Emile Heskey

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Posted by pompos 03/23/2009 @ 16:07

Tags : emile heskey, soccer players, soccer, sports

News headlines
Emile Heskey Does the Hard Work As Rooney and Walcott Get the Plaudits - Buzzle
Gérard Houllier used to have a special expression to describe the unique force that Emile Heskey could apply to a football. Somewhat French, though not quite the full "oo la la", it was more like the sound Beano characters typically make when struck...
Birmingham sign striker Benitez - BBC Sport
The fee has not been disclosed but is thought to be more than the £6.25m they paid for striker Emile Heskey in 2004. Personal terms have been agreed with Benitez who will travel to England for a medical with his new club next week....
Emile Heskey Convinced He'll Win Trophies With Aston Villa - Goal.com
Aston Villa centre-forward Emile Heskey has a fairly impressive haul of medals collected during a 15-year career with Leicester City, Liverpool, Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic, and is convinced that he will soon be adding to his tally of gongs with...
Fabio Capello will accept no excuses as he seeks a perfect ending - guardian.co.uk
On the other hand, Wayne Rooney could not come up with a goal then, on an occasion when his partnership with Emile Heskey was broken. The latter has had an awkward time since the switch from Wigan to Aston Villa in January, but Capello may feel bound...
John Carew Salutes Aston Villa Strike Partner Emile Heskey - Goal.com
Aston Villa striker John Carew has paid a warm tribute today to his strike partner, England international Emile Heskey, whom he feels played a vital role in helping him score 15 goals for the Birmingham outfit in a campaign interrupted by injury....
Martinez set to become new Wigan boss - AFP
... succeed Steve Bruce, who guided Wigan to 11th place in the Premier League but opted for a move to Sunderland after growing frustrated with the financial constraints that resulted in key players including Wilson Palacios and Emile Heskey being sold....
Act Now Martin! - OleOle
100% behind Martin will again deliver come season kick off, in Martin i trust... with the england squad every1 is sayin good luck at manchester city and laughing at the state of villa right now of all the strikers in the world you have emile heskey yes...
Cole keen to learn from Drogba - Yahoo! Eurosport
But with the likes of Emile Heskey and Peter Crouch also competing for that target-man position, Cole is determined to keep improving. And that quest has taken him to see Drogba, his former Chelsea team-mate, and Aston Villa's Norway international John...
Carew backs Milner for England - expressandstar.com
Villa still have three representatives in Fabio Capello's squad despite Gareth Barry joining Manchester City this week, with Milner joined by Emile Heskey and Ashley Young in the party. Norwegian international Carew believes Milner, who became Villa's...
Steve Bruce's first task as Sunderland manager is to end his love ... - guardian.co.uk
Just look at Emile Heskey's re-birth at the JJB Stadium, not to mention Antonio Valencia's sustained influence and Lee Cattermole's radical improvement since swapping Middlesbrough for Wigan last summer. Understandably, Bruce was said to be tiring of...

Emile Heskey

Heskey playing for Wigan Athletic in 2008

Emile William Ivanhoe Heskey (born 11 January 1978) is an English footballer who plays for Premier League side Aston Villa as a striker. He also has the ability to play on the left wing.

Born in Leicester, Heskey started his career with Leicester City in 1994. He made an £11 million move to Liverpool in 2000, which, at the time, was the record transfer fee paid by the club. At Liverpool, he won multiple honours, including the FA Cup in 2001. He moved to Birmingham City in 2004, Wigan Athletic in 2006 and to current club Aston Villa in 2009.

Heskey is an England international, of Antiguan descent. He made his international debut against Hungary in a 1–1 draw in 1999 and has gone on to attain 50 caps and score five goals for the team. He lost his place in the squad after UEFA Euro 2004, during which he failed to shine and was the subject of much criticism. After a long lay-off from international duty, Heskey was recalled to the England squad for UEFA Euro 2008 qualifiers in September 2007.

Heskey was born into a family of Antiguan descent on 11 January 1978 in Leicester, Leicestershire, the son of Tyrone Heskey. He was a keen footballer in his childhood and began playing for Ratby Groby Juniors, a local youth team in Leicester. He stood out amongst his peers and at the age of nine he accepted a place at Leicester City's football academy. Progressing through the youth ranks, he signed a professional contract and made his debut shortly after in an FA Premier League match against Queens Park Rangers on 8 March 1995 at the age of 17. He then became a first-team regular in the 1995–96 season, making 30 appearances for the club, helping them earn promotion to the FA Premier League. During this season, Heskey scored his first goal as a professional footballer, which came in a 1–0 victory over Norwich City, in a season he managed to score seven goals.

During the 1996–97 season, his first in the Premier League, Heskey scored 10 goals in 35 appearances, and also scored the equaliser in the 1997 League Cup final against Middlesbrough, which Leicester won in a replay. The following season, 1997–98, saw interest from Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur for Heskey, as he again managed to score 10 Premier League goals, which made him Leicester's top scorer that season. However, the 1998–99 season saw Heskey score only six top-flight goals, and he was criticised for not scoring enough goals and going to ground too easily. During this season however, he forged an effective strike partnership with Tony Cottee, who benefited from Heskey's unselfish style of play, which manager Martin O'Neill claimed kept the club in the Premier League. He went on to win the League Cup again in 2000 with a 2–1 win against Tranmere Rovers in the final.

Heskey joined Liverpool in March 2000 in a long-anticipated £11 million move, which, at the time, set the record transfer fee for the Merseyside club. Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier looked forward to working with him, but stated that "at his age he is not the finished product". The press saw the move as expensive and risky as Heskey was relatively inexperienced and was not a prolific goalscorer. However, he was held in high regard by both the England under–21 manager, Peter Taylor, and England and Liverpool teammate Michael Owen. Veteran Liverpool striker Ian Rush approved of the signing, noting that Heskey would "give Liverpool a different dimension", bringing strength to the Liverpool strikeforce and complementing Owen and Robbie Fowler's pacy play. Heskey made his debut in an FA Premier League clash with Sunderland on 11 March 2000 and scored his first goal in a 3–0 victort over Coventry City on 1 April. He finished the 1999–2000 season with 12 appearances and three goals for Liverpool. During the 2000–01 season Heskey put an end to worries over his goalscoring ability by scoring 23 goals for Liverpool. He featured in the FA Cup Final on 12 May 2001, starting ahead of Robbie Fowler, which Liverpool won 2–1 against Arsenal. He also scored Liverpool's second goal when they beat Bayern Munich 3-2 in the 2001 UEFA Super Cup.

Heskey was linked with a £12 million move to Tottenham Hotspur in December 2002, but Houllier insisted he was a part of his long-term plans and he remained at Liverpool. The same year, Heskey made a six-figure donation to aid a consortium led by Gary Lineker in their bid to buy-out his former club, Leicester City, who were experiencing financial difficulties. The 2002–03 season saw him score nine goals in 51 appearances for Liverpool and received criticism for his low goal to game ratio, with Houllier claiming that his future at the club was safe.

He picked up a hamstring injury during a match against Newcastle United in January 2004, which ruled him out of action for three weeks. In the 2003–04 season Heskey faced increasing competition from Milan Baroš for a place in the Liverpool starting line-up. Nevertheless, he scored 12 goals and secured a place in the England squad for the UEFA Euro 2004 tournament in Portugal.

At the end of the 2003–04 season, Heskey signed for Birmingham City on a five-year contract for an initial fee of £3.5 million, which could have risen to £6.25 million, and would thus have become Birmingham's most expensive player. He made his Birmingham debut against Portsmouth on 14 August, which ended as a 1–1 draw. His first goal came with a header in the eighth minute against Manchester City, which was enough to earn a 1–0 victory on 24 August. Despite Birmingham's mediocre 2004–05 season, Heskey was named as the club's Player's Player of the Season, Fan's Player of the Season, finished as top goalscorer with 11 goals and won most Man of the match awards.

He suffered from an ankle injury against Blackburn Rovers on 19 April 2006, and after passing a late fitness test, played in a 0–0 draw against Everton on 22 April. Birmingham's 2005–06 season, during which Heskey scored only four goals in 34 league appearances, culminated in relegation to the Championship. During this season, Heskey gave inconsistent performances and received abuse from Birmingham fans. Birmingham managing director Karren Brady stated that Birmingham's relegation meant that the last £1.5 million of the maximum £6.25 million fee for signing Heskey from Liverpool would not be payable, implying that the actual fee paid was £4.75 million.

Heskey was signed by Wigan Athletic for £5.5m during July 2006. He made his debut for Wigan against Newcastle United on 19 August 2006, which his new club lost 2–1. On his 500th league appearance, Heskey scored his first goal for Wigan in a 1–0 Premier League victory over Reading on 26 August. He scored eight goals in 36 appearances during the 2006–07 season, as Wigan avoided relegation on goal difference over Sheffield United, against whom Heskey played well for Wigan on 13 May 2007, where he nearly scored a bicycle kick. He suffered a suspected broken metatarsal in September, and made his return for Wigan in a 2–0 defeat to Arsenal in November. He picked up an ankle injury during Wigan's 5–3 victory against Blackburn Rovers in December. On 14 April 2008, Heskey scored a 90th minute equalising goal against Chelsea, which damaged their hopes of winning the Premier League. He went on to score Wigan's equaliser against Tottenham in the following game to give them a 1–1 draw, which proved to be his last goal of the 2007–08 season, which he finished with four goals in 28 appearances.

His first goal of the 2008–09 season came in Wigan's fourth game, a 5–0 victory against Hull City at the KC Stadium. He hinted in October that he would be interested in leaving Wigan to play in the Champions League, with former club Liverpool believed to be interested in signing him in the January transfer window. Although, Wigan manager Steve Bruce hoped to persuade him to sign a new contract at the club. Heskey commented on reports of interest from Liverpool by saying "It would be lovely. We'll see how it goes." He scored his 100th goal in the Premier League against Portsmouth on 1 November, which secured a 2–1 victory for Wigan. Dave Whelan, the Wigan chairman, hinted that Heskey could be transferred by Wigan in January 2009, as a fee would be received, whereas he would move on for free in the summer, which came after he had stalled on talks over a new contract. However, Steve Bruce said he would only accept an offer for Heskey if it was "outrageous". He later said he was confident of keeping Heskey at the club. Heskey picked up a hamstring injury during a match against Bolton Wanderers in December, which resulted in him missing an FA Cup third round tie against Tottenham Hotspur. He later said he would stay at Wigan and see out his contract until the summer of 2009.

Heskey signed for Aston Villa for a fee of £3.5 million on a three-and-a-half year contract on 23 January 2009. He made his debut against Portsmouth on 27 January 2009 and scored in this game with a strike from 20 yards; his first ever debut goal for any club he has played for.

Heskey played alongside Michael Owen in the England under-18 team which finished third in the European Championships in France, and made eight appearances and scored three goals for the team. He was capped once by the England B team, against Chile in February 1998, in which he scored a 90th minute goal in a 2–1 defeat. Heskey went on to gain recognition with the England under-21 team, for whom he gained a total of 16 caps, scoring three goals.

Heskey was given his first call-up to the senior England team for a friendly against the Czech Republic on 18 November 1998, but did not play. He made his debut in a friendly against Hungary in Budapest in a 1–1 draw on 28 April 1999 and made his first start against Argentina at Wembley Stadium on 23 February 2000. That showing ensured he was in the England squad for the UEFA Euro 2000 tournament. However, his two substitute performances in the tournament could not help England, as the team were eliminated in the group stage. Heskey was selected in the squad for the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, and was used as a make-shift option to play in England's left-wing role in the game against Sweden, but did not perform well out of his regular position. He scored against Denmark in England's 3–0 victory, which saw England reach the quarter-finals of the tournament. He featured in this game, where England were beaten 2–1 by the eventual champions Brazil. He and teammate Ashley Cole received abuse from some Slovakia supporters when England played them in a friendly in October 2002, which led to UEFA opening an investigaton into the allegations. Slovakia were eventually forced to play their next home international behind closed doors.

Heskey's place in the England squad had been placed under scrutiny in 2003 with the emergence of Wayne Rooney into the England squad. However, despite being criticised for his lack of international goals, he continued to be an integral part of the international squad and took over the captaincy from Michael Owen after he was substituted when England beat Serbia and Montenegro 2–1 in his hometown of Leicester in June 2003. Heskey was named in the England squad for UEFA Euro 2004, but failed to perform well, and was the subject of much criticism. He came on as a substitute while England were leading 1–0 against France and gave away a direct free kick, from which France equalised and England eventually lost 2–1. Heskey was recalled into the England squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan in 2005, after having been dropped following the game against Ukraine in August 2004. Since the emergence of Peter Crouch in the England squad, the possibility of a recall receded further.

He was called into manager Fabio Capello's first squad against Switzerland, but had to withdraw due to an injury. He was called into the squad for a friendly against the Czech Republic in August 2008 and came on as a 46th minute substitute, in a match that finished 2–2. He featured in the following 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification victories against Andorra and Croatia. Heskey was alleged to have been racially abused during the match against Croatia, with monkey chants being heard from sections of the Croatia support, after which FIFA opened an investigation, and eventually fined the Croatian Football Federation £15,000 for the incident. He played his 50th game for England in the 2010 World Cup qualifier against Belarus on 15 October 2008, after which he was credited as helping Wayne Rooney's improved form in international matches, with the two forming an effective strike partnership and keeping Owen out of the side. He started in a friendly against Spain in February 2009, which drew an angry reaction by Villa manager Martin O'Neill, who wanted to know why Capello played Heskey after suffering from an injury.

Heskey plays as a forward with pace, and a powerful targetman with physical strength who is hard working. He impressed the England staff with his versatility, as he can also play down the left wing. He has been criticised by the media for his lack of goals, although his main contributions to the team lie in the way that he holds the ball up and draws defenders out, leaving space behind him for another player to score. He has been credited as being an unselfish player who allows other forwards to benefit.

Heskey was the partner of Kylee Pinsent but he left her in 2004 and is now engaged to Chantelle Tagoe. Heskey is the father of five children, three of them with former partner Pinsent and two with Tagoe. In 2009, he was rated as owning a personal fortune of £12 million. His fiancée Tagoe was held at knifepoint at their home in Hale, Greater Manchester in July 2008, while he was at a training session. The thieves burgled the house and stole Heskey's BMW but neither Tagoe, nor their two children who were in the house, were hurt.

