Six of the Best & Worst

Six of the Best – England Wembley wins over Scotland

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Ahead of England playing Scotland on Friday, we look back at six memorable Wembley wins for England against their old rivals since the Second World War…

April 2nd, 1955, England 7-2 Scotland (Home International Championship)

Wembley first hosted an England-Scotland clash in 1924, with the most famous pre-war meeting producing a 5-1 win for Scotland in 1928. Although England gained revenge by winning 5-2 two years later, they would face a long wait to beat the Scots by at least four goals to properly banish the pain of 1928. But in April 1955 came their moment, Dennis Wilshaw breaking the deadlock in the opening minute as the floodgates opened.

By half-time it was 4-1, Nat Lofthouse netting twice and Don Revie also scoring for England with Lawrie Riley having netted for Scotland. In the second half Wilshaw scored a further three times past Fred Martin, with Tommy Docherty marginally reducing Scotland’s level of humiliation when he scored a late consolation to make it 7-2. It was the first time England had scored more than five against the Scots and their biggest winning margin over them since 1888. It had certainly been an England debut to remember for 18-year-old Duncan Edwards.

April 15th, 1961, England 9-3 Scotland (Home International Championship)

Poor old Frank Haffey. Whatever he did in his football career he would forever be associated with a spring afternoon in 1961 when he kept goal for Scotland against England at Wembley. Haffey infamously conceded nine goals and would become the butt of jokes such as “Heard the time? Nearly 10 past Haffey”. By half-time England led 3-0 through goals by Bobby Robson and Jimmy Greaves (2). The second half saw Dave Mackay and David Wilson briefly give the Scots hope, before Bryan Douglas and Bobby Smith put England 5-2 up. Pat Quinn again gave Scotland an outside chance of a high-scoring draw when he scored after 76 minutes to make it 5-3, but a flurry of goals in the closing stages Johnny Haynes (2), Greaves and Smith completed the 9-3 victory and a day to forget for Haffey, who was never capped again.

Jimmy Greaves scored a hat-trick for England against Scotland in 1961.

For Greaves it was a day when he enjoyed much happier fortunes than future TV buddy Ian St John, who was on the losing side. But Greaves would feel some sympathy for Haffey and the criticism he received, writing in his autobiography: “It’s true he had a poor game, but Frank wasn’t the only Scot who didn’t perform well that day. In truth I don’t think any international team of the time could have lived with England that day. Johnny Haynes was outstanding.”

May 10th, 1969, England 4-1 Scotland (Home International Championship)

Since that 1961 meeting Scotland had won twice and drawn on their other visit to Wembley, the most famous encounter being their 1967 triumph in a Euro ’68 qualifier as England suffered their first defeat as world champions. Although England’s progression thanks to a 1-1 draw in the return fixture had helped heal the wounds a bit, there was still a wish for the bad memories to be banished as the Scots arrived for a rare Saturday night fixture in May 1969.

Bobby Moore leads England out for their 4-1 win over Scotland in 1969.

It was two of the heroes of 1966 who led England to glory, with Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst putting them into a 2-0 lead before Colin Stein reduced the deficit shortly before half-time. But a penalty from Hurst made it 3-1 on the hour, with Peters sealing the 4-1 win shortly afterwards as they finished with a 100% record in the Home Internationals. It was the first of four successive Wembley wins for England over Scotland. Ken Jones wrote in the Daily Mirror: “At Wembley Scotland were not a bad team. But they were destroyed by bad habits and a lack of awareness that is now instinctive in England’s play.”

May 24th, 1975, England 5-1 Scotland (Home International Championship)

In the mid-1970s the bragging rights lay with the Scots. In 1974 they beat England at Hampden Park, won the Home International Championship and were the only British representatives at the World Cup in West Germany. England went into the Wembley clash in May 1975 looking to get one over on their old rivals and also finish the 1974-75 season unbeaten under Don Revie.

Gerry Francis and Kevin Beattie celebrate as England thrash Scotland 5-1.

Within seven minutes it looked odds-on that would be the case, Gerry Francis and Kevin Beattie both finding the net. Colin Bell made it 3-0 shortly before half-time, although Bruce Rioch quickly reduced the arrears from the spot. But the second half brought further goals from the impressive Francis and David Johnson, completing a resounding 5-1 win as Stewart Kennedy became the latest Scottish goalkeeper to endure a day to forget at Wembley.

A buoyant Frank McGhee wrote in the Daily Mirror: “Suddenly on Saturday it felt great to be English, to smile at strangers, to scoff at Scotsmen, to walk 10-feet tall. For a few hours at least a lot of us were able to forget inflation, strikes, the bill for the rates, the Common Market and the long trudge home.” The match marked the end of captain Alan Ball’s England career after 72 caps. Scotland would gain revenge by beating England 2-1 at Hampden Park 12 months later, and again when they visited Wembley in 1977.

June 15th, 1996, Scotland 0-2 England (Euro ’96 group stage)

The group stage draw for Euro ’96 threw up a corker, with England and Scotland paired in the same group. Seven years had passed since the annual meetings were scrapped in 1989 along with the Rous Cup, but now the sides would meet in a crucial fixture midway through the group stage. Technically the Scots were the home side, but that was in name only as England looked to triumph at Wembley – something they had done on the last three occasions they had hosted the fixture in 1983, 1986 and 1988.

Paul Gascoigne’s unforgettable goal for England against Scotland.

But a frustrating draw with Switzerland in the tournament opener meant the pressure was on England to win, something they seldom looked like doing during a goalless first half. But the introduction of Jamie Redknapp gave England a new impetus, with Alan Shearer’s excellent header breaking the deadlock. As is well remembered, David Seaman saved a Gary McAllister penalty (with Uri Geller claiming the credit!) moments before Paul Gascoigne scored an unforgettable goal to wrap up victory. England’s Euro ’96 campaign was up and running, while Scotland agonisingly fell one goal short of joining them in the knockout rounds.

