One Cap Wonders – Danny Wallace

Posted on Updated on

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Cap Wonders – Peter Davenport

Posted on Updated on

In March 1985 Gary Lineker netted his first England goal in a 2-1 win over the Republic of Ireland. It was set-up by substitute Peter Davenport, who had come on in place of Mark Hateley. But while Lineker was given the chance to go on and score almost 50 goals for his country, Davenport was never picked again. His England career lasted less than 20 minutes.

  
Davenport had been snapped up by Nottingham Forest from minnows Cammell Laird in his native Birkenhead and emerged as a key forward under Brian Clough. The friendly against (a pre-Jack Charlton) Ireland came two days after Davenport’s 24th birthday and afforded Bobby Robson a rare chance to try things out a bit as England took a break from their World Cup qualifying campaign. Goalkeeper Gary Bailey and winger Chris Waddle were also handed their first caps – Bailey earned just one more, but Waddle would be a regular for several years.

Big move to Old Trafford
There would never be another England chance for Davenport, but he didn’t disappear off the radar. He warranted a £750,000 move to Manchester United a year later. His record of 22 goals in 92 league appearances at Old Trafford wasn’t great, but not a total failure either and he would score brownie points with the fans by banging in a late winner against Liverpool in 1987. But as Alex Ferguson focused on rebuilding the side Davenport was a casualty and he moved to Middlesbrough late in 1988. Cup runs would be a highlight of his later playing years, helping ‘Boro reach the ZDS Cup Final at Wembley in 1990 and retuning there with Sunderland for the FA Cup Final in 1992. He would go on to briefly manage in the Football League with Macclesfield Town.

Would things have turned out differently if it had been Lineker supplying Davenport to score against the Irish?

One Cap Wonders – Nigel Spink

Posted on Updated on

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/bca/70161727/files/2014/12/img_0260.jpg

In the first of a new series looking back at players to win just one England cap, we recall the solitary international appearance of goalkeeper Nigel Spink from Aston Villa in 1983.

Some players finally get their rewards towards the end of a long career. They may at last pick up a cup winner’s medal, or be recognised as Player of the Year for the first time. And that long-overdue England cap may arrive while the 30th birthday celebrations are being planned (or gone!).

And then there are others for whom the process seems to happen in reverse. Spink was a fine servant to Aston Villa though much of the 1980s and 1990s, helping them finish runners-up to the last dominant Liverpool team in 1990 in the First Division. But his true career highlights would come little more than a year apart in the infancy of his long career.

Very much the understudy to stalwart Jimmy Rimmer, Spink had just one senior appearance to his name when he came off the bench to replace the injured regular in the 1982 European Cup final against Bayern Munich. The 23-year-old kept a clean sheet as Villa enjoyed their greatest triumph.

Big Chance Down Under
A year later and by now more established, Spink was to get his big chance when he was selected for the England squad visiting Australia for a three match tour at the end of the 1982-83 season. England were severely under strength, with the likes of Spink, Danny Thomas, Nick Pickering and Mark Barham given the opportunity to join the remnants of the regular squad for the long haul Down Under.

First choice goalkeeper Peter Shilton was on the tour and played as England drew their first match and edged their second with the Aussies. who at the time were not regarded as strong opposition. It was in the third match Spink was handed his 45 minutes of international action, coming on for Shilton in a 1-1 draw at the end of a forgettable tour that received minimal TV coverage. Both goals were scored before Spink entered the fray.

Spink was never realistically going to oust Shilton as number one but he could consider himself unfortunate not to feature again or at least be in contention to go a major tournament as backup. The international retirement of Shilton and appointment of Spink’s former Villa boss Graham Taylor as England manager at the same time in 1990 did provide a glimmer of hope and Spink made two England B appearances in 1991. But there would be no full recall for Big Nige.

Six of the Worst – England European Championship Qualifiers

Posted on Updated on

Last month we recalled six of England’s best European Championship qualifying matches. Now as they gear up for the next round of qualifiers for Euro 2014, we look at the opposite end of the scale when six matches in the qualifying stages did not go to plan for England. It wouldn’t seem the English way to just reflect on the positives, would it?

