Posts Tagged ‘England’

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


England to Move to a Mersey Beat..? It Wouldn’t be the First Time…

by Rob Shepherd.

Roy Hodgson’s World Cup campaign in the land of the Samba beat could see the heartbeat of England dominated by a Mersey Beat.


Liverpool are flying with an English core

It is entirely possible, preferable perhaps, that come the summer England’s first choice team could involve FIVE Liverpool players – skipper Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge.

How ironic that would be, given how quickly Hodgson was ushered out of the Anfield door.

But the form of all five in a Liverpool side who have moved on leaps and bounds since Brendan Rodgers took over from Kenny Dalglish, who ousted Hodgson from the hot seat 38 months ago, means they could all start in the friendly against Denmark this week. And who knows, the understanding they have forged over recent months could suddenly offer England a new dynamic and dimension.


One of the problems of international football is welding together a disparate group of players in terms of tactics, team spirit and understanding in a short space of time. Logic suggests that if the core of a team comes from the same club then that can overcome the problem.

Moreover at the moment all five of the Liverpool players in this England squad are on form the best players in their positions too.
Certainly there is no more prolific a striker than Sturridge.

Sterling, after being called up by country too early, is now the best and most versatile winger in the England squad. His form of late has been stunning.

Gerrard and Henderson – England’s most improved player – are on fire and vitally know, almost instinctively, how to play in tandem at the heart of the midfield.

While Johnson is still by some distance England best and most reliable right back – and knows how to service Gerrard, Henderson and Sterling – who in turn know how to feed the right back when he’s on the rampage.


But the logic of club connections doesn’t always work.

In 1977 Ron Greenwood started with five Liverpool players but England still stumbled to a draw with Switzerland.

But setting aside recent occasions when England ended the game with seven Manchester United players then five of Manchester City’s when substitutes came into the equation there is compelling evidence that it can.


England’s Liverpool influence of 1977 hang out, but can you name them all? (answers at the foot of the page)

Way back in 1934 England fielded SEVEN Arsenal players and beat world champions Italy 3-2 in a game played in London N5 to boot and was thus dubbed the Battle of Highbury.

And when England beat Germany 5-1 in 2001, four Liverpool players started and all the goals were scored by Reds – Gerrard, Michael Owen and Emile Heskey. Nick Barmby also started and the fifth Beatle, Jamie Carragher, came off the bench, which was the last time five Liverpool players played for England at once, which is perhaps an omen.

Then of course in 1966 the core of England’s World Cup-winning team – Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters – came from West Ham.

The great Dutch side of the Seventies was dominated by Ajax. While the spine of the West Germany side during the same period came from Bayern Munich.

Most recently Spain has risen from also rans to become World beaters since its DNA became dominated by Barcelona players.

Club Classics? It’s surely worth Hodgson giving the Mersey Beat a whirl. It would be, erm, a Kop out not to.


Photo Answers: Ian Callaghan,Terry McDermott, Ray Clemence, Phil Neal, Ray Kennedy and Emlyn Hughes

“Sir Tom Was The Messi of his Day” Tributes Paid To Late Preston Great

Soccer - World Cup Switzerland 1954 - Pool Four - Belgium v England

England’s Tom Finney beats Belgian defender Marcel Dries and prepares to cross during England’s opening game at the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, a 4-4 draw.

by Rob Shepherd.

Sir Tom Finney, who died on Friday at the age of 91, had retired from football a couple of years before I was born. But his name, like that of Sir Stanley Matthews, Billy Wright, Jackie Milburn and Len Shackleton, was still spoken of in revered terms by the older generation.

Like my father, they viewed some of the new-style stars of the Sixties such as Bobby Charlton, George Best and Bobby Moore with some circumspection and a suspicion that they could not quite match up to that Golden Age of players in the Fifties who had helped lift the country out the dark days of the Second World War… at least on the home front.

That’s how it goes from father to son in a football household when even if the game is viewed beyond club colours, rose-tinted spectacles can often be worn.

But clearly Finney was one of those players who could have played in any era.

What always resonates is that while wizard winger Matthews was the glamour star of that sepia-tinted era, my old man always argued that Finney was better because he could play on either flank or at inside forward if needed. He also scored more goals with an impressive 30 in 76 England appearances.

Bill Shankley, who before managing Liverpool was Finney’s boss at Preston, endorsed that appraisal.

Shanks once said: ‘Tom Finney would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age… even if he had been wearing an overcoat.’

