Euro 2012

Euro 2012 Slideshow

Portugal's Christiano Ronaldo watches the ball at a training session during the Euro 2012 at Arena Lviv in Lviv June 8, 2012. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh (UKRAINE - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)
SOCCER-EURO/
Portugal's Christiano Ronaldo watches the ball at a training session during the Euro 2012 at Arena Lviv in Lviv June 8, 2012. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh (UKRAINE - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)
Younger players are heading further afield as a path to first-team football and it’s benefiting national teams. G areth Southgate was still beaming when he arrived at the ground. There had been just enough time to watch Ben Stokes produce the innings of a lifetime to lead England’s cricket team to victory in the Ashes third Test before the manager of England’s football team left his hotel and made the 12km journey south to Leganés. It was late August, he had come to see Kieran Trippier play for Atlético Madrid and by the end of a good day for English sport, he decided he liked what he saw. Four days later, the full-back returned to the national squad. Trippier started in the team that beat Bulgaria 4-0 at Wembley; coming on to join him was Jadon Sancho, the Borussia Dortmund winger who had made his debut in October last year. A month on, they have been called up again. Sancho became the 25th man to represent England while playing abroad, Trippier the 26th. They are the first since David Beckham, formerly of Real Madrid but by then of LA Galaxy, bowed out in 2009. Another decade should not go by for it to happen again, the numbers suggest. Sancho is one of six Englishmen in the Bundesliga. In La Liga, Trippier is one of two, with the Osasuna forward Brandon Thomas, Spain-born with an English father, although there are two more Britons: Gareth Bale at Real Madrid and Oliver Burke at Alavés. The FA tracks English qualified players weekly: last weekend, on top of Sancho and Tripper, six others started in Europe’s top four leagues: Ronaldo Vieira at Sampdoria, Jonjoe Kenny at Schalke and Lewis Baker at Fortuna Düsseldorf, as well as Dijon’s Stephy Mavididi, Chris Smalling at Roma and Reece Oxford for Augsburg. It is not huge but that figure of eight, the FA believes, is a record. Some of those players reflect that part of the shift is beneath the surface and is one that could be self‑perpetuating. Elite signings and sons of immigrants account for some Englishmen abroad, as may overstocked squads at clubs looking for somewhere to loan. But it is young players seeking a path to first‑team football and the clubs who can now track them at youth level that is emerging as a trend and may most drive change – albeit one potentially threatened by the end of freedom of movement with Brexit. Sancho is a prime example that the greatest attraction of moving abroad can be summed up in a word: opportunity. In the Premier League 30% of starters are English, 19.9% at the top six. Pathways open faster elsewhere, for those prepared to take them. Sancho has 63 first‑team appearances at Dortmund, aged 19. There are parallels in Trippier’s new home country, even if his case is different. Cesc Fàbregas, who left Spain for England, seeking an opportunity he considered unlikely at home, sums it up. “At 16, I was training with Thierry Henry and Bergkamp, Pires and Vieira. I’d played 50 games at 17; at 18, I’d played in a Champions League final; at 21, a European Championship final; two years later, a World Cup final.” And there’s the thing: a World Cup final. Migration can be good for national teams, too, and Southgate has defended the benefits of English players going abroad, something so few have done. Almost as soon as he took over, he said: “I always say being an island saved us in 1945. I’m not so sure it’s helped us ever since. We’ve got to broaden horizons. The lads see one league, they think we’re the centre of the Earth and we’re not.” “It’s been good for us that players went abroad; that’s one of the most important factors,” said Vicente del Bosque, coach when Spain won the 2010 World Cup with three England‑based players and Euro 2012 when they had four from the Premier League. “It opened our minds, a major advance.” The question is how far those lessons, those experiences, are applicable to England. The paths cannot be the same because of the Premier League’s greater financial muscle, salaries making home comforts attractive to players. Spain’s top-flight clubs bring more footballers through partly because they need to and that also means more products to sell. But there are parallels and at a basic level it starts with the same word: opportunity. More football for more footballers, widening the pool of first-team minutes and, better still, European minutes, however they got there. There are 17 former Football League players in the latest England squad, plus two playing abroad, chances found below and beyond the biggest clubs. Different, if more circuitous routes to the top. When Southgate called up Sancho, he said: “There was a stat around Champions League appearances for nationalities and how it’s correlated to success at senior international level, so to have a player starting in the Champions League is important to us. His decision to move tells you something about his character – he has tremendous belief in himself.” Sancho’s experience may help others to believe there is success beyond their borders, Southgate admitting there was an unintended message in bringing him into the squad. Moving abroad is something England embraces. Southgate was not put off by Trippier leaving, doors did not close: he welcomed this, a fresh start for one of his players and at the perfect place. Trippier had heard people suggest he was going under the radar but he knew better. There had been conversations, encouragement. Last Saturday, Steve Holland, Southgate’s assistant, was back for the Madrid derby. Atlético are hardly a backwards step in quality while Dortmund was a great leap forward. Trippier began this season’s Champions League campaign by providing a 90th-minute assist against Juventus, Sancho began his tearing into Barcelona. On Saturday Sancho travelled to Freiburg, Trippier will travel to Valladolid on Sunday, and then, like the rest of their England teammates, they will head to the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. Unlike the others, though, Trippier and Sancho will have to catch a flight home first.
