What a disaster for England in the World Cup finals, but being perfectly honest we all knew really we had no chance didn’t we ? final, Feyenoord vs Celtic. Since then I can remember many classic matches and tournaments and the highs and lows of my beloved Manchester City and of course England.
World Cups always loom large in my football memories and the days of collecting football stickers, going way back to Mexico 70,when I must have been about seven. I can still remember that England the world champions, had two pages of stickers, to everyone else’s one, although I can honestly say, I don’t recall watching any of the matches on TV.
In 1973 i can still recall vividly the qualifying match that England had at Wembley against Poland one of England many heroic failures and the story goes:-
“ On 17 October 1973 England met Poland at Wembley Stadium in London in the final match of the qualifying Group 5 to determine the qualifiers for the 1974 FIFA World Cup being held in West Germany. England needed to beat Poland to go through as group winners, while either a draw or a victory would allow the Poles to qualify. Despite repeated attempts on the Polish goal, the English were denied by the saves of Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski and the match finished 1-1 allowing Poland to progress to the World Cup Finals.It was the first time England had failed to reach a World Cup (having not entered the 1930, 1934 and 1938 editions) since they had first taken part in 1950. Their elimination effectively brought an end to the England careers of Bobby Moore and Sir Alf Ramsey, who had led England to victory in the 1966 World Cup.
England were drawn in a three-team group with Wales and Poland. England had opened the campaign well with a 1-0 win in Cardiff against Wales, but were disappointed to only manage a 1-1 draw against the Welsh in the return at Wembley. Poland, by contrast, lost their opening game against the Welsh 2-0 in Cardiff. England’s progression seemed likely but in June 1973 they suffered a setback as they lost 2-0 to Poland in Katowice. England’s captain Bobby Moore had been culpable for one of the Polish goals when he had lingered on the ball, lost possesion and failed to stop Włodzimierz Lubański from scoring. Alan Ball had also been sent off towards the end of the match which meant he was suspended for the return.England had since played three friendly matches, including a victory over the Soviet Union and a defeat to Italy in Turin while a 7-0 victory over Austria at Wembley had raised expectations that England could beat Poland with similar ease. Poland had won their penultimate match 3-0 against Wales. This left them sitting on top of the group with four points while England had three. This meant only a win would be good enough for England as a draw would give Poland five points and England four. England were generally favoured to overcome the Poles at Wembley, despite their previous loss in Poland. However, there was great pressure on Alf Ramsey to get a result. Ramsey still retained the confidence of his players, but had been subject to a press campaign criticising his tactics and selections. A frequent criticism was his choice of preferring hard-running “workhorses” over “flair players” and the defensive line-up he had fielded in Katowice.
In the build-up to the match, former Derby County manager Brian Clough famously declared the Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski “a clown” because of his outfit and eccentric goalkeeping. Bobby Moore later noted that Tomaszewski ‘s eccentricty, he tended to misjudge crosses and punched at balls he should have caught. Before the match the Polish coach Kazimierz Górski told his players “You can play football for 20 years and play 1,000 times for the national team and nobody will remember you. But tonight, in one game, you have the chance to put your names in the history books.”
Ramsey made a surprise move with his own team selection when he dramatically dropped Moore and replaced him with Norman Hunter. Moore had been captain of England for a decade, and no player had been as consistent a starter as he had been but his mistake against the Poles led Ramsey to replace him. Ramsey gave the captaincy to Martin Peters. When Moore asked him if this meant he had no further use for him Ramsey replied ” Moore sat on the substitutes bench alongside Ramsey. Ramsey’s team was a more adventurous one than he had fielded in Katowice. He was not helped by the fact that the Football League had refused to cancel it’s round of matches the Saturday days before, meaning Ramsey’s players weren’t as fresh as they might have been.
Almost from the kick-off England pressed forwards to push for the opening goal, but they struggled for a breakthrough with a series of half-chances and near-misses. Whenver the English managed a clear shot on goal it was stopped by Tomaszewski or his defenders.
