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An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
Top 10: the best Cotswolds pubs with rooms
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
Top 10: the best Cotswolds pubs with rooms
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
Top 10: the best Cotswolds pubs with rooms
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
Top 10: the best Cotswolds pubs with rooms
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
Top 10: the best Cotswolds pubs with rooms
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
Top 10: the best Cotswolds pubs with rooms
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
Top 10: the best Cotswolds pubs with rooms
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
Top 10: the best Cotswolds pubs with rooms
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
Top 10: the best Cotswolds pubs with rooms
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
Top 10: the best Cotswolds pubs with rooms
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
Top 10: the best Cotswolds pubs with rooms
An insider's guide to the best pubs with rooms in the Cotswolds, featuring the top places to stay for good food, excellent walks, period charm, cosy fires and characterful rooms, in locations including Kingham, Tetbury and Winchcombe. The Wheatsheaf InnNorthleach, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A creeper-clad coaching inn turned arty, boutique haven. This rambling old property is furnished with immensely pleasing flair – a blend of tradition and contemporary chic. There are open fires, rugs on flagstone, wooden floors and retro school seats as dining chairs. The sophisticated menu offers great flavour combinations, the likes of roast parsnip and fennel salad with chestnuts, and mutton and apple pie with creamed potatoes. If there's space in the bar beforehand try an aperitif of Sloe Negroni. This is good walking country and there are several circular hikes from the doorstep. Read expert review From £81per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best hotels in the Cotswolds The Five AllsFilkins, Cotswolds, England 9Telegraph expert rating A slew of celebrities frequent the hotel, headed by near-neighbour Kate Moss, plus artist Jake Chapman, who is an investor, and others. The old inn has a useful layout, with a large bar area, often crowded at weekends, and a spacious Alpine style sitting area, with sofas in front of a log fire and pine dressers where infused olive oil and homemade fudge are offered for sale. Chef and owner Sebastian Snow has fined tuned the concept of a gastropub, offering the likes of calves liver and bacon with bubble and squeak and beet relish, and chargrilled squid with garlic roasties. Read expert review From £110per night • The best family-friendly hotels in the Cotswolds The Ebrington ArmsEbrington, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Creaking with atmosphere, this is a 1640 building with Victorian additions. You walk into a bar/dining room that exudes warmth, with an inglenook fireplace, exposed beams and flagstone and wooden floor. Beyond are two more dining areas – complete with wood burning stove, and settles crafted from old barrels. Chef Ben Dulley offers short, understated menus which reflect his commitment to freshness, with many vegetables straight from surrounding Drinkwater Farm. Yet it's the local spirit that makes this pub particularly special: it's the social hub of the village and hosts live music. Rooms have a decanter of sherry, homemade biscuits and an eclectic mix of hardback books. Read expert review From £165half board Rates provided by Booking.com • The best Cotswolds hotels in and around Burford The Bull InnCharlbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A 16th-century coaching inn; The Bull oozes atmosphere with its inglenook fireplace, stone walls and beams. There's a modern, arty vibe too, with flamboyant furnishings and striking paintings from the Crane Kelman gallery in London. There are four glamorously devised bedrooms above the bar. Each is individually furnished – one has walls hand-painted by artist Fifi McAlpine, another is soothingly deep green. They all have fine linen and fluffy robes. The establishment has its own butchery, and does adventurous starters in the restaurant (red gurnard with verbena harissa anyone?). Read expert review From £99per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best boutique hotels in the Cotswolds The Kingham PloughKingham, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating A treat of a foodie destination in picture-pretty Kingham. Husband and wife team Emily Watkins and Miles Lampson wanted to keep a 'pubby' element while also celebrating great British cuisine and have devised a relaxing