Written by Jack A. Goodwin in potentially the longest post we’ve ever had on FantasyYIRMA
Current Premier League Champions Manchester City were mere cannon fodder for the Premier League elites 20 years ago only ever meeting in cup competition. Before the cashflow, before the world’s wealthy turned their attention to football. They were a new team in the First Division, secured with a playoff final win against Gillingham from the Second Division. A 17-year old Shaun Wright-Phillips moved up in to the first team from the under 18’s squad to join fellow Englishmen Spencer Prior, Danny Granville Tony Grant (who joined from Everton for £585k) to name a few. Bermudan legend Shaun Goater MBE was in his prime – today he is a youth coach at Macclesfield Town. They finished 2nd and secured Premier League football for the 2000-2001 season! (they were quickly relegated, again).
Liverpool under then manager Gerard Houllier finished 4th back in the 99-00 season, which qualified them for the 00-01 UEFA Cup (which they went on to win). Their top goalscorer that season was top racehorse breeder and BT Sport commentator Michael Owen with a small 12 goals. He shared the pitch with some of Merseyside’s “legends” such as Stevie G, Jamie Carragher, Robbie Fowler, Heskey, Redknapp…etc..etc…How they never won still baffles most today. They broke the bank in July 99, paying a whopping (at the time) £11M for Emile Heskey from Leicester and £8M for Dietmar Hamann from Newcastle. It was also the season that Steve McManaman joined Real Madrid on a free.
After a League Cup victory in the 98-99 season, Tottenham came into the 99-00 season returning to Europe after an 8-year exile – but fell rather flat! They finished the season in 10th place winning just as many games they lost (15) and achieving a measly 53 points. They were knocked out of the FA Cup in a 3rd round replay against Newcastle 6-1, and in the 2nd round of the UEFA Cup they lost 2-1 on aggregate to Kaiserslautern. Steffen Iverson was the main man, netting 17 times in all competitions alongside Chris Armstrong. Former Spurs manager Tim Sherwood played in midfield alongside David Ginola whilst Sol Campbell still had his boots on in defense. The entire 99-00 team are now retired footballers, sadly the football world said goodbye recently to current Leyton Orient manager and former Spurs defender Justin Edinburgh in June 2019 – he spent 10 years with Spurs playing 213 matches.
UEFA Super Cup winners (beating Real Madrid) Chelsea expected to go one better than the 3rd place finish the season before, bookies having them as favorites for the title. Then France captain Didier Deschamps was signed for £3M from Juventus, adding to an already star-studded team including Dennis Wise, Roberto Di Matteo and Gustavo Poyet. Blackburn Rovers striker Chris Sutton was also signed for £10M, but he was pretty useless with only one league goal all season. They ended the season in 5th place, winning the FA Cup against Villa in the final and a quarter final exit from the Champions League to Barcelona. Andre Flo was the key man, 19 goals in a very long 57 match season. Zola was a “young” 32 year old bossing the midfield whilst a little 18 year old John Terry was returning from a loan spell at Nottingham Forest.
How do you build on a treble-winning season? A season which to this day has defined the clubs already illustrious record. A season which saw Manchester United take home all the titles is one of the most iconic football moments of all time. Mikael Silvestre (£4M), Quinton Fortune (£1.5M) & Mark Bosnich (£free) – THAT’S how! I guess Fergie didn’t quite recover from celebrating the treble that he almost forgot to acquire any new players. Granted, literally not one player left the first team after the treble season, but the acquisitions were fairly lackluster. (The less we talk about Fabian Barthez the season after, the better!). Andy Cole (22) & Dwight Yorke (24) were again the star strikers for United, as current Manager Solskjaer scored 15 goals. One player from the 99-00 squad actually still plays football today – Paul Rachubka. A then 18-year-old goalkeeper who played just 2 games for United. He was last seen playing for Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters and has amassed a career spanning 19 teams! The 99’ squad will forever be remembered for that one night against Munich, the success of the players after football speaks volumes, showcasing the impact a big season can have on careers (looking at you Leicester 2015-16).
