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

Manchester United 1968 – triumph before the fire went out

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

Great Reputations: Hellas Verona 1985 – a romantic tale to rival Shakespeare

MODERN football has made it nigh on impossible for provincial teams to win major prizes. As the game’s chief beneficiaries are mostly metropolitan clubs from large cities, the possibility of an unexpected championship triumph becomes beyond rare. In Italy, Juventus from Turin and the Milanese clubs have invariably dominated Serie A, but very rarely, a smaller club has come to the fore. But if you … Continue reading Great Reputations: Hellas Verona 1985 – a romantic tale to rival Shakespeare

Great Reputations: Portugal 1966 – the alternative champions

ASIDE from the image of Bobby Moore holding the Jules Rimet trophy aloft, one of the abiding memories of the 1966 World Cup is of Eusébio in full flight, the leading scorer and the most exciting player of the tournament. If you asked most people who would have been worthy champions if England had not won, the answer would undoubtedly be Portugal, who came through … Continue reading Great Reputations: Portugal 1966 – the alternative champions

Great Reputations: When Sampdoria shocked the system

THINK of Italian football and you come up with Juventus, Milan and Internazionale, in that order. Then add to that Roma and Napoli, perhaps Lazio. Today, you need to scratch deeper to bring names like Sampdoria to the fore. Sampdoria, from Genoa…pesto, minestrone, Pandoce Alto and, of course, football. But it is Genoa 1893, the oldest football club in Italy and, with nine Serie A … Continue reading Great Reputations: When Sampdoria shocked the system

Great Reputations: Wolves 1957-60 – the mighty men from Molineux

CHAMPIONS of the World! That was how Wolverhampton Wanderers were known for a while when they beat some of Europe’s best club sides in the mid-1950s. Of course, these were mostly in the pre-European Cup era, when foreign teams were as familiar to British audiences as Martians. But in the early floodlit days, there was something magical about Wolves’ encounters with Russian and Hungarian sides … Continue reading Great Reputations: Wolves 1957-60 – the mighty men from Molineux

Great Reputations: Borussia Mönchengladbach 1974-77 – mythical rebels

IT’S part of popular football culture that Bayern Munich have always been the dominant force in German football. Certainly, Bayern is the country’s most high-profile club and undoubtedly the most successful football institution from the Bundesliga. In recent years, only Borussia Dortmund have challenged Bayern on a sustainable basis, but the first club to grapple with the slick Bavarians was a team from North-Rhine Westphalia, … Continue reading Great Reputations: Borussia Mönchengladbach 1974-77 – mythical rebels

Great Reputations: Dinamo Tbilisi – Georgia’s on our mind

IN 1980-81, Dinamo Tbilisi put on a scintillating display when they met West Ham United at Upton Park in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup. They won emphatically by playing a brand of fast, attacking football that stunned the London crowd. “Those Russians, bloody marvellous football,” said one Hammers fan as he left the stadium. “I’ve not seen football like that since we had Moore, Hurst and … Continue reading Great Reputations: Dinamo Tbilisi – Georgia’s on our mind

Great Reputations: Arsenal, the Art Deco club

IN THE 1980s, a television series called The Thirties highlighted a turbulent and exciting decade. An entire chapter was devoted, quite simply, to “The Arsenal”. The 1930s was the age of the Gunners, a time that the club has strived to replicate ever since. Arsenal were as 1930s as Crittall Windows, British dance bands, mock-Tudor housing and Bakelite. They were thoroughly modern in every way, … Continue reading Great Reputations: Arsenal, the Art Deco club

Great Reputations: Red Star Belgrade 1973-74 – the team that changed English football

IN 1978, Chelsea chairman Brian Mears, desperate to change the fortunes of his ailing club, started to court Miljan Miljanić the Yugoslav coach rated among the best in Europe. Miljanić sat in the Stamford Bridge stands, dark glasses shielding him from the autumn sun and watched a calamitous first-half display by Chelsea against Bolton Wanderers. For a man used to rubbing shoulders with Europe’s footballing … Continue reading Great Reputations: Red Star Belgrade 1973-74 – the team that changed English football

Great Reputations: Anderlecht mid-1970s, trusting in purple

BELGIAN teams never made much of an impact in Europe in the early years of UEFA’s club competitions, the country was largely seen as an also-ran when it came to football. Teams like Anderlecht and Antwerp sustained very heavy blows in the first European Cup tournaments, often suffering double figure aggregate defeats. But the dynamic across the continent began to change in the 1960s and … Continue reading Great Reputations: Anderlecht mid-1970s, trusting in purple

Great Reputations: WBA 1978-79 – uncrowned people’s champions

THE PASSING of Cyrille Regis is an appropriate time to assess the West Bromwich Albion team of 1978-79, a side that would have been very popular champions should they have kept pace with the all-conquering Liverpool unit of that era. Albion played with an attitude that was as flamboyant as their manager at the time, Ron Atkinson. Love him or hate him, Atkinson always divides … Continue reading Great Reputations: WBA 1978-79 – uncrowned people’s champions