Monday 30 April 2012

20 Seasons Awards: James on the Best Matches

Keeper David James shares his memories of two of the greatest Premier League matches

Stan Collymore gave Liverpool a 4-3 win over Newcastle in a great Premier League match

WATCH HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BEST PREMIER LEAGUE MATCHES - AND VOTE

As fans prepare for one of the most-eagerly awaited matches in Premier League history, we look at other memorable encounters – including some mixed memories for keeper David James.

All eyes will be on Manchester on Monday night, for the mouth-watering match between Manchester City and Manchester United.

It is a derby which hardly needs any added intrigue, but given that the match at the Etihad Stadium will probably have a huge impact on who wins the 2011/12 Barclays Premier League title, the stakes could barely be higher.

Regardless of the on-field action, it is likely to be a Premier League match which is talked about for years to come.

And it will be in good company.

The public has the chance to vote on the Best Match in the 20 Seasons of the Premier League – and there is a stunning array of contests from which to choose.

The most recent, appropriately enough, is this season’s first Manchester derby, in which City recorded an astonishing and historic 6-1 win at Old Trafford.

Drama

But all 10 matches on the shortlist showcase the Premier League’s seemingly inexhaustible capacity for drama and surprise during the past two decades.

And while United v City was merely a few months ago, the list begins with a much-older match which remains just as fresh in the memories of those who saw it.

Although not quite a title decider, the trip taken by Newcastle to Liverpool on April 3rd 1996 was still likely to have a big say in the destination of the 1995/96 championship.

"Looking back you feel honoured to have been a part of it"
- David James on Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle

As the season moved into its final stages, Manchester United led the table by three points from Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle – but the Magpies had two matches in hand, the first of which was the tough trip to the third-placed Reds.

A hugely entertaining, topsy-turvy match was settled in the dying moments as Stan Collymore blasted in at the near post to seal a 4-3 win for Liverpool.

Watching from the other end was Liverpool keeper David James, beaten three times but still ultimately on the winning side.

He told premierleague.com that the Anfield dressing room was less jubilant than you might expect after the final whistle.

“To end up 4-3, and getting the goal in the last minute, was just a tremendous relief,” he said.

“In the match there was a moment when we thought we weren’t going to do it.”

The victory was the first of two memorable 4-3 encounters against Newcastle in successive seasons, with the Liverpool winner coming in the last minute on both occasions.

Relief

"The first one, with Stan Collymore’s winning goal, was just a wonderful game of football for everyone to watch.

"Looking back you feel honoured to have been a part of it.

"At the time you don’t think about it being something that people will talk about for years to come. I remember it was 3-3, and I think Ginola had a chance which I managed to block and then we went down the other end and scored.

"So it was more a feeling of relief of getting three points at the time. Then, year on year, people say ‘Oh, did you play in that game?’ and I say I did. It’s definitely one to have in the DVD collection."

The Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle match is not the only one on the shortlist to feature James.

"I was not happy conceding the goals that I conceded"
- David James on Portsmouth 7-4 Reading

He also played for Portsmouth in their incredible 7-4 win over Reading in September 2007 – the highest-scoring Premier League match in history.

The two matches saw James concede seven goals in total – but finish on the winning side both times – and he admitted that being in high-scoring contests brought mixed feelings to a goalkeeper.

“Portsmouth 7-4 Reading was surreal,” he said.

“There was a moment in the game in the second half when it was 6-3 – and I even saved a penalty in that game as well – and I looked up at the scoreboard and I thought ‘this can’t be right, this isn’t a real game of football’.

“Obviously two more goals went it after that because it went to 7-3 then Sol Campbell deflected one past me for the fourth goal. I was moaning at Sol for his deflection!

“But in some ways I was just glad to be there. In some ways it was similar to the Liverpool-Newcastle games in the 90s.

“As much as I was not happy conceding the goals that I conceded it was still something that people talked about for years afterwards. “

Whether or not Monday’s derby will join the ranks of the greatest Premier League matches, there is no doubt that the competition has provided fantastic, gripping and jaw-droppingly unexpected drama during the past 20 Seasons.

BUT WHICH MATCH IS THE BEST OF ALL? HAVE YOUR SAY

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Key Points

  • Premier League is celebrating 20 Seasons
  • Awards for the greatest stars and best moments in Premier League history
  • You can vote for the Best Match in the 20 Seasons of the Premier League