This Was The Week

The Murder of Andrés Escobar: 20 Years On

by Karl Hofer.


Escobar was a much loved football star in Colombia

On 22 June 1994 Andrés Escobar scored an own goal in a World Cup group match between the United States and Colombia when in the 34th minute he deflected a cross from the former Derby and Sheffield Wednesday midfielder John Harkes into his own net. The US added a second a few minutes into the second half when Earnie Stewart capped off a fine move with a delicate finish. Colombian striker Adolfo Valencia restored some pride a minute from time but the match ended 2-1 and Colombia were subsequently eliminated from the tournament, despite defeating Switzerland in their last group match.

Nothing remarkable there; every four years a number of nations depart from the World Cup earlier than they perhaps envisaged and fans have to deal with the disappointment. In Colombia however that disappointment was more palpable than most. Pele himself had said pre-tournament that Colombia, inspired by the great Carlos Valderrama, could go all the way and win it that year, but it wasn’t to be.


On July 2nd, ten days after he had diverted the ball past his own goalkeeper in Los Angeles, Escobar was murdered in cold blood after being shot twelve times in the parking lot of a nightclub in his hometown of Medellín.

Humberto Muñoz, a bodyguard and driver for leading members of a Colombian drug cartel, was arrested shortly after the shooting and charged with murder. He confessed and was eventually given a 43-year sentence – but he was freed in 2005 for good behavior.

In the immediate aftermath of the murder the media were quickly speculating that the shooting was in retribution for Escobar’s own goal, including theories that he had been targeted by drug lords or gambling syndicates who had bet heavily on Colombia at the World Cup.

Most people believe that Muñoz was merely a hired gun and say it was cartel leaders who ordered the hit. Others believe the murder was merely a reflection of the lawlessness that gripped Colombia back then. We may never know for sure, but for Colombia, a country plagued by decades of guerrilla conflict fueled by drug trafficking, the killing stands out as one of the nation’s moments of ignominy.


In an interview with the Wall Street Journal the 50 year-old brother of Escobar revealed his anguish; “My brother was a respectful, honest man,” Santiago Escobar said. “He left a great memory, a great mark on Colombia, and we will commemorate him on July 2nd this year, as we do every year.”

The death of Andrés Escobar was a traumatic one, not just for his family but for the nation as a whole. But it may well have been the catalyst for some degree of change.

Thankfully things have improved greatly in Colombia over the last 20 years and, while many of the issues that plagued the country in 1994 still remain, it is no longer the anarchic hotbed of violence and corruption it perhaps was.

As the 20th anniversary of his murder arrives this week the memory of Andrés Escobar will never be forgotten, but the country is fighting hard to overcome its reputation and as Colombia prepare to take on the hosts Brazil on Friday in the quarter finals of the World Cup, perhaps a new, more positive image can start to be cultivated for this beautiful and passionate land.


The moment that made Andres Escobar a marked man


England Victorious!?! Even Though the Azzurri Denied them Third Place – England meet Italy at the World Cup

Trevor Steven moves away from Italy's Carlo Ancelotti with the ball

Trevor Steven moves away from Italy’s Carlo Ancelotti with the ball

by Richard Bowdery.

It was 24 years ago that England last played Italy during the World Cup Finals.

Prior to that game in the 1990 tournament, England faced an auld enemy – no, not Scotland, West Germany – in the semi-final: a match which introduced the footballing world to the Tears of Gazza.

You may recall he was booked during the game which meant he could not play in the Final (against Argentina, the conquerors of Italy in the other semi), should England overcome their Teutonic neighbour from across the Channel.

He needn’t have worried. A penalty shoot-out put paid to any hopes the nation had of reaching the pinnacle of world football – a position they had not reached since the heroics of ’66.

The third place play-off, on 7 July against Italy, was no more than the warm up act for the main event the following day which was won by West Germany 1-0. It was the last time the victors took to the field with West as an appendage to their name, following the collapse of Communism a year earlier.

But against the Azzurri England failed to deliver, going down by the odd goal in three.