August 14th, 2013, 3-2 (Friendly)

In the 17 years after the Euro ’96 clash, Scotland only visited Wembley again in November 1999 for the second leg of their Euro 2000 play-off. The Scots had won the battle but lost the war, England progressing despite losing on the night. That had marked the last meeting at the old stadium and the sides did not meet again until 2013. The FA was celebrating its 150th birthday and the Scotland clash was finally resurrected in August. It may only officially have been a friendly at the start of the new season, but the revival of the fixture was met with an enjoyable encounter that whetted the appetite for further meetings.

Rickie Lambert scores England’s winner against Scotland in 2013.

Scotland twice went ahead through James Morrison and Kenny Miller, England pegging them back through Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck. And then came the Roy of the Rovers finale, 31-year-old Rickie Lambert scoring England’s winner moments after coming on for his international debut as they triumphed 3-2. It may not necessarily have been the highest quality meeting of the sides, nor England’s best performance, but this entertaining match had done the long history of England v Scotland proud and proved far more memorable than the usual August friendlies against foreign opposition. 

Like two old acquaintances meeting up for the first time in years, there was a sense of “let’s not leave it so long next time”. And indeed they didn’t, a return fixture being played in Glasgow the following year before the luck of the World Cup qualifying draw paired the teams together again. More memories are there to be made on Friday night…

Six of the Best – England caretaker managers

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With interim boss Gareth Southgate about to manage England for the first time against Malta, we look back at the six previous occasions the side was led by temporary managers…

Joe Mercer

Of the men to lead England on a caretaker basis without getting the job permanently, Joe Mercer would easily have the busiest reign – his seven-game run also proving six matches longer than Sam Allardyce’s stint as ‘permanent’ manager! Coventry City general manager Mercer took the England job at a difficult time, the team having failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup and with Sir Alf Ramsey having been sacked. ‘Genial Joe’ was left to work with the players selected for the end of season matches by Ramsey, but helped stamp his own identity on the team as he sought for England to regain the smile that had been lost with their recent decline.

Keith Weller gives Joe Mercer’s England victory over Northern Ireland in 1974.

Taking the job shortly before his 60th birthday, Mercer won his first two games in May 1974 against Wales and Northern Ireland before losing to Scotland in a decisive Home International Championship match. That was the first of five successive matches Mercer would face against sides who, unlike England, would be going to the World Cup. There was a lot of national pride at stake, the nation wanting to believe the qualification failure was a mere fluke. A ‘friendly’ at home to Argentina took place with some scars having not totally healed from their infamous World Cup quarter-final in 1966. The Argentine referee awarded the visitors a late penalty that was converted as the fiery contest ended 2-2.

England then headed to Europe for a three-match tour, which yielded a 1-1 draw with East Germany, a 1-0 win over Bulgaria and a 2-2 draw with Yugoslavia. Mercer proved popular with the players and achieved good results, but the Football Association was setting its sight on someone else for the job full-time. When England next took to the field in October, Don Revie was in charge.

Ron Greenwood

Following Revie’s sudden departure to the United Arab Emirates in the summer of 1977, the FA offered Ron Greenwood the chance to step into the breach for three games. Greenwood had moved upstairs at West Ham United but was happy to get his tracksuit back on and lead the national team. He quickly showed he was willing to do his own thing when he selected six Liverpool players for a goalless friendly against Switzerland, before the next game produced a 2-0 win away to Luxembourg in a World Cup qualifier. England’s hopes of qualifying were very slim but a 2-0 win over Italy in their final game – while proving insufficient – gave cause for optimism for the future. Despite a public clamour for Brian Clough to get the job full-time, Greenwood was given the nod – remaining in the role until 1982.

Howard Wilkinson

Glenn Hoddle’s dismissal as England boss in February 1999 left England needing to find a manager for the friendly against world champions France at Wembley a week later. Howard Wilkinson, who was the FA’s technical director and had led Leeds United to the First Division title in 1992, was the man placed in temporary charge. He suffered a 2-0 defeat to the French and within days Kevin Keegan had replaced him.

In October 2000, Keegan suddenly quit after England lost 1-0 to Germany in the last match at the old Wembley. The timing was far from ideal, given the side faced a World Cup qualifier in Finland just four days later. Wilkinson was again asked to lead the side, with England labouring to a 0-0 draw – although they would believe Ray Parlour’s effort crossed the line. It was the last time Wilkinson managed the national side, although he did have a spell in charge of the under-21s.

Kevin Keegan

Kevin Keegan makes a winning start with England thanks to Paul Scholes.

During the caretaker reigns of both Mercer and Greenwood, Kevin Keegan had been a player. In February 1999 he accepted the England manager’s position for a four-game period, combining the caretaker role with managing Fulham full-time. Keegan got a fine response from the players in his first game in March, Paul Scholes scoring a hat-trick against Poland as England won 3-1 in a vital Euro 2000 qualifier. Keegan got on with leading Fulham to promotion from the Second Division, but by the time he next managed England for a 1-1 friendly draw away to Hungary in late April there was increasing speculation he could stay beyond the intended four games with his country. Sure enough, within days it was announced he was leaving Fulham. He remained in charge of England until October 2000, struggling to recapture the euphoria of the Poland game.

Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor handed David Beckham the England captaincy.

