Rock ‘N’ Roll Football: 100 games and counting…by Jim Proudfoot

Since our first game on Rock n Roll Football, a 3-0 win for Aston Villa against West Ham in August 2010, there’ve been moments of drama and tension, euphoria and dismay. Our journey reaches its centenary this weekend, and editing a list of memorable moments down to five has not been easy.

You may well disagree with the choices – I’m sure that members of our team would all have compiled lists unique to them. There are notable absences, moments which were brilliant, but didn’t make the cut: Mario Balotelli’s twenty minutes of brilliance in the Euro 2012 semi-final against Germany, and Spain’s demolition of Italy in the Final.

Birmingham City’s relegation on the final day of the 2010-11 season was steeped in drama and won us a Sony Academy Radio Award, but from a personal viewpoint these moments have been eclipsed.

So these are my highlights of the past 99 matches.

5.  READING 3-3 FULHAM  (27/10/2012)

It wasn’t the highest profile match that we’ve ever done, but in terms of drama and an epic conclusion it was fantastic. With thirteen minutes remaining at the Madejski Stadium the scoreline was 1-all, a Dimitar Berbatov masterclass the highlight of an entertaining afternoon. Even when Chris Baird restored Fulham’s lead there was no sign of the drama to come: with five minutes to go, Garath McCleary made it two-each, only for Berbatov to seemingly win the game for the visitors. The points were shared when Hal Robson-Kanu equalised from a goalmouth scramble in stoppage time, and but for a remarkable double save from Mark Schwarzer, Reading would have completed an extraordinary turnaround to clinch their first win of the season. As breathtaking conclusions to matches go, this was the best we’ve seen.

4.   WEST BROM 1-0 CHELSEA  (03/03/2012)

We’ve had a habit of seeing managers off on Rock n Roll Football – even this week, Brian McDermott’s Reading swansong was played out before our very eyes. But it was Andre Villas-Boas’ exit from Chelsea that provided one of the key moments of our second season on air. Chelsea had lost at Napoli in the Champions League ten days previously, and won only one of their previous six games. When Gareth McAuley headed his late winner for West Brom, you knew the end was nigh; and AVB was sacked the following day.

3.  SWEDEN 2-3 ENGLAND   (15/06/2012)

Euro 2012 brought Rock n Roll football’s first venture on to foreign soil, with a hectic four weeks commuting around Poland and Ukraine…occasionally needing to sleep on overnight trains or airport benches in a bid to get from venue to venue on time. One such trip saw the red eye from Gdansk to Warsaw and then on to Kiev, for England’s second group game, against a nation they hadn’t beaten in a competitive match since 1968. England led at Half-Time, and trailed after an hour, their hopes of qualification disappearing
fast. But after Theo Walcott’s long-range effort made it two-all, Danny Welbeck’s deft and decisive touch to Walcott’s cross gave England a dramatic victory.

2.  SUNDERLAND 1-2 ARSENAL   (11/02/2012)

Thierry Henry’s return to Arsenal saw the single most dramatic goal that we’ve brought you live on Rock n Roll Football. His loan spell at the Emirates was coming to an end when the Gunners travelled to Wearside, struggling to ensure their place in the Champions League. Henry’s farewell was the stuff of dreams: even for a man making his 699th career appearance. He came on with twenty-five minutes to go, and his side went 1-0 down almost immediately. But after Aaron Ramsey had equalised, Henry scored the winner with his last touch in the Premier League – and the Gunners won the next five league games to ensure another top four finish.

1.  SUNDERLAND 0-1 MANCHESTER UNITED  (13/05/2012)

And it was the Stadium of Light that brought the most extraordinary denouement to any season in League history. Our programme was hosted on the road for the first time, with Russ at the Etihad Stadium to watch Manchester City face QPR – while we were on Wearside with United, who started the day behind City on goal difference. Wayne Rooney’s goal was enough for United to do their bit, and while we conveyed events from Sunderland, we were also keeping listeners abreast of events back in Manchester. As our game finished, City were in the process of equalising in their match – still behind on points, but still playing…and as we brought news of the winning goal from Sergio Agüero, it wasn’t only our listeners who were hanging on our every word: other journalists were captivated as events unfolded, Sunderland fans were euphoric, and within moments the United players themselves knew their worst fears had been realised. The most dramatic moments in Premier League history – on Rock n Roll Football.

So this weekend we raise our bat to celebrate 100 not out: it’s been a huge privilege to share so many moments of drama and tension, laughter and banter and pure sporting theatre.

Here’s to the next 100…

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