Baggio opened the scoring on 71 minutes following an error by Shilton playing his 125th and last international. Platt netted an equalizer 10 minutes later with a bullet of a header, only for Schillaci to win it for the Italians with a penalty 4 minutes from time.


The players from both sides enjoy a Mexican wave after the match

The teams that day were:


Peter Shilton (c)
Gary Stevens
Des Walker
Gary Steven
Paul Parker
Mark Wright (73 Chris Waddle)
Steve McMahon (73 Neil Webb)
David Platt
Tony Dorigo
Gary Lineker
Peter Beardsley


Bergomi (c)
de Agostini (68 Berti)
Giannini (90 Ferri)

You may have noticed one Carlo Ancelotti in the Italian line up – the former Chelsea manager and three times winner of the European Cup, equaling Bob Paisley’s record.

But if England didn’t win the tournament or get third place, what did they win?

What seems ingrained in the British psyche, sometimes to our detriment, is fair play. And that is what England won in 1990: the Fair Play award, for having received no reds and the fewest number of yellow cards across the Finals.

This year the nation hopes England go all the way. And let someone else win the Fair Play award.

But first there is a little matter of settling a 24 year old score on 14 June. Come on England!

“I’m a Substitute for Another Guy”
WHO were the first substitutes to appear and score in a Cup Final?

by Richard Bowdery.

Today the use of substitutes is an integral part football and the FA Cup is no exception. Yet it wasn’t all that long ago when if you weren’t in the team on Cup Final day, you would have no chance of playing in the end of season showpiece.

First ever substitute

Dennis Clarke

Dennis Clarke

That changed in the 1968 Final played on 18 May when West Bromwich Albion faced Everton at Wembley.

The only goal of the game was scored by West Brom’s Jeff Astle in the first period of extra time which forever etched him into Baggies folklore.

But the real history making event occurred when West Brom defender Dennis Clarke came on to replace the injured John Kaye. He was the first substitute to be used in an FA Cup Final.

And you have to go almost as far back to find the first substitute to score in a Final.

First scoring substitute
On a barmy day in May 1971 Arsenal lined up against Liverpool. A win would complete a dramatic double – League and FA Cup winners – for the Gunners, the first club to achieve it since Spurs a decade earlier.

Arsenal fell behind to a Steve Heighway opener for Liverpool in extra time. But parity was restored when Arsenal substitute, Eddie Kelly, steered a George Graham shot across the line in the 101st minute.

Charlie George fired the winner past a despairing Ray Clemence. George’s siesta after scoring will be forever remembered by the Gooners at Wembley and those watching the match on TV.

Quiz organisers
If you organise quiz competitions and are stuck for a decent footballing question, this information on Cup Final substitutes should provide the answer.

Until next time
This column is taking a well-deserved rest and will be back at the start of next season (although it may feature during the World Cup next month).

So, with apologies to the late, great Brian Moore, “Goodbye and thank you for reading.”

See you next season!

Going Right to the Wire!
1977: City and Liverpool Battle it out for the Title, Sunderland Fight the Drop

Richard Bowdery looks at the last time City and Liverpool were this close in a title race – oh, and it was touch and go at the bottom too!

You have to go back many years to find the last time Manchester City and Liverpool were neck and neck for the League title: 27 in fact.

And while City and Liverpool were vying for the League Champions crown, at the other end of the table ten clubs were battling it out to avoid relegation.

It was the 1976/77 season – Manchester United had appointed Dave Sexton as manager, after Tommy Docherty was sacked following his affair with the wife of the club’s physiotherapist. Don Revie announced his resignation as England manager after three years and headed to the Middle East to fill up his tank. And Wimbledon FC, that season’s Isthmian League champions, were elected to the Football League replacing Workington.

It was Liverpool who edged the title by a single point. Their 57 points from 42 games might not seem much today but remember this was in an era when only two points were awarded for a win.

Liverpool were going for the treble but stuttered in the FA Cup Final which they lost to Manchester United, 2-1.

Four days later order was restored when the Reds defeated West Germany’s Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-1, in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, to become only the second English side to lift the European Cup.