The year 2000 was a good one for former England player Peter Taylor. He led Gillingham to victory in the Second Division play-off final, then moved to Leicester City and briefly took them to the top of the Premier League early in the 2000-01 season. And in November he was given the chance to manage England for their friendly away to Italy, assisted by Steve McClaren. By then Sven-Goran Eriksson had been confirmed as new permanent manager but he was still under contract with Lazio, so Taylor was in charge for this match. The former England under-21s manager fielded a largely youthful side, with his most significant move being to hand David Beckham the captaincy for the first time. England lost 1-0 and, with Eriksson leaving Lazio earlier than expected in January 2001, it was to be the only time Taylor managed his country at full level.

Stuart Pearce

Gareth Southgate joins several of his interim predecessors in having also led the England under-21s. One of them, Southgate’s former England team-mate Stuart Pearce, was given his one chance to manage the England senior team against the Netherlands in February 2012 for a Wembley friendly following Fabio Capello’s departure. Pearce had been part of the senior coaching set-up under Capello and seemed a suitable figure to step into the breach. Unfortunately England suffered a 3-2 defeat and Roy Hodgson would be in permanent charge by the time of the next match three months later. Pearce was to lead Team GB during London 2012’s men’s football competition, but the following year he lost his role with England under-21s following a poor European Championship.

Six of the Best – England managerial debuts

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This weekend England will be managed by Sam Allardyce for the first time when they visit Slovakia for a World Cup qualifier. History is on his side, with the majority of his predecessors having started with a win. Today we recall six winning England managerial debuts…

Walter Winterbottom

The post-war period saw England appoint their first manager, Walter Winterbottom initially being known as national director of coaching in 1946 before the title was altered to manager a year later. Unfortunately the archaic selection committee continued to pick the side, but Winterbottom had coaching and managerial responsibilities.

Walter Winterbottom.

He was just 33 when he led the side for a Home International Championship match against (Northern) Ireland in Belfast in September 1946 and he got off to a dream start. Wilf Mannion scored a hat-trick in a 7-2 win, the sort of result today that would have every match report focusing upon the instant impact made by the new boss. And yet The Times never even mentioned Winterbottom in its summary of the match. He would win his first four games in charge and stay at the helm until 1962.

Don Revie

A year on from the pain of England failing to qualify for the World Cup, there was a new sense of optimism in the Wembley air in October 1974. Don Revie’s first game in charge would bring a European Championship qualifier at home to Czechoslovakia. In the final 20 minutes Mick Channon and Colin Bell (2) scored to produce an impressive 3-0 win, spreading hope that Revie – fresh from winning the First Division with Leeds United – would bring success to England.

Don Revie begins his England reign with a 3-0 win over Czechoslovakia.

But the new manager wasn’t so convinced. Interviewed for Henry Winter’s excellent new book Fifty Years of Hurt, Revie’s son Duncan recalls his father looking miserable after the match. “We just haven’t got the players,” he told him, perhaps sensing that expectations were now going to be higher than they realistically should be. England remained unbeaten during Revie’s first season in charge but failed to qualify after losing the return match against the Czechs in October 1975. Czechoslovakia went on to win the tournament, making Revie’s opening result look particularly good in hindsight. 

Terry Venables

Like Revie, Terry Venables faced the challenge of restoring national pride when he took over in early 1994 in the wake of England’s failure to reach the World Cup under Graham Taylor. A home friendly against European champions Denmark in March was a good way to start, Venables handing debuts to Darren Anderton, Graeme Le Saux and Matt Le Tissier and recalling Peter Beardsley. The team showed that Venables’ new ‘Christmas tree’ formation could bear fruit, offering a greater attacking zest than on many occasions during the previous regime. A crowd of almost 72,000 saw an encouraging display, David Platt scoring the only goal.

Terry Venables arrives and is soon off to a winning start.

Joe Lovejoy wrote in The Independent: “Wembley loved it. A full house had greeted Venables like a conquering hero and left with battered pride fully restored by an England team good enough to take play to the European champions and attack them with imagination and conviction.” Venables would not suffer his first England defeat until the following year, going on to lead them to the Euro ’96 semi-finals.

Kevin Keegan

In March 1999 Kevin Keegan took charge of England for the first time for a vital Euro 2000 qualifier at home to Poland, initially accepting the job only on a temporary basis. But he would soon feel the clamour to leave Fulham and manage his country full-time as he led England to a 3-1 win over the Poles, with Paul Scholes scoring a hat-trick.

A hat-trick from Paul Scholes gives Kevin Keegan a winning managerial debut for England.

“Played one, won one. I should resign now,” quipped Keegan, who would find the temptation to permanently lead his country too strong as he left Fulham. But he would struggle to replicate the magic of the Poland game, the only time England would win during their qualifying group apart from against whipping boys Luxembourg. They scraped into the play-offs, going on to beat Scotland before exiting during the group stage at Euro 2000. Keegan could feel the public support slipping away, resigning almost immediately after losing 1-0 to Germany in a World Cup qualifier in October 2000.

Sven-Göran Eriksson

Keegan’s permanent successor was England’s first foreign manager, with increased levels of attention given to the team’s friendly against Spain at Villa Park in February 2001. Sven-Göran Eriksson’s team selection raised a few eyebrows, with uncapped 31-year-old Charlton Athletic defender Chris Powell named at left back. It proved a good night, as goals from Nick Barmby, Emile Heskey and Ugo Ehiogu brought England a 3-0 victory – ending a five-match winless run.

England beat Spain 3-0 in February 2001.

This was not the Spain that would become so dominant in the ensuing years, but it was still an impressive result. “Abba be praised. England appear to have rediscovered the art of winning,” wrote David Lacey in his match report in The Guardian. And during 2001 they kept on winning, topping their World Cup qualifying group as Eriksson enjoyed a longer honeymoon period than most. Only when England limply lost to 10-man Brazil at the 2002 World Cup were the first real doubts cast.

