Manchester United Assistant Coach Mick Phelan returns to Stamford Bridge on Monday and back to the scene of one of football’s greatest ever moments involving a balloon. Now a YouTube classic, Phelan, who was also Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant in his final few seasons at Old Trafford, gave Fergie the fright of his life when prior to one particular Stamford Bridge showdown, he decided to burst a stray balloon that had made its way to the visitor’s dugout.
Unaware of the said inflatable, Fergie almost shat himself when he heard the pop before delivering a bombardment of expletives in the direction of Phelan, which caused the former midfielder to piss himself.
Sir Alex Ferguson's 74th birthday today. No balloons please. https://t.co/xEmJOsB7Qi
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) December 31, 2015
So this got us thinking and we started to trawl through the archives to dig up some more examples of when balloons have played a major part in grabbing the headlines on the following mornings back pages.
REINA DEFLATED IN STADIUM OF LIGHT SHOCKER:
Back in the autumn of 2009, Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez was under pressure after his side had lost back to back Premier League matches. His bad luck was about to take another twist on a windy day at The Stadium of Light when a speculative shot from Black Cats striker Darren Bent, deflected off a stray balloon that had been thrown onto the pitch by a Liverpool supporter, wrong-footed goalkeeper Pepe Reina and gave the home side all three points.
Liverpool cried foul as the rules state that it should have been considered an outside agent, which, whether an errant inflatable, plastic bag or stray animal, should bring a drop-ball if struck by the match ball. The referee, Mike Jones, despite seemingly having a clear view of the incident, allowed the goal to stand, however, which left Benitez to simply state that “These things happen” in his post-match interview.
INFLATABLE INVASION BRINGS THE VALLEY TO A STANDSTILL:
Normally in football, the best way to try to get a match suspended is for fans to invade the pitch en- masse forcing the referee to send the players fleeing for the dressing-rooms. Back in April 2017 however disgruntled Charlton Athletic fans used their final home game of the season against Swindon Town to vent their anger at club owner Roland Duchatelet, by throwing a load of black and white balloons onto the pitch as part of a series of protests against the way the club was being run.
Having been relegated that season before, The Addicks, who ended up winning the game 3-0, would finish the 2016-17 campaign in the bottom half of League One and the South London club are still in the same division and still in the hands of Duchatelet having failed to win any of their last four league outings.
BALLOON GOES UP AT FILBERT STREET TO DEFY THE BIG FREEZE:
Back in 1978-79, football was virtually wiped out across Britain during January and February due to one of the worst winters on record. For two months of that campaign, the only place you could go to watch football on a regular basis was Filbert Street, where Leicester City has installed a giant inflatable to cover the playing surface.
With undersoil heating still in its infancy and with sub-zero temperatures ensuring that even if it did work, there still wouldn’t be any footy action on a Saturday afternoon, The Foxes managed to play the majority of their home games and such was the size of the inflatable, the players even managed to train under it during the week. Of course, this ingenious idea was soon forgotten when the covers were taken off and Leicester midfielder Keith Weller trotted out wearing a fetching pair of white tights.