Tuesday, August 22, 2006

England In The 70's: Part 2

It was the summer of 1973 and England's chances of qualifying for the 1974 World Cup Finals had been rocked by a 2-0 defeat away to Poland. Sir Alf Ramsey had just four months in which to prepare for the final match of the campaign, this time at home to Poland. England would have to win or face the prospect of an embarassing and unthinkable failure.

By way of preparation, the England team embarked on a short tour of Europe to distract themselves from their now growing problems. Even that didn't go according to plan. After scraping through 2-1 against the Soviet Union in Moscow (thanks largely to an own-goal by the home side), England then lost to Italy for the first time ever in a 2-1 defeat in Turin. Not even Bobby Moore’s record-breaking 107th cap for England could ease the mounting pressure.

And so to the final showdown. In September 1973, Poland had beaten Wales 3-0 which meant the re-match between England and the Poles would decide who booked their World Cup Finals place the following year. Poland were in the commanding position of only needing a draw, but for England only a win would do.

In one of the most famous matches of England’s footballing history, Poland faced a long and arduous onslaught from Sir Alf Ramsey’s men. Goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski, non-conformist in his technique, stopped shot after shot from England’s attack-minded line-up with the only let-up coming in the form of a goal against the run of play for Poland after 57 minutes.

England now needed two goals in the last half-hour of the match, but it wasn’t long before the first one arrived. The continual wave of pressure from the home team was rewarded with a penalty six minutes later which Allan Clarke put away to equalise, but no amount of fury and fire could bring England the second goal they so desperately wanted. When the referee blew his whistle to signify the end of the match, England were left to face the reality of failing to qualify for a World Cup Finals for the first time in their history.

Sir Alf Ramsey soldiered on for two more matches - one of which saw another friendly defeat to Italy (this time on home soil) before the FA decided enough was enough. On April 19th 1974, it announced the end of Sir Alf Ramsey’s 11-year reign as the manager of England’s football team and the hunt for a replacement was soon underway.

All change

While a permanent successor to Ramsey was being found, the Football Association appointed a temporary manager in the form of Joe Mercer, then in charge of Coventry City.

Mercer took control of the England team for seven matches and successfully kept things ticking over while the rumours grew over who was to become the new England boss. The press reported the emergence of two clear favourites to get the job: one was Brian Clough, the other was Don Revie.

Clough had guided Derby County to the 1972 League Championship and the semi-finals of the European Cup the following year, but his outspokenness was something the FA weren't comfortable with. So it was then that on July 4th 1974, the Football Association made their announcement. The new England manager was the man whose team was pipped to the 1972 League title by Clough - Leeds United’s Don Revie.

Revie was thrown straight into the thick of it as his new side began their qualification for the 1976 European Championships. They began well, winning three out of their first four games and there was even time for a 2-0 friendly win over West Germany at Wembley. The Home Championship followed next and Revie’s England breezed through that too.

What’s interesting to note is Revie’s approach to team selection during his first year in charge. There were a handful of players who had undoubted quality and were already regarded as regulars - Kevin Keegan, Gerry Francis, Ray Clemence to name but three - but the other positions were filled by a variety of players who, in nostalgic terms, barely even appear on the radar.

Take a look at Revie’s England side for the match against Wales in 1975:

Ray Clemence; Steve Whitworth; Ian Gillard; Colin Viljoen; Dave Watson; Colin Todd; Mick Channon; Alan Ball; David Johnson; Gerry Francis; Dave Thomas. Sub: Brian Little

Steve Whitworth was a Leicester City right-back whose England career began and ended in 1975, before losing his place to Phil Neal. Ian Gillard was a full back with Queens Park Rangers who’s tenure in the England side was even shorter, running to just three games. As for Colin Viljoen, he was a South African-born midfielder who was Ipswich Town’s Player of the Year in 1975. He played just twice for England.

