Month: January 2015

What if… West Germany hadn’t equalised in 1966?

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We all remember so much about extra-time in the 1966 World Cup final. But no Englishman at the time hoped it would happen. With the seconds ticking away and England leading 2-1, Jack Charlton gave away a free-kick on the edge of the box. The ball ricocheted into the path of Wolfgang Weber, who pounced from close range to fire past Gordon Banks. 2-2. Seconds later the final whistle sounded and England needed to lift themselves for another 30 minutes. Today we’ll play the hypothetical game and consider what would have happened if West Germany had not snatched a (largely avoidable) equaliser in the dying seconds of normal time.

No ‘Russian linesman’
Let’s be honest, how often do we ever remember linesman (or referee’s assistants in today’s money)? Barely ever and that would have been the case in the 1966 final for Tofiq Bahramov had the match ended in normal time. But as extra-time progressed, he would become synonymous with one of the most controversial moments in World Cup history. Nearly 50 years on the arguments still reign about whether Geoff Hurst’s shot crossed the line, but Bahramov was adamant it had gone in. The man from Azerbaijan would forever be remembered as the ‘Russian linesman’.

And had the incident never happened and the course of history subsequently been the same, perhaps ‘did it cross the line?’ would be reserved just for Frank Lampard’s no-goal against the Germans in the 2010 World Cup…

Arise Sir Martin, hello Mr Hurst
Martin Peters was seconds away from the most meteoric of rapid rises. Think Paul Gascoigne, Paul Parker and David Platt all emerging late in the day to shine for England at Italia ’90 and multiply it several times. Uncapped until May 1966, Peters fought his way into Ramsey’s ‘wingless wonders’ and would put England 2-1 up in the closing stages of the final. It really should have been the winner.

And if it had have been, one suspects the course of history may have panned out differently for England’s two goalscorers that July afternoon. He and West Ham United team-mate Geoff Hurst would have both scored one each, but Peters would be forever remembered for getting the winner. And the goal he scored would probably be played over and over again (Ronnie Radford eat your heart out!) and stand out as a truly iconic moment – the instant England won the World Cup (see above image). One suspects more doors down the years would have opened for Peters rather than Hurst and it could have led to him being the one to receive a knighthood.

But scoring in a World Cup final isn’t a bad thing to have on your CV anyway!


These two men could today be remembered for having scored one each on England’s greatest day

No famous last words
It’s hard to imagine the 1966 final without BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme’s immortal words: “Some people are on the pitch… they think it’s all over… it is now.”

A combination of it being such a special moment for English football and Wolstenholme’s words fitting perfectly made the commentary famous and ensured he would never be forgotten. And Wolstenholme could be grateful for extra-time for that, more so than ITV counterpart Hugh Johns whose commentary that afternoon (“he has, he has”) would never be viewed with the same affection or lasting legacy.

But without the West German equaliser, Wolstenholme would never have delivered such a memorable line. Assuming they were preordained, one suspects his words when Bobby Moore collected the World Cup of “Only 12 inches high, solid gold and it means England are world champions” would be the best remembered from England’s 2-1 win. It’s good, but just not quite as magical…

Missing Ramsey’s words of inspiration
There’s no question Alf Ramsey got the best out of his players in 1966, but his most public show of inspiration came as England prepared for extra-time just moments after conceding the equaliser. Seeing some of the West German players lying tired on the floor, he told his men not to do likewise and then gave the immortal line: “You’ve beaten them once, now go out and beat then again.”

And England duly did. Going into extra-time served to enhance Ramsey’s reputation as a motivator of his players, doing so in the most important moment of his managerial career.

So how would it have been remembered?
Jack Charlton claimed in this interview in 2006 that but for the West German equaliser and the ensuing drama, then the 1966 final “would probably have been forgotten”. I’m not sure I totally agree with Big Jack on that, but I’d certainly go along with the general gist of what I think he means – that the final became far more memorable due to the events in extra-time than if it had been settled in 90 minutes.

I don’t think it would have made any difference in the immediate aftermath. The newspapers the next day would have still had front page headlines such as ‘England – Champions of the World’ with Bobby Moore proudly holding the Jules Rimet Trophy aloft. I also don’t think there would be any less obsession today with the fact England won the World Cup in 1966, given the subsequent failings.

But I can’t help feeling that had England simply dealt with that free-kick in the final seconds of normal time, there wouldn’t be quite the same emphasis on the final when looking back at 1966. It would be seen as a brave comeback from England to win 2-1 and, as said earlier, the winner by Peters would probably be the most famous moment in the history of our national game. But there would have been far fewer talking points from that afternoon. Though the final would always stand out as England’s greatest day and be replayed fairly frequently, I suspect the tournament as a whole (and especially England’s tense knockout matches with Argentina and Portugal) would not be as overlooked as it often is.