haven with pleasingly comfy décor. There's a well-frequented bar with squishy armchairs, a woodburner at one end and a fireplace at the other. The six bedrooms are different shapes and sizes with flourishes of attractive fabrics. Award-winning food is inspired by local produce; the likes of Windrush Valley goat cheese and pork from Paddock Farm, a few miles away. Read expert review From £145per night • The best hotels for spa breaks in England The Howard ArmsStratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating This appealingly stylish old pub is set in a quiet lane on the outskirts of Ilmington, a pink brick and golden stone Warwickshire village. The pub dates back several centuries and has evolved from a collection of barns. There are snoozy leather armchairs in front of a big stone fireplace, and hunting pictures on the walls. Friday nights are particularly convivial, Sundays too, with a regular quiz in the evening. All of the eight rooms have a sitting area; one has a four-poster, another a canopy bed decked in tartan. From his fennel and pumpkin seed bread, to spiced vegetarian tagine and rump of lamb with pea puree, chef Gareth Rufus offers beautifully presented dishes based largely on local ingredients. Read expert review From £110per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best luxury hotels in the Cotswolds The Lion InnWinchcombe, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Lion is a 16th-century coaching inn turned rustic-cool pub with rooms. Set in the heart of Winchcombe, which is regarded as the ‘walking capital’ of the Cotswolds, it makes a fine base for hiking weekends and touring ‒ and serves appealing brasserie food. A modern makeover has cleverly given the interior of this historic property a cosy yet light and bright look. It's a place of bleached wood, exposed stone walls and rugs on flagstone floors. The well-priced menu includes mains such as mushroom tagliatelle with spinach pesto to slow-roasted pork belly with creamed cabbage. Read expert review From £100per night Check availability Rates provided by Booking.com • The best spa hotels in the Cotswolds The Village PubCirencester, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating The Village Pub certainly does what it says on the tin ‒ it's an inn and local hub. Yet it's also a handsome place of much mellow charm and wide appeal. The central point is a proper bar area with walls snugly decorated in deep aubergine; you can pop in to enjoy a pint of local Windrush ale beside the woodburner, a framed Barnsley cricket club T-shirt above it reflecting pride in local involvement. Yet as with most pubs, this is now principally a restaurant – offering plenty of space. The small, wholesome menu offers big flavours. Beds are clad in crisp cotton and soft checked throws; bathrooms are supplied with Gilchrist & Soames soaps and have showers over tubs. Read expert review From £99per night • The most romantic hotels in the Cotswolds The Plough InnCold Aston, Gloucestershire, England 8Telegraph expert rating This is a 17th-century Cotswold stone inn with a generous terrace. The Averys have retained the character of the building, particularly the original bar area which is now the dining room. Behind it, a previously unused room has become a sleek new bar area complete with creative flourishes such as stools fashioned from cart wheels. Locals still come for a pint and a chat, and weekenders descend from London, Birmingham and further afield. Much care is taken in sourcing food locally. Brasserie-style dishes range from courgette, sweetcorn and basil risotto to steaks from the charcoal oven. The three simply decorated attic rooms offer cosy comfort. Read expert review From £80per night • The best hotels with gardens in England The Royal OakTetbury, Cotswolds, England 8Telegraph expert rating Husband and wife team Chris York and Kate Lewis have put a lot of effort into creating a community venue, and there's been enthusiastic feedback from locals. Décor has been kept simple so as to show off the character of this old building. There's a warm bar/saloon on the ground floor, complete with two fireplaces, a reconditioned jukebox and a bar fashioned from recycled church panelling. Across a cobbled terrace from the main building, the former skittles alley has been converted into a six-bedroom annexe. All the rooms are kitted out with evocative Bisque Tetro radiators and are decorated in soothing colours. There's a choice of good bistro-style dishes from roast butternut squash salad to real-ale battered cod. Read expert review From £75per night
<p>The director has a special connection with the South Yorkshire town.</p>
Ken Loach backs Barnsley venue’s £5m bid to become world-class arts venue

The director has a special connection with the South Yorkshire town.

