the UEFA Cup for the second year running. Tottenham show definite signs of attractive and effective football as Martin Jol makes his mark on the squad. Spurs reached the FA Cup quarter-final round but lost to Chelsea 1-2 having drawn 3-3 away. The League Cup run took them to the semi-finals, where they faced Arsenal. The home leg ended 2-2, but hopes of glory ended in the away leg losing 3-1 in extra time. In the UEFA Cup, Tottenham progressed to the quarter-finals, where they faced the cup holders and eventual winners Sevilla in the quarter finals, and were eliminated from the competition 4-3 on aggregate (2-1 away and 2-2 at home).

The highly effective Berbatov-Keane strike partnership was rewarded when they were named joint Player of the Month for April, a rare occurrence in the history of the award.

Season 2007-08
Tottenham completed their first signing prior to the 2007-08 season buying the highly-rated 17 year old left back Gareth Bale from Southampton for an initial fee of £5 million which may rise to £10 million, depending on his and the team's performances. Robbie Keane was rewarded on May 28, 2007 with a new five year contract with the club until 2012. Spurs also completed the signing of Adel Taarabt on a permanent basis following his loan from RC Lens. The fee was undisclosed. On 8 June Spurs signed defender Yuri Berchiche from Athletic Bilbao, who will be part of the Spurs Academy. On June 29, Spurs signed England forward Darren Bent, from Charlton Athletic, for the reported fee of £16.5 million (a club record) to be paid over a period of three years. Another major signing was French central defender and Under-21 captain Younes Kaboul from AJ Auxerre for a fee believed to be about £8 million. On 25 July Spurs announced the signing of 17 year old midfielder Danny Rose from Leeds United.[3] German midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng joined from Hertha BSC Berlin on 31 July 2007 for an undisclosed fee.

For this season, Tottenham will be playing in an all-white kit for the first time since the 1980s, as opposed to having navy blue shorts. The away kit is all navy blue, while the third kit is all yellow. There is also a shirt to celebrate the club's 125th anniversary, which is white and sky blue halves, and this will only be worn for one game, against Aston Villa F.C at home on October 1st 2007.

Regardless of their ambitious off-season transfers their season started in disappointing fashion, with the club near the relegation zone, and a defeat at home to rivals Arsena

History of Fulham F.C.

Amateur days 1879-1898
Fulham started its existence in 1879 as Fulham St Andrew's Church Sunday School, founded by worshippers at the C of E church on Star Road, West Kensington, which still stands today with a plaque commemorating the team's foundation. They won the West London Amateur Cup in 1887 and, having shortened the name to its present form in 1888, they then won the West London League in 1893 at the first attempt. One of the club's first ever kits was half red, half white shirts with white shorts worn in the 1886-7 season. Fulham started playing at their current ground Craven Cottage in 1896, their first game against now defunct rivals Minerva F.C.

Southern League 1898-1907
The club gained professional status on December 12, 1898, in the same year that they were admitted into the Southern League's 2nd division. They adopted a kit very similar to modern Arsenal colours in this period, which was worn during the 1900-01 season. In 1902-03 they won promotion from this division, entering the Southern League 1st Division. The club's first recorded all-white club kit came in 1903, and ever since then the club has been playing in all-white shirts and black shorts, with socks going through various evolutions of black and/or white, but are now normally white-only.[5] The club won the Southern League twice, in 1905-06 and 1906-07.

Into the Football League 1907-1949
Fulham gained admission to the national Football League after the second of their Southern League triumphs. The club's first ever league game, playing in the 2nd Division's 1907-8 season, saw them losing 1-0 at home to Hull City on September 3, 1907. The first win came a few days later on September 7, 1907 at Derby County's Baseball Ground, by a score line of 1-0. When they eventually found their feet in the division they impressed, ending up only three points short of promotion in 4th place. However, this was the best season they had in their twenty one year stay in that division, and after only winning 13 out of 42 games in the 1927-28 season Fulham were relegated to the 3rd Division South, which was created in 1920.

A highlight of that first season was an 8-3 away win at Luton Town in an FA Cup game. The club actually managed to reach the semi-finals of that tournament, where they were humbled 6-0 by Newcastle United. This is still a record loss for an FA Cup semi-final game. A couple of years later the club won the London Challenge Cup in the 1909-10 season.

During this period, businessman and politician Henry Norris was the club chairman and curiously he had an indirect role in the foundation of Fulham's local rivals Chelsea F.C.. When he rejected an offer from businessman Gus Mears to move Fulham to land where the present-day Chelsea stadium Stamford Bridge is situated, Mears decided to create his own team to occupy the ground. In 1910, Norris started to combine his role at Fulham with the chairmanship of Arsenal.

After finishing 5th, 7th and 9th (out of 22 teams) in their first three seasons in the 3rd Division South, Fulham won the division in the 1931-32 season. In doing so they beat Torquay United 10-2, won 24 out of 42 games and scored 111 goals, thus being promoted back to the Second Division. The next season they missed out on a second consecutive promotion, finishing 3rd behind Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City. A mixed bag of league performances followed, although the club also reached another FA Cup semi-final during the 1935-36 season. On 8 October 1938 Craven Cottage saw its all-time highest attendance at a match against Millwall FC, with a crowd of 49,335 watching the game.