At the other end of the First Division the contenders for demotion had been whittled down to six. They were Bristol City, Coventry, Stoke City, Sunderland, Tottenham, and West Ham United.

Spurs were the first to fall through the trap door but a surprise 2-1 victory for Bristol City over Liverpool kept City’s hopes alive.

Stoke lost to Aston Villa by the only goal of the game to confirm their demotion leaving one vacancy to be filled.

Three teams, Bristol City, Coventry and Sunderland battled for the points to stay up in their last game of the season.


Norman Hunter joined Bristol City from Leeds in October 1976 and helped keep them up

In a twist Bristol faced Coventry at the Sky Blues Highfield Road ground, while Sunderland travelled to Everton.

Conspiracy theorists must have had a field day, as the two teams drew 2-2. Though it didn’t matter as Sunderland went down 2-0 to Everton and so occupied the final berth on the ship sailing for Division Two.

The relegation battle that season had one of the closest finishes in the League’s history with five points separating the bottom ten teams. Nails must have been bitten to the quick.

So the parallels between 1976/77 and 2013/14 are eerily similar. Will Sunderland stay up? Will Manchester City get their revenge? All will be revealed over the coming week…

Goal Rush!
The Master Marksman Who Took Aim at the Club Record

A teenage Rush playing for Chester in the FA Cup against Ipswich in 1980

A teenage Rush playing for Chester in the FA Cup against Ipswich in 1980

By Richard Bowdery

Ian Rush was a man on a mission, although it took him a little while to get going.

The tall, gangly 17 year old made his debut for Chester FC on the 28 April 1979 as a midfielder! But his goal scoring potential was spotted early by Liverpool who signed him in 1980 for £300,000, then a record fee for a teenager.

After signing for the Merseyside giants he suffered something of a goal drought which lasted eight games. In his ninth start for the first team the dam burst when he scored his first goal for the club and his record breaking career began.

Such was Rush’s prowess in front of goal his teammates described him as their first line of defence. They reasoned that if the opposition was tied up defending against the threat of Rush scoring, the Liverpool goal was not in any danger. Makes sense when you look at it like that.

Yet in those early days you would be hard pushed to get a Liverpool fan, especially one of their older fans, to stand up and say that the new kid on the block would overtake Roger Hunt’s record of 286 goals in 492 appearances.

All that changed in the 1981/82 season with his tally of 30 goals in 49 appearances. Not only did it announce his arrival in the only way a striker knows how, it also captured the Kop’s heart. The Liverpool number nine was on his way to becoming a club legend.

But those 30 goals palled when compared with his 50 goals for club and country (two for Wales) in the 83/84 season which earned him Europe’s Golden Boot award. He was the first British player to win it.

Then in 1986 came the shock news that he was moving to Juventus; which resulted in a ‘Rushie must stay’ campaign. Despite the campaign’s best efforts Rush left Anfield and it looked as if Roger Hunt’s club record was safe. But looks can be deceptive.

To the relief of many Liverpudlians, Rush’s Italian sojourn ended after just one season and he made a sensational return to Merseyside.

Rush with his mum in 1986.

Rush with his mum in 1986.

He is reported as saying that: “Moving to Turin was like living in a foreign country.” What did he think: that Turin was just south-east of Bootle? I suppose when you can score regularly at the highest level, as he could, you’re apt to forgive his geographical faux paux.

However, was everyone was pleased to see him return? Rush lookalike John Aldridge, who had been bought in to fill the void left by the goal machine, now had to share top billing.

After two and a half years, the pairing of Rush and Aldridge up front came to an end when Liverpool accepted £1.1m from Real Sociedad for their number eight. In Spain he continued his goal scoring prowess and became a firm favourite among the Basque fans.

The question remains: would he have gone if Rush hadn’t returned? Probably not.

Rush continued as if he had never been away, scoring goals for fun right up until the 95/96 season when he left Liverpool on a free transfer to join Leeds United.

After leaving Leeds his footballing journey took him to Newcastle United, Sheffield United, Wrexham, and Sydney Olympic (in Australia).

