This summer marked 50 years since England won the World Cup. Today we look at how the players fared if they moved into football management afterwards..
The baby of the 1966 side would be the last of the team still working as a football manager when he led Portsmouth for a second time in the late 1990s. His managerial career would be written off by some as a catastrophic failure, but a case can also be made for him being the second most successful manager from the 1966 XI (after Jack Charlton). At Blackpool, Portsmouth, Stoke City, Exeter City and Manchester City he would be in charge for at least part of a season in which relegation was sustained, although only on two occasions was he at the helm for an entire demotion campaign.
His reign with Manchester City would do most damage to his reputation, not helped by the lasting memory of him wrongly believing a draw was enough to keep them up against Liverpool on the last day of 1995-96. At Stoke he would also endure an unhappy time, while his image as a failure was not helped by being part of Graham Taylor’s England set-up.
But on the South Coast he would be remembered more fondly for his time in the dugout. With Portsmouth the side just missed out on promotion to the top-flight in 1985 and 1986, before they finally made it in 1987. Although they would be immediately relegated back down, Ball had provided Pompey’s first season in the First Division for almost 30 years and in 1997-98 he returned to pull off a great escape to stop them slipping into the third tier.
In between he took charge at Pompey’s arch-rivals Southampton, a club he had served as a player in two spells (the second of them after his managerial reign at Blackpool ended). Bringing out the best in Matt Le Tissier, Ball led the Saints to Premier League safety in 1993-94 and again kept them up the following season. Although his decision to leave for Man City proved unpopular as well as ill-fated, Ball had again enjoyed more managerial success than critics might remember him having.
The summer of 1973 saw both Charlton brothers retire from playing and move into football management with Second Division clubs. While Jack went to Middlesbrough, Bobby joined Preston North End and it summed up how different the brothers were that they would endure vastly contrasting seasons. We’ll deal with Jack below but Bobby learnt the hard way as North End were relegated to the Third Division.
It was a failure that would often be cited by those proclaiming great players don’t make great managers. When a director of Manchester United more than a decade later, Charlton expressed reservations about the club wanting to splash out on defender Terry Butcher. Angry manager Ron Atkinson snapped back that Butcher might have been good enough to help Preston avoid relegation when Charlton was manager. That season with Preston remained a stigma his managerial career could never shake off.
Bobby Charlton came out of playing retirement while with Preston.
Charlton came out of retirement to combine management with playing for the next year, but he quit early in 1975-76 in protest at John Bird being sold to Newcastle United. Apart from a spell as caretaker manager at Wigan Athletic, Charlton would not take charge of a team again. Instead he found other post-playing career pursuits that he felt more comfortable with, including running a soccer school, being on the board at Old Trafford and holding ambassadorial roles within the game.
Bar perhaps the odd Newcastle United fan still bitter about his short reign there in the mid-1980s and those who loathed the direct style of play he became associated with, most people would have no hesitation in proclaiming Jack Charlton as the most successful manager to emerge from the Boys of ’66. As brother Bobby headed down from the Second Division in 1974, Jack was going up from it as Middlesbrough romped to the title. For a time the following season it seemed they might even become champions of England, eventually finishing seventh but just five points off the top. After two mid-table finishes he left in 1977 and then focused on an even greater challenge.
Despite the size of their support, Sheffield Wednesday were bottom of the Third Division when Charlton took over in October 1977. By the time he departed in 1983 they were a good Second Division side (winning promotion the season after he left), narrowly missing out on both promotion to the top-flight and a place in the FA Cup Final towards the end of his reign. After a brief spell as caretaker boss back at Middlesbrough, Charlton took charge of newly-promoted Newcastle in 1984. Despite leading the side to safety and handing Paul Gascoigne his first-team debut, Charlton struggled to win admirers in his native North-East and quit after barracking at a pre-season friendly in 1985. It was the one real low point in his managerial days.
But for all his years in club management, it would be on the international stage that he would be remembered most in the eyes of many. Charlton was snubbed by England when the manager’s job became vacant in 1977 and it was a rejection he would not forget in a hurry. After the Newcastle ordeal, Englishman Charlton was the surprising choice to manage Republic of Ireland midway through the 1985-86 season. Despite having players of the calibre of Liam Brady, Mark Lawrenson and Frank Stapleton in their ranks and enduring a few near-misses, the Irish had never qualified for a major tournament. But Charlton would soon put that right, steering them to Euro ’88 and exacting revenge on his homeland by beating England during the tournament – the first of four competitive meetings in as many years in which the Irish did not lose to the English.
