Saturday, December 6, 2008

Darren Anderton Retired Today, But He Bowed Out in Style for Bournemouth

In his final match as a professional footballer, ex-Spurs, Portsmouth, and England player Darren Anderton came off the bench to score from the edge of the box with a trademark finish to secure vital points for Bournemouth as they strive to fight off the threat of relegation from League Two.

Anderton, in his 569th game, came off the bench in the 56th minute as Bournemouth looked to gain their "first" points of the season.

Bournemouth had begun the 2008/9 season with a 17-point reduction as a penalty for going into administration while being relegated from the Coca Cola Football League One.

The Cherries had accumulated debts of around £4M, and a vicious circle ensued as the debt was partnered by selling off players and then finally relegation.

This season has been a tough one for Bournemouth, Kevin Bond was sacked after a dismal start to the season, with a -17 point differential, the board couldn't wait for him to turn things around as relegation to the Conference loomed.

In came fan favourite Jimmy Quinn, and the battle finally began. It has taken The Cherries 18 games this term to accumulate the 17 points, and today's win finally puts 3 points on the board for them as they try to claw their way back into the league.

After today's result, they are seven points from safety with half the season yet to play.

And while the Cherries celebrated after gaining their first real points, their victory was tinged with sadness as their Captain, Darren Anderton, announced that this would be his last game for Bournemouth.

Anderton, who joined the League Two side in 2006, has been a massive influence on and off the pitch for the Cherries. But he has struggled with injuries this season, and after seeking advice from friends and doctors, he has decided to call time on his vast career.

Best known as "Sick-Note" for the amount of injuries he picked up while playing for Spurs, it will come as a surprise to many that Anderton played in 569 games over an 18-year career, including a club Premiership record of 305 games for Tottenham.

The high point and the low point of his career came in 1996, for England in the European Championships. Anderton had missed most of the season through injury. Many questions were raised when Terry Venables named him in the England squad for the finals, twice as many were raised when he was named in the team.

But Anderton proved all his doubters wrong with some scintillating performances for England as they reached the semi-finals, where they were knocked out by Germany on penalties, Anderton missing England's first penalty. His only club honour came in 1999 when Spurs won the Carling Cup.

Always liked at every club he ever played for, Anderton was held up as a model professional for all youngsters to follow. And today proved no different.

In the 56th minute with Bournemouth chasing the game, Jimmy Quinn threw one final shake of the dice. Anderton was summoned from the bench to rapturous applause from both sets of fans. And as he took to the field, the whole shape of the game changed.

Chester had proved a hard nut to crack, but with a player of Anderton's passing ability in midfield, Bournemouth finally started to find cracks in the Chester rear-guard.

Anderton found Danny Hollands around 40 yards from goal, and as he turned Chester substitute Tony Dinning caught him with a sickening elbow. Dinnings was given a straight red as Hollands received attention.

Anderton set the ball up for the free kick, and curled a tremendous effort over the wall leaving Danby with no chance, the ball sailing inches wide of the upright. The ex-Spurs man showed his intentions of finishing his career with a flourish.

And the crowd and Anderton got exactly what they wanted as the match moved towards its climax.

Bournemouth won a corner in the 89th minute, it was cleared easily, but straight to Anderton on the edge of the box. Calmly, "Shaggy" controlled it and stroked it home into the bottom corner with the type of placed finish he is so renowned for.

Bournemouth had won 1-0, and gained their first points of the season, finally they had put one foot on the ladder to safety.

As the referee's whistle called time on the match and with it, Anderton's career, the crowd erupted with cheers of joy and tears of sadness.

It's a rarity in football for a player to retire on their terms, to go out with a flourish is a dream come true for Anderton. Friends and family had come from as far as Australia and America for his final game, I'm sure they were happy with the finish.

Anderton thanked all his fans from all his clubs who had sent him goodwill letters as this day approached, he thanked them for their support through the years and admitted that he was looking forward to having "a few pints" tonight as he celebrated.

His manager, Jimmy Quinn, even gave him the day off on Monday.

twitter / WillieGannon