But it is his 346 goals scored in 660 appearances for Liverpool for which he will always be remembered in the red half of Merseyside.

Is Rush’s record in danger of being overtaken? In an age when players in the top flight probably move more frequently between clubs than ever before, the answer must be no. But if Liverpool can hold on to their inform striker Luis Suarez – at the time of writing he has scored 81 goals for the club – who knows?

As Charles Dickens wrote in his novel Pickwick Papers: “Never say never.”

Don’t Abandon Hope!
Learning a Lesson from Manchester United’s Past

by Richard Bowdery.

With David Moyes gone and Manchester United out of the Champions League for the first time in 20 years, many of the club’s fans could be forgiven for thinking the rot has set in, regardless of who the board appoint as Moyes’ replacement.

But before they get too despondent they would do well to consult some of their older fellow fans.

Six years after lifting the European Cup at Wembley in May 1968, the Red Devils found themselves starring down the barrel of relegation at the end of the 1973/74 season.

This demise followed the success of Sir Matt Busby’s 25 year reign. During his time at the helm across three decades he achieved tremendous success.

• In the 1946/47 season, the first following the Second World War, United were runners up to Liverpool in Division One. It was their highest league position for 36 years.
• His 1948 side lifted the FA Cup for the first time in nearly 40 years.
• During the fifties United were crowned League champions on three occasions: 1951/52, 55/56 and 56/57. Sadly the Munich disaster in February 1958 put paid to any further honours – although they were runners up in that year’s Cup Final, won by Bolton Wanderers and in the League the following season.
• They lifted the Cup again in 1963 beating Leicester City 3-1.
• The 1964/65 season saw them crowned League champions pipping Leeds United on goal difference and again in 66/67.
• In 1968 United famously trounced Benfica 4-1 (after extra time) in that year’s European Cup Final at Wembley. Busby had rebuilt the club to reach the pinnacle of European football a decade after Munich.

In 1969 Sir Matt, who had been knighted the previous year, retired. After nearly three decades of success many of United’s fans could be forgiven for wondering whether the club’s success would continue; much as when Ferguson retired.

Two new managers, Wilf McGuiness and Frank O’Farrell, came and went in quick succession – with Busby temporarily steeping back up to the plate between their two short reigns.

In 1969 Wilf McGuinness took over from Sir Matt Busby and endured a torrid time at Old Trafford.

In 1969 Wilf McGuinness took over from Sir Matt Busby and endured a torrid time at Old Trafford.

Then Tommy Docherty was hired but he couldn’t halt the club’s slide into Division Two on 27 April 1974.

The irony of that season defining game was when old boy Denis Law, released by Manchester United the previous July and signed by Manchester City, back heeled the only goal of the game in the 81st minute.

He didn’t celebrate and was immediately substituted. That was the last time he kicked a ball in ‘anger’ and he retired from the game he’d served so well.

He was later reported as saying after the game: “I have seldom felt so depressed in my life as I did that weekend”.

He needn’t have felt so bad as a 0-0 draw would have still sent United down which is probably why their fans invaded the pitch five minutes before the end of the game in the hope of getting it abandoned.

Although referee David Smith did in fact abandon the match the result was allowed to stand and Manchester United were relegated.

Twelve years later a Scot, like Sir Matt Busby, took the manager’s helm when United’s board fired Ron Atkinson. And like his successful predecessor he too reigned for over a quarter of a century.

So whatever the short term woes Manchester United will have to endure, history shows that in the longer term the good times will once again grace the Theatre of Dreams.


You’ll Never Walk Alone
Remembering the Hillsborough disaster

by Richard D J J Bowdery.

In the month when a fresh inquest into the Hillsborough disaster opened, this column remembers those Liverpool fans who tragically lost their lives as a result of this terrible event.

Whilst it has taken many years, and dogged determination, for those grieving families to get some form of justice, it can never replace their lost loved ones where the pain of death is still fresh in their lives.

On 15 April 1989, Reds supporters left home full of optimism that, come five o’clock, their side would be Wembley bound for that year’s FA Cup Final.

