Five Big Second Tier Signings
Craig Bellamy’s almost inexplicable arrival in the hallways of the previously thought to be cash strapped Cardiff City Football Club have been met with disbelief on Championship message boards this Summer Tuesday. Even the tiny man’s refusal to comment on the suggestion that Manchester City were unwilling to let him leave for a fellow Premier League club and the fact that it is only a loan deal have failed to take the edge off the anticipation at one of the most sensational (the word is for once not used lightly) signings of recent times, but in reality, this still potent top flight marksman is a comparative nobody compared to others who have climbed aboard the second plateau. Here are 5 stunners from the past:
El Beatle‘s arrival in the Second Division took place in 1976 and if previous spells at Cork Celtic and South Africa’s Jewish Guild had already provided evidence of a career in decline, it was nonethless surprising indeed to see him grazing away from First Division pastures at then humble Fulham. Best netted 8 in 42 matches and was joined at the Cottage by Rodney Marsh. Big Match broadcasts of the Seventies never seemed to pass without footage of the two tackling eachother despite being team mates – a cringeworthy, overly matey jape that recalls the worst aspects of that decade’s comedy.
Having already wrongfooted the press pack by moving form Hamburg to Southampton a couple of years before, the future Messiah, then only a wannabe Holy Ghost, went one better by descending a level to join Newcastle (NOT his home town club despite the way history has become airbrushed). It was the start of a love affair to trump Paris and Helen in its intensity and that image of Keegan boarding a helicopter after firing the Toon back into the First Division in 1984 is a lasting vision.
The 1977 European Footballer of the Year, garlanded with one of that decade’s great teams Borussia Mönchengladbach and scorer of a UEFA Cup Final winning goal became unhappy at Barcelona when the owners and manager dared to prefer an unproven youngster, Diego Armando Maradona. In a huff to end all huffs, the Dane upped sticks for South London’s Charlton Athletic in 1983. It was liking feeding honey to a donkey bemoaned the Catalan club’s Chairman. Despite 9 strikes in 16 games, the Valiants were about to enter the blackest period in their history and the little magician’s wage packets became sporadic.
Raoul Moat’s concerned friend joined other big names at Middlesbrough in March 1998, playing seven games in the then Division 1, and helping fire Boro back to Nirvana in second place behind Nottingham Forest. I saw Gazza, plus your Brancas and Festas at Elm Park close to that stadium’s demise as an English footballing venue. Slick of hair and surprisingly svelte, he merely flitted, a sad testimony to a career wrecked by injuries and mad decisions. Another Middlesbrough man, Paul Merson who later went glory hunting with Pompey in similar fashion, was to make a career of flat track bullying.
The sight of an ambling big haired blondie taking the pitch in August 2001 as Pompey, with just a win in 4 matches took on Grimsby Town was a sight to witness. The Croatian legend’s early performances at Fratton were pure theatre as Gillingham and others were played with like scurrying mice. The work rate would occasionally malfunction but this alumnus of Barcelona and Real Madrid made Portsmouth fans purr.