Steve McClaren

There would be one direct comparison between the opening and ending nights of Steve McClaren’s England reign – on both occasions it rained. But there was little indication of the turbulence that lay ahead when McClaren took charge of England for the first time in August 2006 against Greece in a friendly at Old Trafford. England tore the European champions apart in the first half, with John Terry, Frank Lampard and Peter Crouch (2) giving them a 4-0 lead after just 42 minutes. There was no more scoring, but all seemed to bode well.

England enjoy a 4-0 win over Greece in Augusr 2006. All looks promising for Steve McClaren.

Although McClaren’s first three matches all brought victories without conceding, things would soon start to unravel but it was still in England’s hands going into the decisive final Euro 2008 qualifying match against Croatia in November 2007. On an infamous night, McClaren became dubbed the ‘wally with the brolly’ as England sank to a 3-2 defeat in the Wembley rain. He was on his way out and probably wished he could just turn the clock back to that opening night 15 months earlier when all seemed so positive.

And the rest

Honourable mentions here for several other England managers to start with a win, most notably Glenn Hoddle who led them to a 3-0 win in a World Cup qualifier in Moldova 20 years ago (until Allardyce this weekend, he’s the only England boss to begin with a World Cup match). Graham Taylor enjoyed a 1-0 friendly win over Hungary in September 1990, like Revie being unbeaten for a year before woes would set in.

Fabio Capello began well, a 2-1 friendly win over Switzerland in February 2008 paving the way for a dominant 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign. Roy Hodgson began his reign with a 1-0 win away to Norway in May 2012, shortly before he led England to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012. Caretaker boss Joe Mercer’s first England match brought a 2-0 win over Wales in 1974, unlike fellow interim managers Stuart Pearce (2-3 vs Netherlands, 2012), Peter Taylor (0-1 vs Italy, 2000) and Howard Wilkinson (0-2 vs France, 1999) who all suffered defeats.

Ron Greenwood’s first match was a 0-0 friendly draw with Switzerland in September 1977 , while Bobby Robson saw his side draw 2-2 away to an impressive Denmark in a Euro ’84 qualifier – the build-up overshadowed by the fallout from Kevin Keegan controversially being axed from the England squad.

And that leaves just one of England’s past 13 full-time managers who started with a defeat. Step forward Alf Ramsey, who began with a 5-2 mauling by France in a European Nations Cup qualifier in February 1963. Given what was achieved under Sir Alf three years later, perhaps it won’t be a bad omen for Big Sam if England do slip up in Slovakia…

Six of the Best – Men who might have managed England

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With the search currently on for the next England manager, we recall six men who previously emerged as serious contenders for the role – but they would not become the boss…

Jimmy Adamson

Fifty years ago this month Alf Ramsey led England to World Cup glory, but it could have been so different. After manager Walter Winterbottom departed in 1962, the Football Association looked for his successor. Jimmy Adamson, who had captained Burnley in the FA Cup final, was named Footballer of the Year and been part of England’s World Cup squad earlier in the year, was the preferred choice to become the new manager. This was despite the fact he was only 33, still playing for Burnley and had never been a manager, although he had performed coaching duties during the World Cup in Chile. In 2013 a biography about Adamson was published called The Man Who Said No to England, a title which told its own story. Adamson turned down the chance to become England’s manager and the FA instead approached Ipswich Town boss Ramsey.

It’s certainly a ‘what if?’ moment for Adamson, Ramsey and the country, given what was achieved under England’s new manager. Adamson did not become a boss himself until 1970 when he took over at Burnley, later taking charge of Sparta Rotterdam, Sunderland and Leeds United. 

Brian Clough

No surprise to see this man make our list today. In 1974, 1982 and to a lesser extent 1990, Brian Clough had sections of the media championing him for the England manager’s job when it became vacant. But the real and most famous opportunity existed in 1977, when not only was he the clear public favourite for the role but he was afforded an interview. The outspoken Clough and the conservative FA would have represented a peculiar marriage, although there is no question he longed to manage his country. But it was to be perhaps inevitable disappointment, Clough losing out to caretaker boss Ron Greenwood who critics viewed as a ‘safe’ choice. Others to be disappointed after applying included Jack Charlton, Lawrie McMenemy, Bobby Moore and Bobby Robson.

Clough had the misfortune for the England job to become vacant just before Nottingham Forest’s glorious period began and it was not up for grabs again until they had started to decline slightly. Had the job been on offer in 1980 it might well have been Clough’s given his recent achievements, although even then there is no guarantee the FA would have chosen him. Clough was left to settle for the widely-applied mantle of ‘the greatest manager England never had’ and to cover the team as a TV pundit, as well as briefly being in charge of the country’s youth side.

  • For a more detailed look back at Brian Clough missing out on the England manager’s job in 1977, see here.

Joe Royle

In 1990 the England manager’s job was to become available after the World Cup with Bobby Robson moving on. One man who perhaps surprisingly emerged as a serious contender was Joe Royle, who had never managed in the English top-flight. But the 1989-90 season saw his Oldham Athletic side win many admirers with lengthy runs in the FA Cup and League Cup, claiming several notable scalps along the way. Royle, who had played for his country, seemed to have a winning mentality. If what he says he was told was accurate, then the job could have been his. But he didn’t pursue it.

“I was once told the national coach’s job would have been mine for the taking had I bothered to go for the interview,” he wrote in his autobiography. “Be that as it may, I can state categorically that the job of managing England, supposedly the pinnacle of any manager’s career, is one that I would not take if the FA begged me to.” Royle cited the press intrusion into the lives of previous managers and the criticism they received as reasons why the role has never appealed. Instead, a short spell helping coach the under-21s (see above pic) shortly after Graham Taylor became the manager instead would be as close as Royle ever came to managing his country. He duly led Oldham to promotion and later won the FA Cup with Everton, as well as achieving back-to-back promotions with Manchester City. Royle’s former Everton team-mate Howard Kendall was another contender in 1990, but he too would never manage his country. 

