Final Day Heroes
After what seemed like a lifetime without it, we have quickly reached the conclusion of the 2019/20 Premier League season.
Following Aston Villa’s dogged display against Arsenal to grind out a 1-0 win, the final day is set to be the most fascinating in years, with Champions League qualification and relegation still to be decided.
Appropriately this week’s Sparta Spotlight will pay homage to the goalkeepers who have come to the fore when it mattered, at the climax of their team’s seasons to ensure safety, clinch Europe or secure the title.
Jimmy Glass – CARLISLE UNITED V Plymouth Argyle
Nationwide Division Three 1998/99
Jimmy Glass owes his fame to his final day heroics in a loan spell with Carlisle at the end of the 1998/99 season and doing so propelled himself into being possibly the most famous lower league goalkeeper of all-time.
The ‘keeper on loan from Swindon Town was part of a Carlisle side who were rock bottom and heading out of the football league going into their final match with Plymouth.
Rivals Scarborough were drawing 1-1 in their game, which meant only a win would do for Carlisle with themselves at the same score line deep into stoppage time.
Goalkeepers are not known for their goalscoring exploits, but Glass claims one of the most important goals in Carlisle’s recent history when he volleyed a corner home from short range, keeping the Cumbrian’s Football League status intact.
Glass’s last-gasp winner is not only engrained in Carlisle folklore but in Football League folklore and was recently subject of a Sky Sports documentary titled, Jimmy Glass: The Great Escape.
Carlo Cudicini - CHELSEA V Liverpool
Premier League 2002/03
The pre-Abramovich Chelsea era was a very different football club and prior to the Russian oligarch’s acquisition of the club in the summer of 2003, the club had not won a league title since the 1950’s.
Champions League football was reportedly key to Abramovich’s purchase of the club and on the last day of the 2002/03 season faced a straight shoot-out between themselves and Liverpool for the final place in Europe’s elite competition.
Despite Liverpool taking an early lead, Chelsea came from behind with goals from Marcel Desailly and Jesper Gronkjaer to clinch a victory that not only shaped the next season, but arguably the course of Chelsea’s history.
Carlo Cudicini, who ironically lost his place to Petr Cech when the bankrolling Russian came to town, pulled off a magnificent display at Stamford Bridge that day and was able to keep the likes of Owen and Gerrard at bay as Liverpool searched for an equaliser.
The latter let fly with one of his trademark piledrivers from long range that was brilliantly tipped over by the Italian, among a string of saves that helped Chelsea secure Champions League football and the takeover which set the club up for the most successful period in their history.
Matt Clarke - BRADFORD CITY V Liverpool
Premier League 1999/2000
Sorry Liverpool fans, this one again is you being denied a Champions League spot on the final day.
The protagonist of his story however is Matt Clarke, who’s display for Bradford City at the climax of the season at the start of the millennium pulled off one of the fairy tales of the Premier League era.
Paul Jewell’s side needed to better Wimbledon’s result away at Southampton to have any chance of avoiding relegation in their first top flight campaign for over eighty-years and had to do so against a Liverpool side who needed a win to finish 3rd, the final Champions League spot in those days.
City took the lead after 12 minutes at Valley Parade through Dave Wetherall, which was dangerous given the inevitable onslaught that they would face for the majority of the game.
Luckily Clarke, who had joined the previous summer from Sheffield Wednesday, was in superb form against a strike force of Emile Heskey and Michael Owen who were pulling up trees in the Premier League.
The clever runs and sheer pace of Michael Owen unsurprisingly pitted him one on one with Matt Clarke on a few occasions, but the usually lethal England forward was denied by The Bantam’s stopper, as was Patrick Berger when his free kick was superbly tipped over the crossbar.
Bradford held out to win the game 1-0, cue pandemonium amongst the supporters whose relief was palpable when they streamed the Valley Parade pitch when survival was confirmed with Wimbledon’s 2-0 defeat at The Dell.