And even Matthews, who died in 2000, acknowledged: ‘To dictate the pace and course of a game, a player has to be blessed with awesome qualities.

‘Those who have accomplished it on a regular basis can be counted on the fingers of one hand – Pele, Maradona, Best, Di Stefano, and Tom Finney.’

That puts Finney the player into context.

And Finney the man?

Well, he came from a generation when the word gentlemen was a code of honour and playing the game of football was more about passion than pound notes.

Against that of course a man like Finney was denied the financial security his talent deserved after he retired.

But like so many of his era he was not consumed by bitterness or envy about the modern game when so many players who are not fit to darn Finney’s socks are mutli-millionaires before they have started to shave.

In fact on the one occasion I had the privilege to meet Finney, over breakfast the morning after an England game in the early Nineties, he enthused over the ability of Paul Gascoigne.

And he admired David Beckham, not least during a loan spell at Finney’s beloved Preston early in his career.

Sir Tom was one of England's all-time great players, winning 76 caps and scoring 30 goals.

Sir Tom was one of England’s all-time great players, winning 76 caps and scoring 30 goals.

It is to be hoped Finney is suitably honoured by the FA at the forthcoming friendly against Denmark at Wembley. After all, Finney was according to Tommy Docherty the Lionel Messi of his day.

The Doc said: ‘He was the best player I’ve ever seen, alongside Lionel Messi.

‘I watch a lot of Barcelona and when I watch Messi, I close my eyes and can see Tom. I’m serious when I say that Messi is the Tom Finney of today.

‘Just like Finney, Messi is always getting fouled, but doesn’t complain and just gets up and gets on with the game.’

Tom Finney RIP.



Marvel Moore is England Centurion World Cup Hero Earns 100th Cap v Scotland in Feb 1973

On February 14th 1973 Bobby Moore reached an incredible milestone when he pulled on the England shirt for the 100th time, becoming only the third player to achieve the feat after former captain Billy Wright and Bobby Charlton.

Moore (right) wins his 100th cap as he and Billy Bremner lead the England and Scotland teams out at Hampden Park in 1973

Moore wins his 100th cap as he and Billy Bremner lead the teams out at Hampden Park on Feb 14th 1973

It was an important game for Moore for personal reasons, but fittingly it was also an important one for England as they faced the Auld Enemy Scotland at Hampden Park, a fixture that is never really ‘friendly’ despite the label.

Joining Moore in the England side were two other survivors from the 1966 team; Martin Peters and Alan Ball, but they were overshadowed by some of the newer members of the squad as England inflicted a St Valentine’s Day massacre on the Scots who were swept aside 5-0 – with Moore marshaling the Three Lions defence expertly.

A brace from Allan Clarke, plus strikes from Mick Channon and Martin Chivers plus a Peter Lorimer own goal provided the goals for England in a crushing home defeat for a Scotland team that included the likes of Billy Bremner, Kenny Dalglish and George Graham.

Despite the clean sheet Moore was nearing the end of his reign as England’s main man. Things came to a head three months later in a World Cup qualifier away to Poland when Moore was at fault for both goals in a 2-0 loss.

Moore was dropped by Sir Alf Ramsey for the return game at Wembley which England had to win to qualify for the finals. Famously they could only draw 1-1 and it signalled the end for both Ramsey and Moore. Sir Alf was sacked six months later while Moore made his final appearance for his country in the next match – a friendly against Italy at Wembley. Again England lost, this time 1-0 to a goal scored by the man who would later give David Beckham his 100th cap: Fabio Capello.

When he retired from the international game he held the all-time England cap record with 108 appearances (he has since been overtaken by Peter Shilton on 125), and he equalled Billy Wright’s record of captaining England 90 times.

Two months later he played his last game for West Ham and then left for Fulham where he began to wind down his career before, just as Beckham would 30 years later, he moved to the USA to play where he turned out for San Antonio Thunder and Seattle Sounders.

Like Beckham, Moore was no slouch when it came to commercial opportunities – although this advert featuring Bobby and Tina Moore ‘Looking in at the Local’ lacks the posing-in-your-underwear-to-moody-French-dialogue feel that Beckham has since made his own.

by Karl Hofer.

The Truth About The Turnip and Me
Rob Shepherd

It’s not every day the England manager tells you to “F**k off” out of the country.

Twenty years ago Graham Taylor did just that on the eve of England’s decisive World Cup qualifier against Holland in Rotterdam.

