Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Interview with Bernie Slaven

Bernie posing in his Republic of Ireland kit
Bernard Joseph “Bernie” Slaven is a Scottish-born footballer, who through his grandfather became eligible to feature for the Republic of Ireland at international level.

Slaven made a total of 514 senior career appearances, scoring 200 goals along the way. He also pulled on the Republic of Ireland shirt seven times, scoring the only goal of his international career on his debut against Wales.

Slaven was included in Jack Charlton’s 1990 World Cup squad, but unfortunately did not feature. Despite being disappointed to not play, Slaven was grateful just to be there.

“To be included in the World Cup squad was a dream and an honour. What you have to remember is, up until then I had only played one and a half games, scoring on my debut, so to hear I was rubbing shoulders with guys like Van Basten, Gullit, and Lineker was surreal.

“I was disappointed not to get a game but I was realistic as I had played no part in getting the Republic to the finals. Jack Charlton very seldom changed the team and nine of us didn't even get a game. Frank Stapleton was one of them and he was a top goalscorer.

“Pulling on an Ireland shirt at 29 was an honour and a reward for all my hard work and I will be forever grateful to Jack Charlton.”

Bernie started off his career in Scotland, making a handful of appearances with both Airdrie and Queen of the South. In 1983 he moved to Albion Rovers, scoring 31 goals in 47 appearances. This is where he would earn his move to Middlesbrough, where he would go on to make a real name for himself as a goalscorer.

Bernie spent eight years at Middlesbrough, where he managed to score 147 goals in just over 382 appearances.
Celebrating promotion to the Premier League in 1992
Slaven impressed the Boro management, scoring in a trial game against Bradford City. Despite Bradford wanting him to sign on the dotted line, Bernie signed for Middlesbrough in October 1995 for £25,000, to the delight of manager Willie Maddren.

One of the more amusing anecdotes from Slaven’s career occurred at Binns department store, after his Middlesbrough side defeated Manchester United away from home for the first time in almost 70 years.

“During radio commentary, my old colleague asked, ‘Next time we go to Old Trafford to take on Man United, how far would you go if we actually beat them?’ I replied ‘There is a saying in Middlesbrough that you will show your arse in Binns window if it happens. The last time the Boro had won there was 68 years ago, so I thought it was a safe bet.

“After 90 minutes at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’, the scoreboard read ‘Man Utd 2 Middlesbrough 3.’ The travelling Boro fans were chanting ‘Bernie, Bernie show us your arse.’

“On the Monday morning I arrived at the manager’s office at Binns, within an hour the room was full of journalists, local and national, don’t forget it was Christmas and the press were looking for stories.

“I put on my red tartan kilt and got one of the girls to write 3-2 on my bum cheeks.

“As I entered the window of the store I couldn't believe my eyes, there was a couple of thousand people inside and outside, trying to get a glimpse of my rear.

“If only I had kept my big mouth shut!”

Slaven admits that his boyhood heroes are Glasgow Celtic, and is impressed with the job Neil Lennon has done, especially in Europe.

Bonding with teammates 
“Neil Lennon has done a fantastic job. Last season’s exploits in Europe were exceptional. Obviously disappointing that he had to sell Hooper.”

On Celtic’s Champions League group this year he said,

“You write Celtic off at your peril, home form is the key and the record at Parkhead over the years has been exceptional.”

When he was scoring consistently at Middlesbrough, there were rumours in the press that Celtic were interested in Slaven’s services. This is something Slaven would have welcomed.

“When I was banging in the goals I was linked with Celtic in the newspapers, unfortunately Billy McNeil and Liam Brady quashed the rumours. I would have loved to have played for my boyhood heroes. If I was good enough scoring in every division in England on a regular basis, I would've say yes.”

It was former Celtic manager Tony Mowbary who gave Bernie the nickname “The Wolf.” Following this, whenever Bernie scored the crowd would howl like wolves.

Bernie recently talked about Celtic on his website and said,

“Recently my Da (sic) passed away, but I will be forever grateful that he introduced me to the game of football and introduced me to Celtic. But now that he has gone I just wish I could have worn the famous hooped jersey. Whenever I hear ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ it will always remind me of my boyhood dreams, my Da and Celtic.

Bernie finished off our interview by telling me his career highlight.
Bernie and his son at his benefit game

“My career highlight was scoring the goal that relegated Chelsea. It was the play-off finals, which was over two legs. The first game was at Ayresome Park and we won 2-0. At Stamford Bridge we held on and went into the top flight. It was amazing.”