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Michael Owen

Michael Owen 072007 cropped.jpg

Michael James Owen (born 14 December 1979) is an English football forward who currently plays for and captains English Premier League club Newcastle United. He is currently the fourth-highest scorer for the England national team with forty goals.

The son of former footballer Terry Owen, he progressed through the Liverpool youth team and scored on his debut in May 1997. In his first full season in the Premier League he finished as joint top scorer. He repeated the feat the following year and was Liverpool's top goal scorer from 1997–2004, in spite of a recurring hamstring injury. His first major club honours came in 2001 when Liverpool won a cup treble of the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and Football League Cup, and Owen was the recipient of the Ballon d'Or that year.

Owen moved to Real Madrid for £8 million in mid-2004 but was frequently used as a substitute. In spite of this, he scored 13 goals in La Liga and had the season's highest ratio of goals scored to number of minutes played. He returned to England the following season, joining Newcastle United for £16 million. He had a promising start to the 2005–06 season but injuries largely ruled him out over the next 18 months. After his return he became team captain and was the team's top scorer for the 2007–08 season.

Internationally, Owen first played for the senior England team in 1998, becoming England's youngest player and youngest goalscorer at the time. His performance at the 1998 World Cup brought him to national and international prominence and he went on to appear, and score, in Euro 2000, the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004. He is the only player to ever have scored in four major tournaments for England. He played at the 2006 World Cup but suffered an injury which took him a year to recover from. Occasionally playing as captain, he is England's seventh most-capped player and has scored a national record of 26 competitive goals.

Born 14 December 1979 in Chester, Cheshire, Michael James Owen was the fourth child of Janette and Terry Owen. His father is a former professional footballer and Owen grew up playing the game with him and his two older brothers. An Everton fan, Owen played for his primary school team in Hawarden, Wales, breaking all local scoring records in his first season. He joined the youth team of Mold Alexandra, playing with an older age-group, and later attended Hawarden High School, where he also played for the school team.

At age 13, when Owen started attending high school, he became available to sign "School Boy" forms with a club. He held talks with Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal, before he eventually signed for Liverpool, the club that persuaded him to attend the FA's School of Excellence at Lilleshall in Shropshire at age 14. Throughout this time, he studied at Idsall School, Shifnal, Shropshire, and achieved ten GCSEs.

Liverpool signed Owen after he graduated from Lilleshall at 16, and joined the club on the Youth Training Scheme. The star of Liverpool's 1996 FA Youth Cup triumph, scoring a hat-trick in the final against Manchester United, Owen scored prolifically as he rose rapidly through the Anfield ranks. After four months, he signed professional forms for the senior team just after his seventeenth birthday in December 18 1996.

He made his debut for Liverpool against Wimbledon in May 1997, coming on as a substitute and scoring a goal. With an injury to Robbie Fowler, he was thrust immediately into action as a first team regular alongside the likes of newcomer Paul Ince and playmaker Steve McManaman in the following 1997–98 season. He scored his first European goal for the club against Celtic in the UEFA Cup and recorded his first professional hat-trick against Grimsby Town in the League Cup. Owen ended that season as a joint top scorer in the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers' Chris Sutton and Coventry City's Dion Dublin, scoring eighteen goals, and was voted the PFA Young Player of the Year by fellow professionals.

The 1998–99 season proved to be another good season for Owen as he scored 23 Goals in 40 games for Liverpool. Despite his brilliant form, Liverpool were unable to mount anything like a title challenge and their seventh place finish was not enough to attain even a UEFA Cup place. Owen injured his hamstring in a league game against Leeds United on 12 April, which proved to be a recurring injury and prematurely bought his season to an end.

The next season was a frustrating one for Owen as he was out injured for lengthy periods, effects of the injury suffered the previous season but nevertheless managed to score 12 goals and helped Liverpool to qualify for the UEFA Cup.

In the run-up to Euro 2000, Owen was still suffering hamstring problems and received treatment from the Bayern Munich doctor, Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt.

In the 2000–2001 season, he helped the club to their most successful season in several years. The team won the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup, with Owen scoring two goals in the last few minutes against Arsenal in the FA Cup final to turn what had appeared to be a 1–0 defeat into a 2–1 victory, the game has since been christened "The Michael Owen Cup Final".

Winning the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup allowed Liverpool to play in the Charity Shield and the European Super Cup at the beginning of the 2001–2002 season. Liverpool won both matches with Owen scoring the second goal of the 2–1 win over Manchester United in the Charity Shield and the third goal in the 2001 UEFA Super Cup win over European champions Bayern Munich. Liverpool thus became the first English team to win five trophies in one calendar year. Just a week later, Owen would again beat Bayern goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, as the English international hit a hat-trick in England's 5–1 win over Germany in Munich. At the end of the year, Owen became the first English player in twenty years and the only Liverpool player ever to win the European Footballer of the Year award. He was also voted World Soccer player of the year in 2001; he is the only English player to win the award and was the first Premier League player to do so. He scored his 100th goal for Liverpool on 21 December 2001 against West Ham United. Liverpool finished second in the league in the 2001–2002 season and Owen played a key part in the success, scoring 28 goals.

The 2002–2003 season saw Owen on top form again as he hit 28 goals. Liverpool were on top of the table and looked like genuine title contenders for the first time in several years but a run of bad results saw them eventually finishing 5th in the table. Owen also scored at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff when Liverpool beat Manchester United 2-0 to win the League Cup and scored his 100th Premiership goal against West Bromwich Albion.

In an injury hit 2003/04 campaign he still managed to net 19 goals, scoring his 150th goal for the club on 15 February against Portsmouth but otherwise it was a bleak season for both him and Liverpool. Following Gérard Houllier's sacking as Liverpool manager, speculation about Owen's departure from the club began. During the first few Champions League games at the start of the 2004–05 season, Owen sat on the bench to avoid being cup-tied for the Champions League, a factor that would mean that none of the top clubs in Europe would want to sign him. Since 1998 Owen was Liverpool's top scorer every season until he left the club. Real Madrid signed him for a fee of £8 million on 13 August 2004, with midfielder Antonio Núñez moving in the other direction as a make-weight.

Following their successful bid, Owen was presented with the number 11 shirt by Real Madrid. Owen had a slow start to his Madrid career. He was often confined to the bench and drew criticism from fans and the Spanish press for his lack of form. A successful return to action with the England squad in October 2004 seemed to revive his morale, however, and in the first following match, he scored his first goal for the club, the winner in a 1–0 UEFA Champions League victory over Dynamo Kiev. A few days later, he scored his first Spanish league goal in a 1–0 victory over Valencia. The scoring spree continued, as he found the back of the net in three of the next four matches to make it five goals in seven successive matches. He ended the season with thirteen goals in La Liga, with the season's highest ratio of goals scored to number of minutes played. Following Real's signing of two high-profile Brazilian forwards, Robinho and Júlio Baptista in the summer of 2005, the speculation arose that Owen would return to the Premier League. During his time at Real Madrid, Owen scored 18 goals from 41 games, 15 of which were starts.

On 24 August 2005, Newcastle United announced that they had agreed a club record fee of £16 million to obtain Owen, although they still had to negotiate with the player's advisers. Liverpool and local rivals Everton entered the fray, but were unwilling to match Madrid's asking price. As the 2006 World Cup loomed in a year, Owen wanted to get more playing time to secure his position as the first choice striker in the English squad and joined Newcastle amidst rumours that he had inserted an escape clause valued at £12 million. On 31 August 2005 Owen finally signed a four-year contract to play for Newcastle United, despite initial press speculation that he would rather have returned to Liverpool. With the metro system being packed to the rafters with black and white shirts making their way to Central, Monument and Haymarket stations, roughly 20,000 fans were present at Newcastle's home ground of St James' Park for Owen's official unveiling as a Newcastle player. He scored his first goal for the club on his second appearance, the second goal in a 3–0 away win at Blackburn Rovers on 18 September – Newcastle's first win of the season. Owen scored his first hat-trick for Newcastle in the 4–2 away win over West Ham on 17 December. It was also a "perfect hat trick", with one goal scored with each of his left foot, right foot, and head.

On 31 December 2005, Owen broke a metatarsal bone in his foot in a match against Tottenham Hotspur. He underwent surgery to place a pin in the bone, to help speed the healing process. He was expected to be out of action until late March, but the healing process did not go as hoped and on 24 March he underwent a second, minor, operation. Owen then stated that he should be fit for the final few weeks of the season with Newcastle. His return to action finally came against Birmingham City on 29 April when he came off the substitutes' bench in the 62nd minute. After the match Owen stated that he was "not 100% happy" with his foot. He underwent a further x-ray and made himself unavailable for Newcastle's final game of the season.

A damaged anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, sustained in the first minute of the group match against Sweden at the 2006 World Cup, kept Owen out of regular football for nearly a year, until April 2007. Owen's injury fanned the "club or country" dispute between clubs and the international authorities, as The Football Association's insurance policy would not fully reimburse Newcastle United for Owen's salary of over £120,000 a week, or the costs of employing another player to cover for him; Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd threatened to sue the FA for compensation.

Owen began light training on 12 February 2007, when pictures on the club's official website highlighted Owen running and carrying out minor exercises. He made his comeback from injury on 10 April 2007 in a 4–1 behind-closed-doors friendly against Gretna, scoring after 10 minutes and then setting up fellow striker Shola Ameobi before coming off an hour later. Owen then started his first game for Newcastle United in over a year, against Reading on the 30 April 2007 in a game that Newcastle United lost 1–0. He played the full 90 minutes, having a goal disallowed for offside.

Owen was stretchered off an hour into Newcastle's game with Watford on 13 May 2007, suffering concussion after colliding with team-mate Matty Pattison.

On 17 July 2007, he scored for Newcastle in a pre-season friendly against Hartlepool. Several days later, Owen picked up a thigh injury in training. Newcastle manager Sam Allardyce admitted that Owen was likely to miss the start of the forthcoming Premier League season due to the injury which "doesn't look as encouraging as we first thought." Owen made his comeback from injury in a club friendly on 13 August 2007 and declared himself available for Newcastle's next match, against Aston Villa, as well as England's forthcoming international matches. On 29 August 2007, Owen scored his first competitive goal for Newcastle since December 2005 when he scored in the Carling Cup against Barnsley. Three days later he scored in the league, with a late winner against Wigan Athletic.

After over 3 months without a goal, Owen scored the first goal of the second Kevin Keegan era in a 4-1 FA Cup 3rd round replay win over Stoke City on 16 January 2008, although Keegan was only a spectator in the stands for this game. Owen was awarded the captaincy by Keegan on 19 January 2008. He scored his first league goal of 2008 on 3 February. Owen's goal in the 2-0 defeat of Fulham on 22 March 2008, which marked Newcastle's first win under Kevin Keegan's second stewardship, also marked the first time in his Newcastle career that Owen had scored more goals for Newcastle than against them. By 5 April 2008, after his and the teams early season poor form, Owen had scored 6 goals in the last 6 matches, with Newcastle registering 4 wins and 2 draws, lifting Newcastle into mid-table after earlier relegation fears. In the final game of the season, Owen scored in a 3-1 loss at Everton, finishing with 11 goals in total, putting him in equal 13th position for Premier League goals for the 2007-8 season.

Owen missed all of the pre season matches and training of the 2008-9 season due to a bout of Mumps, which also kept him out of the international friendlies with the USA and Trinidad & Tobago in May 2008. He also suffered a calf strain during the summer months which kept him out of the opening game of the season against Manchester United at Old Trafford, a game which Newcastle drew 1-1. He made his return in the second game of the season against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday 23 August 2008, coming on in the 53rd minute for the injured Obafemi Martins. He scored the winning header in the 71st minute with the game finishing 1-0. Three days later he was named on the bench in a Carling Cup match away to Coventry City, he came on as a substitute and scored the winner in extra time in a 2-3 victory. In the 2008/09 season he has featured more consistently than in prior seasons, scoring four goals in twelve league appearances.

Owen's contract at Newcastle is due to expire in the summer of 2009 and his future has been the subject of speculation with many clubs rumored to be interested in signing him in the January transfer window. Clubs include Everton, Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea. However, Owens former club Liverpool look unlikely to sign him, with manager Rafa Benitez stating in December 2008 that he was not looking to make a move for Owen. In December Owen stated that his delay in signing a new contract was due to the turmoil with the Newcastle board with chairman Mike Ashley putting the club up for sale and Newcastle not having a manager for a long time. However, new Newcastle manager Joe Kinnear recently revealed his concern that Owen would not sign a new contract when he holds talks with him in December 2008. On 22 December Owen released a statement saying that he intends to consider his contract situation in the summer of 2009 when his contract is due to expire, also commenting that he had no intention of talking with any other clubs during the January transfer window.

Owen had a highly successful record at Youth level, playing for the England Under-20 team at the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship and scoring three goals in four games. beating the goal scoring records of Kevin Gallen, and Nick Barmby in the Under-21 international level, although he was only briefly a member of the England Under-21 team (netting on his only appearance in a win over Greece Under-21 at Carrow Road) before he made his début for the senior team in a 2–0 friendly loss to Chile on 11 February 1998. Playing in this game made Owen the youngest player to represent England in the whole of the 20th century at 18 years and 59 days of age.

Owen's youthful enthusiasm, pace and talent made him a popular player across the country, and many fans were keen for him to be made a regular player for the team ahead of that year's World Cup. His first goal for England, against Morocco in another friendly game prior to the tournament further enhanced his reputation. The goal also made him the youngest ever player to have scored for England, until his record was surpassed by Wayne Rooney in 2003.

Although he was selected for the World Cup squad by manager Glenn Hoddle, he was left on the bench as a substitute in the first two games. However, his substitute appearance in the second game, a 2–1 defeat to Romania, saw him score a goal and hit the post with another shot, almost salvaging a point from the game. After that, Hoddle played him from the start, and in England's second round match against Argentina he scored a sensational individual goal after beating defenders Roberto Ayala and José Chamot before kicking the ball just outside the penalty box. This goal voted by many as the goal of the tournament, thus bringing him to the attention of the world football scene.

England drew that match and went out of the tournament on penalties, but Owen had sealed his place as an England choice and his popularity in the country had increased greatly. At the end of the year, he won a public vote to be elected winner of the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year title.