February 1963, France (a) 2-5
Paris
Alf Ramsey’s first match as England manager certainly didn’t inspire the public to share his optimism they could win the World Cup three years later. After drawing 1-1 at Hillsborough in the first-leg before Ramsey replaced Walter Winterbottom, England were torn apart in Paris and trailed 3-0 by the break in this preliminary round tie. Although they gave themselves hope in the second half, the match ended with Ron Springett having conceded five goals. He would make way for Gordon Banks in the next match as Ramsey began rebuilding his side. Only Bobby Moore and Bobby Charlton played in the World Cup final after featuring in the Paris debacle.

April 1967, Scotland (h) 2-3
London
A day still fondly remembered by football fans north of the border, as Scotland triumphed 3-2 against England at Wembley to declare themselves unofficial ‘world champions’ and Jim Baxter taunted the English. Alf Ramsey’s men were unbeaten since November 1965 and only Jimmy Greaves was involved who had not played in the World Cup final victory nine months earlier. The 1966-67 and 1967-68 Home Internationals were doubling up as the qualifying process for the European Championships and there was now a danger England could miss out so soon after lifting the World Cup as they lost 3-2. But they would top the group after drawing the return with Scotland in front of more than 134,000 at Hampden Park the following year, going on to finish third in the 1968 European Championship.

October 1975, Czechoslovakia (a) 1-2
Bratislava
Don Revie had begun his England reign a year earlier by beating the Czechs 3-0 at Wembley, as they appeared to be banishing the bad memories of missing out on a place in the 1974 World Cup. But a costly draw at home to Portugal had led to doubts resurfacing and it was vital they picked up a good result in the return match with the Czechs. Fog led to the match being abandoned after 17 minutes, leading to a hasty rearrangement for the following afternoon. Mick Channon gave them a first-half lead and put them on the brink of qualification, but goals shortly before and after half-time for the hosts turned the match on its head. England never equalised and Revie fumed about the Czechs: “I saw the worst provocation in this game that I have seen in an international match.” A 1-1 draw in their final match away to Portugal effectively ended English hopes, as the Czechs won the group and surprisingly went on to win the tournament.

September 1983, Denmark (h) 0-1
London
The Danes had quickly emerged from obscurity to be a major threat to England’s place in the Euro ’84 finals. England had been fortunate to gain a 2-2 draw away to Denmark in their opening qualifier. By the time the Danes visited Wembley in September 1983 it was clear whoever won would be favourites to go to France for the Euros, with England having to win for it to be in their hands. Bobby Robson knew just how big a danger the visitors posed and it seemed England were almost intimidated by the dazzling Danes, who could have scored in the opening moments through Michael Laudrup. A penalty from Allan Simonsen gave them a deserved half-time lead, which was only seriously threatened by Luther Blissett in the dying seconds. His shot was saved and England were left praying for a miracle from the remaining games. Their lingering hopes ended shortly before they took the field for their final qualifier away to Luxembourg, after Denmark beat Greece.

October 1998, Bulgaria (h) 0-0
London
England qualified as unbeaten group winners for the 1988 and 1992 finals and automatically as hosts in 1996, but the road to Euro 2000 was to be extremely rocky. They were in trouble after losing their opening qualifier away to Sweden and things got worse a month later when Bulgaria arrived at Wembley. England started brightly, but after failing to take chances the match totally fizzled out and Glenn Hoddle’s men ran out of ideas. They were booed off and it summed up a poor qualifying campaign for England in which they won just three matches out of eight (two of them against Luxembourg) to somehow claim second spot and then scrape past rivals Scotland in the play-offs.

November 2007, Croatia (h) 2-3
London
England made the 2004 and 2012 finals without losing any matches, but the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign under Steve McClaren was anything but a smooth ride. Needing to just finish second in their group to qualify, the warning signs were there by October 2006 when they drew with Macedonia and lost to Croatia. A year later came defeat in Russia but – aided by other results – it was back in England’s hands when they entered their final qualifying match needing to draw at home to Croatia. The wet night has passed into infamy, with England appearing to have done the hard work in clawing back from 2-0 down at the break to level before Mladen Petric scored the winner to hand Russia a place in the finals at England’s expense. The ‘wally with the brolly’ tag would stick for a long time for McClaren, who would inevitably leave his job after the loss.

