Month: October 2015

Great England goals – Chris Waddle v Turkey (1985)

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Scoring your first international goal is always likely to be memorable and joyful, but that must have been particularly true for Chris Waddle 30 years ago today. A mesmerising run against Turkey ended with him opening the scoring in a 5-0 win as England celebrated World Cup qualification in style, on a night when the nation’s new generation gave great cause for optimism.

1985 was a busy year for Chris Waddle, with the winger earning his first England cap in March in a friendly against the Republic of Ireland. In the summer he moved from Newcastle United to Tottenham Hotspur. And having become established with the England set-up, he netted his first international goal in October on a night of celebration for the nation.

Northern Ireland’s win in Romania earlier in the day effectively guaranteed England would be going to Mexico for the World Cup the following summer, given they had a vastly superior goal difference to Romania who at best could only now only finish level on points with them. Even the most pessimistic of Englishmen accepted they were there with two games to spare. Any concerns that England would now be complacent against Turkey that night were quickly allayed, as Bobby Robson’s side went on the attack from the off against a team they had beaten 8-0 in the away fixture the previous November (in an era before nations such as Andorra and San Marino competed, the Turks were among the lowest ranked nations in Europe). “They still tackled Turkey as if the trophy itself depended on it,” wrote Steve Curry in the Daily Express. Fifteen minutes in England, playing in an unusual combination of red shirts and blue shorts, got their breakthrough through Waddle.

The move started with Waddle bringing the ball forward on the left from within his own half. Although his ball to Ray Wilkins was intercepted, it fell back into Waddle’s path just beyond the halfway line. He ran and ran as he cut cross-field, dribbling with his left foot while heading towards the right flank. Waddle then started to move towards the penalty area, riding a tackle and then sidestepping out of the reach of an opponent within the area. He took the ball onto his right foot and scored from an acute angle, the ball going in at the near post despite goalkeeper Yasar Duran getting a hand to it. Waddle had got the goal his lengthy dribble deserved. Manager Robson later recalled that the strike “brought the house down” at Wembley as fans and players celebrated.


Chris Waddle is mobbed after scoring his first England goal.

During the Football League blackout on television and with English clubs banned from Europe, the match was one of the few TV viewers got to see in the opening months of 1985-86. Martin Tyler, commentating for ITV highlights, was certainly impressed with the strike. “It’s his opening goal for England and it’s arrived in the true Waddle style,” he said as the player was mobbed by team-mates. “On and on he went.” Although the Turkish defending was poor and Waddle was afforded more space than he should have been, it remained a spectacular goal for the sheer extent of the dribble.

Lineker steals the limelight

Waddle scored the standout goal of the night but he was to be upstaged in the headlines by Gary Lineker, who netted his first international hat-trick. A good England team was emerging that looked capable of competing for honours in Mexico the following summer, with new blood such as Lineker, Waddle and Everton’s Gary Stevens complementing the established internationals. Bryan Robson was also on the scoresheet as England led 5-0 with over half an hour left, but he would later go off injured. It was the start of a frustrating injury-plagued few months for the captain and England’s momentum was lost on the night, as the Turks escaped having ‘only’ lost by five goals. But all told this was a good night for England, at a time when there wasn’t a lot else to be proud about with the national game.

The following day, there was more cause to smile when UEFA gave England the green light – after a lengthy meeting – to compete in the Euro ’88 qualifiers amid genuine fears they would be expelled due to the hooliganism epidemic. The week had provided a chink of light for English football in a year blighted by tragedy and Waddle’s solo goal was the icing on the cake.

Like his singing partner Glenn Hoddle, Waddle (pictured above) made a habit of scoring spectacular goals in his career. His free-kick for Sheffield Wednesday in the 1993 FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield United was one such example. He was more a scorer of great goals rather than a great goalscorer and unfortunately the solo effort against Turkey did not open the floodgates for him. He only managed six goals for his country in 62 caps, the last appearance coming exactly six years later against the same opponents at Wembley (also marking Bryan Robson’s international farewell). But his game was about far more than just scoring. Waddle was a creative player who won plenty of admirers, also proving one of English football’s best exports during his successful spell with French side Marseille. That goal against the Turks in 1985 had underlined the skill and talent he possessed.

