Mühren and Thijssen, taking totalvoetbal to Suffolk

IN the mid-1970s, there was a certain fascination for all things Dutch among the football fraternity. Some managers, such as Dave Sexton, Ron Greenwood and Bobby Robson, were students of the European game and attempted to bring elements of the continent to England. It didn’t always work, for English players were not schooled in the same way as their European counterparts, but these managers at … Continue reading Mühren and Thijssen, taking totalvoetbal to Suffolk

Saunders’ champions – Aston Villa 1981

SEVENTY-PLUS years had passed since Aston Villa had last won the Football League Championship, their six title triumphs ended in 1910. In the intervening decades, Villa had known despair at times, spending  two years in Division Three at the start of the 1970s. In 1975, under the ultra-disciplinarian, Ron Saunders, Villa returned to the top flight, also winning the Football League Cup in 1974-75. Villa … Continue reading Saunders’ champions – Aston Villa 1981

Gods in sky blue – the 1930 Uruguayans

URUGUAY has long struggled to live up to its football heritage, but then any country of just  three and a half million people battles against huge odds to win major competitions, especially with far noisier and more acclaimed neighbours on their doorstep. Yet two Olympic titles and two World Cups, along with 15 Copa America titles, make Uruguay football’s most successful country in terms of … Continue reading Gods in sky blue – the 1930 Uruguayans

Cagliari 1970, thundering to the Scudetto

AS in England, there’s always been something of a north-south divide in Italy. The industrialised northern cities of Turin and Milan are a marked contrast to the rural south and islands like Sicily and Sardinia. The big money in Italian football came from business families such as the Agnellis and the Morattis, giving Juventus, AC Milan and Inter a big advantage over lesser clubs. Hence, … Continue reading Cagliari 1970, thundering to the Scudetto

Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles – men of their time

IF YOU’VE watched the film, The Damned United, you don’t necessarily come away with a positive view of Leeds United under Don Revie or the two legends in Leeds’ midfield in the mid-1960s to early 1970s, Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles. Along with Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter, no other players epitomised the stance adopted by Revie and his team in that period. Not for … Continue reading Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles – men of their time

Everton and the “golden vision”

TODAY, players’ nicknames lack imagination. There are no “Black pearls”, “Nijinskys”, “Maradonas of the Carpathians” or “Ghosts” (for the uninitiated, these players were: Eusebio, Colin Bell, Georgi Hagi and John White). In the 1960s, Alex Young of Everton was dubbed “The Golden Vision” – a near-celestial nickname. It was Tottenham Hotspur’s double-winning captain, Danny Blanchflower, that coined the phrase in tribute to Young. Ironically, it … Continue reading Everton and the “golden vision”

Rangers 1963-64 – a final flourish for the 60s

THE mid-1960s through to the 1970s was Celtic’s time in Scotland, Jock Stein’s side winning almost everything on offer. Before the tide turned in Glasgow, Rangers completed a memorable treble in 1963-64. Ibrox Park regulars would have found it hard to believe if anyone had told them, in 1964, that the Gers would not be crowned Scottish champions again for 11 long years. The Rangers … Continue reading Rangers 1963-64 – a final flourish for the 60s

Arsenal 1968-70 – Relative calm before the storm

WHEN Arsenal won the “double” in 1970-71, they received very little praise for their considerable efforts. Were it not for Charlie George’s messianic fall to the ground in the FA Cup final, Arsenal would be remembered for merely grinding-out results and out-slugging Leeds United’s relentless machine. But the seeds of Arsenal’s triumph were sown in three seasons leading up to 1970-71. From 1953, when Arsenal … Continue reading Arsenal 1968-70 – Relative calm before the storm

Saint-Etienne in the 1970s – painting the town Vert

BEFORE PSG got rich and threatened to join the uber-clubs of Europe, French football had only spasmodically made an impact on the big stages. True, Stade de Reims reached a couple of European Cup finals in the nascent years of the European Cup, and Marseille won the competition in the 1990s, but the team that captured the hearts of European football watchers was Saint-Etienne of … Continue reading Saint-Etienne in the 1970s – painting the town Vert

Leeds United 1969-72 – champions in all but name

LEEDS UNITED won the Football League championship twice under their patriarchal manager, Don Revie, in 1969 and 1974. But in between those title victories, Leeds could easily have been crowned champions three times between 1970 and 1972. They were arguably the best team during that period, perpetual runners-up and victims of their own consistency. If fixture congestion had not got the better of them or … Continue reading Leeds United 1969-72 – champions in all but name

Burnley 1959-60 – a good year for claret

BURNLEY, with a population of around 80,000, is the smallest town ever to give birth to a Football League Championship winning team. It has the classic image of a Lowryesque mill town of chimneys, and at one stage, looms outnumbered people. And in the football club’s heyday, a large percentage of local folk would shuffle along to Turf Moor to watch the Clarets. Today, the … Continue reading Burnley 1959-60 – a good year for claret

Liverpool’s Toshack and Keegan – big man, little man

FOOTBALL is a universal currency. The first world war demonstrated just that when troops climbed out of the trenches to kick the ball around on Christmas Day. Germans and Englishmen have always debated the great game, usually centred on 1966 and the infamous “over the line, or not” argument. In 1978, on holiday in Spain, a group of teenagers bumped into a bunch of Germans, … Continue reading Liverpool’s Toshack and Keegan – big man, little man

Arsenal ’89 – the drama that changed everything

AFTER such an exhilarating 1987-88 season, Liverpool were hot favourites to retain the title they won in style, especially as they had re-signed striker Ian Rush from Juventus. Arsenal, who had finished sixth, were seen as a team that could chase the eventual champions, but not seriously challenge for top spot. Their success in 1988-89 was a tribute to the talent of their young players, … Continue reading Arsenal ’89 – the drama that changed everything