In a scene you might have seen on the cult fly-on-the-wall documentary: The Impossible Job, which has been re-named by its cult following ‘Do I Not Like That’ (one of several Taylor catchphrases), Taylor lambastes me for my pessimism about England’s chances of avoiding defeat.

“You can worry Rob, but don’t make the rest of us worry,” Taylor blasted – yes he really did blast – as his tirade against me gathered pace.

“Rise yourself man! Look, if you were one of my players I’d…”

Believe it or not there are some people out there who can recite the whole exchange and indeed the remarkable documentary made by Neil Duncanson and Ken McGill by Chrysalis for Channel Four.

In many ways it is football’s Spinal Tap with a hint of Monty Python.

To this day many people when I meet them want to talk to me about the cameo I was caught up in.

A few years later a mainstream movie came out entitled Mike Bassett: England manager. It was a decent film, and at times very funny, but essentially it was a dramatized version of “Do I Not Like That.” And in terms of comedic value not a patch on the real thing.

The fact was far stranger, far better, far more bizarre, and in the real sense of the word far more pathetic than the fiction.


I remember going to to see a press preview of the documentary about six months after the The Row in Rotterdam. I had been tipped off that I had featured significantly.

That worried me…

Had I been trailed by a camera man taking the wrong turn down a dodgy strasse on the road to England’s ruined World Cup campaign..?

What unfolded was astonishing.

My instant review that day was that what Graham Taylor; England manager had believed would be a eulogy to his prowess as a football manager became an epitaph.

I stand by that appraisal.


Taylor believed the documentary would put him in a positive light

You see none of us “Hack Pack” who followed England at the time – in a pre-internet, pre-social media era there was a hard core of print radio and TV correspondents which ranged between ten and fifty depending on the size of the assignment – knew that a documentary was being filmed.

But Graham Taylor did.

Why on earth did he allow such access..?

It was an attempt to prove a point that he was not ‘Taylor The Turnip Head’ as he had been depicted after England were humbled at the 1992 European Championships finals in Sweden.

For the record (and isn’t it funny how time and ill informed perception alters mind) I, Rob Shepherd, was not the guy who cast Taylor as the Turnip. I can tell you many people now assume I did – but then some of them think I look like Desperate Dan! On that front; strangely enough my first job in journalism was working for DC Thompson who published The Dandy and I once had to do a photo shoot…er, that’s another story.

Graham Taylor - Sun Turnip 200

Taylor: Headline maker

So let’s get this straight; Taylor was pilloried by The Sun with a morphed image (yes there were fun photos before Instagram) of his head fused with a turnip.
Why..? It was on the back of one of the immortal tabloid headlines, dreamt up not by the sports editor of the time (although he has dined out on it and got jobs on the back of it for many years) but a stalwarts sub editor called Dave Clement.

The simplicity was stunning as England’s chaotic Euro 92 adventure ended in abject failure when Taylor’s team were eliminated in the final match of the group phase by hosts Sweden, who came from behind to win 2-1.

The whole campaign had been a shambles, defined best by Taylor’s ludicrous decision to take off Gary Lineker and replace him with Alan Smith as England chased the game.

It might have seemed a bit crass but Swedes 2 Turnips 1 summed up the feelings of the hoi polloi.


As the son of a Journalist Graham Taylor had thought he could cajole, even control or at least appease the press with a combination of bravado and bon homie.

But he hadn’t accounted for the city-slick media machines who would dance over graves and, at least for the first edition, boast “Up yer Junta” when the battleship of a war time enemy was sunk and many lives were lost.

In contrast pillorying an England football manager was mere bagatelle.

Shocked by the intensity and cruelty of the backlash Taylor decided he needed to adopt a PR strategy. And so he agreed to allow a TV crew unprecedented access for a warts-and-all documentary.

He felt this would be the way to get his revenge in first. This was the way to prove he was the best man to manage England. This was the way how he would be the Pied Piper leading England’s merry men to the World Cup in the USA. And this was the way to reverse the tables and make the media men look like melons.

Graham also had a slight advantage. He knew the cameras were rolling. The Press didn’t. Neither did the players – well at least for a while, by which time they had allowed themselves to be filmed in some Pythonesque scenes.

But he hadn’t accounted for a, erm, Turn up in the books.

After only drawing to Norway and Holland at Wembley England’s World Cup campaign was suddenly on the back foot.

