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If the manager of Loughborough University’s reception happens to be reading this, Beth Dobbin has something to tell you: sorry, but she is not coming into work on Saturday. Dobbin is not usually a skiver. Quite the opposite, in fact, as someone who juggles four different jobs and works seven days a week throughout the winter. It is just that she never expected to be otherwise occupied this weekend. As always at the start of the season, Dobbin had diligently filled in her diary with all her likely races for the summer. The main focus for this time of year was the Inter-Counties Championships in Manchester, with a host of other low-key domestic meets penciled in to fit around her hectic work schedule. Then everything changed at the start of this month when the part-time receptionist, part-time security guard, part-time data inputter and part-time school assistant shocked her professional rivals to win the British 200m title. It was a victory that means she will unexpectedly spend the next few weekends representing Britain at the inaugural Athletics World Cup, London Anniversary Games and then European Championships. She just needs to convince her bosses to give her some time off. Dobbin stretches for the line in Birmingham Credit: Getty Images “I was supposed to be at work this Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” she says. “I've managed to get three of those days off, but I haven’t had much luck with Saturday. “I'll probably just be a rebel and say I'm not coming in. It's a once in a lifetime thing to compete at the World Cup so I think I'll probably just not go in. “I'm looking at my diary and it's chocka because I didn't expect this. Ahead of the Anniversary Games I'm meant to be working every day next week and I've only managed to get the Monday off. I've got myself in a real mess.” Dobbin’s employment predicament is a mark of just how unlikely this entire situation has been. By her own admission, Dobbin never had much success as a junior sprinter. A major epileptic seizure in her early teenage years temporarily wiped her memory and removed her ability to walk and talk for a number of weeks. With her epilepsy now under control without the need for medication, she says she has “been playing catch-up” until this extraordinary breakthrough summer at the age of 24. It began with a huge personal best to break the 34-year-old Scottish 200m record at a UK Women’s League meet at the start of June, before she eased down for another record time in the British Championship heats. In the final she shattered her lifetime best yet again to claim the national title in 22.59 seconds – a mark that catapulted her to eighth on the British all-time list. Beth Dobbin (left) poses with the Athletics World Cup alongside Ojie Edoburun and Morgan Lake Credit: Getty Images Europe Now things step up another gear. This weekend Dobbin will enter a vastly different realm at London’s Olympic Stadium when she competes internationally for the first time in her life, sharing the startline with world medallists Jenna Prandini, of United States, and Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson. She has never even set foot inside the country’s biggest athletics stadium before. “I’ve never raced there and never watched there,” says Dobbin, whose father Jim played football for Celtic and then Doncaster Rovers, in the town where she was born and raised. “I've only been outside near the helter-skelter, but apart from that I've never been in the actual stadium so I'm excited about that. “I want the first moment to be when I step out onto the track for my race. I think that will make it a bit more special.” The day after she claimed her British title, Dobbin was back at work and next week will be no different. While her professional rivals will nod to her on the way into Loughborough University’s High Performance Athletics Centre, where she sits on reception, Dobbin will have to wait until the end of shift to prepare for the European Championships. “It is weird because someone like Reece Prescod is a British [100m] champion and I'm British champion, but he's coming through the gates to train and I'm there still working,” she says. “It will definitely be weird because I've worked all my life, but hopefully next year that can be me getting to live the full-time athlete lifestyle. “This is all new to me. I don't really know how to do it.” BRITISH CHAMPION!!!!! BEST DAY OF MY LIFE EVER ❤️❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/3QO9JM3PWp— Beth Dobbin (@BethDobbin) July 1, 2018
No funding and four jobs - How Beth Dobbin beat the professionals to become British 200m champion
If the manager of Loughborough University’s reception happens to be reading this, Beth Dobbin has something to tell you: sorry, but she is not coming into work on Saturday. Dobbin is not usually a skiver. Quite the opposite, in fact, as someone who juggles four different jobs and works seven days a week throughout the winter. It is just that she never expected to be otherwise occupied this weekend. As always at the start of the season, Dobbin had diligently filled in her diary with all her likely races for the summer. The main focus for this time of year was the Inter-Counties Championships in Manchester, with a host of other low-key domestic meets penciled in to fit around her hectic work schedule. Then everything changed at the start of this month when the part-time receptionist, part-time security guard, part-time data inputter and part-time school assistant shocked her professional rivals to win the British 200m title. It was a victory that means she will unexpectedly spend the next few weekends representing Britain at the inaugural Athletics World Cup, London Anniversary Games and then European Championships. She just needs to convince her bosses to give her some time off. Dobbin stretches for the line in Birmingham Credit: Getty Images “I was supposed to be at work this Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” she says. “I've managed to get three of those days off, but I haven’t had much luck with Saturday. “I'll probably just be a rebel and say I'm not coming in. It's a once in a lifetime thing to compete at the World Cup so I think I'll probably just not go in. “I'm looking at my diary and it's chocka because I didn't expect this. Ahead of the Anniversary Games I'm meant to be working every day next week and I've only managed to get the Monday off. I've got myself in a real mess.” Dobbin’s employment predicament is a mark of just how unlikely this entire situation has been. By her own admission, Dobbin never had much success as a junior sprinter. A major epileptic seizure in her early teenage years temporarily wiped her memory and removed her ability to walk and talk for a number of weeks. With her epilepsy now under control without the need for medication, she says she has “been playing catch-up” until this extraordinary breakthrough summer at the age of 24. It began with a huge personal best to break the 34-year-old Scottish 200m record at a UK Women’s League meet at the start of June, before she eased down for another record time in the British Championship heats. In the final she shattered her lifetime best yet again to claim the national title in 22.59 seconds – a mark that catapulted her to eighth on the British all-time list. Beth Dobbin (left) poses with the Athletics World Cup alongside Ojie Edoburun and Morgan Lake Credit: Getty Images Europe Now things step up another gear. This weekend Dobbin will enter a vastly different realm at London’s Olympic Stadium when she competes internationally for the first time in her life, sharing the startline with world medallists Jenna Prandini, of United States, and Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson. She has never even set foot inside the country’s biggest athletics stadium before. “I’ve never raced there and never watched there,” says Dobbin, whose father Jim played football for Celtic and then Doncaster Rovers, in the town where she was born and raised. “I've only been outside near the helter-skelter, but apart from that I've never been in the actual stadium so I'm excited about that. “I want the first moment to be when I step out onto the track for my race. I think that will make it a bit more special.” The day after she claimed her British title, Dobbin was back at work and next week will be no different. While her professional rivals will nod to her on the way into Loughborough University’s High Performance Athletics Centre, where she sits on reception, Dobbin will have to wait until the end of shift to prepare for the European Championships. “It is weird because someone like Reece Prescod is a British [100m] champion and I'm British champion, but he's coming through the gates to train and I'm there still working,” she says. “It will definitely be weird because I've worked all my life, but hopefully next year that can be me getting to live the full-time athlete lifestyle. “This is all new to me. I don't really know how to do it.” BRITISH CHAMPION!!!!! BEST DAY OF MY LIFE EVER ❤️❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/3QO9JM3PWp— Beth Dobbin (@BethDobbin) July 1, 2018
If the manager of Loughborough University’s reception happens to be reading this, Beth Dobbin has something to tell you: sorry, but she is not coming into work on Saturday. Dobbin is not usually a skiver. Quite the opposite, in fact, as someone who juggles four different jobs and works seven days a week throughout the winter. It is just that she never expected to be otherwise occupied this weekend. As always at the start of the season, Dobbin had diligently filled in her diary with all her likely races for the summer. The main focus for this time of year was the Inter-Counties Championships in Manchester, with a host of other low-key domestic meets penciled in to fit around her hectic work schedule. Then everything changed at the start of this month when the part-time receptionist, part-time security guard, part-time data inputter and part-time school assistant shocked her professional rivals to win the British 200m title. It was a victory that means she will unexpectedly spend the next few weekends representing Britain at the inaugural Athletics World Cup, London Anniversary Games and then European Championships. She just needs to convince her bosses to give her some time off. Dobbin stretches for the line in Birmingham Credit: Getty Images “I was supposed to be at work this Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” she says. “I've managed to get three of those days off, but I haven’t had much luck with Saturday. “I'll probably just be a rebel and say I'm not coming in. It's a once in a lifetime thing to compete at the World Cup so I think I'll probably just not go in. “I'm looking at my diary and it's chocka because I didn't expect this. Ahead of the Anniversary Games I'm meant to be working every day next week and I've only managed to get the Monday off. I've got myself in a real mess.” Dobbin’s employment predicament is a mark of just how unlikely this entire situation has been. By her own admission, Dobbin never had much success as a junior sprinter. A major epileptic seizure in her early teenage years temporarily wiped her memory and removed her ability to walk and talk for a number of weeks. With her epilepsy now under control without the need for medication, she says she has “been playing catch-up” until this extraordinary breakthrough summer at the age of 24. It began with a huge personal best to break the 34-year-old Scottish 200m record at a UK Women’s League meet at the start of June, before she eased down for another record time in the British Championship heats. In the final she shattered her lifetime best yet again to claim the national title in 22.59 seconds – a mark that catapulted her to eighth on the British all-time list. Beth Dobbin (left) poses with the Athletics World Cup alongside Ojie Edoburun and Morgan Lake Credit: Getty Images Europe Now things step up another gear. This weekend Dobbin will enter a vastly different realm at London’s Olympic Stadium when she competes internationally for the first time in her life, sharing the startline with world medallists Jenna Prandini, of United States, and Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson. She has never even set foot inside the country’s biggest athletics stadium before. “I’ve never raced there and never watched there,” says Dobbin, whose father Jim played football for Celtic and then Doncaster Rovers, in the town where she was born and raised. “I've only been outside near the helter-skelter, but apart from that I've never been in the actual stadium so I'm excited about that. “I want the first moment to be when I step out onto the track for my race. I think that will make it a bit more special.” The day after she claimed her British title, Dobbin was back at work and next week will be no different. While her professional rivals will nod to her on the way into Loughborough University’s High Performance Athletics Centre, where she sits on reception, Dobbin will have to wait until the end of shift to prepare for the European Championships. “It is weird because someone like Reece Prescod is a British [100m] champion and I'm British champion, but he's coming through the gates to train and I'm there still working,” she says. “It will definitely be weird because I've worked all my life, but hopefully next year that can be me getting to live the full-time athlete lifestyle. “This is all new to me. I don't really know how to do it.” BRITISH CHAMPION!!!!! BEST DAY OF MY LIFE EVER ❤️❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/3QO9JM3PWp— Beth Dobbin (@BethDobbin) July 1, 2018
