We take a break this week from looking back at the past fortunes of England’s men. With the Women’s World Cup soon to begin in Canada, it seems a good time to recall how England fared in a previous tournament so we turn the clock back 20 years to June 1995 when they first appeared in the finals. The female game in England has come a long way since then….
In 1991, there was a big breakthrough for female football when the first official Women’s World Cup was held in China. England failed to qualify for it, but four years later they did make it to the finals in Sweden. While the publicity surrounding England’s women at this year’s World Cup may not be close to being on a par with the hype afforded to the men when they feature in the finals, it has certainly improved a lot in the past 20 years. This year matches will be shown live on the BBC, but back then fairly brief highlights was about the sum total of coverage of England’s women after the men were shown more extensively playing in the Umbro Cup.
With the men’s Rugby World Cup taking place at the same time in South Africa, it’s fair to say how England’s women performed in Sweden was not dominating the back pages. It would be wrong to say the tournament was ignored by the media, but it was certainly given limited exposure compared to today and this was in keeping with the way women’s football as a whole was covered back then – prior to its Football Italia days, Channel 4 had broadcast a few women’s highlights shows in a rare foray into football broadcasting, but little else had been seen by the masses.
Women’s football was not professional in Britain back then, meaning key players such as stalwart Gillian Coultard, captain Debbie Bampton and goalkeeper Pauline Cope would have to take time off work to participate. Head coach Ted Copeland combined managing the side with being a Football Association regional director of coaching. The previous two years had seen England’s women become world champions in the traditionally male team sports of cricket (1993) and rugby union (1994). One player who had featured for England in their cricket triumph was part of the World Cup football squad. Clare Taylor would be looking to complete the most unlikely of double triumphs, with comparisons drawn with Tony Adams when it came to playing style. But Adams wasn’t combining playing football with driving a van for the Royal Mail. “The amount of time I spend away on unpaid leave has got beyond a joke,” Taylor reflected later in 1995.
The 20-strong squad also contained probably the two best-known English women’s footballers of their generation in Marieanne Spacey and Karen Walker, whose goalscoring record had attracted attention beyond just the hardcore ranks of women’s football followers. Bampton had recently taken over the captaincy from Coultard, who remained at the heart of the squad. “It was difficult, especially as Gill and I were room-mates and at that point the squad was split,” Bampton recalled later. Future manager Hope Powell also took her place in the squad, a survivor of the 1984 European Competition for Women’s Football when England had lost to Sweden in the final. The 1995 World Cup would come a couple of years too soon for future star names such as Sue Smith, Faye White and Rachel Yankey, while 16-year-old Kelly Smith stayed in England sitting her GCSE exams. Her time on the world stage would come later.
A winning start
With an awkward number of 12 sides in the tournament, the top two teams in each of the three groups would go through to the quarter-finals along with the best two third-placed sides. England were realistically capable of getting out of the group stage and they took a big step towards achieving that with a 3-2 win over Canada in their opening match. It should have been more convincing, the Canadians mounting a late rally with two goals in the closing minutes after Coultard (2) and Spacey – including two spot-kicks – had put England three up. In another measure of how much women’s football has grown since then, the crowd was just 655.
In the same group, Norway had opened with an 8-0 thrashing of Nigeria. The Scandinavians were at the forefront of women’s football and this was a golden period for Norwegian game, coming just over a year after their men had appeared in the World Cup finals in the USA at England’s expense. It perhaps showed that England were not lagging that far behind the leading lights in women’s football that they only lost 2-0 in their second group game against Norway, who finished the group with 17 goals for and none against. Despite this loss, England were realistically going to go through and a win against Nigeria would guarantee second place in the group. They duly got it as they again triumphed 3-2, with the Swedish-based Karen Farley scoring twice and Walker netting the other goal.
The curse of the Germans
If Germany have proved a perpetual thorn in the side of the England men’s team, then it has been even worse for the women. Time and time again the Germans have thwarted England over the years, most notably dishing out a 6-2 thrashing in the Euro 2009 final. Only last year the Germans won 3-0 as England’s women played at the new Wembley for the first time. A few months before the 1995 World Cup, England’s UEFA Women’s Championship dream ended at the semi-final stage with defeat to Germany – less than 1,000 seeing the sides meet in the first-leg at Watford. And therefore it was no surprise they would end England’s 1995 World Cup challenge in the quarter-finals with a 3-0 win, with goalkeeper Cope earning praise for helping keep the score down in both this and the Norway game. Germany went on to reach the final, where they lost to Norway. England had come up against both finalists and kept their pride intact in a memorable tournament for several nations.
