England v Poland: When the lights went out on the home of football

MALCOLM ALLISON, the wayward, some might say eccentric, Manchester City coach, said the period between 1967 and 1972 was the last golden age of English football. Allison, whose team was one of the leading lights during those years, was talking about the post-1966 era when the game received a boost as the nation celebrated England […]

The best bridesmaids: 10 teams that should have been champions

THE STATISTICS suggest that Liverpool 2018-19 are the best-ever nearly men in English football history. Certainly, 97 points is a phenomenal record, but the figures only tell part of the story. Liverpool’s performances, the charisma of Jürgen Klopp and the attacking power of the team will forever be remembered, and not just by Reds’ fans. […]

Busby, Shankly and Stein – the three kings bearing gifts and wisdom

FOOTBALL films invariably disappoint, but the documentary about three legends, Matt Busby, Bill Shankly and Jock Stein, is a chapter from the rich history of the game that reminds us it has not always been about corporatisation and hubris. Three humble men in many ways, confident of their own ability but very clear about to […]

Out of mill towns and factories, our heroes came forth

THE RECENT death of Nobby Stiles underlined that notable players from football’s golden age are passing away at a rapid rate. It rekindled a romantic moment in the history of the game, when a diminutive, toothless and short-sighted character won the World Cup. Such occasions are increasingly rare today. Little Nobby’s involvement in English football’s […]

Docherty’s Manchester United and a hint of total football

THE 1974-75 season wasn’t a classic for English football. The country had been suffering a long hangover after the national team’s exit from the World Cup. We were excluded from the 1974 finals in West Germany, pinning our hopes on Scotland and Jack Taylor the referee. While the global audience marvelled at the exploits of […]

Farewell, Doc – the great managerial character actor

IN an age of anodyne post-match interviews and black-suited corporate football managers, there would probably be no place for the likes of Tommy Docherty. His bluntness, humour and market-trading improvisation would be totally at odds with the modern game. The “Doc”, as he was fondly known, has died, aged 92, and with him goes one […]

It’s 1960, and there’s a European Super League

THE SUBJECT of a European Super League has been mooted on a number of occasions down the decades. After world war two, football became something of an emollient, a universal language that could unite nations and put aside old differences. To some extent, the creation of pan-European bodies, industrially, culturally or socially, was a way […]

Park football: Whatever happened to Ockendon United?

THE MUDDY, laced ball, resembling Barnes Wallis’ bouncing bomb, rolled into the net, careering over worm-casts and divots. A gaggle of schoolboys, wearing their Gola or Co-op boots, tried to kick the ball back in play from behind the goal. The goalkeeper, white spindly legs, Peter Bonetti –style hair and an ill-fitting, gaping-at-the-neck green jersey, […]