No funding and four jobs - How Beth Dobbin beat the professionals to become British 200m champion
If the manager of Loughborough University’s reception happens to be reading this, Beth Dobbin has something to tell you: sorry, but she is not coming into work on Saturday. Dobbin is not usually a skiver. Quite the opposite, in fact, as someone who juggles four different jobs and works seven days a week throughout the winter. It is just that she never expected to be otherwise occupied this weekend. As always at the start of the season, Dobbin had diligently filled in her diary with all her likely races for the summer. The main focus for this time of year was the Inter-Counties Championships in Manchester, with a host of other low-key domestic meets penciled in to fit around her hectic work schedule. Then everything changed at the start of this month when the part-time receptionist, part-time security guard, part-time data inputter and part-time school assistant shocked her professional rivals to win the British 200m title. It was a victory that means she will unexpectedly spend the next few weekends representing Britain at the inaugural Athletics World Cup, London Anniversary Games and then European Championships. She just needs to convince her bosses to give her some time off. Dobbin stretches for the line in Birmingham Credit: Getty Images “I was supposed to be at work this Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” she says. “I've managed to get three of those days off, but I haven’t had much luck with Saturday. “I'll probably just be a rebel and say I'm not coming in. It's a once in a lifetime thing to compete at the World Cup so I think I'll probably just not go in. “I'm looking at my diary and it's chocka because I didn't expect this. Ahead of the Anniversary Games I'm meant to be working every day next week and I've only managed to get the Monday off. I've got myself in a real mess.” Dobbin’s employment predicament is a mark of just how unlikely this entire situation has been. By her own admission, Dobbin never had much success as a junior sprinter. A major epileptic seizure in her early teenage years temporarily wiped her memory and removed her ability to walk and talk for a number of weeks. With her epilepsy now under control without the need for medication, she says she has “been playing catch-up” until this extraordinary breakthrough summer at the age of 24. It began with a huge personal best to break the 34-year-old Scottish 200m record at a UK Women’s League meet at the start of June, before she eased down for another record time in the British Championship heats. In the final she shattered her lifetime best yet again to claim the national title in 22.59 seconds – a mark that catapulted her to eighth on the British all-time list. Beth Dobbin (left) poses with the Athletics World Cup alongside Ojie Edoburun and Morgan Lake Credit: Getty Images Europe Now things step up another gear. This weekend Dobbin will enter a vastly different realm at London’s Olympic Stadium when she competes internationally for the first time in her life, sharing the startline with world medallists Jenna Prandini, of United States, and Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson. She has never even set foot inside the country’s biggest athletics stadium before. “I’ve never raced there and never watched there,” says Dobbin, whose father Jim played football for Celtic and then Doncaster Rovers, in the town where she was born and raised. “I've only been outside near the helter-skelter, but apart from that I've never been in the actual stadium so I'm excited about that. “I want the first moment to be when I step out onto the track for my race. I think that will make it a bit more special.” The day after she claimed her British title, Dobbin was back at work and next week will be no different. While her professional rivals will nod to her on the way into Loughborough University’s High Performance Athletics Centre, where she sits on reception, Dobbin will have to wait until the end of shift to prepare for the European Championships. “It is weird because someone like Reece Prescod is a British [100m] champion and I'm British champion, but he's coming through the gates to train and I'm there still working,” she says. “It will definitely be weird because I've worked all my life, but hopefully next year that can be me getting to live the full-time athlete lifestyle. “This is all new to me. I don't really know how to do it.” BRITISH CHAMPION!!!!! BEST DAY OF MY LIFE EVER ❤️❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/3QO9JM3PWp— Beth Dobbin (@BethDobbin) July 1, 2018
If the manager of Loughborough University’s reception happens to be reading this, Beth Dobbin has something to tell you: sorry, but she is not coming into work on Saturday. Dobbin is not usually a skiver. Quite the opposite, in fact, as someone who juggles four different jobs and works seven days a week throughout the winter. It is just that she never expected to be otherwise occupied this weekend. As always at the start of the season, Dobbin had diligently filled in her diary with all her likely races for the summer. The main focus for this time of year was the Inter-Counties Championships in Manchester, with a host of other low-key domestic meets penciled in to fit around her hectic work schedule. Then everything changed at the start of this month when the part-time receptionist, part-time security guard, part-time data inputter and part-time school assistant shocked her professional rivals to win the British 200m title. It was a victory that means she will unexpectedly spend the next few weekends representing Britain at the inaugural Athletics World Cup, London Anniversary Games and then European Championships. She just needs to convince her bosses to give her some time off. Dobbin stretches for the line in Birmingham Credit: Getty Images “I was supposed to be at work this Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” she says. “I've managed to get three of those days off, but I haven’t had much luck with Saturday. “I'll probably just be a rebel and say I'm not coming in. It's a once in a lifetime thing to compete at the World Cup so I think I'll probably just not go in. “I'm looking at my diary and it's chocka because I didn't expect this. Ahead of the Anniversary Games I'm meant to be working every day next week and I've only managed to get the Monday off. I've got myself in a real mess.” Dobbin’s employment predicament is a mark of just how unlikely this entire situation has been. By her own admission, Dobbin never had much success as a junior sprinter. A major epileptic seizure in her early teenage years temporarily wiped her memory and removed her ability to walk and talk for a number of weeks. With her epilepsy now under control without the need for medication, she says she has “been playing catch-up” until this extraordinary breakthrough summer at the age of 24. It began with a huge personal best to break the 34-year-old Scottish 200m record at a UK Women’s League meet at the start of June, before she eased down for another record time in the British Championship heats. In the final she shattered her lifetime best yet again to claim the national title in 22.59 seconds – a mark that catapulted her to eighth on the British all-time list. Beth Dobbin (left) poses with the Athletics World Cup alongside Ojie Edoburun and Morgan Lake Credit: Getty Images Europe Now things step up another gear. This weekend Dobbin will enter a vastly different realm at London’s Olympic Stadium when she competes internationally for the first time in her life, sharing the startline with world medallists Jenna Prandini, of United States, and Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson. She has never even set foot inside the country’s biggest athletics stadium before. “I’ve never raced there and never watched there,” says Dobbin, whose father Jim played football for Celtic and then Doncaster Rovers, in the town where she was born and raised. “I've only been outside near the helter-skelter, but apart from that I've never been in the actual stadium so I'm excited about that. “I want the first moment to be when I step out onto the track for my race. I think that will make it a bit more special.” The day after she claimed her British title, Dobbin was back at work and next week will be no different. While her professional rivals will nod to her on the way into Loughborough University’s High Performance Athletics Centre, where she sits on reception, Dobbin will have to wait until the end of shift to prepare for the European Championships. “It is weird because someone like Reece Prescod is a British [100m] champion and I'm British champion, but he's coming through the gates to train and I'm there still working,” she says. “It will definitely be weird because I've worked all my life, but hopefully next year that can be me getting to live the full-time athlete lifestyle. “This is all new to me. I don't really know how to do it.” BRITISH CHAMPION!!!!! BEST DAY OF MY LIFE EVER ❤️❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/3QO9JM3PWp— Beth Dobbin (@BethDobbin) July 1, 2018
No funding and four jobs - How Beth Dobbin beat the professionals to become British 200m champion