<p>The director has a special connection with the South Yorkshire town.</p>
Ken Loach backs Barnsley venue’s £5m bid to become world-class arts venue

The director has a special connection with the South Yorkshire town.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Championship - Barnsley vs Norwich City - Oakwell, Barnsley, Britain - March 13, 2018 Norwich City's Josh Murphy celebrates scoring their first goal Action Images/Craig Brough
FILE PHOTO: Championship - Barnsley vs Norwich City
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Championship - Barnsley vs Norwich City - Oakwell, Barnsley, Britain - March 13, 2018 Norwich City's Josh Murphy celebrates scoring their first goal Action Images/Craig Brough
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
A prophet without honour: The story of George Raynor, the first English manager to reach a World Cup final
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
A prophet without honour: The story of George Raynor, the first English manager to reach a World Cup final
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
A prophet without honour: The story of George Raynor, the first English manager to reach a World Cup final
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
A prophet without honour: The story of George Raynor, the first English manager to reach a World Cup final
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
A prophet without honour: The story of George Raynor, the first English manager to reach a World Cup final
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
A prophet without honour: The story of George Raynor, the first English manager to reach a World Cup final
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
A prophet without honour: The story of George Raynor, the first English manager to reach a World Cup final
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
A prophet without honour: The story of George Raynor, the first English manager to reach a World Cup final
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
A prophet without honour: The story of George Raynor, the first English manager to reach a World Cup final
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons in the Third Division South since their election to the league, could suddenly call upon guests stationed at the barracks of the calibre of Tommy Lawton, Frank Swift and Jimmy Hagan – and Raynor played with them and against greater luminaries in visiting FA and Army XI games put on at the Rec to entertain the troops. He was posted to North Africa with the Ninth Army in late 1941 and two years later to Baghdad via Durban, Bombay and Karachi. As a warrant officer in the APTC, he was employed by the Military Mission in Iraq to train recruits in the capital and Basra - and part of his brief involved organising sports teams. Raynor wrote that he played seven or eight matches a week and refereed many more while on duty and his success in turning callow conscripts into tough and capable fighting men caught the attention of his superiors. When the mission received a request from the prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Said, to help organise Iraq’s first national team to play exhibition games in Beirut and Damascus, Raynor was summoned back from Basra to take charge. Despite losing three of the five games, victory over Syria in the penultimate match before the last was abandoned in the midst of a riot (during which there were fatalities and scores of casualties) raised Raynor’s profile significantly in the Army and government of Iraq. While improperly contemptuous of the fortitude of Arab men, Raynor was inspired by the example of a pregnant woman he saw who made a 20-mile daily trip to market carrying fruit on her head and an infant on one hip. “That poor woman,” he wrote, “underlined the opinion I was already forming – that will-power will conquer everything.” On demobilisation in the summer of 1945 he returned to Aldershot with references from al-Said, the C-in-C Persia and Iraq command and a resolve to develop his Iraq “ideas and principles” in a “properly organised system of coaching” to “rebuild football in England after the war”. Raynor, front left, spent the last season of pre-war football at Aldershot Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Instead he found “nobody wanted any system. Coaches were regarded as cranks who would soon fade away from the scene so that the game would continue.” He had a season running Aldershot reserves, who let him go after nine months, and his applications elsewhere were rebuffed at almost every turn. At football clubs, he surmised, “the sign was up: No hawkers. No Circulars. No Coaches.” Happily for Raynor, the football establishment had one non-conformist and it just happened to be its most significant modernising force. Stanley Rous, secretary of the Football Association, had been forwarded the endorsements of Raynor’s illustrious referees and wrote to him with encouraging words. Unhappily, he had limited executive power in the federal structure and none at all with professional clubs. Mercifully, overseas governing bodies held him in higher esteem and were considerably less conservative. In 1946 Rous received a letter at his office in Lancaster Gate from his Swedish counterpart asking for a recommendation for a head coach and, remembering his correspondence, proposed Raynor. Remarkably for a man eking out £5 a week in a precarious job with Aldershot’s reserves, Raynor informed Rous that he did not want to go. But when he lost that position he reconsidered and boarded the Gothenburg steamer. He had agreed a six-month trial but before his first game in charge, Second Division Birmingham City visited Stockholm to play a friendly and when a few of their players admitted to inquiring journalists that they