Luiz-Felipe Scolari

In 2002 Luiz-Felipe led Brazil to World Cup glory and in 2004 he managed Portugal to the European Championship final, on both occasions beating England in the quarter-finals. The FA seemed to have adopted the attitude of ‘if you can’t beat them, get them to be your manager’ when it was reported Scolari was all set to become the new England boss after the 2006 World Cup.

But Scolari quickly got a taste for how much pressure the job would entail, as the English media circus headed to his home. He quickly withdrew from the race. “There are 20 reporters outside my house now,” he said. “If that is part of another culture, it is not part of my culture.” It was not an episode that reflected well on the FA, who were now left to backtrack and choose between English candidates. Scolari continued to focus on his work with Portugal, yet again getting the better of England during the 2006 World Cup. A decade on he is reported to fancy the job, but his chance may have passed.

Sam Allardyce

Back in contention in 2016, Big Sam Allardyce’s previous big came a decade ago when he was interviewed for the England manager’s job and was seen as one of the final two contenders after Scolari withdrew. Although his style of football was not always to everyone’s taste, Allardyce had impressed at Bolton Wanderers in recent years and arranged to meet England captain David Beckham to help allay concerns raised about his lack of experience at the very top level. Allardyce produced a detailed PowerPoint presentation for his interview, only to be told there were no facilities at the interview venue that would allow him to deliver it that way. “So much for the progressive FA,” Allardyce mused, as he perhaps sensed it wasn’t meant to be.

He was left hoping and guessing, but lost out to Steve McClaren – a man who also denied Big Sam a major trophy in 2004 when Middlesbrough beat Bolton Wanderers in the League Cup final. Allardyce’s appointment would have created difficulties for the FA given just weeks later he was implicated in a bungs scandal – he maintained he was not guilty of any wrongdoing – but he would no doubt believe he would have qualified for Euro 2008 unlike McClaren. If he gets the job now, maybe we will finally see what might have been a decade back.

Harry Redknapp

On February 8, 2012, two key events seemed to leave Harry Redknapp on course to become England manager. He was cleared of tax evasion after a high-profile court case and then, just hours later, England boss Fabio Capello resigned. With a shortage of proven English managers to compete for the top prize, Redknapp was being championed by many for the post. He wrote in his autobiography: “There was a groundswell of support for me and I felt it wherever I went. Every time I got in a taxi, every time I went to a football match, the people were for me. The press seemed supportive too, writing as if my appointment was a foregone conclusion, and I began to think it was almost nailed on, if I wanted it. And I did want it. It would have been a tough call but, had they offered me the job, I probably would have taken it.”

Redknapp approached Brendan Rodgers about being an England coach at Euro 2012 if he became manager. But it would never happen. At the end of April Redknapp discovered that Roy Hodgson was to become the new boss, with some drawing comparisons with when Ron Greenwood was appointed instead of Brian Clough 35 years earlier. Redknapp rang Hodgson to congratulate him as he reflected that maybe managing the national team was not really for him.

He did after all still have a decent job managing Tottenham Hotspur. But not for long. Chelsea won the Champions League to qualify for the following year’s competition rather than Spurs and in June Redknapp was sacked. In weeks he had gone from potentially having to choose between club and country to not being in charge of either. He knew his one serious chance of being England manager had gone.

Six of the Best – Recent England nostalgic documentaries

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The year 2016 hasn’t been on to savour for England fans, with the team performing dismally at the European Championship and crashing out to Iceland. But while contemporary matters have made for painful viewing, there has been far more fun to be gained from a plethora of fresh documentaries concerning memorable times in England’s history. Today (in no particular order) we look at six we’ve enjoyed recently…

The Boys of ’66 (Sky Sports)

Kicking off a year full of documentaries concerning 1966 nostalgia was Sky Sports with its The Boys of ’66 programme. Although the broadcast was overshadowed by the companion Monday Night Football show claiming to prove Geoff Hurst’s second goal really did cross the line, this documentary was well worth acclaim in its own right. Sky Sports may be synonymous with football in the Premier League era, but a strong number of personnel from 1966 were interviewed – several of the players, plus others such as singer Chris Farlowe who occupied the number one UK singles spot with Out of Time when England won the World Cup

Martin Tyler, who lived through the triumph, proved a good choice as presenter. He would revisit places associated with the tournament such as England’s base of Hendon Hall. “It was a great time to be alive. It was a fantastic time to follow England. And 50 years on there’s never been anything like it,” he said during his intro to the programme while standing outside Wembley. Sadly, it’s an ever-decreasing percentage of the population who can recall the day – and it may be some time yet before such glory is repeated.

  • The programme can be viewed here via DailyMotion.

Alfie’s Boys (BBC)

One of the most enjoyable documentaries lately was Alfie’s Boys, another programme celebrating the 50th anniversary of England’s triumph. With any 1966 retrospective there’s a danger of going over the same old ground and offering little fresh insight, but the BBC made excellent use of its archives and included some footage probably not seen anywhere in the past 50 years. It helped make for a far more enjoyable 90 minutes than many of the matches at Euro 2016.

