Premature evaluation and Liverpool

EVEN AT this early stage, Liverpool’s current team, as exceptional as it is, is being prematurely labelled the club’s best ever side. There’s a degree of “presentism” about this claim, not least because if any club has a phenomenal list to choose from, it is Liverpool. Liverpool are odd-on champions-elect this season but as yet, Jürgen Klopp’s team has won just a single prize, albeit … Continue reading Premature evaluation and Liverpool

Manchester United, the religious argument

ACADEMICS somewhere in the world are probably debating right now whether football has replaced religion as a defining element of society. To some people, football is the prominent feature of their life, the opium that drags them away from the mundane. The importance of the game, to those who have little else to lift their lives, was highlighted in the press a year or so … Continue reading Manchester United, the religious argument

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

The past was orange and European, the future grey and isolated

I SPENT much of the mid-1970s walking around in an orange adidas t-shirt, a tribute to the Dutch national team of the period, and in particular, Johan Cruyff. In some ways, I was ahead of my time, because donning sportswear was not the fashion statement that it is today. However, I thought it was cool. In fact, I considered that the Netherlands was something of … Continue reading The past was orange and European, the future grey and isolated

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

72 Classic: Lessons from Europe for English football

AT the start of 1971-72, England’s football fraternity was still clinging to the idea that the nation was a major power in the game. The 1970 World Cup defeat at the hands of West Germany was mostly seen as an aberration and partly attributable to the rustiness of poor old Peter Bonetti, the outstanding Chelsea goalkeeper. There was little suggestion that perhaps the English method … Continue reading 72 Classic: Lessons from Europe for English football

Manchester United, the religious argument

ACADEMICS somewhere in the world are probably debating right now whether football has replaced religion as a defining element of society. To some people, football is the prominent feature of their life, the opium that drags them away from the mundane. The importance of the game, to those who have little else to lift their lives, was highlighted in the press a year or so … Continue reading Manchester United, the religious argument

Great Partnerships: Osgood and Hutchinson – short-lived but sensational

CHELSEA fans will never forget Peter Osgood and Ian Hutchinson, they were, after all, two of the key figures in the club’s unforgettable 1969-70 FA Cup triumph. These two players helped define an era, a swaggering Chelsea team that was fashionable, exciting, hard as nails at times and confident to the point of arrogance. But it is not always appreciated that their time together – … Continue reading Great Partnerships: Osgood and Hutchinson – short-lived but sensational

City and the dangerous pursuit of excellence

REMEMBER Leeds United in 1970? They were chasing a treble and ended with nothing. They finished in second place in the league, runners-up in the FA Cup final and lost in the “Battle of Britain” against Celtic over two legs in the European Cup semi-final. They were worn-out, heart-broken and stressed – above all, they were potless. Leeds had a relatively small squad with 12 … Continue reading City and the dangerous pursuit of excellence

72 Classic: A tale of two Uniteds

GEORGE BEST was still considered to be the best player in the country, of any country, in fact, in 1971. Manchester United were still the biggest draw in town. But Best was a troubled soul, increasingly getting into hot water and commanding the wrong kind of headlines, and United were still trying to negotiate the post-Busby era. The empire was crumbling and United were no … Continue reading 72 Classic: A tale of two Uniteds

72 Classic: Lifting Leeds

AFTER winning the 1969 Football League Championship, Leeds United pursued every trophy possible in the only way they knew how – with intensity, with total focus and with little regard for how the rest of football saw them. They were supremely “professional”, using every trick in the book to gain an advantage over their rivals. Some considered them a “dirty” team, sly in their approach … Continue reading 72 Classic: Lifting Leeds

Great Partnerships: Osgood and Hutchinson – short-lived but sensational

CHELSEA fans will never forget Peter Osgood and Ian Hutchinson, they were, after all, two of the key figures in the club’s unforgettable 1969-70 FA Cup triumph. These two players helped define an era, a swaggering Chelsea team that was fashionable, exciting, hard as nails at times and confident to the point of arrogance. But it is not always appreciated that their time together – … Continue reading Great Partnerships: Osgood and Hutchinson – short-lived but sensational

Ken Shellito, the England regular that never was

KEN SHELLITO never had the best of luck. As a player, he was cut down in his prime, turning out for his last competitive game in December 1965 at the age of 25. As a manager, he had the misfortune to take over from his former team-mate, Eddie McCreadie, who had become a folk hero as he took Chelsea to promotion in 1977. Ken Shellito … Continue reading Ken Shellito, the England regular that never was