Sancho and Trippier show freedom of movement brings opportunities
Younger players are heading further afield as a path to first-team football and it’s benefiting national teams. G areth Southgate was still beaming when he arrived at the ground. There had been just enough time to watch Ben Stokes produce the innings of a lifetime to lead England’s cricket team to victory in the Ashes third Test before the manager of England’s football team left his hotel and made the 12km journey south to Leganés. It was late August, he had come to see Kieran Trippier play for Atlético Madrid and by the end of a good day for English sport, he decided he liked what he saw. Four days later, the full-back returned to the national squad. Trippier started in the team that beat Bulgaria 4-0 at Wembley; coming on to join him was Jadon Sancho, the Borussia Dortmund winger who had made his debut in October last year. A month on, they have been called up again. Sancho became the 25th man to represent England while playing abroad, Trippier the 26th. They are the first since David Beckham, formerly of Real Madrid but by then of LA Galaxy, bowed out in 2009. Another decade should not go by for it to happen again, the numbers suggest. Sancho is one of six Englishmen in the Bundesliga. In La Liga, Trippier is one of two, with the Osasuna forward Brandon Thomas, Spain-born with an English father, although there are two more Britons: Gareth Bale at Real Madrid and Oliver Burke at Alavés. The FA tracks English qualified players weekly: last weekend, on top of Sancho and Tripper, six others started in Europe’s top four leagues: Ronaldo Vieira at Sampdoria, Jonjoe Kenny at Schalke and Lewis Baker at Fortuna Düsseldorf, as well as Dijon’s Stephy Mavididi, Chris Smalling at Roma and Reece Oxford for Augsburg. It is not huge but that figure of eight, the FA believes, is a record. Some of those players reflect that part of the shift is beneath the surface and is one that could be self‑perpetuating. Elite signings and sons of immigrants account for some Englishmen abroad, as may overstocked squads at clubs looking for somewhere to loan. But it is young players seeking a path to first‑team football and the clubs who can now track them at youth level that is emerging as a trend and may most drive change – albeit one potentially threatened by the end of freedom of movement with Brexit. Sancho is a prime example that the greatest attraction of moving abroad can be summed up in a word: opportunity. In the Premier League 30% of starters are English, 19.9% at the top six. Pathways open faster elsewhere, for those prepared to take them. Sancho has 63 first‑team appearances at Dortmund, aged 19. There are parallels in Trippier’s new home country, even if his case is different. Cesc Fàbregas, who left Spain for England, seeking an opportunity he considered unlikely at home, sums it up. “At 16, I was training with Thierry Henry and Bergkamp, Pires and Vieira. I’d played 50 games at 17; at 18, I’d played in a Champions League final; at 21, a European Championship final; two years later, a World Cup final.” And there’s the thing: a World Cup final. Migration can be good for national teams, too, and Southgate has defended the benefits of English players going abroad, something so few have done. Almost as soon as he took over, he said: “I always say being an island saved us in 1945. I’m not so sure it’s helped us ever since. We’ve got to broaden horizons. The lads see one league, they think we’re the centre of the Earth and we’re not.” “It’s been good for us that players went abroad; that’s one of the most important factors,” said Vicente del Bosque, coach when Spain won the 2010 World Cup with three England‑based players and Euro 2012 when they had four from the Premier League. “It opened our minds, a major advance.” The question is how far those lessons, those experiences, are applicable to England. The paths cannot be the same because of the Premier League’s greater financial muscle, salaries making home comforts attractive to players. Spain’s top-flight clubs bring more footballers through partly because they need to and that also means more products to sell. But there are parallels and at a basic level it starts with the same word: opportunity. More football for more footballers, widening the pool of first-team minutes and, better still, European minutes, however they got there. There are 17 former Football League players in the latest England squad, plus two playing abroad, chances found below and beyond the biggest clubs. Different, if more circuitous routes to the top. When Southgate called up Sancho, he said: “There