As the title suggests the programme celebrated those who helped England to their greatest triumph under Sir Alf Ramsey, but the focus was not just on the XI who played in the final with the likes of Jimmy Armfield and Ian Callaghan frequently contributing their memories to this Sunday night nostalgia-fest. Although there was some criticism of the choice of Sir David Jason (a man with seemingly limited interest in football) as presenter and his rather theatrical approach at times, this was still an enjoyable watch that did justice to the 1966 triumph. It was probably the most comprehensive BBC look back at the 1966 glory since its Summer of ’66 series in 1986 – and as we shall see with our next two entries, celebrating tournaments 20 years earlier remains in vogue today…

When Football Came Home (BBC)

The build-up to Euro 2016 saw a sudden surge in nostalgia for Euro ’96 held in England 20 years ago. The BBC certainly seemed to want to pay homage to the tournament by showing England’s matches against Scotland and Germany in full on the red button. But its main celebration of the competition – or at least England’s involvement in it – was Alan Shearer’s documentary When Football Came Home, as the tournament’s top scorer met up with several other key English personnel from 20 years ago to share their memories.

He visited former manager Terry Venables at his hotel in Spain, was reunited with Paul Gascoigne, enjoyed a round of golf with old striking partner Teddy Sheringham and went for a stroll with David Seaman. For those old enough to remember them in their prime, perhaps the most welcome sight was former BBC commentary rivals Barry Davies and John Motson being interviewed together. A companion radio show of the same name, hosted by Mike Ingham on 5 Live with Shearer one of the studio guests, was also enjoyable.

The Summer Football Came Home (ITV)

ITV also looked back 20 years with The Summer Football Came Home. It’s a shame so many enjoyable ITV sport documentaries are broadcast on ITV4 after the watershed, meaning they go unappreciated by the mainstream audience. This one would be scheduled the same way and also have the misfortune to go out a few days after the BBC had looked back at Euro ’96. But it was still good to watch, with several England players from the tournament sharing their thoughts including Gareth Southgate and Stuart Pearce (who both for whatever reason did not contribute to the BBC show). Those who don’t buy into the Euro ’96 love-in may have found England’s achievements a little overplayed in the documentaries, but ITV did at least question if errors were made as they lost out to Germany on penalties.

Pearce was full of praise for Venables but believed a mistake was made when it came to Southgate being first up for England when the penalties went to sudden death. “Football should be more than just practising penalties,” he told presenter Gabriel Clarke. “At the end of it it should be a case of knowing full well who are the best penalty takers from one to 23 and we never done (sic) that.” One senses Venables too would not be putting Southgate up to take it with the benefit of hindsight.

The Hand of God – 30 Years On

In a year of landmark anniversaries for England fans, the World Cup of 1986 has tended to be overshadowed by the World Cup glory of 1966 and near-miss of Euro ’96. But the 30th anniversary of Diego Maradona’s infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal for Argentina against England certainly did not pass unnoticed, with ITV4 screening an excellent documentary looking back at the match. Gary Lineker’s production company Goalhanger Films was behind it, with Lineker joined by former team-mates Terry Butcher, Glenn Hoddle, Steve Hodge, Kenny Sansom and Peter Shilton to relive the tournament and this match in particular. Excellent use was made of the ITV sport archives, with clips played of studio coverage from 30 years ago such as from Saint and Greavsie.

“He cheated us but I’ve forgiven him,” said Lineker, a man who has enjoyed time in Maradona’s company since the incident. But others are less forgiving. “He’s a horrible git ‘cos he cheated,” snapped Sansom, while Butcher – who has never seemed to be the forgive and forget type – would label Maradona a “flawed genius”. Butcher recalled asking Maradona afterwards, while being drug tested, if it was a handball or header and being told handball – a revelation which surprised his former team-mates. But this contradicts what Butcher said in the 2000 documentary ‘Three Lions’, in which he claimed Maradona indicated to him he had used his head. Irrespective, it’s fair to assume Maradona isn’t on Butcher’s Christmas card list. The officials also came in for their fair share of stick. Lineker believed the linesman saw something but still kept his flag down, while the debate continues to rage over whether the referee was suitably experienced to be in charge of such a match.

The camaraderie among the group was still there three decades on along with visible affection for Sir Bobby Robson, in a programme that did justice to England’s campaign and that one match in particular.

  • UK viewers can currently view the programme at the ITV Hub.

Bo66y (out on DVD and blu-ray)

The only one of our six documentaries not to have been screened on television and also the sole choice not specifically about England, the release of the new Bobby Moore movie Bo66y represented good timing – marking the 50th anniversary of England’s World Cup triumph and also with West Ham United this summer leaving Upton Park, where he so often played during his career. The story is fairly familiar, but that didn’t prevent this making excellent viewing as former colleagues and relatives paid homage to Moore. A combination of still being the only captain to lift a major trophy for England and having sadly died at the age of just 51 means there is an enduring fascination with Moore.

But the later years of his life will never make for happy memories, as the question continues to be asked of why he was so overlooked for desired roles within the beautiful game – his managerial pinnacle would be a stint in charge of Southend United. There remains the great ‘what if?’ over missing out on the Watford manager’s job to Graham Taylor, having believed the post was his after meeting chairman Elton John. It was a bitter blow.

Yet such disappointments pale into insignificance compared to his battles with cancer, the last one tragically cutting his life short in 1993. Commentator Jonathan Pearce was moved to tears as he recalled having to tell his regular radio sidekick Moore – at the request of his family – that he shouldn’t come with him to a match just days before his death, having to live with Moore telling him he was disappointed with the decision (they never spoke again). As with a previous in-depth Moore documentary Hero, the viewer is left with the feeling that English football only truly began to appreciate and want to recognise the former captain after he died. For Moore it was too late, but his legendary status continues to grow.