Finishing 2nd in the Premier League is success for most clubs – but the Arsenal 99-00 team who did just that were still 18 points behind 1st placed Man United at the end of the season. Little did they know that they were only 2 seasons away from being hailed “The Invincibles”. This was the season where preparations began to become a Premier League powerhouse – Thierry Henry was bought from Juventus for £11M netting 26 goals in his debut season alongside the 17 goals from Kanu. A shock exit however, as Nicolas Anelka made the £23.5M move to Real Madrid. What was quickly becoming a running joke with Arsenal was their failure to exit the group stages of the Champions League, this time eliminated by Barcelona & Fiorentina. They did however make the final of the UEFA Cup (now Europa) but were beaten on penalties in the final by Galatasaray. It was another world of football back in those days, with hard tackles part and parcel of the game. Keown & Viera accumulated 27 yellow cards and 2 red cards just between them!
Walter Smith managed Everton in 1999, a 35-year old Mark Hughes joined from Southampton alongside new signing Kevin Campbell who joined for £4M from Trabzonspor. Smith also released/sold 16 players for a total of £17M in an attempt to do better than the previous seasons 14th place finish – they finished 13th. A season later they would take a huge gamble on a 33 year old Paul Gascoigne!
Leicester City won the Premier League in 2015-16. A sentence which, 20 years ago would have you laughed out of any room. Back in the 99-00 season they did finish 8th, manager Martin O’Neill also winning the League Cup that season. Emile Heskey went on to Liverpool, as Tim Flowers came in from Blackburn as did Stan Collymore from Aston Villa. Neil Lennon was still in his football boots and Tony Cottee was the top scorer with 13 goals in all competitions. Note / Robbie Savage was a young 24 year old with beautiful hair.
Only 62 days after the 98-99 season had finished, West Ham began their 99-00 campaign in France with their involvement in the UEFA Intertoto Cup which they went on to beat Metz and secure UEFA Cup football. Ian Wright played just one pre-season game before heading out to Celtic and a 17-year old called Michael Carrick got promoted up from the under-23’s team to play alongside Rio Ferdinand, Lampard, Di Canio and the iconic Shaka Hislop! Famously in a League Cup game against Villa, then manager Harry Redknapp fielded an ineligible player (as he had played in the Cup with another team that season during a loan spell) – they won the first game but it had to be replayed due to a complaint by Villa and they then went on to lose both the game and their club secretary Graham Mackrell who took the blame for the mess-up. Their best match of the season undoubtedly was the 5-4 victory against Bradford in the league, however a month later then would then go on to be demolished by Man United 7-1. At the time, Jimmy Bullard & Jermaine Defoe were in the reserve squad, needless to say they went on to bigger things (one in football, one on Soccer AM).
It was a dark time in the managers seat at Southampton in 99, Former England coach Glenn Hoddle returned to the Premiership strugglers, replacing David Jones for 12 months, while the out-going boss fought a court case relating to child abuse charges – of which he was not guilty. On the pitch, Matt Le Tissier scored a modest six goals during the season, but that was enough to bring his total number of Premier League goals to 100, making him the first midfielder to reach the milestone. The Saints went on to finish 15th in the League, 8 points from relegation. Aston Villa knocked them out of both the FA Cup (4th round) and League Cup (4th round) with goals struggling to be found throughout the season as Marian Pahars took the team golden boot with just 13.
Bournemouth have seen quite the rise in recent history, back in 99 they were in Division Two, finishing just 16th place. It would take until 2015 for them to rise to the Premier League. Mel Machin was manager at the time, Mark Stein their attacking threat with 15 in the season. Steve Fletcher played up front scoring 7, later on in his career he would return to Bournemouth before retiring with them in 2012 as they reached the dizzy heights of the Championship – he is now team ambassador and pretty much an Icon around the coastal town. Now manager Eddie Howe was also in the squad in 99, before moving around the leagues. In 2004 the club were in an awful financial state, so much so that the fans themselves successfully created the “Eddieshare” to fund a transfer fee to bring Eddie back to Bournemouth (£21K) where he remained until his retirement from playing in 2007. Then little-known John O’Shea also featured as a Man United loan signing in the 99-00 season.
Two seasons in a row, Wolves were one match away from promotion to the Premier League. They finished 7th in the 99-00 season of the First Division, a 2-1 loss to Bolton saw them miss out of playoffs by Bolton themselves. £3.5M signing from Bristol City Ade Akinbiyi scored 16 goals that season in a team which also featured a young Robbie Keane & Joleon Lescott – Keane was sold to Coventry for £6M early on in the season.