England Qualifying Campaigns: Euro 92 – Before Taylor was a ‘Turnip’

Posted on Updated on

This month marked Graham Taylor’s 70th birthday and also the anniversary of his first England match in September 1990. In the third in our series recalling past England qualifying campaigns we recall the road to Euro ’92 in Sweden as Taylor took charge shortly after England’s dramatic run to the World Cup semi-finals in Italy with football’s popularity soaring again.

As the 1990-91 season got under way, ‘Gazzamania’ had taken hold the return of English clubs to European competition added to the feel good factor. Bobby Robson had bowed out as a hero after Italia ’90 and now Taylor was entrusted with the role. He inherited a strong set of players with age mostly on their side, although veterans Peter Shilton and Terry Butcher had retired from international football after the World Cup with more than 200 caps between them. Bryan Robson was to play on for his country but injury would keep him out of action for several months, with Gary Lineker taking on the captaincy.

It had been the worst-kept secret Taylor was to be England’s new manager, spending the World Cup working for ITV without it being announced he would replace Bobby Robson. His appointment attracted mixed views. Taylor had held three managerial roles since his late 20s and done a tremendous job at Lincoln City, Watford and Aston Villa. Although he had never won a major honour, he had achieved five promotions as well as two First Division runners-up spots (beaten only by a dominant Liverpool) and an FA Cup final appearance. He had also played a big role in the development of John Barnes and David Platt at club level, both going on to be regulars for England.

But there were concerns too. Unlike most of his predecessors he had no direct experience of international football as a player or manager and his involvement in European club competition was limited to three rounds in the UEFA Cup. His direct style of play had not always been well received, Taylor seeming to be often at pains to defend it in interviews. But he was certainly not given the savage ‘Turnip’ press treatment upon his appointment that would follow in the coming years as English football began to look forward with excitement.

The draw for the qualifying stages of the 1992 European Championship provided little in the way of originality for England followers. The Three Lions were placed in a four team group with Republic of Ireland, Poland and Turkey, having met all of them in competitive matches in recent years. It wouldn’t be easy either. Only one side would definitely go through and Ireland had already got under England’s skin by beating them at Euro ’88. Poland were not regarded as the same force as a few years earlier but could not be discounted either. Turkey would find the group too hard to compete but would prove more difficult opposition than previously.

Taylor inherited the basis of a good squad, with players of quality like Platt, Paul Gascoigne, Stuart Pearce and Des Walker having established themselves and with age on their side. Lineker was still a couple of months away from his 30th birthday and expected to go on to break Bobby Charlton’s record of 49 England goals. But we would soon see Taylor appear keen to give as many players as possible a chance, handing out a plethora of new caps and suddenly recalling discarded players from the international wilderness. It was a trend that would continue throughout his reign and with dubious rewards.

Off to a Good Start
Taylor’s first game in charge was effectively a celebration of the World Cup achievements, more than 50,000 seeing them beat Hungary in a friendly at Wembley thanks to a goal from captain Lineker. Taylor basically stuck with Bobby Robson’s team, Lee Dixon the only player to appear who had not gone to the World Cup on a night when Barnes gave an encouraging display. After years as a patient deputy and occasional caps, Chris Woods could now emerge from Shilton’s shadow as the regular goalkeeper with David Seaman his main rival for the number one spot.

In October, the first round of qualifying matches for Euro ’92 took place. Ireland thrashed Turkey 5-0 in the afternoon to lay down a marker, before England beat Poland 2-0 at Wembley. A Lineker penalty set them on their way, although it wasn’t until the closing moments they sealed the win with a brilliant curling goal by substitute Peter Beardsley. The true significance of the result would be seen 13 months later.

Dropping Gazza
Taylor’s first real test would come the following month, when they travelled to Dublin to take on the Republic of Ireland. It was a match high on importance but never likely to be one for the purists. The match kicked-off at 1.30pm on a Wednesday (which seemed an antiquated idea even then) and the new manager controversially dropped Gascoigne to the bench as Aston Villa’s Gordon Cowans returned to the international fold after almost five years away. He also recalled Arsenal’s Tony Adams two years on from his most recent cap.