If the manager of Loughborough University’s reception happens to be reading this, Beth Dobbin has something to tell you: sorry, but she is not coming into work on Saturday. Dobbin is not usually a skiver. Quite the opposite, in fact, as someone who juggles four different jobs and works seven days a week throughout the winter. It is just that she never expected to be otherwise occupied this weekend. As always at the start of the season, Dobbin had diligently filled in her diary with all her likely races for the summer. The main focus for this time of year was the Inter-Counties Championships in Manchester, with a host of other low-key domestic meets penciled in to fit around her hectic work schedule. Then everything changed at the start of this month when the part-time receptionist, part-time security guard, part-time data inputter and part-time school assistant shocked her professional rivals to win the British 200m title. It was a victory that means she will unexpectedly spend the next few weekends representing Britain at the inaugural Athletics World Cup, London Anniversary Games and then European Championships. She just needs to convince her bosses to give her some time off. Dobbin stretches for the line in Birmingham Credit: Getty Images “I was supposed to be at work this Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” she says. “I've managed to get three of those days off, but I haven’t had much luck with Saturday. “I'll probably just be a rebel and say I'm not coming in. It's a once in a lifetime thing to compete at the World Cup so I think I'll probably just not go in. “I'm looking at my diary and it's chocka because I didn't expect this. Ahead of the Anniversary Games I'm meant to be working every day next week and I've only managed to get the Monday off. I've got myself in a real mess.” Dobbin’s employment predicament is a mark of just how unlikely this entire situation has been. By her own admission, Dobbin never had much success as a junior sprinter. A major epileptic seizure in her early teenage years temporarily wiped her memory and removed her ability to walk and talk for a number of weeks. With her epilepsy now under control without the need for medication, she says she has “been playing catch-up” until this extraordinary breakthrough summer at the age of 24. It began with a huge personal best to break the 34-year-old Scottish 200m record at a UK Women’s League meet at the start of June, before she eased down for another record time in the British Championship heats. In the final she shattered her lifetime best yet again to claim the national title in 22.59 seconds – a mark that catapulted her to eighth on the British all-time list. Beth Dobbin (left) poses with the Athletics World Cup alongside Ojie Edoburun and Morgan Lake Credit: Getty Images Europe Now things step up another gear. This weekend Dobbin will enter a vastly different realm at London’s Olympic Stadium when she competes internationally for the first time in her life, sharing the startline with world medallists Jenna Prandini, of United States, and Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson. She has never even set foot inside the country’s biggest athletics stadium before. “I’ve never raced there and never watched there,” says Dobbin, whose father Jim played football for Celtic and then Doncaster Rovers, in the town where she was born and raised. “I've only been outside near the helter-skelter, but apart from that I've never been in the actual stadium so I'm excited about that. “I want the first moment to be when I step out onto the track for my race. I think that will make it a bit more special.” The day after she claimed her British title, Dobbin was back at work and next week will be no different. While her professional rivals will nod to her on the way into Loughborough University’s High Performance Athletics Centre, where she sits on reception, Dobbin will have to wait until the end of shift to prepare for the European Championships. “It is weird because someone like Reece Prescod is a British [100m] champion and I'm British champion, but he's coming through the gates to train and I'm there still working,” she says. “It will definitely be weird because I've worked all my life, but hopefully next year that can be me getting to live the full-time athlete lifestyle. “This is all new to me. I don't really know how to do it.” BRITISH CHAMPION!!!!! BEST DAY OF MY LIFE EVER ❤️❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/3QO9JM3PWp— Beth Dobbin (@BethDobbin) July 1, 2018
There will be one Englishman inside the Kaliningrad Stadium on Thursday evening who will definitely not be rooting for his own country. Graeme Jones is Roberto Martinez’s loyal and long-standing No 2 and there is nothing that would bring a bigger smile to the one-time postman’s face than a Belgium victory at the expense of the friend and manager with whom he studied for his Uefa Pro Licence. Jones hit it off with Gareth Southgate on the course, although, of all the candidates on it, it was not the future England manager who ended up being recognised for his outstanding contribution, but Jones. “Graeme won the award for effectively being the best student,” recalled Graham Barrow, who was the first-team coach at Wigan Athletic during Jones and Martinez’s four years at the club. “Graeme used to mention Gareth quite a lot. We’d talk and it was ‘Gareth this, Gareth that’ so it was clear they’d got on well. Sometimes people just hit it off.” That has certainly been the case with Jones and Martinez. Martinez had already been at Wigan 12 months as a player when Jones, an old fashioned centre-forward, joined from Doncaster Rovers in 1996 after several years doing the rounds on the non-league circuit in his native North-East following his release by Millwall. They were paired together for some stretching exercises and instantly clicked. When Jones later moved his family back to Tyneside, Martinez invited him to stay at his house in Wigan two nights a week. A no-nonsense guy from Gateshead and a cultivated Catalan from Balaguer are not the most obvious alliance but a budding friendship was forged on the pitch and over regular dinners at Milanos, an Italian bistro in the town, and they have been largely inseparable ever since. When Martinez was appointed Swansea City manager in 2007, he asked Jones to be his assistant, a role he has also held at Wigan, Everton and now Belgium. England vs Belgium: Our writers pick their starting XI for group winner decider “It is a bit of odd couple, isn’t it?” Barrow said. “But people always used to say that about Brian Clough and Peter Taylor.” Martinez is recognised as an innovative coach if not necessarily for his man-management and that is where Jones comes in. He had earned a reputation as a player for being robust and forthright, on and off the field, which sparked the nicknamed “Bonner”. “All of Roberto’s weaknesses are Bonner’s strengths and vice versa really,” one of their former players told The Daily Telegraph this week. “They have a really good chemistry. Roberto was so into studying football in depth – games, players, tactics opponents, I’ve never seen someone work so hard at that – but man-management could get put on the back burner at times. That is where Bonner came in. “He spoke to players well. He smelt if there were any problems. Roberto wasn’t always the most approachable for the players but Graeme was. He didn’t want players bottling things up. But he also had that fear factor about him that Roberto didn’t have. On a Saturday when it needed a bit of shouting, he’d be the one to do that. He had that edge.” Jones and Martinez have forged a strong partnership, seen here celebrating a win during their tenure at Wigan Credit: PA Martinez has even been known to have to rein Jones in at times and, in one unfortunate incident, Jones overstepped the mark. In March 2008 while at Swansea, Jones was arrested after allegedly headbutting Danny Coles, a Bristol Rovers player, in the tunnel after a tempestuous game at the Memorial Stadium. He faced no action but it prompted some careful self-introspection and led in time to him becoming a more rounded, considered individual. “Roberto had that influence on him at Swansea and when he came to Wigan I could see that change in his character,” said Barrow, who managed Jones as a player at Bury. “I had him as a player and when I expected him to maybe lay into players at times he’d back off.” Seven months after suffering a broken leg, Ben Watson scored the goal that won Martinez’s Wigan the FA Cup over Manchester City in 2013 and Barrow recalls Jones playing a huge part in the midfielder’s recovery. “Graeme was very good at picking people up and that was never more evident than with Ben,” he said. James Ducker's England starting XI for Belgium Gary Caldwell, who played under Jones and Martinez at Wigan and would later go on to manage the club, is effusive in his praise of Jones. “We used to argue all the time but not in a bad way – in a professional, competitive way,” Caldwell said, chuckling. “The good thing with Graeme is that you could always say what you feel. There were never any grudges held with anybody. In the changing room he allowed me to be that voice and to really push and demand from people and he was always there to back me up. He had great mix with Roberto. It was a big learning experience with them.” Now 48, Jones was twice offered the chance to become Swansea manager but opted to stay loyal to Martinez. Yet Barrow believes he could take the plunge into management one day. “Graeme’s got that nice blend of British bulldog – sleeves rolled up – but with the thought and consideration as well,” he said. “He could be almost the perfect combination in this country.” On Thursday in Russia, though, Jones’s allegiance is firmly with Belgium. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Belgium's 'British bulldog' assistant coach plotting England's downfall ahead of Group G meeting at World Cup
There will be one Englishman inside the Kaliningrad Stadium on Thursday evening who will definitely not be rooting for his own country. Graeme Jones is Roberto Martinez’s loyal and long-standing No 2 and there is nothing that would bring a bigger smile to the one-time postman’s face than a Belgium victory at the expense of the friend and manager with whom he studied for his Uefa Pro Licence. Jones hit it off with Gareth Southgate on the course, although, of all the candidates on it, it was not the future England manager who ended up being recognised for his outstanding contribution, but Jones. “Graeme won the award for effectively being the best student,” recalled Graham Barrow, who was the first-team coach at Wigan Athletic during Jones and Martinez’s four years at the club. “Graeme used to mention Gareth quite a lot. We’d talk and it was ‘Gareth this, Gareth that’ so it was clear they’d got on well. Sometimes people just hit it off.” That has certainly been the case with Jones and Martinez. Martinez had already been at Wigan 12 months as a player when Jones, an old fashioned centre-forward, joined from Doncaster Rovers in 1996 after several years doing the rounds on the non-league circuit in his native North-East following his release by Millwall. They were paired together for some stretching exercises and instantly clicked. When Jones later moved his family back to Tyneside, Martinez invited him to stay at his house in Wigan two nights a week. A no-nonsense guy from Gateshead and a cultivated Catalan from Balaguer are not the most obvious alliance but a budding friendship was forged on the pitch and over regular dinners at Milanos, an Italian bistro in the town, and they have been largely inseparable ever since. When Martinez was appointed Swansea City manager in 2007, he asked Jones to be his assistant, a role he has also held at Wigan, Everton and now Belgium. England vs Belgium: Our writers pick their starting XI for group winner decider “It is a bit of odd couple, isn’t it?” Barrow said. “But people always used to say that about Brian Clough and Peter Taylor.” Martinez is recognised as an innovative coach if not necessarily for his man-management and that is where Jones comes in. He had earned a reputation as a player for being robust and forthright, on and off the field, which sparked the nicknamed “Bonner”. “All of Roberto’s weaknesses are Bonner’s strengths and vice versa really,” one of their former players told The Daily Telegraph this week. “They have a really good chemistry. Roberto was so into studying football in depth – games, players, tactics opponents, I’ve never seen someone work so hard at that – but man-management could get put on the back burner at times. That is where Bonner came in. “He spoke to players well. He smelt if there were any problems. Roberto wasn’t always the most approachable for the players but Graeme was. He didn’t want players bottling things up. But he also had that fear factor about him that Roberto didn’t have. On a Saturday when it needed a bit of shouting, he’d be the one to do that. He had that edge.” Jones and Martinez have forged a strong partnership, seen here celebrating a win during their tenure at Wigan Credit: PA Martinez has even been known to have to rein Jones in at times and, in one unfortunate incident, Jones overstepped the mark. In March 2008 while at Swansea, Jones was arrested after allegedly headbutting Danny Coles, a Bristol Rovers player, in the tunnel after a tempestuous game at the Memorial Stadium. He faced no action but it prompted some careful self-introspection and led in time to him becoming a more rounded, considered individual. “Roberto had that influence on him at Swansea and when he came to Wigan I could see that change in his character,” said Barrow, who managed Jones as a player at Bury. “I had him as a player and when I expected him to maybe lay into players at times he’d back off.” Seven months after suffering a broken leg, Ben Watson scored the goal that won Martinez’s Wigan the FA Cup over Manchester City in 2013 and Barrow recalls Jones playing a huge part in the midfielder’s recovery. “Graeme was very good at picking people up and that was never more evident than with Ben,” he said. James Ducker's England starting XI for Belgium Gary Caldwell, who played under Jones and Martinez at Wigan and would later go on to manage the club, is effusive in his praise of Jones. “We used to argue all the time but not in a bad way – in a professional, competitive way,” Caldwell said, chuckling. “The good thing with Graeme is that you could always say what you feel. There were never any grudges held with anybody. In the changing room he allowed me to be that voice and to really push and demand from people and he was always there to back me up. He had great mix with Roberto. It was a big learning experience with them.” Now 48, Jones was twice offered the chance to become Swansea manager but opted to stay loyal to Martinez. Yet Barrow believes he could take the plunge into management one day. “Graeme’s got that nice blend of British bulldog – sleeves rolled up – but with the thought and consideration as well,” he said. “He could be almost the perfect combination in this country.” On Thursday in Russia, though, Jones’s allegiance is firmly with Belgium. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
