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Maurizio Sarri wants Gianfranco Zola to join him at Chelsea with the Italian growing in confidence that progress is being made on his bid to succeed Antonio Conte. Chelsea’s managerial situation has been deadlocked since Napoli appointed Carlo Ancelotti, but did not release Sarri from his contract. Aurelio De Laurentiis, the Napoli president, has confirmed he is ready to negotiate Sarri’s release, with Italian sources claiming his compensation demand has now dropped to £3.5 million. That may still be too much for Chelsea, who have been watching to see whether Sarri’s lawyers can clinch his release from Napoli. But, while progress has been slow, there is now a feeling that a solution could be found. Reports from Italy claiming Sarri could be appointed as early as Monday are said to be premature, with Chelsea yet to formally sack head coach Conte. It had been hoped that a mutual split might be found that saw Conte move straight into another job, but that appears increasingly unlikely and the 48-year-old is more likely to take time out and collect his full £9m pay-off. Revealed: The inside story of how Antonio Conte's reign at Chelsea turned sour But, regardless of Conte, Sarri is beginning to prepare for a move to Stamford Bridge and has identified Zola as the perfect man to help him transition from Serie A to the Premier League. Zola played over 300 games for Chelsea and became a fans’ favourite during his seven seasons at Stamford Bridge. He went on to coach West Ham United and Watford, but has been out of work since being sacked by Birmingham City in 2017. There would be space either within the coaching set up or in a technical capacity for Zola, with some of Conte’s staff expected to follow him through the exit and with Chelsea having yet to replace former sporting director Michael Emenalo. With Sarri speaking only limited English and having never coached outside Italy, Zola could help him with the language and also with settling into Premier League football. On Sarri, De Laurentiis said: “I am here to discuss and have already said that, if called, I would be reasonable.”
Gianfranco Zola edging towards Chelsea return... providing Maurizio Sarri replaces manager Antonio Conte
Maurizio Sarri wants Gianfranco Zola to join him at Chelsea with the Italian growing in confidence that progress is being made on his bid to succeed Antonio Conte. Chelsea’s managerial situation has been deadlocked since Napoli appointed Carlo Ancelotti, but did not release Sarri from his contract. Aurelio De Laurentiis, the Napoli president, has confirmed he is ready to negotiate Sarri’s release, with Italian sources claiming his compensation demand has now dropped to £3.5 million. That may still be too much for Chelsea, who have been watching to see whether Sarri’s lawyers can clinch his release from Napoli. But, while progress has been slow, there is now a feeling that a solution could be found. Reports from Italy claiming Sarri could be appointed as early as Monday are said to be premature, with Chelsea yet to formally sack head coach Conte. It had been hoped that a mutual split might be found that saw Conte move straight into another job, but that appears increasingly unlikely and the 48-year-old is more likely to take time out and collect his full £9m pay-off. Revealed: The inside story of how Antonio Conte's reign at Chelsea turned sour But, regardless of Conte, Sarri is beginning to prepare for a move to Stamford Bridge and has identified Zola as the perfect man to help him transition from Serie A to the Premier League. Zola played over 300 games for Chelsea and became a fans’ favourite during his seven seasons at Stamford Bridge. He went on to coach West Ham United and Watford, but has been out of work since being sacked by Birmingham City in 2017. There would be space either within the coaching set up or in a technical capacity for Zola, with some of Conte’s staff expected to follow him through the exit and with Chelsea having yet to replace former sporting director Michael Emenalo. With Sarri speaking only limited English and having never coached outside Italy, Zola could help him with the language and also with settling into Premier League football. On Sarri, De Laurentiis said: “I am here to discuss and have already said that, if called, I would be reasonable.”
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Championship - Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Birmingham City - Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, Britain - April 15, 2018 Wolverhampton Wanderers' Benik Afobe celebrates scoring their second goal Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
FILE PHOTO: Championship - Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Birmingham City
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Championship - Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Birmingham City - Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, Britain - April 15, 2018 Wolverhampton Wanderers' Benik Afobe celebrates scoring their second goal Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
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 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.
Birmingham City goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger was named joint WSL Players’ Player of the Year alongside Manchester City’s Jill Scott.
Berger shares WSL award with Scott after return from cancer treatment
Birmingham City goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger was named joint WSL Players’ Player of the Year alongside Manchester City’s Jill Scott.
Birmingham City Ladies and England forward Ellen White crowned a fine individual season with the Vauxhall England Women's Player of the Year award on Friday night. White was the Women's Super League 1's leading goalscorer with 15 goals and scored twice in England's comeback 2-2 draw against Germany in the SheBelieves Cup. The 29-year-old saw off competition from Fran Kirby, Millie Bright, Nikita Parris and Demi Stokes who were also shortlisted for main prize at the FA Women's Football Awards ceremony, for which The Telegraph was the media partner, in London. Manchester City’s Georgia Stanway won the Telegraph WSL-1 Goal of the Year award for her strike against Chelsea. Arsenal's Beth Mead claimed the Vauxhall England Young Women’s Player of the Year after making her Lionesses debut against Wales in April and winning the WSL Continental Tyres Cup with her club. Manchester City's Jill Scott and Birmingham's Ann-Katrin Berger shared the Women's Super League Players' Player of the Year prize. Emma Hayes guided Chelsea Women to a league and FA Cup double before giving birth to a baby boy in May, an achievement recognised by the WSL Head Coach of the Year award. There was a special presentation to trailblazer Sue Lopez MBE, 72, who played in 10 FA Cup finals with Southampton and coached Wales in a career spanning five decades.
Ellen White wins Vauxhall England Women's Player of the Year
Birmingham City Ladies and England forward Ellen White crowned a fine individual season with the Vauxhall England Women's Player of the Year award on Friday night. White was the Women's Super League 1's leading goalscorer with 15 goals and scored twice in England's comeback 2-2 draw against Germany in the SheBelieves Cup. The 29-year-old saw off competition from Fran Kirby, Millie Bright, Nikita Parris and Demi Stokes who were also shortlisted for main prize at the FA Women's Football Awards ceremony, for which The Telegraph was the media partner, in London. Manchester City’s Georgia Stanway won the Telegraph WSL-1 Goal of the Year award for her strike against Chelsea. Arsenal's Beth Mead claimed the Vauxhall England Young Women’s Player of the Year after making her Lionesses debut against Wales in April and winning the WSL Continental Tyres Cup with her club. Manchester City's Jill Scott and Birmingham's Ann-Katrin Berger shared the Women's Super League Players' Player of the Year prize. Emma Hayes guided Chelsea Women to a league and FA Cup double before giving birth to a baby boy in May, an achievement recognised by the WSL Head Coach of the Year award. There was a special presentation to trailblazer Sue Lopez MBE, 72, who played in 10 FA Cup finals with Southampton and coached Wales in a career spanning five decades.
Who doesn't love an Ordnance Survey map? In the age of Google, satnavs and virtual reality, an OS map is like a warm, nostalgic, slightly confusing hug, which explains why sales of the paper maps have defied expectations and remained buoyant over the last four years. But how well do you know your railways from your roads, your canals from your rivers and your hills from your depressions? Would you recognise Birmingham city centre from an OS map? Credit: Fotolia/AP To test your skills, the folk at Ordnance Survey have sent us some images of UK towns and cities - the likes of which can be found in the OS Great British Colouring Map - but with all names and details scrubbed off. Can you still work out where they are? Once you're done, try some of our other quizzes. We've covered British seaside resorts, great battlefields, weird driving laws, odd drinks, airport codes, airline logos, world flags and obscure capital cities, to name a few. Or why not challenge yourself to get full marks on the world's hardest geography quiz?
Quiz: Can you guess the UK city from its Ordnance Survey map?
Who doesn't love an Ordnance Survey map? In the age of Google, satnavs and virtual reality, an OS map is like a warm, nostalgic, slightly confusing hug, which explains why sales of the paper maps have defied expectations and remained buoyant over the last four years. But how well do you know your railways from your roads, your canals from your rivers and your hills from your depressions? Would you recognise Birmingham city centre from an OS map? Credit: Fotolia/AP To test your skills, the folk at Ordnance Survey have sent us some images of UK towns and cities - the likes of which can be found in the OS Great British Colouring Map - but with all names and details scrubbed off. Can you still work out where they are? Once you're done, try some of our other quizzes. We've covered British seaside resorts, great battlefields, weird driving laws, odd drinks, airport codes, airline logos, world flags and obscure capital cities, to name a few. Or why not challenge yourself to get full marks on the world's hardest geography quiz?
Who doesn't love an Ordnance Survey map? In the age of Google, satnavs and virtual reality, an OS map is like a warm, nostalgic, slightly confusing hug, which explains why sales of the paper maps have defied expectations and remained buoyant over the last four years. But how well do you know your railways from your roads, your canals from your rivers and your hills from your depressions? Would you recognise Birmingham city centre from an OS map? Credit: Fotolia/AP To test your skills, the folk at Ordnance Survey have sent us some images of UK towns and cities - the likes of which can be found in the OS Great British Colouring Map - but with all names and details scrubbed off. Can you still work out where they are? Once you're done, try some of our other quizzes. We've covered British seaside resorts, great battlefields, weird driving laws, odd drinks, airport codes, airline logos, world flags and obscure capital cities, to name a few. Or why not challenge yourself to get full marks on the world's hardest geography quiz?
Quiz: Can you guess the UK city from its Ordnance Survey map?
Who doesn't love an Ordnance Survey map? In the age of Google, satnavs and virtual reality, an OS map is like a warm, nostalgic, slightly confusing hug, which explains why sales of the paper maps have defied expectations and remained buoyant over the last four years. But how well do you know your railways from your roads, your canals from your rivers and your hills from your depressions? Would you recognise Birmingham city centre from an OS map? Credit: Fotolia/AP To test your skills, the folk at Ordnance Survey have sent us some images of UK towns and cities - the likes of which can be found in the OS Great British Colouring Map - but with all names and details scrubbed off. Can you still work out where they are? Once you're done, try some of our other quizzes. We've covered British seaside resorts, great battlefields, weird driving laws, odd drinks, airport codes, airline logos, world flags and obscure capital cities, to name a few. Or why not challenge yourself to get full marks on the world's hardest geography quiz?