League and cup football were severely disrupted by the outbreak of World War II in 1939, with the Football League split into regional divisions temporarily, with a national Football League War Cup and a London War Cup up for grabs. Post-war, a full league programme was only restored for 1946-47. In the 3rd season of what is now considered the modern era of football, Fulham finished top of the Second Division, with a win-loss-draw record of 24-9-9 (identical to that which won them the 3rd Division South 17 years previously).

Promotion to the top tier of English football saw the club perform poorly, finishing 17th in their first year and 18th in their second. In only their third season of First Division football, Fulham finished rock bottom of the 22-team league in the 1951-52 season, winning only 8 of 42 games. On May 20th 1951, Fulham played one of their first ever games in North America in an exhibition match against Celtic F.C. at Delorimier Stadium in Montreal in front of 29,000.

A few seasons of mediocrity in the 2nd Division followed, but then the club reached the FA Cup semi-finals in 1958 and used this momentum to win promotion back to the 1st Division in the following season, having finished 2nd to Sheffield Wednesday. Graham Leggat joined Fulham in 1958 as well, who went on to score 134 goals in 277 appearances, (making him the club's fifth all-time top scorer). In the 1959-60 season they achieved 10th position in the 1st Division, which until finishing 9th in the FA Premier League 2003-04 was their highest ever league position. This accompanied another appearance in the last four of the FA Cup in 1962.

By this time the club were regularly playing in front of 30,000 plus crowds at Craven Cottage, despite struggling in the League. The club experienced several close escapes from relegation none more spectacular than in 1965-66. On the morning of 26 February 1966 Fulham had just 15 points from 29 matches. The last 13 games saw Fulham win 9 and draw 2 to reach safety. Eventually the club suffered relegation in the 1967-68 season having won just 10 out of their 42 games. However even that was not as catastrophic as the calamity of next season. Winning only 7 in 42, the club were again relegated to the 3rd Division. (Note that this is not the same as the 3rd Division South, as the regional 3rd Divisions had been removed with the 1959 creation of the 4th Division).

It is impossible to talk about Fulham's history without mentioning probably the single most influential character in Fulham's history: Johnny Haynes. 'Mr. Fulham' or 'The Maestro' as he later came to be known signed for The Cottagers as a schoolboy in 1950, making his first team debut on Boxing Day 1952 against Southampton at Craven Cottage. Haynes played for another 18 years, notching up 657 appearances (along with many other club records too), his last appearance for Fulham coming on the 17 January 1970. He is often considered as the greatest player in Fulham history, and never played for another team in Britain. He gained 52 caps for England (22 as captain), with many being earned while playing for Fulham in the Second Division. Haynes was injured in a motorbike incident in Blackpool in 1962, but by his own admissions never regained the fitness or form to play for England again, missing out on England's victory in the 1966 World Cup which he would have stood a chance of being selected for. The Stevenage Road Stand was re-named in his honour after his death in a car crash in 2005.

The aforementioned 3rd Division hiatus lasted only two seasons though, they were then promoted back to the Second Division as runners-up in 1970-71. This spell also saw Fulham invited to the not particularly prestigious Anglo-Italian Cup, which saw the club draw four out of four games in two appearances in tournament between 1972 and 1974. Thus started of a period of high-profile signings for the club under Alec Stock in the mid-70s, including Alan Mullery and Bobby Moore. The reward of this was their only ever FA Cup final in 1975, having won their first semi-final in five attempts. The club then lost to West Ham in the final. This gained the club qualification to another low-key European tournament, the Anglo-Scottish Cup, where they made the final, losing to Middlesbrough.

That run in the FA Cup saw the setting of an improbable record, that of the most games needed to reach the final, Fulham playing 11 games including replays. In the build up to the 12th game, the Wembley final, Tony Rees and The Cottagers released a single, "Viva el Fulham" (based on Manolo Escobar's "Y viva España") which is still played (and occasionally chanted) at Fulham games. It reached No.46 in the Pop Charts in 1975. The club set another record in the 70s, when they took part in the first ever British league game to be played on a Sunday against Millwall F.C. in 1974, which was staged at Craven Cottage.

George Best played 47 times for the club in the 1976-77 season. Rodney Marsh, who having grown up with Fulham in the 60s went on to play 1st Division football and play for England, rejoined the club in the same season, playing only 16 games. This capped one of the most successful eras in Fulham history.

The hangover from this meant the club were relegated again after winning only 11 in 42 in the 1979-80 season, which saw Bobby Campbell's sacking to be replaced by Malcolm Macdonald. With a strong squad during his 1980-84 period in charge (with players such as Ray Houghton, Tony Gale, Paul Parker, Gerry Peyton and Ray Lewington), they won promotion again in 1981-82 back to Division 2. In 1980, Fulham founded the rugby league club that is now Harlequins Rugby League designed to be an extra stream of income for the football club. Then called 'Fulham Rugby League', they played at Craven Cottage until moving away from the parent club in 1984.