Sadly, 96 of those fans were never to know the outcome of that day’s match: a Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.


Football fans have often been described as tribal in their behavior, fiercely loyal to their chosen football club and ready to defend that club’s honour against all the odds.

Two recent examples of that fierce loyalty can be found at Cardiff City where the new owner changed the colour of the club’s playing strip from blue to red, and at Hull City where, again, a new owner has tried to stamp his mark on the club, this time by changing its name.

In both cases a large section of fans made their displeasure abundantly clear. In the case of Hull City it seems successfully so.

But for all perceived aggression in football there is an underlying compassion. This is particularly demonstrated when an opposing player suffers a particularly serious injury and has to be stretched off.

Who can forget the scenes on the pitch at White Hart Lane in 2012 where Fabrice Muamba of Bolton Wanderers nearly died after a cardiac arrest in a match against Spurs? Live television showed fans from both sides in tears – men as well as women.

And whenever a Hillsborough anniversary is remembered before a game all supporters show their compassion in a dignified and solemn way.

Perhaps this comes from football’s working class routes; a strata of society with such emphasis on community values, even in today’s dog eat dog world.

What I do know is the 96 football fans who lost their lives at Hillsborough will never be forgotten for as long as a pig’s bladder full of air is kicked about by two teams of 22 players, on a green pitch.

No one should lose their life at a sporting event. Football has shown that, whenever this happens, partisanship is put aside and opposing fans are considered brothers in arms.

That is how the families of the 96 can know that their lost loved ones will never walk alone.

Shearer: A Geordie Legend…
…at the second time of asking



Shearer broke into the Southampton first team aged just 17

by Richard D J J Bowdery

On 26 March 1988, seventeen year-old Alan Shearer made his professional footballing debut for Southampton at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea.

He was on the winning side as the game finished 1-0 to the Saints; a result which contributed to Chelsea‘s relegation to Division Two at the end of that season.

But for an oversight on the part of Newcastle United the young Shearer’s shirt may have had black stripes instead of red ones that afternoon.

He could also have avoided a round trip of over 580 miles that took in the south coast of England and East Lancashire.

On Trial

As a 15 year-old schoolboy Shearer was given a trial by the St. James Park club and was asked to play in goal. Unsurprisingly, for someone with an eye for scoring rather than preventing goals, he failed to impress the coaches who were monitoring the game. As a mad Magpies fan it must have broken his heart to be turned away from the club he loved.

Shearer later recalled: “I came for a trial with a lot of other lads and there was a shortage or something, so everyone had to take a turn in goal. I was no different from anyone else, I had my 20 minutes just like everyone else, but I said to someone that I’d played in goal for Newcastle when I was on trial and I’ve never heard the last of it.”

To be fair to Newcastle United, they did rectify their mistake later in Alan Shearer’s career but it cost them a lot more than it might otherwise have done.

Despite this rejection the 15 year-old managed to get trials at other clubs including Southampton who signed him up on the spot.

Two weeks after coming on as a sub against Chelsea Shearer made his full debut at The Dell versus Arsenal – and scored a hat-trick in a 4-2 victory. At 17 years and 240 days Shearer became the youngest scorer of a hat-trick  in top flight history, breaking a 30 year old record held by Jimmy Greaves.

During his time at the Dell he scored over 40 goals in 158 appearances. Other clubs were beginning to take notice of this young talent and it wasn’t long before a queue of admirers started to form, all eager for his signature.

England Come Calling

Included among these admirers was the late Dave Sexton, then England under-21 coach. In 1990 he brought Shearer into the squad. Shearer repaid Sexton’s faith in him by scoring 13 times in 11 appearances. This goals-to-appearances ratio brought him to the attention of another influential figure: the England manager, Graham Taylor.

Taylor gave him his senior debut against France, in February 1992. Shearer opened the scoring and Gary Lineker added a second as England ran out 2-0 winners.

Shearer’s performance on the international stage caused his stock to rise significantly on the domestic front which caused a lot of additional work for Ian Branfoot, his manager at Southampton.

