This Sunday heralds the 88th Community Shield, otherwise known as the ‘season’s curtain raiser’.
During its long history the competition has endured many formats starting out in 1908 as a fixture between the champions of the Football League and the Southern League. This was soon adapted to an exhibition match between professionals and their amateur counterparts before settling in 1930 on its present incarnation, an often surprisingly feisty clash between title and cup holders.
In recent times the shield may have lost some of its lustre – Alex Ferguson has admitted he primarily uses the game to monitor fitness whilst that glorified puppet Mark Lawrenson has described it as a ‘glorified friendly’ – but undoubtedly there are still important benefits to be gained from victory. Not only does it mark a statement of intent for the campaign ahead but for the team to dance around in a jester’s hat and be sprayed with champagne is one hell of a positive psychological boost to take into the new season.
For us supporters the fixture is generally fondly regarded, signifying as it does an end to a long summer of international underachievement, relying on the morphine of transfer mania to tide us over, and trying to understand the perplexities of cricket.
Plus of course there are new signings to gauge – in this instance the much-anticipated full debut of Eden Hazard – not to mention new kits which immediately give the season an identity of its own.
Going by recent Shields both Manchester City and Chelsea will look to knock the ball around leisurely in the afternoon sunshine and hone match sharpness but you never know with this fixture. It has form and can occasionally produce something unusual or spectacular.
Here are five of the Cutter’s favourites.
5/ 2001 Liverpool 2 Manchester United 1
A game marred beforehand by a rare outbreak of hooliganism as Cardiff and Liverpool supporters attacked United fans near to the ground that followed 22 arrests from trouble the evening before. Gary McAllister fired the Merseysiders ahead from the spot early on and Owen doubled the lead shortly after with van Nistelrooy grabbing a second half consolation but it was not the game itself that made this encounter so memorable. With Wembley under reconstruction this was the first time the fixture played out beyond the twin towers since 1973 and the Millenium Stadium marked the occasion by closing its roof making this the first ever professional football match to be played indoors.
4/ 1967 Manchester United 3 Tottenham 3
The game itself was a cracker – a 3-3 goal-fest that meant both clubs shared the title – but what everybody remembers is the surreal moment when Pat Jennings hoofed a goal-kick through the Old Trafford sky and saw it bounce over the flailing arms of his opposite number Alex Stepney. What is remarkable about seeing this is noting that the Irishman is not even on the edge of his box when he launches it downfield.
3/ 1950 England World Cup XI 4 FA Canadian Touring Side 2
No amount of research has been able to uncover precisely why in 1950 the F.A deemed it necessary to tinker with tradition and have two non-club sides contesting the Shield. Even so the England World Cup team who had fared so poorly in Brazil that summer (losing to rank outsiders USA in the process) took on an England XI who had avoided such humiliation and toured the Canadian provinces instead. With Stan Mortensen and Tom Finney on one side and Stanley Matthews and Nat Lofthouse on the other I’d have quite liked to have seen this one.
2/ 1992 Leeds United 4 Liverpool 3
A stonewall classic as Cantona in his Leeds pomp dispatched a nonchalant hat-trick. This game also ushered in the Souness era at Liverpool with two of his infamously astute new signings – Paul Stewart and Istvan Kozma – making their first appearances.
1/ 1974 Leeds United 1 Liverpool 1
This was the first Charity Shield to be held at Wembley and Brian Clough’s first game in charge at Leeds. Old Big ‘Ead allegedly demanded ‘good, clean football’ from his players beforehand but evidently Billy Bremner wasn’t paying attention as the gnarly Scot prompted one of the most infamous fisticuffs ever witnessed in the British game as he traded punches with Kevin Keegan.
Seeing Keegan furiously remonstrate with referee Bob Matthewson – ‘He f***ing hit me Bob!’ – is always hilarious but we’ve all seen the brawl a thousand times before. Instead here’s a take on it from Fantasy Football.