Detail of figures and flowers are seen on The Windrush Garden, created by Birmingham City Council at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London, Britain, May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Detail of figures and flowers are seen on The Windrush Garden, created by Birmingham City Council at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London, Britain
Detail of figures and flowers are seen on The Windrush Garden, created by Birmingham City Council at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London, Britain, May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Stoke are close to appointing Gary Rowett as their new manager after agreeing to pay the £1.8m compensation fee. Relegated Stoke have returned for Rowett, their No 1 target in January after the dismissal of Mark Hughes, and are hoping to agree a deal in the next 48 hours as they prepare for the Championship. Rowett was top of Stoke's list in the New Year, yet opted to stay at Pride Park as negotiations over a new contract were advanced, subsequently guiding Derby to the Championship play-offs. But Stoke have revived their long-term interest in the former defender and want him to lead their promotion challenge following relegation from the Premier League. It is understood the move is being driven by John Coates, Stoke's influential vice-chairman, who has admired Rowett for some time. Sources at Stoke have revealed that Rowett has been on Stoke's radar since his start at Burton Albion, with the 44-year-old also impressing in spells at Birmingham City and Derby. Rowett signed a new £1.5m a year contract in January and it is understood compensation is just under the £2m mark. Stoke parted company with Paul Lambert last Friday and are keen to bring in a new manager by the end of the week. Derby issued a statement on Monday evening. It read: "Derby County Football Club can confirm that Gary Rowett has asked for permission to speak with Stoke City regarding the vacant manager’s position at the bet365 Stadium. "The club is now in discussion with Stoke regarding the matter and will update our supporters in due course." Rowett's past achievements include leading Burton to the League Two play-offs on two occasions, while he finished sixth with Derby in his first full season in charge. Fulham lost the first leg at Pride Park but went through as winners after a 2-0 home win last Monday. Derby are set to slash their budget after missing out on promotion, with owner Mel Morris determined to lower the club's cost base. As a result, leading scorer Matej Vydra is likely to be sold to the highest bidder. Stoke, meanwhile, have the incentive of parachute payments and are making a huge attempt to seal a swift return to the top-flight. Though stars such as England goalkeeper Jack Butland, Xherdan Shaqiri and Joe Allen could be sold, Stoke are focusing on building a competitive squad capable of mounting a serious challenge. Rowett is the man they want to lead them into a new era and his appointment could even be confirmed on Tuesday.
Stoke in talks to appoint Gary Rowett of Derby as new manager
Stoke are close to appointing Gary Rowett as their new manager after agreeing to pay the £1.8m compensation fee. Relegated Stoke have returned for Rowett, their No 1 target in January after the dismissal of Mark Hughes, and are hoping to agree a deal in the next 48 hours as they prepare for the Championship. Rowett was top of Stoke's list in the New Year, yet opted to stay at Pride Park as negotiations over a new contract were advanced, subsequently guiding Derby to the Championship play-offs. But Stoke have revived their long-term interest in the former defender and want him to lead their promotion challenge following relegation from the Premier League. It is understood the move is being driven by John Coates, Stoke's influential vice-chairman, who has admired Rowett for some time. Sources at Stoke have revealed that Rowett has been on Stoke's radar since his start at Burton Albion, with the 44-year-old also impressing in spells at Birmingham City and Derby. Rowett signed a new £1.5m a year contract in January and it is understood compensation is just under the £2m mark. Stoke parted company with Paul Lambert last Friday and are keen to bring in a new manager by the end of the week. Derby issued a statement on Monday evening. It read: "Derby County Football Club can confirm that Gary Rowett has asked for permission to speak with Stoke City regarding the vacant manager’s position at the bet365 Stadium. "The club is now in discussion with Stoke regarding the matter and will update our supporters in due course." Rowett's past achievements include leading Burton to the League Two play-offs on two occasions, while he finished sixth with Derby in his first full season in charge. Fulham lost the first leg at Pride Park but went through as winners after a 2-0 home win last Monday. Derby are set to slash their budget after missing out on promotion, with owner Mel Morris determined to lower the club's cost base. As a result, leading scorer Matej Vydra is likely to be sold to the highest bidder. Stoke, meanwhile, have the incentive of parachute payments and are making a huge attempt to seal a swift return to the top-flight. Though stars such as England goalkeeper Jack Butland, Xherdan Shaqiri and Joe Allen could be sold, Stoke are focusing on building a competitive squad capable of mounting a serious challenge. Rowett is the man they want to lead them into a new era and his appointment could even be confirmed on Tuesday.
Garry Monk's face now has pride of place on the backside of a Birmingham City supporter after an ill-advised social media bet.
Fan shows off Monk face tattoo on bottom
Garry Monk's face now has pride of place on the backside of a Birmingham City supporter after an ill-advised social media bet.
Bromley FC is a proud old club, but not a successful one. Dave Roberts’ book The Bromley Boys chronicles the author following the team in the 1960s, when it had an authentic claim to being the worst in the country. The town it represents has a higher population than Crewe, Shrewsbury and Accrington but has never hosted the league football expected in those places. Instead, Bromley have just completed a third season of steady improvement in the National League, the highest level the club have ever reached. They have visited Wembley once, for the final of the old FA Amateur Cup in 1949 for a 1-0 win over Romford in front of 96,000. They return on Sunday for the FA Trophy final and have a player to call on who has already played three times under the arch, seeking a redemptive coda to a varied career. Centre-back Roger Johnson was part of the Birmingham City side who beat Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final, and with Cardiff when they lost the FA Cup final to Portsmouth in 2008 but beat Barnsley in the semi at Wembley. “Everyone says ‘just try and relax and enjoy the day’ but it’s very stressful,” he says. “The anxiety, getting there, the build-up. I’m sure once we’re out there and the whistle blows we’ll be fine.” Johnson, 35, looks remarkably lean as we talk after a video analysis session at Bromley’s Hayes Lane home. An armful of tattoos indicates his tour of duty in the modern Premier League, where he shone at Birmingham, endured a tougher spell at Wolves and turned out four times for West Ham as recently as 2014. The Wembley opponents are Brackley Town from the tier below and while Bromley have sold an impressive 20,000 tickets the stadium will still be sparsely occupied. Nevertheless, Johnson puts the game on a par with his most notable previous visit. “Winning on Sunday would mean as much as the Birmingham win,” he says. “Yeah it’s not an 89,000 sell-out against an Arsenal team with Robin van Persie in it who beat Barcelona nine days before, but we’re we’re there on merit.” Surprisingly heartfelt words from a man who came close to the England squad while with Birmingham. “I got six England call-ups for the 30-man squad, but nobody got injured so I didn’t make the 23,” he says. It was a rapid ascension after a long apprenticeship at Wycombe Wanderers, where he made his debut at 17. Cardiff eventually took a gamble on him in 2006 before Johnson stepped up to the Premier League with Birmingham. That solid side finished ninth in his first season but were relegated three months after their Wembley win. Johnson joined Bromley after 18 months at Charlton Athletic Credit: JULIAN SIMMONDS for The Telegraph A move to Wolves followed to prolong his top-flight career but little went to plan. He strongly disputes stories he once arrived at training worse for wear from the night before, but addresses his time at Molineux with candour. “I blame myself,” he says. “I had a dip in form, in a team of people that had a dip in form. I was blocking shots and it was going in off me, I was making stupid errors that I never make. “A regret is taking the captaincy when it was offered to me. It made my signing even bigger because I was the team captain and if things are going wrong the skipper has to answer for it. “It was hard to dig people out and have an opinion on what was going wrong, because I was one of the things that wasn’t working.” Loans to Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham took him away from the West Midlands before two spells at Charlton, either side of a sojourn in India with Pune City and unlikely team-mates Adrian Mutu and Didier Zokora. “I’d never choose to go to that side of the world personally, but I’ve seen the whole of India now. Goa was good, but the north-east was tough. There was no phone signal. Some of the flights were very dodgy, but it’s a tick in a box.” A far cry from Bromley’s Hayes Lane, surely one of the country’s only grounds which is approached via a road next to a field of grazing horses. Johnson celebrates Birmingham's victory over Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final in the traditional fashion Credit: Action Images/Lee Smith After a knee injury and a subsequent blood poisoning from the surgery to treat it, Johnson is happy to be back playing the game he loves. “I’m not going to sit here and think I’ve had a failed career,” he says. “Every player wants to reach the Premier League and play for their country, I did one of them and got very close to the other.” Calm and philosophical, he seems every inch the elder statesmen and you can easily imagine him coaching. “I’m not too proud to go down the divisions but I probably wouldn’t drop any further, unless there was a player-coach role. I can’t see myself doing pub football. “There are some horrible people out there, who want to bad mouth you and write nonsense on social media. But have they been a footballer? No they haven’t. “My career, my stats, and what I’ve won speak for themselves. Wikipedia it, then write me something on social media.”
Roger Johnson returns for another shot at Wembley
Bromley FC is a proud old club, but not a successful one. Dave Roberts’ book The Bromley Boys chronicles the author following the team in the 1960s, when it had an authentic claim to being the worst in the country. The town it represents has a higher population than Crewe, Shrewsbury and Accrington but has never hosted the league football expected in those places. Instead, Bromley have just completed a third season of steady improvement in the National League, the highest level the club have ever reached. They have visited Wembley once, for the final of the old FA Amateur Cup in 1949 for a 1-0 win over Romford in front of 96,000. They return on Sunday for the FA Trophy final and have a player to call on who has already played three times under the arch, seeking a redemptive coda to a varied career. Centre-back Roger Johnson was part of the Birmingham City side who beat Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final, and with Cardiff when they lost the FA Cup final to Portsmouth in 2008 but beat Barnsley in the semi at Wembley. “Everyone says ‘just try and relax and enjoy the day’ but it’s very stressful,” he says. “The anxiety, getting there, the build-up. I’m sure once we’re out there and the whistle blows we’ll be fine.” Johnson, 35, looks remarkably lean as we talk after a video analysis session at Bromley’s Hayes Lane home. An armful of tattoos indicates his tour of duty in the modern Premier League, where he shone at Birmingham, endured a tougher spell at Wolves and turned out four times for West Ham as recently as 2014. The Wembley opponents are Brackley Town from the tier below and while Bromley have sold an impressive 20,000 tickets the stadium will still be sparsely occupied. Nevertheless, Johnson puts the game on a par with his most notable previous visit. “Winning on Sunday would mean as much as the Birmingham win,” he says. “Yeah it’s not an 89,000 sell-out against an Arsenal team with Robin van Persie in it who beat Barcelona nine days before, but we’re we’re there on merit.” Surprisingly heartfelt words from a man who came close to the England squad while with Birmingham. “I got six England call-ups for the 30-man squad, but nobody got injured so I didn’t make the 23,” he says. It was a rapid ascension after a long apprenticeship at Wycombe Wanderers, where he made his debut at 17. Cardiff eventually took a gamble on him in 2006 before Johnson stepped up to the Premier League with Birmingham. That solid side finished ninth in his first season but were relegated three months after their Wembley win. Johnson joined Bromley after 18 months at Charlton Athletic Credit: JULIAN SIMMONDS for The Telegraph A move to Wolves followed to prolong his top-flight career but little went to plan. He strongly disputes stories he once arrived at training worse for wear from the night before, but addresses his time at Molineux with candour. “I blame myself,” he says. “I had a dip in form, in a team of people that had a dip in form. I was blocking shots and it was going in off me, I was making stupid errors that I never make. “A regret is taking the captaincy when it was offered to me. It made my signing even bigger because I was the team captain and if things are going wrong the skipper has to answer for it. “It was hard to dig people out and have an opinion on what was going wrong, because I was one of the things that wasn’t working.” Loans to Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham took him away from the West Midlands before two spells at Charlton, either side of a sojourn in India with Pune City and unlikely team-mates Adrian Mutu and Didier Zokora. “I’d never choose to go to that side of the world personally, but I’ve seen the whole of India now. Goa was good, but the north-east was tough. There was no phone signal. Some of the flights were very dodgy, but it’s a tick in a box.” A far cry from Bromley’s Hayes Lane, surely one of the country’s only grounds which is approached via a road next to a field of grazing horses. Johnson celebrates Birmingham's victory over Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final in the traditional fashion Credit: Action Images/Lee Smith After a knee injury and a subsequent blood poisoning from the surgery to treat it, Johnson is happy to be back playing the game he loves. “I’m not going to sit here and think I’ve had a failed career,” he says. “Every player wants to reach the Premier League and play for their country, I did one of them and got very close to the other.” Calm and philosophical, he seems every inch the elder statesmen and you can easily imagine him coaching. “I’m not too proud to go down the divisions but I probably wouldn’t drop any further, unless there was a player-coach role. I can’t see myself doing pub football. “There are some horrible people out there, who want to bad mouth you and write nonsense on social media. But have they been a footballer? No they haven’t. “My career, my stats, and what I’ve won speak for themselves. Wikipedia it, then write me something on social media.”