was a stat around Champions League appearances for nationalities and how it’s correlated to success at senior international level, so to have a player starting in the Champions League is important to us. His decision to move tells you something about his character – he has tremendous belief in himself.” Sancho’s experience may help others to believe there is success beyond their borders, Southgate admitting there was an unintended message in bringing him into the squad. Moving abroad is something England embraces. Southgate was not put off by Trippier leaving, doors did not close: he welcomed this, a fresh start for one of his players and at the perfect place. Trippier had heard people suggest he was going under the radar but he knew better. There had been conversations, encouragement. Last Saturday, Steve Holland, Southgate’s assistant, was back for the Madrid derby. Atlético are hardly a backwards step in quality while Dortmund was a great leap forward. Trippier began this season’s Champions League campaign by providing a 90th-minute assist against Juventus, Sancho began his tearing into Barcelona. On Saturday Sancho travelled to Freiburg, Trippier will travel to Valladolid on Sunday, and then, like the rest of their England teammates, they will head to the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. Unlike the others, though, Trippier and Sancho will have to catch a flight home first.
Former Juventus stalwart Claudio Marchisio has revealed he still dwells on defeats in the 2015 Champions League and Euro 2012 finals.
Marchisio retires: Final defeats to Barcelona and Spain form ex-Juventus star's biggest regrets
Former Juventus stalwart Claudio Marchisio has revealed he still dwells on defeats in the 2015 Champions League and Euro 2012 finals.
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“I would give anything to score a goal in the final,” Fernando Torres said on the eve of the Euro 2008 showpiece against Germany in Vienna. The following day, he not only did score, but his goal proved the catalyst for an era of dominance for La Roja.There were 32 minutes and 20 seconds on the clock.Xavi slid a low ball forward for Torres to chase.The striker’s first touch was not the best, but he beat Philipp Lahm for pace, racing around the full-back before chipping a delicate finish over the advancing Jens Lehmann and into the corner from just inside the box.Torres ran to the corner flag, thumb in mouth, to be met by his jubilant team-mates.> ️⚽️🙌🏆 Un gol que cambió para siempre la historia del fútbol español y de la @SeFutbol. > > ¡Te echaremos de menos, Fernando @Torres! pic.twitter.com/8GkzpgonQz> > — UEFA.com en español (@UEFAcom_es) > > June 21, 2019Andres Iniesta arrived first, then Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Ramos, Joan Capdevila, Xavi, Carles Puyol and Marcos Senna. In the crowd, thousands of Spain supporters celebrated wildly. Even the king and queen were on their feet.On its way inside the far post, the ball had bounced twice on the long grass and taken what seemed an age to hit the net.“The ball slid off the turf and the explosion of joy was incredible,” Torres said later.“The minutes were never-ending after that, anything could happen until the end of the match, but when the referee blew the whistle, all that tension turned to an immense feeling of satisfaction and pride.”That Spanish side went on to dominate international football for the next four years, winning a World Cup in 2010 and another European Championship in 2012. And although that team will always be associated with the passing and possession football of Xavi and Iniesta, it was Torres’ goal which sealed the all-important first piece of silverware.> 🏆 Campeón de Europa Sub-16 (2001) > 🏆 Campeón de Europa Sub-19 (2002) > 🏆 Campeón de Europa (2008) > 🏆 Campeón del Mundo (2010) > 🏆 Campeón de Europa (2012) > > 🙌🏼 Gracias por tanto, leyenda. Gracias, @Torres. > > 🔗 https://t.co/14c0c2ImX9 pic.twitter.com/Xgu9LsfjlO> > — Selección Española de Fútbol (@SeFutbol) > > June 21, 2019And he was there throughout. In 2010, he was selected for the World Cup despite undergoing knee surgery in April. “It has been four years waiting and if the timelines are good, I won’t think about missing it,” he said the day after his operation. “I’ll start working today.”Physically, Torres was not right in South Africa, but he still contributed: his run down the left against Chile forced Claudio Bravo off his line and left David Villa with an open goal for the first in a 2-1 win; and it was his cross which was cleared before Cesc set up Iniesta for the winner in the final against the Netherlands after he had come on in extra time.Two years later, he came off the bench again to score one and assist another as Spain beat Italy to claim Euro 2012. The goal and assist also saw El Niño win the Golden Boot ahead of Mario Gomez, thanks to him having played fewer minutes than the Germany forward.Torres also won his 100th cap in 2012, captaining the Spain side in the absence of skipper Iker Casillas, and the Porto goalkeeper led the tributes to the striker after he announced his retirement on Friday.