My Favourite Goalkeepers #2 – Mark Bosnich

Let’s be clear from the off – I absolutely LOVE Mark Bosnich. To this day, I’m still unequivocal in my view that he’s my favourite footballer of all time. I can’t imagine anyone will ever usurp him.

I first became aware of Bozzie towards the end of the 1991/92 season, shortly after he signed for Villa from Sydney United. These were still the days when the reserves would play at Villa Park on Saturday afternoons when the first team were away. My dad, still brainwashing me into a love of football, would often take me to watch.

At this point, my actual appreciation of football was under development, and it tended to be random things that piqued my interest. My love of Les Sealey already meant I was drawn to the goalkeepers, and I went along to the game in a near empty Villa Park armed with the knowledge that a new stopper was playing for the first time. At this point, foreign players in England remained a relative rarity, and the fact that the new boy was Australian made things all the more exciting somehow.

I remember little of his outings in the reserves, but evidently he must have impressed. Bosnich made a first team debut in the penultimate game of 1991/92, before establishing himself as a contender to Nigel Spink in the following campaign, making 17 appearances.

If Bosnich had impressed up until then, in the 1993/94 season he established himself as a bona fide superstar – and it all began, as many Villa legends’ stories do, in the Second City Derby.

The second round of the Coca-Cola Cup pitted Villa against arch rivals Birmingham City. The first leg took place at St. Andrews, and I was there – even if it quickly emerged that it was no place for a nine-year-old. My abiding memory from that night is being shepherded into the ground with my head buried into my dad’s coat as beer bottles were hurled at us by Blues fans.

Once I was ensconced inside the relative sanctity of the away end, it became Bosnich’s night. With Nigel Spink injured, number 13 entered the fray as substitute to deafening chants of ‘Who the f***ing hell are you?’ from the Blues’ faithful.

It wouldn’t take them long to find out. Minutes later, Birmingham were awarded a penalty, with the Bluenose’s taunts rammed down their throats courtesy of an expert save from Bozzie. It was a moment that would prove to be the first of many valuable contributions he made in Villa’s Coca-Cola Cup campaign that year.

I’m going to make an assumption that most people reading this blog are Villa fans, so I won’t relay every detail of Bosnich’s contribution to that cup win. But from his virtuoso display against Sunderland, three penalty saves against Tranmere (STILL the best game I’ve ever been to), and that vital save from Mark Hughes in the final, he demonstrated the importance of a good goalkeeper to any successful team.

I can’t put too fine a point on what a hero Mark Bosnich was to people of around my age. Every team has its main man, the player that every kid wants to be. It’s so unusual for it to be the goalkeeper. But Mark Bosnich was the one that every single one of us looked up to. I hear stories from junior football coaches today about how they struggle to find kids who want to play in goal. In my school, it was finding enough people who wanted to play outfield that was an issue.

Bozzie’s popularity was such that, come Christmas, there was a chronic shortage of goalkeeper jerseys in the club shop. On the big day, I opened all my presents, and my mom sadly explained that she hadn’t been able to get the one I wanted most of all. I remember trying to put a brave face on it when really I was crushed. Luckily, in the end, it was just a ruse. Later in the day, my dad opened a cupboard to reveal an extra present that Santa forgot…

My word. THAT shirt. I was barely seen out of it over the next couple of years. It’s actually mad that it’s so iconic, given that it wasn’t even uniquely Villa’s. Newcastle, Leeds, Blackburn, Portsmouth and more all had an identical design. But somehow, it was just synonymous with Bozzie. It still is today. Mention ‘The Bosnich Shirt’, and everyone knows you’re referring to the multi-coloured Asics number.

It only takes a look at eBay to see how important that jersey is to people of my generation. Every time one ends up on there, it’s sold for hundreds of pounds. I’m lucky that I managed to get my man-sized version a couple of years before the market went crazy. Today, I happily pair it with a matching scarf and even a face-mask in these weird pandemic times. Nothing could persuade me to part with that shirt.

Bozzie continued to be Villa’s number one for the majority of the next five years, winning the League Cup again in 1996. Controversy had a knack of finding him. Clattering Jurgen Klinsmann lead to an ill-advised attempt at humour at White Hart Lane. Off the field, his rap sheet included getting arrested hours before his wedding, and even the emergence of a certain videotape that we won’t talk about here.

Despite all this, he remained much loved and, most importantly of all, brilliant on the field- as you can see from what I still consider to be the best save I’ve ever seen live – this acrobatic effort against Coventry City:

As was a familiar story among Villa’s star players in the late nineties, it was ultimately the club’s perceived lack of ambition that led to Bosnich’s departure. With his contract set to expire in 1999, a return to his former club, Manchester United, to replace the great Peter Schmeichel was an opportunity too good to turn down.

The last time I recall seeing Bosnich play was when Villa faced United in the League Cup later that year. It was a night that saw our former hero subjected to some of the most ferocious abuse I’ve ever heard from the Holte End as Villa ran out 3-1 winners. Incredibly, that’s the last time we beat United at Villa Park.