All hypothetical (and you could say pointless). But somehow July 30, 1966, just wouldn’t have felt the same without the drama of extra-time. Perhaps we should be grateful to Wolfgang Weber for that…

England’s Qualifying Campaigns: World Cup 1986 – The tide turns for Robson

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Looking back 30 years to when England at last made light work of a World Cup qualifying campaign, booking their place in Mexico before the final match..

When the 1986 World Cup qualifying draw was made in December 1983, Bobby Robson was feeling the pressure. England had failed to make it to Euro ’84 and he desperately needed good results to win over the press and public. The draw was relatively kind, with England grouped with Northern Ireland, Romania (or Rumania as they were usually known at the time), Finland and Turkey. It basically looked a three-horse race for the two spots between England, the Northern Irish (who had got out of the group stage at World Cup ’82 and almost pipped West Germany to a spot at Euro ’84) and Romania (who qualified for the Euro finals and boasted the emerging talent of teenager Gheorghe Hagi in their ranks).

Being in a five-team group meant England only had to finish second to qualify automatically, but on the flipside this meant there was one extra away game for the English hooligans to potentially bring further shame on the nation. Robson was certainly viewing the draw with the yobs in mind, revealing his relief at not drawing Luxembourg just weeks after trouble from England’s followers at the final match of the Euro ’84 qualifiers. “I was hoping we didn’t draw them again. I don’t think they deserved us,” he said.

From despair to optimism
In the 10 months between the draw and England’s first qualifier, Robson went through the emotions. Defeats by France, Wales and USSR piled the pressure on (the latter defeat seeing him jeered by a section of the Wembley crowd) before the turning point of a famous 2-0 win away to Brazil. There seemed to be a new belief about England as 1984-85 rolled around, although it took a brilliant Bryan Robson volley to settle a drab friendly with East Germany. Times were changing for England and having been European under-21s champions in both 1982 and 1984, there were reasons to be optimistic about the future. Players such as John Barnes and Mark Hateley were bursting onto the scene with good effect and established internationals like Robson, Terry Butcher, Glenn Hoddle and Kenny Sansom were still only in their mid-20s. Most of the old guard inherited by Bobby Robson in 1982 were no longer on the scene.

By the time England played their first qualifier in October 1984, they had been handed a bonus as Northern Ireland (to Finland) and Romania (to Northern Ireland) had already suffered defeats. England had suffered rude awakenings by Scandinavian sides Norway and Denmark in recent years but the visit of Finland proved straightforward with a 5-0 win in which Kenny Sansom scored his only international goal.

Things got even better a month later, when England won 8-0 away to Turkey to leave them with maximum points and a goal difference of +13 from just two games. Bryan Robson scored a hat-trick, while namesake Bobby was acting the perfectionist and believing “we’ve left them off the hook” in only winning 8-0! A difficult year had turned into a good one for England.


Bobby Robson gets a front row seat for England’s game in Turkey.

Hateley the Hero
In February 1985 England made the short trip to Belfast to face Northern Ireland at Windsor Park. Billy Bingham’s side had won the last Home International Championship the previous year and there was understandable resentment at England’s withdrawal from the competition (effectively killing it off). England did not play well in this qualifier, coming under the cosh as the home side threatened. But it seemed a measure of how Robson’s luck seemed to be turning that they survived unscathed and snatched a late winner through AC Milan’s Mark Hateley. The following month brought a friendly win over the Republic of Ireland, most notable for bringing Gary Lineker’s first England goal and Chris Waddle’s international debut.


A bleak time for English football
In May England faced two away qualifiers, the first being a tough looking trip to Romania where they had been beaten in the 1982 World Cup qualifiers. This time around they claimed a 0-0 draw that left them three points clear at the top of the group and having yet to concede. Three weeks later they travelled to Finland, for a match oddly scheduled to be played the day before an FA Cup Final replay if one was needed (Steve Hodge recalled in his autobiography spending cup final afternoon desperately hoping for a draw between Everton and Manchester United so he could get a call-up). It wasn’t, but England looked tired and it took a goal from Hateley to salvage a 1-1 draw that kept the Finns in surprise contention to qualify.

The coming months would be completely overshadowed by matters off the field, as English football was plunged into an even deeper crisis. The horrific events at Heysel, Bradford and Birmingham made May 1985 English football’s nadir and those at the top needed to pick up the pieces. English club were banned from Europe, crowds were about to plummet even further and a TV rights row ended in deadlock as the Football League would be off the screens for the remainder of 1985. It was a bleak time.

The national team remained on TV, albeit only in highlights form for the remaining three qualifiers all at Wembley. Returning from a trip to Mexico (where they met Italy just eight days after the horrors of Heysel) and USA with Gary Lineker and newcomer Kerry Dixon on the goal trail, things boded well for England as they looked to put a smile on the faces of the nation’s football fans.