England could return home content with how they had performed. But they would have to wait another 12 years for a further crack at the World Cup finals, their hopes of making it in 1999 cruelly dashed once they were drawn in the mother of all qualifying groups with Norway, Germany and the Netherlands. They would also be absent in 2003. The 2007 finals saw far greater media interest than in 1995 and the potent Kelly Smith was elevated to stardom, appearing as a guest on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross after England returned home with their pride intact.
But, not unlike their male counterparts, England’s women have found the quarter-finals to be a continual barrier they cannot cross. They bowed out to the USA in 2007 and France on penalties in 2011. The women’s game has come a long way in the 20 years since England made their Women’s World Cup debut. Under Mark Sampson can they finally go beyond the last eight this time around in Canada?
This week we look back at six England matches from recent decades you won’t find in most record books, with no caps having been awarded. But the matches still generated talking points at the time as England faced a mixture of representative teams and club sides, with varying levels of success.
May 1976, Team America 1-3 England (U.S. Bicentential Cup)
England’s Gerry Francis is flanked by Team America stars Bobby Moore and Pele.
At the end of the 1975-76 season, having failed to qualify for the European Championship, England headed to the United States to take part in the U.S. Bicentennial Cup. The four-team tournament would bring attractive matches against Brazil and Italy, before concluding with a clash against Team America. England’s 1966 World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore would be in the Team America line-up along with Pele and other familiar names such as Mike England and Tommy Smith.
Playing in an unfamiliar all-yellow strip, England achieved a 3-1 win that guaranteed second place in the tournament behind Brazil. Just over 16,000 were at the John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia to watch the match. With no caps awarded it meant Kevin Keegan’s two goals and a single effort from Gerry Francis failed to count towards their career totals. A late consolation from Scotsman Stewart Scullion meant Team America had at least scored a goal in the competition. Although pleasing to have achieved two wins out of three in the competition (after a stirring fightback to beat Italy 3-2 in the previous match), there was a feeling England could have enjoyed a bigger win over Ken Furphy’s side in the final match.
March 1982, Athletic Bilbao 1-1 England (Testimonial)
Three months before being based in Bilbao for the World Cup group stage, England were the opposition as Jose Francisco Rojo enjoyed his testimonial in March 1982. But this wasn’t some light-hearted kickabout for England, as competition was building for players to earn selection in the World Cup squad and this match replaced a planned friendly with France (called off after the sides were drawn together in the World Cup). Only Tony Morley and Cyrille Regis played for England in this match without making the World Cup 22. A big crowd of turned out for the testimonial, as England familiarised themselves with their World Cup home. Kevin Keegan scored England’s goal in a 1-1 draw, but injury would rule him out of his country’s matches at the stadium in the summer.
Manager Ron Greenwood did not seem too concerned his side had failed to win, saying: “It was an enjoyable game. The crowd enjoyed it and we won a lot of friends.” Catching the eye for the home side was young goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta, who produced a string of good saves to keep England at bay. It would come as little surprise when he later became one of the best-known goalkeepers in Europe with Barcelona and Spain.
May 1988, Liverpool 3-2 England (Testimonial)
England fielded teams against English clubs on a number of occasions for testimonials in the 1970s and 1980s. However, these were generally England XIs where past stars might make an appearance; the team might be supplemented by players who never came close to a full cap; and the testimonial recipient would usually be gifted a goal or two to make it dubious how seriously the result could be taken. One exception came in May 1988, when England provided the opposition for Alan Hansen’s Liverpool testimonial at Anfield.
It was good news for everyone. Playing England guaranteed a big crowd and a good payday for Hansen, Liverpool fans could pay homage to their team for a tremendous season (albeit tainted slightly by their shock FA Cup Final loss to Wimbledon two days earlier) and England boss Bobby Robson was able to continue his preparations for Euro ’88 by playing against a side – albeit in a relaxed atmosphere – who had been outstanding for much of the 1987-88 campaign. This was no place for guest players, with the exception of Ian Rush returning from Juventus to feature for Liverpool a few weeks before he would rejoin the Reds. John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and Steve McMahon would play for Liverpool rather than England in this match.