With the increasing interest in his striker, Branfoot seemed to spend as much time on the telephone fielding calls from other managers looking to sign his Shearer as he did on the training field coaching his squad.


Blackburn Rovers' Alan Shearer celebrates with the Carling Premiership trophy

Shearer found success at Ewood Park

Eventually the inevitable happened and he was prised away from The Dell by Blackburn Rovers who parted with over £3 million in July 1992: helped in no small part by the financing of Blackburn’s benefactor, Jack Walker.

It was at Blackburn that Shearer was to win his only significant piece of domestic silverware: the Premiership trophy.

In that League winning 94/95 season he formed a deadly partnership with Chris Sutton – known as the SAS. Shearer’s 34 goals alongside Sutton’s 15, ensured Walker’s bankrolled Rovers top spot.

His last game for Blackburn came against Wimbledon in April 1996. He signed off with another brace of goals to go alongside 19 other braces and 9 hat-tricks.

In total he scored 130 goals in 171 appearances during his four seasons at the Lancashire club.

But now another team were keen to employ his prolific services and there was the small matter of a European championship with England, in England.

Euro ’96 & The Toon

The Euro 96 tournament was to be the highlight in Shearers international career. He finished the tournament as top-scorer with 5 goals. Unfortunately those goals weren’t enough to take England all the way to the Final.

Once again Germany stood in the way; although if Gascoigne’s legs had been an inch longer, England would have won on the golden-goal rule and avoided the penalty shoot-out. They weren’t and the host nation lost 6-5 on penalties; more than a shade of Italia ‘90.

By the end of his international career Shearer had played 63 times for England and scored 30 goals (almost one every two games).

Football didn’t truly come home in ‘96 but later that summer Shearer did, and so began his love affair with the Toon Army.

With 5 goals at Euro '96 Shearer was top scorer

With 5 goals at Euro ’96 Shearer was top scorer

But if Kevin Keegan, Shearer’s boyhood hero, hadn’t been the gaffer at Newcastle, Shearer could have become a Red Devil.

Manchester United and Newcastle United had agreed a sale price with Blackburn Rovers. Extended talks between Shearer and Alex Ferguson led everyone to believe that Old Trafford was his club of choice and yet…

Legend has it that Keegan asked for and got one final opportunity to talk with Shearer. Whatever was said Shearer put pen to paper, with Keegan looking like the cat that got the cream.

Shearer was reported to have said, on signing for the Magpies in July 1996: “It was the challenge of returning home and wearing the famous black and white shirt which made up my mind.”

The fans who turned out to greet the club’s new signing confirmed that decision. On seeing the 20,000 Newcastle fans who witnessed his official unveiling as a United player he said: “I wouldn’t have got a reception like this anywhere else in the world.”

Newcastle had shelled out a whopping £15 million – a world transfer record to capture a proven goal machine.

In more than 400 appearances Shearer netted over 200 times: more than justifying his price tag.

Of course eleven years earlier he would have cost significantly less; but then hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Injury Brings the Curtain Down

In Shearer’s last season at United he broke Jackie Milburn’s record of 200 goals in a black and white shirt. The record had stood for 49 years and cemented Shearer’s place among the pantheon of Newcastle greats.

At the same time Shearer had a dual role as player/coach. It was a role he had hoped to continue in for at least another season, but a tear to the medial collateral ligament in his left knee, during the League game against Sunderland in April 2006, put paid to that aspiration and effectively ended his playing career.

Although he was never to pull on that famous number 9 shirt in anger ever again, he still went out on a high that afternoon, scoring and seeing his side beat their historical enemy 4-1.

shearerNUFCBy the time he retired from football Alan Shearer had netted 379 goals in 733 appearances on the field of battle. Of those, 260 goals came in 434 Premier League appearances: still a PL record.

Post-Playing Career

Apart from a stint as Newcastle boss towards the end of the 2008/09 season, Shearer didn’t transfer his footballing prowess to the dugout.