Bromley FC is a proud old club, but not a successful one. Dave Roberts’ book The Bromley Boys chronicles the author following the team in the 1960s, when it had an authentic claim to being the worst in the country. The town it represents has a higher population than Crewe, Shrewsbury and Accrington but has never hosted the league football expected in those places. Instead, Bromley have just completed a third season of steady improvement in the National League, the highest level the club have ever reached. They have visited Wembley once, for the final of the old FA Amateur Cup in 1949 for a 1-0 win over Romford in front of 96,000. They return on Sunday for the FA Trophy final and have a player to call on who has already played three times under the arch, seeking a redemptive coda to a varied career. Centre-back Roger Johnson was part of the Birmingham City side who beat Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final, and with Cardiff when they lost the FA Cup final to Portsmouth in 2008 but beat Barnsley in the semi at Wembley. “Everyone says ‘just try and relax and enjoy the day’ but it’s very stressful,” he says. “The anxiety, getting there, the build-up. I’m sure once we’re out there and the whistle blows we’ll be fine.” Johnson, 35, looks remarkably lean as we talk after a video analysis session at Bromley’s Hayes Lane home. An armful of tattoos indicates his tour of duty in the modern Premier League, where he shone at Birmingham, endured a tougher spell at Wolves and turned out four times for West Ham as recently as 2014. The Wembley opponents are Brackley Town from the tier below and while Bromley have sold an impressive 20,000 tickets the stadium will still be sparsely occupied. Nevertheless, Johnson puts the game on a par with his most notable previous visit. “Winning on Sunday would mean as much as the Birmingham win,” he says. “Yeah it’s not an 89,000 sell-out against an Arsenal team with Robin van Persie in it who beat Barcelona nine days before, but we’re we’re there on merit.” Surprisingly heartfelt words from a man who came close to the England squad while with Birmingham. “I got six England call-ups for the 30-man squad, but nobody got injured so I didn’t make the 23,” he says. It was a rapid ascension after a long apprenticeship at Wycombe Wanderers, where he made his debut at 17. Cardiff eventually took a gamble on him in 2006 before Johnson stepped up to the Premier League with Birmingham. That solid side finished ninth in his first season but were relegated three months after their Wembley win. Johnson joined Bromley after 18 months at Charlton Athletic Credit: JULIAN SIMMONDS for The Telegraph A move to Wolves followed to prolong his top-flight career but little went to plan. He strongly disputes stories he once arrived at training worse for wear from the night before, but addresses his time at Molineux with candour. “I blame myself,” he says. “I had a dip in form, in a team of people that had a dip in form. I was blocking shots and it was going in off me, I was making stupid errors that I never make. “A regret is taking the captaincy when it was offered to me. It made my signing even bigger because I was the team captain and if things are going wrong the skipper has to answer for it. “It was hard to dig people out and have an opinion on what was going wrong, because I was one of the things that wasn’t working.” Loans to Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham took him away from the West Midlands before two spells at Charlton, either side of a sojourn in India with Pune City and unlikely team-mates Adrian Mutu and Didier Zokora. “I’d never choose to go to that side of the world personally, but I’ve seen the whole of India now. Goa was good, but the north-east was tough. There was no phone signal. Some of the flights were very dodgy, but it’s a tick in a box.” A far cry from Bromley’s Hayes Lane, surely one of the country’s only grounds which is approached via a road next to a field of grazing horses. Johnson celebrates Birmingham's victory over Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final in the traditional fashion Credit: Action Images/Lee Smith After a knee injury and a subsequent blood poisoning from the surgery to treat it, Johnson is happy to be back playing the game he loves. “I’m not going to sit here and think I’ve had a failed career,” he says. “Every player wants to reach the Premier League and play for their country, I did one of them and got very close to the other.” Calm and philosophical, he seems every inch the elder statesmen and you can easily imagine him coaching. “I’m not too proud to go down the divisions but I probably wouldn’t drop any further, unless there was a player-coach role. I can’t see myself doing pub football. “There are some horrible people out there, who want to bad mouth you and write nonsense on social media. But have they been a footballer? No they haven’t. “My career, my stats, and what I’ve won speak for themselves. Wikipedia it, then write me something on social media.”
Roger Johnson returns for another shot at Wembley
Bromley FC is a proud old club, but not a successful one. Dave Roberts’ book The Bromley Boys chronicles the author following the team in the 1960s, when it had an authentic claim to being the worst in the country. The town it represents has a higher population than Crewe, Shrewsbury and Accrington but has never hosted the league football expected in those places. Instead, Bromley have just completed a third season of steady improvement in the National League, the highest level the club have ever reached. They have visited Wembley once, for the final of the old FA Amateur Cup in 1949 for a 1-0 win over Romford in front of 96,000. They return on Sunday for the FA Trophy final and have a player to call on who has already played three times under the arch, seeking a redemptive coda to a varied career. Centre-back Roger Johnson was part of the Birmingham City side who beat Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final, and with Cardiff when they lost the FA Cup final to Portsmouth in 2008 but beat Barnsley in the semi at Wembley. “Everyone says ‘just try and relax and enjoy the day’ but it’s very stressful,” he says. “The anxiety, getting there, the build-up. I’m sure once we’re out there and the whistle blows we’ll be fine.” Johnson, 35, looks remarkably lean as we talk after a video analysis session at Bromley’s Hayes Lane home. An armful of tattoos indicates his tour of duty in the modern Premier League, where he shone at Birmingham, endured a tougher spell at Wolves and turned out four times for West Ham as recently as 2014. The Wembley opponents are Brackley Town from the tier below and while Bromley have sold an impressive 20,000 tickets the stadium will still be sparsely occupied. Nevertheless, Johnson puts the game on a par with his most notable previous visit. “Winning on Sunday would mean as much as the Birmingham win,” he says. “Yeah it’s not an 89,000 sell-out against an Arsenal team with Robin van Persie in it who beat Barcelona nine days before, but we’re we’re there on merit.” Surprisingly heartfelt words from a man who came close to the England squad while with Birmingham. “I got six England call-ups for the 30-man squad, but nobody got injured so I didn’t make the 23,” he says. It was a rapid ascension after a long apprenticeship at Wycombe Wanderers, where he made his debut at 17. Cardiff eventually took a gamble on him in 2006 before Johnson stepped up to the Premier League with Birmingham. That solid side finished ninth in his first season but were relegated three months after their Wembley win. Johnson joined Bromley after 18 months at Charlton Athletic Credit: JULIAN SIMMONDS for The Telegraph A move to Wolves followed to prolong his top-flight career but little went to plan. He strongly disputes stories he once arrived at training worse for wear from the night before, but addresses his time at Molineux with candour. “I blame myself,” he says. “I had a dip in form, in a team of people that had a dip in form. I was blocking shots and it was going in off me, I was making stupid errors that I never make. “A regret is taking the captaincy when it was offered to me. It made my signing even bigger because I was the team captain and if things are going wrong the skipper has to answer for it. “It was hard to dig people out and have an opinion on what was going wrong, because I was one of the things that wasn’t working.” Loans to Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham took him away from the West Midlands before two spells at Charlton, either side of a sojourn in India with Pune City and unlikely team-mates Adrian Mutu and Didier Zokora. “I’d never choose to go to that side of the world personally, but I’ve seen the whole of India now. Goa was good, but the north-east was tough. There was no phone signal. Some of the flights were very dodgy, but it’s a tick in a box.” A far cry from Bromley’s Hayes Lane, surely one of the country’s only grounds which is approached via a road next to a field of grazing horses. Johnson celebrates Birmingham's victory over Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final in the traditional fashion Credit: Action Images/Lee Smith After a knee injury and a subsequent blood poisoning from the surgery to treat it, Johnson is happy to be back playing the game he loves. “I’m not going to sit here and think I’ve had a failed career,” he says. “Every player wants to reach the Premier League and play for their country, I did one of them and got very close to the other.” Calm and philosophical, he seems every inch the elder statesmen and you can easily imagine him coaching. “I’m not too proud to go down the divisions but I probably wouldn’t drop any further, unless there was a player-coach role. I can’t see myself doing pub football. “There are some horrible people out there, who want to bad mouth you and write nonsense on social media. But have they been a footballer? No they haven’t. “My career, my stats, and what I’ve won speak for themselves. Wikipedia it, then write me something on social media.”