‘Better than Brazil’ is one term that has been trotted out about Liverpool that season, in which case it would probably be assumed they were ‘better than England’ too. If the outcome of an end-of-season testimonial match could be seen as a fair barometer of that, then they probably were as they enjoyed a 3-2 win over England in front of more than 30,000. Rush scored twice including a late winner, with Ronnie Whelan also on target for Liverpool and Mick Harford and Chris Waddle replying for England. Daily Express reporter Steve Curry certainly enjoyed it, hailing it as “one of the most memorable testimonials the game has ever staged”. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be much footage knocking about to help confirm his view.
June 1988, Aylesbury United 0-7 England (Testimonial)
Chris Waddle gets in the mood for Euro ’88 by going for goal against Aylesbury United.
Less than three weeks after taking on Liverpool, England again went into battle with English league champions. Aylesbury United had just won the Beazer Homes League to win promotion to the Conference and they would surprisingly meet England in a Euro ’88 warm-up at their Buckingham Road home. The match’s existence was supposedly down to journalist Frank McGhee for suggesting to Bobby Robson that England may benefit from a confidence-boosting big win over non-league opponents. And so a fixture that had probably only previously been confined to a few Buckinghamshire Subbuteo tables become reality, just eight days before England’s first match in the European Championship in West Germany.
England duly got their big win, although not without a scare as Aylesbury legend Cliff Hercules came close to scoring. Peter Beardsley chipped in with four goals in the 7-0 success, with his achievement parodied 16 years later in Fantasy Football’s Phoenix from the Flames. But alas Euro ’88 would prove a flop for England, who returned home without a point and the Aylesbury fixture (and a similar match in West Germany against Heilbronn) would be held up as an inappropriate warm-up match for a major tournament. But for the non-league players who got to share the same pitch as their country’s leading players it had been a day to cherish.
June 1990, Sardinia 2-10 England (Friendly)
Undeterred by what followed their experience against Aylesbury, two years later England warmed-up for Italia ’90 by taking on the pick of Sardinian players ahead of their opening World Cup match. As well as providing welcome match practice, the game would see England offer their hand of friendship to the island where they would be based for the World Cup group stage – amid genuine concern about how a section of English followers would behave. In a symbolic gesture, Steve McMahon deliberately scored an own goal in the opening seconds. After that England got serious and Peter Beardsley was again to have his shooting boots on, netting a hat-trick to leave the press tipping him as favourite to start against the Republic of Ireland a few days later. Neil Webb also struck three times and Steve Bull bagged a couple, as England proved far too strong for their opponents and reached double figures. Just days after Terry Butcher had allegedly headbutted a Tunisian opponent, Bobby Robson handed him the captaincy in a defiant gesture.
This time around, England would enjoy a successful tournament and playing a match like this would not be mocked in the competition’s aftermath. During their warm-up for the World Cup, England had also played against a comparatively strong Cagliari. They had been in ruthless form in that match too, winning 6-0.
May 1996, Hong Kong Golden Select XI 0-1 England (Friendly)
A fortnight before the start of Euro ’96, hosts England ventured to the Far East to complete their preparations with two matches. After beating China 3-0, the second match of the tour was an odd one to say the least. They basically played against the Hong Kong domestic side Golden, with Everton stalwart Dave Watson (who had scored for England against Aylesbury in the aforementioned match) guesting for them. Fellow former England defender Mike Duxbury was also in the side, along with ex-England Under-21s goalkeeper Iain Hesford and former Wimbledon man Carlton Fairweather. It was certainly dubious how good a test this would be for England after more than two years preparing for the rigours of Euro ’96. There was surprisingly substantial media coverage of the match, to the extent that the BBC deemed it worthy of highlights twice in one day on Sunday Grandstand and Match of the Day.
A goal from Les Ferdinand gave England a 1-0 win, which hardly represented the convincing win they hoped for. And things got a whole lot worse for Terry Venables as the antics of some of his players on the tour made front page news in the days leading up to the tournament. This trip would always be remembered for the wrong reasons.
This month marks the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Rous Cup, a short-lived competition in which England met Scotland until it bit the dust after the 1989 tournament. Let’s look back at those five years, when it became increasingly clear the oldest international fixture was living on borrowed time…
In August 1983 England announced they would be withdrawing from the Home International Championship after the 1984 tournament, bringing to an end 100 years of tradition. But this coincided with the news the annual clash with old rivals Scotland would continue, compounding the anger of Wales and Northern Ireland who understandably felt snubbed.
Wales manager Mike England, never afraid to speak up on his country’s behalf, accused Scotland of having performed a “double turn” by continuing to play the country of his surname. “Everyone believes it was England alone who dropped Wales and Northern Ireland, but Scotland have done the dirty on us as well,” he said in December 1983 (as luck would have it that month saw the World Cup qualifying draw pair Wales with Scotland, while England were placed in the same group as Northern Ireland).