Fulham narrowly missed out on back-to-back promotions, to the First Division losing 1-0 to Derby away on the last day of the 1982-83 season - although the match was abandoned after 88 mins due to a pitch invasion. The side which had shown so much promise was gradually sold off and broken up as the club had debts to pay off, so it was little surprise when the club were relegated again to the Third Division in 1986. The club nearly went out of business in 1987 and the same year saw the break-down of an ill-advised merger attempt with QPR. It was only the intervention of ex-player Jimmy Hill that allowed the club to stay in business as a re-structured 'Fulham FC 1987 Ltd.' In 1987 the club took part in what was one of the longest penalty shoot-outs recorded - it needed 28 spot kicks to sort out a winner between them and Aldershot following a Freight Rover Trophy match.

In 1992 the foundation of the Premier League saw Fulham's division of the time, the 3rd Division, re-named the 2nd Division. (There is a joke amongst football fans that at the end of the 1991-92 season they started to celebrate promotion, before realising all that had happened was that the FA had changed the numbers.) However the club were relegated from that to the new 3rd Division after a poor 1993-94 season, seeing the club in the basement of the Football League, with Ian Branfoot appointed as new manager.

Rock Bottom 1994-7
After a 7th place finish in his first season in charge the club hit its historical rock bottom with its performance in the 1995-96 season, finishing 17th out of 24th. This season included a loss against Torquay United, who were at the time rock bottom of the Division, with Fulham just one place above them. Branfoot was soon sacked as Manager, but remained at the club in other capacities for a short while.

However, in February 1996 the club appointed then-player Micky Adams as manager, and it was in the summer of that year that his revolution really took off. That signalled the start of the new era of Fulham Football Club.

Micky Adams was appointed as manager and oversaw an upturn in form that lifted the side out of what little relegation danger was present. The next season he engineered a complete turnaround in form and his side, captained by Simon Morgan, finished second - only missing out on first place due to the league dropping the old "goal difference" system in favour of a "goals scored" tally. (While Fulham's goal difference was one better than that of champions Wigan Athletic, they scored twelve fewer goals.) This was somewhat ironic, as the club's then Chairman Jimmy Hill, had successfully argued that goals scored should decide places of teams tied on points while sitting on an FA panel.

Rise through the Divisions 1997-2001
Millionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed purchased the club that summer and fired Adams in the aftermath of a poor start. In Adams' place he installed a managerial 'dream team' of Ray Wilkins (as First Team Manager) and Kevin Keegan (as Chief Operating Officer), pledging that the club would reach the Premiership within five years.

After an argument over team selection, Wilkins left the club in May 1998 to hand over the full managerial duties to Keegan, who steered the club to a spectacular promotion the next season, winning 101 points of a possible 138, captained by Chris Coleman - then the most expensive footballer outside the top two divisions of the English league. Keegan then left to become manager of the England team, and veteran player Paul Bracewell was put in charge.

Bracewell was sacked in March 2000, as Fulham's promising early season form dwindled away. Frenchman Jean Tigana was put in charge and having signed a number of young stars, including Louis Saha, he guided Fulham to their third promotion in five seasons in the 2000-01 season in emphatic style, scoring 100 goals in 46 games. That gave Fulham top flight status for the first time since 1968, which had only taken four years - one shorter than Al Fayed's pledge. During this season club captain and subsequent manager, Chris Coleman, was involved in a car crash which eventually finished his playing career. Fulham's run through the divisions saw many players come and go, but the only player to play for the club in all four leagues was Sean Davis, indeed he is one of few players to ever have played at every level of professional football with one team.

Fulham and Tigana in the Premiership 2001-2003
Fulham were widely tipped to take the Premiership by storm, with many pundits[19] predicting a challenge for the UEFA cup or even Champions League places (although others were less kind), but their first Premiership season was largely underwhelming; despite a couple of good games and some flashes of brilliance, the end product was a respectable 13th place finish. Fulham remain the only team in this millienium to host top-flight football with some standing areas. Due to restrictions on standings, Fulham decamped to Loftus Road, during the 2002-3 and 2003-4 seasons while their own stadium was rebuilt, but then returned back to Craven Cottage.

The following season saw Fulham dangerously close to the relegation zone, and chairman Mohammed Al Fayed told Tigana that his contract would not be renewed at the end of the season. But an awful run of results, culminating in a 4-0 home defeat by Blackburn Rovers led him to be sacked before the season came to an end with relegation desperately near. Jean Tigana made the club's record signing, buying Steve Marlet from Olympique Marseille for £11.5 million. He failed to live up to expectations playing only 54 league games in 3 years, and scoring only 11 goals. He was loaned out to Olympique de Marseille for 18 months when Coleman took over, with his sizeable contract still being paid by the English team, before it eventually expired.