In windy conditions England went ahead through David Platt during the second half, before Ireland made use of their aerial power with Tony Cascarino heading in a late equaliser as the sides inevitably drew 1-1. “A fair result in a highly predictable game. Everything we thought would happen, happened,” said ITV pundit Jimmy Greaves. The result played into the hands of Poland, who won 1-0 away to Turkey.

By the time England next took to the field in February 1991, Great Britain had a new Prime Minister in John Major and the Gulf War had broken out. In freezing conditions Cameroon were beaten in a Wembley friendly, the only real comparison with the previous summer’s dramatic World Cup meeting being Lineker scored twice. Ian Wright made his international debut, on a night when Bryan Robson returned and regained the captain’s armband.

A Familiar Pattern
March brought the crucial return clash with the Republic of Ireland at Wembley, following a very familiar pattern. Lee Dixon’s shot was deflected in off Steve Staunton to give England an early lead, but they allowed Ireland to dictate the game at times and Niall Quinn equalised before the break. If either side was going to win it thereafter it was Ireland, Jack Charlton being disappointed afterwards they hadn’t won. Lee Sharpe came off the bench for his England debut, having enjoyed a season shining for a resurgent Manchester United. It was the third time in less than a year Charlton’s side had come from behind to draw 1-1 with England.

The following month saw Poland beat Turkey 3-0 and the top three sides were all locked on four points (under the two points for a win system). May Day was to be crucial. Ireland drew 0-0 at home to Poland, while England travelled to face Turkey in Izmir. Taylor dropped Robson and midfielders Geoff Thomas and Dennis Wise were handed their debuts, while fellow starters David Seaman, Gary Pallister and Alan Smith all had less than five previous caps. England won few plaudits in scraping a 1-0 victory thanks to a strange goal by Wise in the first-half, as they were made to sweat with the Turks growing in confidence. But at least they were now a point clear at the top of the group.

No time to rest
A year after a demanding World Cup campaign, this should have been a quiet end of season for England but instead they still faced six more games before packing up for the summer. The one-off England Challenge Cup was won after a win over USSR and draw with Argentina, before they headed Down Under and – despite a struggle at times – beat Australia, New Zealand (twice) and Malaysia. New caps were being handed around rather generously, with David Batty, David Hirst, John Salako, Brian Deane, Earl Barrett, Mark Walters and Gary Charles making their debuts in the end of season matches. Taylor had already started to dismantle Bobby Robson’s squad – Steve Bull, Chris Waddle, Bryan Robson and Peter Beardsley all found themselves discarded, while Paul Gascoigne would be a long-term absentee through injury.

England completed the season unbeaten, but in September they finally lost under Taylor as Germany came to Wembley and won 1-0. England gave a decent display, with substitutes Paul Merson and Paul Stewart becoming the latest debutants. But the following month brought more important matters with round five of the qualifying matches, as Turkey arrived at Wembley. Robson and Waddle were recalled, but it was to be a low-key end to England careers after 90 and 62 caps respectively as they would never feature again. Defender Gary Mabbutt also returned to the England side after a four-year absence. In a telling indicator of Robson’s fading power, Lineker retained the captain’s armband. An Alan Smith header from a Stuart Pearce cross proved decisive, but England really did not perform and they were never going to enhance their goal difference. But the result of the other game in the group produced the best result possible as Poland and Ireland drew 3-3.

A Three-Way Fight
With one round to go, England were two points ahead of Ireland and Poland with the three sides all in with a realistic chance of claiming the one qualification spot. If England won or drew in Poland they would be through, if they lost they would be out – the Republic of Ireland going through if they won in Turkey, otherwise Poland would take top spot on goal difference. Once more England’s fate boiled down to a decider against Poland.