Then when England lost 2-0 against Norway in Oslo after Taylor has made disastrous tactical and team selections, it became a case of shit or bust when England faced Holland in Rotterdam.

The Oslo experience was on my mind when I challenged the team Taylor named for the Holland game 20 years ago. But there was more to it than that.

My agitated barrack room lawyer demeanour, which raised Taylor’s cackles, was enhanced by a heady mix of adrenalin and anger.

Adrenalin because I had actually scooped the rest of Fleet Street’s finest and named the team Taylor announced at the start of the press conference that morning in the now defunct Today Newspaper.

Anger? I was aghast. I so wanted England to qualify for the World Cup finals.
Three years earlier, after England had lost the World Cup semi-final to Germany the first guy I bumped into after I had filed my tear stained report was Bobby Moore who was working for Capital Radio at Italia 90.

“Don’t worry son,” Mr Moore told me.

“This time close, but in four years time the boys can do it. Let’s have a beer to that son.”

Now here we were in Holland. Bobby wasn’t going to make it to the USA, tragically he had died six months earlier. Neither I feared would England, and I kept thinking how upset that would have made Mr Moore.

I just had to vent my view that Taylor’s bizarre (as it seemed to me, even if I had the heads up) team selection would mean it ending in tears just as it had done against Norway in Oslo.

And here I just have to point out that there was more to me than just being a 31 year old big chinned gobby journo having a dig at the England boss in search for a headline.

I had done some decent journalism too.


In those days the press and players all flew on the same plane and we departed from Luton Airport at around midday on the Monday for the Wednesday night game.

I had a phone call very early that Monday morning from a contact I will not and will never reveal. I was told the team.

It was read to me from one to eleven (bearing in mind Paul Gascoigne and Stuart Pearce were suspended); Seaman, Parker, Adams, Pallister, Dorigo; Palmer {really!!! are f**king sure?} Platt, Ince, Sharpe (really!!!); Merson (No!), Shearer (What? So no Wright or Ferdinand??).

I was shocked. A month earlier England had beaten Poland 3-0 in the previous qualifier and Ian Wright (who declared we will win with “BullDog Spirit Man”) and Les Ferdinand had monstered the opposition.


Not Wright: The Arsenal striker had tormented the Poles the previous month

Even give the suspensions and Shearer’s potential, FIVE changes and no Wright or Ferdinand seemed very strange.

Merson was a super player. But how could he get the nod ahead of Wrighty who most of the hack pack assumed was a nailed on selection..???

As team news ahead of a pivotal international goes, this info was dynamite.

But it had to be checked. Not easy. But with the help of my colleague Dave Harrison we nailed it.

In the duty free at Luton I pulled Paul Parker aside. He said he couldn’t divulge. So I struck a compromise. If I ran through the one to eleven could he nod or shake. Parks gave me a nod and a wink all the way through.

So did Paul Ince.

When we got to Schiphol the Dutch started some dirty games – which would continue during the match two days later thanks to a German referee Karl- Josef Assenmacher – by pretending there were no baggage handlers. Nor courtesy buses.

So for nearly 90 minutes the England team were left loitering on the tarmac getting more and more wound-up.

It did give me and Dave Harrison the chance though to tug a few players and have a discreet word.

Once we both had got the nod from David Platt we were decided; the crazy info was correct. Well as far as we could make out and we’d done enough checks to satisfy a demanding sports editor in Mike Crouch who decided to go to town.

Our snapper Eddie Keogh had taken a picture of Carlton Palmer (“Carlton! Carlton!”) playing a piano in the team hotel.

As far as I was concerned, as good as a club player as Palmer might have been, Carlton couldn’t hit a cows arse with a banjo (that was a saying of ex-Wimbledon boss Dave – not Mike btw – Bassett, not mine) at international level.

That he was playing in such a big game beggared belief really. In fact I still didn’t really believe it despite at all the checks.

After all the players could have been playing a blinder, their version of three card brag and I can assure you Mr Ince was very good at three card brag back then.

But we went for it and beneath this strange picture of Palmer playing the ol’ Joanna was the team in 24 point emblazoned on the back page.

In many ways my balls were on the line.

After filing my copy I suddenly got very nervous.

If I got that wrong I would be hung out to dry by Taylor. The Turnip would have ridiculed me as Shepherd’s Pie.

But one thing I was sure on was that Wright would be on the bench and Merson would start. That’s because Merse told me.