Chris Coleman 2003-2007
Chris Coleman took charge for five games at the end of that (2002-03) season, earning Fulham 10 points out of a possible 15 and preserving a place in the Premier League for the next season. Coleman was given the manager's job on a permanent basis in the summer of 2003 and despite predictions that the inexperience of Coleman would result in Fulham's relegation,[21] he kept the club well clear of relegation, guiding them to a club record ninth place finish in his debut season. This might have been greater had the club not come under significant financial pressure to sell Louis Saha to Manchester United, for which they received a club record £13 million. The final day of the season saw them win 2-0 away to Bolton - a third goal could have seen them jump the Trotters into eighth place. Coleman notched up another impressive performance in the 2004-05 season and guided Fulham to a secure 13th place finish. The 2005-06 season proved a tougher affair, but safety was once again mathematically assured with three games left of the season and a 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic. There were three relative high points in an inconsistent season: a 6-1 rout of West Bromwich Albion, a 1-0 win over rivals and champions Chelsea in the West London derby, and a 2-0 win over 2005 European champions Liverpool F.C. Fulham's home form was the best outside the top six, with 12 wins from 18 games, while their away form was the worst in the entire league with one win and four draws from 18 games. A game they were winning away 1-0, versus Sunderland, was abandoned after 21 minutes because of persistent snowfall. Finally, on 29 April 2006, Fulham achieved a first away victory of the campaign with a 2-1 win over Manchester City F.C.. Despite the difficulties experienced throughout this season, Fulham achieved a 12th place finish - an improvement on the previous campaign.

Fulham did not get off to a good start in 2006-07, losing their first match 5-1 to Manchester United at Old Trafford. This result consigned them to the foot of the table and left them as the season's favourites for early relegation contenders with the bookies; but then recovered well and were riding as high as 8th at one point in December 2006.

Many signings including Vincenzo Montella, Alexey Smertin, Simon Davies and Clint Dempsey were brought during January. Between Mid December and May however, Fulham only won a single game, a 2-1 victory over Newcastle United. In the same time period Fulham drew 9 games and lost 4. Additionally Fulham were dumped out of the FA Cup 4-0 by Tottenham Hotspur. On the 10 April 2007, following defeats at the hands of Manchester City (3-1) and Everton (4-1) Fulham Football Club terminated the contracts of Chris Coleman and Steve Kean with immediate effect, while Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez and Les Reed were put in temporary charge.

Lawrie Sanchez 2007-present

Lawrie Sanchez's first match saw him lose away to Reading. In his third match, he looked to gain a much needed point against Arsenal when Simon Davies scored a 78th minute equaliser, but 2 late Arsenal goals saw Fulham lose 3-1 and stay 1 point above the Relegation Zone. [22]. Sanchez's next game was against a Liverpool side that rested many starters after a mid-week Champions League match; a Clint Dempsey goal ensured Sanchez's first win as Fulham caretaker manager. This win, in combination with the results of other matches from the same weekend, ensured Fulham's safety from relegation. On Friday 11 May 2007 Sanchez resigned from his position as manager of Northern Ireland to become the permanent Fulham manager.[23] On the 9th of July 2007, Sanchez made his first major signing for Fulham, buying Diomansy Kamara from West Brom for £6 million. During the summer of 2007 Sanchez has bought several new players after the Chairman announced more funds would be available to him to try avoid relegation. He has particularly focused on bringing in new blood to the defence. Players like Chris Baird, Paul Konchesky and Aaron Hughes all have signed to try and stop the defensive problems of the previous year. On the 5 July 2007 Sanchez signed midfielder Steven Davis for a fee in the region of £4 million from Aston Villa. It is clear that Sanchez has a lot of faith in Davis, as he is not only spending a large fee on the player, but he has also made him Northern Ireland's youngest modern day captain. Sanchez later moved to sign prolific Northern Irish Striker David Healy for a price of £1.5 million from Leeds United F.C. and highly rated QPR winger Lee Cook for £2,5 million. Healy has scored 29 goals out of 59 games for his country, most of which were under Sanchez. The last signings of the summer before the season started were those of Watford's Algerian international Hameur Bouazza, and Australian youngster Adrian Leijer. After a goalkeeping crisis, when Antti Niemi was injured before the first game of the season against Arsenal, and Tony Warner made mistakes leading to goals against Bolton and Middlesbrough, Sanchez made his 10th signing that of veteran US goalkeeper Kasey Keller. Youngster Nathan Ashton as the end of the transfer window began to loom, and on transfer deadline day, Sanchez brought in another 4 players - Dejan Stefanović from Portsmouth, Seol Ki-Hyeon from Reading and Danny Murphy from Tottenham on permanent deals, and Shefki Kuqi from Ipswich on loan until January.

History of Portsmouth F.C.

Early years (1882 - 1911)
Football was played in Portsmouth from the 1850's and was popular for sailors and dockers to play in the city. The current club was founded in 1898 with John Brickwood, owner of the local brewery, as chairman, and Frank Brettell as the club's first manager. A common myth is that the club's first goalkeeper was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. While Conan Doyle did play for an amateur side as AC Smith, Portsmouth AFC, that flourished from 1882 to 1894, the first goalkeeper of the professional era was Matt Reilly who previously played for the successful Royal Artillery team.

The club's first league match was played at Chatham Town on 2 September 1899 (a 1-0 victory), followed three days later by the first match at Fratton Park against local rivals Southampton. That first season was hugely successful, with the club winning 20 out of 28 league matches, earning them runners-up spot in the Southern League. The league was won for the first time in the 1901-02 season, by which time Brettell had been replaced by club captain Bob Blyth as manager.