There will be one Englishman inside the Kaliningrad Stadium on Thursday evening who will definitely not be rooting for his own country. Graeme Jones is Roberto Martinez’s loyal and long-standing No 2 and there is nothing that would bring a bigger smile to the one-time postman’s face than a Belgium victory at the expense of the friend and manager with whom he studied for his Uefa Pro Licence. Jones hit it off with Gareth Southgate on the course, although, of all the candidates on it, it was not the future England manager who ended up being recognised for his outstanding contribution, but Jones. “Graeme won the award for effectively being the best student,” recalled Graham Barrow, who was the first-team coach at Wigan Athletic during Jones and Martinez’s four years at the club. “Graeme used to mention Gareth quite a lot. We’d talk and it was ‘Gareth this, Gareth that’ so it was clear they’d got on well. Sometimes people just hit it off.” That has certainly been the case with Jones and Martinez. Martinez had already been at Wigan 12 months as a player when Jones, an old fashioned centre-forward, joined from Doncaster Rovers in 1996 after several years doing the rounds on the non-league circuit in his native North-East following his release by Millwall. They were paired together for some stretching exercises and instantly clicked. When Jones later moved his family back to Tyneside, Martinez invited him to stay at his house in Wigan two nights a week. A no-nonsense guy from Gateshead and a cultivated Catalan from Balaguer are not the most obvious alliance but a budding friendship was forged on the pitch and over regular dinners at Milanos, an Italian bistro in the town, and they have been largely inseparable ever since. When Martinez was appointed Swansea City manager in 2007, he asked Jones to be his assistant, a role he has also held at Wigan, Everton and now Belgium. England vs Belgium: Our writers pick their starting XI for group winner decider “It is a bit of odd couple, isn’t it?” Barrow said. “But people always used to say that about Brian Clough and Peter Taylor.” Martinez is recognised as an innovative coach if not necessarily for his man-management and that is where Jones comes in. He had earned a reputation as a player for being robust and forthright, on and off the field, which sparked the nicknamed “Bonner”. “All of Roberto’s weaknesses are Bonner’s strengths and vice versa really,” one of their former players told The Daily Telegraph this week. “They have a really good chemistry. Roberto was so into studying football in depth – games, players, tactics opponents, I’ve never seen someone work so hard at that – but man-management could get put on the back burner at times. That is where Bonner came in. “He spoke to players well. He smelt if there were any problems. Roberto wasn’t always the most approachable for the players but Graeme was. He didn’t want players bottling things up. But he also had that fear factor about him that Roberto didn’t have. On a Saturday when it needed a bit of shouting, he’d be the one to do that. He had that edge.” Jones and Martinez have forged a strong partnership, seen here celebrating a win during their tenure at Wigan Credit: PA Martinez has even been known to have to rein Jones in at times and, in one unfortunate incident, Jones overstepped the mark. In March 2008 while at Swansea, Jones was arrested after allegedly headbutting Danny Coles, a Bristol Rovers player, in the tunnel after a tempestuous game at the Memorial Stadium. He faced no action but it prompted some careful self-introspection and led in time to him becoming a more rounded, considered individual. “Roberto had that influence on him at Swansea and when he came to Wigan I could see that change in his character,” said Barrow, who managed Jones as a player at Bury. “I had him as a player and when I expected him to maybe lay into players at times he’d back off.” Seven months after suffering a broken leg, Ben Watson scored the goal that won Martinez’s Wigan the FA Cup over Manchester City in 2013 and Barrow recalls Jones playing a huge part in the midfielder’s recovery. “Graeme was very good at picking people up and that was never more evident than with Ben,” he said. James Ducker's England starting XI for Belgium Gary Caldwell, who played under Jones and Martinez at Wigan and would later go on to manage the club, is effusive in his praise of Jones. “We used to argue all the time but not in a bad way – in a professional, competitive way,” Caldwell said, chuckling. “The good thing with Graeme is that you could always say what you feel. There were never any grudges held with anybody. In the changing room he allowed me to be that voice and to really push and demand from people and he was always there to back me up. He had great mix with Roberto. It was a big learning experience with them.” Now 48, Jones was twice offered the chance to become Swansea manager but opted to stay loyal to Martinez. Yet Barrow believes he could take the plunge into management one day. “Graeme’s got that nice blend of British bulldog – sleeves rolled up – but with the thought and consideration as well,” he said. “He could be almost the perfect combination in this country.” On Thursday in Russia, though, Jones’s allegiance is firmly with Belgium. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
Belgium's 'British bulldog' assistant coach plotting England's downfall ahead of Group G meeting at World Cup
There will be one Englishman inside the Kaliningrad Stadium on Thursday evening who will definitely not be rooting for his own country. Graeme Jones is Roberto Martinez’s loyal and long-standing No 2 and there is nothing that would bring a bigger smile to the one-time postman’s face than a Belgium victory at the expense of the friend and manager with whom he studied for his Uefa Pro Licence. Jones hit it off with Gareth Southgate on the course, although, of all the candidates on it, it was not the future England manager who ended up being recognised for his outstanding contribution, but Jones. “Graeme won the award for effectively being the best student,” recalled Graham Barrow, who was the first-team coach at Wigan Athletic during Jones and Martinez’s four years at the club. “Graeme used to mention Gareth quite a lot. We’d talk and it was ‘Gareth this, Gareth that’ so it was clear they’d got on well. Sometimes people just hit it off.” That has certainly been the case with Jones and Martinez. Martinez had already been at Wigan 12 months as a player when Jones, an old fashioned centre-forward, joined from Doncaster Rovers in 1996 after several years doing the rounds on the non-league circuit in his native North-East following his release by Millwall. They were paired together for some stretching exercises and instantly clicked. When Jones later moved his family back to Tyneside, Martinez invited him to stay at his house in Wigan two nights a week. A no-nonsense guy from Gateshead and a cultivated Catalan from Balaguer are not the most obvious alliance but a budding friendship was forged on the pitch and over regular dinners at Milanos, an Italian bistro in the town, and they have been largely inseparable ever since. When Martinez was appointed Swansea City manager in 2007, he asked Jones to be his assistant, a role he has also held at Wigan, Everton and now Belgium. England vs Belgium: Our writers pick their starting XI for group winner decider “It is a bit of odd couple, isn’t it?” Barrow said. “But people always used to say that about Brian Clough and Peter Taylor.” Martinez is recognised as an innovative coach if not necessarily for his man-management and that is where Jones comes in. He had earned a reputation as a player for being robust and forthright, on and off the field, which sparked the nicknamed “Bonner”. “All of Roberto’s weaknesses are Bonner’s strengths and vice versa really,” one of their former players told The Daily Telegraph this week. “They have a really good chemistry. Roberto was so into studying football in depth – games, players, tactics opponents, I’ve never seen someone work so hard at that – but man-management could get put on the back burner at times. That is where Bonner came in. “He spoke to players well. He smelt if there were any problems. Roberto wasn’t always the most approachable for the players but Graeme was. He didn’t want players bottling things up. But he also had that fear factor about him that Roberto didn’t have. On a Saturday when it needed a bit of shouting, he’d be the one to do that. He had that edge.” Jones and Martinez have forged a strong partnership, seen here celebrating a win during their tenure at Wigan Credit: PA Martinez has even been known to have to rein Jones in at times and, in one unfortunate incident, Jones overstepped the mark. In March 2008 while at Swansea, Jones was arrested after allegedly headbutting Danny Coles, a Bristol Rovers player, in the tunnel after a tempestuous game at the Memorial Stadium. He faced no action but it prompted some careful self-introspection and led in time to him becoming a more rounded, considered individual. “Roberto had that influence on him at Swansea and when he came to Wigan I could see that change in his character,” said Barrow, who managed Jones as a player at Bury. “I had him as a player and when I expected him to maybe lay into players at times he’d back off.” Seven months after suffering a broken leg, Ben Watson scored the goal that won Martinez’s Wigan the FA Cup over Manchester City in 2013 and Barrow recalls Jones playing a huge part in the midfielder’s recovery. “Graeme was very good at picking people up and that was never more evident than with Ben,” he said. James Ducker's England starting XI for Belgium Gary Caldwell, who played under Jones and Martinez at Wigan and would later go on to manage the club, is effusive in his praise of Jones. “We used to argue all the time but not in a bad way – in a professional, competitive way,” Caldwell said, chuckling. “The good thing with Graeme is that you could always say what you feel. There were never any grudges held with anybody. In the changing room he allowed me to be that voice and to really push and demand from people and he was always there to back me up. He had great mix with Roberto. It was a big learning experience with them.” Now 48, Jones was twice offered the chance to become Swansea manager but opted to stay loyal to Martinez. Yet Barrow believes he could take the plunge into management one day. “Graeme’s got that nice blend of British bulldog – sleeves rolled up – but with the thought and consideration as well,” he said. “He could be almost the perfect combination in this country.” On Thursday in Russia, though, Jones’s allegiance is firmly with Belgium. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
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.