He then led the Irish to the quarter-finals of Italia ’90 and – after failing to qualify for Euro ’92 behind England despite finishing unbeaten – the last 16 of the 1994 World Cup, famously beating Italy in the group stage. That perhaps should have been the natural time to leave, Charlton blotting his copybook slightly by overseeing the side’s failure to make it to the expanded finals of Euro ’96. But Charlton remained a much-loved figure in Ireland, having transformed their footballing fortunes.
Charlton’s bluntness and not being afraid to get his sides playing it long when necessary did not make him everyone’s cup of tea, but in a 21-year managerial career the successes comfortably outweighed the failures and he had more concrete achievements on his managerial CV than any of his 1966 colleagues. It has been suggested that his success in management stemmed from being arguably the least naturally talented footballer in the 1966 side, something we will leave for another day to assess…
A decade after scoring a hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup Final, Geoff Hurst was turning out for non-league Telford United as player-manager. After narrowly avoiding relegation from the Southern Premier League in his first season, Hurst made progress and eventually steered them to third place in 1978-79 and qualification for the new Alliance Premier League (National League today).
Geoff Hurst (left) with assistant Bobby Gould at Chelsea.
Hurst was then lured back into the professional game, becoming assistant boss at Chelsea who had just been relegated to the Second Division. He soon found himself as manager in place of Danny Blanchflower, seeing promotion slip through their grasp as they missed out by one place. The following campaign all seemed to be going well, Match of the Day viewers seeing a 6-0 win over Newcastle United in October that left them in the promotion spots.
But things would soon fall apart in alarming fashion. For all Hurst’s goalscoring ability as a player, he just could not get his side to find the net in the second half of the campaign. Incredibly they failed to score in 19 of their last 22 league games, slipping into mid-table with Hurst sacked before the final game. It proved the end of his managerial career in England, although he would continue to be part of Ron Greenwood’s coaching staff with the England side and had a spell managing in Kuwait. However, he would soon move into working in the insurance industry and find himself in demand within football in ambassadorial roles.
What might have been. In the summer of 1977 the Watford manager’s job became vacant and pop star chairman Elton John was all set to hand former England captain Bobby Moore the role. Moore, who had just retired from playing professionally, headed off on holiday believing the job was his, only to soon discover Lincoln City’s Graham Taylor had instead been lured to Vicarage Road. It is questionable if Moore could have matched what Taylor achieved in the ensuing years at Watford, but he would have had more chance of achieving success than he gained elsewhere.
Bobby Moore managed Southend United in the mid-1980s.
Sadly, Moore was left as something of an outsider in his post-football career and his first managerial role raised a few eyebrows as he took over at non-league Oxford City, being assisted by Harry Redknapp. Moore was yet another managerial departure at the end of 1980-81 – having suffered relegation from the Isthmian Premier League a year earlier. “We had no chance,” reflected Redknapp in Matt Dickinson’s biography of Moore. “We didn’t know the league, we didn’t know the players. We didn’t have a clue.” The book also revealed Moore rejected the potential opportunity to move to First Division Norwich City as John Bond’s successor during the period.
After a spell in Hong Kong, Moore became team boss of Southend United after already serving as chief executive at Roots Hall. Moore was unable to save them from relegation to the Fourth Division after he took over during the 1983-84 season, while he would soon find the club fighting for its very existence. But the 1985-86 campaign finally seemed to mark a turning point, Southend looking serious promotion contenders in the first half of the campaign. Then came a slump that left them finishing mid-table. Although viewers of the BBC series Summer of ’66 saw Moore at work on the Southend training ground, by the time the show went out in May 1986 he had already left his role as manager – never holding such a position again.
If 1980-81 was a bad season for Geoff Hurst, then it was even worse for England’s other goalscorer in the 1966 final. Martin Peters had joined Sheffield United as a player-coach in the summer, the club punching below their traditional weight in the Third Division. Midway through the season Peters became manager in place of Harry Hallam, calling time on his playing days to focus on the job. But it’s fair to say it didn’t go well, just three wins being achieved in the rest of the season as the Blades sank into deep relegation trouble. To compound matters, young goalkeeper Keith Solomon died suddenly on the training ground during Peters’ reign.
Martin Peters playing for Sheffield United.
It came down to the final day of the season, Don Givens failing to score a last-gasp penalty against Walsall as the Saddlers stayed up while United went down. The fact the Blades had finished with a positive goal difference and they were a mere three points off a place in the top half was no consolation for a club that was at its lowest ever point. Peters unsurprisingly left and would not manage again, his next footballing role being turning out for non-league Gorleston as he pursued a career outside the sport.