Since Bernie stopped playing, he has been heavily involved in the media. He started out doing Boro TV and has summarised on over 500 games for Middlesbrough. For the last 14 years, he has done a radio show called ‘The Three Legends’, which broadcasts every night on Star Radio 6-8pm.

Finally, I would like to thank Bernie for taking time out to do this interview. You can follow him on Twitter by following this link here.

Monday, 2 September 2013

How far can Liverpool go this season?

Liverpool currently sit top of the English Premier League after winning their opening three games of the season, the most recent of which,  a 1-0 victory over the Champions Manchester United.

Rodgers is mobbed by Sturridge and his teammates 
Prior to Sunday’s match, Brendan Rodgers’ side had seen off Stoke at Anfield and Aston Villa away from home, both by the scoreline of 1-0. Their 1-0 victory against United, means they become the first Premier League side to win their first three games 1-0, and with the same player (Daniel Sturridge) scoring all three times.

Liverpool now sit top of the league with nine points from three matches and are the only side to currently have a 100% record.

An impressive start to the season from the reds, who desperately want to get into the top four and earn that elusive Champions League spot.

Sunday was an emotional day for the club, with the fans and management of both sides celebrating, what would have been the 100th birthday of the legendary figure Bill Shankly. The KOP had an impressive mosaic display to pay tribute to their former manager.

One of Liverpool's fans' tribute yesterday
It took Liverpool just four minutes to break the deadlock, as the inform Englishmen, Daniel Sturridge cleverly lost his marker at the far post and flicked the ball past David De de Gea in the United goal.

It was the kind of start Moyes must have dreaded, raising the decibel level of an already pretty raucous occasion.

Daniel Sturridge, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Sunday, has had a fantastic start to the season, having already netted the winners against Stoke and Aston Villa and scoring during the week in the cup.

The former Chelsea and Bolton striker seems to be thriving in his preferred role as a centre forward, and making the most of being the main man, as Luis Suarez still sits in the stand, following his ban at the end of last season.

Liverpool’s manager Brendan Rodgers will have a headache to deal with once Suarez is eligible to feature again. Will he push Sturridge back out wide, or keep him playing as the main striker? Sunday’s win made even more impressive, considering they never had their Uruguayan star in the squad.

Robin Van Persie was one of four United players cautioned in a typically fierce affair, and the half ended with an angry exchange of words between Steven Gerrard and the Dutch striker, whose focus appeared to have slipped somewhat after an earlier tangle with Agger.

Liverpool weren’t at their best by any stretch of the imagination, but still managed to hold out and earn an invaluable three points against their great rivals.

Gerrard and RvP go head-to-head
David Moyes has still never won a game at Anfield, after failing to win on Sunday and during his entire time as manager of Everton.

So, how far can this Liverpool side go this season?

It seems Daniel Sturridge is going to be pivotal to their success, giving how much of an impressive start he has made to the season. Liverpool still have Suarez to come back to the side, if they can keep him from leaving in the remaining few hours of this transfer window.

Liverpool fans aren’t na├»ve and will not want to get carried away, despite making their best start to a season in recent years.

Their hopes of a top four finish, however, were boosted somewhat today with the signings of Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori for a combined £25m. With what has been a busy day for the club, they have also brought in the Chelsea winger Victor Moses, while Borini has went to Sunderland on loan.

Sakho, a 23-year-old France international centre-back, has put pen to paper on a long-term contract with Liverpool having agreed a fee with Paris Saint-Germain believed to be in the region of £18m.

The 20-year-old Ilori, who has represented Portugal at under-20 level, has arrived from Sporting Lisbon for £7m having been tracked by Rodgers for much of the summer.

Sakho said: “I’m delighted to be here. I’d like to thank everyone for the welcome. “I came here because the project that is in place at Liverpool interests me. I’m really looking forward to playing my first game.”

Sakho, who can also play left-back, has made 14 appearances for France and played 201 games for PSG since making his breakthrough in 2007.

He won the French title, French Cup and French League Cup and was also named the country’s young player of the year in 2011. “I’m really looking forward to cracking on with work and I can’t wait to get on the pitch,” continued Sakho.

Despite it being early days, Liverpool fans must be confident of the season ahead. With today’s signings, they should be aiming for a top four finish and aim to get back into the Champions League, where they quite rightly belong.