What is Futbottling?
Futbottling is a term coined for football teams or individuals who lost all of their bottle in an important game or season. There have been many instances of this over the years, and here are a few that might stick in your memory:
Newcastle United – 1995/96 season
The season most notable for Alan Hanson’s statement that a team won’t get anywhere with such a young squad. And he might have been right had it not been for the complete capitulation of runaway leaders Newcastle United.
They had raced into a 12 point lead by the turn of the year – a lead so big that most people thought the title was already won, including some bookies, who paid out on a Newcastle title. They had different ideas in Manchester, and United, inspired by the return of the talismanic Eric Cantona after a long suspension, managed to claw back the deficit.
Towards the end of the season, Alex Ferguson, the United manager, had made a few statements in the press that infuriated his Newcastle counterpart, Kevin Keegan. Once you saw his reaction live on Sky Sports after a game against Leeds United, you kind of knew how it would end.
A blockbuster season, 1995/96 will be remembered for the best match in Premier League history – a 4-3 win for United’s bitter rivals Liverpool against the faltering Magpies. It is also the point where most people will agree that ‘mind games’ between managers became common place.
As great as United (especially Cantona) were, this was an awful bit of futbottling by Newcastle and Keegan.
Kevin Keegan’s famous ‘I would love it if we beat them’ speech.
Tottenham Hotspur – 3 occasions
No one has been accused of futbottling more than Spurs, who seem to have a knack of regularly snatching failure from the jaws of success.
The first case of this was in 2006. Spurs had been in the final Champions League spot for most of the second half of the season. They were big favourites to qualify for the competition for the first time, and perhaps even more importantly, at the expense of their hated neighbours Arsenal. They were 7 points clear of Arsenal (not the first time this would happen) with one game to go (although Arsenal had 2 games in hand).
Arsenal won these games in hand which meant it went down to the wire. With Spurs being a point ahead, they only needed to match the Gunners’ final result to qualify for Europe’s elite competition. Arsenal won 4-2 thanks to a Thierry Henry hat-trick, but Spurs went down 2-1 to West Ham.
Almost all the Spurs first team had been violently sick with food poisoning the night before the match, so it would be difficult not to feel a little bit sorry for them. However, I have little sympathy for their two more recent episodes of futbottling.
Jump in your Delorian and head to February 24th 2009. Spurs are in 3rd, 11 points clear of Arsenal, and only 2 points away from the 2 Manchester teams at the summit. Their form had even warranted predictions of a title challenge.
Spirits on White Hart Lane were understandably high, and fans wouldn’t have been blamed for getting a little over excited when Luis Saha scored the opener in the North London derby. Unfortunately for them, Arsenal came back to win 5-2 which put them 7 points behind (that magic number again) and in range to pounce on any slip ups.
Spurs didn’t slip us as much as completely fell apart. Losing to Manchester United and Everton in the next two games, they then drew at home to Stoke before losing to Norwich and QPR to really pile the pressure on. They ended up losing 3rd place to Arsenal and finishing 20 points behind the Manchester two, although they had kept 4th place and it looked as if qualification to the Champions League was secure. Chelsea would snatch the final position from them in a tense Champions League final, and no-one could deny Tottenham’s bad luck again – especially with a German team losing a penalty shoot-out for the first time in the history of football and Germany, but their fate was in their own hands, and a case of futbottling against relegation candidates in the run-in was the thing that damaged them the most.
The next bit of futbottling from Spurs showed that even though their manager had changed and they had an air of confidence from the match winning antics of Gareth Bale, their old nerves were still there.
Almost a year after the 5-2 hammering, Spurs managed to beat Arsenal 2-1, extending their lead to (once again) 7 points. Once again, bad performances and results and a great Arsenal run led to the race for 4th going down to the final day of the season, with qualification out of their hands.
At the end of it all, a Gareth Bale wonder strike couldn’t stop the inevitable 3 points for Arsenal, and Tottenham’s futbottling meant once again that they’ll be playing in Eastern Poland on a Thursday night instead of the San Siro, Bernabeu or Nou Camp.
Send us in your examples of top notch futbottling.