All three players are typical of the lengths Revie went to in order to find the right mix for his team, and yet they, together with the bigger names on his team sheet, seemed to be achieving some success despite the constant changes.

All that came to end, though, when England travelled to Bratislava for a key European Championship qualifier against Czechoslovakia in October 1975. As in 1973, England were unwittingly running into a team that would eventually hit form in the not-too-distant future. An early goal by Mick Channon gave England hope but the home side fought back to win 2-1, leaving Revie’s side in a precarious position.

England had one game left, away to Portugal. If they could win that, it would mean Czechoslovakia would have to win both of their remaining matches. They, too, would have to play the already eliminated Portuguese away from home before their campaign ended with a trip to Cyprus.

The record books show that in November 19th 1975, England could only draw 1-1 against Portugal, and yet again it was Mick Channon whose name ended up on the scoresheet. That opened the door for the Czechs who now needed only two points to win the group, and unsurprisingly they got them after a 1-1 draw with Portugal and a 3-0 win away to Cyprus.

Don Revie’s honeymoon period was well and truly over, and it would now take a huge effort to get the support of the public back on his side. England had gone nearly ten years without a win in a major competition and Revie was starting to feel the pressure.


Kedge said...

Ah! The memories you conjour up Chris. I remember that Poland match. Such confidence we had that the lads would win through. Poland at home - no problem.
Edge of the seat stuff it was too. Enland pushing forward, it seemed to be only a matter of time before the 1st goal came, paving the way for a cricket score result in our favour. But "The Clown" had other ideas. Somehow, as you say, he saved everything.
And then, 10 minutes into the 2nd half, the moment that broke our hearts. Everyone had pushed forward, Bobby Moore, the Great Bobby Moore, one day to become Sir Bobby Moore and to have a Britannia Airway plane named after him, was caught out of position, and almost on the halfway line, close on the right touchline, the last defender, the so solid, the so dependable, Norman "bites yer legs" Hunter facing the Polish winger Lato. Stay on your feet, we shouted. Jockey him, we called. Don't commit yourself, we beseeched. What did he do? He dived in, went to ground. "Thank you" said the pole as he evaded the tackle and saw a clear route to goal. 1 on 1 with the keeper from the moment he entered the England half. The nations hopes resting on the giant hands of Shilton.
Did I say 1 on 1? What's this? Domarski had race forward, leaving the bewildered England defenders in his wake. Shilts comes out to narrow the angle as a keeper should, Lato spots his fast arriving team mate, slips the ball in field and Domarski, neatly places the ball wide of the left hand of the desperate, but ultimately vain dive of Shilton and into the net. The nation went silent. The only sound was the sobbing of England fans as they held their heads in their hands.

And what ignomy was to be heaped onto the fans following this?

Yes! Scotland qualified. And as any Scots fan will tell you ad nauseum, the Scots only just failed to make it through the group stage. The were unbeaten, and lost out on Goal Difference to BRAZIL, who they held to a goalless draw. The shame, the hurt. I can still feel the pain. That goal haunts my sleep even now. I watch replays of the match and I still shout to the defence - GET BACK, GET BACK!.

But they never do.

Chris said...

How good of you to write such a thorough reply, Kedge. You've filled in some of the gaps that I left during the composition of this article, which is a relief!

Yes of course, Brian Clough (who was working on the night of the England v Poland game as a pundit for ITV) labelled the Polish goalkeeper Tomaszewski 'a clown' but that was regarded by many as somewhat unfair. He may have had an unorthodox way of keeping goal, but it worked, which was the main thing.

And yes, Norman Hunter lost the ball at exactly the moment we didn't want him to. What chance did Shilton have after that?

As for Scotland during the 1970's, you're quite right to mention that they effectively had a sense of superiority over England by virtue of qualifying for two World Cups. And if they'd improved their goal difference just slightly, we could have been talking about arguably the greatest Scottish team ever. Thank heavens we were spared that, eh?!?

Flicktokick said...

Actually we do talk about the 74 vintage as the best ever Scotland team, it's just you've never noticed.