The final Home International Championship match at Wembley in April 1984 attracted just 24,000 spectators for a 1-0 England win over Northern Ireland, who were to be the last winners of the tournament. The last ever match in the championship the following month produced a 1-1 draw at Hampden Park between Scotland and England, who would be meeting again at the same venue 12 months later.
Scotland players celebrate winning the first Rous Cup in 1985 thanks to a goal by Richard Gough (back row, second left).
From 1985 the annual clash between England and Scotland would be for the Rous Cup, named in honour of former FIFA president Sir Stanley Rous. But the competition could easily have failed to get off the ground. England were due to be the home side in May 1985, but concerns about the fixture being played on a bank holiday weekend in London put the match in jeopardy. In a shift from the usual pattern, it was agreed Scotland would be at home instead.
Although the match was taking place on May 25 – two weeks after the final day of the league season – some players were unavailable due to club commitments. Liverpool were preparing for the ill-fated European Cup final against Juventus, while league champions Everton faced a rearranged game at Coventy City the following day. England had played just three days earlier when they drew with Finland in a World Cup qualifier, while the Scots would also be in qualifying action three days later in Iceland. The match took place during a dreadful month for football, with the tragic events at Bradford, Heysel and Birmingham overshadowing the climax to the campaign.
There would have to be an outright winner of the Rous Cup, with a penalty-shoot-out to take place if the score was level after 90 minutes. For the first time since 1976 Scotland beat England on home soil, winning 1-0 thanks to Richard Gough’s header past Peter Shilton. Looking spritely for the age of 90, Sir Stanley braved the wet weather to present the Scots with the trophy – some of them having swapped shirts with their opponents before the presentation. it was the only time Scotland would win the Rous Cup and also sadly the last silverware won by manager Jock Stein, who died suddenly after collapsing near the end of their World Cup qualifier against Wales in September 1985.
The fixture retuned to Wembley the following year, taking place on St George’s Day. The match was being played earlier in the year than usual due to the World Cup preparations of both sides. As on Scotland’s last visit in 1983 it was played on a Wednesday night. Alex Ferguson was at the Scottish helm following Stein’s death.
For the only time in a Rous Cup meeting between England and Scotland, both sides scored. Headers from Terry Butcher and Glenn Hoddle put England into a 2-0 half-time lead, before Graeme Souness replied from the penalty spot as the Scots threatened to claw their way back into it. But England held out to win 2-1 and lift the Rous Cup. Manager Bobby Robson was delighted England had triumphed, but added: “I lost my voice trying to do something about Scotland’s revised system in the second half. We lost our cohesion while they got theirs together.”
Sadly, this was the last Rous Cup tournament Sir Stanley Rous lived to see. He died in July 1986, aged 91.
Brazil join the party in 1987 and win the Rous Cup.
The competition was giving a fresh look by adding a third side, with Brazil coming to Britain and playing matches against both England and Scotland. Although it was not a truly great Brazilian sides in terms of personnel, their enduring appeal was clear with Wembley packed for the opening game. England took the lead through Gary Lineker in the first half, but with ITV co-commentator Kevin Keegan still talking about the goal Mirandinha equalised (shortly before he moved to Newcastle United). The match ended 1-1, with debutant Stuart Pearce showing he wasn’t afraid to get stuck in when wearing the England shirt.
Four days later came a dull 0-0 draw between Scotland and England at Hampden Park, in a match most notable for England unusually fielding two Scottish-based players as Terry Butcher and Chris Woods were now with Rangers. Butcher offered his view the match would have been better if played during the season rather than at the end of it with players looking tired. It certainly hadn’t been one to live long in the memory. For the third meeting in as many years Scotland had a different manager, Andy Roxburgh now being at the Scottish helm. Sadly the football was not the only talking point after the match, with reports of hooliganism and dozens of arrests doing nothing for the fixture’s reputation.
It was now impossible for England to be outright winners of the competition, as the Scots enjoyed welcoming Brazil to Hampden Park. Rai and Valdo scored for Brazil in their 2-0 win to give them the Rous Cup, many of the players wearing Scotland shirts while posing with the trophy. Their visit had helped the competition.
Gary Lineker takes on Alex McLeish as England play Scotland in the 1988 Rous Cup.