“THANK YOU @Torres for all the good moments we have spent together,” he wrote on Twitter. “Be very proud of all you have given to football. You only have to see the affection you receive wherever you go. Good luck in your next chapter, Niño!”> GRACIAS @Torres por todos los buenos momentos que hemos pasado juntos. > Siéntete muy orgulloso de todo lo que le has dado al fútbol. Sólo tienes que ver todo el cariño que recibes por donde vas. Suerte en tu nueva etapa Niño! pic.twitter.com/qskduDuxTo> > — Iker Casillas (@IkerCasillas) > > June 21, 2019Casillas was right about the universal admiration for Torres and a host of former team-mates and rivals took to social media to pay tribute to El Niño.Steven Gerrard posted a picture of the two celebrating a Liverpool goal and wrote: “The smile says it all really I loved playing with you and it was a pleasure to share a dressing room together. Fantastic player and a great person. All the best with your future.”> View this post on Instagram> > The smile says it all really I loved playing with you and it was a pleasure to share a dressing room together . Fantastic player and a great person . All the best with your future ❤️> > A post shared by Steven Gerrard (@stevengerrard) on Jun 21, 2019 at 3:29am PDTAlongside Gerrard at Liverpool, Torres played perhaps the finest football of his career. In an explosive debut season, he netted 33 times in 46 appearances and he added 17 more as the Reds challenged for the title in 2008-09, losing out by four points to Manchester United.His move to Chelsea in January 2011 caused controversy and upset Liverpool fans, although most have since forgiven him. Torres struggled to get going as a Blues player, never quite looking the same after his injury and race to be fit for the World Cup in 2010, but he did win trophies at Stamford Bridge.One goal still stands out: his breakaway strike at Camp Nou in the Champions League semi-finals which saw Chelsea beat Barcelona en route to winning the biggest prize in club football.The following season, he also netted in the Europa League final as the Blues overcame Benfica. A sweet moment, no doubt, after his injury against the Lisbon giants in 2010.“We really wanted to win this Europa League,” he said afterwards. “Perhaps it was our only opportunity [to win this competition]. I’m very happy.”A short-lived spell at AC Milan came next, before a triumphant return to Atletico Madrid. Had things been different, Torres may never have left his home in the first place. But the Rojiblancos were a club in chaos in his first spell.Torres had made his debut as a 17-year-old, with the club then in Spain’s Segunda Division, while he was used as a bank guarantee as Atletico borrowed money from Valencia and was loaded with the additional burden of the captaincy at the age of just 19.So often left to fight a lost cause in attack, he hit 91 goals in his seven seasons at the Vicente Calderon but grew frustrated and decided to move on after a 6-0 defeat at home to Barcelona in 2006-07.When he returned, it was to a very different Atletico, but the fans had not forgotten his contribution and 45,000 turned up to see his unveiling at the Vicente Calderon.Back at Atleti, he scored 38 times in 160 games, but he craved a major trophy (having claimed only the Segunda Division title) with his boyhood club and was left heartbroken as the Rojiblancos were beaten on penalties by Real Madrid in the Champions League final in 2015-16.In his very last game for the club, that long wait ended as Atletico beat Marseille 2-0 in the Europa League final and a competition which had been considered secondary for the club earlier in the season meant everything to the fans' biggest idol.“Proud of this team and these fans,” Torres wrote on Instagram afterwards. Thank you with all my heart. I couldn’t be happier.”And after a brief spell in Japan with Sagan Tosu, El Niño announced his retirement with a video on social media on Friday. “I have something very important to announce,” he said. “After 18 exciting years, the time has come to put an end to my football career.”Twice European champion with Spain, a World Cup winner, Champions League winner, one of only eight Spanish players to make the Ballon d’Or podium, still the top-scoring Spaniard in Premier League history, goalscorer galore, Atletico idol and above all, one of football’s good guys, Torres will be missed on the football field.The 35-year-old will give a press conference in Japan on Sunday to discuss his decision and perhaps what is to come next. And whatever that is, he still has a big contribution to make.So it is not really an adiós, but more of an hasta luego to Fernando, the man who helped change Spanish football forever.(AFP/Getty Images)