Don Howe – England’s man for all seasons

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Happy 80th birthday to Don Howe, a man who won 23 England caps and played in a World Cup finals but is probably best known to younger generations as the team’s former assistant manager – proving a trusted ally to Ron Greenwood, Bobby Robson and Terry Venables during their spells in charge. He may not have been necessarily loved by the average man in the street, but there were many within the game who would defend him to the hilt and saw just what an asset he was to his country.

Google Don Howe’s name and the thing that constantly crops up is the man’s reputation as a coach. Plenty of players who worked with him speak particularly highly of his coaching abilities, including the Neville brothers, Stuart Pearce and Dennis Wise. The managers he worked for also had plenty of praise for Howe, particularly Robson with whom he had a long-standing friendship. Howe was at his side through Robson’s rollercoaster eight-year reign, experiencing some real low points before the drama and restored national pride of Italia ’90.

But not every football lover was as enamoured with Howe. There was a tendency for some to dismiss him as a rather dull man who was defensively-minded. Yet Robson was adamant this reputation was totally unwarranted, writing in his 1986 World Cup Diary: “There are a number of people, some within the game, who have the impression that Don is a dour Midlander whose football doctrine is steeped in defensive theory. They could not be more wrong. Don is one of the funniest men in football, always looking for a laugh and is great company. Few know the game as well as he does and he is an inventive and thinking coach who retains the players’ interest even when warming them up. There is always a new routine which is punctuated by Don’s shrill whistle. Don is also an advocate of attacking football and when he and Ron Greenwood were discussing the squad for the World Cup finals in Spain [1982], it was Don who was in favour of taking a winger like Peter Barnes or Tony Morley and Ron decided against it.”

Don Howe was a trusted ally of Bobby Robson throughout his England reign.

Robson would later recount how supportive Howe was when the manager became an increasing target for the tabloids in the late 1980s, particularly following the nadir of Euro ’88 when England lost every game. At a time when Robson most needed a friend to turn to, he had a true one in Howe – who he played with for West Bromwich Albion and England at the 1958 World Cup. But just days after England returned home from West Germany, Howe was in intensive care with severe chest pains following a suspected heart attack. If anything put England’s woes into perspective, this was it.

It would have been the cue for many to decide to call it a day and seek a quiet life, but Howe recovered and returned to join Robson in seeking to get England to reach Italia ’90. While there, he sat alongside him through the various joys and traumas as his great friend bowed out a hero with the nation coming so close to reaching the final. Howe also took this as his moment to move on, choosing to concentrate on being manager of QPR rather than assisting Graham Taylor. Indeed, pathetic as it would seem today, Howe had been left to combine helping Robson with working the rest of the time at club level. Robson had seen his request for Howe to be his full-time assistant turned down by the FA, something he was far from happy about.

Forging the coaching reputation

Howe had enjoyed a decent playing career as a defender with West Brom and Arsenal, featuring 23 times for England and playing in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. Although injury brought Howe’s career to a close in 1966, he made the move into coaching and struck up a particularly successful partnership with Bertie Mee that resulted in the double being won by Arsenal in 1971. As with contemporaries Malcolm Allison and Peter Taylor, Howe could not quite enjoy the same success as a manager rather than number two. But his coaching reputation remained undimmed and he would later be given a lot of credit for Wimbledon’s FA Cup Final win in 1988 against a rampant Liverpool. Manager Bobby Gould described Howe as “The Master” when discussing the shock win afterwards, having found the ways to ensure Kenny Dalglish’s side could be stopped in their tracks.

Vinnie Jones – a member of the Don Howe fan club.

During the documentary about Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang broadcast last Christmas, it was interesting to see how Howe was regarded by the players. Where manager Bobby Gould appeared to have struggled to earn the respect of a tough set of men to manage, Howe was treated with reverence. “We absolutely adored Don Howe… we had so much respect for him,” said Vinnie Jones, a man not known for eulogising about people he worked for. Midfield colleague Wise hailed Howe as “the best coach I’ve ever worked under”. The Wimbledon triumph cemented Howe’s coaching and tactician reputation at a time when he was already long-established in the England set-up.

Defending the defensive

Howe first became England assistant manager under Greenwood, working together at the 1982 World Cup which began with Bryan Robson scoring after just 27 seconds against France. “All credit to Don for that,” the watching Trevor Brooking recalled Greenwood saying of a goal which came straight from the training ground. Sadly, the team would be eliminated in the second group stage amid criticisms of the team being too cautious.

“All credit to Don” as Bryan Robson scores against France in 1982.