could furnish no background details on Raynor because they had never heard of him, alarm about the ‘unknown’ manager began to spread. Fears that Sweden had been lumbered with a ringer were only assuaged when an RAF side came on a goodwill trip a few weeks later. The sight of Raynor at the reception talking to England captain George Hardwick and the most famous footballer of them all, Stanley Matthews, with discernible intimacy and warmth mollified the disquiet. Raynor, left, shakes hands with Malmo's Stellan Nilsson shortly after taking over in 1946 Credit: Erik Collin/TT News Agency Although Swedish football had steadfastly resisted the game going professional, the kingdom’s neutrality in the war had left the game structurally intact and player development had not been impeded by more existential concerns. Raynor reported that he found “many fine technical players… probably too many but not enough who would fight for the ball”. Given a free hand by his employers, he focused on “quick reaction, agility and hardness” and, with the talents of Gunnar Gren, Niels Liedholm and the three Nordahl brothers – Bertil, Knut and Gunnar – to build on, quickly forged a team. To do this, he embedded himself in the regions, travelling around the country and spending a fortnight with each of the 12 First Division clubs, identifying possibles, teaching, training and integrating the best of them into his system of play. Raynor’s strategy revolved around a plan he called the “G-Man”, ostensibly a forerunner of the “deep lying centre-forward” used by Hungary with Nandor Hidegkuti, Manchester City’s “Revie Plan” and the “false nine” so prevalent over the past decade. He revealed that he adapted it from a fairly common tactic employed by Bury in the Thirties and deputed his inside-left, Knut Nordahl, to occupy the roaming role while Gren, on the right, and Gunnar Nordahl, through the middle, were pushed high upfield. The first time he used it after hours of drilling and discussion with his players where everyone was encouraged to speak, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-2 in July 1946, overturning the 3-0 defeat in Geneva from the previous November that had prompted the board’s urgent letter to Rous. Twin victories over Finland and Norway, one over Poland and three against Denmark followed over 18 months before Raynor’s Sweden took on England at Highbury in November 1947 and rattled the hosts. In the preceding 10 matches, Sweden scored 51 times and Gunnar Nordahl bagged 15, Gren eight and Liedholm five. From 3-1 down at the break, they dominated the second half and at 3-2 looked the most likely to score until Stan Mortensen hit them with a brilliant goal, trapping a goal-kick by the halfway line and weaving his way through the defence to shoot past the keeper. “The Swedes were a trifle overawed for the first 20 minutes,” wrote the Manchester Guardian, “but later discovered there was nothing unbeatable in front of them, attacked for the greater part of the second half, and in the last half scored goal for goal.” Sweden came back to London for the 1948 Olympics Credit: World History Archive / Alamy Stock Photo They returned to London the following summer and their combination of skill, organisation, power and Raynor’s more direct approach equipped them to sweep to the final at the Olympic Games by defeating Austria 3-0 at White Hart Lane, Korea 12-0 at Selhurst Park and Denmark, yet again, 4-2 in the semi-final at Wembley. Gren, a mercurially gifted inside-right with immaculate control, scored twice in the final and Gunnar Nordahl the second goal in a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia who took losing out on gold sourly. One of their delegation went up to Raynor and said: “English coach, English referee. Communist. It is bribery.” And just to round it off, he spat in his face. Throughout the tournament, Italian agents had laid siege to Sweden’s training camp and dressing room, ultimately offering Raynor £1,000 and a car if he helped in the seduction of Liedholm, Gren, Henry Carlsson and Gunnar Nordahl to move to Serie A. He turned them down but the exodus began, Gren, Nordahl and Liedholm joining AC Milan the following year where they became the fabled ‘Gre-No-Li’ trident that took the Rossoneri to the runners-up position in 1950 and the scudetto the following year. Incidentally, it was a golden age not only for Sweden’s players but also for evocative nicknames: Sune Andersson, the left-half, was known as ‘Mona Lisa’ for his smile, Sigge Parling ‘the Iron Stove’ for his physique, Gren ‘the Professor’ for his erudite play, Liedholm ‘the Baron’ for his bearing, Kurt Hamrin ‘Little Bird’, Gunnar Nordahl ‘the Fireman’ and Nacka Skoglund, whose life ended in an early, chaotic demise, ‘the Swaying Corncob’. In addition to the Milan immortals, Bertil Nordahl, the centre-half, went to Atalanta, his brother Knut and ‘La Gioconda’ to Roma and Carlsson to Stade Français. Liedholm, Il Barone, went to Milan with Gren and Gunnar Nordahl Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images Because the Swedish FA stuck obdurately to its amateur only policy, Raynor had to fashion a new team for the 1950 World Cup and still made it through to the final pool, beating the Italians who had pillaged six of his gold medal-winners. Although they were hammered 7-1 by the hosts, Brazil, and lost narrowly to eventual champions Uruguay, a 3-1 victory over Spain was enough to earn his refashioned side third place. How they would have fared with Gunnar Nordahl, who had scored 43 goals in 33 matches for Sweden, Liedholm and Gren is the great ‘what if?’ of Swedish football. It would take eight years, Raynor’s urging, failure to qualify for the 1954 tournament and fear of embarrassment at their home World Cup for the board to relent and allow professionals into the fold - by which point Nordahl had retired, Liedholm was 35 and Gren 37. Raynor left Sweden to move to Italy in 1954 after winning bronze at the 1952 Games and holding Hungary - Hidegkuti, Zoltan Czibor, Sandor Kocsis, Ferenc Puskas et al – to a 2-2 draw at the Nepstadion in November 1953. Ten days later the ‘Magical Magyars’ humiliated England 6-3 at Wembley and destroyed the myth of English football exceptionalism for good. Raynor spent three months as general manager of Juventus but was shipped out to Lazio after his six games had left them five points behind Milan. He left Serie A at the end of the season, spooked, he claimed, by the widespread corruption and the strain of having to deal with a perennially squabbling, 26-strong board of directors in the capital. In the summer he moved to Coventry City of the Third Division South, first as assistant to the charismatic Jesse Carver, who made a similar journey from Roma to Highfield Road and rapidly regretted it, resigning on New Year’s Eve 1955 and jilting them for Lazio. Raynor stepped up but lasted only 11 months. His notice was accepted at the second time of offering and he records in his autobiography a litany of broken promises, double-dealing and “cock-and-bull stories” from malingering players. Raynor, right, disliked the players' attitudes during his spell as Coventry's manager Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock By virtue of his year in Italy, he was relatively wealthy but unemployed. Raynor tried to find work with an English club but to no avail and spent the winter working as a regional coach with the Lincolnshire Education Committee. After the uprising in Hungary was repressed by Soviet troops in 1956, some refugees were found work as miners in England and Raynor offered his services to the National Coal Board to help train them. When the board brought up its own coach from London for the job, Raynor was despondent. “Britain had a heaven-sent opportunity to prove what a fine sporting nation it is during this Hungarian crisis,” he lamented. “But the opportunity was lost… I wanted to stay at home and help in whatever way I could, but apparently nobody wanted me.” Sweden had never neglected him and regular calls to the Lincolnshire bungalow from old, influential friends and a campaign of lobbying in person to his son Brian, who had remained in Stockholm and become a Swedish subject, gradually cajoled him into returning in March 1957 to prepare for the World Cup. Immediately he began his travels around the country, identifying players such as the centre-forward Agne Simonsson, devising personal fitness and tactical drills for them and persuading the board to let him pick the Italian-based players. “It was claimed that the Swedish [World] Cup side was not representative of Swedish football,” he wrote. “Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced.” He stripped the team of the Second Divison players who had lost to Norway and drawn with Denmark and began to rebuild confidence with his pragmatic style and selections that re-established their position as the pre-eminent Scandinavian force. While walloping their neighbours boosted morale, slim defeats by Austria and the world champions West Germany in late 1957 became the impetus for the board to agree to call-ups for the Serie A exiles Liedholm, Hamrin, Skoglund and Atalanta’s centre-half, Julle Gustavsson. Without them they may have made it out of a group containing Hungary, Wales and Mexico but it is hard to envisage them progressing much further. Raynor with the Order of Vasa awarded by King Gustav VI in 1958 Credit: Aldre Bild/TT News Agency Convincing the Swedish board to capitulate over the ‘Italians’ was one thing, enticing the clubs to release them was another and the four arrived at the training camp only after compensation was agreed and merely days before the World Cup kicked off at the Rasunda where the hosts would play Mexico on June 8 1958. Raynor sent out his XI with Skoglund wide on the left, Hamrin on the right, Liedholm at right-half and Gren at inside-right but it was the wingers, rather than the two stately survivors of the 1948 side, who proved the difference, hugging the touchline, employing their dribbling skills in lieu of explosive pace to set up chances for Simonsson’s late bursts into the box to exploit. They won 3-0 and then dispatched a Hungary side weakened by defections 2-1, Hamrin scoring twice though the Scottish referee, Jack Mowatt, received more credit in Budapest for siding with the home side. The victory assured qualification for the quarter-final and Raynor asked his selection committee, astutely if not altogether respectably, to send out a second XI for the final group game against a Wales team, including John Charles in the wrong position at centre-half, which ended in a stalemate, proof of the effectiveness of his coaching and tactics. In the quarter-final Sweden took on the USSR, who had thrashed them 7-0 and 6-0 during Raynor’s year in Italy. It was the wingers once more, Hamrin especially, who decided the game. The Soviet Union, fatigued after a play-off, were outmanoeuvred by him and he scored once and cut out Lev Yashin with a marvellous cross to set up Simonsson for the late second in a 2-0 victory. Extraordinarily, the crowd in Stockholm for the quarter-final was 18,000 below capacity, as if the belief of Raynor and his team had not been transfused into the public. All that changed for the semi-final against defending champions West Germany when the mood took on an uncharacteristic and volatile edge. “The patriotic euphoria of this traditionally neutral, peaceable, unchauvinist nation rose to an orgy of patriotism,” wrote Brian Glanville. “It was a riveting and somewhat alarming study in national behaviour.” The opening ceremony was greeted with more traditional Swedish decorum than