Have you seen these documentaries? Which ones have you particularly enjoyed? Please feel free to share your views below…

Six of the Best – England quickfire tournament-opening goals

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England will this weekend begin their Euro 2016 campaign against Russia. Although the Three Lions have not always enjoyed a win to start a major tournament, they have often been quick out of the blocks and struck first. Today we recall six instances when they grabbed an early lead in their opening match, heightening expectations back home…

Bryan Robson v France, 1982 World Cup – 27 seconds

England fans had endured a 12-year wait to see England appear at the World Cup finals. Those who had loyally followed them during the lean years deserved something to get excited about and they got it 27 seconds into the first match against a highly-rated French team in Bilbao. A long throw was headed on by Terry Butcher and an unmarked Bryan Robson was on hand to score. It was a training ground move worked to perfection, England catching the French cold with one of the fastest goals in World Cup history.

Robson was rewarded with a solid gold watch for his timely strike and he added another goal later in a 3-1 win, as England gave a performance they struggled to replicate before being eliminated in the second phase. But for Robson it was a special moment, coming just a day before his wife gave birth to their second daughter, Charlotte. He really had scored the daddy of all early England tournament goals.

Paul Scholes v Portugal, Euro 2000 – 3 minutes

In a situation not too dissimilar to today, England went into Euro 2000 with their attack looking stronger than their defence. This would duly prove the case. England’s opening match against Portugal in Eindhoven was only in the third minute when David Beckham swung over an excellent cross and his Manchester United colleague Paul Scholes was on hand to head in. Steve McManaman soon put Kevin Keegan’s side 2-0 up and the nation began dreaming of the team finally winning major silverware. But not for long. The Portuguese fought back to win 3-2 and England failed to get out of the group stage.

Own goal v Paraguay, 2006 World Cup – 3 minutes

There was an extraordinary level of hype surrounding England going into the World Cup 10 years ago, with thousands of fans travelling to Germany and a widespread belief they could finally deliver. In the third minute of England’s opening match in the heat of Frankfurt that expectation grew even more. David Beckham’s free-kick went in via Paraguayan defender Carlos Gamarra.

It seemed the springboard to a comfortable win to let the rest of the world realise what a threat England posed. But it never came, the side looking increasingly less assured as the game progressed and stuttering to a 1-0 win. And that set the trend for a World Cup in which England seldom sparkled, before losing on penalties to Portugal in the quarter-finals.

Steven Gerrard v USA, 2010 World Cup – 4 minutes

Four years on and a similar story. There wasn’t quite the same hype or expectation as in 2006, but there remained a belief Fabio Capello’s side could do well in South Africa. ‘EASY’ The Sun had proclaimed when the draw placed England in a group with Algeria, Slovenia and the USA. Four minutes into the opening match against the Americans and it seemed they might be right, Emile Heskey feeding Steven Gerrard to score. 1-0 to England and also to anyone who hadn’t bothered forking out for a HD television, as ITV HD viewers missed the goal due to an advert inexplicably being broadcast at the time it was scored.

That might not have seemed quite so bad had England go on to win comfortably, but it was the only highlight of the night as they drew 1-1 and never got going in the tournament – eventually being crushed by Germany in the second round. Gerrard’s goal was one of just three they managed in four matches.

Gary Lineker v Republic of Ireland, 1990 World Cup – 8 minutes

During Euro ’88, England had been beaten in their opening match by the Republic of Ireland courtesy of an early goal by Ray Houghton. Now they were meeting again in the corresponding game of Italia ’90 and it was England who made the breakthrough. Despite feeling unwell, Gary Lineker managed to bundle the ball home and England were ahead after eight minutes. It was a scrappy goal in keeping with a poor game, but neither Lineker nor the English nation were complaining.

But unfortunately the match would follow a familiar pattern after England strike early, with Kevin Sheedy drawing the Irish level. For Lineker, his night would be remembered more for an incident in the second half which has provided Twitter trolls with endless fun. There was plenty of criticism of Bobby Robson’s side afterwards, having shown little evidence they could go on to look a potential winner – but they would of course get to the semi-finals, only losing on penalties to West Germany.

Alan Shearer v Switzerland, Euro ’96 – 23 minutes

It had been a long wait for the 1996 European Championship to start on home soil, while for Alan Shearer there had been a seemingly endless struggle to end his England goal drought. But midway through the first half of the tournament opener he duly netted when it mattered, making the most of an excellent ball from Paul Ince to score. England were on their way, although the usual story would follow – failing to build on their lead and being pegged back as they drew 1-1. It was a frustrating day, but for Shearer it was a goal that would set him on the way to finishing as the tournament’s top scorer. Against Germany in the semi-final he would strike an early goal, netting in the third minute.

Some honourable mentions here for Sol Campbell v Sweden (2002 World Cup, 24 mins); Ray Wilkins v Belgium (Euro ’80, 26 mins); Stan Mortensen v Chile (1950 World Cup, 27 mins) and Joleon Lescott v France (Euro 2012, 30 mins). All put England ahead within half an hour of their first match at a major tournament. As can be seen England have a habit of striking early when they play their opening match at a championship. Will it happen again against Russia?

Six of the Best – England under Ron Greenwood

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This week sadly marks the 10th anniversary of the death of former England manager Ron Greenwood. Today we recall six of the best games of his reign, choosing one match per year from 1977 to 1982.

November 16, 1977 Italy (h) 2-0, World Cup qualifier


Trevor Brooking in action for England against Italy in 1977.

Ron Greenwood was still in caretaker charge of England when they faced Italy in their last World Cup qualifying match in November 1977. Whatever England did, the night was always likely to be tinged with disappointment as Italy still had the luxury of a home game against whipping boys Luxembourg to come to claim the qualification spot. To make things genuinely tough for the Italians, England would need to beat them by several goals to potentially go through on goal difference. 

Most had accepted it wouldn’t happen and simply wanted to see the team restore pride with a good performance and win. They duly did so, Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking scoring as England triumphed 2-0 and the crowd went home satisfied with what they had seen. The FA evidently felt the same way as Greenwood was handed the job on a permanent basis the following month ahead of Brian Clough.

