Recalling Scotland’s “Wee Blue Devils” of 1928

IRONICALLY, two of England’s most documented and discussed games happen to be defeats – Hungary’s win in 1953 and two and a half decades earlier, England 1 Scotland 5. The Scots have never forgotten how they humbled their fierce rivals at Wembley in 1928 and the defeat stands alongside other defining moments in history when the English have had their noses blooded by the tartan hordes. … Continue reading Recalling Scotland’s “Wee Blue Devils” of 1928

All hyped up: Italia ‘90

WE ALL look to the influences of our childhood or formative years as being the “best of times”. The things that informed our thinking, philosophy, social position, relationships and work ethos act as benchmarks later in life. The exception is fashion, where we all cringe at what we used to wear, mainly because what was de rigeur for a teenager will never be acceptable for … Continue reading All hyped up: Italia ‘90

Just how strong is the Premier?

THERE may be four English teams in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, but judging by the first few months of the 2018-19 season, the concept of a “league within a league” is well and truly embedded in the Premier. This might just be the season that the Premier picks up the Champions League, especially as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona are … Continue reading Just how strong is the Premier?

72 Classic: Clough, Allison, Keegan and co. – why it was special

MALCOLM Allison, one of the pivotal figures of the 1970s, once said that the period between 1967 and 1972 was one of British football’s golden ages. Anyone who lived through that half decade of action will doubtless recall some outstanding players and personalities, memorable teams and the outlandish fashion and hairstyles of the age. This was, after all, a period that desperately clung to the … Continue reading 72 Classic: Clough, Allison, Keegan and co. – why it was special

61 fouls – the story of triumph over an ideology

IN NOVEMBER 1934, England met World Champions Italy in London in a game that has forever been known as “The Battle of Highbury”. This tag was no accident, however, for whatever was going to happen on that gloomy afternoon in North London, a football match was always going to become a theatre of war. On the road to war Europe in the 1930s was an … Continue reading 61 fouls – the story of triumph over an ideology

Peter Bonetti and death in the afternoon

CHELSEA’S Peter Bonetti was a fine goalkeeper: agile, occasionally flashy, brave and consistent. But for World Cup winner Gordon Banks, he would have won more than his seven England caps – and this was in an age when decent English-born custodians came off the production line like Ford Cortinas. Unfortunately for Bonetti,  he will be remembered by fans from most clubs for one career-defining and … Continue reading Peter Bonetti and death in the afternoon

Football didn’t come home, but it’s close to home

ENGLAND’S World Cup adventure may have ended in heartbreak, but if non-league football plays its cards right, it could exploit the goodwill impact of an extraordinarily successful campaign in Russia. There’s no doubt that the nation got behind waistcoated and bearded Gareth Southgate and his young team in much the same way that in Euro ‘96 we all believed that “football was coming home”. Football … Continue reading Football didn’t come home, but it’s close to home

Week Four: Into some form of perspective

AMID the theorising about what England’s 2018 World Cup campaign really meant, there were suggestions that ranged from a reaction to the current toxic political climate in the UK to a reborn national team that highlights the power of the Premier League. The fact is, if England had been in the other half of the draw, or Colombia hadn’t fluffed their lines, there would have … Continue reading Week Four: Into some form of perspective

Week Three: Going home, coming home

AND then there were four. Two good teams, two sides that got a bit lucky, managed their tournament well and worked their way through. If it turns out to be Belgium v England, then the Premier League’s grandees will be making merry, for it will be two teams of Premier players fighting it out for the game’s greatest prize. There’s been a lot of nonsense … Continue reading Week Three: Going home, coming home

Fanfare for the common team

DOUBTLESS the euphoria that greeted England’s penalty triumph over a Latin side schooled in the dark arts will have raised expectations beyond the wildest dreams of Gareth Southgate and, indeed, the nation. When England embarked on this “journey” (everyone is on a journey these days), a place in the quarter-finals would have been seen as “job done” by a squad relatively inexperienced in “tournament management”, … Continue reading Fanfare for the common team

Week Two – Written in the stars

FOR A while, we were led to believe this World Cup would be the one of shocks and surprises. We had Brazil spluttering to a draw, Argentina getting hammered and Germany beaten by Mexico. Messi would exit, leaving his last World Cup unfulfilled, Ronaldo would be crowned the greatest of all time and perhaps “little” Mexico would produce a fairy story. As for England, they … Continue reading Week Two – Written in the stars