Bromley FC is a proud old club, but not a successful one. Dave Roberts’ book The Bromley Boys chronicles the author following the team in the 1960s, when it had an authentic claim to being the worst in the country. The town it represents has a higher population than Crewe, Shrewsbury and Accrington but has never hosted the league football expected in those places. Instead, Bromley have just completed a third season of steady improvement in the National League, the highest level the club have ever reached. They have visited Wembley once, for the final of the old FA Amateur Cup in 1949 for a 1-0 win over Romford in front of 96,000. They return on Sunday for the FA Trophy final and have a player to call on who has already played three times under the arch, seeking a redemptive coda to a varied career. Centre-back Roger Johnson was part of the Birmingham City side who beat Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final, and with Cardiff when they lost the FA Cup final to Portsmouth in 2008 but beat Barnsley in the semi at Wembley. “Everyone says ‘just try and relax and enjoy the day’ but it’s very stressful,” he says. “The anxiety, getting there, the build-up. I’m sure once we’re out there and the whistle blows we’ll be fine.” Johnson, 35, looks remarkably lean as we talk after a video analysis session at Bromley’s Hayes Lane home. An armful of tattoos indicates his tour of duty in the modern Premier League, where he shone at Birmingham, endured a tougher spell at Wolves and turned out four times for West Ham as recently as 2014. The Wembley opponents are Brackley Town from the tier below and while Bromley have sold an impressive 20,000 tickets the stadium will still be sparsely occupied. Nevertheless, Johnson puts the game on a par with his most notable previous visit. “Winning on Sunday would mean as much as the Birmingham win,” he says. “Yeah it’s not an 89,000 sell-out against an Arsenal team with Robin van Persie in it who beat Barcelona nine days before, but we’re we’re there on merit.” Surprisingly heartfelt words from a man who came close to the England squad while with Birmingham. “I got six England call-ups for the 30-man squad, but nobody got injured so I didn’t make the 23,” he says. It was a rapid ascension after a long apprenticeship at Wycombe Wanderers, where he made his debut at 17. Cardiff eventually took a gamble on him in 2006 before Johnson stepped up to the Premier League with Birmingham. That solid side finished ninth in his first season but were relegated three months after their Wembley win. Johnson joined Bromley after 18 months at Charlton Athletic Credit: JULIAN SIMMONDS for The Telegraph A move to Wolves followed to prolong his top-flight career but little went to plan. He strongly disputes stories he once arrived at training worse for wear from the night before, but addresses his time at Molineux with candour. “I blame myself,” he says. “I had a dip in form, in a team of people that had a dip in form. I was blocking shots and it was going in off me, I was making stupid errors that I never make. “A regret is taking the captaincy when it was offered to me. It made my signing even bigger because I was the team captain and if things are going wrong the skipper has to answer for it. “It was hard to dig people out and have an opinion on what was going wrong, because I was one of the things that wasn’t working.” Loans to Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham took him away from the West Midlands before two spells at Charlton, either side of a sojourn in India with Pune City and unlikely team-mates Adrian Mutu and Didier Zokora. “I’d never choose to go to that side of the world personally, but I’ve seen the whole of India now. Goa was good, but the north-east was tough. There was no phone signal. Some of the flights were very dodgy, but it’s a tick in a box.” A far cry from Bromley’s Hayes Lane, surely one of the country’s only grounds which is approached via a road next to a field of grazing horses. Johnson celebrates Birmingham's victory over Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final in the traditional fashion Credit: Action Images/Lee Smith After a knee injury and a subsequent blood poisoning from the surgery to treat it, Johnson is happy to be back playing the game he loves. “I’m not going to sit here and think I’ve had a failed career,” he says. “Every player wants to reach the Premier League and play for their country, I did one of them and got very close to the other.” Calm and philosophical, he seems every inch the elder statesmen and you can easily imagine him coaching. “I’m not too proud to go down the divisions but I probably wouldn’t drop any further, unless there was a player-coach role. I can’t see myself doing pub football. “There are some horrible people out there, who want to bad mouth you and write nonsense on social media. But have they been a footballer? No they haven’t. “My career, my stats, and what I’ve won speak for themselves. Wikipedia it, then write me something on social media.”
Roger Johnson returns for another shot at Wembley
Bromley FC is a proud old club, but not a successful one. Dave Roberts’ book The Bromley Boys chronicles the author following the team in the 1960s, when it had an authentic claim to being the worst in the country. The town it represents has a higher population than Crewe, Shrewsbury and Accrington but has never hosted the league football expected in those places. Instead, Bromley have just completed a third season of steady improvement in the National League, the highest level the club have ever reached. They have visited Wembley once, for the final of the old FA Amateur Cup in 1949 for a 1-0 win over Romford in front of 96,000. They return on Sunday for the FA Trophy final and have a player to call on who has already played three times under the arch, seeking a redemptive coda to a varied career. Centre-back Roger Johnson was part of the Birmingham City side who beat Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final, and with Cardiff when they lost the FA Cup final to Portsmouth in 2008 but beat Barnsley in the semi at Wembley. “Everyone says ‘just try and relax and enjoy the day’ but it’s very stressful,” he says. “The anxiety, getting there, the build-up. I’m sure once we’re out there and the whistle blows we’ll be fine.” Johnson, 35, looks remarkably lean as we talk after a video analysis session at Bromley’s Hayes Lane home. An armful of tattoos indicates his tour of duty in the modern Premier League, where he shone at Birmingham, endured a tougher spell at Wolves and turned out four times for West Ham as recently as 2014. The Wembley opponents are Brackley Town from the tier below and while Bromley have sold an impressive 20,000 tickets the stadium will still be sparsely occupied. Nevertheless, Johnson puts the game on a par with his most notable previous visit. “Winning on Sunday would mean as much as the Birmingham win,” he says. “Yeah it’s not an 89,000 sell-out against an Arsenal team with Robin van Persie in it who beat Barcelona nine days before, but we’re we’re there on merit.” Surprisingly heartfelt words from a man who came close to the England squad while with Birmingham. “I got six England call-ups for the 30-man squad, but nobody got injured so I didn’t make the 23,” he says. It was a rapid ascension after a long apprenticeship at Wycombe Wanderers, where he made his debut at 17. Cardiff eventually took a gamble on him in 2006 before Johnson stepped up to the Premier League with Birmingham. That solid side finished ninth in his first season but were relegated three months after their Wembley win. Johnson joined Bromley after 18 months at Charlton Athletic Credit: JULIAN SIMMONDS for The Telegraph A move to Wolves followed to prolong his top-flight career but little went to plan. He strongly disputes stories he once arrived at training worse for wear from the night before, but addresses his time at Molineux with candour. “I blame myself,” he says. “I had a dip in form, in a team of people that had a dip in form. I was blocking shots and it was going in off me, I was making stupid errors that I never make. “A regret is taking the captaincy when it was offered to me. It made my signing even bigger because I was the team captain and if things are going wrong the skipper has to answer for it. “It was hard to dig people out and have an opinion on what was going wrong, because I was one of the things that wasn’t working.” Loans to Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham took him away from the West Midlands before two spells at Charlton, either side of a sojourn in India with Pune City and unlikely team-mates Adrian Mutu and Didier Zokora. “I’d never choose to go to that side of the world personally, but I’ve seen the whole of India now. Goa was good, but the north-east was tough. There was no phone signal. Some of the flights were very dodgy, but it’s a tick in a box.” A far cry from Bromley’s Hayes Lane, surely one of the country’s only grounds which is approached via a road next to a field of grazing horses. Johnson celebrates Birmingham's victory over Arsenal in the 2011 League Cup final in the traditional fashion Credit: Action Images/Lee Smith After a knee injury and a subsequent blood poisoning from the surgery to treat it, Johnson is happy to be back playing the game he loves. “I’m not going to sit here and think I’ve had a failed career,” he says. “Every player wants to reach the Premier League and play for their country, I did one of them and got very close to the other.” Calm and philosophical, he seems every inch the elder statesmen and you can easily imagine him coaching. “I’m not too proud to go down the divisions but I probably wouldn’t drop any further, unless there was a player-coach role. I can’t see myself doing pub football. “There are some horrible people out there, who want to bad mouth you and write nonsense on social media. But have they been a footballer? No they haven’t. “My career, my stats, and what I’ve won speak for themselves. Wikipedia it, then write me something on social media.”
Manager A first managerial change in 22 years will make this a momentous summer at Arsenal. The desire is to both bring an injection of new ideas and dynamism whilst also preserving the regularly repeated “values” that Arsenal seek to exemplify. That means still playing an expansive brand of football, giving young players their chance and having the personality to best represent Arsenal’s image and brand globally. Arsenal are committed to a full recruitment process but an appointment is certainly expected by the time the World Cup starts, and probably even sooner. The achievements of Max Allegri at Juventus can hardly be overlooked but he has indicated a desire to stay for one more year in Italy, meaning Arsenal may well go down the path of trying a less experienced option. Mikel Arteta, Patrick Vieira and Julian Nagelsmann are among the outstanding younger candidates but the club do not intend to rush what is a new experience - certainly in the context of Arsenal - for most of the key decision-makers on the board. The simple target for the next manager will be Champions League football in 2019-20 after falling out of Europe’s elite club competition for the past two seasons. Arsene Wenger replacement: Definitive guide to the runners and riders for the new Arsenal manager New signings The summer transfer budget will be around £50 million before player sales, leaving a big decision over whether the new manager wants to primarily focus on improving the current group or generate funds by selling some of the most valuable players. The current transfer priority is at centre-back. Per Mertesacker is retiring and Laurent Koscielny is not expected back until at least December following his Achilles tendon rupture. Shkodran Mustafi has been inconsistent since arriving as the club’s record defensive signing two years ago while the development of the young centre-backs - Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Konstantinos Mavropanos - has been mixed and may involve some loan football. Kalidou Koulibaly is among those to have been watched. Central midfield is also an area of focus for Sven Mislintat’s recruitment team. Granit Xhaka is not a natural holding midfielder and neither are Jack Wilshere or Aaron Ramsey. Mohamed Elneny has just signed a new contract, but is viewed more as a squad player, and there are high hopes for Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Goalkeepers Petr Cech and David Ospina have also endured mixed seasons and this is another position that is under review. The most settled situation is in attack where Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are all on long contracts. Premier League club-by-club review Player sales The most interesting situation concerns Ramsey. He is out of contract next summer and has so far failed to reach any sort of agreement on an extended deal. Ramsey will probably now wait to discover the identity of the next manager but, after the distraction last season of Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal will surely sell him this summer if he does not commit. Danny Welbeck and Cech are also out of contract next year and will hold talks with the club. Wilshere does now seem likely to extend his contract after being offered a new, improved deal. Decisions must also be made on other key squad members and the new manager may well seek to generate funds by making sales. As well as Ramsey, Hector Bellerin would likely attract big offers and Arsenal may also be tempted to sell either Welbeck or Lacazette following the January arrival of Aubameyang. Arsene Wenger’s advice to the next man is that he does now have the basis of a squad that can challenge for the Premier League title, if the right defensive additions can be made. Arsenal do also face an emotionally difficult decision over midfielder Santi Cazorla, with the extent of his Achilles and ankle problems meaning that he is unlikely to be offered a new contract. Arsenal then and now Youth development and loans Mertesacker will take over this summer as Arsenal’s academy manager and one of the first focuses for the club is an ongoing internal investigation into Under-23 head coach Steven Gatting, and his assistant Carl Laraman, over accusations from some players of bullying. It had been an excellent season on the pitch for the U23 team and, across the age groups, there has been renewed optimism that Arsenal do again have an emerging batch of future first-team players. Maitland-Niles has figured most regularly this season of the new youngsters but Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, Matt Macey, Joe Willock and Josh Dasilva are all well regarded and will hope for further opportunity under the new manager. Big decisions must also be made about a lengthy list of players who have been away on loan. Jeff-Reine Adelaide has been at Angers in France, Carl Jenkinson at Birmingham City, goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez at Getafe, Joel Campbell at Real Betis, Lucas Perez at Deportivo La Coruna, Chuba Akpom at Sint Truidense, Cohen Bramall at Birmingham and Ben Sheaf at Stevenage. There has been little to suggest that any of these players will impact in any significant way next season on the first team. Everything furious TV pundits have said about Arsenal this season Club infrastructure More big changes are expected behind the scenes at Arsenal. Wenger’s old coaching staff are largely expected to depart, although Steve Bould and Jens Lehmann will probably be given the opportunity to continue. At boardroom level, Josh Kroenke continues to play an increasingly influential role and the unpopularity of chairman Sir Chips Keswick was evident when he came on to the pitch on the final day of the season. Arsenal will hope that a change in manager can improve relations between fans and the club’s hierarchy. Investment in the training facilities at both London Colney and Hale End continue and, with no pre-season Emirates Cup this summer, there will also be some major renovation work at the Emirates Stadium to bring the capacity back up to 60,600. It has been reduced over recent seasons to help improve disabled facilities, and to meet safety requirements, but the club will be adding 780 extra seats at Club Level, which itself will be upgraded and refurbished. The first changes will be to the Dial Square suite.