The 1906-1907 season was highlighted by the visit of Manchester United to Fratton Park in the FA Cup, which generated a record attendance of 24,329. A 2-2 draw meant a replay in Manchester, and Portsmouth recorded a famous 2-1 win. However, this record attendance was surpassed two seasons later when Sheffield Wednesday visited Fratton for the second round of the new FA Cup.

1910-11 saw Portsmouth relegated, but with the recruitment of Bob Brown as manager the team were promoted the next season.

Climbing up the league (1919 - 1927)
Football was suspended during World War I, but following the resumption of matches Portsmouth won the Southern League for the second time. Continuing success saw them in the Third Division for the 1920-21 season. They finished 12th that year, but won the league in the 1923-24 season. The club continued to perform well in the Second Division, winning promotion by finishing 2nd in the 1926-27 season, gaining a record 9-1 win over Notts County along the way.

Life at the top (1927 - 1939)
Portsmouth's debut season in the First Division was a struggle. The next season they continued to falter, losing 10-0 to Leicester City, still a club record defeat. However, despite their failings in the league that season also saw Portsmouth reach the FA Cup final for the first time, which they lost to Bolton Wanderers.

Portsmouth managed to survive relegation, and their fortunes began to change. In the 1930-31 season the club finished 4th. The 1933-34 season saw Portsmouth again reach the FA Cup Final, beating Manchester United, Bolton Wanderers, Leicester City and Birmingham City on the way. Unfortunately the club was again defeated in the final, this time to Manchester City.

Having established themselves in the top flight, the 1938-39 season saw Portsmouth reach their third FA Cup Final. This time the club managed to defeat the favourites, Wolves, convincingly 4-1. Bert Barlow scored twice whilst Cliff Parker and Jock Anderson completed the famous victory.

League football was again suspended due to World War II, (however they did reach the 1942 London War Cup Final losing to Brentford at Wembley) meaning Pompey hold the unusual distinction of holding the FA Cup for the longest uninterrupted period as the trophy wasn't contested again until the 1945-46 season. Nevertheless, with the Wartime Leagues in operation, Pompey signed various players of other clubs who happened to be serving in the Forces and stationed near Portsmouth on a temporary basis. One such was Andy Black of Glasgow Rangers who on one notable occasion scored 8 goals in a 16 - 1 thrashing of Clapton Orient.

Glory years (1946 - 1959)
League football resumed for the 1946-47 campaign. In Pompey's Golden Jubilee season of 1948-49, the club were tipped to be the first team of the 20th century to win the Football League and FA Cup double. However, Pompey crashed out of the FA Cup in the semi-final against Leicester City, but made up for it by claiming the league title in spectacular fashion. That season also saw a record attendance of 51,385, a record which still stands to this day.

The club retained the title the following year, beating Aston Villa 5-1 on the last day of the season, and are thus one of only five English teams to have won back to back titles since World War II.

Pompey enjoyed a fourth-place finish in 1951-52, but in the summer of 1952 championship-winning manager Bob Jackson left for Hull City. The players who had featured in the club's recent successes were now ageing and the young players coming into the side were not of comparable quality. Although the team finished third in 1954-55, subsequent seasons saw Pompey struggle and they were relegated to the Second Division in 1959.

Life in the lower leagues (1961 - 1976)
Portsmouth went down to the Third Division in 1961 but were promoted back to the Second Division at the first time of asking under the guidance of George Smith.

Despite limited financial means, Smith maintained Portsmouth's second division status throughout the sixties until moving upstairs to become General Manager in April 1970. A cash injection that accompanied the arrival of John Deacon as chairman in 1972, failed to improve Pompey's league position. With Deacon unable to continue bankrolling the club on the same scale, Pompey were relegated to the Third Division in 1976.

Near oblivion (1976 - 1980)
In November 1976 the club found itself needing to raise £25,000 to pay off debts and so avoid bankruptcy. The money was raised from supporter contributions after a campaign led by the local newspaper The News.

With players having to be sold to ease the club's financial situation, and no money available for replacements, Pompey were forced to rely on an untried manager, Ian St John and inexperienced young players. Consequently, they were relegated to the Fourth Division in 1978.

During this period and throughout the 1980s, Portsmouth was one of a number of football clubs with a reputation for Football hooliganism. The most notorious gang was called the 6:57 Crew. A self-proclaimed 'casual firm' of football hooligans, whose name came from the fact that many supporters would catch the 6:57 train from nearby Fratton railway station to London for away games. The advent of all-seater stadia following the Taylor Report into the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 contributed to a decrease in organised football-related violence, and the 6:57 Crew was gradually reduced to nothing by the 1990s. Two books have been written about the 6.57 Crew, Rolling With The 6.57 Crew by Cass Pennant & Rob Silvester and Playing Up With Pompey By Bob Beech.

Back on track (1980 - 1988)
Pompey were promoted back to Division Three in 1980, and in the 1982-83 season they won the Third Division championship, gaining promotion back to the Second Division.