Taylor bravely threw two uncapped players into the starting line-up in midfielder Andy Gray and winger Andy Sinton – the latter being substituted by another new cap in Tony Daley. Of the 13 players England used on the night, only four had made appearances in the World Cup finals less than 18 months earlier. Taylor had overseen a dramatic change in the side but the same sparkle and spirit of the summer of 1990 did not seem to be there – just the ability to grind out results.

The BBC only joined live coverage at half-time and viewers discovered England were 1-0 down, a free-kick by Roman Szewczyk deflecting past Woods. The Poles briefly held the group leadership but Ireland went on to win 3-1 in Turkey to sit on the brink of qualification. With 15 minutes left Woods appeared to commit a foul in the area and a goal then would surely have killed off Taylor’s men. Nothing was given and two minutes later England were level. David Rocastle’s corner was nodded on for Lineker to volley home and put England back on top of the group, as they saw out the draw needed to qualify.

Taylor had led England to a place in Sweden. It had not been a memorable qualifying campaign and the Three Lions had done the job required rather than flourished. It was easy to point to how the Irish perhaps should have been the team to qualify, but they had squandered points and failed to beat anyone apart from Turkey. Ultimately the decisive match in the group had been England’s first against Poland, the only time a game was won in matches between the top three.

England would play a further six matches before the finals, Taylor seeming determined to try and give every candidate a game as Rob Jones, Martin Keown, Alan Shearer, Nigel Martyn, Keith Curle and Carlton Palmer joined the list of new caps and Mark Hateley had a one-off return after nearly four years off the scene. England did not lose any of the friendlies and they went into the finals with just one defeat in 21 matches under Taylor, who was still yet to receive the ‘Turnip’ treatment. But his reign was about to take a turn for the worse and never properly recover…

Six of the Worst – Failures to Make the Euros…

Posted on Updated on

The qualifying stages for Euro 2016 began last week and the expansion to 24 teams has led to a feeling in some quarters that there is little danger of European football’s big names failing to make it (although Portugal’s defeat by Albania may suggest otherwise). But the Euro qualifying stages have not always been like this. In one of our blogs looking back at more general international football matters, we recall six sides who were noticeably absent from the finals since they grew to eight sides in 1980.

(To clarify, this is not intended as a list of which six teams I think were the best who failed to qualify in terms of what players they had at the time etc – it is based mainly on reputations from recent tournaments. I’ve limited it to a maximum of one entry per nation and per tournament).

Italy 1984
World champions in the summer of 1982, the Italians were out of the running to reach the 1984 European Championship within months. Golden memories of beating Brazil and West Germany in Spain were rapidly replaced by being held to a draw by Cyprus and losing 3-0 at home to Sweden. Italy headed a notable list of absentees from the finals including England, the Netherlands, USSR and Poland (third at the 1982 World Cup). The Italians were entering a period of transition and won just one match out of eight, finishing well behind Romania, Sweden and Czechoslovakia. World Cup winning manager Enzo Bearzot stayed at the helm and the Italians would qualify for the 1986 World Cup. The Italians would miss out again on Euro ’92, finishing behind USSR in their qualifying group.

France 1988
In 1984, Michel Platini inspired France to the European Championship crown on home soil. Four years later they weren’t even at the finals to defend the trophy and they had barely even turned up in qualifying. Unlike the World Cup at this time there was no automatic qualification for the Euro winners at the next tournament and France paid for it. Having been World Cup semi-finalists either side of their Euro ’84 triumph, France were regarded as a genuine force and entertaining with it. But the good days were coming to a close, with the great Michel Platini about to end his career and this side not matching what had gone before. Within three games it was as good as over, having drawn with Iceland and East Germany and lost to USSR. In the end they trundled home in third spot with just one win to their name, seven points behind USSR. To prove this failure was no fluke, France would miss out on the 1990 World Cup finals as they lost out to Yugoslavia and Scotland in their qualifying group.

Spain 1992
If qualifying for the European Championship today is perceived as getting too easy, it’s worth remembering less than 25 years ago it was harder than making the World Cup finals. As recently as Euro ’92, there were just seven places up for grabs with the host nation automatically taking up the other slot. One of the most significant absentees was Spain. Despite their reputation until recent domination as under-achievers, they were consistent in getting to major tournaments and this was the sole exception since the mid-1970s. They had the misfortune to be in the same group as an invincible France and a decent Czechoslovakia, finishing well behind both of them and losing to Iceland along the way. They did beat Albania 9-0, but the academic away game would never even take place. It had been a campaign to forget for the Spaniards.