Arsenal's summer dossier: Transfer targets, budget and youth prospects - our look ahead to pre-season
Manager A first managerial change in 22 years will make this a momentous summer at Arsenal. The desire is to both bring an injection of new ideas and dynamism whilst also preserving the regularly repeated “values” that Arsenal seek to exemplify. That means still playing an expansive brand of football, giving young players their chance and having the personality to best represent Arsenal’s image and brand globally. Arsenal are committed to a full recruitment process but an appointment is certainly expected by the time the World Cup starts, and probably even sooner. The achievements of Max Allegri at Juventus can hardly be overlooked but he has indicated a desire to stay for one more year in Italy, meaning Arsenal may well go down the path of trying a less experienced option. Mikel Arteta, Patrick Vieira and Julian Nagelsmann are among the outstanding younger candidates but the club do not intend to rush what is a new experience - certainly in the context of Arsenal - for most of the key decision-makers on the board. The simple target for the next manager will be Champions League football in 2019-20 after falling out of Europe’s elite club competition for the past two seasons. Arsene Wenger replacement: Definitive guide to the runners and riders for the new Arsenal manager New signings The summer transfer budget will be around £50 million before player sales, leaving a big decision over whether the new manager wants to primarily focus on improving the current group or generate funds by selling some of the most valuable players. The current transfer priority is at centre-back. Per Mertesacker is retiring and Laurent Koscielny is not expected back until at least December following his Achilles tendon rupture. Shkodran Mustafi has been inconsistent since arriving as the club’s record defensive signing two years ago while the development of the young centre-backs - Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Konstantinos Mavropanos - has been mixed and may involve some loan football. Kalidou Koulibaly is among those to have been watched. Central midfield is also an area of focus for Sven Mislintat’s recruitment team. Granit Xhaka is not a natural holding midfielder and neither are Jack Wilshere or Aaron Ramsey. Mohamed Elneny has just signed a new contract, but is viewed more as a squad player, and there are high hopes for Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Goalkeepers Petr Cech and David Ospina have also endured mixed seasons and this is another position that is under review. The most settled situation is in attack where Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are all on long contracts. Premier League club-by-club review Player sales The most interesting situation concerns Ramsey. He is out of contract next summer and has so far failed to reach any sort of agreement on an extended deal. Ramsey will probably now wait to discover the identity of the next manager but, after the distraction last season of Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal will surely sell him this summer if he does not commit. Danny Welbeck and Cech are also out of contract next year and will hold talks with the club. Wilshere does now seem likely to extend his contract after being offered a new, improved deal. Decisions must also be made on other key squad members and the new manager may well seek to generate funds by making sales. As well as Ramsey, Hector Bellerin would likely attract big offers and Arsenal may also be tempted to sell either Welbeck or Lacazette following the January arrival of Aubameyang. Arsene Wenger’s advice to the next man is that he does now have the basis of a squad that can challenge for the Premier League title, if the right defensive additions can be made. Arsenal do also face an emotionally difficult decision over midfielder Santi Cazorla, with the extent of his Achilles and ankle problems meaning that he is unlikely to be offered a new contract. Arsenal then and now Youth development and loans Mertesacker will take over this summer as Arsenal’s academy manager and one of the first focuses for the club is an ongoing internal investigation into Under-23 head coach Steven Gatting, and his assistant Carl Laraman, over accusations from some players of bullying. It had been an excellent season on the pitch for the U23 team and, across the age groups, there has been renewed optimism that Arsenal do again have an emerging batch of future first-team players. Maitland-Niles has figured most regularly this season of the new youngsters but Eddie Nketiah, Reiss Nelson, Matt Macey, Joe Willock and Josh Dasilva are all well regarded and will hope for further opportunity under the new manager. Big decisions must also be made about a lengthy list of players who have been away on loan. Jeff-Reine Adelaide has been at Angers in France, Carl Jenkinson at Birmingham City, goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez at Getafe, Joel Campbell at Real Betis, Lucas Perez at Deportivo La Coruna, Chuba Akpom at Sint Truidense, Cohen Bramall at Birmingham and Ben Sheaf at Stevenage. There has been little to suggest that any of these players will impact in any significant way next season on the first team. Everything furious TV pundits have said about Arsenal this season Club infrastructure More big changes are expected behind the scenes at Arsenal. Wenger’s old coaching staff are largely expected to depart, although Steve Bould and Jens Lehmann will probably be given the opportunity to continue. At boardroom level, Josh Kroenke continues to play an increasingly influential role and the unpopularity of chairman Sir Chips Keswick was evident when he came on to the pitch on the final day of the season. Arsenal will hope that a change in manager can improve relations between fans and the club’s hierarchy. Investment in the training facilities at both London Colney and Hale End continue and, with no pre-season Emirates Cup this summer, there will also be some major renovation work at the Emirates Stadium to bring the capacity back up to 60,600. It has been reduced over recent seasons to help improve disabled facilities, and to meet safety requirements, but the club will be adding 780 extra seats at Club Level, which itself will be upgraded and refurbished. The first changes will be to the Dial Square suite.
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer speaks at Birmingham City University in Birmingham, Britain, March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Staples
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer speaks at Birmingham City University in Birmingham
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer speaks at Birmingham City University in Birmingham, Britain, March 26, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Staples
They rose to applaud Archie Gemmill at the Scottish Football Writers’ Association annual dinner in Glasgow on Sunday night, when he was the recipient of the organisation’s first ever lifetime achievement award. The standing ovation that marked the high-water mark of Gemmill’s career, however, was accorded him on June 11, 1978, in Mendoza, Argentina. That was when Gemmill produced one of the greatest goals seen in the World Cup, in the improbable circumstances of a previously farcical Scotland campaign, in the Scots’ final group game and against a Dutch side who finished runners up at the World Cup. Gemmill’s contribution became so totemic that it has featured in the movie ‘Trainspotting’ and in a tribute dance by English National Ballet. With Scotland needing to win by three goals to qualify for the next stage, after potentially ruinous setbacks against Peru and Iran, they led 2-1 midway through the second half, at which point the ball broke to Gemmill just outside the Dutch penalty area. He skipped past Wim Jansen – later to become manager of Celtic – avoided a robust challenge by Jan Poortvliet, nutmegged the usually imperturbable Ruud Krol and completed his slalom run with a perfect chip over the advancing goalkeeper, Jan Jongbloed. As Gemmill turned to celebrate, the entire global contingent in the press and broadcast seats stood to salute his wizardry. Sunday’s accolade acknowledged a playing career which included 43 caps and eight goals for Scotland and a club career that saw him perform in midfield for St Mirren, Preston, Derby County (twice), Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic plus management stints with Rotherham United and Scotland under 19s but - as the 71-year-old acknowledged, with a mixture of pride and resignation – it always comes back to that goal in Mendoza, even though the Dutch scored again to knock the Scots out. Gemmill before a match against Brazil in 1977 Credit: REX/SHUTTERSTOCK “Whenever a World Cup comes around people want to ask about the goal,” Gemmill said. “It was fantastic at the time, even if it didn't help us a great deal in the tournament itself, but over the years, it's given a few people some joy – and a bit of hope, I suppose for the future. “It was a special moment for me. I’d like to think it'll be remembered long after I’m gone. I'm not the type to watch it. I couldn't tell you the last time I saw the goal. “As a player, I always thought my job was just to play as well as I possibly could. If anything came of it, great. If not, you had to try even harder next time, but even people at home in Derby still ask me about the goal and, the odd time I come back up to Scotland, it's all anyone wants to talk about – nothing else.” Credit: GETTY CREATIVE A decade elapsed between Gemmill’s international debut against Belgium in 1971 and his final appearance, against Northern Ireland. He might have reached the 50-cap mark, but for the fact that he was never in favour with a certain Scotland manager. “Before Tommy Docherty took over, I was well in the squad, but he bombed me out totally,” Gemmill said. “We played England in 1972 and I was opposite Alan Ball, who was getting the better of me. “Docherty took me off just into the second half and that was me. I was never in another squad for three years. Docherty also came to Derby and got rid of me from there as well. “Similarly, I was Scotland captain when Ally MacLeod took over and he gave it to someone else, but I always came back, because you want to play for your country as many times as you can. “I got 43 caps but in those three years I was out, I could have got to 50 and into the Hall of Fame. It would have been a landmark for me. “Players, probably with less ability, get to 50 caps now because there are so many games, but you have to live for your time. Throughout my football career, I always had to try and prove a point to someone. I never coasted. “Brian Clough got rid of me at Derby and when I went to Birmingham I was bombed out there as well, but the year Derby got rid of me I was voted their player of their year. Then, the year I left Birmingham, I was their player of the year as well. “When I started out, I was ever so tiny. I'm not that much bigger now. For Scotland U15's I played in a trial match and scored a couple of goals, but the squad was named to play England at Wembley and I wasn't even in it because I was too wee. I was told I’d never make it because of my size, but I had a bit of skill and tenacity about me.” And what of the prospects now for Scotland, managed by Gemmill’s former international team mate, Alex McLeish? “Gordon Strachan was probably only a matter of minutes away from getting us to the World Cup play-offs,” said Gemmill. “It looks like one or two talented youngsters are starting to come through - we just have to hope that these kids fulfil their promise in a Scotland jersey.” Archie Gemmill was speaking as the winner of the SFWA's first ever Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Scottish Power.