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic players celebrate with the trophy after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton
League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic players celebrate with the trophy after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan celebrates with the League One trophy Action Images/John Clifton
League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan celebrates with the League One trophy Action Images/John Clifton
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan and manager Paul Cook celebrate after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton
League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan and manager Paul Cook celebrate after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic players celebrate with the trophy after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton
League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic players celebrate with the trophy after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic players celebrate after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton
League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic players celebrate after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton
Huddersfield's battling draw with Chelsea completed a remarkable season in which every team that won promotion to English football's top leagues remain in the division. David Wagner's side earned a vital point at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night to guarantee their Premier League safety for another season. The result meant that Huddersfield joined fellow promoted sides Brighton and Newcastle in safely avoiding a return the Championship as Stoke, West Brom and - barring a miracle - Swansea all dropped out of the top flight. For the first time since the 2001-02 season, when Fulham, Blackburn and Bolton defied the odds, every single team that earned promotion to one of English football's top four leagues avoided relegation. Alan Alger, PR manager at bookmakers Betway, said the odds on such an outcome would have been bigger than Leicester City's Premier League title triumph in 2016. Stoke City lost to Crystal Palace last weekend to end their 10-year stay in the Premier League Credit: Getty Images In the Championship, Burton Albion and Barnsley were relegated on a dramatic final day after Sunderland's fate had been sealed a week earlier. Below the top-flight, Championship new-boys Sheffield United and Millwall both enjoyed top-half finishes while Bolton Wanderers escaped the drop on the final day. In League One, Portsmouth, Plymouth Argyle, Doncaster Rovers, Blackpool all stayed well clear of the bottom four as Bury, MK Dons, Northampton Town, and Oldham Athletic were relegated to the fourth tier. League Two's Forest Green narrowly avoided an immediate return to the Vanarama National League while fellow promoted side Lincoln enjoyed a seventh-place finish, booking their place in the play-offs. Bolton Wanderers came from behind to beat Nottingham Forest on the final day and avoid an instant return to League One Credit: Getty Images In fact, the trend extends beyond the Football League, with Maidenhead United, Ebbsfleet United, Halifax Town and Fylde all securing safety after earning promotion to National League One last season. Huddersfield manager David Wagner was last night quick to praise his players for the "incredible achievement" of defying Premier League relegation. “This is an absolute over-achievement,” said Wagner. Huddersfield came up via the Championship play-offs Credit: PA “It's a bigger achievement than the promotion last season. Last year we were predicted to be relegated and we got promoted. This season we were predicted to be a team relegated by miles and I understand it. “We work under circumstances which are not even Championship circumstances. But part of our DNA, the Huddersfield Town DNA, is to try it. "To have passion, desire... how big you are doesn't count. It's about trying everything. We are humble. We are ambitious, too. We search a chance in every game. Today we were chance-less, more or less. It's an incredible achievement for us. It feels like another trophy.” Promoted teams avoid relegation | English football's top five leagues
Year of the underdog: Every single promoted team in English football's top four divisions avoids relegation
Huddersfield's battling draw with Chelsea completed a remarkable season in which every team that won promotion to English football's top leagues remain in the division. David Wagner's side earned a vital point at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night to guarantee their Premier League safety for another season. The result meant that Huddersfield joined fellow promoted sides Brighton and Newcastle in safely avoiding a return the Championship as Stoke, West Brom and - barring a miracle - Swansea all dropped out of the top flight. For the first time since the 2001-02 season, when Fulham, Blackburn and Bolton defied the odds, every single team that earned promotion to one of English football's top four leagues avoided relegation. Alan Alger, PR manager at bookmakers Betway, said the odds on such an outcome would have been bigger than Leicester City's Premier League title triumph in 2016. Stoke City lost to Crystal Palace last weekend to end their 10-year stay in the Premier League Credit: Getty Images In the Championship, Burton Albion and Barnsley were relegated on a dramatic final day after Sunderland's fate had been sealed a week earlier. Below the top-flight, Championship new-boys Sheffield United and Millwall both enjoyed top-half finishes while Bolton Wanderers escaped the drop on the final day. In League One, Portsmouth, Plymouth Argyle, Doncaster Rovers, Blackpool all stayed well clear of the bottom four as Bury, MK Dons, Northampton Town, and Oldham Athletic were relegated to the fourth tier. League Two's Forest Green narrowly avoided an immediate return to the Vanarama National League while fellow promoted side Lincoln enjoyed a seventh-place finish, booking their place in the play-offs. Bolton Wanderers came from behind to beat Nottingham Forest on the final day and avoid an instant return to League One Credit: Getty Images In fact, the trend extends beyond the Football League, with Maidenhead United, Ebbsfleet United, Halifax Town and Fylde all securing safety after earning promotion to National League One last season. Huddersfield manager David Wagner was last night quick to praise his players for the "incredible achievement" of defying Premier League relegation. “This is an absolute over-achievement,” said Wagner. Huddersfield came up via the Championship play-offs Credit: PA “It's a bigger achievement than the promotion last season. Last year we were predicted to be relegated and we got promoted. This season we were predicted to be a team relegated by miles and I understand it. “We work under circumstances which are not even Championship circumstances. But part of our DNA, the Huddersfield Town DNA, is to try it. "To have passion, desire... how big you are doesn't count. It's about trying everything. We are humble. We are ambitious, too. We search a chance in every game. Today we were chance-less, more or less. It's an incredible achievement for us. It feels like another trophy.” Promoted teams avoid relegation | English football's top five leagues
Huddersfield's battling draw with Chelsea completed a remarkable season in which every team that won promotion to English football's top leagues remain in the division. David Wagner's side earned a vital point at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night to guarantee their Premier League safety for another season. The result meant that Huddersfield joined fellow promoted sides Brighton and Newcastle in safely avoiding a return the Championship as Stoke, West Brom and - barring a miracle - Swansea all dropped out of the top flight. For the first time since the 2001-02 season, when Fulham, Blackburn and Bolton defied the odds, every single team that earned promotion to one of English football's top four leagues avoided relegation. Alan Alger, PR manager at bookmakers Betway, said the odds on such an outcome would have been bigger than Leicester City's Premier League title triumph in 2016. Stoke City lost to Crystal Palace last weekend to end their 10-year stay in the Premier League Credit: Getty Images In the Championship, Burton Albion and Barnsley were relegated on a dramatic final day after Sunderland's fate had been sealed a week earlier. Below the top-flight, Championship new-boys Sheffield United and Millwall both enjoyed top-half finishes while Bolton Wanderers escaped the drop on the final day. In League One, Portsmouth, Plymouth Argyle, Doncaster Rovers, Blackpool all stayed well clear of the bottom four as Bury, MK Dons, Northampton Town, and Oldham Athletic were relegated to the fourth tier. League Two's Forest Green narrowly avoided an immediate return to the Vanarama National League while fellow promoted side Lincoln enjoyed a seventh-place finish, booking their place in the play-offs. Bolton Wanderers came from behind to beat Nottingham Forest on the final day and avoid an instant return to League One Credit: Getty Images In fact, the trend extends beyond the Football League, with Maidenhead United, Ebbsfleet United, Halifax Town and Fylde all securing safety after earning promotion to National League One last season. Huddersfield manager David Wagner was last night quick to praise his players for the "incredible achievement" of defying Premier League relegation. “This is an absolute over-achievement,” said Wagner. Huddersfield came up via the Championship play-offs Credit: PA “It's a bigger achievement than the promotion last season. Last year we were predicted to be relegated and we got promoted. This season we were predicted to be a team relegated by miles and I understand it. “We work under circumstances which are not even Championship circumstances. But part of our DNA, the Huddersfield Town DNA, is to try it. "To have passion, desire... how big you are doesn't count. It's about trying everything. We are humble. We are ambitious, too. We search a chance in every game. Today we were chance-less, more or less. It's an incredible achievement for us. It feels like another trophy.” Promoted teams avoid relegation | English football's top five leagues
Year of the underdog: Every single promoted team in English football's top four divisions avoids relegation
Huddersfield's battling draw with Chelsea completed a remarkable season in which every team that won promotion to English football's top leagues remain in the division. David Wagner's side earned a vital point at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night to guarantee their Premier League safety for another season. The result meant that Huddersfield joined fellow promoted sides Brighton and Newcastle in safely avoiding a return the Championship as Stoke, West Brom and - barring a miracle - Swansea all dropped out of the top flight. For the first time since the 2001-02 season, when Fulham, Blackburn and Bolton defied the odds, every single team that earned promotion to one of English football's top four leagues avoided relegation. Alan Alger, PR manager at bookmakers Betway, said the odds on such an outcome would have been bigger than Leicester City's Premier League title triumph in 2016. Stoke City lost to Crystal Palace last weekend to end their 10-year stay in the Premier League Credit: Getty Images In the Championship, Burton Albion and Barnsley were relegated on a dramatic final day after Sunderland's fate had been sealed a week earlier. Below the top-flight, Championship new-boys Sheffield United and Millwall both enjoyed top-half finishes while Bolton Wanderers escaped the drop on the final day. In League One, Portsmouth, Plymouth Argyle, Doncaster Rovers, Blackpool all stayed well clear of the bottom four as Bury, MK Dons, Northampton Town, and Oldham Athletic were relegated to the fourth tier. League Two's Forest Green narrowly avoided an immediate return to the Vanarama National League while fellow promoted side Lincoln enjoyed a seventh-place finish, booking their place in the play-offs. Bolton Wanderers came from behind to beat Nottingham Forest on the final day and avoid an instant return to League One Credit: Getty Images In fact, the trend extends beyond the Football League, with Maidenhead United, Ebbsfleet United, Halifax Town and Fylde all securing safety after earning promotion to National League One last season. Huddersfield manager David Wagner was last night quick to praise his players for the "incredible achievement" of defying Premier League relegation. “This is an absolute over-achievement,” said Wagner. Huddersfield came up via the Championship play-offs Credit: PA “It's a bigger achievement than the promotion last season. Last year we were predicted to be relegated and we got promoted. This season we were predicted to be a team relegated by miles and I understand it. “We work under circumstances which are not even Championship circumstances. But part of our DNA, the Huddersfield Town DNA, is to try it. "To have passion, desire... how big you are doesn't count. It's about trying everything. We are humble. We are ambitious, too. We search a chance in every game. Today we were chance-less, more or less. It's an incredible achievement for us. It feels like another trophy.” Promoted teams avoid relegation | English football's top five leagues