Republic of Ireland 1996
The expansion to 16 teams from Euro ’96 meant fewer big names were missing out on a place in the finals. Perhaps the most obvious side to not get there were Sweden, semi-finalists at both Euro ’92 and USA ’94. But looking at things from an English perspective the failure of Jack Charlton’s the Republic of Ireland stood out, making for an anti-climatic end to his otherwise excellent reign. In his decade in charge they had become established on the international scene by reaching two World Cups and one European Championship and narrowly missing out on another with an unbeaten qualifying record. But this would be his first true failure with Ireland and reinforce the belief he should have left at the natural end of the cycle – after the 1994 World Cup. They had the double inflicted on them by Austria, were crushed 3-0 in Portugal, embarrassingly drew away to Liechtenstein and finished level on points with neighbours Northern Ireland (not considered in the same class as them at this time). They scraped second place and as the side with the worst runners-up record entered a play-off with the Netherlands at neutral Anfield. They were outplayed at times by an excellent Dutch side, who deservedly won 2-0 and Charlton inevitably departed shortly afterwards. He would not be leading his adopted country to a major tournament in his homeland 30 years on from the World Cup triumph.

Big Jack’s reign ends in disappointing fashion

Croatia 2000
Incredibly at every World Cup from 1982 to 2002 the third place team came from Europe and then would not qualify for the European finals two years later. Poland (1984), France (1988 – see above), Italy (1992), Sweden (1996), Croatia (2000) and Turkey (2004) were all quickly brought down to earth and each could have warranted a place in our top six. But Croatia had looked good in their first major tournament in Euro ’96 and then shone at the 1998 World Cup, beating Germany 3-0 in the quarter-finals. Now they moved onto the Euro 2000 qualifying campaign, with fate conspiring them to be drawn in the same group as Yugoslavia and Macedonia just a few years after the break-up of the old Yugoslavia. They were in trouble after losing their opening game to the Republic of Ireland and had to win their final match at home to Yugoslavia to make it. They drew 2-2 and finished in third place to miss out (despite having a better record than England did in coming second in their group and going on to qualify).

England 2008
Surely the most high-profile failure to not qualify since the finals were expanded to 16 teams in 1996. England had been very lucky to make it to Euro 2000 but they would not be so fortunate eight years later. With the so called ‘golden generation’ at their disposal, there had been a sense of disappointment at three successive quarter-finals in major tournaments. But those achievements suddenly started to look all the more impressive as England quickly found themselves in trouble. A 0-0 home draw with Macedonia and a 2-0 away defeat to Croatia early on set alarm bells ringing, but results improved and when they led Russia away from home in October 2007 during the second half they were almost there. They proceeded to lose 2-1 and looked all but out, but were then thrown the ultimate lifeline as the Russians lost in Israel. England now needed merely a draw at home to Croatia to qualify automatically in second place. But it was to be an infamous night in the rain at Wembley, as Steve McClaren earned the ‘Wally with Brolly’ tag and England sank to a 3-2 defeat – the younger generation’s equivalent of Poland in 1973 but without the same feeling of bad luck, just cursing where it had all gone wrong.

A night to forget for England

Six of the Best – England European Championship qualifying matches

Posted on Updated on

As England prepare to get their campaign to reach Euro 2016 underway in Switzerland, let’s recall six of their most memorable qualifying matches from past European Championships (limited to no more than one per qualification campaign).

Czechoslovakia (h) 3-0, October 1974
Wembley
A game significant for two reasons. Firstly, it was a victory during Don Revie’s first game at the helm as a new era was ushered in at Wembley. And secondly, this result would go on to look particularly impressive two years later as the Czechs went on to win the European Championship. A year to the month of their World Cup failure against Poland, England appeared to start turning the corner as goals in the closing stages from Mike Channon and Colin Bell (2) gave them a 3-0 success. Another highlight would come the following April when Malcolm MacDonald scored all five goals as Cyprus were thrashed at Wembley. But England let qualification slip through their grasp, the Czechs getting their revenge with a 2-1 win in Bratislava the following October.