Looking back, it seems absurd that, for a player who is so revered by a whole generation of Villa fans, his last experience of being in front of the Holte End saw him booed from the field. That’s a matter of deep regret to me. I hope there will be a day in the future when he can return to Villa Park and get the ovation he so richly deserves.

At first glance, Bosnich’s decision to join United appears justified. He was man of the match as United won the 1999 Intercontinental Cup, and also won a Premier League title medal in 2000. Despite this, for whatever reason, he wasn’t viewed as a good fit at Old Trafford. United first attempted to replace him with the comical Massimo Taibi, before the arrival of French World Cup winner, Fabien Barthez, saw him frozen out of the squad for good.

If a move to Chelsea offered a chance of redemption, it was ultimately quashed by goings-on in his personal life. One cocaine-related drugs ban later, Bosnich was sacked in disgrace.

It was a sad end to a career that had already delivered a lot, and should have promised so much more. Today, I think he’s massively underappreciated. Whenever you hear discussions about the best Premier League goalkeeper of all time, Bozzie’s name is seldom mentioned. It frustrates me, because I don’t think people realise how good he was.

From me, and so many other Villa fans, he will always get the appreciation he deserves. My icon, my hero. I’ll always wear ‘The Bosnich Shirt’ with pride.

This blog is part two of #MyFavouriteGoalkeepers, paying tribute to my 12 favourite shot-stoppers from 30 years of football fandom. Part one featured the late, great Les Sealey.

Check back soon for the next edition, which will celebrate one of the icons of the 1994 World Cup.


The Bite – A PR perspective

At work today, I was asked to write a short piece analysing the fallout of the Luis Suarez biting incident from a PR perspective. I got a bit carried away, wrote too much, and had to cut it down. Which is good news for you lot, because it means I can use the unabridged version as a blog. Reduce, reuse, recycle, as Bob The Builder might say…

You know he might. He really might.

They say there’s a fine line between genius and madness, and there’s few better examples of that than the case of Luis Suarez.

The full scale of his ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ character came into full focus this week when, fresh from demonstrating his brilliance in effectively dumping England out of the World Cup, the mercurial Uruguay forward hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons after sinking his teeth into the flesh of the Italian defender, Giorgio Chiellini.

Amid a widespread outpouring of shock and condemnation as Suarez became the centre of a storm of controversy for the umpteenth time, there was also room for some quirky creativity from brands who quickly capitalised on the incident.

Serial stunt specialists Specsavers leveraged its iconic ‘Should have gone to Specsavers’ line by alluding that Suarez may have confused his opponent with the popular Italian dish, cannelloni, while Snickers referenced its ‘Eat a Snickers’ campaign with the slogan ‘More satisfying than an Italian’.  Official World Cup partners also got in on the act, with Budweiser pointing out the virtues of its twist cap Bud Light bottles, while McDonalds in Uruguay were keen to stress that biting on a Big Mac is preferable to chowing down on Chiellini.

However, while some brands reveled in the limelight, there were others left scratching their heads as they pondered their next move. Suarez’s boot sponsor, Adidas, has announced that it is to review its relationship with the striker, and with a four month ban from all football activity now in effect, he has already been dropped as the worldwide ambassador of 888 Poker.

Most fascinating of all, though, will be the response of Liverpool Football Club.

With its questionable PR activity surrounding some of Suarez’s previous controversies still fresh in the minds of the powers-that-be at the Anfield club, including the disastrous t-shirts stunt after he was charged with racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra, its reaction to this incident will require careful consideration.

While there will be a temptation for the club to rid itself of a player who has once again dragged its reputation through the mud, losing somebody of his unquestionable quality would without doubt reduce its prospects on the field.

In this case, the most fascinating clash for Liverpool this season is the brand versus the team. What will the outcome be? Now there’s a debate to really get your teeth into.

How people find my blog…

Just a quick one – one of the things I find most interesting about blogging on WordPress is the fact that I can see the Google search terms that people entered in order to come to be here.

Normally, I’d like this list to comprise of several terms which indicate that my visitors come in search of insightful, witty and beautifully written content.

Here’s the list for the last three months:

Search Views
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bt infinity halloween advert actors 5
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bt infinity advert actors 4
who are the actors in the bt infinity advert 4
bt infinity halloween advert 4
guy in bt infinity advert 4
halloween bt advert 4
actors in bt infinity advert 3
bt infinity advert 2012 cast 3
bt halloween advert cast 3
who is the dj in the bt advert 3
bt halloween advert 3
bt advert halloween cast 3
bt infinity broadband halloween party 2
bt infinity cast 2
bt advert halloween 2
cast of bt infinity advert 2
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bt infinity advert man 2
wonga fraud department 2
cast of bt halloween advert 2
bt advert cast 2012 2
bt infinity broadband halloween advert actors 1
who is the halloween dj in bt ad 1
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bt infinity adbert halloween party song 1
wonga 1
bt infinity halloween advert song 1
bt infinity halloween ad 1
who is the dj in the btinfinty halloween ad 1
bt infinity cast commercial 1
wonga helpline 1
papier mache frank 1
wonga money customer service helpline 1
bt infinity adverts cast 1
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bt infinity ads cast 1
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halloween bt advert cast 1
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who is the dj in bt infinity ad 1
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bt advert halloween song 1
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bt advert cast halloween 1
who plays mum on,bt vision avert 1
bt infinity advert 1
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what are the actors names in bt infinity adverts 1
if i cancel my debit card will wonga still be able to take money 1
bt infinity halloween dj 1
fraud wonga 1
puppets 1
the dj in the bt infinity halloween advert 1
bt infinity adverts 2012 1
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who is the actor in the bt advert 2012 1
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names ofactors in bt broadband advert 1
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The price of impending humiliation…