Given his tough-tackling reputation on the field, it’s surprising to read why Nobby Stiles did not find football management easy. “I had come to suspect that I simply wasn’t hard enough to be a manager,” he said in 2003. “When I told a kid he was finished I felt his pain. I couldn’t put enough distance between me and the player, the hopeful lad and the scarred old pro, and me the manager who, in his own way, had to play God.”
Nobby Stiles playing for Preston, where he later became manager.
Yet Stiles was far from a total failure in management. After briefly being caretaker manager of Preston North End after Bobby Charlton left in 1975, he returned two years later to take permanent charge. His first season ended in promotion, followed by an impressive seventh spot in the Second Division in 1978-79 and 10th place a year later. But 1980-81 was to be the annus horribilis for the Boys of ’66, Stiles joining several of his former colleagues on the managerial scrapheap as the side suffered relegation. It was close, North End only going down on goal difference after runaway champions West Ham United failed to win at Cardiff City. It cost Stiles his job, although he conceded this may have been a blessing in disguise as he was feeling unwell at the time.
Stiles would later manage Canadian side Vancouver Whitecaps before returning to England, working at West Bromwich Albion where he took charge of for a short spell during their awful 1985-86 relegation season. He was at a low ebb but would later find a happier niche, working as youth team coach with his beloved Manchester United.
And the rest…
Two other members of the 1966 side entered management at non-league level only, with Gordon Banks following Hurst to Telford United and George Cohen having a spell at the helm with Tonbridge Angels – the latter winning the Kent Senior Cup. The only two members of the 1966 XI who did not become managers were Roger Hunt and Ray Wilson. When media interest in the whereabouts of the 1966 side took off two decades later, the new careers of the said pair were perhaps the most intriguing – Hunt running a haulage firm and Wilson well-established as an undertaker.
Of the rest of the squad, Jimmy Armfield would enjoy success as he led Bolton Wanderers to the Third Division title in 1972-73. He then moved to Leeds United in the wake of Brian Clough’s infamous reign there, reaching the European Cup final in his first season. Norman Hunter made a positive start in management with Barnsley by winning promotion from Division Three in 1980-81 and then mounting a further promotion challenge the following season.
But he would eventually be sacked and struggle to replicate the success at Rotherham United. Ron Flowers had a stint as player-manager at Northampton Town and later proceeded Hurst and Banks as Telford United manager, while George Eastham took over at Stoke City towards the end of their 1976-77 relegation season. He was unable to steer them back up and left midway through the following campaign. Terry Paine had a spell as Cheltenham Town boss prior to them entering the Football League
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…
Thirty years ago Gary Lineker continued his rich goalscoring streak for England and proved he could score more than just tap-ins when he produced a marvellous second goal in a 3-0 win against Northern Ireland at Wembley…
Last weekend, almost 82,000 were at Wembley to see England host Malta in a World Cup qualifier – their first home match after flopping at Euro 2016. In the same week 30 years ago, England were playing their first home game after reaching the quarter-finals at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. It carried the added ingredient of being a European Championship qualifier against fellow UK opposition in Northern Ireland, who had also been present at the World Cup finals. And yet the turnout was a mere 35,304, even though it was not being screened live on television. Such was the way of life in the mid-1980s, as football lacked the pulling power of both before and since. But those who did pass through the Wembley turnstiles were rewarded as they saw a moment of magic from Gary Lineker.
A year to remember
1986 had certainly been a year to remember for Lineker. Despite Everton narrowly missing out on major honours in the 1985-86 season, Lineker won a series of personal accolades including being the PFA and Football Writers’ Association player of the year and First Division top scorer. He followed it up by winning the Golden Boot at the 1986 World Cup, memorably scoring six times for England in the tournament. And then he made a big-money move to Barcelona, his status as a star name in European football continually growing. On October 15 he was back in England, turning out at Wembley for the first time since he had scored for Everton in their FA Cup final defeat by Liverpool in May.
The trophies were piling up for Gary Lineker in 1986.
When Northern Ireland had last visited Wembley 11 months earlier, they ground out the 0-0 draw they needed to join England at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. But their hero from that night was no longer on the scene, veteran goalkeeper Pat Jennings having retired after the finals. He was proving pretty irreplaceable, manager Billy Bingham – who in a curious move got married on the day of this qualifier – having to select uncapped Phil Hughes of Third Division Bury between the sticks. Bingham was facing a rebuilding exercise, with some of the old favourites no longer involved and veteran Sammy McIlroy dropped to the bench.