A taste of things to come
In September, England were held to a 1-1 draw by Romania at Wembley, but the point meant they were almost there. There would be controversy over Rodion Camataru appearing to use his hand in the build-up to the Romanian equaliser, acting as an ominous precursor of what lay futher ahead in England’s World Cup ’86 campaign. As the Three Lions failed to find a winner, BBC commentator Barry Davies started drawing comparisons with the infamous Poland match in 1973, but he was being melodramatic. England were almost there and it looked like Romania would join them.


The following month England could celebrate as Northern Ireland won away to Romania and then Lineker scored a hat-trick against Turkey in a 5-0 win. After coming perilously close to missing out on World Cup ’82 and then failing to make it to Euro ’84, it was a welcome relief for England to seal qualification early and all roads now led to Mexico. To cap a good week for England, they were given the green light after a UEFA vote to enter Euro ’88 after it looked like the yobs could see the national team join English club sides in being European outcasts.

“I am not going to say this is the greatest achievement of my career or the proudest night of my life. I am just very pleased that we are there” – Bobby Robson after the 5-0 win against Turkey, October 1985.

St Patrick’s Night
The final round of qualification for England would unusually see much of the focus of the British media be on the opposition. Northern Ireland needed a draw at Wembley to join England at the finals, which created an awkward situation. Coming so soon after the West Germany v Austria controversy at World Cup ’82, it seemed odd this fixture had been agreed for the final round of matches. Such a scenario like this one was always possible and it would have been far better to switch the previous round of matches with these (Romania were away at Turkey). England would have to go out and seek to win it to show they were above reproach, even if as Bobby Robson conceded they would probably then get criticism from some quarters for stopping a fellow United Kingdom side making it. It was a no-win scenario.


The Romanians won in Turkey so it would boil down to this one, and it was left to 40-year-old goalkeeper Pat Jennings to roll back the years and keep England out. The visitors defended deep and endured a long night, but there was to be no winner coming for England. Jennings rightly took the plaudits after the 0-0 draw, which suited both as England qualified as unbeaten group winners and Northern Ireland made their third finals. For the second successive World Cup qualifying programme, Romanian dreams had ended with a match at Wembley they hadn’t even played in.

There would inevitably be suggestions based purely on the result that it was a ‘fix’, but Northern Irish defender Alan McDonald was particularly adamant it wasn’t. He told the BBC that “anyone who thinks that was a fix can come and see me… because we bloody earned that.”

As reporter John Wragg summed it up in the Daily Express: “If Rumania have any argument with this result, point them in the direction of big Pat Jennings.” It was a heartwarming story to see the veteran goalkeeper steer his team to the World Cup finals while no longer playing first-team club football.

As for England, they had finished top of the group with four wins and four draws. It hadn’t been a particularly vintage qualifying campaign – bar the 8-0 demlition of Turkey – but England had been in control and qualified without the usual final game anxiety. For Bobby Robson, things were now looking up after the torment of the Euro ’84 qualifying campaign.

One Cap Wonders – Danny Wallace

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The 1980s was a good time for Southampton, with players like Kevin Keegan choosing to ply their trade at The Dell and Matt Le Tissier and Alan Shearer later coming through the ranks. They finished second in the First Division in 1984 and twice came close to repeating their 1976 FA Cup success. And one of the players to shine through the decade was homegrown youngster Danny Wallace.

Wallace emerged through the Saints’ youth ranks to make his debut at 16 in 1980. It was the start of nine years playing for Southampton, that would include him scoring the BBC Goal of the Season against Liverpool in 1983-84 and lining-up alongside younger brothers Ray and Rod. There were also 14 England under-21 caps for winger Danny to collect, playing his part as they finished as European champions in 1984.

One Cap, One Goal
in 1986, Wallace earned his big break with England. Just days after his 22nd birthday he was called up to the full side for a friendly in Egypt. The rare January fixture had not been met with universal support from club managers, but it afforded Bobby Robson’s side the chance to meet African opposition before facing Morocco in the World Cup finals. With FA Cup replays and League Cup ties clashing with the trip, England were under-strength in Cairo.

The match would be best remembered for Peter Beardsley beginning his successful England career, but Wallace was to make the most tangible impact by scoring from close range (see above pic) in the comfortable 4-0 win. As he tucked the ball home, Wallace must have started believing he could be on the plane to Mexico that summer. At the very least, scoring would surely earn him another cap.

But it wasn’t to be and Wallace would never be picked again, seeing players such as John Barnes and Chris Waddle dominate the wing positions. But at club level his reputation was strong enough for Alex Ferguson to fork out more than £1 million in September 1989 to sign him for Manchester United, helping them win the FA Cup that season. But most of United’s successes in the 1990s would be achieved without him, as he wound down his professional career with Millwall (loan), Birmingham City and Wycombe Wanderers.

In 1996 Wallace was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but he showed great courage in going on to complete the London Marathon in five and a half days in 2006 for the Danny Wallace Foundation to help others with the condition. A great achievement that puts any football success or frustration into perspective.