This year marked the beginning of the end for the Rous Cup, as widespread hooliganism during Scotland’s visit to London led to calls for the fixture to be abandoned after 116 years. The match was played on a Saturday at Wembley for the first time since 1981 and dozens of arrests made it unlikely that would be the arrangement in the future. FA chairman Bert Millichip dropped hints the end could be in sight, saying: “It makes one wonder if the match is worthwhile.”
After the success of Brazil’s visit in 1987 it would prove problematic finding another guest side to play in the Rous Cup. Over the next two years there would be talk of leading football nations including Argentina, France, Spain and Uruguay taking part but for one reason or another they would not do so. In 1988 it was to be Colombia who came along, a side who had not qualified for the World Cup since 1962 so were a bit of a mystery to many in Britain. Despite low attendances for their matches, Colombia’s selection would be justified as they played entertaining football and it gave the British public a glimpse of players such as Carlos Valderrama and Rene Higuita.
The first match of the competition saw Scotland and Colombia draw 0-0, before the Scots ventured to Wembley. A well-taken goal by Peter Beardsley gave England a deserved victory, a week after he had seen a similar effort at the same end ruled out in the FA Cup final for Liverpool. Three days later there was a crowd of just 25,756 at Wembley for the visit of Colombia. The stay-always missed a treat as Colombia’s approach won plenty of admirers and both sides went in search of the win. Gary Lineker put England ahead, before the late Andrés Escobar equalised after the break as the Colombians savoured scoring at Wembley. It finished 1-1 to give England the Rous Cup, with traditionalist Bobby Robson telling some of his players off for attempting to swap shirts before the trophy presentation. “I don’t like England players to swap England shirts on the pitch and I don’t like England players going up the rostrum to collect a medal in a foreign shirt,” he told the BBC’s Tony Gubba.
If Colombia’s visit had not particularly excited the British public, then the presence of Chile as the ‘third’ side in 1989 proved a total turn-off. At the time they lacked the glamour of Brazil and style of Colombia and their limited appeal was illustrated by abysmal crowds for their appearances at Wembley and Hampden Park (plus at Windsor Park for a friendly against Northern Ireland).
The Hillsborough Disaster had prolonged the English league season, with several players unavailable as Arsenal and Liverpool went in search of the First Division title. Nigel Clough and John Fashanu were handed their England debuts in attack for the tournament opener against Chile, while Paul Gascoigne started a full international for the first time. Not helped by a public transport strike, there was a record low crowd of 15,628 for an England international at Wembley. Chile have continually proved difficult for England to beat over the years and that was to be the case here, as they held out for a 0-0 draw. But their negative approach led to reports England players had refused to shake hands with them at the end. “All I know is that Chile did everything they could to stop us,” said a diplomatic Bobby Robson afterwards.
Fashanu would only be capped once more and that was away to Scotland four days later. The dramatic title decider between Liverpool and Arsenal the previous night was dominating football conversations (along with the sad news of Don Revie’s death) and this clash felt a bit low-key by comparison. It was a match notable for three things. Firstly, Steve Bull came off the bench to seal a 2-0 win by scoring on his England debut while still technically a Third Division player with Wolverhampton Wanderers. Secondly, England’s Peter Shilton had to wear a Scotland goalkeeper’s shirt. And thirdly, it brought an end to the annual meetings between the sides. Although the authorities had attempted to prevent trouble by limiting ticket availability for England fans, TV news reports showed there was violence on the streets of Glasgow. This disorder was to be the final straw.
Three days later the Rous Cup was given an anti-climatic finale, as just over 9,000 were dotted around Hampden Park to see Scotland face Chile. Those that showed up saw Scotland win 2-0 and what turned out to be the final act for the Rous Cup, Murdoch MacLeod scoring the last ever goal in the competition. The result confirmed England as Rous Cup winners for the third time in five years.
In 1990 the Rous Cup did not take place as it went the same way as the Home Internationals. Newspaper speculation about England and Scotland potentially meeting later in the year and at a venue other than Wembley came to nothing. And the trend continued in the ensuing years, with each climax to the season passing without the traditional fixture. In May 1991 the three-team format was revived as England hosted Argentina and the USSR with a cup at stake, but tellingly it was for the one-off England Challenge Cup with the Rous Cup seemingly reserved for if Scotland were involved. Fans would have to wait until the group stage of Euro ’96 and then the Euro 2000 play-offs to see the old rivals clash again. By then the Rous Cup was but a distant memory, never to return.