I went on the missing list that night as far as the other hacks were concerned. This was too big a story to share. Except one who worked on a paper that was owned by the same company as Today.

We arranged to meet and slip out for dinner and few glasses of wine away from the hack pack. Just before we left the hotel he told me he had done a big piece on how Ian Wright could fire England to the finals. The first edition of Today has gone off the press by then so I advised him to re-write his piece and change the name Merson with Wright.

He did so. By that point I was confident.

Let Down

But even then when I went into the press conference the following morning my stomach was still churning. It was a similar feeling to getting exam results at school.

And I passed.

Taylor revealed the team…and I was right in terms of the facts but I felt he had got it so wrong.

Maybe as a football writer I was too passionate about the game back then, too patriotic. But we are who were are. And I kept hearing Bobby Moore’s soothing words in my ear and I just felt Mr Moore was being let down. England were being let down.

“Does the whole nation rest on whether Rob Shepherd’s happy or not?” Taylor intoned.

He was aware the cameras were rolling. I was not.

Ahead of the game this could have been his coup de grace. The Turnip tables would be turned.

As Taylor continued his tirade against me nervous stares from the Hack Pack turned into some polite twittering then guffaws of laughter. It was funny.

But who was the joke on; Taylor or me..?

I held my own for a while, then let it go. I didn’t want to ruin the rest of the press conference for everybody for the sake of an unseemly row. I had made my point but maybe he had a point. I was determined to show respect.

Whatever mistakes Taylor made as England manager he was not nasty man. Naïve back then perhaps. But not nasty. We got on.

But I thought he’d called it wrong. So it proved.

The team which had displayed so much energy and purpose in the win over Poland just a month earlier was all over the place in terms of shape and direction.

Yes, decisions and luck went against England and thus Taylor, but it was an accident waiting to happen given the team he had selected.

Holland won 2-0 and World Cup qualification was beyond England.


Koeman, who should have been dismissed earlier, scores to seal England’s fate

The following month Holland beat Poland to seal their place in USA 94 with Norway which meant England’s 7-1 against San Marino was meaningless.

My match report intro that night – which became part of the closing scenes of the documentary – was, using a slight twist of Kenneth Wolstenholme’s brilliant last minute commentary of the 1966 World Cup final: ‘They Thought it was all Over…It is Now.’

Later that night I collared Graham Kelly, the chief executive of the FA at the time, who “off the record” told me Taylor was finished.

Taylor and England parted company the following week.

Six months later the documentary came out and Taylor’s reign as England manager was a bit like a Month Python sketch. Bobby Moore would not have been impressed.


World Cup: England Third Favourites!
To Win Their Group That is…

by Rob Shepherd.

At the draw for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa England looked a shoo-in to win their group at a canter and have a decent pathway to the semi finals or beyond.

Drawn against Slovenia, USA and Algeria it appeared a passport to top the group with ease and have a chance of going all the way.

The bookies thus installed England as third favourites at 6-1.

How over optimistic it proved. England staggered over the line to qualify but then hit the rocky road at the knockout stage and were eliminated with ease by Germany in a 4-1 drubbing.

The draw for Brazil has put England in a tough but by no means the toughest group.

But as soon as the draw was made SkyBet only had England third favourites at 18/5 to even emerge from Group D, with Italy 1-3 favs ahead of Luis Suarez’s Uruguay at 4/7, with Costa Rica (who shouldn’t be underestimated given they are on their own continent by the way) cast as also rans.

And as a consequence of the draw England’s price to win the World Cup drifted from 25-1 to 28-1.

But if England can draw with Italy in the opening game then another draw with Uruguay could then set England on their way if they beat Costa Rica well in the final game.

The pivotal match may well be against Uruguay. Intriguingly it is to be played at Belo Horizonte, famously the scene of one of England’s worst ever World Cup defeats where in 1950 England – who had gone into the tournament billed the “Kings of Football” with players such as Alf Ramsey, Billy Wright and Tom Finney and according to some predictions would win 10-1 – were beaten 1-0 by then no-hopers USA, whose goal was scored by a guy called Joe Gatejens (see below).

Even if England progress from the group it’s highly unlikely they can go on to win the whole thing but a shrewd bet on one of the exchanges could be to lump some money on England at 28-1 then sell the bet if they do progress to the qualifying stages as one of the top two, where they would then avoid the biggest teams and face one of Columbia, Greece, Ivory Coast or Japan.

