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

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 Wolves 1957-60 – the mighty men from Molineux

The 1982 Brazilians – football’s last cavaliers

SINCE JUNE 21 1970, football fans have been longing for Brazil to gift the world the spirit of samba, the ball-juggling artistry that encapsulated jogo bonita, the romantic, natural brilliance that delivers entertainment and excitement. Brazil’s 1970 World Cup winners did not represent the start of something, that team was actually the culmination of a process that began amid the despair or Rio 1950. By … Continue reading The 1982 Brazilians – football’s last cavaliers

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 Arsenal, the Art Deco club

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