Farewell to Fernando Torres, the man who changed Spanish football forever
“I would give anything to score a goal in the final,” Fernando Torres said on the eve of the Euro 2008 showpiece against Germany in Vienna. The following day, he not only did score, but his goal proved the catalyst for an era of dominance for La Roja.There were 32 minutes and 20 seconds on the clock.Xavi slid a low ball forward for Torres to chase.The striker’s first touch was not the best, but he beat Philipp Lahm for pace, racing around the full-back before chipping a delicate finish over the advancing Jens Lehmann and into the corner from just inside the box.Torres ran to the corner flag, thumb in mouth, to be met by his jubilant team-mates.> ️⚽️🙌🏆 Un gol que cambió para siempre la historia del fútbol español y de la @SeFutbol. > > ¡Te echaremos de menos, Fernando @Torres! pic.twitter.com/8GkzpgonQz> > — UEFA.com en español (@UEFAcom_es) > > June 21, 2019Andres Iniesta arrived first, then Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Ramos, Joan Capdevila, Xavi, Carles Puyol and Marcos Senna. In the crowd, thousands of Spain supporters celebrated wildly. Even the king and queen were on their feet.On its way inside the far post, the ball had bounced twice on the long grass and taken what seemed an age to hit the net.“The ball slid off the turf and the explosion of joy was incredible,” Torres said later.“The minutes were never-ending after that, anything could happen until the end of the match, but when the referee blew the whistle, all that tension turned to an immense feeling of satisfaction and pride.”That Spanish side went on to dominate international football for the next four years, winning a World Cup in 2010 and another European Championship in 2012. And although that team will always be associated with the passing and possession football of Xavi and Iniesta, it was Torres’ goal which sealed the all-important first piece of silverware.> 🏆 Campeón de Europa Sub-16 (2001) > 🏆 Campeón de Europa Sub-19 (2002) > 🏆 Campeón de Europa (2008) > 🏆 Campeón del Mundo (2010) > 🏆 Campeón de Europa (2012) > > 🙌🏼 Gracias por tanto, leyenda. Gracias, @Torres. > > 🔗 https://t.co/14c0c2ImX9 pic.twitter.com/Xgu9LsfjlO> > — Selección Española de Fútbol (@SeFutbol) > > June 21, 2019And he was there throughout. In 2010, he was selected for the World Cup despite undergoing knee surgery in April. “It has been four years waiting and if the timelines are good, I won’t think about missing it,” he said the day after his operation. “I’ll start working today.”Physically, Torres was not right in South Africa, but he still contributed: his run down the left against Chile forced Claudio Bravo off his line and left David Villa with an open goal for the first in a 2-1 win; and it was his cross which was cleared before Cesc set up Iniesta for the winner in the final against the Netherlands after he had come on in extra time.Two years later, he came off the bench again to score one and assist another as Spain beat Italy to claim Euro 2012. The goal and assist also saw El Niño win the Golden Boot ahead of Mario Gomez, thanks to him having played fewer minutes than the Germany forward.Torres also won his 100th cap in 2012, captaining the Spain side in the absence of skipper Iker Casillas, and the Porto goalkeeper led the tributes to the striker after he announced his retirement on Friday.“THANK YOU @Torres for all the good moments we have spent together,” he wrote on Twitter. “Be very proud of all you have given to football. You only have to see the affection you receive wherever you go. Good luck in your next chapter, Niño!”> GRACIAS @Torres por todos los buenos momentos que hemos pasado juntos. > Siéntete muy orgulloso de todo lo que le has dado al fútbol. Sólo tienes que ver todo el cariño que recibes por donde vas. Suerte en tu nueva etapa Niño! pic.twitter.com/qskduDuxTo> > — Iker Casillas (@IkerCasillas) > > June 21, 2019Casillas was right about the universal admiration for Torres and a host of former team-mates and rivals took to social media to pay tribute to El Niño.Steven Gerrard posted a picture of the two celebrating a Liverpool goal and wrote: “The smile says it all really I loved playing with you and it was a pleasure to share a dressing room together. Fantastic player and a great person. All the best with your future.”