He has since played for England in Euro 2000, the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004, scoring goals in all three tournaments. This makes him the only player to ever have scored in four major tournaments for England. He also became one of only a handful of England players to appear in three World Cup tournaments when he played at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, although he did not score and was injured in the final group game.

In April 2002, he was named as England's captain for a friendly match against Paraguay in place of the injured regular captain David Beckham. Owen was the youngest England skipper since Bobby Moore in 1963, and since then regularly captained England during any absence of the regular captain.

Owen made his debut for the England national B-team in a friendly against Belarus on 25 May 2006, as part of his return to match fitness ahead of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He captained England B in this game, playing for 61 minutes before being substituted.

Owen started England's first two games of the 2006 World Cup, against Paraguay and Trinidad and Tobago, but did not manage to score. After playing only 51 seconds of his third appearance of the tournament, and 80th cap, in the 2006 World Cup against Sweden, Owen badly twisted his left knee and was forced to leave the match on a stretcher. A scan of the injury on 21 June confirmed that Owen had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, and was sent home, no longer able to play in the tournament.

Owen underwent successful reconstruction surgery, carried out by Dr. Richard Steadman, on 6 September 2006. The injury sidelined him until April 2007, meaning he missed England's first six matches in qualifying for Euro 2008. He returned for the England B game against Albania, and was named in the full squad for the games against Brazil and Estonia, with Owen stating "I feel sharp and, if given the chance, I feel confident when in front of goal." He played in both matches and scored against Estonia, breaking Gary Lineker's record for most goals in competitive internationals for England. Owen's latest international efforts include a brace for England in a 3–0 win over Russia on 12 September 2007.

With his two goals against Russia, he became the first player to score international goals at both the old and new Wembley Stadiums.

As of 26 August 2008, Owen has been capped 89 times for England and scored 40 goals: he is fourth in the list of all-time top scorers for the England team, behind Bobby Charlton (49 goals), Gary Lineker (48) and Jimmy Greaves (44). He has also scored a record 26 goals for England in competitive matches (World Cup and European Championship games and the qualifiers for those tournaments) and has been captain for England in 7 matches.

As of December 2007, Owen has never gone more than four international games in a row without scoring a goal. Owen's future as first choice striker for England is uncertain however, due to competition from Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and fast-developing Theo Walcott amongst others. Owen's lack of action in Fabio Capello's first two England friendlies and Capello's selection of a single striker 4-5-1 formation also support the view that Owen's international opportunities may in future be limited..

2008 was a tough year for Owen as he was excluded from World Cup qualifiers against Andorra, Croatia, Kazakhstan & Belarus despite at times being in good goalscoring form and having a good workrate in a poor Newcastle side. Many fans and pundits have called for Owen to be reinstated in the national team but whether Capello will select him still remains to be uncertain. He was once again left out of the squad for the friendly against Germany in November 2008, despite forwards Emile Heskey and Wayne Rooney being unavailable for the match. However Capello still states as of November 2008 that Owen could still be reinstated to the side at some point in the future.

Owen met English-born Louise Bonsall at primary school in 1984. The couple bought Lower Soughton Manor in Flintshire, North Wales where Owen keeps his cars and Louise keeps her horses. They got engaged on 14 February 2004, and married on 24 June 2005, at the Carden Park Hotel in Chester, Cheshire. The couple had initially planned to get married at their home, but changed plans when they were informed that if a licence was granted for a marriage ceremony the venue must be made available for other weddings for three years, so opted to marry in a registry office in informal clothing and have a lavish reception the next day in the grounds of their home.

On 1 May 2003 their daughter, Gemma Rose, was born. On 6 February 2006, they welcomed a son named James Michael. Their third child, a daughter, Emily May, was born 29 October 2007.

After Owen returned to the UK to play for Newcastle United, he traveled to a nearby BAE facility on a daily basis in order to fly, via helicopter, to train with his club. However, there is now a helipad installed within the grounds of the house to accommodate Owen's Eurocopter Dauphin, with which he both travels and is training to become a pilot. Owen was eventually banned from training to be a pilot by Newcastle United, due to excessive insurance premiums.

Owen also bought an entire street for his extended family (Austen Close, Ewloe), which is in an area close to where he used to live. and in 2008 was reported in the Daily Express as surveying the purchase of the original Walt Disney site with celebrity realtor Paul Grimshaw in Estepona, Southern Spain.

In 2004, Owen's sister Karen was assaulted by two youths, who attempted to kidnap her. When she revealed that she was pregnant, they fled.

Owen owns several cars and a helicopter and enjoys horse racing and gambling. Owen is the brother in-law of footballer Richie Partridge.

Owen starred in a series of adverts that charted his life, and rise to fame. In 2001, he was the advertising face of breakfast cereal "Nestlé Sporties". He also appeared in several adverts for the washing powder Persil, in a contract worth £1,000,000. Owen was selected as one of the two cover athletes for Pro Evolution Soccer 2008. He has been an ambassador of the Swiss watchmaker Tissot since 1998 and has a contract with car manufacturer Jaguar.

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Croatia national football team

Shirt badge/Association crest

The Croatia national football team represents the Republic of Croatia in international football. The team is controlled by the Croatian Football Federation, the governing body for football in the country, and has been managed since 2006 by Slaven Bilić. A recognized national team represented the short-lived Banovina of Croatia and Independent State of Croatia in nineteen friendly matches between 1940 and 1944. Although this team was affiliated with FIFA, Croatia remained a constituent federal republic of Yugoslavia during the period and did not field a separate team for competitive matches.

The modern team was formed in 1990, shortly before Croatia's independence from Yugoslavia, and by 1993 had gained membership in FIFA and UEFA. The team first played competitive matches in a successful qualifying campaign for UEFA Euro 96, leading to its first appearance at a major European championship. At Croatia's first FIFA World Cup in 1998 the team finished third and provided the tournament's top scorer, Davor Šuker. Since becoming eligible to participate in 1993, Croatia have qualified for every World Cup and have missed only one European Cup tournament, in 2000.

Most home matches are played at the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, though some fixtures take place at the Poljud Stadium in Split or at other, smaller venues, depending on the nature of the match. The team was undefeated in its first 36 home competitive matches, the run ending with a 2008 defeat to England.

Croatia was named FIFA's "Best Mover of the Year" in 1994 and 1998, becoming the only team to win the award more than once. On admission to FIFA, Croatia was ranked 125th in the world; following the 1998 World Cup campaign, the side ranked third.

Football was introduced to Croatia by English expatriates in Rijeka and Županja in 1873; the official rulebook was recognized in 1896. By 1908 local clubs had been established in Croatia and a modern edition of the sport's laws was published. FIFA records document a Croatian national team playing a full-length fixture against domestic opposition in 1907. Before the nation's independence, Croatian footballers played for the national teams of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1919–39) and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1945–90), though during periods of political upheaval, ethnically Croatian sides sometimes formed to play unofficial matches. A hastily-arranged national side, managed by Hugo Kinert, played a few private domestic matches in 1918–19.

In 1940, Jozo Jakopić led an unofficial national team representing the Banovina of Croatia in four friendly matches: two against Switzerland and two against Hungary. Croatia made their debut as an independently sanctioned team by defeating the Swiss 4–0 in Zagreb on April 2, 1940. Following invasion by the Axis powers, the Croatian Football Federation became briefly active, joining FIFA on July 17, 1941 as the Independent State of Croatia. The national side, under the direction of Rudolf Hitrec, played fifteen friendly matches, fourteen as an official FIFA member. Croatia's first recorded result as a FIFA associate was a 1–1 tie with Slovakia on September 8 in Bratislava. Further matches were played until 1945 when the Independent State of Croatia was abolished and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia assumed control, thereby ending the team's affiliation with FIFA.

From 1950 to 1956 another unofficial Croatian team was briefly active; it won games against Indonesia and a Yugoslav team playing as "Serbia". The Yugoslavia squad at the 1956 Summer Olympics included Croatian footballers, as did Yugoslavia in World Cup and European Championship tournaments up to 1990.

The last Yugoslav team to field a considerable Croatian contingent played against Sweden on May 16, 1991, days before Croatia's independence referendum. Another Croatian team formed during this time; it played its first modern international game, against the United States, on October 17, 1990 at Maksimir Stadium. The game, which Croatia won 2–1, was one of three games played under original manager Dražan Jerković. Croatia won twice more under his direction before Stanko Poklepović and Vlatko Marković each briefly headed the team. Croatia was still considered part of Yugoslavia until its independence declaration on October 8, 1991, but this team already served as a de facto national team.

In mid-1992 the team joined FIFA and UEFA. The team's performances before Croatia's independence were not recorded by FIFA, so they entered the World Rankings in 125th place. Miroslav Blažević was appointed manager and oversaw the team's qualifying campaign for Euro 96, beginning with Croatia's first officially recognized post-independence victory: a 2–0 win over Estonia on September 4, 1994. Their first competitive defeat came on June 11, 1995, with a 1–0 away loss to Ukraine during the same qualifying campaign. They finished on top of their qualifying group and won FIFA's 1994 Best Mover of the Year award as their international rankings rose.

Goran Vlaović scored the team's first goal at a major tournament, a late winner against Turkey at the City Ground during Euro 96. After their opening victory Croatia beat reigning champions Denmark 3–0, a match in which striker Davor Šuker scored with a lob from 12 yards after receiving a long pass. He later described the goal as a favourite. Croatia lost 3–0 to Portugal in their final group fixture but still advanced to the knockout stages, where they were beaten by eventual champions Germany in the quarter finals.

Miroslav Blažević remained as manager during Croatia's 1998 World Cup qualifying campaign, which ended successfully with victory over Ukraine in the play-offs. In the group stage of the World Cup, Croatia beat Jamaica and Japan but lost to Argentina, before defeating Romania to reach a quarter final tie against Germany, then ranked second in the world. Though regarded as underdogs, Croatia won 3–0, with goals from Robert Jarni, Goran Vlaović and Davor Šuker after Christian Wörns was sent off for Germany.

Croatia faced the host nation, France, in the semi-final: after a goalless first-half, Croatia took the lead, only to concede two goals by opposing defender Lilian Thuram and lose 2–1. Croatia won third place by defeating the Netherlands, and Davor Šuker won the Golden Boot award for scoring the most goals in the tournament. This was among the best debut performances in the World Cup, and as a result, Croatia were placed third in the January 1999 FIFA World Rankings, their highest ranking to date. Croatia again won the Best Mover of the Year award in 1998. For their achievements the team of the 1990s was dubbed the "Golden Generation". Many of these players were also in the former Yugoslavia under-20 team which won the 1987 FIFA World Youth Championship in Chile.

Despite these successes in their first two major competitions, Croatia finished third in their Euro 2000 qualifying group, behind Yugoslavia and Republic of Ireland, and thus failed to qualify. Both fixtures between Croatia and Yugoslavia ended in draws; this fuelled the politically-based tension between fans of the two teams, and political protests broke out during the fixture in Belgrade. The return match in Zagreb ended in a 2–2 draw, preventing Croatia from qualifying for the tournament.

Coach Blažević resigned in autumn 2000 and Mirko Jozić was appointed his successor. Despite the retirement of many "Golden Generation" players, Croatia were unbeaten in their qualifying matches for the 2002 World Cup. They commenced the tournament campaign with a narrow loss to Mexico before producing a surprise 2–1 victory over Euro 2000 finalists Italy in the next fixture. At the tournament the team blamed the pressure of high expectations for their final fixture loss to Ecuador which prevented their progression to the knockout stages. Jozić resigned and was replaced in July 2002 by former Fenerbahçe coach Otto Barić, the team's first manager born outside the Balkans.

Under Barić Croatia performed indifferently in the Euro 2004 qualifiers, reaching the tournament finals with a playoff win against Slovenia after finishing second in their group. At the tournament Croatia drew 2–2 with reigning champions France but lost to England and were eliminated in the group stage. Barić's two-year contract ended in July 2004 and was not renewed.

Former Croatia international Zlatko Kranjčar, appointed to succeed Barić in July 2004, oversaw Croatia's qualification for the 2006 World Cup without losing a match, but was accused of nepotism for selecting his son Niko for the national squad. Croatia lost their opening game to Brazil and drew 0–0 with Japan after Dario Srna missed a first-half penalty. A 2–2 draw with Australia, in which three players were sent off, confirmed Croatia's elimination at the group stage. The game was notable also for a mistake by referee Graham Poll, who awarded three yellow cards to Croatia's Josip Šimunić. Poll, heavily criticized for losing control of the match, retired from refereeing shortly afterwards.

The HNS replaced Kranjčar with Slaven Bilić in July 2006. Bilić appointed several younger players to the squad and saw early success, overseeing a 2–0 friendly defeat of Italy in his first match. Having controversially suspended players Dario Srna, Ivica Olić and Boško Balaban for missing a curfew after a turbofolk nightclub outing, Bilić led the team in qualification for Euro 2008; they topped their group, losing only one game (to Macedonia) and beating England twice, who consequently failed to qualify for the first time since 1984.

After primary striker Eduardo da Silva suffered a compound fracture while playing in the English Premier League, Bilić was forced to alter his tournament squad significantly and recruited Nikola Kalinić and Nikola Pokrivač, neither of whom had yet played competitive games for the national team. The team received criticism after poor attacking performances in warm-up games against Scotland and Moldova, but at the tournament beat Austria, Germany, and Poland to reach the quarter finals with maximum group points for the first time in their tournament history. Niko Kovač remained team captain at what was expected to be his final international tournament, except in the final group fixture when Dario Šimić temporarily held the position. Croatia's tournament run ended dramatically when they lost a penalty shoot-out to Turkey, but secured the tournament record for fewest goals conceded (2), fewest games lost (0), and earliest goal (in the fourth minute of their opening game against Austria—this was also the all-time earliest successful penalty at the European Championship Finals).

Amidst speculation that he would quit, manager Bilić renewed his contract, the first manager since Blažević to lead Croatia to successive tournaments. Croatia were again drawn to play England in the qualification stages of the 2010 World Cup; the tie was voted the most anticipated of the campaign on FIFA.com. After a home win against Kazakhstan Croatia lost at home to England, ending a fourteen-year unbeaten home record.

Croatia have qualified for every World Cup since their tournament debut in 1998. Although they joined both FIFA and UEFA by 1992, they were unable to enter the 1994 World Cup as qualification had started before the side was officially recognised. The nation's best performance came in their first World Cup; in their following two World Cup campaigns they were eliminated after finishing third in their groups.