May 24, 1978 Hungary (h) 4-1, Friendly

Greenwood made a positive start in the England job and the Home International Championship was won before they concluded the 1977-78 season with a friendly against Hungary, who had qualified for the World Cup. England’s display gave cause for optimism as they beat the Hungarians 4-1 with Peter Barnes, Phil Neal (penalty), Trevor Francis and Tony Currie all finding the net. “England are back” chanted the buoyant Wembley crowd. It may only have been a friendly but there was a new-found belief about England and it boded well for the qualifying programme for the 1980 European Championship.

In The Times, Norman Fox wrote: “England offered their apologies for not qualifying for the World Cup when, at Wembley last night, they gave their best display since being taken over by Ron Greenwood. Against the Hungarians, who 25 years before had been the first foreign team to beat them at this stadium, they showed that in a few months they had learned a lot.”

June 6, 1979 Bulgaria (a) 3-0, European Championship qualifier

In a grim 1970s England had paid for away defeats to Poland, Czechoslovakia and Italy as they crashed out in three successive qualifying groups. Now they headed to Sofia standing every chance of making the 1980 European Championship, knowing that getting a good result in a potentially tough away match against Bulgaria would boost their prospects. They duly did that, winning 3-0 in energy-sapping heat to get the nation believing they were at last going to see England in a major tournament again. Kevin Keegan put England in front, before two goals in a minute from Dave Watson and Peter Barnes sealed the win. 

Greenwood purred: “We are trying to produce what I think is essential in world football – complete technique in every department with the physical effort to go with it.” There was no looking back and qualification was all but wrapped up in October with a 5-1 away win against Northern Ireland. With a qualifying record of seven wins and a draw from eight matches, it proved to be a very successful campaign for England and Greenwood.

May 13, 1980 Argentina (h) 3-1, Friendly


Diego Maradona was on the losing side against England in 1980.

In May 1980 England were preparing for the European Championship finals and they welcomed world champions Argentina to Wembley, which was full to its 92,000 night-time capacity. The match afforded the English public a first chance to see 19-year-old Diego Maradona in action and, although only a friendly, it would also act as a useful yardstick as to how good England now actually were. Sporting a new-look kit, England delivered and went 2-0 up thanks to goals from the impressive David Johnson either side of half-time. Daniel Passarella pulled a goal back from the penalty spot before Kevin Keegan sealed a 3-1 win for England, leaving fans genuinely optimistic for the summer in Italy. Hailing Johnson, Daily Express reporter Peter Edwards wrote: “A 92,000 crowd that had come to pay homage to £3m-rated Diego Maradona left saluting the exuberant Liverpool striker.”

Typically the euphoria proved short-lived, England being beaten 4-1 by Wales just four days later and then failing to progress beyond the group stage at the Euros. Now their attention turned to trying to qualify for the 1982 World Cup.

June 6, 1981 Hungary (a) 3-1, World Cup qualifier

England’s qualifying campaign for the 1982 World Cup was fraught and a poor 2-1 defeat in Switzerland in May saw Greenwood, 59, make up his mind to retire. He would delay his announcement until after the following weekend’s tough-looking trip to Hungary, where few were expecting an England win after a dreadful run of form. The recalled Trevor Brooking gave them the lead in Budapest, only for Hungary to level before the break through Imre Garaba after a mistake by Ray Clemence. But in the second half Brooking restored England’s advantage with a beautiful shot that saw the ball memorably became lodged in the stanchion of the goal, describing it as the “finest goal I scored in my entire career” in his autobiography. Kevin Keegan wrapped up a fine 3-1 win from the penalty spot and qualifying for Spain was now a realistic possibility again.


Trevor Brooking scores for England against Hungary.

On the flight home, Greenwood informed the players he was quitting but they talked him out of it and he focused again on leading England to the World Cup. Another bad defeat in Norway left alarm bells ringing, but other results went in their favour and a joyful 1-0 win over Hungary in the return game at Wembley saw them through to their first World Cup finals since 1970.

June 16, 1982 France (n) 3-1, World Cup qualifier

Greenwood was to leave the England job after the 1982 World Cup – this time not being persuaded to continue – and he looked to go out with the nation basking in success. England’s first match of the tournament brought them up against a decent France side featuring Michel Platini in Bilbao. Those English fans in the stadium or who had rushed home from work or school to watch it on TV were rewarded as Bryan Robson famously opened the scoring after just 27 seconds. Gerard Soler pulled France level but Robson headed England back into the lead during the second half. Paul Mariner wrapped up the 3-1 victory and England could savour beating their main threat in the group. 

It had been a long wait to see England play at a World Cup and the team had responded with a performance that they would struggle to match in the remainder of the tournament. Greenwood, who gave credit to assistant Don Howe for the set-piece which they scored their opener from, said: “Everyone in the England camp is delighted with the result and I think everyone agrees that we deserved it.”


Bryan Robson opens the scoring after 27 seconds against France.

Although England did not concede in any of their other four games at the tournament, their goals dried up and successive 0-0 draws against West Germany and Spain in the second group phase saw them make a rather low-key exit. They came in for criticism for their negative approach in the second phase and it marked a slightly anti-climatic ending to the manager’s reign. Greenwood’s England had been beaten just once across eight matches at two major tournaments, but at neither did they make the final four. 

Greenwood called time on his football career, other than offering his opinions as a radio summariser. He died on February 9, 2006, aged 84. Although he may not have received the widespread tributes when he died that were afforded to his successor, Sir Bobby Robson, there were plenty who spoke affectionately of Greenwood and his footballing contributions. As we have seen, his England reign included some memorable victories and he returned the nation to major tournaments after a dreadful era under his predecessors.