In that scenario England’s price would start to plummet and profit could be turned. It’s certainly worth having a decent punt at England getting out of the group at 18/5.

Former England manager Glenn Hoddle thinks the draw means England can reach the quarter finals at least.

“I think it’s better that it is a bit tough. Expectations won’t be too high and that can help. Yes, I think England can qualify from the group then get past the last 16. Then anything can happen…” said Hoddle after the draw.

It may also be the time to back Spain.

The World Cup holders no longer have an invincible air about them. But that could be to do with the lack of competitive games they have had since they qualified automatically as winners and injures.

Yes, they have a tough draw in a group with Holland, Chile and Australia. But Spain at 7/1 ? That is tempting…



Can Spain become the first European nation to lift the World Cup on a different continent…?

Brazil    100/30
Argentina  9/2
Germany   11-2
Spain     7-2
Belgium    14-1
Columbia    20-1
France    20-1
England    28-1

Odds courtesy of SKYBET.


England’s Triumph in Munich was a Disaster for English Football!

by Rob Shepherd.

Don’t Mention Ze Score!

It was an intro I couldn’t resist when I reflected on England’s 5-1 win over Germany on September 1 2001.

It was an incredible night in Munich. The adrenalin was pumping. It was pay back time for Italia 90, Euro 96 and the last night at the old Wembley when Germany demolished the Twin Towers and Kevin Keegan.

A touch of Fawlty Towers-style jingoism didn’t feel out of place.

To trounce Germany in Bavaria by such a margin was almost surreal.

I think that is why that game more than any other England match is captured best by a picture of an electronic scoreboard.

Soccer - World Cup 2002 Qualifier - Group Nine - Germany v England

Deutschland 1 England 5.

Later some of the players admitted they kept looking up at the neon lights after the final whistle to make sure they weren’t dreaming.

In terms of the record books it will go down as one of England’s all-time great wins. Yet on reflection I suggest it was one of the WORST results in England’s history. And one of Germany’s BEST.

The outcome convinced everyone that Sven Goran Eriksson, in his seventh match in charge of England, was a tactical genius.

And that a crop of very good young-ish players were a ‘Golden Generation’.

But a brave new world proved to be false dawn for England, while at the same time it was a wake-up call for Germany, convincing them they had to change things after their demise at Euro 2000, to erm, Keegan’s England.

Given hindsight it would be churlish to say England just got lucky that night in Munich. It was a tour de force of counter-attacking football.

But it was also one of those games where every time England pressed a button green lights flashed.

It meant that even when, and not long after, Eriksson was prepared to jump ship and go to Manchester United, or when other frequent flirtations seemed to get in the way of his job as England manager, he was fire proof.

Even when Eriksson’s affair with England had outlasted its stay, it was a bit like Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca who always had Paris; Eriksson always had Munich.


England’s smashing of Germany gave Sven Goran Eriksson (left) breathing room

And while the result did put England back on track to qualify for the 2002 World Cup finals after the Keegan regime had lost its way – and it was a night always to remember as well – looking back it proved how one-off, stunning results can be misleading.

So in the wake of defeat against Chile and looking ahead to Tuesday’s tough meeting with Germany, whatever ze score, a sense of perspective is needed.
It’s not what a team does ahead of a tournament, it’s what they actually do when they get there.

And in terms of expectation, another potential bloody nose for England at Wembley on Tuesday against Germany, a decade on, would not necessarily be a bad thing.

England often do best when expectations are low. In the wake of that seismic night in Munich expectations for that era became far too high.

More to the point, the powers that be at the FA might look into what measures the Germans took after they were caught with their lederhosen down on that mad night in Munich.


The odds on England beating Germany 5-1 again are understandably long at 200/1, with the German’s priced at 100/1 to turn the tables to that extent.

More likely, if you think Germany will win, is a repeat of notable success in 1972 when they effectively knocked England out of the European Championships with a 3-1 win at Wembley.

It was a night when Germany wore green shirts and England were left green with envy of a German midfield maestro called Gunter Netzer who ran the game in the rain.

3-1 again is 16/1, a German win 5/4.

England to win? That is 2/1.

The draw? That’s priced at 5/2

1-1 is 11/2 and 2-2, which could be worth a tickle, is 12-1.


Odds from Bet 365

The Man Who Ruined Moore’s Farewell Italian scorer is familiar figure to England fans


Bobby Moore’s last England game was against Italy in November 1973

By Rob Shepherd.

This week 40 years ago Bobby Moore made his 108th and last England appearance.