Croatia's best results in UEFA Championships were quarter final finishes on their debut, in 1996, and in 2008. They did not qualify for the 2000 tournament; it is the only major competition the national team have missed since Croatia's independence. The HNS raised an unsuccessful joint bid with the Hungarian Football Federation to co-host the 2012 tournament, which was awarded instead to Poland and Ukraine.

Before Croatia's independence distinct Croatian football federations and teams were occasionally formed separately from the official Yugoslavian organizations. Ivo Kraljević served as the manager of the initial federation, established in 1939, and organised non-sanctioned matches played by unofficial national squads up to 1956. These temporary sides, playing non-competitive fixtures, were led by seven different managers.

Statistically, Dražan Jerković and Vlatko Marković are the most successful managers in Croatia's history; they both recorded victories in each of their few games in charge. Miroslav Blažević, who was the team's first official manager, holds the highest number of competitive victories, having led Croatia to their best performances at major international tournaments.

From 1940 to 1944 temporary national teams played nineteen friendly matches. Twelve players scored for the team during this period.

Before each tournament or group of qualifying fixtures each national team manager is required to form a twenty-three-man squad with at least three players in each position. In the case of an injury or sudden inability to participate managers may replace the ineligible players. A player who receives two yellow cards during the same tournament or qualifying campaign is suspended for the next fixture; the player may receive a longer suspension in the case of violent misconduct or defiance.

Miroslav Blažević was the first manager to submit an official Croatian squad, naming players for the 1996 European Championship selection. A similar squad, also selected and led by Blažević, appeared for the 1998 World Cup selection. Mirko Jozić announced a new squad for the 2002 World Cup selection. Otto Barić retained many of these players for the 2004 European Championship squad. Zlatko Kranjčar led Croatia to a single tournament, constituting a squad for the 2006 World Cup selection. The last tournament squad was selected by Slaven Bilić for the 2008 European Championship selection.

Croatia's current squad, formed to compete against Andorra in a 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification match on April 1, was announced on March 18, 2009 by head coach Slaven Bilić.

Caps, goals and numbers are as of February 11, 2009 and the conclusion of the last match vs. Romania.

The following players have also been called up to the Croatia squad in 2009.

Dario Šimić, with 100 appearances before his 2008 retirement, is Croatia's most capped international player, surpassing Robert Jarni's record of 81 appearances.

With 45 goals scored, Davor Šuker is Croatia's highest-scoring player. He was named Croatia's "Golden Player" at the UEFA jubilee celebration in 2004 in recognition of this achievement. Darijo Srna is in a distant second position with 17 goals (as of September 2008). Mladen Petrić holds the national team record for goals in a single match, having scored four times during Croatia's 7–0 home victory over Andorra on October 7, 2006.

The national team's joint record for highest-scoring victory comes from two 7–0 results, over Andorra in 2006 and Australia in 1998. Croatia's worst defeat is also a joint record, the Independent State of Croatia side having twice lost 5–1 defeats to Germany in the 1940s. In the modern era Croatia lost 4–1 to Slovakia in a 1994 friendly and 3–0 to Portugal at Euro 96. The worst home defeat in the modern period was the 4–1 loss to England in the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.

The Croatian team is a fully licensed member of FIFA and UEFA. FIFA governs Croatia's participation in global international tournaments including the FIFA World Cup; UEFA presides over European tournaments.

The team is also governed by the Croatian Football Federation, which governs domestic football under FIFA and UEFA affiliation. The federation is led by Vlatko Marković, who represents the team in conferences. The federation (abbreviated HNS) governs player registration and selects the team coaching staff and pays players' salaries. Head coach Slaven Bilić selects and organises national squad players and enforces team policies.

Most home matches take place at the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb. The venue, built 1912 and refurbished in 1997, is named after the surrounding neighbourhood of Maksimir. The stadium has hosted national games since Croatia's competitive home debut against Lithuania; it also hosted the Croatian teams' home matches during World War II. The football federation and the Croatian government have agreed further improvements (among them an increase in the current forty-thousand seating capacity) that would make Maksimir the most expensive football stadium in the world. However, in 2008, UEFA threatened to limit the number of fans allowed to attend home games after crowd discipline problems during the European Championships. Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić declined the final renovation plans in 2008, citing high construction costs; as of December 2008 the renovations are postponed.

Home matches have occasionally been played at other venues. The Poljud Stadium in Split hosted several qualifying fixtures for Euro 1996 and the 1998 World Cup. The team also played qualifying matches at the Gradski vrt stadium in Osijek and the NK Varteks stadium in Varaždin. The last competitive match outside Maksimir took place in 2003 when Croatia beat Andorra in Euro 2004 qualifying.

Since Croatia's first fixture (October 17, 1990 vs. United States) they have played home games at eight stadiums.

Under the official FIFA Trigramme the team’s name is abbreviated as CRO; this acronym is used to identify the team in FIFA and media. The team is also identified under the International Organization for Standardization country code for Croatia, HRV. "Croatia national football team" can be translated into Croatian as "Hrvatska nogometna reprezentacija" (pronounced: xř̩.ʋaː.ʦkaː nɔːɠɔːmɛtnaː ɾɛpɾɛzɛntaːtsijaː). Among the team's nicknames are Vatreni ("Fiery Ones") and, more recently, "Bilić Boys" (from the name of the coach, Slaven Bilić).

Prominent among Croatia's supporters are followers of Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb, the two best-supported clubs in the Croatian domestic league, the Prva HNL. The clubs' ultra-style supporter groups, the Bad Blue Boys of Zagreb and The Torcida from Split, have both been associated with hooliganism, though violence between the two is not reported at international games. Croatia's supporters are collectively affiliated with Uvijek Vjerni (translated as 'Always Faithful'), which is the national team's official fan association aiming to bring together all fans around the world.

Nonetheless, fan behavior at international games has led to international sanction against the side. Croatia was penalized and threatened with expulsion from UEFA for racist behaviour by fans at Euro 2004 On other occasions Croatia fans defied security regulations. During the 2006 World Cup a fan evaded security at a German venue and approached Croatian players on the field; he was arrested for trespassing. During a friendly match against Italy in Livorno, a small group of Croatian fans stood in a swastika formation in response to Italians fans waving communist flags; UEFA penalized the Croatian football federation for the incident. Similar events occurred at Euro 2008; UEFA penalized Croatia for a display of racist banners against Turkey and FIFA fined the Croatian football federation for racial abuse of England striker Emile Heskey on September 10, 2008.

Croatia fans often use flares in both domestic league derby matches and in international games, a practice which, according to agent Igor Štimac and midfielder Luka Modrić, motivates the Croatian team. The practice is banned at most international games and Croatia fans have been reprimanded and had devices confiscated by UEFA and FIFA security staff. Croatia fans also clashed with Turkish Muslims during a Euro 2008 game against Turkey. Security was tightened when Croats and Turks gathered in Vienna shortly before the quarter final game of the tournament; after the match, Croatian fans resisted police and brawled with Turkish fans.

Tensions with fans of sides from other former Yugoslav states have also manifested at Croatia games. Croatia fans in the crowd at a June 3, 1990 game between Yugoslavia and the Netherlands booed the Yugoslavian national anthem and players and cheered for the Dutch side instead. Maksimir Stadium was the scene of a riot between Croat and Serb fans at a Dinamo Zagreb – Red Star Belgrade game following the parliamentary election the same year. During the 2006 World Cup brawls broke out between Bosniaks and Croats in Mostar over religious differences.

Football is Croatia's most popular team sport and occupied a large role in the country's independent break-up from Yugoslavia. Nationalism grew heavily during the team's formation in the 1990s when Franjo Tuđman was elected president. By competing separately in both official and unofficial matches, the national team strengthened the unity of Croatian culture, an accomplishment which the predominant Catholic Church and economy were criticized for failing. Furthermore, Tuđman’s correlation with the national team became a strong force towards becoming a patriotic Croatian state. After Croatia’s success at the 1998 World Cup, Tuđman declared that "football victories shape a nation’s identity as much as wars". The team’s unanimous support grew largely after such attention from the political party. American politician and diplomat Strobe Talbott predicted Croatia’s growth in football to influence that of the nation itself. The national team were greeted by Tuđman and 100, 000 residents from all around the country after their return from the World Cup. Tuđman spoke on behalf of the supporters by honouring the squad upon their appearance.

It is my honour on behalf of the Croatian state leadership, to congratulate the players of the Croatian soccer representation for their great results at the World Cup. By reaching these heights, dear soccer players, you have contributed to Croatia which stood behind you in Zagreb. During your matches, the entire Croatian people, numbering some eight-million from the homeland and abroad stood behind you. You have given a great contribution to raising Croatia’s reputation in the world. Your magnificent success is a great contribution to the now Independent State of Croatia.

When connections between the team and political parties was strong, concerns of fascism arose. Though the relationship between the team and any political party has waned since Tuđman's death in 1999, the team (and football) remain patriotic traditions in Croatia.

Since its formation, the team has constantly been the focus of Croatian media attention. The team's games are regularly broadcast live on Croatia's principal station HRT. In 2007, the team donated proceeds from the sales of their calendars to charity. The following year, the Vlado Malešević Foundation revealed the production of a football anthem dedicated to Croatia's national team, with all proceeds also devoted to charity. Shortly after becoming manager, Slaven Bilić and his rock band released a single, "Vatreno Ludilo" (Fiery Madness), which recalled the team's progress during the 1998 World Cup and praised their present ambitions. The song reached the top position on the Croatian music charts and was widely played during Euro 2008. Because of Bilić's enthusiasm, the team was dubbed "Bilić's Boys". Other Croatian artists such as Dino Dvornik, Connect, Prljavo Kazalište and Baruni have recorded songs in support of the team, among which are "Malo Nas Je al Nas Ima" (We are little, but we are many), "Samo je Jedno" (There is but one thing ), "Moj Dom je Hrvatska" (Croatia is my homeland), "Srce Vatreno" (Heart of Fire), and "Hrvatska je Prvak Svijeta" (Croatia are world champions).

Additionally, the team adopted the song "Lijepa li si" (How beautiful you are) by rock band Thompson, mainly because of its similarity to the Croatian national anthem. Recently, many of Thompson's songs have been played during significant games; however, when Croatia faced Israel in a home qualifying game, Thompson songs were not played due to Jewish organisations' criticism of the band. At the conclusion of the match, the squad and management team voiced their concerns and opposed the allegations of the band's racism.

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Birmingham City F.C.

Badge of Birmingham City

Birmingham City Football Club is a professional football club based in the city of Birmingham, England. Formed in 1875 as Small Heath Alliance, they became Small Heath in 1888, Birmingham F.C. in 1905, finally becoming Birmingham City F.C. in 1943. At the end of the 2007–08 season, they were relegated from the Premier League to the Football League Championship.

Small Heath were founder members and first ever champions of the Football League Second Division. The most successful period in their history was in the 1950s and early 1960s. They achieved their highest finishing position of sixth in the First Division in the 1955–56 season and reached the 1956 FA Cup Final, progressed to the final of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1960 and 1961, and won their only major trophy, the League Cup, in 1963, beating Aston Villa 3–1 on aggregate. They have spent the majority of their history in the top tier of English football, though their darkest era came between 1986 and 2002, when they were continuously outside the top division. This period included two brief spells in the third tier of the English League, during which time they twice won the Football League Trophy.

St Andrew's has been their home ground since 1906. They have a long-standing and fierce rivalry with Aston Villa, their nearest neighbours, with whom they play the Birmingham derby. The club's nickname is Blues, due to the colour of their kit, and their fans are known as Bluenoses.

Birmingham City were founded as Small Heath Alliance in 1875, and from 1877 played their home games at Muntz Street. The club turned professional in 1885, and three years later became the first football club to become a limited company with a board of directors, under the name of Small Heath F.C. Ltd. From the 1889–90 season they played in the Football Alliance, which ran alongside the Football League. In 1892, Small Heath, along with the other Alliance teams, were invited to join the newly-formed Football League Second Division. They finished as champions, but failed to win promotion via the test match system; the following season promotion to the First Division was secured after a second place finish and test match victory over Darwen. The club adopted the name Birmingham Football Club in 1905, and moved into their new ground, which became known as St Andrew's, the following year, though matters on the field failed to live up to their surroundings. Birmingham were relegated in 1908, obliged to apply for re-election two years later, and remained in the Second Division until after the First World War.

Frank Womack's captaincy and the creativity of Scottish international playmaker Johnny Crosbie contributed much to Birmingham winning their second Division Two title in 1920–21. Womack went on to make 515 appearances, a club record for an outfielder, over a twenty-year career. 1920 also saw the debut of the 19-year-old Joe Bradford, who went on to score a club record 267 goals in 445 games, and won 12 caps for England. In 1931, manager Leslie Knighton led the club to their first FA Cup Final, which they lost 2–1 to Second Division club West Bromwich Albion. Though Birmingham remained in the top flight for 18 seasons, they struggled in the league, with much reliance placed on England goalkeeper Harry Hibbs to make up for the lack of goals, Bradford excepted, at the other end. They were finally relegated in 1938–39, the last full season before the Football League was abandoned for the duration of the Second World War.

The club's current name of Birmingham City F.C. was adopted in 1943. Under Harry Storer, appointed manager in 1945, the club won the Football League South wartime league and reached the semifinal of the first post-war FA Cup. Two years later they won their third Second Division title, conceding only 24 goals in the 42-game season. Storer's successor Bob Brocklebank, though unable to stave off relegation in 1950, brought in players who made a major contribution to the club's successes of the next decade. When Arthur Turner took over as manager in November 1954, he made them play closer to their potential, and a 5–1 win on the last day of the 1954–55 season confirmed them as champions. In their first season back in the First Division, Birmingham achieved their highest league finish of sixth place. They also reached the FA Cup final, losing 3–1 to Manchester City in the game notable for City's goalkeeper Bert Trautmann playing the last 20 minutes with a broken bone in his neck. The following season the club lost in the FA Cup semifinal for the third time since the war, this time beaten 2–0 by Manchester United's "Busby Babes".

