WE’VE ALL seen the footage of George Best rounding the keeper, of Bobby Charlton weeping, of Matt Busby embracing the players, remembering the fallen of Munich, and of Eusebio congratulating Alex Stepney on a superb save. It’s an episode in the history of the game that is as vivid as the unfamiliar blue shirts that Manchester United wore on May 29, 1968. Manchester United’s European … Continue reading Manchester United 1968 – triumph before the fire went out
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
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
THE football world is reaching the end of a cycle, one that has been dominated by two individuals, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Both players, worshipped in their own countries and admired worldwide, went tumbling out of probably their last World Cup. This has saved us the tiresome narrative of Russia 2018 being the last-chance saloon for both players, who will now never add the … Continue reading Is World Cup success so important for critical acclaim?
JUST before Christmas, I spotted former Chelsea star Alan Hudson outside Fulham Broadway station selling his biography on a stall. I was a little shocked by seeing this rather forlorn figure hawking his book in this way, but if you read his story, you’ll understand that Hudson’s life has not worked out quite like one would have expected. As someone who saw Hudson in … Continue reading Football Read Review: Played-out ballet
ANYONE who has attended a “sportsman’s evening” featuring footballers from the 1970s will be familiar with the script: laddish dialogue, tales of drink, women and gambling, blue jokes and so on and so forth. Sometimes, it’s not worth meeting your heroes, men you might have only seen on Match of the Day or in the tabloid press. After a while, stories of how “I once … Continue reading Best and Hudson, Keegan and Cruyff: Playboys v Smart boys
WE ALL wanted to be George Best. In the playground, on the football pitch, in the disco(!), in the boutique. He seemed to have everything that a virile male, circa 1967-72, needed to be a success in life: looks, women and outstanding ability. But he was a flawed character, and there can be no other assessment as we now look back on his short … Continue reading The problem with being Best
LESLIE VERNON was football journalism’s European expert in the 1960s and early 1970s. Information on this gentleman is scarce, but for some reason I assumed he had some sort of link with Hungary. Somebody told me he had come to England in the mid-1950s during the Hungarian uprising. I had an image of this pencil-bearded academic schooled in the football wisdom of Ferenc Puskas, Willie … Continue reading In 1968, these were Europe’s finest players…