they afforded West Germany in the semi-final Credit: STAFF/AFP/Getty Images The game in Gothenburg began with Swedish cheerleaders on the pitch, rousing a crowd that needed no encouragement, and was played in a filthy atmosphere that deteriorated further after Hans Schaefer scored for West Germany with a 25-yard volleyed screamer. Raynor had switched Liedholm back to inside-left and it was in that role, albeit with the unpunished use of his hand, that he teed up Skoglund’s equaliser. When West Germany’s left-back Erich Juskowiak was sent off with more than a little assistance from Hamrin’s dramatic tumble and then Fritz Walter was hobbled by a terrible Parling foul, Sweden moved into the ascendancy and ended up triumphing 3-1 as a result of Gren’s thumping shot into the top corner and Hamrin’s glorious stop-start polka from the touchline which took out three defenders before he scored with an insouciant chip. The hosts and Raynor were in the final. There they would meet Brazil for whom 17-year-old Pele had scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory in the Stockholm semi-final that had wantonly been played simultaneously with Sweden’s game. On the morning of the final The Observer’s Tony Pawson profiled the manager for his own compatriots. “His instructions to players are simple and direct,” he wrote.”Even at press conferences where others are evasive or non-committal, he is frank and clear. He talks of his team as a slow side who rely on the ball to do the running, but there is speed where it matters most in defence and on the wing and the whole team is quick and intelligent in its reactions.” One example of that frankness and clarity, however, came back to bite him hard. Musing on the importance of a quick start, he told his players: “If the Brazilians go a goal down, they’ll panic all over the show.” It took Sweden four minutes on the rainswept Sunday afternoon to test this rosy hypothesis when Liedholm put Sweden 1-0 up. Fifa, though, had banned the cheerleaders and the crowd correspondingly remained disturbingly reserved. The change from Gothenburg to Stockholm did not help and Brazil, by contrast with West Germany, were not easy to cast as bandits. Consequently, neither the show nor Brazil were afflicted by panic of any kind and within five minutes Garrincha had given Parling and Sven Axbom the slip with a sinuous bodyswerve by the touchline and set up Vava’s equaliser. It became a thrillingly open game and after Pele had flayed a shot against the post, Garrincha again mesmerised the left side of the home defence to create Vava’s second. Garrincha tore the left side of Sweden's defence apart in the final Credit: AP Ten minutes into the second half Pele scored the goal that every Brazilian of a certain age and every football fan of taste can spool through their mind’s eye, the sumptuous chest trap, scooped half-volley, flick over his shoulder, pirouette and controlled finish on the full with his laces. Mario Zagallo scored the fourth, Simonsson grabbed one back and Pele headed the fifth in injury time to win Brazil’s first World Cup. His team-mates lifted the boy on to their shoulders and he held his hand to his eyes to try to mask the tears but it was pointless. They splashed on to his royal blue shirt for a while longer. Soon enough, though, he joined in with the rest of the squad as they danced around the perimeter, parading first their own flag and then Sweden’s and the crowd, its reticence at last overcome, applauded wildly. “Will-power can conquer everything," had been Raynor’s coaching maxim, but at the Rasunda its limitations were exposed by the exceptional talents of Nilton Santos, Zito and Didi and the two geniuses, Pele and Garrincha, in the finest marriage of pace and power, precision and off-the-cuff improvisation in the history of the game up to that date. “There is no use beating about the bush,” Raynor wrote. “Brazil were magnificent. [They] were the masters in a glorious match played in the finest spirit in a great sporting land.” Pele, left, weeps on the shoulder of goalkeeper Gilmar, after Brazil's 5-2 victory over Sweden as Didi waves to the crowd Credit: AP Photo/File Raynor returned to Skegness a few days later, still believing in his own great sporting land but he could find no job commensurate with his stature in the international game and spent only 17 months in League football at Doncaster Rovers from the summer of 1967. He wanted the England job and, pertinently, his preference for working alongside a selection committee would have commended him to the FA blazers who begrudgingly ceded control to Alf Ramsey in 1962. By then Raynor had ruined his chances by upsetting the governing body with his autopsy of England’s successive shameful failures at World Cups in his autobiography, Football Ambassador at Large, and indiscreetly recounted private conversations he had had with FA grandees addressing the squad’s poor preparation. The book was withdrawn from publication under the threat of legal action after barely a month and only the sanitised but still rare second edition can be found these days. Instead of taking over England, a job he insisted he was best qualified for, he carried on at Skegness Town, went back to Sweden for a third, short spell in charge of the national side and departed the game for good after leaving Belle Vue. He died in Buxton, Derbyshire, in 1985 without an obituary to mark his passing in England, not even in Skegness, Barnsley or Bury. Not forgotten. Completely unnoticed. His family could be forgiven a rueful smile 15 years later when the FA turned to Sweden’s Sven Goran-Eriksson to manage England and again in 2012 when they appointed Roy Hodgson, an Englishman who had forged his career in Scandinavia. Such is the tragedy of pioneers, their race is usually run before the world catches up.