Every member of the England starting XI had been to the World Cup except Dave Watson, although Viv Anderson had not played any matches and captain Bryan Robson’s tournament was blighted by injury. Headlines were being made by Ray Wilkins being axed from the side, not even making it onto the substitute’s bench. Just one more cap would follow for the midfielder, his international career never really recovering from his dismissal against Morocco at the 1986 World Cup.
Gary Lineker chips home England’s third against Northern Ireland.
With 33 minutes gone, England made the vital breakthrough. Lineker showed his trademark potency from close range as he was on hand to score from the edge of the six-yard box following a corner. But England were unable to build on their lead until 15 minutes from the end, Chris Waddle converting after Peter Beardsley’s effort was deflected into his path. England could now relax and five minutes later came the match’s defining moment.
Lineker’s moment of magic
It began with Glenn Hoddle putting his foot in to win the ball at the expense of two opponents and feeding Beardsley, who played a neat ball through to striking partner Lineker. He held off John McClelland’s challenge and, on the turn, produced a delightful chip with his left foot to beat Hughes. The ball went in off the inside of the post, Lineker wheeling away in delight. “That’s a lovely effort and a fine goal,” purred John Motson, commentating for BBC highlights. “Beautifully taken and the Beardsley-Lineker combination works again.”
As was often the case during his England career, Lineker found Beardsley to be the ideal partner up front. It had been a goal that went against the stereotypes, with Hoddle doing the dirty work to break up the play and Lineker scoring in style from distance rather than close range. It also wrapped up a decent victory for England.
The 3-0 win represented a good start to Euro ’88 qualifying for Bobby Robson’s men. But Lineker was dominating the headlines, particularly as Robson was absolutely brimming with delight about what the player was producing. “He’s possibly just about the greatest striker in the world today. [Diego] Maradona is a wonderfully gifted player with dribbling ability, but would he score more goals?” he asked rhetorically. Robson was also full of praise about Lineker’s superb goal. “I said to Gary ‘what a great goal to score at Wembley, son. I envy you’,” he excitedly told the media.
Lineker, who now had 14 goals from just 19 internationals, was somewhat surprised by his wondergoal. “I really don’t know how I scored my second goal,” he said. “It was as big a shock to me as everyone else.” The previous year Lineker had scored a tremendous volley away to the USA, but he was adamant this one was the best. “It is certainly the most spectacular goal I have ever scored for England,” he proclaimed. “It’s the sort of goal that happens very occasionally as far as I’m concerned.”
Bingham, whose wedding night had not exactly gone to plan, was graciously full of praise for the England striker when quizzed afterwards. “I think Lineker is superb. He has ability and if he gets the service he is lethal. He has that killer instinct,” said Bingham, who no doubt wished the player was Northern Irish.
Lineker failed to score when England beat Yugoslavia the following month, but in February 1987 he famously netted four times as England beat Spain 4-2 in Madrid. The player’s reputation was growing all the time and a hat-trick against Turkey in October 1987 moved England to the brink of Euro ’88 qualification. The 3-0 home victory over Northern Ireland would rarely be recalled except for one moment – Lineker’s delightful finish, one that was so different to his stereotypical close range finishing. As Lineker himself reflected afterwards: “Most of mine come from inside the six-yard box so naturally I’m delighted.” Most of the small crowd at Wembley that night 30 years ago shared the delight too.
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…
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
The recent appointment of Sam Allardyce as England manager has led to speculation that Mark Noble will win his first international cap, having played under Allardyce at West Ham United. But should the call never come then Noble can probably take some comfort in not being the first Hammer to be thwarted in his international ambitions. Club legend Billy Bonds would come closer than most, but ultimately take his place in many people’s England uncapped XI…
There are a lot of names put forward whenever the subjects of England’s most notable uncapped players comes up, but one you can guarantee will be mentioned is Billy Bonds. The man who turned 70 last week played 758 Football League matches in a 24-year professional career with Charlton Athletic and, mostly, West Ham United. While giving extraordinarily long service to the latter he captained them to two FA Cup triumphs and he was called up to the England squad. But Bonds would just fall short, never pulling on an England shirt after under-23s level.
Bonds had a fairly fearless reputation on the field but off it he was seen as a quiet man. His friend Trevor Brooking, who played alongside him at West Ham for many years, believes this probably helped cost Bonds his England chance. “Had he pushed himself to the forefront more I believe he would have played for England. He’s one of the best players of my generation never to have won an England cap,” wrote Brooking in his autobiography.