“Don’s priority was to stop the opposition from playing,” wrote Brooking as he reflected on the team’s approach. This defensive label would forever be hard for Howe to shake off, probably not helped by his deep interest in Italian football which was not renowned for its attacking nature. “Teaching people how to defend and being defensive are two different things,” Howe would insist as he sought to distinguish between his specialist knowledge and his approach to football.

A spell as Arsenal manager in the mid-1980s did not help rid him of the defensive reputation, despite briefly taking them to the top of the First Division. But forward Tony Woodcock, who played for Howe with both Arsenal and England, believed such criticism was unwarranted. In an interview with The Independent in 1994, Woodcock, who had himself gone into coaching, said: “It never crossed my mind that Don was extra defensive. But every player has to learn how to defend. That’s something I’ve come to realise now. The thing I remember about Don was he was always looking at what other teams were doing and experimenting with new methods himself. He was always very enthusiastic.”

Final flourish

In January 1994, Terry Venables replaced Graham Taylor as England manager following the team’s failure to reach the World Cup finals. Although Howe had left his role as Arsenal manager in 1986 amid reports the club had approached Venables to replace him, he evidently did not hold this against the new England manager and accepted a key role in the England set-up with particular emphasis on looking after the defence. It proved a shrewd appointment, Howe working well with Venables and Bryan Robson in helping prepare England for Euro ’96 and offering his extensive knowledge of the international game.

Phil Neville, who broke into the England set-up during this period along with brother Gary, believes Venables became an even better boss thanks to Howe’s input. In 2013 he said: “I liked the way he [Venables] had coaches around him who challenged him – Don Howe and Bryan Robson. The fact that the number two and number three were not afraid to express an opinion would make the senior coach even better.”

Terry Venables and Don Howe.

The tournament took place almost four decades after Howe had first played for England, having proved a man for all seasons during his many years in the coaching role. It proved a dramatic and heartbreaking farewell for Howe from the England set-up, with a touch of déjà vu after Italia ’90 as England again lost to Germany on penalties in the semi-final. Afterwards he and Venables headed for Gareth Southgate to console him over his penalty miss (see below pic). Howe had worked closely with the defenders, with Southgate being a player who had flourished under this management team. It was a sad moment with which to bow out, but England had rebuilt their reputation during the Venables years with Howe heavily involved throughout.

Despite his advancing years, Howe has remained in demand with clubs such as Ipswich Town having requested his services in recent years. Within football there have been numerous individuals who have appreciated just what Howe could bring to help them, including the three England managers he worked for (not a bad feat considering how many like to employ their own right-hand man). There may not be widespread partying today to mark his 80th birthday, but plenty of football people will be wishing him a happy birthday and thanking him for what he did for them. As English coaches go, few have earned the level of respect that Howe carries.

England Qualifying Campaigns: Euro ’80 – Ending the Long Wait

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With England having qualified with games to spare for Euro 2016, we look back at a previous occasion when they made light work of a European Championship qualifying campaign. When England embarked on trying to reach the 1980 finals in Italy it was just over 12 years since they had won the World Cup, but they had since suffered a depressing series of failures to qualify for major tournaments. They would end the long wait to qualify in style, in a campaign that brought a couple of superb goals and the debuts of several players who would go onto serve their country well through the 1980s…

Shortly before Ron Greenwood was confirmed as permanent England manager in December 1977, the qualifying draw took place for the 1980 European Championship. It had been a bleak 1970s for England, having failed to qualify for four successive major tournaments (although they reached the quarter-finals of the 1972 European Championship, that was played over two legs so technically they didn’t qualify for the finals). They desperately needed a stroke of luck to help them on their way to major tournament and it came with this qualifying draw. Considering their poor recent qualifying record, England were fortunate to be seeded and then to land a group not appearing to contain any major threat. 

Had England been drawn a few years later in a group containing Bulgaria, Denmark, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, it would have been called the group of you know what. Every side would subsequently advance beyond the World Cup group stage by 1990, but in the late 1970s they mostly had relatively limited pedigrees – Bulgaria had the best track record after making it to four successive World Cups from 1962 to 1974. In The Times, Norman Fox wrote the group was one that “England should consider a springboard to better days”. But he sounded a word of caution. “Unless there is continued rapid progress England cannot seriously believe there is any such thing as an easy match,” he wrote. “The draw is favourable but is not a passport to Italy.”