As I said in my last blog, I’m currently doing my damnedest to live a more active lifestyle and have taken up running. Well, I say running… I recently got to a point where I can run for three minutes without stopping, and I’m ashamed to say it’s very nearly killing me.

That’s why I’m fairly bewildered by what I’ve pledged to do in the next ten days. And I’m afraid to say that I’m about to become one of those annoying people passing around the begging bowl for their latest charity endeavour.

The first of the two undertakings within the forthcoming fortnight takes place this Wednesday (i.e. the day after tomorrow). For reasons unknown, I’ve agreed to play in a charity football match over in Dublin. This is an entirely ludicrous idea for the following reasons:

1) I’ve not played 11-a-side football for 17 years.
2) I’ve not played football full stop for nearly three years
3) Running in bursts of three minutes at a time is proving a struggle, so quite how I think I’m going to manage it for 90 minutes is beyond me.

The match is in aid of three Irish charities –  Aoibheann’s Pink Tie, a children’s cancer charity, DPOL, supporting disabled people in Co.Longford and Torun Children’s Hospice.

I realise that many people prefer to support charities closer to home, but I hope you’ll agree that a good cause is a good cause wherever it is in the world, and that if you have a pound or two to spare you may be able to donate.

I’m afraid I don’t have a JustGiving page or anything like that for this – I just have a sponsorship form to fill out. Therefore, if you do want to donate, please email me on telling me how much you’d like to give, I’ll pay in cash when I’m in Ireland on Wednesday, and I’ll sort out how you can get the money to me afterwards.

For those of you who do wish to donate to a more familiar charity instead, I’m doing another bit for charity a week on Saturday, and this too involves running around a football pitch – literally.

I’m aiming to do a few organised runs this year as an incentive to keep up my quest for fitness, and the first of them is a modest one miler on 10th March. In the hope that I can be inspired by my surroundings, the mile comes in the shape of four laps of the pitch at my beloved Villa Park, and is in aid of the Acorns Children’s Hospice.

If you’re in the West Midlands, I probably don’t need to say anything more about the amazing work that Acorns does, so it would be great to raise a few quid for this incredible cause. If you’d like to donate for this one, please let me know and I’ll give you the full SP when I receive my fundraising pack later this week.

I realise that there’s a lot of people doing incredibly worthwhile things for charity with regularity these days, and while this is hardly a marathon or a climb up a mountain, it’s probably going to be a struggle for me personally! Therefore, even the smallest amounts would be hugely appreciated.

You are all lovely, lovely people.

You know you are. You really are.

When The Sun goes down…

I read The Sun.

There, I said it.

Before the more discerning (snobbish) reader closes the blog and vows never to read my musings again, bear with me… I mean, of course, it’s not my primary source of news, but I often describe it as the tabloid pudding after my broadsheet main course.

The entertaining thing for me is to see how The Sun will take a story, twist it in a way that it becomes an effective bait for the uneducated, then you can sit back and imagine the ‘HELL IN A HANDCART’ response it’s likely to get from some. It’s sort of unpleasant, but in a nice way – not nasty like The Daily Mail. Russell Brand got it spot on.

It’s evidenced perfectly with this story. A piece of Police advice mentions that pubs may wish to discourage the wearing of Football shirts in order to prevent its clientèle from engaging in violence. It’s misplaced concern at worst, yet The Sun puts its own special spin on the story to engage wind-up mode… “ENGLAND shirts could be BANNED at pubs” screams the story’s top line, selected words capitalised to enhance its anti-PC tone.

Next comes the quote from the victim (attributed to nobody because, let’s face it, the journalist has made it up) which increases the sense of outrage and injustice: ‘But one patriotic fan said yesterday: “We often hear of a loss of pride in Britain, now cops want to ban the England shirt. It’s like saying anyone who wears one is a yob.”‘

So, simple Police guidance has now been twisted into the boys in blue aiming to BAN the England shirt! It cranks up. We can imagine the level of indignation the typical moron is currently feeling… only, in these days of social media, we don’t just imagine their reaction. And thus begins an online movement fuelled by the most retarded game of Chinese Whispers of all time.

Before we know it, despite The Sun’s story carrying no suggestion that the Police advisory comes as a result of protestations from those of other nationalities and creeds, the cries of outrage reach these frankly desperate proportions:

(Click image for full size)

Needless to say, the poster of that particular garbage is no longer my Facebook friend.