Instead he developed a media career as a football pundit. Today he is a regular on Match of the Day, giving viewers the benefit of his experience, gained in over 18 years as a professional footballer.

Although the Toon Army are still able to watch their hero on television, the one image that will lodge long in their memory is of Shearer wheeling away, arm aloft, as he celebrates yet another successful strike on goal.

To relive some of those deadly strikes by the Premier League’s deadliest finisher, click on the photo opposite.

1966: England Lose World Cup!
But a four-legged fan saves the day…

by Richard D J J Bowdery.


On 20 March 1966 under the errant eye of two security guards, the Jules Rimet trophy (forerunner of today’s World Cup trophy) was stolen while on display at the Sport with Stamps exhibition in London.

Held at the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, the exhibition was part of the build-up to the FIFA World Cup finals, which took place in England that summer.


Pickles in action

PR nightmare
Valued in 1966 at £30,000, the theft of the solid gold, nine inch tall trophy caused acute embarrassment for the English Football Association (FA).

They tried to distance themselves from the theft but media pressure caused a climb down by the FA hierarchy.

Its vice-chairman, Jack Stewart, eventually admitted: “We are responsible for it [the trophy] in the end because we are the organizing association.”

Police soon had a possible suspect who they described as a man in his early 30s, average height with thin lips, greasy black hair and a possible scar on his face.

A ransom note was sent to the then Chelsea chairman, Joe Mears. In it a character calling himself Jackson demanded £15,000 made up of £5 and £1 notes or else the ‘pot’ gets it.

Mears was advised by the police to go along with the demand. Arrangements were made for an undercover copper to meet ‘Jackson’ in London’s Battersea Park for the handover.

The policeman turned up (with a van load of backup plod hidden nearby) carrying a suitcase stuffed with newspapers and a veneer of real notes on top. Soon Jackson arrived and was promptly arrested. He turned out to be Edward Bletchley, a 46-year-old former soldier who claimed he was simply a middleman who was paid £500 to ‘obtain’ the trophy. But there was no sign of the item in question.

Enter the bloodhound
Pickles was a black and white Collie out for a walk with his owner, David Corbett, in Norwood, south London. Suddenly Corbett found himself being pulled towards a front garden by an excited Pickles. Evidently the Collie had spied a package and was keen to investigate.

Corbett takes up the story. “I thought it was a bomb. There was a lot of IRA action at the time. Even when I starting taking off the paper and saw it was a statue, nothing really stirred. Then I noticed it said Brazil, West Germany and so on…It wasn’t very World Cuppy [it was] very small.”

Police initially suspected David Corbett of being complicit in the theft and he was left regretting his dog’s inquisitive nature.

He recalled: “’What have I done here? Why didn’t I just throw it back in the road?” But eventually they realised he was in not involved.

In the weeks following the find, Corbett and Pickles became minor celebrities. They appeared on television as well as the front pages of the nation’s newspapers. Pickles even had an agent, who also represented Spike Milligan.

The police smugly parade the trophy after it's found by a dog.

The police smugly parade the trophy after it’s found by a dog.

A bitter-sweet ending
The Jules Rimet trophy, named after a French lawyer who, as president of FIFA, initiated the World Cup competition in 1929, was back safe and sound with the FA at Lancaster Gate.

Four months later on 30 July England captain, Bobby Moore, proudly held the statute aloft as he and his team mates danced for joy across the hallowed turf.

But for others involved in the drama there was no such happy ending. Indeed some watching from the sidelines considered the theft to have brought on a ‘curse’.

Joe Mears, the Chelsea chairman, died of a heart attack in June ‘66, brought on by severe angina attacks attributed to the stress of the hunt for the trophy.

Edward Bletchley spent two years in prison for his part in the crime. He died from emphysema shortly after his release.

Not even the Jules Rimet trophy escaped the curse. In 1983 it was stolen in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was never recovered.

What of Pickles, the hero of this story? Sadly he choked to death when his chain became entangled on a fallen tree, while chasing a cat. At least he had his 15 minutes of fame.

And David Corbett? He fared significantly better. It is said he was given a reward of £6,000. Not a bad night’s work for walking the dog!