The match continued to be very one-sided, with Poland occasionally attempting counter-attacks, but England were dominating the game. Again Tomaszewski continued to frustrate the English attackers. It appeared that the Poles could only withstand so much pressure, and England would soon score, until in the fifty fifth minute Currie lost the ball on the right flank to Henryk Kasperczak who fed a hopeful ball through to Grzegorz Lato with Norman Hunter in front of him. Hunter was favourite to intercept the ball but tried to turn inside, dwelt on the ball too long and was disposessed.
Lato raced away and knocked the ball sideways to the onrushing Jan Domarski who hit a low shot that slid underneath Peter Shilton and into the net. The goal is often remembered for the fact that Hunter made an almost identical mistake to the one Moore had made in Poland, which ironically had led to Hunter replacing Moore in the team. England now needed to score twice. The game resumed its previous pattern, with England constantly laying siege to the Polish goal.In the sixty third minute England were awarded a dubious penalty for a foul on Martin Peters. Allan Clarke scored it, coolly sending Tomaszewski the wrong way, and the match was level. Another English goal would see them through.
Moore suggested that Ramsey bring on a left sided player where the Poles were vulnerable, but Ramsey didn’t make a move towards a substitution until the eighty fifth minute. The match is often cited as another example of demonstraing his failure to come to terms with the substitute system which was a relatively new innovation. Ramsey later claimed his watch had stopped, and he didn’t realise how little time was left. Moore grew increasingly impatient, and when Ramsey finally relented he shouted for Kevin Hector to get ready. To add to the farce of the situation substitute goalkeepr Ray Clemence thought the call was for Kevin Keegan and yanked down his tracksuit trousers and, accidentally, his shorts as well.Hector came on for his debut for the ineffective Chivers with just ninety seconds remaining on the clock, and made an almost immediate impact as he had a header cleared off the line. This was almost the last incident of the match as the final whistle sounded. Many of the English players were in tears. By some counts England had thirty five shots on goal to Poland’s two, but had been unable to score a goal from open play.
Jan Tomaszewski was dubbed by the Britsh press as “The Man That Stopped England”. “He hurled himself arms, knees and bumps-a-daisy all over his penalty area like a slackly strung marionette”, Frank Keating wrote In The Guardian. “And all with a half-taunting, half-surprised smile which made one think this might be his first-ever game”. England’s Mick Channon said of the match, “We were criticized for not being more patient. How can you be more patient? We had complete control of the game, constantly shooting on their goal, what difference would it make? Just one of those days when it won’t go in. If it had been any other game, if the result hadn’t been so crucial, you’d have been happy with the performance!”
Bobby Moore made a final appeareance for England in a friendly match against Italy at Wembley in November 1973, a game which England lost 1-0 to a goal by Fabio Capello. His departure led some to declare it the end of an era, as the nucleus of the 1966 side had now departed (although Martin Peters and Alan Ball would continue to play for England and Ball would captain the side). For some this was the beginning of a wilderness era for the national team, after the strong performances in 1966 and 1970.After the Italy game, Ramsey took charge for one final match away to Portugal, before in April 1974 his contract was not renewed and he left after eleven years in the job. Poland proved to be the “surprise team” in Germany, and went on to finish in third place in the World Cup, beating Brazil in the playoff. Grzegorz Lato finished as the tournament’s top scorer. In retrospect this made England’s failure against them far more respectable than it was seen at the time. The match is part of what is sometimes known as the golden era of Polish football. I was coming home from Cub camp when Gerd Muller scored the winner in the final against Holland the following year, when we stuck up for Scotland. “
1978 was the first real World Cup I remember in great detail, wonderful moments like Arie Hann’s screamer and Archie Gemmill’s classic. England were back in with a chance in the 1980’s but again flattered to deceive. I was at a sales meeting at Three Rivers in 1986 when the hand of god dumped England out of the cup and still remembered the trial and the tears “of all those ohh soo nears” as England progressed and exited in the semi-final of Italia 90 in Turin. This was the best achievement for England in the finals since 1966
.Since then it’s been up and downs for England and the World cup has now taken on a slightly different nature, what with all the foreign players we see in English football on parade, its almost like watching a league tournament. There are no real surprises anymore as we see so much world football on TV, which we never used too. There are no real surprises except when you come to Luis Suarez.