Archie Gemmill says he'll never be allowed to forget career-defining World Cup wonder goal
They rose to applaud Archie Gemmill at the Scottish Football Writers’ Association annual dinner in Glasgow on Sunday night, when he was the recipient of the organisation’s first ever lifetime achievement award. The standing ovation that marked the high-water mark of Gemmill’s career, however, was accorded him on June 11, 1978, in Mendoza, Argentina. That was when Gemmill produced one of the greatest goals seen in the World Cup, in the improbable circumstances of a previously farcical Scotland campaign, in the Scots’ final group game and against a Dutch side who finished runners up at the World Cup. Gemmill’s contribution became so totemic that it has featured in the movie ‘Trainspotting’ and in a tribute dance by English National Ballet. With Scotland needing to win by three goals to qualify for the next stage, after potentially ruinous setbacks against Peru and Iran, they led 2-1 midway through the second half, at which point the ball broke to Gemmill just outside the Dutch penalty area. He skipped past Wim Jansen – later to become manager of Celtic – avoided a robust challenge by Jan Poortvliet, nutmegged the usually imperturbable Ruud Krol and completed his slalom run with a perfect chip over the advancing goalkeeper, Jan Jongbloed. As Gemmill turned to celebrate, the entire global contingent in the press and broadcast seats stood to salute his wizardry. Sunday’s accolade acknowledged a playing career which included 43 caps and eight goals for Scotland and a club career that saw him perform in midfield for St Mirren, Preston, Derby County (twice), Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic plus management stints with Rotherham United and Scotland under 19s but - as the 71-year-old acknowledged, with a mixture of pride and resignation – it always comes back to that goal in Mendoza, even though the Dutch scored again to knock the Scots out. Gemmill before a match against Brazil in 1977 Credit: REX/SHUTTERSTOCK “Whenever a World Cup comes around people want to ask about the goal,” Gemmill said. “It was fantastic at the time, even if it didn't help us a great deal in the tournament itself, but over the years, it's given a few people some joy – and a bit of hope, I suppose for the future. “It was a special moment for me. I’d like to think it'll be remembered long after I’m gone. I'm not the type to watch it. I couldn't tell you the last time I saw the goal. “As a player, I always thought my job was just to play as well as I possibly could. If anything came of it, great. If not, you had to try even harder next time, but even people at home in Derby still ask me about the goal and, the odd time I come back up to Scotland, it's all anyone wants to talk about – nothing else.” Credit: GETTY CREATIVE A decade elapsed between Gemmill’s international debut against Belgium in 1971 and his final appearance, against Northern Ireland. He might have reached the 50-cap mark, but for the fact that he was never in favour with a certain Scotland manager. “Before Tommy Docherty took over, I was well in the squad, but he bombed me out totally,” Gemmill said. “We played England in 1972 and I was opposite Alan Ball, who was getting the better of me. “Docherty took me off just into the second half and that was me. I was never in another squad for three years. Docherty also came to Derby and got rid of me from there as well. “Similarly, I was Scotland captain when Ally MacLeod took over and he gave it to someone else, but I always came back, because you want to play for your country as many times as you can. “I got 43 caps but in those three years I was out, I could have got to 50 and into the Hall of Fame. It would have been a landmark for me. “Players, probably with less ability, get to 50 caps now because there are so many games, but you have to live for your time. Throughout my football career, I always had to try and prove a point to someone. I never coasted. “Brian Clough got rid of me at Derby and when I went to Birmingham I was bombed out there as well, but the year Derby got rid of me I was voted their player of their year. Then, the year I left Birmingham, I was their player of the year as well. “When I started out, I was ever so tiny. I'm not that much bigger now. For Scotland U15's I played in a trial match and scored a couple of goals, but the squad was named to play England at Wembley and I wasn't even in it because I was too wee. I was told I’d never make it because of my size, but I had a bit of skill and tenacity about me.” And what of the prospects now for Scotland, managed by Gemmill’s former international team mate, Alex McLeish? “Gordon Strachan was probably only a matter of minutes away from getting us to the World Cup play-offs,” said Gemmill. “It looks like one or two talented youngsters are starting to come through - we just have to hope that these kids fulfil their promise in a Scotland jersey.” Archie Gemmill was speaking as the winner of the SFWA's first ever Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Scottish Power.
They rose to applaud Archie Gemmill at the Scottish Football Writers’ Association annual dinner in Glasgow on Sunday night, when he was the recipient of the organisation’s first ever lifetime achievement award. The standing ovation that marked the high-water mark of Gemmill’s career, however, was accorded him on June 11, 1978, in Mendoza, Argentina. That was when Gemmill produced one of the greatest goals seen in the World Cup, in the improbable circumstances of a previously farcical Scotland campaign, in the Scots’ final group game and against a Dutch side who finished runners up at the World Cup. Gemmill’s contribution became so totemic that it has featured in the movie ‘Trainspotting’ and in a tribute dance by English National Ballet. With Scotland needing to win by three goals to qualify for the next stage, after potentially ruinous setbacks against Peru and Iran, they led 2-1 midway through the second half, at which point the ball broke to Gemmill just outside the Dutch penalty area. He skipped past Wim Jansen – later to become manager of Celtic – avoided a robust challenge by Jan Poortvliet, nutmegged the usually imperturbable Ruud Krol and completed his slalom run with a perfect chip over the advancing goalkeeper, Jan Jongbloed. As Gemmill turned to celebrate, the entire global contingent in the press and broadcast seats stood to salute his wizardry. Sunday’s accolade acknowledged a playing career which included 43 caps and eight goals for Scotland and a club career that saw him perform in midfield for St Mirren, Preston, Derby County (twice), Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic plus management stints with Rotherham United and Scotland under 19s but - as the 71-year-old acknowledged, with a mixture of pride and resignation – it always comes back to that goal in Mendoza, even though the Dutch scored again to knock the Scots out. Gemmill before a match against Brazil in 1977 Credit: REX/SHUTTERSTOCK “Whenever a World Cup comes around people want to ask about the goal,” Gemmill said. “It was fantastic at the time, even if it didn't help us a great deal in the tournament itself, but over the years, it's given a few people some joy – and a bit of hope, I suppose for the future. “It was a special moment for me. I’d like to think it'll be remembered long after I’m gone. I'm not the type to watch it. I couldn't tell you the last time I saw the goal. “As a player, I always thought my job was just to play as well as I possibly could. If anything came of it, great. If not, you had to try even harder next time, but even people at home in Derby still ask me about the goal and, the odd time I come back up to Scotland, it's all anyone wants to talk about – nothing else.” Credit: GETTY CREATIVE A decade elapsed between Gemmill’s international debut against Belgium in 1971 and his final appearance, against Northern Ireland. He might have reached the 50-cap mark, but for the fact that he was never in favour with a certain Scotland manager. “Before Tommy Docherty took over, I was well in the squad, but he bombed me out totally,” Gemmill said. “We played England in 1972 and I was opposite Alan Ball, who was getting the better of me. “Docherty took me off just into the second half and that was me. I was never in another squad for three years. Docherty also came to Derby and got rid of me from there as well. “Similarly, I was Scotland captain when Ally MacLeod took over and he gave it to someone else, but I always came back, because you want to play for your country as many times as you can. “I got 43 caps but in those three years I was out, I could have got to 50 and into the Hall of Fame. It would have been a landmark for me. “Players, probably with less ability, get to 50 caps now because there are so many games, but you have to live for your time. Throughout my football career, I always had to try and prove a point to someone. I never coasted. “Brian Clough got rid of me at Derby and when I went to Birmingham I was bombed out there as well, but the year Derby got rid of me I was voted their player of their year. Then, the year I left Birmingham, I was their player of the year as well. “When I started out, I was ever so tiny. I'm not that much bigger now. For Scotland U15's I played in a trial match and scored a couple of goals, but the squad was named to play England at Wembley and I wasn't even in it because I was too wee. I was told I’d never make it because of my size, but I had a bit of skill and tenacity about me.” And what of the prospects now for Scotland, managed by Gemmill’s former international team mate, Alex McLeish? “Gordon Strachan was probably only a matter of minutes away from getting us to the World Cup play-offs,” said Gemmill. “It looks like one or two talented youngsters are starting to come through - we just have to hope that these kids fulfil their promise in a Scotland jersey.” Archie Gemmill was speaking as the winner of the SFWA's first ever Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Scottish Power.
Archie Gemmill says he'll never be allowed to forget career-defining World Cup wonder goal
They rose to applaud Archie Gemmill at the Scottish Football Writers’ Association annual dinner in Glasgow on Sunday night, when he was the recipient of the organisation’s first ever lifetime achievement award. The standing ovation that marked the high-water mark of Gemmill’s career, however, was accorded him on June 11, 1978, in Mendoza, Argentina. That was when Gemmill produced one of the greatest goals seen in the World Cup, in the improbable circumstances of a previously farcical Scotland campaign, in the Scots’ final group game and against a Dutch side who finished runners up at the World Cup. Gemmill’s contribution became so totemic that it has featured in the movie ‘Trainspotting’ and in a tribute dance by English National Ballet. With Scotland needing to win by three goals to qualify for the next stage, after potentially ruinous setbacks against Peru and Iran, they led 2-1 midway through the second half, at which point the ball broke to Gemmill just outside the Dutch penalty area. He skipped past Wim Jansen – later to become manager of Celtic – avoided a robust challenge by Jan Poortvliet, nutmegged the usually imperturbable Ruud Krol and completed his slalom run with a perfect chip over the advancing goalkeeper, Jan Jongbloed. As Gemmill turned to celebrate, the entire global contingent in the press and broadcast seats stood to salute his wizardry. Sunday’s accolade acknowledged a playing career which included 43 caps and eight goals for Scotland and a club career that saw him perform in midfield for St Mirren, Preston, Derby County (twice), Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic plus management stints with Rotherham United and Scotland under 19s but - as the 71-year-old acknowledged, with a mixture of pride and resignation – it always comes back to that goal in Mendoza, even though the Dutch scored again to knock the Scots out. Gemmill before a match against Brazil in 1977 Credit: REX/SHUTTERSTOCK “Whenever a World Cup comes around people want to ask about the goal,” Gemmill said. “It was fantastic at the time, even if it didn't help us a great deal in the tournament itself, but over the years, it's given a few people some joy – and a bit of hope, I suppose for the future. “It was a special moment for me. I’d like to think it'll be remembered long after I’m gone. I'm not the type to watch it. I couldn't tell you the last time I saw the goal. “As a player, I always thought my job was just to play as well as I possibly could. If anything came of it, great. If not, you had to try even harder next time, but even people at home in Derby still ask me about the goal and, the odd time I come back up to Scotland, it's all anyone wants to talk about – nothing else.” Credit: GETTY CREATIVE A decade elapsed between Gemmill’s international debut against Belgium in 1971 and his final appearance, against Northern Ireland. He might have reached the 50-cap mark, but for the fact that he was never in favour with a certain Scotland manager. “Before Tommy Docherty took over, I was well in the squad, but he bombed me out totally,” Gemmill said. “We played England in 1972 and I was opposite Alan Ball, who was getting the better of me. “Docherty took me off just into the second half and that was me. I was never in another squad for three years. Docherty also came to Derby and got rid of me from there as well. “Similarly, I was Scotland captain when Ally MacLeod took over and he gave it to someone else, but I always came back, because you want to play for your country as many times as you can. “I got 43 caps but in those three years I was out, I could have got to 50 and into the Hall of Fame. It would have been a landmark for me. “Players, probably with less ability, get to 50 caps now because there are so many games, but you have to live for your time. Throughout my football career, I always had to try and prove a point to someone. I never coasted. “Brian Clough got rid of me at Derby and when I went to Birmingham I was bombed out there as well, but the year Derby got rid of me I was voted their player of their year. Then, the year I left Birmingham, I was their player of the year as well. “When I started out, I was ever so tiny. I'm not that much bigger now. For Scotland U15's I played in a trial match and scored a couple of goals, but the squad was named to play England at Wembley and I wasn't even in it because I was too wee. I was told I’d never make it because of my size, but I had a bit of skill and tenacity about me.” And what of the prospects now for Scotland, managed by Gemmill’s former international team mate, Alex McLeish? “Gordon Strachan was probably only a matter of minutes away from getting us to the World Cup play-offs,” said Gemmill. “It looks like one or two talented youngsters are starting to come through - we just have to hope that these kids fulfil their promise in a Scotland jersey.” Archie Gemmill was speaking as the winner of the SFWA's first ever Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Scottish Power.