Huddersfield's battling draw with Chelsea completed a remarkable season in which every team that won promotion to English football's top leagues remain in the division. David Wagner's side earned a vital point at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night to guarantee their Premier League safety for another season. The result meant that Huddersfield joined fellow promoted sides Brighton and Newcastle in safely avoiding a return the Championship as Stoke, West Brom and - barring a miracle - Swansea all dropped out of the top flight. For the first time since the 2001-02 season, when Fulham, Blackburn and Bolton defied the odds, every single team that earned promotion to one of English football's top four leagues avoided relegation. Alan Alger, PR manager at bookmakers Betway, said the odds on such an outcome would have been bigger than Leicester City's Premier League title triumph in 2016. Stoke City lost to Crystal Palace last weekend to end their 10-year stay in the Premier League Credit: Getty Images In the Championship, Burton Albion and Barnsley were relegated on a dramatic final day after Sunderland's fate had been sealed a week earlier. Below the top-flight, Championship new-boys Sheffield United and Millwall both enjoyed top-half finishes while Bolton Wanderers escaped the drop on the final day. In League One, Portsmouth, Plymouth Argyle, Doncaster Rovers, Blackpool all stayed well clear of the bottom four as Bury, MK Dons, Northampton Town, and Oldham Athletic were relegated to the fourth tier. League Two's Forest Green narrowly avoided an immediate return to the Vanarama National League while fellow promoted side Lincoln enjoyed a seventh-place finish, booking their place in the play-offs. Bolton Wanderers came from behind to beat Nottingham Forest on the final day and avoid an instant return to League One Credit: Getty Images In fact, the trend extends beyond the Football League, with Maidenhead United, Ebbsfleet United, Halifax Town and Fylde all securing safety after earning promotion to National League One last season. Huddersfield manager David Wagner was last night quick to praise his players for the "incredible achievement" of defying Premier League relegation. “This is an absolute over-achievement,” said Wagner. Huddersfield came up via the Championship play-offs Credit: PA “It's a bigger achievement than the promotion last season. Last year we were predicted to be relegated and we got promoted. This season we were predicted to be a team relegated by miles and I understand it. “We work under circumstances which are not even Championship circumstances. But part of our DNA, the Huddersfield Town DNA, is to try it. "To have passion, desire... how big you are doesn't count. It's about trying everything. We are humble. We are ambitious, too. We search a chance in every game. Today we were chance-less, more or less. It's an incredible achievement for us. It feels like another trophy.” Promoted teams avoid relegation | English football's top five leagues
Year of the underdog: Every single promoted team in English football's top four divisions avoids relegation
Huddersfield's battling draw with Chelsea completed a remarkable season in which every team that won promotion to English football's top leagues remain in the division. David Wagner's side earned a vital point at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night to guarantee their Premier League safety for another season. The result meant that Huddersfield joined fellow promoted sides Brighton and Newcastle in safely avoiding a return the Championship as Stoke, West Brom and - barring a miracle - Swansea all dropped out of the top flight. For the first time since the 2001-02 season, when Fulham, Blackburn and Bolton defied the odds, every single team that earned promotion to one of English football's top four leagues avoided relegation. Alan Alger, PR manager at bookmakers Betway, said the odds on such an outcome would have been bigger than Leicester City's Premier League title triumph in 2016. Stoke City lost to Crystal Palace last weekend to end their 10-year stay in the Premier League Credit: Getty Images In the Championship, Burton Albion and Barnsley were relegated on a dramatic final day after Sunderland's fate had been sealed a week earlier. Below the top-flight, Championship new-boys Sheffield United and Millwall both enjoyed top-half finishes while Bolton Wanderers escaped the drop on the final day. In League One, Portsmouth, Plymouth Argyle, Doncaster Rovers, Blackpool all stayed well clear of the bottom four as Bury, MK Dons, Northampton Town, and Oldham Athletic were relegated to the fourth tier. League Two's Forest Green narrowly avoided an immediate return to the Vanarama National League while fellow promoted side Lincoln enjoyed a seventh-place finish, booking their place in the play-offs. Bolton Wanderers came from behind to beat Nottingham Forest on the final day and avoid an instant return to League One Credit: Getty Images In fact, the trend extends beyond the Football League, with Maidenhead United, Ebbsfleet United, Halifax Town and Fylde all securing safety after earning promotion to National League One last season. Huddersfield manager David Wagner was last night quick to praise his players for the "incredible achievement" of defying Premier League relegation. “This is an absolute over-achievement,” said Wagner. Huddersfield came up via the Championship play-offs Credit: PA “It's a bigger achievement than the promotion last season. Last year we were predicted to be relegated and we got promoted. This season we were predicted to be a team relegated by miles and I understand it. “We work under circumstances which are not even Championship circumstances. But part of our DNA, the Huddersfield Town DNA, is to try it. "To have passion, desire... how big you are doesn't count. It's about trying everything. We are humble. We are ambitious, too. We search a chance in every game. Today we were chance-less, more or less. It's an incredible achievement for us. It feels like another trophy.” Promoted teams avoid relegation | English football's top five leagues
Huddersfield's battling draw with Chelsea completed a remarkable season in which every team that won promotion to English football's top leagues remain in the division. David Wagner's side earned a vital point at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night to guarantee their Premier League safety for another season. The result meant that Huddersfield joined fellow promoted sides Brighton and Newcastle in safely avoiding a return the Championship as Stoke, West Brom and - barring a miracle - Swansea all dropped out of the top flight. For the first time since the 2001-02 season, when Fulham, Blackburn and Bolton defied the odds, every single team that earned promotion to one of English football's top four leagues avoided relegation. Alan Alger, PR manager at bookmakers Betway, said the odds on such an outcome would have been bigger than Leicester City's Premier League title triumph in 2016. Stoke City lost to Crystal Palace last weekend to end their 10-year stay in the Premier League Credit: Getty Images In the Championship, Burton Albion and Barnsley were relegated on a dramatic final day after Sunderland's fate had been sealed a week earlier. Below the top-flight, Championship new-boys Sheffield United and Millwall both enjoyed top-half finishes while Bolton Wanderers escaped the drop on the final day. In League One, Portsmouth, Plymouth Argyle, Doncaster Rovers, Blackpool all stayed well clear of the bottom four as Bury, MK Dons, Northampton Town, and Oldham Athletic were relegated to the fourth tier. League Two's Forest Green narrowly avoided an immediate return to the Vanarama National League while fellow promoted side Lincoln enjoyed a seventh-place finish, booking their place in the play-offs. Bolton Wanderers came from behind to beat Nottingham Forest on the final day and avoid an instant return to League One Credit: Getty Images In fact, the trend extends beyond the Football League, with Maidenhead United, Ebbsfleet United, Halifax Town and Fylde all securing safety after earning promotion to National League One last season. Huddersfield manager David Wagner was last night quick to praise his players for the "incredible achievement" of defying Premier League relegation. “This is an absolute over-achievement,” said Wagner. Huddersfield came up via the Championship play-offs Credit: PA “It's a bigger achievement than the promotion last season. Last year we were predicted to be relegated and we got promoted. This season we were predicted to be a team relegated by miles and I understand it. “We work under circumstances which are not even Championship circumstances. But part of our DNA, the Huddersfield Town DNA, is to try it. "To have passion, desire... how big you are doesn't count. It's about trying everything. We are humble. We are ambitious, too. We search a chance in every game. Today we were chance-less, more or less. It's an incredible achievement for us. It feels like another trophy.” Promoted teams avoid relegation | English football's top five leagues
Year of the underdog: Every single promoted team in English football's top four divisions avoids relegation
Huddersfield's battling draw with Chelsea completed a remarkable season in which every team that won promotion to English football's top leagues remain in the division. David Wagner's side earned a vital point at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night to guarantee their Premier League safety for another season. The result meant that Huddersfield joined fellow promoted sides Brighton and Newcastle in safely avoiding a return the Championship as Stoke, West Brom and - barring a miracle - Swansea all dropped out of the top flight. For the first time since the 2001-02 season, when Fulham, Blackburn and Bolton defied the odds, every single team that earned promotion to one of English football's top four leagues avoided relegation. Alan Alger, PR manager at bookmakers Betway, said the odds on such an outcome would have been bigger than Leicester City's Premier League title triumph in 2016. Stoke City lost to Crystal Palace last weekend to end their 10-year stay in the Premier League Credit: Getty Images In the Championship, Burton Albion and Barnsley were relegated on a dramatic final day after Sunderland's fate had been sealed a week earlier. Below the top-flight, Championship new-boys Sheffield United and Millwall both enjoyed top-half finishes while Bolton Wanderers escaped the drop on the final day. In League One, Portsmouth, Plymouth Argyle, Doncaster Rovers, Blackpool all stayed well clear of the bottom four as Bury, MK Dons, Northampton Town, and Oldham Athletic were relegated to the fourth tier. League Two's Forest Green narrowly avoided an immediate return to the Vanarama National League while fellow promoted side Lincoln enjoyed a seventh-place finish, booking their place in the play-offs. Bolton Wanderers came from behind to beat Nottingham Forest on the final day and avoid an instant return to League One Credit: Getty Images In fact, the trend extends beyond the Football League, with Maidenhead United, Ebbsfleet United, Halifax Town and Fylde all securing safety after earning promotion to National League One last season. Huddersfield manager David Wagner was last night quick to praise his players for the "incredible achievement" of defying Premier League relegation. “This is an absolute over-achievement,” said Wagner. Huddersfield came up via the Championship play-offs Credit: PA “It's a bigger achievement than the promotion last season. Last year we were predicted to be relegated and we got promoted. This season we were predicted to be a team relegated by miles and I understand it. “We work under circumstances which are not even Championship circumstances. But part of our DNA, the Huddersfield Town DNA, is to try it. "To have passion, desire... how big you are doesn't count. It's about trying everything. We are humble. We are ambitious, too. We search a chance in every game. Today we were chance-less, more or less. It's an incredible achievement for us. It feels like another trophy.” Promoted teams avoid relegation | English football's top five leagues
Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson asked his son how his side got on during their last game of the season with his first words shortly after waking up from emergency surgery. The 76-year-old was rushed to Salford Royal Hospital for emergency surgery just hours before his son, Darren, was set to manage Doncaster Rovers in their last game of the year against Wigan Athletic. Ferguson is said to now be awake and talking following a successful operation, and it has been revealed...
Sir Alex Ferguson's First Words After Surgery 'Revealed' as Man Utd Legend Eyes Recovery for Kiev
Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson asked his son how his side got on during their last game of the season with his first words shortly after waking up from emergency surgery. The 76-year-old was rushed to Salford Royal Hospital for emergency surgery just hours before his son, Darren, was set to manage Doncaster Rovers in their last game of the year against Wigan Athletic. Ferguson is said to now be awake and talking following a successful operation, and it has been revealed...
Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson asked his son how his side got on during their last game of the season with his first words shortly after waking up from emergency surgery. The 76-year-old was rushed to Salford Royal Hospital for emergency surgery just hours before his son, Darren, was set to manage Doncaster Rovers in their last game of the year against Wigan Athletic. Ferguson is said to now be awake and talking following a successful operation, and it has been revealed...
Sir Alex Ferguson's First Words After Surgery 'Revealed' as Man Utd Legend Eyes Recovery for Kiev
Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson asked his son how his side got on during their last game of the season with his first words shortly after waking up from emergency surgery. The 76-year-old was rushed to Salford Royal Hospital for emergency surgery just hours before his son, Darren, was set to manage Doncaster Rovers in their last game of the year against Wigan Athletic. Ferguson is said to now be awake and talking following a successful operation, and it has been revealed...