A prophet without honour: The story of George Raynor, the first English manager to reach a World Cup final
England has a squalid tradition of treating its World Cup heroes shabbily: Sir Alf Ramsey’s sacking in 1974 was announced in the most interminable and vapid Football Association statement imaginable and his pay-off and pension were derisory; Jack Charlton was denied the courtesy of a response when he applied for the manager’s job in 1977; Bobby Moore, demonstrably floundering in his retirement attempts to forge a career that afforded him appropriate dignity, was surveyed with the most sulphurous of official stink eyes and the ‘other Boys of 66’, the 11 squad members who did not play in the final and the support staff, had to wait 43 years for medals and recognition. Little wonder, then, that the first English manager to take his side to the World Cup final, a placid, coaching evangelist with a third-place finish and a runner’s-up spot at the game’s greatest tournament, should also be the victim of dishonourable indifference in his native land. A country that does not treasure its own champions is hardly going to revere Sweden’s even if he was born in the heart of the South Yorkshire coalfield and owed his education to Barnsley Grammar School, the Wesleyan Chapel, Football League and Army Physical Training Corps. Yet when George Raynor returned to his home in Skegness, the bracing North Sea resort town where generations of East Midlands industrial workers spent their ‘Going-off’ weeks, hoping for a crocodile of solicitous chairmen to cool their wingtips on the bungalow’s front path after Sweden’s 5-2 defeat by Brazil in the 1958 final, he was left swiftly and chasteningly disillusioned. Indeed the Skegness Standard found him at the end of July, 30 days after the Brazil game at the Rasunda, digging the back garden in his football boots and yellow and blue ‘Sverige’ tracksuit. His Saab, far more exotic than its owner in a world of Austin Cambridges, Morris Oxfords and legions of bus patrons, was parked outside. Once through the door, the reporter was obligingly given the grand tour of mementoes from Raynor’s Olympic gold-medal winning campaign in 1948 and bronze from Helsinki four years later, the family silver given by grateful clubs, autographed plate from his players and the British and Swedish ornamental flags standing proud on the front window sill. He was 51-years old, this prophet without honour in his homeland. He spoke with optimism about his future prospects and justified pride about the methods and achievements that had made him a Knight of the Order of Vasa, an honour given to him by King Gustaf VI. Within a month he was managing Skegness Town in the Midland League and on the way to a storeman’s job at Butlin’s. When he is spoken about at all now it is as a category error, “England’s forgotten coach” – implying common knowledge that has been eroded. In truth he was never widely known here, either as a player who had his best years with Bury, or as a coach with Coventry, or for his brief spells at Juventus and Lazio. In Sweden, however, he needs no proselytiser. In the national sports museum Raynor is not remote, parochial or obscure but one of the household gods. England’s loss was their gain, though his 12-year journey with them to the World Cup final required help from illustrious wartime pals to prevent it ending before it had even begun. Raynor enjoyed his best spell as a player at Bury Credit: Colorsport/REX/Shutterstock Raynor arrived in Gothenburg in 1946 a reluctant émigré. He had played the last pre-war season on the right wing for Aldershot, joined up in the garrison town after Germany’s invasion of Poland and combined his duties as a PT instructor with playing wartime football in the most fortuitous of locations. Aldershot, who had spent seven seasons