They rose to applaud Archie Gemmill at the Scottish Football Writers’ Association annual dinner in Glasgow on Sunday night, when he was the recipient of the organisation’s first ever lifetime achievement award. The standing ovation that marked the high-water mark of Gemmill’s career, however, was accorded him on June 11, 1978, in Mendoza, Argentina. That was when Gemmill produced one of the greatest goals seen in the World Cup, in the improbable circumstances of a previously farcical Scotland campaign, in the Scots’ final group game and against a Dutch side who finished runners up at the World Cup. Gemmill’s contribution became so totemic that it has featured in the movie ‘Trainspotting’ and in a tribute dance by English National Ballet. With Scotland needing to win by three goals to qualify for the next stage, after potentially ruinous setbacks against Peru and Iran, they led 2-1 midway through the second half, at which point the ball broke to Gemmill just outside the Dutch penalty area. He skipped past Wim Jansen – later to become manager of Celtic – avoided a robust challenge by Jan Poortvliet, nutmegged the usually imperturbable Ruud Krol and completed his slalom run with a perfect chip over the advancing goalkeeper, Jan Jongbloed. As Gemmill turned to celebrate, the entire global contingent in the press and broadcast seats stood to salute his wizardry. Sunday’s accolade acknowledged a playing career which included 43 caps and eight goals for Scotland and a club career that saw him perform in midfield for St Mirren, Preston, Derby County (twice), Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic plus management stints with Rotherham United and Scotland under 19s but - as the 71-year-old acknowledged, with a mixture of pride and resignation – it always comes back to that goal in Mendoza, even though the Dutch scored again to knock the Scots out. Gemmill before a match against Brazil in 1977 Credit: REX/SHUTTERSTOCK “Whenever a World Cup comes around people want to ask about the goal,” Gemmill said. “It was fantastic at the time, even if it didn't help us a great deal in the tournament itself, but over the years, it's given a few people some joy – and a bit of hope, I suppose for the future. “It was a special moment for me. I’d like to think it'll be remembered long after I’m gone. I'm not the type to watch it. I couldn't tell you the last time I saw the goal. “As a player, I always thought my job was just to play as well as I possibly could. If anything came of it, great. If not, you had to try even harder next time, but even people at home in Derby still ask me about the goal and, the odd time I come back up to Scotland, it's all anyone wants to talk about – nothing else.” Credit: GETTY CREATIVE A decade elapsed between Gemmill’s international debut against Belgium in 1971 and his final appearance, against Northern Ireland. He might have reached the 50-cap mark, but for the fact that he was never in favour with a certain Scotland manager. “Before Tommy Docherty took over, I was well in the squad, but he bombed me out totally,” Gemmill said. “We played England in 1972 and I was opposite Alan Ball, who was getting the better of me. “Docherty took me off just into the second half and that was me. I was never in another squad for three years. Docherty also came to Derby and got rid of me from there as well. “Similarly, I was Scotland captain when Ally MacLeod took over and he gave it to someone else, but I always came back, because you want to play for your country as many times as you can. “I got 43 caps but in those three years I was out, I could have got to 50 and into the Hall of Fame. It would have been a landmark for me. “Players, probably with less ability, get to 50 caps now because there are so many games, but you have to live for your time. Throughout my football career, I always had to try and prove a point to someone. I never coasted. “Brian Clough got rid of me at Derby and when I went to Birmingham I was bombed out there as well, but the year Derby got rid of me I was voted their player of their year. Then, the year I left Birmingham, I was their player of the year as well. “When I started out, I was ever so tiny. I'm not that much bigger now. For Scotland U15's I played in a trial match and scored a couple of goals, but the squad was named to play England at Wembley and I wasn't even in it because I was too wee. I was told I’d never make it because of my size, but I had a bit of skill and tenacity about me.” And what of the prospects now for Scotland, managed by Gemmill’s former international team mate, Alex McLeish? “Gordon Strachan was probably only a matter of minutes away from getting us to the World Cup play-offs,” said Gemmill. “It looks like one or two talented youngsters are starting to come through - we just have to hope that these kids fulfil their promise in a Scotland jersey.” Archie Gemmill was speaking as the winner of the SFWA's first ever Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Scottish Power.
Archie Gemmill says he'll never be allowed to forget career-defining World Cup wonder goal
They rose to applaud Archie Gemmill at the Scottish Football Writers’ Association annual dinner in Glasgow on Sunday night, when he was the recipient of the organisation’s first ever lifetime achievement award. The standing ovation that marked the high-water mark of Gemmill’s career, however, was accorded him on June 11, 1978, in Mendoza, Argentina. That was when Gemmill produced one of the greatest goals seen in the World Cup, in the improbable circumstances of a previously farcical Scotland campaign, in the Scots’ final group game and against a Dutch side who finished runners up at the World Cup. Gemmill’s contribution became so totemic that it has featured in the movie ‘Trainspotting’ and in a tribute dance by English National Ballet. With Scotland needing to win by three goals to qualify for the next stage, after potentially ruinous setbacks against Peru and Iran, they led 2-1 midway through the second half, at which point the ball broke to Gemmill just outside the Dutch penalty area. He skipped past Wim Jansen – later to become manager of Celtic – avoided a robust challenge by Jan Poortvliet, nutmegged the usually imperturbable Ruud Krol and completed his slalom run with a perfect chip over the advancing goalkeeper, Jan Jongbloed. As Gemmill turned to celebrate, the entire global contingent in the press and broadcast seats stood to salute his wizardry. Sunday’s accolade acknowledged a playing career which included 43 caps and eight goals for Scotland and a club career that saw him perform in midfield for St Mirren, Preston, Derby County (twice), Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic plus management stints with Rotherham United and Scotland under 19s but - as the 71-year-old acknowledged, with a mixture of pride and resignation – it always comes back to that goal in Mendoza, even though the Dutch scored again to knock the Scots out. Gemmill before a match against Brazil in 1977 Credit: REX/SHUTTERSTOCK “Whenever a World Cup comes around people want to ask about the goal,” Gemmill said. “It was fantastic at the time, even if it didn't help us a great deal in the tournament itself, but over the years, it's given a few people some joy – and a bit of hope, I suppose for the future. “It was a special moment for me. I’d like to think it'll be remembered long after I’m gone. I'm not the type to watch it. I couldn't tell you the last time I saw the goal. “As a player, I always thought my job was just to play as well as I possibly could. If anything came of it, great. If not, you had to try even harder next time, but even people at home in Derby still ask me about the goal and, the odd time I come back up to Scotland, it's all anyone wants to talk about – nothing else.” Credit: GETTY CREATIVE A decade elapsed between Gemmill’s international debut against Belgium in 1971 and his final appearance, against Northern Ireland. He might have reached the 50-cap mark, but for the fact that he was never in favour with a certain Scotland manager. “Before Tommy Docherty took over, I was well in the squad, but he bombed me out totally,” Gemmill said. “We played England in 1972 and I was opposite Alan Ball, who was getting the better of me. “Docherty took me off just into the second half and that was me. I was never in another squad for three years. Docherty also came to Derby and got rid of me from there as well. “Similarly, I was Scotland captain when Ally MacLeod took over and he gave it to someone else, but I always came back, because you want to play for your country as many times as you can. “I got 43 caps but in those three years I was out, I could have got to 50 and into the Hall of Fame. It would have been a landmark for me. “Players, probably with less ability, get to 50 caps now because there are so many games, but you have to live for your time. Throughout my football career, I always had to try and prove a point to someone. I never coasted. “Brian Clough got rid of me at Derby and when I went to Birmingham I was bombed out there as well, but the year Derby got rid of me I was voted their player of their year. Then, the year I left Birmingham, I was their player of the year as well. “When I started out, I was ever so tiny. I'm not that much bigger now. For Scotland U15's I played in a trial match and scored a couple of goals, but the squad was named to play England at Wembley and I wasn't even in it because I was too wee. I was told I’d never make it because of my size, but I had a bit of skill and tenacity about me.” And what of the prospects now for Scotland, managed by Gemmill’s former international team mate, Alex McLeish? “Gordon Strachan was probably only a matter of minutes away from getting us to the World Cup play-offs,” said Gemmill. “It looks like one or two talented youngsters are starting to come through - we just have to hope that these kids fulfil their promise in a Scotland jersey.” Archie Gemmill was speaking as the winner of the SFWA's first ever Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Scottish Power.