Ron Greenwood.

With the Danes starting their improvement towards being a stylish force in the 1980s there was no whipping boy in the group and this proved to be to England’s advantage. The other four sides would continually take points off each other as England kept on winning. An interesting subplot to the draw was the presence of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the same group. As well as providing derby matches for England, this group would produce the first ever meetings between the two Irish nations. The prize for the group winners would be a place in the first European Championship finals to resemble a proper tournament, with Italy hosting the group stage before the final (previously only the semi-final onwards was played in the host country). 

Despite failing to make it to the 1978 World Cup, England went into their first qualifier in Denmark in September 1978 in good form. Since losing successive home matches in the 1977 Home International Championship towards the end of Don Revie’s reign, they had been beaten just once in 12 games. Greenwood may have not had the public support for the manager’s job of Brian Clough but he had made a good start, with a 4-1 friendly win over Hungary in May 1978 particularly encouraging. Liverpool had won successive European Cups and provided several players in the squad, while Nottingham Forest would go on to match Liverpool’s achievement and also have a number of men in the England set-up. If the success in Europe by English club sides could be carried through into the national set-up, then England would stand a chance of going on to win the competition. But for now simply qualifying for something at last was the basic aim.

Goals galore in Copenhagen 

England began their road to Italy with a goal feast away to Denmark in September 1978, in which they almost contrived to throw away victory. Goals from Kevin Keegan (2), Bob Latchford and Phil Neal helped them win 4-3 against Denmark, in a match that saw the Danes keep snapping at England’s heels. It really depended on whether you were a glass half full or empty person as to how you felt about England winning by such a scoreline. Journalist Frank McGhee was evidently in the latter camp, writing in the Daily Mirror: “Some of the joy of last season’s success under manager Ron Greenwood evaporated last night. And a victory over Denmark must not blind the team manager, who will have to accept much of the blame.” But Greenwood was pleased with the attacking display, saying: “The object of football is to score goals. I don’t think anyone could go away from here saying they hadn’t enjoyed it. I’m sure it is what the public want to see.”

A month later England struggled to sparkle when they drew 1-1 away to the Republic of Ireland, leaving them with three points from two games. Latchford scored their goal, on a day when Liam Brady ran the show for the Irish in midfield. In November Wembley was packed for a friendly against European champions Czechoslovakia, with the match best remembered for Viv Anderson becoming the first black player to appear at full level for England (a feat disputed by those who believe Paul Reaney had fitted this description). England won 1-0 with Anderson playing his part in a goal by Steve Coppell, although some critics felt the team’s performance still gave cause for concern. McGhee wrote: “England fans saw the football of the future – as promised by manager Ron Greenwood – at Wembley last night. The one considerable snag was that most of it was provided by the Czech opposition.”

Viv Anderson makes his historic England debut in November 1978.

Strong start to 1979

1978 had been a positive year for England and they served notice of what 1979 might bring when they welcomed group leaders Northern Ireland to Wembley in February for their next qualifier. Despite their physical approach attracting criticism from Northern Irish manager Danny Blanchflower, England enjoyed a good night as they triumphed 4-0. Latchford was not without his critics when he pulled on an England shirt but he scored twice, on a night when Keegan was particularly influential. It left Greenwood’s side looking a good bet to qualify.


There was then a break of three months before England took to the field again in May for the Home International Championship, which they won after beating Northern Ireland (2-0) and Scotland (3-1) and drawing with Wales (0-0). The Wales match was significant for marking the England debuts of Kenny Sansom and Laurie Cunningham. Sansom went on to win 86 caps and be a near-permanent fixture in the left-back slot over the next nine years, while Cunningham’s call-up confirmed more black players would be following Anderson into the England side.

In June 1979, England faced what had appeared to be their most difficult looking qualifier away to Bulgaria. But it was a day when things went to plan for Greenwood, as a well-taken goal by Keegan was added to by efforts from Dave Watson and Peter Barnes as England triumphed 3-0 in Sofia. The match formed the start of England’s end of season tour, being followed up with friendlies away to Sweden and Austria. They drew 0-0 in Stockholm, before the 1978-79 season ended as it had started with England being involved in a seven goal thriller. However, in Vienna it was England on the wrong end of a 4-3 defeat as their attack minded line-up was punished and brought their first defeat for 15 games.