Under Alan Ball's management, Pompey narrowly missed winning promotion to the First Division twice before finally succeeding in 1986-87. Unfortunately, by the middle of the 1987-88 season the club was again in grave financial trouble, and Pompey were relegated straight back to the Second Division. The summer of 1988 saw Deacon sell the club to London based businessman and former QPR Chairman, Jim Gregory.

Waiting for success (1988 - 2002)
Jim Smith's arrival as manager at the start of the 1991-92 season, combined with the emergence of some good young players, sparked a revival in the team's fortunes and that year Pompey reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup, losing on penalties to eventual winners Liverpool after a replay. The following season, Pompey missed out on promotion to the FA Premier League only by virtue of having scored one less goal than West Ham United.

Chairman Gregory now called in the money he had lent the club over preceding seasons, and so players were sold with little funds available to buy replacements. The team's form declined, and Smith was controversially sacked in 1995 and replaced by Terry Fenwick. Relegation to the Second Division was avoided on the last day of the 1995-96 season when Pompey won away to Huddersfield Town while other results went the club's way.

In the summer of 1996 Terry Venables arrived at Pompey as a consultant, later taking over as chairman after buying the club for £1. The team enjoyed a run to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in 1996-97, beating FA Premier League side Leeds United en route, but finished just short of the qualifying places for the play-offs for promotion to the Premier League. The 1997-98 season saw Venables lose his popularity with the club's supporters, as he signed several Australian players, most of whom failed to perform with much distinction, while his role as coach of the Australian national team meant he was frequently absent from Portsmouth; meanwhile, the team's results were poor. Two-thirds of the way through the season he and unpopular manager Fenwick left the club, Venables selling his shareholding back to Martin Gregory, son of former chairman Jim, while Alan Ball returned as manager. Relegation was again avoided on the last day of the season.

Pompey's centenary season, 1998-99, saw a serious financial crisis hit the club, and in December 1998 Portsmouth went into financial administration. Milan Mandarić saved the club with a takeover deal in May 1999, and the new chairman immediately started investing. Things did not get off to the best start under Mandarić, as Ball was sacked in November 1999 with the club near the bottom of the table. Tony Pulis took over and steered the club to safety, but only lasted ten months at the helm after which he was put on gardening leave (and sacked not long afterwards) due to a poor relationship with Mandarić. Veteran player Steve Claridge stepped up to manager, and some initial success saw talk of promotion to the Premiership, only for a horrific run of defeats to set in after the new year, resulting in Claridge being reduced back to player and being replaced in 2001 by Chelsea coach Graham Rix. Rix did not prove an entirely popular appointment, as he had been jailed for a sexual offence two years previously,[1] and the club only survived on the last day of the season when they won their final game and Huddersfield Town lost theirs, keeping Portsmouth up at their expense.

Over the summer, recently sacked West Ham manager Harry Redknapp was appointed Director of Football, and most observers concluded that the minute results did not swing Rix's way, he would be sacked and replaced by Redknapp. Sure enough, after an early promotion charge degenerated into mid-table mediocrity and Pompey were knocked out of the FA Cup by Third Division side Leyton Orient, Rix lost his job in early 2002, with Redknapp taking over as predicted. Former manager Jim Smith was asked to team up with Redknapp, and while he initially turned the offer down to remain as assistant at Coventry City, he soon arrived at Portsmouth after Coventry sacked most of their coaching staff near the end of the season.

Portsmouth reach the Premiership (2002 - 2004)
In Redknapp's first full season in charge, (2002-03), he brought in a number of experienced Premiership players such as Steve Stone, Patrik Berger, Tim Sherwood and Paul Merson, and combined them with younger, up-and-coming talents such as Gary O'Neil and Matthew Taylor. Pompey stormed the league, comfortably beating second-placed Leicester City to the 2002-03 Division One Championship winning in the title with a game to spare.[2] The following season the club tipped for immediate relegation from the Premiership surprised many by staying up and have remained in the top flight ever since. During their four Premiership seasons to date Pompey have produced some surprise results, notably three home wins - including two in consecutive seasons - against Manchester United.

In their Premiership debut season, Portsmouth had one of the best home records in the Premiership, but poor away form restricted them to a 13th place finish. Had they been able to match their impressive home form on their travels, then a top half finish or even a European place could have been achieved. After the third game of the season, a 4-0 home victory against Bolton Wanderers, Pompey topped the Premiership and were comfortably in mid-table throughout the autumn, inflicting a resounding 6-1 victory at Fratton Park on Leeds United in November 2003. A 1-1 draw against Arsenal at Highbury, when Teddy Sheringham put Pompey in control before half-time, before a foul on the title-bound Gunners' Robert Pires earned the Londoners a penalty in the closing stages of the match, which when converted effectively ended the South Coast club's chance of registering a famous away win over Arsenal, signalled the start of a run of eleven games in a row without victory for Pompey. There were suggestions, backed by evidence from video replays on the BBC's Match of the Day, that Pires may have dived in the box during the match at Highbury, precipitating the award of the penalty, although Pires has always vehemently maintained his innocence. Nevertheless, this draw marked the first of a horrendous run of results that left the team odds on to be relegated in mid-March. However, a 1-0 win at home to rivals Southampton followed by a first Premiership away win at Blackburn Rovers' Ewood Park proved to be the catalyst for a run of form that included a famous 1-0 win over Manchester United in April, with Steve Stone (rejected by Sir Alex Ferguson on a bid to join Manchester United less than two years earlier) the scorer in Pompey's first win over Manchester United for nearly 60 years. This surprise win handed Pompey a relegation lifeline as it lifted them out of the drop-zone for the first time since February. A 2-1 away win over Leeds United and a 1-1 draw at home to Fulham in their next two matches confirmed that Portsmouth would not be relegated in their first Premiership season. The club signed off their impressive Premiership debut season with a 5-1 crushing of the season's league cup winners Middlesbrough at Fratton Park on the final day of the season on 15th May 2004.