In the second part of our recollections of watching England on TV, we focus on how viewers could be left frustrated by what they were seeing – and we’re not talking about England’s performance! Technical problems and poor quality footage were an all-too-common occurrence of televised broadcasts when the Three Lions took to the field in years gone by…
“The pictures are the responsibility of the host broadcaster…”
What viewers saw as Mark Hateley put England 1-0 up against Mexico in 1986.
We occasionally may have felt irritated by certain elements of our televised football broadcasts, but when England ventured abroad sometimes in the past we would be left thinking how lucky we were by comparison. As our commentators would be at pains to point out, the BBC or ITV had no control over what we were seeing during the match and the host broadcaster was responsible for it. There would be instances of the cameras struggling to keep up with the play, action replays still being shown while a side had a chance to score and constant shots of the home nation’s monarch or political leader instead of seeing what was happening on the field.
Probably the worst example of awful camerawork and directing came in May 1986, when England met Mexico in Los Angeles in a pre-World Cup friendly. ITV showed England’s 3-0 win live, but they must have been cursing those responsible for the footage as Mark Hateley’s first goal was totally missed and his second barely seen to dreadful camerawork. At least Peter Beardsley’s effort to make it 3-0 could be properly enjoyed.
“We apologise for the sound quality”
Technological improvements mean when England play abroad now the commentary is as clear as back home. But for many years this wasn’t the case, with even the most distinctive of commentary voices sounding muffled. And yet it all added to the magical sense that we were watching action from a long way away and should feel privileged to do so.
In June 1985 England met Italy in Mexico, with ITV showing it live. The match had particular poignancy as it would be played the week after the Heysel Disaster. But as Brian Moore began his commentary and spoke about how the meeting would help bring the nations together after the horrific events of the week before, it was almost impossible to hear him. Martin Tyler commentated from London for about 20 minutes before Moore resumed his duties via telephone. It would be an unfortunate taste of what was to come during the opening days of the World Cup in Mexico the following summer, when broadcasters from across the world were unable to get their own commentary on air.
Moore must have felt he was cursed in November 1990, when ITV showed live England’s Euro ’92 qualifier against the Republic of Ireland on a windy afternoon in Dublin and he was in the commentary box. There were clearly problems from the moment the broadcast began with no sound coming through. Moore was unable to commentate on the opening couple of minutes of the match as John Helm filled in from a studio until the issue was resolved. “Brian Moore forgot to put 50p in the meter,” joked co-commentator Jimmy Greaves on the following Saturday’s Saint & Greavsie.
An imperfect picture
The one thing worse than losing sound was to not be able to see the action at all. Broadcasting from thousands of miles away was an ambitious task and even into the 1990s it was not uncommon for matches on foreign soil to lose the picture feed for a couple of minutes or more, with viewers left frustrated and wondering what key moment they might miss.
In the most recent blog post we recalled how ITV did not show the wondergoal by John Barnes for England against Brazil in 1984 live as they only joined the action at half-time. In the second half Mark Hateley headed in England’s second to seal a famous 2-0 win, but then moments later pictures were lost. Brian Moore (cursed again!) was left to effectively provide a radio commentary for a few minutes, as millions found their enjoyment of a great night for England slightly undermined by how little of it they had actually seen.
it certainly wasnt a great night to be English in June 1993, when Graham Taylor’s side plummeted new depths with a 2-0 defeat to USA in the US Cup. ITV were once more showing it live but in the closing minutes the pictures were lost. Matt Lorenzo in the London studio joked perhaps it was just as well! Even a fledgling Sky Sports was not immune to losing pictures, as happened during a friendly in Czechoslovakia in 1992.
You would think such things are now a thing of the past, but there is no guarantee. Viewers across Europe missed several minutes of the Euro 2008 semi-final between Germany and Turkey. The BBC missed a goal in the process, which leads us onto the next section…
Generally speaking, when matches have been shown as edited highlights rather than live then major cock-ups have been avoided. But in an era long before the technology we have today, there could be problems as footage was hastily taped together ahead of highlights shows going out shortly after the match ended. Probably the most famous example of this process going wrong came in October 1965, when England lost 3-2 at home to Austria (their last defeat until April 1967). To the bemusement of viewers, Austria’s late winning goal was missing and replaced by the National Anthem. To cap an infamous night for ITV, commentator Gerry Loftus unintentionally amused smutty minded viewers when he ended the broadcast by saying: “Alf Ramsey must get his chopper out tonight!”