Birmingham became the first English club side to take part in European competition when they played their first group game in the inaugural Inter-Cities Fairs Cup competition on 15 May 1956; they went on to reach the semifinal where they drew 4–4 on aggregate with Barcelona, losing the replay 2–1. They were also the first English club side to reach a European final, losing 4–1 on aggregate to Barcelona in 1960 and 4–2 to A.S. Roma in 1961. In the 1961 semifinal they beat Inter Milan home and away; no other English club won a competitive game in the San Siro until Arsenal managed it more than 40 years later. Gil Merrick's side saved their best form for cup competitions. Though opponents in the 1963 League Cup final, local rivals Aston Villa, were pre-match favourites, Birmingham raised their game and won 3–1 on aggregate to lift their only major trophy to date. In 1965, after ten years in the top flight, they returned to the Second Division.

Businessman Clifford Coombs took over as chairman in 1965, luring Stan Cullis out of retirement to manage the club. Cullis's team played attractive football which took them to the semifinals of the League Cup in 1967 and the FA Cup in 1968, but league football needed a different approach. Successor Freddie Goodwin produced a team playing skilful, aggressive football that won promotion as well as reaching an FA Cup semifinal. Two years later, the club raised money by selling Bob Latchford to Everton for a British record fee of £350,000, but without his goals the team struggled. Sir Alf Ramsey briefly managed the club before Jim Smith took over in 1978. With relegation a certainty, the club sold Trevor Francis to Nottingham Forest, making him the first player transferred for a fee of £1 million; Francis had scored a total of 133 goals in 329 appearances over his nine years at Birmingham. Smith took Birmingham straight back to the First Division, but a poor start to the 1981–82 season saw him replaced by Ron Saunders, who had just resigned from league champions Aston Villa. Saunders' team struggled to score goals and in 1984 they were relegated. They bounced back up, but the last home game of the 1984–85 promotion season, against Leeds United, was marred by rioting, culminating in the death of a boy when a wall collapsed on him; this was on the same day as the Bradford fire, and the events at St Andrew's formed part of the remit of Mr Justice Popplewell's inquiry into safety at sports grounds. The club lacked stability both on and off the field. Saunders quit after FA Cup defeat to Altrincham, staff were laid off, the training ground was sold, and by 1989 Birmingham were in the Third Division for the first time in their history.

In April 1989 the Kumar brothers, owners of a clothing chain, bought the club. A rapid turnover of managers, the absence of promised investment, and a threatened mass refusal of players to renew contracts was only relieved by a victorious trip to Wembley in the Associate Members Cup. Terry Cooper delivered promotion, but the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) bank put the Kumars' businesses into receivership; in November 1992 BCCI's liquidator put up for sale their 84% holding in the football club. The club continued in administration for four months, until Sport Newspapers' proprietor David Sullivan bought it for £700,000, installed the then 23-year-old Karren Brady as managing director and allowed Cooper money for signings. On the last day of the season, the team avoided relegation back to the third tier, but after a poor start to the 1993–94 season Cooper was replaced by Barry Fry. The change did not prevent relegation, but Fry's first full season brought promotion back to the second tier and victory in the Football League Trophy at Wembley, beating Carlisle United with a Paul Tait golden goal. After one more year, Fry was sacked to make way for the return of Trevor Francis.

Francis introduced players with top-level experience such as Manchester United skipper Steve Bruce. In his second season the club narrowly missed out on a play-off position, followed by three years of play-off semifinal defeats. They also reached the 2001 League Cup final against Liverpool at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. Birmingham equalised in the last minute of normal time, but the match went to a penalty shootout which Liverpool won. By October 2001, lack of progress had made Francis's position untenable. After a 6–0 League Cup defeat to Manchester City, he left by mutual consent, replaced two months later by Steve Bruce. Bruce shook up a stale team, taking them from mid-table into the play-offs where they beat Norwich City on penalties to win promotion.

Motivated by the inspirational Christophe Dugarry, Birmingham's first top-flight season for 16 years finished in mid-table. 2003–04 saw loan signing Mikael Forssell's 17 league goals help Birmingham to a top half finish, though performances and results tailed off badly towards the end of the season. First-team coach Mark Bowen was sacked and replaced by Eric Black, international players were signed, but an injury to Forssell left the 2004–05 team struggling for goals. More transfer window loan signings ensured another mid-table finish. Only two months later, chairman David Gold said it was time to "start talking about being as good as anyone outside the top three or four" with "the best squad of players for 25 years". Injuries, lack of form, and a lack of investment during the transfer window saw them relegated before the last game of a season whose lowlight was a 0–7 FA Cup defeat to Liverpool. Pennant and Heskey left for record fees, many more were released, but Bruce retained the confidence of the board. His amended recruitment strategy, combining young "hungry" players with free-transfer experience and shrewd exploitation of the loan market, brought automatic promotion at the end of a season which had included calls for his head.

In July 2007, Hong Kong-based businessman Carson Yeung bought 29.9% of shares in the club, making him the biggest single shareholder, with a view to taking full control in the future. Uncertain as to his future under possible new owners, Bruce left in mid-season to become manager of Premier League rivals Wigan Athletic. His successor, Scotland national team manager Alex McLeish, was unable to stave off relegation.

The Small Heath Alliance members decided among themselves that their colours would be blue; in the early days, they wore whatever blue shirt they had. Their first uniform kit was a dark blue shirt with a white sash and white shorts. Several variations on a blue theme were tried; the one that stuck was the royal blue shirt with a white "V", adopted during the First World War and retained until the late 1920s. Though the design changed, the royal blue remained. In 1971 they adopted the "penguin" strip – royal blue with a broad white central front panel – which lasted five years. Since then they have generally worn plain, nominally royal blue shirts, though the actual shade used became gradually lighter over the years. Shorts have been either blue or white, and socks either blue, white or a combination. The colours of Birmingham's change strip have varied greatly over the years; white or yellow (on their own or with blue or black) and red with white or black have been the most frequently used combinations.

There have been aberrations. The 1992 kit, sponsored by Triton Showers, was made of a blue material covered with multicoloured splashes which resembled a shower curtain. Birmingham have only ever worn stripes on their home shirt once; in 1999 they wore a blue shirt with a front central panel in narrow blue and white stripes, a design similar to the Tesco supermarket carrier bag of the time.

When the club changed their name from Small Heath to Birmingham in 1905 they adopted the City of Birmingham's coat of arms as their crest, although this was not always worn on the shirts. The 1970s "penguin" shirt carried the letters "BCFC" intertwined at the centre of the chest. The Sports Argus newspaper ran a competition in 1972 to design a new badge for the club. The winning entry, the line-drawn globe and ball, with ribbon carrying the club name and date of foundation, in plain blue and white, was adopted by the club but not worn on playing shirts until 1976. An experiment was made in the early 1990s with colouring in the globe and ball, but the club soon reverted to the plain version.

For the 2008–09 season, Birmingham's home kit is in a traditional, darker shade of royal blue, plain apart from a white collar and arm trim, with blue shorts and white socks. The away kit consists of a white "penguin"-style shirt with red front panel, white shorts and red socks. It is manufactured by Umbro and carries the name of the sponsors, F&C Investments.

Small Heath Alliance played their first home games on waste ground off Arthur Street, Bordesley Green. As interest grew, they moved to a fenced-off field in Ladypool Road, Sparkbrook, where admission could be charged. A year later, they moved again, to a field adjoining Muntz Street, Small Heath, near the main Coventry Road, with a capacity of about 10,000. Muntz Street was adequate for 1880s friendly matches, and the capacity was gradually raised to around 30,000, but when several thousand spectators scaled walls and broke down turnstiles to get into a First Division match against Aston Villa, it became clear that it could no longer cope with the demand.

Director Harry Morris identified a site for a new ground in Bordesley Green, some three-quarters of a mile (1 km) from Muntz Street towards the city centre. The site was where a brickworks once operated; the land sloped steeply down to stagnant pools, yet the stadium was constructed in under twelve months from land clearance to opening ceremony on Boxing Day 1906. Heavy snow nearly prevented the opening; volunteers had to clear pitch and terraces before the match, a goalless draw against Middlesbrough, could go ahead. The ground is reputed to have been cursed by gypsies evicted from the site; gypsies are known to have camped nearby, but there is no contemporary evidence for their eviction by the club.

The original capacity of St Andrew's was reported as 75,000, with 4,000 seats in the Main Stand and space for 22,000 under cover. By 1938 the official capacity was 68,000, and February 1939 saw the attendance record set at the fifth round FA Cup tie against Everton, variously recorded as 66,844 or 67,341. On the outbreak of the Second World War, the Chief Constable ordered the ground's closure because of the danger from air-raids; it was the only ground to be thus closed, and was only re-opened after the matter was raised in Parliament. It was badly damaged during the war, the Railway End and the Kop as a result of bombing, the Main Stand burnt down when a fireman mistook petrol for water.

The replacement Main Stand used a propped cantilever roof design, which meant fewer pillars to block spectators' view of the pitch. Floodlights were installed in 1956, and officially switched on for a friendly match against Borussia Dortmund in 1957. By the early 1960s a stand had been built at the Railway End to the same design as the Main Stand, roofs had been put on the Kop and Tilton Road End, and the ground capacity was down to about 55,000.

Resulting from the 1986 Popplewell report into the safety of sports grounds and the later Taylor Report, the capacity of St Andrew's was set at 28,235 for safety reasons, but it was accepted that the stadium had to be brought up to modern all-seated standards. After the last home game of the 1993–94 season, the Kop and Tilton Road terraces were demolished – with fans taking home a significant proportion as souvenirs – to be replaced at the start of the new season by a 7,000-seat Tilton Road Stand, continuing round the corner into the 9,500-seat Kop which opened two months later. The 8,000-seat Railway Stand followed in 1999, but the Main Stand has still to be modernised.

In 2004 a proposal was put forward to build a "sports village" comprising a new 55,000 stadium for the club, to be known as the City of Birmingham Stadium, other sports and leisure facilities, and a super casino. The project would be jointly financed by Birmingham City Council, Birmingham City F.C. (via the proceeds of the sale of St Andrew's) and the casino group Las Vegas Sands. The feasibility of the plan depended on the government issuing a licence for a super casino, and Birmingham being chosen as the venue, but this did not happen. The club have planning permission to redevelop the Main Stand, but club and council have continued to seek alternative sources of funding for the City of Birmingham Stadium project.

Birmingham fans consider their main rivals to be Aston Villa, their nearest neighbours geographically, with whom they contest the Birmingham derby. Lesser rivalries exist with fellow West Midlands clubs Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion. According to a 2003 Football Fans Census survey, fans of Aston Villa think of Birmingham City as their main rivals, though this has not always been the case.

The fans are referred to as Bluenoses, a nickname attributed by the Football Fans Census survey to an "accusation they are left out in the cold when it comes to success". Ondré Nowakowski's Sleeping Iron Giant, a piece of public sculpture in the form of a ten-times-life-size head lying on a mound near the St Andrew's ground, has been repeatedly defaced with blue paint on its nose. Between 1994 and 1997 the club mascot took the form of a blue nose, though it is now a dog called Beau Brummie, a play on the name Beau Brummell and Brummie, the slang word for a person from Birmingham.

There are a number of supporters' clubs affiliated to the football club, both in England and abroad. While an action group was formed in 1991 to protest against chairman Samesh Kumar, the club blamed an internet petition for the collapse of the purchase of player Lee Bowyer in 2005, and antipathy towards the board provoked hostile chanting and a pitch invasion after the last match of the 2007–08 season, relations between club and fanbase have never been so poor as to provoke the formation of an independent supporters' group. When the club was in financial difficulties, supporters contributed to schemes which funded the purchase of players Brian Roberts in 1984 and Paul Peschisolido in 1992.

There have been several fanzines published by supporters; in 2008, two were regularly on sale, Made in Brum, first issued in 2000, and the longer-established Zulu. The hooligan firm associated with the club, the Zulus, were unusual in that they had multi-racial membership at a time when many such firms had associations with racist or right-wing groups. The 2005 film Green Street features hooliganism surrounding a fictional match between West Ham United and Birmingham.

Player Alex Govan is credited with popularising the song, by singing it on the coach on the way to the quarter final, and when he revealed in an interview that it was his favourite.

In the build-up to the 1956 FA Cup semi-final with Sunderland I was interviewed by the press and happened to let slip that my favourite song was Harry Lauder's old music hall number "Keep Right on to the End of the Road". I thought no more about it, but when the third goal went in at Hillsborough the Blues fans all started singing it. It was the proudest moment of my life.

Small Heath F.C. became a limited company in 1888; its first share issue was to the value of £650. The board was made up of local businessmen and dignitaries until 1965, when the club was sold to Clifford Coombs. By the mid-1980s the club was in financial trouble. Control passed from the Coombs family to former Walsall F.C. chairman Ken Wheldon, who cut costs, made redundancies, and sold off assets, including the club's training ground. Still unable to make the club pay, Wheldon sold it to the Kumar brothers, owners of a clothing chain. Debt was still increasing when matters came to a head; the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) put the Kumars' businesses into receivership. The club continued in administration for four months until Sport Newspapers' proprietor David Sullivan bought the Kumars' 84% holding for £700,000 from BCCI's liquidator in March 1993.

The football club is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Birmingham City plc, listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM). The plc was floated in 1997 with an issue of 15 million new shares, raising £7.5 million of new investment. The club made a pre-tax profit of £2.7M in the year ending 31 August 2006 which, according to Deloitte's Annual Review of Football Finance, made them one of only four Premier League clubs to finish the 2005–06 season without debt.

The plc has approximately 81.5M shares in issue. On 27 June 2007, the major shareholders entered into an agreement to sell 29.9% of the company to Hong Kong-based businessman Carson Yeung Ka-shing via the company Grandtop International Holdings Limited ("GIH"), which is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The offer price of 61.331 pence per share valued the club at approximately £50M, well above any previous market capitalisation. On 16 July GIH exercised their option to purchase, which made Yeung the largest single shareholder, with plc chairman David Sullivan controlling 23.22% via two of his companies, and football club chairman David Gold holding the same amount jointly with his brother Ralph. In August Yeung stated his intention to take full control of the club once due diligence was complete, but the process became protracted, until on 20 December 2007, the day before a deadline set for completion of the deal, the plc announced that discussions had terminated with the directors "no longer confident that GIH will be able to make a general offer for the Company", though GIH claimed it was they who had "temporarily shelve" the bid due to Birmingham's failure to co-operate.

In April 2008, Sullivan and managing director Karren Brady were arrested and questioned on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and false accounting in connection with an ongoing investigation of alleged corruption in English football.