 

Bulgaria (h) 2-0, November 1979
Wembley
The 1970s had been grim for England fans. After losing in the quarter-finals of the 1970 World Cup and 1972 European Championship to West Germany, they fell at the qualifying stage of the next three major tournaments. By the time the 1980 European Championship qualifiers began, there was a sense of desperation for England to end their exile from major tournaments. They did so in emphatic fashion, enjoying big wins away to Bulgaria and Northern Ireland to wrap up qualifying. They were able to celebrate qualifying early and this match saw the nation cheer them towards the finals. Fog postponed the match by 24 hours, but when it took place Dave Watson opened the scoring early on. In the second half came the most memorable moment, as young debutant Glenn Hoddle scored a brilliant side-footed shot to wrap up the victory. The nation was now looking forward to Hoddle starring in midfield during the 1980s. It didn’t always work out quite like that, but more than 50 caps would be won by the Spurs player.

 

Luxembourg (h) 9-0, December 1982
Wembley
By the early 1980s, the cliche “no easy games in international football” was being dished out with increased frequency and England’s shock defeat to Norway the previous year was still fresh in the mind. But there was one true exception to the rule in an era before the likes of Andorra and San Marino came on the European national scene and that was Luxembourg. Played just 10 days before Christmas, England tore the minnows to shreds and Luther Blissett helped himself to a hat-trick. They led 4-0 by half-time but it will still only 6-0 with five minutes to go, as some gloss was added to the scoreline with three further efforts – the last coming from a Phil Neal cross that the visiting goalkeeper failed to deal with. But Bobby Robson would come unstuck in his first qualifying tournament, England finishing second to an excellent Denmark side, who won 1-0 at Wembley the following September to move to the brink of qualification.

 

Yugoslavia (a) 4-1, November 1987
Belgrade
England had one of their best qualifying campaigns in reaching Euro ’88 with some clinical displays in front of goal including an 8-0 win over Turkey. However, they went into their final match in the group needing to get a result in Yugoslavia to ensure their place in West Germany. Within 25 minutes all doubts had been shattered as England led 4-0 against a decent side thanks to goals from Peter Beardsley, John Barnes, Bryan Robson and Tony Adams. The hosts pulled a goal back late on but it was a mere consolation in a game that would stand out as one of the best matches of Bobby Robson’s reign in charge. Sadly, the tournament itself would prove a particular disappointment for England.

 

Scotland (a) 2-0, November 1999 (play-off, first leg)
Glasgow
Probably the most hyped-up European Championship qualifying matches involving England were their play-off fixtures against Scotland in November 1999.  The sides had met just once in the previous decade, as a new generation of England players prepared to make their first trip to Hampden Park. It had been a poor qualifying campaign from England in which they won just one match out of six against the other top four sides (beating Poland in Kevin Keegan’s first game in charge, the only other wins in the group being against Luxembourg) and they had been reliant on Poland losing their final match to Sweden to scrap into the play-offs. Further good fortune helped them over the qualifying line against the Scots. The first-leg at Hampden Park saw them triumph 2-0 with Paul Scholes getting both goals to leave them firmly on course for the finals. Kevin Keegan’s side should have been home and dry but proceeded to lose the return leg 1-0 at Wembley four days later, almost throwing away their Hampden Park success.

 

Turkey (h) 2-0, April 2003
Sunderland
In the qualifying campaign for Euro 2004, it was clear from the start it would be a head-to-head fight for top spot between England and Turkey. The Turks had made massive strides from their thrashings by England in the 1980s and had just finished third in the World Cup. Sadly not all the headlines from this meeting at the Stadium of Light were made by what happened on the pitch, but the match brought a priceless win for England. 17-year-old Wayne Rooney shone on his first start for England and he helped the Three Lions triumph 2-0 thanks to late goals from Darius Vassell and David Beckham (penalty), going on to win the group with a 0-0 draw in the return game in October that again attracted plenty of talking points.