Forty-five years and several generations of technological advancements later, ITV would again find itself in the headlines over a missed goal. Those who had invested in high-definition television and were watching on ITV HD found an advert suddenly appearing during live coverage of England’s first match of the 2010 World Cup against USA. By the time the match was back on the screen, England were celebrating being 1-0 up. To make matters worse, there were very few other more moments of joy for England during a disappointing tournament. If ever there had been a good reason not to fork out on HD, this was it!
Not everything in black and white makes sense
Black and white was the order of the day as England visited Portugal in 1975!
From the late 1960s, football matches were shown in colour in Britain. Not everyone could afford colour TV of course, but as the 1970s progressed growing numbers ditched the black and white sets. Yet not all countries were as quick to bring in colour television, which meant that if England played there then viewers back home would usually have to watch in black and white. Examples of this include a European Championship qualifier in Portugal in 1975 and a friendly in Argentina in 1977. I suppose it saved the commentators from having to use the “for those of you watching in black and white…” line that seemed customary at the time when describing what colours the teams were playing in!
In April 1987 there was a bit of nostalgic trip for BBC viewers when the opening minutes of England’s trip to Turkey were blighted by technical problems. This meant millions back home were left watching what was effectively black and white footage of the match before colour pictures returned. The transmission problems were about the one memorable thing of a grim afternoon as England were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw, presenter Jimmy Hill joking that perhaps they should apologise for the football as well as the picture problems.
The last two blog posts have recalled many of the problems faced by millions who watched England from their armchair, but we haven’t yet dealt with the personnel involved in such broadcasts who could divide opinion and leave some viewers pressing the mute button. In the near-future we will recall someone who was a mainstay of England coverage but was certainly not without his critics – Jimmy Hill.
In the first of a series of nostalgic recollections of the experiences of millions watching England on television, we focus on when live coverage was a luxury rather than taken for granted. Without digital television available to offer multiple channels and sometimes for other reasons too, there were times when viewers couldn’t be assured of just sitting down and watching England’s full 90 minutes from their armchair…
You join us with John Barnes having just scored an amazing goal…
John Barnes celebrates possibly the greatest England goal you never saw live.
During the 1980s, there was an annoying trend for only the second half of some international matches to be broadcast live in the Uk. It happened a bit during the 1986 World Cup group stage (not for matches involving England) but probably the best remembered example came in June 1984. England travelled to Brazil for a friendly but the match would not be shown in its entirety. Instead, ITV would only broadcast the second half live as viewers were left to endure Surprise, Surprise instead of the first half action.
As a result, one of the most famous goals England have ever scored was not seen live by almost all Englishmen (the exceptions being the lucky few in the stadium or in the ITV studio), as John Barnes went on his mazy run moments before the break and slotted home. There were plenty of instances of England matches being shown only as highlights rather than live (at some point most of us endured a Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? struggle to avoid the score before highlights of an England match were shown) but viewers wouldn’t even get to enjoy the goal as if watching live. The programme began and Jim Rosenthal told viewers England had just gone 1-0 up thanks to John Barnes’ wondergoal before very brief first half highlights were shown after a bit of a delay. The second half saw Mark Hateley score to seal a 2-0 win but there were further problems to blight the broadcast (more on that in the next blog).
England’s friendly win in Greece in February 1989 left viewers having to wait for Neighbours to finish before they could see the second half live, but it wasn’t just friendlies not afforded the full 90 minute treatment when England went abroad. Their decisive final qualifier for Euro 92 away to Poland saw the BBC only join the action at half-time, with a similar situation existing for their World Cup qualifier in Norway in June 1993. And going back to the 1966 World Cup, ITV made the ill-fated decision to join some games England played while they were in progress – playing into the hands of the BBC who showed them in full.
Inconceivable now, but not seeing big matches in full was accepted by past generations. Any live football at all felt like a bonus.
The worst of both worlds
In November 1983 England were clinging to the slim hope of making the Euro ’84 finals. They would almost certainly win their final match in Luxembourg, but they had to hope Denmark would fail to triumph in Greece a couple of hours earlier to be able to qualify. ITV seemed caught in two minds as to what to show. They wanted to be there for the moment England got through to the finals if it happened in Luxembourg, but they also knew the match in Greece was what would really decide their fate. They made a decision to show the last half hour of the Greece v Denmark match and then later join the action for Luxembourg against England at half-time.