Back to back Promotions from two league below, Watford were the “new kids” in the Premier League for the 99-00 season. Beating Liverpool & Chelsea early on, hopes were high of becoming a mainstay in the league. However, reality kicked in for Graham Taylor’s men as after beating Chelsea in early September they managed just another 3 victories all season. They were eventually relegated with the then-lowest points total in Premier League history with 24 (and a goal difference of -42). Sure, there may be some Watford fans reading this who may disagree, but looking at the team sheet from the 99-00 season I can, quite confidently, say that there is not one player that stands out and makes you go, “oh, didn’t know they played for Watford!”. A team way out of its depths 20 years ago.
Lovable chap Steve Coppell managed Crystal Palace back in 99 in the First Division, reaching just 15th place. Clinton Morrison led the line alongside loaned Chelsea man Mikael Forssell. The team also featured a young Ashley Cole on loan from Arsenal. The Player of the Season award went to Andy Linighan but he quickly fell out with club owner Simon Jordan he was given a free transfer immediately following the season.
Burnley were playing their 5th season in the third tier of English football in 99-00, Manager Stan Tennant who replaced Chris Waddle took them to promotion with a win against Scunthorpe on the final game of the season. Andy Payton’s 27 goals for the season eclipsed the second best scorer for Burnley Andy Cooke with just 8. Their biggest acquisition that season was Ian Cox, a Trinidad & Tobago defender signed from Bournemouth for £500K (who Wikipedia believes is currently the manager of Whitstable Town FC…yet he appears absolutely nowhere on their website).
Micky Adams was appointed Brighton’s manager in 1999. The club were in the middle of a financial crisisa and for the start of the 99-00 season the Seagulls secured a lease to play home games at Withdean Stadium. This was a converted athletics track in Brighton owned by the local council, Brighton had to play here due to the sale of the Goldstone Ground by the board just to stay afloat. They finished the season 11th in Division Three despite only making one financial transfer, bringing in Bobby Zamora for £100K. It was the Brighton fans who etched Zamora’s name into football chant folklore with their rendition of Dean Martin’s That’s Amore. “When the ball hits the goal it’s not Shearer or Cole, it’s Zamora.”
Newcastle started off their 99-00 season with Ruud Gullit as their manager…this quickly became Steve Clarke for 1 week until Sir Bobby Robson took the hot seat. In Robson’s first home match in charge, bottom-placed Newcastle faced 2nd bottom Sheffield Wednesday, thrashing them 8–0. Interestingly, Ruud fell out with Alan Shearer and refused to play him in the opening 5 matches (where they lost 4). Robson’s 8-0 demolition featured 5 goals from Shearer, a clear message from the Toon legend. They finished the season 11th, but impressively the 3rd highest scoring team with 63 goals in 38 matches. Gary Speed, Nobby Solano, Keiron Dyer, Shay Given…there were some fun times ahead for Newcastle under Robson. Shola Ameobi a mere reserve player at this point before his 312 appearances shortly after.
Homes Under the Hammer superstar Dion Dublin was once a footballer, did you know that? At Aston Villa in the 99-00 season he was prolific, scoring 16 goals in total and taking Villa to 6th place. They had a great run of 12 matches unbeaten, a terrific cup run which saw them in their first FA Cup final in 43 years – the last ever game of football at the old Wembley Stadium (they lost 1-0 to Chelsea). Villa were once quite the force back in the day, current England Manager Gareth Southgate, Paul Merson, David James, Ugo Ehiogu, Gareth Barry (lol) to name a few.
A sort of “nothing” season for Norwich back in the 99-00 days – finishing 12th in the First Division, nowhere near promotion places to the Premiership which was their target. Manager Bruce Rioch resigned in March, replaced by Bryan Hamilton who is now Technical Director at Antigua Barracuda F.C. (an absolutely ridiculously unknown team based on an island in the middle of the ocean) – top work Bryan! Robert Green & Craig Bellamy are the only names to jump out from the team sheets back then, both went on to have pretty decent careers.
Sheffield United started the 99-00 campaign in the First Division not very promising, but after Neil Warnock took over mid-season he prevented the treat of relegation and secured 16th place even without a win in the last 9 games of the season. Phil Jagielka started his footballing career this season with a token appearance off the bench after rising through the youth ranks. Marcus Bent (no relation to Darren) scored 16 that season, who interestingly is now “in the oil business”.