Crisis and Struggle (2004 - 2006)
Despite their successful partnership, Mandarić and Redknapp clashed several times during their time together. At the end of the 2003-04 season Mandarić was considering replacing some of the club's coaching staff, including Redknapp's assistant Jim Smith. No changes took place, and after an uneasy start to the 2004-2005 season, failing to win any of their first three matches, two consecutive home wins (4-3 over Fulham and 3-1 over Crystal Palace) started a steady run of form (including a famous 2-0 win over Manchester United at Fratton Park in October) that saw them remain comfortably in mid-table between August and December. However, despite the team's achievements on the pitch, behind the scenes all was not well. The two clashed again more seriously when Mandarić proposed appointing another director in November, with responsibility for the youth set-up at the club. Redknapp disapproved of the proposal but Mandarić pressed ahead and appointed Velimir Zajec. Redknapp, along with his assistant Jim Smith, subsequently resigned with immediate effect on 23 November.

Zajec took over as manager, initially as caretaker, then on 20 December 2004 the club announced that he would manage the team for the remainder of the season. Their first game under Zajec was a 1-0 away win over Bolton Wanderers, in a hard-fought match where Portsmouth captain Arjan de Zeeuw and Bolton striker El-Hadji Diouf had an on-pitch skirmish in the second half that later prompted Diouf to spit in de Zeeuw's face[3]. This victory lifted Portsmouth into the top half of the table for the first time since August. However, on 7 April 2005 after a poor run of results which saw Portsmouth wallow away from as high as ninth place on Boxing Day to 15th position in the table by the end of March, Alain Perrin was appointed team manager, with Zajec reverting to his director's role.

After having looked in real danger of relegation for most of the second half of the season, Portsmouth's 4-1 victory at home to local rivals Southampton on 24 April 2005 brought the club close to securing Premiership survival which became virtually certain six days later when, although Portsmouth lost at Manchester City, two clubs lower in the table also failed to win their matches, leaving Portsmouth needing only a single point from their two remaining games to make survival certain. A week later Portsmouth made sure of their safety with a 1-1 home draw against Bolton Wanderers in their penultimate game of the season, a result that meant they could not finish lower than 16th place (eventually their final position). On 15 May 2005, the final day of the season, Portsmouth's 2-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion gave Albion survival and relegated Southampton, resulting in a carnival atmosphere at the end of the match which saw both sets of fans invade the pitch. The 2005-06 season thus saw Portsmouth play in a higher league than rivals Southampton for the first time since 1960.

Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Pompey's main goal threat for the past two and a half seasons was sold to Middlesbrough for £7.5 m and several other players were transferred as Perrin began to stamp his authority on the club. After many years of waiting, plans emerged for a redevelopment of Fratton Park itself - the aim being to turn a dilapidated, old style league ground into a 21st century, 30,000 seat stadium. Off the field changes also occurred with departure of Director of Football Zajec for personal reasons.

Portsmouth continued to struggle in the 2005-2006 season, winning just two games between August and November - a lucky 1-0 victory over Everton at Goodison Park (courtesy of an own goal by Everton's Duncan Ferguson) and a 4-1 away win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. During a hard-fought 1-0 defeat to Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium in early October where Portsmouth enjoyed the lion's share of possession and goal chances only to succumb to a superb first-half volley by Bolton's Kevin Nolan, Perrin's continual harassment of the match officials saw him ordered away from the pitchside by the referee, an incident that landed Perrin in hot water with the FA and also led many pundits to believe his demise was now only a matter of time. The club's series of poor results (that set a record low number of points for a Portsmouth manager) continued into December 2005, at which time Mandaric finally reached the end of his tether and Alain Perrin was sacked.

Former manager Harry Redknapp took charge again a couple of weeks later, leaving south coast rivals Southampton. The appointment made headlines on the sports pages of the UK press, with fans divided into strong pro and anti Redknapp camps. Unusual betting patterns shortly before Redknapp left Southampton resulted in the club and Redknapp himself being investigated by the FA. After months of investigation, no charges followed. The return of Redknapp to the club lifted morale for Portsmouth, and in late December 2005 they finally scored their first victory at Fratton Park since April with a 2-1 success over relegation rivals West Bromwich Albion and followed it up with another 2-1 home victory over West Ham. These two wins and a 1-1 draw against Fulham lifted Portsmouth from 19th to 16th in the table, but soon after, three heavy away defeats in a row (3-0 against both Manchester United and Liverpool and 4-0 against Arsenal) dropped Portsmouth to the foot of the table at the New Year. By now, many bookies believed that any prospect of survival was over.

