90 things we miss about football in the 1990s

Gianfranco Zola Robin Hood
We are part of The Trust Project What is it?

37. A glut of player-managers

Kenny Dalglish’s success as Liverpool’s player-manager in the late-80s inspired a splurge in pitch-dwelling gaffers over the next decade. In 1990, Peter Reid was named player-boss of Manchester City. He started well, playing regularly as the Sky Blues twice finished fifth, but a sharp decline saw him sacked in 1993.

A year later, Bryan Robson took charge at Middlesbrough, where he guided the Teessiders into the Premier League and signed the likes of Juninho and Fabrizio Ravanelli. His team famously combined reaching two cup finals with relegation in 1996/97, at which point Robson opted to hang up his boots.

But the undisputed home of 1990s player-managers was Stamford Bridge. First, Glenn Hoddle arrived, pissed off Tony Cascarino by being a show-off in training, signed Ruud Gullit, then left. Gullit took up the baton, brought in Gianluca Vialli, won the 1997 FA Cup, then left. Next it was Vialli’s turn. He won the FA Cup, but was sadly unable to sign a player capable of managing.

38. Tony Yeboah

“NO NET IS SAFE FROM THE MAN WHO SHOOTS TO KILL!” bellowed the words on the back of the video released in Tony Yeboah’s honour in the mid-90s. The Ghanaian had only been at Leeds United for a year, but he had already sent a wrecking ball crashing through the Premier League.

Yeboah had impressed at Eintracht Frankfurt, twice becoming Bundesliga top scorer, but a fallout with manager Jupp Heynckes saw him join Leeds for £3.4 million in January 1995. Yeboah netted 12 Premier League goals in that campaign, and then added eight more in the opening two months of 1995/96.

Two of those goals earned the striker back-to-back goal-of-the-month awards – his ferocious volley against Liverpool, the club he’d supported as a youngster, and then a thunderbolt finish against Wimbledon. Both were walloped in off the underside of the bar: Yeboah knew how to make his goals look spectacular. George Graham’s arrival resulted in Yeboah’s exit to Hamburg in 1997, but he remains a cult hero at Elland Road.

39. The Cup Winners’ Cup

A decade of European glory for Manchester United (1991), Arsenal (1994) and Chelsea (1998) and then the untimely death of the competition in 1999. Thursday nights just haven’t been the same since.

40. Jack Charlton’s Ireland

Big Jack’s stint in charge was the golden era for the Boys in Green. They beat England 1-0 at Euro 88, reached the quarter-finals of their first World Cup in 1990 and famously beat Italy at USA 94. The highlight? Jack and John Aldridge losing their s**t with a dithering fourth official.

41. Chilavert’s free-kicks

Long, long before the days of YouTube, stories were told of a heroic (and bonkers) goalkeeper from a previously unheralded land smashing in some belting free-kicks. The mystery that surrounded the Paraguayan icon Jose Luis Chilavert was a significant part of his appeal.

42. ClubCall

There was little to rival the excitement of flicking over to Teletext and seeing the headline “Brazilian superstar linked”. A long premium-rate phone call later, and you’d know your club were actually going to appoint a chef from Rio de Janeiro to the catering staff. Great...

43. The Old Firm having big stars

With the greatest of respect to Graham Dorrans and Leigh Griffiths, they aren’t quite in the same league as Paul Gascoigne, Brian Laudrup, Henrik Larsson and Mark Viduka.

44. Georgi Kinkladze

A star at Man City when,  frankly, they were crap. The Georgian schemer’s most memorable moment came when he waltzed through the Southampton defence before dinking the ball over sprawling keeper Dave Beasant.

45. Steve Bull

Earned 13 caps for England despite having never played in the top tier. Also scored over 300 goals for Wolves, to whom he showed unwavering loyalty.

46. Great World Cup theme tunes

Nessun Dorma at Italia 90 was the BBC’s high-water mark, with Auntie going very classical again eight years later with Faure’s Pavane.

47. Struggling commentators

These days, modern mic men are more or less unanimous with their pronunciations, but it wasn’t always that way. There were arguments over Gus Poyet (Poy-et or Poy-ay), Espen Baardsen (Bard-son or Bord-son), and of course, Peter Ndlovu (Und-love and Und-lo-vu).

48. Aylesbury Town duck celebration

The Buckinghamshire town is home to its own breed of duck, and the Isthmian League outfit’s waddling waterfowl-inspired goal celebrations in reaching the FA Cup third round in ’94 made headlines. They must have been quackers...

49. Cuauhtemoc Blanco’s bunny hop

Unleashed in Mexico’s 3-1 win against South Korea at France 98, the hefty forward’s two-footed bounce helped to launch a political and acting career that has included playing a randy fireman in a popular South American soap opera. Ole!

50. Frank Lampard Jnr

Lamps’ old man was still the alpha footballer in the family, hence the future Chelsea legend was suffixed ‘Junior’. Son aped father’s 17-year-old corner flag celebration at Elland Road in November 1997, but West Ham ended up losing 3-1.

51. World In Motion

Still the best football song ever made, New Order somehow turned a John Barnes rap – written by his Liverpool team-mate Craig Johnstone on a scrap of paper – into something really cool. We’re singing for England – Eng-er-land!

52. George Weah

It was from a Verona corner back in ’96 that Weah produced the moment which defined his career. Defending at the far post, George collected the stray corner eight yards from his own goal-line, and just started running. He beat two men on halfway, then a third, and kept going until he reached the penalty area and fired in one of the most incredible solo goals of the decade.

Weah helped Milan secure two Serie A titles during his time at San Siro and was the first non-European to claim the Ballon d’Or – he remains the only African to receive both that honour and FIFA’s World Player of the Year prize. Having previously impressed under Arsene Wenger at Monaco, and then for PSG, the forward moved to England in 2000 with Chelsea and later Manchester City.

Weah is one of the greatest footballers never to have played at the World Cup. These days he's Liberia's president. 

53. Players with trademark celebrations

Quiz question: how many games did Roger Milla start at the 1990 World Cup? The striker became the face of Cameroon’s run to the quarter-finals, but the answer is none. He was a super sub throughout. Thankfully, that didn't stop the 38-year-old scoring four times and dancing by the corner flag on each occasion – one of the most iconic goal celebrations ever.

Not that it was the only famous goal celebration during the ’90s, from Alan Shearer’s simple hand in the air to Lee Sharpe using the corner flag – turning it into a microphone stand. However, Jurgen Klinsmann stole the show in the Premier League with his diving routine, lampooning his own antics at Italia 90. Who said Germans don’t have a good sense of humour?

54. So-so sponsors

From local car dealerships (Dagenham Motors) to household DIY (Draper Tools) and recently launched radio stations (Classic FM), the Premier League’s early kit sponsors were a superb ragtag bunch. Anyone have any idea what Dimplex actually made?