A Kuwaiti developer has unveiled plans to build the tallest office building in Birmingham as part of a £158m city centre development after years of delays. Property company Salhia is poised to start work on the project later this year, and is seeking companies to occupy the office space, which will sit alongside new homes, shops, restaurants and a hotel. The site where the scheme will be built is known as Beorma Quarter, which takes its name from the first settlement of Birmingham during the Anglo-Saxon period. Part of the development will be a 30-storey office building, the tallest in the city. The development of such a large office building hints at the increasing number of companies looking to relocate out of London. A hotel building and the city's BT Tower are the only taller structures in the city. Plans for the redevelopment of the 2.25-acre site have been in the pipeline for almost 10 years but have been beset by delays thanks to challenging market conditions and the complex nature of the site. An initial phase to refurbish an existing building on the site has already been completed. The new development is near to Birmingham's Bullring shopping centre, seen here on the right Waheed Nazir, corporate director for economy at Birmingham City Council, said the city was experiencing “unprecedented levels of growth” and so new offices were vital to it keeping up with demand. Birmingham has been boosted in recent years by progress made to build the High Speed Two rail line, and large companies moving staff to regional bases. Mr Nazir added: “Building on the success of recent relocations from major companies like HS2, HSBC and HMRC, it is clear that Birmingham is set to continue to be a hugely attractive place to invest and do business.” Salhia, which is listed on the Kuwaiti Stock Exchange, has previously worked on the redevelopment of Farnborough town centre in Hampshire alongside British developer St Modwen, but this will be its first stand-alone UK project. The company was established in 1974 by a group of prominent Kuwaiti businessmen, and has since developed a number of buildings in the Middle East and Europe.
Birmingham to get new skyscraper after plans unveiled for long-awaited redevelopment
A Kuwaiti developer has unveiled plans to build the tallest office building in Birmingham as part of a £158m city centre development after years of delays. Property company Salhia is poised to start work on the project later this year, and is seeking companies to occupy the office space, which will sit alongside new homes, shops, restaurants and a hotel. The site where the scheme will be built is known as Beorma Quarter, which takes its name from the first settlement of Birmingham during the Anglo-Saxon period. Part of the development will be a 30-storey office building, the tallest in the city. The development of such a large office building hints at the increasing number of companies looking to relocate out of London. A hotel building and the city's BT Tower are the only taller structures in the city. Plans for the redevelopment of the 2.25-acre site have been in the pipeline for almost 10 years but have been beset by delays thanks to challenging market conditions and the complex nature of the site. An initial phase to refurbish an existing building on the site has already been completed. The new development is near to Birmingham's Bullring shopping centre, seen here on the right Waheed Nazir, corporate director for economy at Birmingham City Council, said the city was experiencing “unprecedented levels of growth” and so new offices were vital to it keeping up with demand. Birmingham has been boosted in recent years by progress made to build the High Speed Two rail line, and large companies moving staff to regional bases. Mr Nazir added: “Building on the success of recent relocations from major companies like HS2, HSBC and HMRC, it is clear that Birmingham is set to continue to be a hugely attractive place to invest and do business.” Salhia, which is listed on the Kuwaiti Stock Exchange, has previously worked on the redevelopment of Farnborough town centre in Hampshire alongside British developer St Modwen, but this will be its first stand-alone UK project. The company was established in 1974 by a group of prominent Kuwaiti businessmen, and has since developed a number of buildings in the Middle East and Europe.
A Kuwaiti developer has unveiled plans to build the tallest office building in Birmingham as part of a £158m city centre development after years of delays. Property company Salhia is poised to start work on the project later this year, and is seeking companies to occupy the office space, which will sit alongside new homes, shops, restaurants and a hotel. The site where the scheme will be built is known as Beorma Quarter, which takes its name from the first settlement of Birmingham during the Anglo-Saxon period. Part of the development will be a 30-storey office building, the tallest in the city. The development of such a large office building hints at the increasing number of companies looking to relocate out of London. A hotel building and the city's BT Tower are the only taller structures in the city. Plans for the redevelopment of the 2.25-acre site have been in the pipeline for almost 10 years but have been beset by delays thanks to challenging market conditions and the complex nature of the site. An initial phase to refurbish an existing building on the site has already been completed. The new development is near to Birmingham's Bullring shopping centre, seen here on the right Waheed Nazir, corporate director for economy at Birmingham City Council, said the city was experiencing “unprecedented levels of growth” and so new offices were vital to it keeping up with demand. Birmingham has been boosted in recent years by progress made to build the High Speed Two rail line, and large companies moving staff to regional bases. Mr Nazir added: “Building on the success of recent relocations from major companies like HS2, HSBC and HMRC, it is clear that Birmingham is set to continue to be a hugely attractive place to invest and do business.” Salhia, which is listed on the Kuwaiti Stock Exchange, has previously worked on the redevelopment of Farnborough town centre in Hampshire alongside British developer St Modwen, but this will be its first stand-alone UK project. The company was established in 1974 by a group of prominent Kuwaiti businessmen, and has since developed a number of buildings in the Middle East and Europe.
Birmingham to get new skyscraper after plans unveiled for long-awaited redevelopment
A Kuwaiti developer has unveiled plans to build the tallest office building in Birmingham as part of a £158m city centre development after years of delays. Property company Salhia is poised to start work on the project later this year, and is seeking companies to occupy the office space, which will sit alongside new homes, shops, restaurants and a hotel. The site where the scheme will be built is known as Beorma Quarter, which takes its name from the first settlement of Birmingham during the Anglo-Saxon period. Part of the development will be a 30-storey office building, the tallest in the city. The development of such a large office building hints at the increasing number of companies looking to relocate out of London. A hotel building and the city's BT Tower are the only taller structures in the city. Plans for the redevelopment of the 2.25-acre site have been in the pipeline for almost 10 years but have been beset by delays thanks to challenging market conditions and the complex nature of the site. An initial phase to refurbish an existing building on the site has already been completed. The new development is near to Birmingham's Bullring shopping centre, seen here on the right Waheed Nazir, corporate director for economy at Birmingham City Council, said the city was experiencing “unprecedented levels of growth” and so new offices were vital to it keeping up with demand. Birmingham has been boosted in recent years by progress made to build the High Speed Two rail line, and large companies moving staff to regional bases. Mr Nazir added: “Building on the success of recent relocations from major companies like HS2, HSBC and HMRC, it is clear that Birmingham is set to continue to be a hugely attractive place to invest and do business.” Salhia, which is listed on the Kuwaiti Stock Exchange, has previously worked on the redevelopment of Farnborough town centre in Hampshire alongside British developer St Modwen, but this will be its first stand-alone UK project. The company was established in 1974 by a group of prominent Kuwaiti businessmen, and has since developed a number of buildings in the Middle East and Europe.
While Birmingham City's supporters celebrated survival on Sunday, one fan was preparing for a painful tribute to manager Garry Monk.
Monk funds fan's bid to have Birmingham boss tattooed on his bottom
While Birmingham City's supporters celebrated survival on Sunday, one fan was preparing for a painful tribute to manager Garry Monk.
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League after Fulham fail to beat Birmingham City
Aleksander Mitrovic is challenged by Harlee Dean of Birmingham City as Fulham failed to secure automatic promotion
Fulham fail in automatic promotion bid while Bolton achieve great escape
Aleksander Mitrovic is challenged by Harlee Dean of Birmingham City as Fulham failed to secure automatic promotion
Cardiff City were promoted to the Premier League after a goalless draw against Reading on Sunday secured them second place in England's second tier Championship. Cardiff finished with 90 points, two points ahead of third-placed Fulham, who suffered a shock 3-1 defeat at Birmingham City on the final day of the campaign. Cardiff re-enter the top-flight for the first time since the 2013-14 season. Cardiff boss Neil Warnock told Sky Sports: "The biggest achievement in my 38-year career by an absolute country mile. Nobody gave us a chance. I am so proud of them. I was better when I heard the Birmingham score. I feel really proud at the job I have done. I didn't think we would get in the play-offs let alone the Premier League." Sean Morrison celebrates with fans Credit: REUTERS Cardiff defender Sean Morrison told Sky Sports: "A roller-coaster year. But we have an incredible set of lads here. To finish on 90 points over the season is fantastic. The gaffer has rallied us all year." Morrison's centre-back partner Sol Bamba added: "I love everything about it (the club). It was wonderful. We have got what we deserved. A lot of people did not think we could do it, but we did. I can't wait (for the Premier League)." Cardiff promoted to the Premier League | Neil Warnock's eighth promotion as manager Barnsley, who lost 4-1 at Derby, and Burton - defeated 2-1 by Preston - have been relegated to League One. Elsewhere, Fulham blew their chance of automatic promotion to the Premier League after suffering a 3-1 defeat at survivors Birmingham. Victory would have sent the Cottagers back to the top flight after Cardiff could only draw 0-0 with Reading. But goals from Lukas Jutkiewicz, Harlee Dean and Che Adams ensured the hosts beat relegation on the final day and denied the visitors second place. Tom Cairney briefly made it 2-1 but Fulham must rely on the play-offs - where they will face Derby - to return to the Premier League after a four-year absence. Birmingham sealed their place in the Sky Bet Championship after a season-long battle against the drop, finally finishing five points above the bottom three. Championship | Final day results
Cardiff promoted to the Premier League on final day as Burton and Barnsley drop to League One
Cardiff City were promoted to the Premier League after a goalless draw against Reading on Sunday secured them second place in England's second tier Championship. Cardiff finished with 90 points, two points ahead of third-placed Fulham, who suffered a shock 3-1 defeat at Birmingham City on the final day of the campaign. Cardiff re-enter the top-flight for the first time since the 2013-14 season. Cardiff boss Neil Warnock told Sky Sports: "The biggest achievement in my 38-year career by an absolute country mile. Nobody gave us a chance. I am so proud of them. I was better when I heard the Birmingham score. I feel really proud at the job I have done. I didn't think we would get in the play-offs let alone the Premier League." Sean Morrison celebrates with fans Credit: REUTERS Cardiff defender Sean Morrison told Sky Sports: "A roller-coaster year. But we have an incredible set of lads here. To finish on 90 points over the season is fantastic. The gaffer has rallied us all year." Morrison's centre-back partner Sol Bamba added: "I love everything about it (the club). It was wonderful. We have got what we deserved. A lot of people did not think we could do it, but we did. I can't wait (for the Premier League)." Cardiff promoted to the Premier League | Neil Warnock's eighth promotion as manager Barnsley, who lost 4-1 at Derby, and Burton - defeated 2-1 by Preston - have been relegated to League One. Elsewhere, Fulham blew their chance of automatic promotion to the Premier League after suffering a 3-1 defeat at survivors Birmingham. Victory would have sent the Cottagers back to the top flight after Cardiff could only draw 0-0 with Reading. But goals from Lukas Jutkiewicz, Harlee Dean and Che Adams ensured the hosts beat relegation on the final day and denied the visitors second place. Tom Cairney briefly made it 2-1 but Fulham must rely on the play-offs - where they will face Derby - to return to the Premier League after a four-year absence. Birmingham sealed their place in the Sky Bet Championship after a season-long battle against the drop, finally finishing five points above the bottom three. Championship | Final day results