Although no longer usually a month when England are in action, April was traditionally quite a busy time internationally with the Three Lions frequently playing at least one match then. Let’s look back at six of England’s best April games from the past 50 years.
April 2, 1966 Scotland (a) 4-3 Home International Championship
Just under four months before England’s greatest day, they made the trip to Hampden Park in the Home International Championship. It ended in a cracking 4-3 win for England as Geoff Hurst, Roger Hunt (2) and Bobby Charlton all found the net in front of more than 123,000 fans. The result ended a poor recent record for England against their old rivals and their attacking display gave hope for the forthcoming World Cup finals (amid concern about defensive frailty having conceded three). Scotland would gain revenge 12 months later by famously winning 3-2 at Wembley.
April 3, 1968 Spain (h) 1-0 European Nations Cup quarter-finals
Bobby Charlton takes a bow after scoring the winner against Spain.
Two years on from their World Cup glory, England were again going in pursuit of silverware as they were paired with Spain in the quarter-finals of the European Nations Cup. The first leg was played at a packed Wembley, with a well-taken Bobby Charlton goal in the closing stages proving decisive for England in their all-white strip. Earlier Martin Peters had controversially had a goal ruled out on a night when England really should have won more comfortably. But they would also win the second leg to advance to the semi-finals held in Italy. Having also overcome them in Euro ’96, Spain remain the only nation England have defeated in the Euro quarter-finals.
April 21, 1970 Northern Ireland (h) 3–1 Home International Championship
Not so much a classic match as a celebration of Bobby Charlton’s 100th cap, in an era when it was rare for anyone to reach that feat. He was handed the captaincy for the night and scored in a 3-1 win on a much-criticised Wembley pitch, as Sir Alf Ramsey’s men continued their preparations for the World Cup in Mexico. Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst also scored for England, with Charlton’s Manchester United team-mate George Best replying for Northern Ireland. “I am delighted for Bobby – he has achieved a truly great feat,” said Sir Alf afterwards.
April 16, 1975 Cyprus (h) 5-0 European Championship Qualifier
‘Supermac‘ celebrates one of his five goals during the 5-0 win over Cyprus.
A big win for England at home to Cyprus was not unexpected, but it was a significant night. Malcolm Macdonald generally struggled to find the same potency for England as he did at club level, but that wasn’t the case in this match as he scored all five goals as England won 5-0. Don Revie’s side had beaten world champions West Germany in a friendly the previous month and they looked confident as they continually found Macdonald in space to head home. It was the first time since the war a player had scored five times in a match for England, but not everyone was in awe of his achievement. In the Daily Express, reporter David Miller wrote: “This was Third Division stuff in international terms. Let us keep the champagne for the moment when the English bull does the same against Argentina, Brazil or Holland.”
And sadly such pessimism bore fruit – Macdonald never scored again for his country and England failed to qualify for the European Championship.
April 25, 1990 Czechoslovakia (h) 4-2 Friendly
Celebration time for Paul Gascoigne and Steve Bull against Czechoslovakia in 1990.
The night that changed Paul Gascoigne’s England career and really the start of ‘Gazzamania’ that would sweep the country in the coming months. Almost exactly a year after scoring his first international goal against Albania, Gascoigne was picked to start an international for only the second time as Czechoslovakia visited Wembley. Many saw it as his audition to claim a place in the World Cup squad and, if so, he grabbed it with both hands. Gascoigne shone and rounded off the scoring in an entertaining 4-2 win in front of just 21,342, with Steve Bull (2) and Stuart Pearce also on target. Bobby Robson stopped short of saying Gascoigne would definitely be in the World Cup squad, but dropped a pretty big hint by saying he “passed every test that was set him”.
April 2, 2003 Turkey (h) European Championship Qualifier
It was clear from the moment this group kicked off it would be between England and Turkey for top spot, with their dominance in other fixtures meaning their head to head record was likely to be decisive. That proved to be the case, with this memorable meeting at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light putting England in the driving seat. At 17, Wayne Rooney was handed his first England start and he played his part in a 2-0 win courtesy of goals in the closing stages from Darius Vassell and David Beckham (penalty). A goalless draw in the return match took Engkand through to Euro 2004, preserving their proud record of having never conceded a goal to Turkey.
Blogging about the history of the England national football team, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s.