At Wembley on Tuesday (November 19) Steve Gerrard is set to equal that milestone in a friendly against Germany at Wembley – the last big event of the FA’s 150th anniversary celebrations.

Gerrard could now overhaul David Beckham’s record of 115 outfield caps.

Goalkeeper Peter Shilton is the most capped player with 125 appearances, and Frank Lampard recently became England’s eight centurion.

But with Wayne Rooney on 87 appearances and at least four more years ahead of him, the Manchester United striker is on course to, er, cap them all.

It is only Moore though who has had a bronze statute built of him around the New Wembley.

Back in 1973 many felt that some day perhaps Moore would become England manager.

Who would have ever thought that the man who would make Moore’s farewell game a defeat would end up being England’s boss…?


Can’t deny it was great to see Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard presented with a golden cap to mark passing of a century of England appearances.

Those who ridiculed him when he was an emerging player (fans and a lot of press men too) must feel a bit silly now accusing him of being fat and only getting a game ‘cos his dad was assistant coach and brother-in-law to his then West Ham boss Harry Redknapp.

Trust me, apart from having been a fantastic footballer for club and country over the years “young” Frank, like his dad “big” Frank, is a top geezer.

Yes, Frank has all the trappings of fame and fortune. But unlike so many others he has not been trapped by fame and fortune.

He remembers his roots – and respects them. Just as he respects Joe Public when he is out and about, which fewer and fewer famous footballers do.
So it was typical that as Frank reflected on having passed that international milestone he was almost embarrassed that he now only has five fewer England caps than Bobby Moore.


Frank was presented received his Golden Cap from his father.

More to the point Lamps acknowledges what an inspiration Mooro and the Boys of ’66 have been to his career. And he said it from his heart rather than offering up a soundbite.

Of course it DID help a bit that his dad, “Big “ Frank , who won two England caps, was one of Bobby Moore’s big mates…

Which brings me back to my original point: It was forty years ago this week that “Lord Bobby” won the last of his 108 caps for England in a friendly match against Italy, which England lost 1-0.

Italy won the game with a goal four minutes from the end of a dour encounter just a month after Poland had knocked England out of the qualifying stages of the 1974 World Cup finals.

It was Sir Alf Ramsey’s last game as boss as well. But who scored Italy’s winner…?

Have a look below;

Yes, none other than Fabio Capello.

Now back in November 1973 who would have been favourite to have gone on to manage England one day; England’s World Cup winning skipper and golden boy of a generation Bobby Moore or a granite faced Italian midfield bruiser who played for some club called Juventus…???

As one of Moore’s great mates Jimmy Greaves would still put it: “Funny old Game…”



Best Robs Banks! When Goalies Get Their Pockets Picked…

by Karl Hofer.

Chelsea’s equalising goal against Cardiff on Saturday – officially credited to Eden Hazard – has caused a storm of controversy with Samuel Eto’o cheekily nicking the ball from goalkeeper David Marshall as he bounced it.

The Cameroon legend cleverly and cleanly whipped the ball away of Marshall’s control as Cardiff’s keeper bounced it inside his area.


Eto’o then received the ball back from Eden Hazard, dallied too long and missed his chance to open his Chelsea account, only for Hazard to mop up and tuck it home, cancelling out Jordon Mutch’s opener for the Welsh side.

The goal is not without precedent, conjuring up memories as it does of the late great George Best and England legend Gordon Banks from an international between Northern Ireland and England at Windsor Park in 1971.

Best, displaying all the cunning and guile that made him the hottest ticket in football, hooked the ball over the World Cup winners head as he prepared to pump it downfield and then headed it into the net to the amazement of the sell-out crowd.

But referee Alistair Mackenzie decided to disallow the effort – even if 1970’s rules are somewhat vague on its legality – and we were all robbed of what was, even by his high standards, one of Best’s most inventive goals (see below).

So there you have it; if you try and rob the goalkeeper of the ball in such fashion and score it will be disallowed.

Not quite…

It was during a top-flight match at the City Ground back in 1990 between Nottingham Forest and Manchester City that Gary Crosby, ducking to nod from the unsuspecting glove of Andy Dibble, won the game for Forest 1-0.

City’s players were furious but the goal was allowed to stand leading to much debate in the media, but the general consensus was that Crosby’s temerity was to be applauded. You can see it for yourself below;

The shot of Andy Dibble looking down at the palm of his now empty glove, the ball long since departed via Crosby’s forehead, is still very funny one!

