During the pre-season summer of 1996 Middlesbrough hit the headlines with the £7,000,000 capture of Italian International Fabrizio Ravanelli of Juventus, Middlesbrough had looked to strengthen their squad each season, during the previous season the 1995/1996 FA Carling Premiership Season they had signed Brazilian International Juninho who had proved to be a big hit. Ravanelli is not the only Italian International to come to the Premiership as Chelsea pay Lazio £4,900,000 for midfielder Roberto Di Matteo. Possibly one of the most important signing though is Alex Ferguson’s new 4 year contract with Manchester United; the Old Trafford based club also buy Norwegian Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Jordi Cruyff, the son of former World Player of the Year Johan. The massive transfer story of the summer though belongs to Newcastle United as they break the world transfer record paying out £15,000,000 to Blackburn Rovers England International striker Alan Shearer. They had out bid Manchester United who had offered £12,000,000, this though was no comfort to the Blackburn Rovers fans for Shearer had been the Lancashire teams main source of goals and inspiration, indeed he had won the 1994/1995 FA Carling Premiership title. Joining Newcastle United was no football gamble for Shearer, Newcastle born and bred it had long been his dream to play at St James Park as a Newcastle player. Shearer’s summer had been a busy one as he had led the England attack during the European Championships in England. England’s Euro 96 campaign had seen them play their best football since the 1990 World Cup in Italy. They got as far as the semi-finals losing to eventual winners German on a penalty shoot-out, an outcome that is quite familiar to the England national team, many an England fan would place a football bet on this happening. Ravanelli opened his Middlesbrough carer with a hat-trick in a 3-3 home draw against Liverpool fc on the opening day of the FA Carling Premiership 1996-1997 season. David Beckham who had began to build an impressive football reputation the previous season, scored from the halfway line against Wimbledon in a Manchester United 3-0 away win. It was neither the teams of Ravanelli or Beckham though or topped the league after the opening month, the only team to have a 100% win record was unfancied Sheffield Wednesday, though this had been after only 3 games. It took Alan Shearer till his second game for Newcastle to hit the back of the net, Shearer scores in a 2-0 win over Wimbledon sending the ST James Park crowd into delirium. Arsenal sack manager Bruce Rioch only then to announce almost immediately afterward that their new manager is Frenchman Arsne Wenger, whom had been managing in the Japanese J-League. The ever reliable tabloids almost immediately make fun of the little known Frenchman’s appointment, the back pages proclaiming ‘Arsne Who?’ Many football reporters proclaim it to be a fair football bet that Wenger would not be involved with English football by the end of the season.
Liverpool show great strength to go top at the end of September 1996 as they win all 5 games during this month. Czech International Patrick Berger is catalyst for Liverpool, scoring a brace against Leicester City. However the following month is not as good for Liverpool Football Club as they only pick up 3 points in October 1996. Sheffield Wednesday strengthen their squad breaking their own transfer record with the capture of Benito Carbone for £3,000,000. The Italian proves to be a skilful addition to the premiership. Arsenal go top proving with almost immediate effect that Wenger's doubter to be wrong. This is only on goal difference though as Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United thanks in part to Alan Shearer are on the same amount of points.
In November 1996 Chelsea add to the growing number of Italians playing in the premiership with the £4,500,000 acquisition of Gianfranco Zola of Parma. The diminutive Italian still to this day is considered to be one of the greatest foreigners to play in the English premiership, often topping poll’s as voted by English fans. Man Utd at the start of the month had lost their third game in a row losing to Chelsea at Old Trafford 2-1. They drop to fifth by the end of the month. Blackburn Rovers are bottom of the table despite their first win of the season, beating Liverpool 3-0. Despite this loss Liverpool keep up the pressure on the top 2 clubs Arsenal and Liverpool. Robbie Fowler is in good form once again however Liverpool says goodbye to Ian Rush who brings an end to his trophy filled Liverpool carer joining Leeds United, the Yorkshire club though are slowly being pulled towards the relegation zone. Middlesbrough despite the signature of Ravanelli and the genius of Juninho are just one place above the relegation zone. The bottoms 3 are made up of Blackburn Rovers, Southampton and Nottingham Forrest. During the month of December 1996 Liverpool are the inform team going 5 points clear at the top, however Manchester United go second showing great form, they beat Leeds United 1-0 last game of the year.
During the opening month of 1997 Liverpool drop points losing 1-0 to Chelsea and a goalless game against West Ham United. Arsenal and Man Utd take the top positions. The big news is the sudden resignation of Kevin Keegan, the Geordies replace Keegan with former Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers manager Kenny Daglish, who had stepped down from management duties at Ewood Park and had left his board position in the summer. Manchester United strengthen their position at the top of the English Premiership , thank to a 2-1 away win, it is not football though that makes the back pages as Ian Wright and Peter Schmeichel clash on the field, they make headlines with accusations of racism. Middlesbrough are fined £50,000 and are docked 3 points for failing to fulfil their game at Blackburn, they claim they don’t have enough fit players this puts them in the relegation zone a place above Southampton.
Liverpool drop points to Aston Villa losing 1-0; this means they drop four points behind league leaders Manchester United. However they do keep the pressure on United as they beat Arsenal away 2-1, Robbie Fowler shows his great sporting nature when Liverpool are awarded a penalty Fowler protests to the referee that he was not touched so there should have been no penalty. Fowler misses the subsequent penalty however Jason McTeer scores the rebound. The pressure is on Alex Ferguson as United loose 3-2 at home to Derby County, the highlight of the game is when Derby’s new signing Costa Rican international Paulo Wanchope collects the ball in his own half dribbles past the United team and scores one of the most memorable goals scored at Old Trafford by the away side. United though end Liverpool’s first premiership title hopes beating the 3-1 at Anfield, this is quite painful Liverpool as they had last won the title during the English Football League - 1989-1990 Division 1 season. Liverpool’s season gets worse as they lose 2-1 to Wimbledon in the final month of the season however 17 year old Michael Own gives a hit of what is to come scoring on his debut as he come on as a substitute. Manchester United are crowned FA Carling Premiership champions more, they win the title by 7 points over Newcastle United. They though are shocked that at the age of 30 Eric Cantona retires from all professional football to pursue and acting and beech soccer career. Relegated are Sunderland and Nottingham Forrest joining them are Middlesbrough who despite their squad of experienced players are down, they regret the 3 point fine as that would have been enough to keep them up. To add to Middlesbrough’s misery they lose the English League Cup final 1-0 to Leicester City, they also lose the English Football Association Cup final to Chelsea 2-1.« previous season 1995 premier leaguenext season 1997 premier league »