Frank Womack holds the record for Birmingham league appearances, having played 491 matches between 1908 and 1928, closely followed by Gil Merrick with 485 between 1946 and 1959. If all senior competitions are included, Merrick has 551, less closely followed by Womack's 515 which is the record for an outfield player. As of June 2008, the player who has won most international caps while at the club is Maik Taylor with 39 for Northern Ireland.

The goalscoring record is held by Joe Bradford, with 249 league goals, 267 altogether, scored between 1920 and 1935; no other player comes close. Walter Abbott holds the records for the most goals scored in a season, in 1898–99, with 34 league goals in the Second Division and with 42 goals in total. Bradford holds the record for league goals scored in a top flight season with 29 in 1927–28.

The club's widest victory margin in the league was 12–0, a scoreline which they achieved once in the Football Alliance, against Nottingham Forest in 1899, and twice in the Second Division, against Walsall Town Swifts in 1892 and Doncaster Rovers in 1903. Their heaviest league defeats were 9–1, both in the First Division, against Blackburn Rovers in 1895 and Sheffield Wednesday in 1930. Their record FA Cup win was 10–0 against Druids in the fourth qualifying round of the 1899 competition; their record FA Cup defeat was 0–7 against Liverpool in the 2006 quarter final.

Birmingham's home attendance record was set at the fifth-round FA Cup tie against Everton on 11 February 1939. It is variously recorded as 66,844 or 67,341. As the current ground capacity is around 30,000, it is unlikely that this record will be broken in the foreseeable future.

The highest transfer fee received for a Birmingham player is £6.7 million, possibly rising to £8M, from Liverpool for Jermaine Pennant in July 2006, while the most expensive player bought was David Dunn, who joined from Blackburn Rovers in July 2003 for a fee undisclosed by the club, though widely reported as £5.5M. James McFadden was bought from Everton in January 2008 for a fee of £5M, possibly rising to £6.5M depending on appearances; if the full fee becomes payable, this will be the club's record purchase.

Gil Merrick is the only Birmingham manager to have won a major trophy, the League Cup in 1963. Merrick also led the club to the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final in 1961, following Pat Beasley who did the same in 1960. Leslie Knighton took the club to the final of the FA Cup in 1931; Arthur Turner did likewise in 1956, as well as taking charge of the club's highest league finish, sixth place in the 1955–56 First Division. Birmingham reached the 2001 Football League Cup Final under Trevor Francis, whose successor as permanent manager, Steve Bruce, twice achieved promotion to the Premier League.

A. ^  The records page on Birmingham City's website suggests that Emile Heskey is the club's record signing, at £6.25 million. This transfer was reported as an initial fee of £3.25M potentially rising to £6.25M. Managing director Karren Brady told the club's 2006 AGM that "there is £1.5million due to Liverpool for Emile which, if we don't stay up, doesn't have to be paid"; as they did not maintain their Premier League status, the total paid for Heskey would therefore have been £4.75M. The fee for Dunn, though officially undisclosed, was reported as £5.5M, a figure later quoted by then manager Steve Bruce.

B. a b  Some sources give the record attendance as 66,844: these include the records page of Birmingham City F.C.'s website and Rothman's Football Yearbook. Others, including the history page of Birmingham City F.C.'s website, Matthews' Encyclopedia, and The Times newspaper from the Monday following the match, say 67,341.

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Robbie Fowler

Anfield, where Fowler returned in February 2006

Robert Bernard "Robbie" Fowler (born 9 April 1975) is an English footballer, who plays for the North Queensland Fury in the Hyundai A-League. He is the fourth-highest goalscorer in the history of the Premier League.

Fowler scored 120 Premier League goals for Liverpool in an eight year period. He subsequently played for Leeds United and Manchester City, before returning to Liverpool in January 2006. He moved clubs again 18 months later to sign for Cardiff City. He refused a one year "pay as you play" contract extension and signed with Blackburn Rovers on a three-month "pay as you play" deal instead. However in December 2008, he departed Blackburn and became a free agent.

He has been capped for England twenty-six times, scoring seven goals. The most recent of these appearances came in the 2002 World Cup.

Fowler was born in Liverpool, Merseyside, and brought up in the inner city area of Toxteth. At this time he was known as Robert Ryder, his mother's surname. He lived in Toxteth at the time of the 1981 Toxteth riots, when he was six years old. As a youngster he supported Everton F.C., regularly travelling to Goodison Park. He played regularly for schoolboy team Thorvald, and once scored 16 times in a 26–0 rout.

In 1986, an 11-year-old Fowler was selected for Liverpool Schoolboys and was spotted by Liverpool scout Jim Aspinall. He began training with Liverpool once a week and signed schoolboy forms with the club. On leaving school in 1991 he signed as a YTS trainee, and turned professional on his 17th birthday less than a year later.

Fowler's career began with Liverpool. He signed as a youth team player on leaving school in the summer of 1991, signing professional terms on his 17th birthday, 9 April 1992.

Fowler's first involvement with the Liverpool first team came on 13 January 1993, when he was an unused substitute in an FA Cup third round tie against Bolton Wanderers. In the following close season, Fowler helped the England under-18 team win the 1993 European Championship, before making a scoring first-team debut in Liverpool's 3–1 win in a first round Coca Cola Cup tie at Fulham on 22 September 1993. Fowler scored all five goals in the second leg at Anfield two weeks later, making him the fourth player in Liverpool's history to score five in a senior fixture. He scored his first league hat-trick against Southampton in only his fifth league game. His first 13 games for the club yielded 12 goals, and he was rewarded with an England Under-21 debut against San Marino in November 1993, in which he scored England's opening goal in the third minute. Fowler was unable to sustain his goal-a-game ratio throughout the season, but finished his first season as the club's leading scorer with 18 goals in all competitions. It was, however, a disappointing season for Liverpool, as they finished eighth in the Premier League without making any impact in any of the major competitions, though the departure of Graeme Souness as manager and the appointment of Roy Evans as successor built up hope for the future.

In the 1994–95 season, Fowler was an ever-present for Liverpool, playing in all of their 57 competitive matches, including the victory in the 1995 League Cup final, and a match against Arsenal in which he scored a hat-trick in four minutes and 33 seconds, a Premiership record. Fowler was voted the PFA Young Player of the Year in two consecutive years in 1995 and 1996, a feat equalled only by Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney.

Throughout the mid and late 1990s, Fowler was widely considered to be the most natural finisher playing in England. Fowler sealed this reputation as he scored more than 30 goals for three consecutive seasons, up to 1997. Stan Collymore, Fowler's strike partner from 1995 to 1997, said in his autobiography that Fowler was the best player he has ever played alongside. Fowler and Collymore were among the most prolific goal-scoring strike partnerships in England during the 1995–96 season. In the same season he scored twice in a 4–3 victory over Newcastle United, a match voted the best of the decade in a Premier League poll. The match helped prevent Newcastle from winning the league, but it was not enough for Liverpool to clinch the title; they finished third while Manchester United F.C. were crowned champions. Fowler also played in his first FA Cup final that season, but was on the losing side as Manchester United won 1–0.

Fowler received a call-up to the full England squad and won his first cap on 27 March 1996 as a substitute in a friendly against Bulgaria. His first start at international level was against Croatia which was the England game following his substitute appearance. Fowler was part of the England squad for Euro 96, making two appearances in the tournament. On 14 December 1996, he scored four against Middlesbrough, including his hundredth for Liverpool. This meant he reached a century of goals one game quicker than his first strike partner, Ian Rush.

Fowler was part of a group of Liverpool players from the mid-1990s who were nicknamed "The Spice Boys" by the press following a series of off-field controversies. The term was coined by the Daily Mail, and arose due to misplaced rumours that Fowler was dating Spice Girl Emma Bunton. The term was subsequently used in a derogatory manner, implying Fowler and colleagues such as Jamie Redknapp, Stan Collymore, David James and Steve McManaman were underachieving playboys.

Fowler's performance in the 1997–98 football season was marred by a knee ligament injury that kept him out of action for half the season and caused him to miss the 1998 World Cup. During this period of injury, fellow Liverpool striker, Michael Owen rose to prominence, making his debut in 1997. Owen established himself in the Liverpool team in Fowler's absence.

In 1999, Fowler was fined £60,000 by his club for bringing the game into disrepute. Whilst celebrating his goal against Liverpool's Merseyside rivals, Everton, Fowler used the white line of the penalty area to simulate cocaine use. Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier stated that this was a Cameroonian grass eating celebration, learnt from teammate Rigobert Song. Defending himself, Fowler later said this was a response to Everton fans who had insulted him with false accusations of drug abuse. Fowler received a four match suspension from the FA for this incident. At the same FA disciplinary hearing, Fowler received a further two match suspension due to a separate incident in which he had taunted the Chelsea defender Graeme Le Saux by waving his backside at him as Le Saux's wife and children watched from the stands. Fowler later attempted to justify his actions by suggesting his homophobic taunts were simply an extension of gamesmanship. The FA imposed a £32,000 fine and a six match ban for the two incidents.

The 2000–01 season was Fowler’s most successful season. He appeared in three finals, scoring 17 goals and lifting three trophies in a unique cup treble.. In the absence of Jamie Redknapp, who was sidelined by injury, Fowler was named as Liverpool captain when he started. However he found himself the third choice Liverpool striker, with Houllier favouring a forward partnership of Michael Owen and Emile Heskey.

He did take part in a fourth round League Cup hammering of Stoke City, scoring a hat trick in an 8–0 victory which beat the club's record 7–0 defeat of Crewe Alexandra F.C. in 1896. In the League Cup final against Birmingham City, the club's first cup final since 1996, he captained the side and scored in 30th minute. Liverpool went on to win the trophy on penalties, with Fowler scoring Liverpool's fifth in the shootout. Fowler picked up the Alan Hardaker Man of the Match award and lifted the trophy.

Fowler’s season picked up from there as he scored several important goals including a goal against runaway champions Manchester United and a free kick in the FA Cup semi-final against Wycombe Wanderers. Fowler featured as a substitute in the 2001 FA Cup Final coming on as a 77th minute replacement for Vladimír Šmicer. Liverpool, who were 1–0 down at that point, eventually won the game 2–1 with two goals from Michael Owen. Fowler raised the trophy along with Sami Hyypiä and Jamie Redknapp.

Four days later he was a substitute again in Liverpool’s third final, the 2001 UEFA Cup Final against Deportivo Alavés. He came on in the 64th minute for Emile Heskey with the score at 3–3. He scored seven minutes later but Alavés equalised before full time and Liverpool eventually won with a golden goal, an own goal, in the 116th minute. Fowler and Hyypiä then raised Liverpool’s third trophy of the season together. Liverpool’s next and final game of the season was against Charlton Athletic F.C. and Fowler scored twice in a 4–0 victory that assured them UEFA Champions League qualification for the next season.

Fowler began the 2001–02 season amidst controversy with then Liverpool manager Gérard Houllier when he was dropped from the entire squad for Liverpool's 2–1 victory in the 2001 Charity Shield match against rivals Manchester United. He made an appearance in Liverpool's 3–2 European Super Cup victory over European Champions Bayern Munich, but starts were intermittent. In October 2001, he scored his first league hat-trick for three years, helping Liverpool beat Leicester City 4–1, but was dropped for the following league game. Speculation over Fowler's future persisted for most of Houllier's tenure and became an issue that divided Liverpool fans. His last appearance for Liverpool was against Sunderland, in which he was substituted at half-time.

Despite his popularity with Liverpool fans, who referred to Fowler as "God", a combination of off-field controversy, disputes with Gérard Houllier and training ground arguments with assistant manager Phil Thompson led to Fowler's departure to Leeds United. Fowler maintains that Houllier forced him out of Liverpool, and accused Houllier of pressuring the Liverpool Echo newspaper to use its influence to turn opinion against him.

The transfer went ahead just one month after his hat-trick at Leicester with a fee of £11 million. He made his Leeds debut in an away game against Fulham, the same ground where he had made his debut eight years earlier. Fowler scored 12 goals in the remainder of the season, helping Leeds to a UEFA Cup qualifying place. Fowler was included in the England squad for the 2002 World Cup, but only made one appearance, coming on as substitute in a second round win over Denmark.

Fowler suffered an aggravation of a pre-existing hip injury in the 2002–03 pre-season, and did not recover until December. Struggling to gain fitness, and seeing team-mates sold off due to a financial crisis, Fowler's form and market value diminished. However, in total he scored 15 goals in 31 appearances for Leeds; achieving an impressive strike rate of just less than one goal every two games. In 2002–03, Leeds finished 15th in the Premier League and a severe financial crisis was developing.

In the 2002–03 season, Fowler was transferred to Manchester City following a protracted transfer saga. Fowler initially turned down the move, and a dispute between Manchester City manager Kevin Keegan and chairman David Bernstein over whether the transfer should take place due to medical concerns resulted in Bernstein leaving the club. Following encouragement from Keegan, Fowler finally signed for Manchester City on 16 January 2003 for an initial fee of £3 million and a further £3 million dependent upon appearances. Bizarre transfer conditions meant Leeds United still paid a significant proportion of Fowler's wages. Fowler made his Manchester City debut against West Bromwich Albion on 1 February 2003, but made a poor start to his Manchester City career, scoring just two goals in the remainder of the season.

Fowler continued to struggle with fitness problems in the 2003–04 season, completing the full 90 minutes only nine times, however he did score against his old club Liverpool in a 2–2 draw at home. The arrival of, close friend, Steve McManaman from Real Madrid gave Fowler hope, but the pair failed to rekindle their prolific partnership of yesteryear, and received criticism from the fans and tabloids for their salaries and alleged excesses. In 2004 Fowler, depressed by his lack of form and fitness, considered retiring, but was persuaded to carry on by Keegan and Stuart Pearce. He then showed a marked improvement in the second half of the 2004–2005 season, scoring his 150th Premiership goal in the 3–2 win over Norwich City on 28 February 2005. However, his failure to convert a 90th minute penalty kick against Middlesbrough's Mark Schwarzer in the final game of the season prevented Manchester City from gaining a place in the UEFA Cup. Despite this, Fowler ended the season as the club's joint top goal scorer and gained the approval of the fans, finishing in the top three in the fans' Player of the Year poll. Fowler later described this as "one of the proudest achievements of my career".