A 15 year old Gordon Banks joins Chesterfield FC

England goalkeeper Gordon Banks leads the team out at Wembley

Banks spent 10 years as England’s No.1 and was only on the losing side 9 times

“What a save!”
A seminal moment of pure genius

by Richard D J J Bowdery

Some footballers’ lives are defined by a seminal moment in their careers: Gazza shedding tears following a yellow card in the Italia ‘90 World Cup semi-final which ruled him out of the final, if England had overcome Germany; and Beckham’s audacious 60-yard lobbed goal from the halfway line beating Wimbledon keeper Neil Sullivan, in a Premiership match on 17 August 1996 which announced Spice boy’s arrival on football’s world stage.

For the subject of this week’s column that moment occurred on 7 June 1970.

England faced Brazil in Group 3 of the Mexico World Cup. It was a daunting task as the Brazilian’s fielded a side of such sublime talent which included Carlos Alberto, Jairzinho, Rivelino and Pelé.

A ball from Alberto sent Jairzinho racing down the wing. He surged past Terry Cooper, England’s left-back that day and crossed the ball into the penalty area where it was met by the head of Pele. Before his feet had returned to earth Pelé shouted “Golo!”

Gordon Banks instinctively dived low to his right and tipped the ball over the bar. No one on the pitch, in the stadium or the millions watching on TV could believe what they had just witnessed.

What followed was a memorable exchange between three gladiators in the heat of battle.

Pelé: “I thought that was a goal.”
Banks: “You and me both.”
Bobby Moore: “You’re getting old, Banksy, you used to hold on to them!”


Banks pulls off his incredible save as Bobby Moore and Brian Labone look on in disbelief

The laughter that followed Moore’s humorous comment displayed a joie de vive which transcended the importance of the game.

Many football pundits, journalists and fans claim that Banks save was the greatest ever made by a World Cup goalkeeper. Banks himself has said that people won’t remember him for winning the World Cup (at Wembley in 1966) – “They just want to talk to me about that save.”

It was all a far cry from March 1953 when, as a 15 year-old, he joined Chesterfield FC after being spotted playing for a colliery side in South Yorkshire. He soon established himself as a keeper of some quality and played in the youth team who lost 4-3 to Manchester United in the 1956 Youth Cup Final.

Two years later, in November 1958, he made his first-team debut for the club who were then in the Football League’s Third Division.

His performances between the sticks soon caught the eye of the League’s top sides and it was First Division’s Leicester City who signed him for £7,000 in July 1959.

His performances in the top-flight brought him to the attention of the England set up where he won two Under-23 caps.
Following the appointment of Alf Ramsey as England manager in 1962, Banks found himself replacing the previous incumbent, Ron Springett.

He won his first cap on 6 April 1963 against the ‘auld enemy’ at Wembley which England lost 2-1. Despite the defeat, Banks displayed an assurance in goal that made him Ramsey’s number one choice. And the rest, as they say, is history.

By the 1970 World Cup, and with a winner’s medal from the ’66 tournament in his trophy cabinet, Banks had won 59 caps. When he retired after England’s 1-0 win over Scotland at Hampden Park in May 1972. He had won 73 caps, kept 35 clean sheets and was on the losing side just nine times in his England career.

After Banks hung up his boots he tried his hand at coaching, first at Port Vale and then with non-league Telford United. But his footballing prowess on the pitch never crossed the divide into management.

Sadly he lost the sight in his right eye following a motoring accident in November 1972. He also lost a significant amount of money in a failed business venture, which he covers in his book Banksy: My Autobiography, published in 2002.

The previous year, in 1971, he sold his World Cup winners medal. Though it was a difficult decision for him to make, he explained he did it in order to save his children the burden of deciding what to do with the medal after his death.

Yet despite these post-goalkeeping setbacks the one thing that cannot be taken from him is his place in the pantheon of great footballing memories, gained when he made that wonderful save from Pele’s ‘certain’ goal in 1970.


Click on the photo to see ‘The Save’ from Gordon Banks