A Change of Fortunes (2006 - present)
In January 2006, Milan Mandarić confirmed he was to sell a stake in the club to Franco-Russian businessman Alexandre Gaydamak[4], and a cash injection of a reported £15 million enabled Portsmouth to purchase Benjani Mwaruwari from AJ Auxerre for a club record £4.1 m as well as Sean Davis, Pedro Mendes and Noé Pamarot; taking Wayne Routledge, Azar Karadaş and Andrés D'Alessandro on loan.

It appeared that this new cash injection, the return of Harry Redknapp to the club and the arrival of several new players would be too little too late for Portsmouth, as at the beginning of March 2006 they were twelve points adrift from safety with ten matches left.

When their chief relegation rivals Birmingham City thrashed Portsmouth 5-0 - Pompey's heaviest defeat to date in the Premiership, and also their sixth consecutive match without scoring a goal - Pompey looked certain to be relegated and the result also seemed to have put both Birmingham and WBA out of Pompey's reach. Despite a valiant effort, the club were unable to repeat their home success against Manchester United for a third consecutive season, and lost their clash at Fratton Park 3-1.

However, a late equaliser by on-loan Azar Karadaş in a 1-1 home draw against Bolton Wanderers, followed by a last minute winning goal by Pedro Mendes at home to Manchester City sparked a dramatic change in form and fortunes in March and April, which coincided with a loss of form for both Birmingham and WBA. After gaining 17 points from 8 games, Portsmouth avoided relegation on April 29 2006 when a win in the penultimate game of the season at Wigan Athletic, combined with Birmingham City's failure to beat Newcastle United, put Portsmouth beyond the pursuit of the Premiership's bottom three sides.

On 19 July, 2006, co-owner and club chairman Milan Mandarić transferred full ownership of the club over to Alexandre Gaydamak, after a 7-year tenure, that saw Portsmouth rise from the brink of liquidation into the top tier of domestic football. Mandarić remained at the club as Non-Executive Chairman until 25 September, 2006, before taking over English Championship club Leicester City.

During the summer transfer window, England internationals Glen Johnson (on a one-season loan from Chelsea), David James and Sol Campbell were signed as well as former under 21 midfielder David Thompson. Thompson departed for Bolton Wanderers in February 2007, but James and Campbell have both stayed at Portsmouth since. Veteran strikers Nwankwo Kanu and Andrew Cole were brought in on short-term contracts, with midfielders Manuel Fernandes and Roudolphe Douala joining on loan. Serbian international midfielder Ognjen Koroman's loan from Terek Grozny was extended for a further season, although he left the club in January 2007. Pompey's most expensive signing of the transfer window was that of Croatia international Niko Kranjčar, who cost £3.5 million from Hajduk Split.

Portsmouth made a strong start to the 2006-07 Premiership campaign without conceding any goals in their first five games and were briefly top of the Premiership. Two defeats in a row to Bolton Wanderers (1-0 at Fratton) and Tottenham Hotspur (2-1 at White Hart Lane) dented this record, but the team continued to make progress and build on their strong start so that at Christmas they still occupied fourth place (only a point behind third-placed Bolton), prompting speculation that they might emulate the achievements of former Premier League strugglers Bolton, Everton and Middlesbrough by qualifying for the UEFA Cup or even the Champions League, though Manchester United and Chelsea's excellent early-season form meant that neither Bolton and Portsmouth nor any other Premiership sides were considered serious title challengers by this stage. However, a run of poorer results after Christmas moved Portsmouth down towards mid-table.

Nevertheless, Portsmouth could still take many positives from their 2006-2007 campaign, not least the fact that they had never, at any stage of the season, looked to be in danger of relegation - largely due to their massive improvement in away game form compared with their three previous Premiership outings - and also that their home form had remained consistently strong. Additionally, there were also many encouraging results for the club, including victories over Manchester United, Everton, Reading, Newcastle United and Liverpool. By the end of the season they had amassed 54 points from 38 games (their best-ever achievement in the Premiership and their most successful finish to a season in fifty years) and recovered from their mid-season slump to finish a respectable ninth in the final table - much higher than many pundits had predicted before the season started. However, Portsmouth declined to participate in the UEFA Intertoto Cup 2007, preferring to honour a commitment they had made to play in the Barclays Asia Trophy 2007 in Hong Kong with Liverpool, Fulham and South China AA between July 24 and July 27, dates which clash with Intertoto ties.

On May 21, 2007, Canterbury of New Zealand announced a deal to make the kit for Portsmouth. This was the company's first venture into football.[5]

Portsmouth started the 2007/08 season on a good note with a 1-0 victory over Fulham and a penalty shootout win over Liverpool to clinch the Asia Trophy, prevailing 4-2 after the match had ended in a goal-less draw. Two Premier League draws with newly-promoted Derby County and reigning champions Manchester United preserved their unbeaten start to the season before they scored their first league victory with a 3-1 success over Bolton Wanderers at Fratton Park.