Fowler had injury problems at the start of the 2005–06 season and rarely featured when fit, making just two substitute appearances in the first four months of the season. His first start of the season came against Scunthorpe United in the FA Cup on 7 January 2006, in which he scored a hat-trick. The following week he scored Manchester City's third goal in their 3–1 win against local rivals Manchester United after coming on as substitute. However, Fowler made only one more appearance for Manchester City before returning to Liverpool on a free transfer.

On 27 January 2006, Fowler rejoined Liverpool from Manchester City on a free transfer, signing a contract until the end of the season. Fowler had remained a Liverpool fan after he left the club; he was in the Istanbul crowd when Liverpool won the Champions League in 2005.

The fans were overjoyed to learn that Fowler had returned; there were large banners in the game against Birmingham City which read 'God - number eleven, welcome back to heaven', with 'God' being Fowler's nickname while he was previously at Liverpool.

Fowler's return against Birmingham City in February 2006 was labelled by the tabloid press as the stuff of fairytales, and he himself said he felt like "a kid waking up on Christmas morning every day". Fowler's first appearance back at Anfield was as a substitute against Birmingham, receiving a standing ovation upon his introduction. After his return, he had three goals ruled out for offside, before finally getting off the mark on 15 March 2006 in a home game against Fulham, the same opponents against which he scored his first ever goal for Liverpool 13 years earlier.

Fowler's next Liverpool goal, against West Bromwich Albion, meant he overtook Kenny Dalglish in the club's all time top scorers. His resurgence continued as he marked his 31st birthday with a goal against Bolton Wanderers. He made it four goals in five games when he scored the only goal in a 1–0 victory over Blackburn Rovers on 16 April 2006. However, Fowler's fitness remained a concern. In March 2006, manager Rafael Benítez commented on Fowler's work and progress by saying, "to buy a Robbie Fowler who is fit and scoring goals would cost a lot, maybe £10m or more". Despite concerns about his fitness, Fowler finished the 2005–06 season scoring on a more consistent basis than Liverpool's other strikers. In May 2006 he was offered a new one year contract with the club, and celebrated by scoring the first goal in Liverpool's last league game of the season in a 3–1 away win at Portsmouth. It was his final game of the season as he was unable to take part in the club's FA Cup Final success due to being cup-tied.

Fowler featured rarely in his final Liverpool season, making only six league starts. Bizarrely, all three of his League goals were penalties against Sheffield United. Appearances in other competitions were more common due to Rafael Benítez's squad rotation policy. On 25 October 2006 Fowler was named as Liverpool's captain for the first time since his return in a League Cup tie against Reading, scoring just before half-time in a 4–3 win.

On 5 December, Fowler scored his first two goals in the UEFA Champions League competition proper against Galatasaray (he had previously scored during a qualifying tie some six years prior against FC Haka), though Liverpool lost 3–2.

On 1 May 2007 he was a substitute in the Champions League semi-final against Chelsea, brought on in the last few minutes of extra-time. He set up an attack for Dirk Kuyt but the shot went straight at the Chelsea goalkeeper. The match went into a penalty shoot-out that Liverpool won. Fowler was due to take the fifth and final spot-kick, but the game had already ended when Kuyt slotted home his winning penalty.

In what transpired to be his last appearance for the club, against Charlton Athletic on 13 May, Fowler was given the captain's armband one final time. He was substituted two minutes from the final whistle and given a standing ovation. The crowd still chanted his name as the match finished and applauded him for his years of service. He finished his second run as a Liverpool player with a UEFA Champions League runners up medal, although he was not named in either the starting eleven or the seven substitutes. He became a free agent on 1 July having scored 183 goals in 369 appearances during his two spells at the club.

On 21 July Fowler signed a two-year contract to play for Cardiff City. He missed the season's opening fixtures due to a lack of fitness, making his debut in a League Cup tie on 28 August. He scored his first two Cardiff goals on 22 September against Preston North End, scoring with two headers. Fowler scored twice in his next game, a third round Carling Cup tie against West Brom, which Cardiff won 4–2. This led to a fourth round tie against Fowler's former club Liverpool, at Anfield, but Cardiff were knocked out in a 2–1 defeat.

In November, Fowler travelled to Frankfurt, Germany to see Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfarth, a specialist sports injuries doctor, to try and resolve a recurring hip problem that had left him lacking fitness in early season fixtures for the Bluebirds. The treatment involved taking around twenty-eight injections into his hip. He returned to full training in late November and made his comeback on 15 December as a late substitute in a 1–0 defeat against Bristol City. However he went on to suffer another injury blow just days later after a mistimed tackle in training from club captain Darren Purse left him with damaged ankle ligaments. Due to the new injury blow Cardiff and Fowler made plans for him to go to Colorado, United States to undergo keyhole surgery on the hip problem, which had plagued him in recent seasons, in the hope that it would finally resolve the problem.

On 17 January, it was announced that Fowler could miss the rest of the 2007–08 season for Cardiff after his hip operation revealed that the injury was worse than previously thought. Surgeons were forced to perform a micro-fracture in order for the hip to heal properly. Despite this, he attempted to make a comeback at the end of the season to play in the FA Cup final against Portsmouth and was included in the 18-man match squad. However he did not feature in the game in any way and thus did not receive a runners-up medal having not made an appearance in the competition.

Fowler was offered a new pay-as-you-play contract with Cardiff for the 2008–09 season in May 2008 and was expected to sign the contract. However, he pulled out of the deal, preferring to accept an offer of a trial at Blackburn Rovers from former Liverpool colleague Paul Ince. The move left Cardiff manager Dave Jones and chairman Peter Ridsdale furious after the club had assisted Fowler's rehabilitation throughout the summer. After training with Blackburn and appearing in a handful of friendlies he was offered a six-month deal by the club to last until January, but Fowler turned down the deal due to it being a shorter offer than the previous one he had rejected at Cardiff. After turning down the offer, Fowler made a shock enquiry about returning to Cardiff on the deal he had originally turned down, prompting anger from supporters and a swift "no thanks" from the club.

Fowler concluded the trial period at Blackburn by agreeing to a three month pay-as-you-play deal. He stated that he was eager to return to the Premier League and that his pre-existing relationship with Ince would not earn him any preferential treatment. He made his first appearance against Everton in a 1–0 win in the League Cup on 24 September. With a month left on his contract at Blackburn, Fowler received interest from League Two side Grimsby Town. Fowler a noted friend of Grimsby manager Mike Newell had held talks at Blundell Park over a possible Player/Coach role with the club.

His three month deal at Blackburn expired on 12 December, and after not being offered a new contract was released by the club. He entered talks with new Australian A-League club North Queensland Fury and Hong Kong First Division League club South China about signing a contract for the 2009–10 season.

Fowler signed with the North Queensland Fury on 4 February 2009 and became their inaugural marquee player, and will soon be relocating his family to Townsville for the 2009-2010 season of the Australian A-League..

It is an important signing for the new franchise who have struggled to sign a marquee player although some are questioning whether Fowler will be able to cope with the heat and humidity of North Queensland having been out of the game of late. .

In association with Steve McManaman, Fowler has invested in several racehorses through a company named The Macca and Growler Partnership, most notably 2003 Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Celebration Chase winner Seebald. In 2005, Fowler was listed as one of the 1,000 wealthiest Britons by the Sunday Times Rich List. Business interests including a large property portfolio have resulted in Fowler's net wealth totaling £137m. This gave rise to the affectionate Manchester City chant, We all live in a Robbie Fowler house, sung to the tune of Yellow Submarine.

On 2 September 2005, Fowler released a book called Fowler: My Autobiography, about his time as a footballer and the issues surrounding him. Since his transfer to Liverpool he has updated it and included a section about his return to Anfield. Excerpts published in newspapers included criticism of the England management.

Fowler married wife Kerrie on 9 June 2001 in the town of Duns in Scotland. Together they have three daughters named Madison, Jaya, and Mackenzie, with one son, Jacob.

Updated to games played 28 January 2008.

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Wigan Athletic F.C.

Wigan Athletic crest

Wigan Athletic Football Club is a professional football team based in Wigan, Greater Manchester. They compete in the Premier League, the highest division of football in England, in which they have been playing since their promotion from the Football League in 2005. Wigan's current spell in the Premier League is the only top flight run in the club's history.

They play at the JJB Stadium, which they share with the rugby league club Wigan Warriors. It has been their home since 1999; before that they played at Springfield Park for 67 years.

Wigan Athletic are currently the newest club in the Premier League, having only been formed in 1932.

Wigan Athletic F.C. was formed in 1932 following the demise of Wigan Borough the previous year. Wigan Athletic was the fifth attempt to stabilise a football club in the town following the demise of Wigan County, Wigan United, Wigan Town and the aforementioned Wigan Borough. Springfield Park, the former home of Wigan Borough, was purchased by the club and they were elected to the Cheshire County League.

In the early history of Wigan Athletic, the most notable exploits came in the FA Cup. In the 1934–35 season, Wigan beat Carlisle United 6–1 in the first round, setting a cup record for the biggest victory by a non-league club over a league club, a record which still stands today; although it was equalled in 1955 by Boston United, and in 1957 by Hereford United.

In 1945, Wigan were elected to a different league, the Lancashire Combination, and in 1950 came close to election to the Football League, narrowly losing out to Scunthorpe United on a vote. In the 1953–54 season, Wigan played an FA Cup match against Hereford United in front of a crowd of 27,526, a Wigan Athletic record and also a record for a match between two non-league teams at a non-league ground. In 1961, the club moved back to the Cheshire County League.

In 1968, Wigan were founder members of the Northern Premier League, known in recent years as the UniBond League. After 34 failed election attempts, including one controversial but headline-making application in 1972 to join the Scottish League Second Division, Wigan were elected to the Football League in 1978.

Wigan's first match under their new floodlights was against Manchester City. City brought a full strength team to Springfield Park and won 4-0.

Wigan had finished in second place in the Northern Premier League in the 1977/78 season, behind winners Boston United. But as Boston's ground and facilities did not meet the Football League criteria for a League club, whereas Springfield Park did, Wigan were put forward for election to the League. There was no automatic promotion to the Football League until 1987, before when, a club had to be ‘voted out’ of the League to allow a non-league team to be promoted in their place. At the end of the 1977/78 season, Southport finished next to bottom of the old Fourth Division, and faced off with Wigan Athletic for their place in the League. The first round of voting ended tied, with both clubs receiving 26 votes, but after a tense re-vote Southport lost out 20-29 and lost their place in the Fourth Division. Wigan Athletic became an English League club on 2 June, 1978.

In the club's first season of League football, Wigan finished in sixth place, just six points off promotion in their first League season and in front of an average crowd of 6,701. Two more top-half finishes came in the following seasons. Latics gained their first Football League promotion in 1981/82, when a points tally of 91 saw them join the old Division Three for the first time, beginning a 10 year spell in the third tier of English football. The next three seasons all saw Latics finish in the bottom half of Division Three, but the club did win its first silverware as a League club in 1985, winning the Freight Rover Trophy. They were beaten in the Northern Final of the same competition the following season by Bolton Wanderers.

The 1985/86 season saw a marked improvement in the club’s league form, eventually finishing in fourth position, a then-club record high which would stand for 17 years, until 2002/03. In fact, Latics finished the season just one point outside the promotion places in the final season before the Football League introduced the play-off system for promotion and relegation. Wigan managed an identical fourth place finish in the 1986/87 season, but this time were rewarded with the chance to compete for the final promotion place in the new play-off system. (In the first two years of the play-off system, teams finishing 3rd, 4th and 5th joined the team finishing 20th in the division above to play off for the promotion place; this was changed to the teams finishing 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th from the 1988/89 season). Latics lost at the two-legged semi final stage to Swindon, who went on to win the final promotion place.

The fourth place finishes of the 1985/86 and 1986/87 seasons proved to be the high points of Wigan Athletic’s first stint in Division 3. For the next five years, they finished in mid-table, flirting with relegation in 1988-89 and 1989/90, until they were relegated for the first and only time in the club’s League history in 1992/93. Wigan finished in 23rd place, amid tumbling attendances which had fallen from averages of 3,000-4,000 in Wigan’s Division 3 years to 2,593 in 1992/93. A year later, with the club back in the fourth tier of the English League, Latics finished 19th - fourth from bottom – to complete their worst-ever league season. Attendances would fall to a lowest-ever Wigan Athletic League average of 1,845 by 1995.

In February 1995, local millionaire and owner of JJB Sports Dave Whelan purchased the club, which was then playing in the Third Division (fourth tier), and stated his ambition to take the club to the Premier League, a statement which was widely ridiculed at the time. 10 years later Wigan were playing Premier League football.

At the end of Whelan’s first season as Chairman, Wigan finished in 14th position in the old Third Division, or on the 84th rung of the 92-club English Football League ladder. Whelan and Wigan made headlines in the summer of 1995 when Whelan’s business connections in Spain helped him attract three Spaniards to the club – Roberto Martinez, Isidro Diaz, and Jesus Seba – who became known as ‘The Three Amigos’. Martinez and Diaz would later become the first Spaniards to play in the F.A. Cup, and the trio became the on-pitch symbols of Whelan’s ambitious plans.

His replacement John Benson led the squad that he inherited from Mathias to a commanding position at the top of Division Two in his first six months, including the demolition of local rivals Preston North End 4-1 away, only to collapse in the second half of the season. This was largely attributed to the dropping of leading goalscorer Stuart Barlow who was responsible for much of the side's early success, which coupled with a series of poor quality signings of ageing, and reputedly highly paid players and a run of poor performances led to strong disapproval of the management among fans. The 1999/2000 season ended in failure at Wembley as Wigan lost 3-2 after extra time to Gillingham at the last ever Division Two play-off final to be played at the old Wembley Stadium.

Benson moved 'upstairs' to the new post of Director of Football in the summer of 2000, when former Arsenal manager Bruce Rioch took the manager’s job for the 2000/01 season. Rioch was hampered by severe injury problems and after a difficult and often unimpressive first half of the season left the club in February 2001. He was temporarily replaced by club stalwart Colin Greenall, before the surprise appointment of Steve Bruce for the final eight games of the season. His arrival brought renewed vigour to Wigan performances, but the club ultimately lost in the play-offs once again, this time against Reading. Following this blow, Bruce left for Crystal Palace after repeatedly pledging his future to Wigan, leaving behind a club both grateful for his help in getting so close to promotion and also angry and bitter at his betrayal.

