England had won the World Cup in 1966, and offered up a more than reasonable defence of the trophy four years later, before heat, fatigue and an absent Gordon Banks did for them in Mexico. In 1974, the tournament would be back in Europe, in West Germany. Conditions would be much more akin to the climate in Britain, and England would have a chance to reassert themselves.
There was, of course, the somewhat irritating matter of a qualifying process to negotiate first, but in a group alongside Wales and Poland, to many fans it didn’t look like a problem. As it panned out, thanks to a ‘Curate’s Egg’ of a series of group matches, the final fixture would decide all. Poland were to visit Wembley on 17 October 1973. Should Sir Alf Ramsey’s charges prevail, the tickets to Germany would be booked, if the Poles could win or draw however, it would be sufficient for them to go through and England would fail to qualify for a World Cup Finals for the first time since they entered the fray in 1950. Continue reading →
As World Cup Finals go, the one played out between Argentina and West Germany in 1986 would take some beating for drama. The game seemed won, before being cast into huge doubt, and then a late winner decided the issue in favour of the South American passion play. Although he didn’t score in the final, the tournament will, for a variety of reasons, be largely remembered with Diego Maradona as the star. That said, even the great Argentine icon would surely concur that others too warranted great credit and acclaim. Standing alongside giants can often mean that a shadow falls across others, obscuring their brightness, but they too have a tale to tell that can throw light on events. Jorge Luis Burruchaga is one of those oft-perceived-to-be lesser lights, but as the scorer of the late goal that ascended La Albiceleste to the heavens, his is a story crying out to be told. Continue reading →
The history of football is replete with tales of brothers who played the game. Stories of their similarities, differences and achievements vary, but none perhaps come near to the story of Archie and John Goodall. “Who?” I hear you say. You may well ask. Their names are hardly known now – perhaps outside of Preston and Derby – but the exploits and successes of the Goodall boys, around the turn of the nineteenth century, surely far exceed anything managed by football-playing siblings ever since. Born a year apart, in 1863 and 1864 respectively, they set a number of firsts-ever achievements and records, many of which stand to this day.
The Goodall’s father was a Scottish soldier, a corporal in the Royal Scottish Fusiliers, serving in the British Army. As such, although the family home was in Scotland, military assignments took Goodall Snr, and his family, on many journeys. All of which explains why John was born in London, and Archie in Belfast. This quirk of their father’s profession would also mean them playing for different countries – neither of which was Scotland. So, what was so special about John and Archie Goodall? Continue reading →
Aged just 35, to say Adam Crozier was a surprise choice to step into the role of Chief Executive at the FA would be understating the case more than a little. The former Saatchi & Saatchi executive was, however, the new broom, the fresh face, the untarnished non-old school tie appointment that the organisation needed. It was 2000, and going into the new millennium, dusty old corridors were well overdue a spring clean. In two years, Crozier shook up the Football Association in a way it hadn’t experienced throughout a history dating back to 1863 – or, for that matter, since.
The organisation’s headquarters were moved from Lancaster Gate to more modern facilities at Soho Square. The average age of staff was reduced from over 55 to just 32, the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium was progressed and the FA Council, nominally its controlling body, was reduced from 91 members, to a much more manageable 12. Without doubt though, the most revolutionary of Crozier’s achievements was to appoint the first foreign manager to head up England’s national team. In January 2001, Swedish manager Sven-Göran Eriksson was invited by Crozier to step into the hottest of managerial hot seats. The Swede accepted and the Walls of Jericho came a-tumbling down. Continue reading →
Football and British politics may seem uneasy bedfellows with very little common ground. There’s the importance of having the correct person in the ‘Number 10’ role in both spheres of course, and whenever there’s a bit of on-the-field glory, the temptation for politicians to drape themselves around any popular adulation appears to be overwhelming. Can however football shape or influence the political mood of the nation? It’s said that a rolling stone gathers no moss, but can a rolling ball shape the zeitgeist? Continue reading →
A while ago, I was invited to submit a guest article to the ‘grumpyoldfan’ website looking at a Hero of Youth. Here’s what I came up with:
I know this may make me sound like some curmudgeonly old moaner, locked into the past but casting my mind back around five decades or so, there was of course no computer games and kids’ TV lasted for a mere hour before the six o’clock news. Plus, if you had no interest in ‘sticky-back plastic’ or empty washing-up liquid bottles, such things could be of limited interest anyway. There was therefore little else to do other than go outside and play with a ball. Cricket in the summer – well sometimes, but overwhelmingly, football. Continue reading →
Linesmen, Referees’ Assistants or simply ‘Linos’, the guys running up and down the sidelines of half of the playing area are often considered the least significant characters in the passion play that is a football match. These are the ‘extras’ that make up the lower listings in the dramatis personae.’ They’re the ‘non-speaking’ participants, who have to wave a flag – or perhaps press a buzzer as well these days – to remind the rest of us that they’re there.
Football fans come in all shapes and sizes, and certainly many shades of opinion about the game and its environs. Forget even club affiliations for a moment. Some prefer the mile-a-minute thud and blunder of ‘route one’ whilst others may swoon at the intricate geometry of the tiki-taka possession game that bores opponents into conceding goals. Some think standing is the authentic way of watching live football, in all weathers with cold tea and Bovril so hot it would strip paint. Others however want the apparent luxury of sitting in a seat with legroom so restricted it would shame the lowest of low-cost airline cabins.
Such examples demonstrate the broad church of opinion that constitute the football community. In my experience however, there’s probably one thing that unites opinion almost without exception. Put in simple terms, it’s that ITV should not be allowed to anywhere near domestic football action – live or highlights. Having them broadcast England games is bad enough, but news that they are likely to bid for the highlights package from the Premier League next year – BBC’s Match of the Day is the current incumbent – causes concern and trepidation throughout football fandom. Continue reading →
Football has a particular habit of throwing up matches that can highlight an otherwise forgotten situation, or player. Such a game occurred early afternoon on Saturday when Wolverhampton Wanderers entertained Birmingham City in a SkyBet Championship match. It was of course a Midlands derby, bur for one particular player, the significance wet much further than that.
Forgotten centre-back Roger Johnson has played for both clubs and statistically has almost mirrored records for them. He turned out 76 times for the St Andrews club and 69 times for Wolves, netting twice for each club. That however is where the similarity ends. Wherein Johnson’s time with the Blues saw a highlight of his career to date, ironically wearing gold and black has very much been a case of the blues as his prospects have nosedived to the point where it’s difficult to see where his next first team game will be. Continue reading →
It’s often said that lightening doesn’t strike in the same place, twice. Everton fans will however be hoping that particular maxim will be up for revision shortly. If young starlet Ross Barkley continues his impressive progress and follows former Goodison Park favourite Wayne Rooney into the superstar bracket as an outstanding English talent and stalwart of the England team, a review may be in order. They will also be hoping however that Barkley hangs around on Merseyside longer than Rooney did. Continue reading →