The trouble was, all they showed in the first match was Denmark seeing out their 2-0 win to seal qualification and end English hopes – with the second match now a dead rubber that England were in little mood for. Viewers again watched a game pretty much already settled when live coverage started, with England 2-0 up at half-time. To England’s credit they put on a professional showing to win 4-0 in difficult circumstances, but it felt like a non-event. ITV’s decision to show the climax to both matches had logic to it and would have worked fine if Denmark had failed to win in Greece, but it had backfired and left viewers feeling they hadn’t really seen any gripping action during the night.
A decade later, ITV’s rivals at the BBC would try a different approach during the final round of qualification matches – but again fail to please everybody…
We interrupt this programme to bring you Wales v Romania…
Millions more see Paul Bodin miss his penalty for Wales against Romania than would have done a few minutes earlier.
In November 1993, England were away to San Marino in their final World Cup qualifier. To put it simply, they had to win by a big score and hope the Netherlands lost in Poland at the same time to make the finals. It was a tall order and as the night wore on it became clear English hopes were over, as the Dutch enjoyed a 3-1 win to seal their place in the USA and ensure Graham Taylor’s side wouldn’t make it.
The BBC were showing England’s match live, but during the second half – with the Three Lions leading 4-1 and both the match and hopes of qualification effectively dead – a decision was taken to switch to live coverage of of Wales against Romania from Cardiff. The winner-takes-all Welsh match was on a knife-edge at 1-1, with Terry Yorath’s side the last hope of a British team making the finals. VIewers saw Paul Bodin miss a penalty and Romania get a late winner to leave Wales missing out, but at the same time they missed the final three England goals in their 7-1 win.
It basically boiled down to if your main concern was seeing if any British side could make the finals or you were solely concerned about England as to whether you were bothered about the sudden switch of match – evidently plenty fell into the latter camp judging by the BBC switchboard being jammed with complaints. Still, they had at least shown San Marino’s infamous goal in the opening seconds which would be easily the most memorable moment of the night! Those with Sky Sports could see the match in full and England would not be shown live on terrestrial television again until Euro ’96.
How the Beeb must have wished digital television and the red button came along many years earlier…
Where’s the England match?
All told, England fans generally have it better than any English club side when it comes to watching them on television, with pretty much every much televised live (or quite often in extended highlights form until recent times). But this means it has been more noticeable when the coverage has been either very limited or non-existent.
One such example came in Euro ’88, where the BBC faced a dilemma over whether to show England or another fixture. The Three Lions’ final group match against the USSR had a few days earlier been unsurprisingly billed as the live match (see above pic), but two defeats put Bobby Robson’s side out before the fixture took place. In the same group Jack Charlton’s Republic of Ireland were up against the Netherlands in a decisive match for both sides at the same time, with the BBC changing plans and opting to show that instead – the under-pressure Robson probably wasn’t complaining as it meant English viewers watched just a few minutes of a dreadful performance in losing to the USSR, rather than having to sit through the entire debacle! The emergence of multiple channels for the BBC and ITV has thankfully removed such dilemmas for them in major tournaments in the present day – would ITV have switched to Italy against Uruguay at the 2014 World Cup instead of England’s dead rubber with Costa Rica if they still only operated only one channel?
ITV was off the air for three months in 1979 and that meant England’s home Euro ’80 qualifier against Denmark went unscreened, with other games having not been shown over the years for a variety of reasons including friendlies in Portugal in 1974 and in Brazil in 1977. Granada viewers missed out due to a strike when England met Czechoslovakia in the 1970 World Cup, while Central opted out of ITV’s live coverage of the Euro ’92 qualifier away to the Republic of Ireland so they could show coverage of the 50th anniversary commemorations of the Coventry Blitz in the Second World War. England’s trip to Australia in 1980 was not covered on these shores, with a three-match trip there in 1983 receiving better, but still fairly scant, coverage.
Since the early 1990s pretty much every England match has been shown live somewhere, although this hasn’t prevented complaints about subscription channels such as BSB, Sky Sports and Setanta holding the rights – there was plenty of debate on the latter having exclusive coverage of the 4-1 win for England away to Croatia in September 2008.
The World Cup qualifier in Poland in May 1997 was controversially live only on the newly-launched Channel 5, which some parts of the country had problems receiving. Another qualifying match in Finland in October 2000 could only be seen on a pay-per-view channel, leading to Kevin Keegan speaking out on the issue and in October 2009 the trip to Ukraine was as close as we’ve come to a TV blackout in modern times – only being screened live on the internet. Things had certainly much changed from the days of Kenneth Wolstenholme!
In the next blog post on the subject, we will recall more frustrations for the TV viewer when England played – including dodgy camerawork and transmission problems blighting broadcasts.