In the summer of 2001, highly regarded young manager and former Latics forward Paul Jewell took over as manager following an unsuccessful spell at Sheffield Wednesday. His first season in charge saw mixed results and an embarrassing defeat to non-league Canvey Island in the F.A. Cup first round, although the club eventually finished in mid-table. Jewell’s second season in charge was far more successful. Wigan went on a run to the quarter finals of the League Cup, beating Premier League opponents West Brom, Manchester City and Fulham en route. Wigan won the Division Two championship in 2002-03 with a points total of 100, powered by the goals of then-record £1.2 million signing Nathan Ellington, with a run of 10 consecutive wins along the way. The club lost only four times all season, and Wigan secured promotion to the second tier of the English Football League for the first time in their history.

After losing their first ever game in Division One, Wigan confounded expectations to go unbeaten for the next 17 games and sit atop the division by November 2003. A weak finish saw Wigan win only three of their last 10 games to finish seventh in Division One - a last minute goal by West Ham's Brian Deane in the final game of the season saw Latics drop out of the play-off places in favour of eventual play-off winners Crystal Palace.

Hoping to build on the previous season’s disappointing finish, Latics went one better than 2003/04 by remain unbeaten for the first 17 games of the 2004/05 season. Along with Sunderland and Ipswich, Latics remained in the promotion hunt all season. By the last day of the season, Sunderland had already won the title and Wigan needed at least a draw against Reading - who themselves needed to win to finish in the last play-off spot - to beat Ipswich to automatic promotion. A 3-1 victory in front of their home fans at the JJB Stadium earned Wigan Athletic promotion to the top division of the English football league system for the first time in their 73-year history.

Wigan were only the fourth English team in the last 20 years to win promotion to the top division for the first time. The club's first ever Premier League game was a home match against Champions Chelsea, a game they lost only to a 94th minute winner by Hernán Crespo. A successful run followed, and by November Wigan were second in the league. Good league form was coupled with an equally strong performance in the Football League Cup, with the Latics reaching their first ever major cup final after defeating Arsenal on away goals in the semi-final. In the final, Wigan were defeated 4–0 by near neighbours Manchester United. Wigan eventually finished the season in 10th place - the club's highest ever league placing. Right-back Pascal Chimbonda was included in the 2005–06 PFA Team of the Season. Wigan failed in their bid for European football and opted not to take part in the UEFA Intertoto Cup.

During the close season, Wigan sold many who had starred in their first season in the Premier League, as Jimmy Bullard left for Fulham, Jason Roberts joined Blackburn Rovers, and Stephane Henchoz was released. Wigan brought in high-profile replacements including Emile Heskey, Denny Landzaat, Chris Kirkland and Antonio Valencia to try to build on their successful Premier League debut. After a mid-table start to the 2006–07 season, Wigan's fortunes dipped dramatically with eight consecutive losses from mid-December, but after arresting the slump Wigan stood 15th in the Premiership in early March and finally seemed to be moving away from the relegation mire. But a series of defeats and the resurgence of rival strugglers meant Wigan faced the serious threat of relegation. On the final day of the season, Wigan battled to a 2–1 away win against Sheffield United, guaranteeing their Premiership status for another year and in doing so relegating Sheffield United to the Championship. The following day, Paul Jewell unexpectedly resigned as manager; his assistant Chris Hutchings was appointed as his replacement.

Wigan's third Premier League campaign saw the club trying to fully establish itself in the division following a disappointing second season. The playing squad had changed almost entirely from the promotion-winning side. Ageing fan favourites Arjan De Zeeuw, Matt Jackson, John Filan made way, along with Lee McCulloch, who sealed his dream move to Rangers, and Leighton Baines, who rejected a new contract and signed for his boyhood team Everton. Titus Bramble, former Chelsea defender Mario Melchiot, Jason Koumas (for £5.3 million) and much travelled striker Marcus Bent were among the players brought in. Melchiot was installed as the new club captain. For the 2007–08 season, Wigan's home shirt returned to the club’s traditional blue and white stripes, having been blue with white sleeves in 2006–07. The away shirt became white with black trim, with black shorts and black socks. A slate grey third kit with royal blue trim was also introduced.

The 2007–08 season began well for Wigan, topping the Premier League after four games for the first time in their history. Wigan's strong start saw Emile Heskey recalled to the England Squad for the first time since 2005. He became the first Wigan player to represent England whilst a full member of the squad (Chris Kirkland earned his first cap while at Wigan, but was on loan from Liverpool at the time). However, Heskey broke his foot immediately after his England call-up, and was out injured for six weeks. The club's league position subsequently worsened, and on the back of a run of six consecutive defeats Wigan plummeted into the relegation zone. Chairman Dave Whelan took the decision to sack manager Chris Hutchings on 5 November 2007, after only 12 games in charge.

Former Manchester United defender Steve Bruce replaced Hutchings. Bruce had just resigned as Birmingham City manager, and signed a £2m-a-year deal to try to keep Wigan in the Premier League. Wigan had to pay a reported £3 million in compensation to Birmingham for Bruce's services. His appointment saw Wigan end their losing streak, but consistency evaded the Latics, although Bruce did soon achieve something neither Jewell nor Hutchings had managed previously - a 1–1 draw at Anfield against Liverpool; the first time Wigan had taken points off one of the so-called 'Big Four' Premier League clubs. Bruce eventually oversaw a comparatively comfortable end to the season for Wigan, who finished 14th in the final table with 40 points - three places and two points higher than their finish the previous season.

The summer of 2008 was Steve Bruce's first pre-season with the club and his overhaul of the playing squad continued. The two biggest deals saw Lee Cattermole sign from Middlesbrough for £3.5 million, and highly rated Egyptian striker Amr Zaki sign on an initial one-year loan. Zaki had scored 10 Premier League goals by February 2009, as Wigan reached seventh place in the table with 34 points from 25 games and looked likely to remain in the Premier League for a fifth successive season. Once more, the team's kits were altered for the new season, in part due to the club signing a new contract with Champion (sportswear).

Wigan Athletic's stadium is the 25,138 capacity JJB Stadium, part of the Robin Park complex in Wigan. It has been the club's home since the 1999-00 season. Wigan Athletic share the stadium with rugby league team Wigan Warriors. The ground cost £30 million to construct. Previously, home games were played at Springfield Park, the former home of Wigan Borough.

The record attendance at the JJB Stadium for Wigan Athletic is 25,133 for a match against Manchester United on May 11, 2008.

The JJB Stadium was the fourth attempt at re-development/re-location for Wigan Athletic, the first coming in 1986 when then-chairman Bill Kenyon revealed plans for a 15,000 all-seater development at Springfield Park including a hotel and shopping facilities. The club were to play at the nearby Woodhouse Stadium (formerly Wigan Municipal Stadium - now demolished) while the building work took place. In 1990, Kenyon submitted his second scheme which would cost £3m, hold 12-15,000 fans and involve moving the pitch nearer to the car park. Neither efforts got past the planning stage. The next chairman, Stephen Gage, spent most of 1993 and 1994 trying to relocate Latics to the then Robin Park Stadium (now demolished) until his plans were scuppered by Wigan Council when the local authority announced plans for their own ground involving Wigan Warriors. Mr Gage finally admitted defeat when he sold Latics to Dave Whelan on 27 February 1995 for around £1m. Plans for the JJB Stadium were first published in 1997.

Contracts for the new stadium were signed in late 1997 with work starting immediately. Originally the ground was to be built for Wigan Athletic and Orrell R.U.F.C., as grants were only available for multi-use stadia at that time. Wigan Warriors did not figure in the equation until Dave Whelan bought the rugby club some 12 months later after protracted negotiations with the directors of the rugby club. The modern all-seater stadium was officially opened on August 4, 1999. Its inauguration was marked with a friendly between Wigan Athletic and neighbours Manchester United, who were then reigning European Champions, with Sir Alex Ferguson officially opening the stadium. However, Wigan hosted Morecambe three days earlier on August 1 as a dress rehearsal for the official opening against Manchester United. 4,020 supporters braved a fierce electrical storm and torrential rain but the game ended in a goalless draw. The first competitive football match took place on August 7, 1999, with Wigan Athletic facing Scunthorpe United in a Division 2 match. Simon Haworth scored twice, including the first competitive goal at the new stadium, as Athletic won 3-0.

On March 7, 2005 Greater Manchester police announced that they would stop policing Wigan Athletic matches at the stadium from April 2. This move would almost certainly have resulted in the stadium's safety certificate being revoked, effectively forcing the team to play behind closed doors. The move was part of an ongoing dispute between the police force and Dave Whelan surrounding £300,000 in unpaid policing costs. (Under current arrangements, football clubs have a minimum legal requirement to pay for any costs incurred inside their stadiums or property). The situation was temporarily resolved on March 8 with both sides reaching an agreement that would allow Athletic to play at the ground until the end of the season. Four months later, Wigan, facing the prospect of playing their home games in the Premier League in an empty stadium, grudgingly paid the money they owed to the police. However, following the ordeal the club appealed against the payments in court and won it, with the claims expected to earn the club around £37,000.

Curiously for an English football club, Wigan Athletic's chief rivalry is not with another football club, but with the local rugby league club, Wigan Warriors. It is a long-standing rivalry and in fact predates the club's formation, as previous football teams within the town are said to have struggled to attract support due to the success of the local rugby league club.

Relative fortunes have also fostered resentment. In the 1989-1990 season, Wigan Athletic, deep in financial trouble, were given a lifeline as they were drawn against Liverpool in a two-legged tie in the second round of the Football League Cup. When approached, the Wigan RL board refused to allow the football club use of their Central Park ground, which would have given the home side a greater share of the gate revenue (due to the fact Central Park had a larger capacity of around 32,000) forcing both ties to be played at Anfield. The need to move the game came as Springfield Park had recently had its capacity cut from 20,000 to 10,800 in 1985 by Wigan Council due to safety concerns.

It must also be noted that some fans support both teams and have tried to discourage the animosity.

Relations have not been improved by both clubs' move to play their home fixtures at the JJB Stadium. A poor playing surface for football matches at the JJB Stadium in recent seasons has often seen Athletic fans blame the rugby matches for ruining the pitch. The rivalry resurfaced recently when a Wigan Warriors match against Bradford Bulls on September 12, 2008 was moved from the JJB Stadium to Widnes due to the Latics playing Sunderland a day later. The decision was made by Whelco, owners of the JJB Stadium, following alleged pressure from the Premier League suggesting that Wigan Athletic will get preference in the event of such clashes.

Wigan Athletic's rapid rise to the Premiership has been one of the most well-documented success stories in English football in recent years, but the club's image in both the eyes of the public and footballing establishment has not risen as high as its league standing. The English media and fans of rival clubs have frequently criticised Wigan Athletic for their poor attendances at home matches. This was compounded by the League Cup semi-final game against Arsenal, a crucial game in Wigan's run to their first major final, where they eventually lost to Manchester United 4-0 at Cardiff's Millenium Stadium. The attendance for the home leg of the semi-final was 12,181 - just 48 percent of the JJB Stadium's capacity. The club's management argued that this low attendance was due to the match being televised, it being played on a weekday evening, amid a backlog of games created by the shortening of the Premier League season by a week.

Attendances at Wigan Athletic games are certainly disappointing by Premier League standards but easily outweigh those of the Wigan Warriors Rugby League, showing the shift in popularity from the Super League side. By the end of the 2007/08 Premier League season, the club had the lowest average attendance of any club in the division. Yet, supporters argue that, for a club that has only been playing league football since 1978, year-on-year increases in average attendance (from 1,845 in 1995 to 19,046 in 2008) in fact represent a huge success. These figures are notable considering the proximity of more established, 'fashionable' clubs: Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Everton, Bolton Wanderers are all within 20 miles of Wigan, and Blackburn Rovers only slightly more, and all are currently playing in the Premier League. Many fans of Wigan Athletic see the growing fanbase of what is a comparatively 'newer' team as something that does not deserve to be criticised; that they are 'a club on the rise'.

Nevertheless, attendance growth at the JJB Stadium has stagnated since Wigan's first season in the Premier League (average attendance: 20,233) - it has been around 18,000 for the last two seasons - and the growth the club has experienced over the last decade is being to look as if it may have peaked. For the 2006-2007 season, chairman Dave Whelan raised ticket prices, angering fans. Responding to criticism and falling attendances, Whelan not only reduced ticket prices but also promised they would remain low in following seasons at a time when ticket prices are driving many away from attending live matches. The price cut had a positive effect on attendences for Wigan's 2007-08 Premier League campaign, as crowds increased on average by almost 1,000 fans.

As at 8 March 2009 Wigan's average attendance was 17,884. On 8 March 2009, as well as the other 19 Premier League clubs there were a number of Championship and League One sides that had a better average attendance than Wigan Athletic. Ten Championship clubs had better average attendance figures for the 2008-2009 season (Derby County, Sheffield United, Norwich City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich Town, Charlton Athletic, Reading and Birmingham City) and two League One clubs (Leeds United and Leicester City)). As at 8 March 2009 Wigan Athletic was, in terms of average attendance, the 32nd best supported club in England.

Wigan's average attendance is good by international standards. If Wigan was in the French Ligue 1 then it would be the 10th (out of 20) best supported club in terms of average attendence; the 8th (out of 18) best supported in the Dutch Eredivisie; the 4th best supported in the Portuguese Liga and American Major League Soccer; and the 3rd best supported in the Scottish Premier League and Russian Premier League respectively.

Wigan Athletic have many fans in Honduras due to the signings of Honduran Maynor Figueroa. In Ecuador, Wigan have fans due to the international star Antonio Valencia. There is also recognition of Wigan Athletic in Egypt with their link to Amr Zaki and Mido.

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1999 Football League Cup Final

The 1999 Worthington Cup Final was played between Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City, at Wembley on Sunday 21 March 1999. Tottenham won the game, and their third League Cup, with an injury-time diving header from Allan Nielsen. Justin Edinburgh became the last ever player to be sent off at the old Wembley, after brushing Robbie Savage's head with a fist following a confrontation between the two. Although not the greatest final ever, the dramatic ending more than made up for the two teams performances with events like Ramon Vega famously making a last-ditch sliding tackle to deny Emile Heskey a sure goal, after Ian Walker rushed off his line and Allan Nielsen's last minute diving header.

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Source : Wikipedia