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic fans celebrate at the end of the match after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic fans celebrate at the end of the match after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic's Max Power celebrates after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic's Max Power celebrates after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic fans celebrate at the end of the match after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic fans celebrate at the end of the match after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic fans celebrate on the pitch at the end of the match after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic fans celebrate on the pitch at the end of the match after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic's Max Power celebrates after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic's Max Power celebrates after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic players celebrate with the trophy after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic players celebrate with the trophy after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic players celebrate with the trophy after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic players celebrate with the trophy after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic players celebrate after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic
Soccer Football - League One - Doncaster Rovers vs Wigan Athletic - Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, Britain - May 5, 2018 Wigan Athletic players celebrate after winning League One Action Images/John Clifton EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
It will not be easy for Emma Hayes to enjoy the post-match party given she struggled to get to her feet to celebrate any of the goals, but Chelsea’s manager could be heading into maternity leave by leading her side to a league and cup double. Hayes was many people’s choice to succeed Mark Sampson as England manager when he was sacked last year, but she did not put her name forward for the role and will instead start a family. To still be at work in her condition is impressive enough, but eight months pregnant, on a sweltering day, Hayes also managed to mastermind a cup final victory, in front of a record domestic crowd for a women’s game, thanks to two second-half goals from Ramona Bachmann and a wonderful solo effort from Fran Kirby. The 41-year-old had initially been expected to watch the game from the stands, but she could not allow herself to be so detached, instead taking a seat on the edge of the dugout, sipping water throughout, as Chelsea secured only their second FA Cup Final win. The league title may well follow. Hayes’ side are level on points with their big rivals Manchester City the final four games in the title race will be just as tense. She will hope the twins postpone their arrival long enough to enable her to lead the team until season’s climax. Bachmann's two goals proved decisive at Wembley Credit: REUTERS “It was such a dominant performance from us,” said Hayes. “Which was great, because the last thing I needed was anything too nervy. I’ve not been that relaxed for a while in a final. “We’ve got another important game on Wednesday night and I think my celebrations will be carried out while I’m horizontal. It will probably be different for the others, but I’ve got to make sure I get to Wednesday and I’m able to be involved.” “The goals came at the perfect time for us, but I think the quality of the goals shows the different between the two sides. I’m just so pleased we’ve done this in front of a record crowd.” Chelsea deserved their win, the quality of their performance epitomised by England international Kirby, who was by far the best player on the pitch, her sublime third goal killing off an Arsenal comeback before it had gained any real momentum. The Gunners are English football’s cup specialists, but they were overwhelmed, with Kirby at the centre of everything good about their opponent’s display. The FA Cup has been Arsenal’s property, occasionally borrowed by one of their rivals, but with 14 final victories behind them, this is their competition. Perhaps not anymore. The outstanding Fran Kirby finished the game off with a superb goal Credit: REUTERS They started strongly, Beth Mead and Jordan Nobbs causing havoc down the flanks as the Chelsea defence was pulled and stretched, but it did not break. Surviving that early pressure, Chelsea began to cause problems of their own, with PFA and FWA player of the year, Kirby, twisting her way through the Arsenal defence, teeing up Ramona Bachmann. The shot had plenty of power but not the placement to go with it. Arsenal responded, a Jordan Nobbs free kick headed over by Jordan Quinn when she should have tested goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl. It began to resemble a basketball game, the action flying from one end of the pitch to the other as Holland international Vivianne Miedema saw a shot deflected agonisingly wide at the end of some patient Arsenal play. Again Chelsea rallied, Kirby forcing a decent save after some more impressive footwork gave her room to get a shot away. There had been less than half an hour played and barely a pause in the action. Things calmed down, the frenetic pace of the early exchanges forcing a slow-down, as well as the heat. That appeared to suit Chelsea, but they could not make the most of their possession, South Korea international Ji So Yun lifting a shot over the bar. Chelsea could now seal a domestic double by winning their second WSL title Credit: CHELSEA FC They would not keep missing though and when Kirby squeezed a through ball into the path of Bachmann, she lashed a shot into the roof of the net. Chelsea scored a swift second, Bachmann’s deflected shot looping over the head of goalkeeper Sari Van Veenendaal, but Arsenal hit back as Mead’s run and cross teed up Miedema for a simple finish. Arsenal had hope but it was extinguished by Kirby, cutting inside on her right foot before catching the ball perfectly with her left to curl inside the far post. “They are a powerful team, a strong team and they have quality players who are used to playing on the big stage,” said Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro. “But in the ten weeks I’ve been here, we have reached two cup finals and I’m very proud of that. “We’ve lost this one and won the other, we still have some work to do, but the more we play these big games the more we will learn.” 7:24PM Full time! Chelsea have won the Women's FA Cup for the second time! They simply had too much quality from back to front, and Ramona Bachmann's two goals put them in a commanding position. That's the first of what could be a domestic double! 7:20PM 90 min +3 Here's Fran Kirby icing the cake for Chelsea: BUT WAIT. @ChelseaLFC and @frankirby have answered back straight away!!! �� (Arsenal 1-3 Chelsea) LIVE on @BBCOnepic.twitter.com/EwHyVZBFe2— The SSE Women's FA Cup (@SSEWomensFACup) May 5, 2018 7:19PM 90 min +1 Aluko races down the right and, from a similar position to Bachmann's opener, fires in a right-foot shot that Van Veenendaal turns round the post. 7:18PM 90 min Cuthbert earns a Chelsea free-kick right in the corner, which they sensibly play short. Five minutes of added time. 7:16PM 87 min Arsenal summoning the kitchen sink to throw at Chelsea, but the Blues look rock solid from their midfield backwards. 7:12PM 83 min Double change for Arsenal: on come Dan Carter and Katie McCabe in the final throw of Joe Montemurro's dice - Emma Mitchell and Lisa Evans make way. For Chelsea, on comes Eni Aluko for two-goal Ramona Bachmann, who gets a deserved ovation. 7:05PM GOAL! Arsenal 1 Chelsea 3 (Kirby 76 min) What a lovely goal! Fran Kirby, who has threatened to do something special all afternoon, finds a pocket of space on the edfge of the box and bends a perfect left-foot shot into the far corner! Game, surely now, over. 7:03PM 75 min Chelsea change: Erin Cuthbert replaces the tireless Drew Spence. 7:02PM GOAL! Arsenal 1 (Miedema) Chelsea 2 HELLO! Beth Mead sneaks in from the left, finds Vivianne Miedema and the Dutchwoman steers a left-foot shot past Lindahl! Game on? 6:58PM 70 min Chelsea change: on comes Maria Thorisdottir to replace Jonna Andersson on the left of defence. 6:56PM 68 min Chelsea looking to slow the game down, use the space and exploit those tiring Arsenal legs that are chasing this game. Really hard to see the Gunners getting back into this now. 6:52PM 63 min Change for Arsenal: off goes Janssen, the holding midfielder, and on comes 231-cap former USA international Heather O'Reilly. Experienced? Just a bit. 6:48PM GOAL! Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2 (Bachmann, 60 min) Out of nothing, Chelsea have doubled their lead! Ramona Bachmann cuts in from the right, swipes her left boot at the ball and it deflects up and into the far corner! 6:44PM 56 min CHANCE! Kim Little charges through the middle, finds Miedema, but the Dutch international doesn't get her shot away in time. 6:42PM 53 min Danielle van de Donk takes out Chelsea skipper Katie Chapman, which sparks the first minor disagreement of the match. Chelsea force a corner from the long, searching free kick, which Arsenal clear. 6:39PM 51 min Arsenal respond. Beth Mead's deflected shot squirms towards Hedvig Lindahl, who spills it before its put behind for a corner. Chelsea survive. 6:36PM GOAL! Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1 (Bachmann, 48 min) Bachmann leads a Chelsea counter, but Emma Mitchell has just enough pace to hold off Kirby. From the throw-in, the ball is slipped into Bachmann on her right foot, she takes one touch to gather, another to set up the shot, and she lashes the ball into the roof of the net! 6:33PM We go again Not sure if the tempo of the first half can prevail in the May sunshine, but we'll see... 6:19PM Half time A free-flowing first half, but one in which Arsenal failed to muster a single shot on target. For Chelsea, Bachmann and Kirby - and, to a increasing extent, Ji - have had a huge influence up front, but still haven't made Van Veenendaal work too hard in the Arsenal goal. Something has to give in the second half...or extra time....or penalties. 6:17PM 45 min +1 One added minute. 6:16PM 45 min CHANCE! The best move of the half, involving Bachmann and Kirby, leads to Ji racing through on the overlap and slapping a shot just over the Arsenal bar. 6:15PM 44 min More intricate Chelsea interplay on the edge of the box leads to Ji So-yun being fouled by Dominique Janssen. Magdelena Eriksson and Ji stand over the ball....the Korean takes...but it hits the wall, and Van Veenendaal gathers her tame second bite at the cherry. 6:11PM 40 min Where now? Thoughts might start to turn to the respective benches: Arsenal have the 2016 final goalscorer Dan Carter in reserve, while Chelsea have Eni Aluko ready to come on at some point. Both are capable of locating the scruff of this game's neck. 6:05PM 35 min Decent atmosphere at Wembley: WEMBLEY IS ROCKING ����#ssewomensfacuppic.twitter.com/pz7g1AEZKX— The SSE Women's FA Cup (@SSEWomensFACup) May 5, 2018 6:04PM 32 min Kirby tries a one-two with Hannah Blundell, who advances all the way from right back to join in, but the return pass is just out of reach. The Chelsea no.14 looks the most likely to break the deadlock, it's fair to say. 6:01PM 30 min Wembley enjoying a Mexican wave, as the first half peters out a little. Bachmann and Kirby try to combine again, but Arsenal are alert. 5:58PM 27 min Another sight of goal for Kirby, who lets fly with the left foot, but it's gathered well by Van Veenendaal. 