Don't look back in anger: The Premier League's Britpop years

By Chris BevanBBC Sport
Noel and Liam Gallagher
Liam and Noel Gallagher, pictured here at Manchester City's old Maine Road stadium in the mid-1990s, are childhood Blues fans

Former Oasis lead guitarist Noel Gallagher is appearing as a guest pundit on Match of the Day 2 on Sunday night.

To mark the occasion, BBC Sport looks back 20 years to a time when Britpop was in full swing and Oasis were about to begin their battle with Blur for chart supremacy.

Back then, Gallagher, a famous Manchester City fan, had rather less to celebrate football-wise than he did with his music.

His team were starting a slide down the divisions just as his band threatened to conquer the world.

But what else was happening in the Premier League in the era of Cool Britannia and union jack guitars?

Cantona - the third Gallagher brother?

Eric Cantona
Manchester United's maverick forward Eric Cantona became a big fan of the city's musical icons, particularly admiring Oasis, The Stone Roses and The Smiths

Arguably the best footballer in the Premier League during the Britpop era had a very appropriate persona.

Mean, moody, magnificent and Mancunian (based), if he had worn City's sky blue instead of Manchester United's red then Eric Cantona could easily have been mistaken for a Gallagher sibling.

Although Old Trafford was his stage, he strutted about in similar style with his trademark upturned collar. He even had a monobrow to match Noel and Liam.

"All City fans loved him too - he was one of those where you wished he played for you," Noel told BBC Sport this week. "He was a character who had character."

Cantona would later admit to being an Oasis fan,external-link and 20 years ago he had plenty of time to listen to their music.

He missed most of United's games in 1995 while serving a nine-month ban for his infamous kung-fu kick in January that year.

Arsenal - a tale of excess

Paul Merson
Paul Merson famously celebrated his Arsenal goals in the early 1990s by pretending to down a pint of lager

It is hard to find a rock 'n' roll footballer these days, although you could argue that Oasis's anthem 'Cigarettes and Alcohol' is at least half appropriate for Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, who has often been pictured smoking.

"A lot of players these days are squares," is Gallagher's view, and he is probably right.

But during the 1994-95 season the Gunners provided a tale of excess to match many an errant musician when Paul Merson admitted to being an alcoholic and a cocaine addict, and went into rehab.

Another Gunners star, Tony Adams, also admitted to being an alcoholic in 1996 but, before then, a scandal hit Highbury.

It is 20 years to the day since Arsenal sacked George Graham,external-link who became the first and only casualty of the bungs scandal, despite many managers being investigated.

Like Cantona, Graham had plenty of time to listen to the popular music of the day - he was handed a one-year ban by the Football Association after it was discovered he had taken more than £400,000 in illegal payments.

Blackburn v Man Utd and 'the battle of the bottle'

Blur and Oasis were happy to trade insults as they attempted to outdo each other at the top of the charts in 1995, and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was similarly outspoken about whoever was challenging his side at the top of the table.

He usually got a response too.

Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan's "I'd love it" rant in 1996 is the most famous from the Premier League era, and came after Ferguson suggested other teams might not try as hard against the Magpies as against his side.

But in 1994-95 it was Blackburn who were on the receiving end, when Ferguson publicly questioned Rovers' "bottle" as the season approached its climax.

Rovers hit back via goalkeeper Tim Flowers, who made a series of superb saves in a vital win over the Magpies that kept his side on track for the title, and also came out fighting in his post-match interview with Sky.

"Don't talk to me about bottle," Flowers said. "Don't talk to me about bottling it, because that is bottle out there. We are going to fight to the death because we have got bottle and we will give exactly what we have given all season, and that's 100% bottle."

Flowers was right - Blackburn clearly had "gotta lotta bottle". They pipped United to the title on the final day of the season, by a single point.

The rock and roll footballer - Paul McGregor

Paul McGregor
By day, Paul McGregor was a Nottingham Forest forward. By night, he was the lead singer of Britpop band Merc

The sight of Peter Crouch crowd-surfing at a Kasabian gig recently is a reminder that football and indie music have more in common than just the fact Pat Nevin used to read the NME and listen to Joy Division in the 1980s.

But professional footballers attempting to make credible music is understandably a rare event, which is why, when Nottingham Forest had their own Britpop footballer in the mid 1990s, he attracted some attention.

His name was Paul McGregor, a striker who was also frontman of a band called Merc.

When Merc played a gig at Nottingham music venue Rock City, the man who discovered Oasis - Creation Records' Alan McGee, said he was coming along to watch.

McGee never showed but plenty of McGregor's Forest team-mates did make it.

Nottingham Forest
McGregor's Forest team-mates - Tommy Wright, Chris Bart-Williams, Kevin Campbell and Ian Woan - were among the crowd at a Merc gig at Nottingham's Rock City venue

One of them, Ian Woan, joked to the Nottingham Evening Post: "The way he plays on the pitch, he should pack the footy in and give music a go."

McGregor tried to do both, with mixed success.

He scored an important Uefa Cup goal for Forest against Lyon in 1996 but that was the high spot of his playing days, which ended with spells at Preston, Plymouth and Northampton.

But, off it, he is still making music with post-punk band Ulterior....external-link Nevin is probably a fan.

Paul McGregor
McGregor scored three goals in 30 appearances for Nottingham Forest and retired in 2003

Top Stories