In September, England resumed their quest to reach Italy with a 1-0 win over Denmark at Wembley, a match that went untelevised due to ITV being off the air. Viewers missed little of note, Keegan’s goal giving England an unconvincing 1-0 win as the Danes again suggested they may be more of a force going into the 1980s. “The match was more of a plodding exercise than an inspiring adventure,” rued an underwhelmed McGhee in his match report, reflecting on the lack of chances to keep spectators entertained.

Kevin Keegan scores England’s winner against Denmark in September 1979.

Not a one man team

Although England had not been firing on all cylinders, they were still on course to qualify and they could realistically start the party in October after they visited Northern Ireland. They once more proved too strong for Blanchflower’s men, Trevor Francis and Tony Woodcock both scoring twice in a 5-1 win. Despite his record-breaking transfer the previous season from Birmingham City to Nottingham Forest, Francis had struggled to earn a regular starting place for England as Greenwood had previously persisted with Latchford (who would never be capped again).

But both Francis and Woodcock had come into the side and taken their chances, leaving England needing just one point to be certain of making it. They could only now fail to qualify if they lost at home to both Bulgaria and the Republic of Ireland, who would also have to beat Northern Ireland and make up the goal difference in the process. Incidentally, this was the only time in the eight qualifiers that Peter Shilton was in goal for England rather than Ray Clemence (although they shared goalkeeping duties, it is a slight myth that they usually played alternate matches). Greenwood was pleased to see the goals being shared around the squad: “After our match against Denmark last month it was said we relied too much on Kevin Keegan. [The Northern Ireland match] proved that we are not a one-man team and Kevin is as pleased as anyone about that. Though Francis and Woodcock played very well indeed, they received an excellent service.”

Qualification was sealed without playing on November 21, as the Irish derby was won by Northern Ireland to end the Republic of Ireland’s hopes. That night the fog fell at Wembley and England’s home match against Bulgaria was called off as thousands of fans waited outside. Most of them were back 24 hours later for a rare Thursday night international, by which time the fog had lifted. Keegan was a victim of the postponement, as he was called back to Hamburg. Indeed, England were without their first three choices of captain as Emlyn Hughes and Mick Mills were also absent, leading to Phil Thompson wearing the armband.


Glenn Hoddle enjoyed a dream debut against Bulgaria in November 1979.

Coming into the side were stylish Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Glenn Hoddle and Norwich City forward Kevin Reeves. It was 22-year-old Hoddle who hogged the headlines, providing a genuine cause for optimism with his creativity. He floated in a lovely ball for Watson to open the scoring and then memorably wrapped up a 2-0 win when he scored with a delicious sidefooted effort. Not that everyone was jumping through hoops about England’s prospects, Mirror man McGhee beginning his report by writing: “Before England celebrate their victory over the nonentities of Bulgaria last night, they should start reflecting that in the finals of the European Championship in Rome next summer they will be in with the big boys of Italy, West Germany and Poland. Perhaps when that reality sinks in their fans won’t be quite so cocky and exultant as they were at the end of last night’s match at Wembley. Beating Bulgaria was easy, competing against the best in Italy next summer will be slightly different.”

That brought the curtain down on the 1970s so far as England were concerned, but their qualification campaign would unusually span two decades. Just four months before the finals were due to begin, Greenwood’s men hosted the Republic of Ireland for their final qualifier in February 1980. By now much of the emphasis was on preparing for the finals, but England also had the motivation of finishing the group unbeaten, with no goals conceded at home and just one point dropped along the way if they won. That remained the case as Keegan scored twice, the second goal being a glorious chip to complete a 2-0 win. The match saw West Bromwich Albion midfielder Bryan Robson became England’s latest debutant, winning the first of his 90 caps. Returning to the side after more than four years was Liverpool’s David Johnson, although he would go off injured after a clash with Irish goalkeeper Gerry Peyton. 

And so England finished the qualifying group with seven wins and a draw from eight games, finishing six points clear and having regained the winning mentality. But such is life that the England qualifying campaigns most frequently recalled are those when they either failed to qualify or only got there after it went to the wire. This was an instance when England qualified with comfort, but it is seldom talked about. They went into the finals of Euro ’80 (or Europa ’80 as it was generally known at the time) as one of the favourites, but the tournament would be a disappointment as England failed to advance from their group and their hooligans brought shame on the nation. The one consolation was England were finally back at a major tournament. And they had got there with conviction.