5:56PM 25 min Bachmann skips down the right, only to be dragged back quite blatantly by Emma Mitchell. It should be a yellow card, but instead is just a talking-to. Lenient stuff from the Durham official. 5:54PM 23 min Drew Spence flattens Miedema with a tasty tackle on halfway, which the referee stands and admires. Chelsea have weathered this brief Arsenal storm quite well. 5:52PM 20 min Arsenal skipper Kim Little clips in a cross to the back post, which is helped on its way behind by a Chelsea head - corner. Nobbs floats it in, there's a brief scramble, and then Miedema's shot is deflected just wide! 5:49PM 18 min CHANCE! A cross from the left is eventually brought under control by Kirby in the Arsenal area, but she dallies too long and the shot is blocked. Chelsea have now had three presentable chances and squandered them all. 5:46PM 14 min The ball bounces over the head of Millie Bright, and Arsenal's Beth Mead can run through on goal...until she's caught by Bright and held up. An anxious moment for the Chelsea no.4. 5:43PM 12 min Frank Kirby is now, suddenly, running this final for Chelsea. She twists and turns in the Arsenal area, but has only Bachmann for support and Arsenal scramble it away. 5:41PM 9 min CHANCE! Bachmann works the ball superbly on to her right foot in the area, nutmegging Emma Mitchell in the process, but fires wide with only Sari van Veenendaal to beat! 5:39PM 7 min Arsenal's Vivianne Miedema presses earnestly to unnerve the Chelsea defence into a mistake in their own half, but blue shirts scamper back to avoid a real emergency. Arsenal certainly looking more dangerous so far... 5:36PM 5 min Chelsea's turn to attack, with Drew Spence down the right, but she can't find a blue shirt in the middle. Plenty of space to exploit for both sides in the wide areas. 5:34PM 2 min Both teams enjoy some nerve-settling spells on the ball, before Arsenal look to release the pace of Beth Mead down the left. Chelsea deal with the early threat. 5:32PM Kick off! Chelsea - in blue, naturally - get us going and Ramona Bachmann gets the first touch of the 2018 final... 5:26PM The teams are out at Wembley... ...so a few dignitaries, handshakes, the national anthem and all that, and we'll soon be good to go! 5:23PM Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro: Obviously our tradition as cup specialists is there - thanks for the pressure! - but cup finals are cup finals, and it’s on the day. We’ve been part of many fantastic events, and hopefully this is another one. Chelsea are a very good side, with cover and power all over the pitch, and whatever starting XI they put out is very strong. Some of the best players in the world are out there on show, and it’s going to be an amazing event. 5:23PM Emma Hayes' pre-match words: This is what we work hard for, when you’re freezing cold in January and you don’t want to come out training. I’m proud of the players, and equally to think we’re playing in front of a record crowd, which importantly shows the growth of the game. Our side is experienced and accustomed to high-level games on a regular basis, both internationally and at club level. But it counts for nothing in a single game. It’s whoever shows up on the day. 5:10PM Recent decent Here's what happened when these two last met in the Cup final at Wembley - just 24 months ago, in fact. An absolute pearler from Arsenal's Dan Carter decided matters that day: 4:59PM Road to the final Arsenal Fourth Round: beat Yeovil 3-0 Fifth Round: beat Millwall 1-0 Quarter-final: beat Charlton 5-0 Semi-final: beat Everton 2-1 Arsenal and Chelsea reached the final by a combined aggregate score of 32-1 Credit: PA Chelsea Fourth Round: beat London Bees 10-0 Fifth Round: beat Doncaster Rovers Belles 6-0 Quarter-final: beat Liverpool 3-0 Semi-final: beat Manchester City 2-0 4:46PM Team news! Arsenal: Van Veenendaal, Evans, Williamson, Quinn, Mitchell, Janssen, Van de Donk, Little, Nobbs, Mead, Miedema. Subs: Moorhouse, Samuelsson, McCabe, O’Reilly, Carter. Chelsea: Lindahl, Bright, Mjelde, Eriksson, Blundell, Ji, Chapman, Andersson, Spence, Kirby, Bachmann. Subs: Telford, Thorisdottir, Flaherty, Aluko, Cuthbert. Referee: Lindsey Robinson 4:46PM The lowdown London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea go head to head today at Wembley in the 2018 Women's FA Cup Final. Arsenal are looking for a 15th FA Cup victory while Chelsea, in their fourth final to date, are aiming for revenge for defeat to the Gunners in 2016. More importantly, though, the Blues are on course for a league and cup double: they are three points clear at the top of the Women's Super League, while Arsenal trail in fourth. The two teams will be playing in front of a record-breaking Wembley crowd: more than 45,000 tickets have been sold, an all-time best for the Women's FA Cup. Emma Hayes is carrying twins, and will take a background role at Wembley Credit: CHELSEA FC Chelsea's manager Emma Hayes has opted not to lead her team out of the tunnel but, despite being 33 weeks pregnant with twins, will be pitchside to organise her players. “I’ve been told to take it easy and there is enough stress on the day already. Physically, it’s uncomfortable for me at the moment so it’s better that I stay in the background,” says Chelsea’s manager. “It’s better for my babies if I sit down. I don’t mind, I’m a woman, I don’t have a big ego!” Kick-off at the national stadium is at 5.30pm, with coverage on BBC One from 5.10pm and, of course, our liveblog right here.
Superb Chelsea lift Women's FA Cup as Ramona Bachmann strikes twice to sink Arsenal at Wembley
It will not be easy for Emma Hayes to enjoy the post-match party given she struggled to get to her feet to celebrate any of the goals, but Chelsea’s manager could be heading into maternity leave by leading her side to a league and cup double. Hayes was many people’s choice to succeed Mark Sampson as England manager when he was sacked last year, but she did not put her name forward for the role and will instead start a family. To still be at work in her condition is impressive enough, but eight months pregnant, on a sweltering day, Hayes also managed to mastermind a cup final victory, in front of a record domestic crowd for a women’s game, thanks to two second-half goals from Ramona Bachmann and a wonderful solo effort from Fran Kirby. The 41-year-old had initially been expected to watch the game from the stands, but she could not allow herself to be so detached, instead taking a seat on the edge of the dugout, sipping water throughout, as Chelsea secured only their second FA Cup Final win. The league title may well follow. Hayes’ side are level on points with their big rivals Manchester City the final four games in the title race will be just as tense. She will hope the twins postpone their arrival long enough to enable her to lead the team until season’s climax. Bachmann's two goals proved decisive at Wembley Credit: REUTERS “It was such a dominant performance from us,” said Hayes. “Which was great, because the last thing I needed was anything too nervy. I’ve not been that relaxed for a while in a final. “We’ve got another important game on Wednesday night and I think my celebrations will be carried out while I’m horizontal. It will probably be different for the others, but I’ve got to make sure I get to Wednesday and I’m able to be involved.” “The goals came at the perfect time for us, but I think the quality of the goals shows the different between the two sides. I’m just so pleased we’ve done this in front of a record crowd.” Chelsea deserved their win, the quality of their performance epitomised by England international Kirby, who was by far the best player on the pitch, her sublime third goal killing off an Arsenal comeback before it had gained any real momentum. The Gunners are English football’s cup specialists, but they were overwhelmed, with Kirby at the centre of everything good about their opponent’s display. The FA Cup has been Arsenal’s property, occasionally borrowed by one of their rivals, but with 14 final victories behind them, this is their competition. Perhaps not anymore. The outstanding Fran Kirby finished the game off with a superb goal Credit: REUTERS They started strongly, Beth Mead and Jordan Nobbs causing havoc down the flanks as the Chelsea defence was pulled and stretched, but it did not break. Surviving that early pressure, Chelsea began to cause problems of their own, with PFA and FWA player of the year, Kirby, twisting her way through the Arsenal defence, teeing up Ramona Bachmann. The shot had plenty of power but not the placement to go with it. Arsenal responded, a Jordan Nobbs free kick headed over by Jordan Quinn when she should have tested goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl. It began to resemble a basketball game, the action flying from one end of the pitch to the other as Holland international Vivianne Miedema saw a shot deflected agonisingly wide at the end of some patient Arsenal play. Again Chelsea rallied, Kirby forcing a decent save after some more impressive footwork gave her room to get a shot away. There had been less than half an hour played and barely a pause in the action. Things calmed down, the frenetic pace of the early exchanges forcing a slow-down, as well as the heat. That appeared to suit Chelsea, but they could not make the most of their possession, South Korea international Ji So Yun lifting a shot over the bar. Chelsea could now seal a domestic double by winning their second WSL title Credit: CHELSEA FC They would not keep missing though and when Kirby squeezed a through ball into the path of Bachmann, she lashed a shot into the roof of the net. Chelsea scored a swift second, Bachmann’s deflected shot looping over the head of goalkeeper Sari Van Veenendaal, but Arsenal hit back as Mead’s run and cross teed up Miedema for a simple finish. Arsenal had hope but it was extinguished by Kirby, cutting inside on her right foot before catching the ball perfectly with her left to curl inside the far post. “They are a powerful team, a strong team and they have quality players who are used to playing on the big stage,” said Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro. “But in the ten weeks I’ve been here, we have reached two cup finals and I’m very proud of that. “We’ve lost this one and won the other, we still have some work to do, but the more we play these big games the more we will learn.” 7:24PM Full time! Chelsea have won the Women's FA Cup for the second time! They simply had too much quality from back to front, and Ramona Bachmann's two goals put them in a commanding position. That's the first of what could be a domestic double! 7:20PM 90 min +3 Here's Fran Kirby icing the cake for Chelsea: BUT WAIT. @ChelseaLFC and @frankirby have answered back straight away!!! �� (Arsenal 1-3 Chelsea) LIVE on @BBCOnepic.twitter.com/EwHyVZBFe2— The SSE Women's FA Cup (@SSEWomensFACup) May 5, 2018 7:19PM 90 min +1 Aluko races down the right and, from a similar position to Bachmann's opener, fires in a right-foot shot that Van Veenendaal turns round the post. 7:18PM 90 min Cuthbert earns a Chelsea free-kick right in the corner, which they sensibly play short. Five minutes of added time. 7:16PM 87 min Arsenal summoning the kitchen sink to throw at Chelsea, but the Blues look rock solid from their midfield backwards. 7:12PM 83 min Double change for Arsenal: on come Dan Carter and Katie McCabe in the final throw of Joe Montemurro's dice - Emma Mitchell and Lisa Evans make way. For Chelsea, on comes Eni Aluko for two-goal Ramona Bachmann, who gets a deserved ovation. 7:05PM GOAL! Arsenal 1 Chelsea 3 (Kirby 76 min) What a lovely goal! Fran Kirby, who has threatened to do something special all afternoon, finds a pocket of space on the edfge of the box and bends a perfect left-foot shot into the far corner! Gam