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Aug 9, 2014

Top Tenner: Community Shield matches

ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno contends that Arsenal should be taking this game seriously, but Steve Nicol disagrees.

With England's Premier League kicking off Aug. 16, a good preview of what's to come can be seen in the country's curtain raiser to football on Sunday as Manchester City take on Arsenal in the Community Shield.

Here are some of the most memorable matches in the competition's history.

10) Manchester United 4-0 Queens Park Rangers, 1908

The Charity Shield, as it was known until 2002, when a failure to properly distribute the proceeds to charities saw it renamed, didn't start off life as a game between league champions and FA Cup winners.

Initially, the match was a replacement for the Sheriff of London Charity Shield, an encounter between professionals and amateurs, and was contested between the winners of the Football League and the Southern League champions, and the inaugural game was between Manchester United and QPR. Indeed, people took it rather more seriously back then -- so much so that after the first game ended in a draw, with Billy Meredith scoring for United.  It was replayed and the First Division winners ran out convincing victors, a hat trick from Jimmy Turnbull proving decisive.

9) Manchester United 8-4 Swindon Town, 1911

A few years later United, once again league champions, were back to collect their second (of 20 -- they hold the record) Shield, and in the process take part in the highest-scoring encounter in its history.

Harold Halse was the star of the day, scoring six against Swindon and setting a single-game United scoring record that wouldn't be equaled until George Best got his own double hat trick against Northampton in 1970. The proceeds from the following year's game were donated to the survivors of the Titanic, which sunk in April 1912.

8) Professionals 7-2 Amateurs, 1913

After a few years of First Division/Southern League winners encounters, the FA decided to return to the good old Professionals vs. Amateurs affair, a quaint old tradition that rather exemplified the stuffy nature of English football's higher powers until relatively recently.

In reality, the "professionals" were the England team from a recent home international against Scotland, while the "amateurs" contained a number of gold medalists from the victorious 1912 British Olympic side. The game was played on a Monday afternoon in October, displaying that the FA could make some very odd decisions when not guided by TV schedules, and that this match wasn't the "traditional curtain raiser for the season" that broadcasters are contractually obliged to call it these days.

Harry Hampton, the Aston Villa forward who had notched the goal that beat Scotland earlier in the year, bagged four, and Sunderland's George Holley helped himself to another two as the pros ran out convincing winners.

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7) Nottingham Forest 5-0 Ipswich Town, 1978

"Interesting" fact for you: This was the last Charity Shield to be contested between two clubs who currently reside outside the Premier League. Well, perhaps not that interesting, but it does illustrate that LP Hartley had a point when he said that the "past is a foreign country."

Forest began a season that would end with them lifting the European Cup, a trophy win even more improbable than beating mighty Liverpool to the league title, by swatting aside Bobby Robson's Ipswich 5-0, the goals coming from Martin O'Neill, Peter Withe, Larry Lloyd and John Robertson. Needless to say, neither team has been back.

6) Manchester United 4-0 Newcastle, 1996

David Beckham and Manchester United ran rampant against Newcastle United, who barely lost out on the Premier League title the previous season.

The 1995-96 title race was stupendously close, Newcastle only melting down along with their manager in the final few weeks after holding a 12-point lead over Manchester United.

In response to just missing out, they threw money at the problem, recruiting Alan Shearer for a then-record 15 million pounds, meaning that they would obviously push United even harder that season, right? Well, not quite. The much-hyped encounter wasn't much of a contest, as United ran out convincing 4-0 winners, sashaying past their rivals in a victory that was capped with some élan by David Beckham and Roy Keane. The former scored a measured lob after being set clear by Eric Cantona; the latter scored the fourth by bursting a powerful shot through Pavel Srnicek's hands in the closing stages. United would finish the season as champions, with Newcastle a rather distant second.

5) Tottenham 5-1 Ipswich, 1962

By the late 1950s, the match was settling into the pattern we know today, with the league champions facing the FA Cup winners as the first match of the season.

However, in 1961 Tottenham, having won the first Double of the 20th century, presented something of a difficulty, as they couldn't very well play themselves, so the ever-creative FA got round the problem by drawing together a pretty impressive-sounding "Select XI," featuring Jimmy Armfield, Bobby Robson, Johnny Haynes and Bobby Charlton to face Bill Nicholson's men, but to no avail as Tottenham won 3-2.

The following year Tottenham were back, having retained the FA Cup, and put in an even more impressive performance, fairly shellacking First Division winners Ipswich 5-1, with Jimmy Greaves bagging a brace shortly after returning to England from a brief spell in Italy.

4) Everton 5-3 Newcastle, 1932

Dixie Dean's 60 goals in one top-flight season is often thought of as one of the great unbreakable records in English football, but given the exploits of Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in recent years, perhaps a similar goal-scoring star will emerge at some point to break it.

Dean scored a piffling 45 as Everton won the league title in 1931-32, and continued his scoring exploits in the following season's Charity Shield, at this point held in October, against FA Cup winners Newcastle. Dean helped himself to four as the Toffees came out on top in this ding-dong tussle, in which Newcastle took the lead through Harry McMenemy before Dean got to work, dismantling the Toon back line with the help of inside-forward Tommy Johnson.

3) Manchester United 3-3 Tottenham, 1967

The most memorable Charity Shield games stick in the mind because of individual moments, no matter what other excellent play might happen around those moments.

The 1967 game is a case in point, an encounter between two collections of the finest players English football of that era had to offer, one of which would go on to win the European Cup, and an encounter that produced six goals, including a Bobby Charlton screamer. However, the game is almost solely recalled for a goal scored by Pat Jennings, who the historically aware and shrewd among you, dear readers, will know was a goalkeeper.

Jennings overhit a punt downfield toward the United goal, and the stadium sat back and waited for Alex Stepney to gather it and reply in kind, only for him to misjudge the bounce of the ball and forlornly watch it arc over his head and into the net.

2) Leeds 1-1 Liverpool, 1974

The 1974 game is, like 1967, mostly remembered for one incident, although this was of a slightly different flavour. This was the first time the Charity Shield was held at Wembley, and Billy Bremner and Kevin Keegan decided to mark the occasion by having a fine old stramash in the middle of the pitch, becoming the first men to be sent off in a domestic encounter at the old ground. They departed the scene -- but not, for some reason -- before removing their shirts.

It could have been pretty different though, had referee Bob Matthewson done his job properly by sending Leeds midfield Johnny Giles off for belting Keegan in the jaw after a running battle between the pair, but history balances on such fine calls. Liverpool won the game on penalties after it finished 1-1 after extra time, but does anyone really care about the result in a situation like this?

1) Leeds 4-3 Liverpool, 1992

Eric Cantona, left, then a Leeds United star, celebrates the FA Charity Shield win over Liverpool.

Should all Charity/Community Shield games be between Liverpool and Leeds? Sure, it might not be quite the same contest these days, but the two times the teams have faced each other in the fixture, they have been barnstormers.

Leeds, fresh from winning the last league title before the Premier League came along, still had Eric Cantona in their ranks when they faced FA Cup winners Liverpool, that trophy being a positive blip on the otherwise ruinous Anfield reign of Graeme Souness. And Cantona was rather emphatically the decisive character in this game, scoring the hat trick that would secure the Shield for his team, despite three goals in response from Liverpool in a back-and-forth encounter that belied the supposed "friendly" nature of the game.

Of course, it would not be his team for much longer, absconding to Old Trafford a few months later and taking the league title with him, his former team sliding to 17th place after a grim season.

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