Kedge said...

I always thought that was the side that went to the World Cup in Argentina......

We're on the march
We're Ally's Army......

And all that.

Chris said...

Ah-ha! We have a Scot in our midst!

Welcome on board, FlickToKick! This is interesting - you say the Scots have more admiration for the 1974 team than the one in 1978?

Having done some rudimentary research, I'd say both sides had a generous share of quality players. In 1974 you had Bremner, Lorimer and Law, in 1978 you had Rioch, Gemmill, Souness and Macari and in both squads you had Dalglish, Jordan and Buchan.

What do you feel enables the 1974 Scotland World Cup squad to be held in such high esteem?

Flicktokick said...

The 1974 team went to the World Cup as almost the ultimate underdogs. We hadn't qualified for 16 years and had a terrible record in the competition.

In the end we returned unbeaten. Scared the pants off the defending champions and were unlucky to go out (aren't we always).

The 78 team went with a huge fanfare and promptly threw away the Peru game - Masson's missed penalty - and were awful against Iran. Sure we were the only team to beat Holland in normal time (straws clutched) but it wasn't enough.

Yes the 78 team had great players and played excellent football in many games but they let us down.

The 74 team has become a team full of heroes from Big Jim Holton through to Denis Law.

Having said all that we would quite like to recapture some of the feeling of pre-June 1978 when we really believed we were the best in the world, its better than worrying whether you can beat the Faroes.

Chris said...

OK FlickToKick, I'll give you due warning - I'm thinking about starting this off as a thread of its own as I find it fascinating getting an angle on a team other than my own beloved England by one of its fans!

Looking at Scotland's qualification for World Cup 2006, I remind myself of the glimpses of potential that came through from time to time - the 1-1 draw with Italy, the wins against Norway and Slovenia... I remember thinking 'Will this be Scotland's year?'

Unfortunately it looks like vital points were dropped against some of the weaker teams in the group like Belarus.

Moving on from there then, do you think Scotland can register any kind of upset at all in a fearsome Euro 2008 qualifying group? If so, which players would it come from?

Flicktokick said...

In the World Cup qualifying we never got over our dreadful start. Drawing at home with Slovenia then losing to Norway was pretty much a suicide note as far as getting to Germany was concerned.

This time yes we have a fairly difficult group. Actually who am I kidding, we have the two World Cup finalists and a quarter finalist, its a horror show, but still we have to have some confidence - we are getting better. I think we will cause problems to all three of the big teams.

I saw Italy twice during the World Cup and they were pitiful against USA and superb against Germany, so I can only hope they are still hungover or feel playing us is beneath them and play as they did against America.

France were fairly poor throughout the World Cup and are now without Zidane, so who knows. They have however absolutely stuffed us on the last two occassions we've met.

As for our team. If we are organised a the back we wil let in few goals, and for once we have a goalie you can't laugh at. Our midfield is coming together - Hartley is the star, along with Fletcher (yes Man Utd fans that Fletcher - he plays well for us almost every game) Quashie works bloody hard and kicks a few folk.

Up front we will play Kenny Miller - hopefully the one who remembers how to score and not the one Wolves seem to have sent Celtic - and Kris Boyd who certainly knows about getting goals, two goals on his debut against Bulgaria. James McFadden will almost certainly come on as substitute in every game and score. That's been his job for the last two years and he has done it well.

The only other name to fit in is Chris Burke, another two goal debutant from our trip to Japan. Injured at the moment but will feature sometime.

So as far as Scotalnd goes the future's bright, the future is Dark blue with Gold trim and a fairly bizarre shadow Y across the chest (One for your Guide to the New Season's kits there)

As for England I wish you all the best in your qualifying group against the might of Ruritania, Rockall, Smurfland and the 13th Zagreb Sea Scouts. It's not that I'm bitter, but...

Chris said...

See the new 'Scotland / Not England Thread' for a continuation of this discussion!


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