So it’s fine to steal the ball from an unsuspecting goalkeeper and Eto’o was perfectly within his rights to pick Marshall’s pocket on Saturday.

Not quite…

You see there was another similar incident, between Blackburn and Arsenal in 2003. This time the Artful Dodger was Thierry Henry and the ‘victim’ was Brad Friedel.

As Friedel released the ball to kick it away the Arsenal legend stuck a foot out and stole it from him before tapping it into an empty net. Goal!

Er, no. The referee disallowed the goal as Friedel was deemed to still be in control of the ball and in the process of restarting play when Henry intervened.

You can see Friedel trying to explain that very point to the Frenchman in the video below afterwards. Someone also needs to explain it to the commentator…

So what’s the actual rule then..? Do they take it in turns..?? Will the next occasion be disallowed and the one after given…????

Well FIFA guidelines clearly state that the ball remains in the goalkeeper’s possession while he bounces it.

As a result, Chelsea’s effort should NOT have counted against Cardiff. If not only for that but also for the fact it struck Eto’o on the way in who was laying in an offside position behind the goalkeeper. Note that Eto’o didn’t try and claim it even though at the time he had yet to score for his new club – a sure sign he knew he was offside.

So Malky Mackay and the Bluebird fans (or are they ‘Redbirds’ now?) have every right to be aggrieved with the officiating at Stamford Bridge.


The Day I Beat Jan Tomaszewski…

by Rob Shepherd

Even for those who were not remotely born then, the events of that night 40 years when Poland knocked England out of the World Cup are familiar.

Roy Hodgson takes England into tonight’s game dismissing the role of history, especially that long ago.

He has a point. Then again for Poland that game still has a special meaning to players who would have been told tales about the legends of ’73 as they started to make their way in international football.

The Polish are a particularly proud nation, as indeed the mass of their 18,000 fans will show tonight by unfurling a massive red and white flag as a mark of respect to the English who – under the banner of Great Britain – stepped into the Second World War after Poland had been invaded.

The presence of so many Polish fans will create a passionate atmosphere so even if Poland can’t qualify they will be playing for pride and some perhaps for a move to the Premier League.

And Southampton goal keeper Artur Boruc knows he could play his way into the list of Polish legends if comes close to emulate one man…

The 1-1 draw, which eliminated England from the 1974 finals, was of course most memorable for the goal keeping heroics of Jan Tomaszewski who stuffed Brian Clough’s Clown taunts down this country’s throats.

England approach Tuesday night with a nagging fear of de ja vu.

Even if Poland are not as strong a team now as they were back then (they went onto finish third in the 1974 finals) they still have two menacing forwards in Borussia Dortmund’s star striker Robert Lewandowski and club mate winger Jakub Blaszczykowski. And the keeper Boruc is a serious item too.

As indeed was Tomaszewski who went into politics and TV punditry when he hung up his gloves. But I can assure you he has a sense of humour.

In September 1999 in Warsaw on the morning a decisive European Championship game, a match between the Polish and English press had been arranged.

We had Trevor Brooking and Terry Butcher and they had Zbigniew Boniek and Tomaskzeski as their “ringers”.

I was a bit peeved to have been left on the bench; although it may have had something to do with the early start and me missing the team bus and getting changed late.

Anyway mid-way through the second half with the game locked at 1-1 I got sent on up front.

As the final whistle loomed a cross come over from the right and my scuffed near post shoot fooled Tomaszewski, dribbling over the line at the far post; 2-1 England !

I couldn’t contain my excitement. I jumped into the giant arms of Big Jan, then 51 but still an item between the sticks, planted a kiss on his cheek and exclaimed: “That’s for 1973, you clown!”

He burst out laughing and we had a great chat after.

What people tend to forget is how soundly Poland had beaten England (who were wearing a curious yellow and blue kit) in the home game of the group back in 1973.


It was a match which brought Bobby Moore’s England career towards its end. Indeed he was dropped for the return at Wembley before playing for the 108th and final time in a friendly against Italy a month after Poland had pulled off their amazing backs-to-the-wall draw

Moore was at fault for both Poland’s goals in the 2-0 defeat in Chozrow – the only time Poland have beaten England, who have won 10 with seven drawn in 18 meetings – especially the second when he got caught in possession deep inside his own half. To compound England’s woe Alan Ball was sent off in that game and he missed the Wembley return.