Harry Redknapp, who played and worked with Bonds at West Ham before the pair fell out when he replaced him as manager in 1994, also hailed Bonds’ playing ability. “Billy Bonds was the most fantastic player,” he wrote in his autobiography. “What would West Ham United, or any other club for that matter, give to have him now? He could play central midfield, centre-back, full-back; he was fearless in the tackle, he could run all day.” As we will see though, not everyone thought quite so highly of Bonds.
Greenwood calls up Bonds
Bonds would twice look set to be capped, only for the dream to cruelly be dashed. He had played for England twice at under-23 level, but he was 31 when his first real chink of light emerged. His old West Ham boss Ron Greenwood was appointed caretaker manager in 1977 and in November Bonds was called into the full squad for the final World Cup qualifier at home to Italy. All looked to be going well for Bonds, who had missed much of the season through injury but was now back in action.
The call-up for Bonds was not met with universal approval, Norman Fox in The Times rather dismissively describing him as “a player who probably has many equals who would not be considered”. But Greenwood was keen to play down any suggestions he was handing out favours to a player who had served him well previously, insisting Bonds had been picked after recommendations from others. The fact he was versatile and could operate in midfield or defence helped Bonds’ cause.
The player found support from Daily Mirror sports writer Frank McGhee, a man who tended to shoot from the hip. “Ron Greenwood has done something daft, delightful and possibly inspired in what could be his final act as England manager,” he wrote. “He has put into his squad to play against, and probably lose to, Italy at Wembley next week, a 31-year-old unranked but very effective person whom he will remember from his West Ham days – a guy called Billy Bonds. You wouldn’t rate Bonds a particularly good player, but then neither are many of the other 22 players Greenwood named yesterday. England just don’t happen to have many good players. What Bonds happens to have is something special. It is called character and I have always been convinced that this quality is the surest way of bridging the considerable gap between club and international football.”
Bonds was left watching on as England beat Italy.
And then came a club match against West Bromwich Albion just four days before the Italy clash. Greenwood would unfortunately see Bonds find the going tough in a 3-3 draw. David Miller wrote in the Daily Express: “The message to Ron Greenwood as he sat watching a 3-3 draw at Upton Park was crystal clear: his call to Billy Bonds comes several years too late for the rugged warhorse.” On the eve of the game the team was announced, with Bonds only on the bench. Greenwood insisted Bonds had only been selected for the squad as defensive cover, with his first-choice selections given the green light to play.
Bonds watched on as England beat Italy 2-0, a result that proved uplifting but insufficient for the team to reach the World Cup finals. Greenwood was given the job permanently but Bonds would stay uncapped as he moved towards his mid-30s. West Ham’s relegation in 1978 did not help his cause either. But then came the 1980-81 season, an Indian summer for Bonds. A year on from lifting the FA Cup for the second time, Bonds captained West Ham to the League Cup final against Liverpool, played in Europe and helped his side to a dominant Second Division title. And in May 1981 another call came from Greenwood.
The cap that almost was
England had a decimated squad for the friendly against Brazil and the Home Internationals that would follow, with their defensive options particularly limited. Greenwood looked towards his former club, believing Bonds and promising youngster Alvin Martin could fill the void. Just a few months short of his 35th birthday, Bonds was in line to become one of England’s oldest debutants. “I thought my chance had passed by years ago,” admitted Bonds, who added that he would be particularly pleased for his father if he was capped at last. It was reported Charlton stood to scoop a belated £2,500 bonus if Bonds played, owing to a clause in the deal when he left them in 1967.
All that was left was one end-of-season match for West Ham on a Friday night at Sheffield Wednesday, with the title already long wrapped up. Just 90 more minutes of club football to get through and then he could at last represent his country at full level. West Ham won, but Bonds injured his ribs after a clash with goalkeeper Phil Parkes. He played on and was adamant that he, along with Martin who had also picked up a knock, would be fit for the Brazil match. “I’m 99% sure we will be ok for the internationals. But we will know for sure in the morning,” Bonds said, having helped his side finish 13 points clear at the top (a huge amount under two points for a win).
Was he trying to put a brave face on it or did his injury seem less severe than the reality? Because Bonds would duly be ruled out of representing his country, as Martin (the only recognised central defender in the side) duly made his debut during a 1-0 defeat to Brazil. For Bonds there was a feeling his last realistic chance had passed. And so it proved. No caps would come his way.
But Bonds continued to serve West Ham well, playing for them beyond his 40th birthday in the top-flight until he finally called it a day in 1988 (later becoming manager). That year also saw him appointed an MBE and collect the PFA Merit Award in recognition of his contribution to the sport. Bonds may not have won any full England caps, but he had enjoyed a career to be proud of.