> View this post on Instagram> > The smile says it all really I loved playing with you and it was a pleasure to share a dressing room together . Fantastic player and a great person . All the best with your future ❤️> > A post shared by Steven Gerrard (@stevengerrard) on Jun 21, 2019 at 3:29am PDTAlongside Gerrard at Liverpool, Torres played perhaps the finest football of his career. In an explosive debut season, he netted 33 times in 46 appearances and he added 17 more as the Reds challenged for the title in 2008-09, losing out by four points to Manchester United.His move to Chelsea in January 2011 caused controversy and upset Liverpool fans, although most have since forgiven him. Torres struggled to get going as a Blues player, never quite looking the same after his injury and race to be fit for the World Cup in 2010, but he did win trophies at Stamford Bridge.One goal still stands out: his breakaway strike at Camp Nou in the Champions League semi-finals which saw Chelsea beat Barcelona en route to winning the biggest prize in club football.The following season, he also netted in the Europa League final as the Blues overcame Benfica. A sweet moment, no doubt, after his injury against the Lisbon giants in 2010.“We really wanted to win this Europa League,” he said afterwards. “Perhaps it was our only opportunity [to win this competition]. I’m very happy.”A short-lived spell at AC Milan came next, before a triumphant return to Atletico Madrid. Had things been different, Torres may never have left his home in the first place. But the Rojiblancos were a club in chaos in his first spell.Torres had made his debut as a 17-year-old, with the club then in Spain’s Segunda Division, while he was used as a bank guarantee as Atletico borrowed money from Valencia and was loaded with the additional burden of the captaincy at the age of just 19.So often left to fight a lost cause in attack, he hit 91 goals in his seven seasons at the Vicente Calderon but grew frustrated and decided to move on after a 6-0 defeat at home to Barcelona in 2006-07.When he returned, it was to a very different Atletico, but the fans had not forgotten his contribution and 45,000 turned up to see his unveiling at the Vicente Calderon.Back at Atleti, he scored 38 times in 160 games, but he craved a major trophy (having claimed only the Segunda Division title) with his boyhood club and was left heartbroken as the Rojiblancos were beaten on penalties by Real Madrid in the Champions League final in 2015-16.In his very last game for the club, that long wait ended as Atletico beat Marseille 2-0 in the Europa League final and a competition which had been considered secondary for the club earlier in the season meant everything to the fans' biggest idol.“Proud of this team and these fans,” Torres wrote on Instagram afterwards. Thank you with all my heart. I couldn’t be happier.”And after a brief spell in Japan with Sagan Tosu, El Niño announced his retirement with a video on social media on Friday. “I have something very important to announce,” he said. “After 18 exciting years, the time has come to put an end to my football career.”Twice European champion with Spain, a World Cup winner, Champions League winner, one of only eight Spanish players to make the Ballon d’Or podium, still the top-scoring Spaniard in Premier League history, goalscorer galore, Atletico idol and above all, one of football’s good guys, Torres will be missed on the football field.The 35-year-old will give a press conference in Japan on Sunday to discuss his decision and perhaps what is to come next. And whatever that is, he still has a big contribution to make.So it is not really an adiós, but more of an hasta luego to Fernando, the man who helped change Spanish football forever.(AFP/Getty Images)
“I would give anything to score a goal in the final,” Fernando Torres said on the eve of the Euro 2008 showpiece against Germany in Vienna. The following day, he not only did score, but his goal proved the catalyst for an era of dominance for La Roja.There were 32 minutes and 20 seconds on the clock.Xavi slid a low ball forward for Torres to chase.The striker’s first touch was not the best, but he beat Philipp Lahm for pace, racing around the full-back before chipping a delicate finish over the advancing Jens Lehmann and into the corner from just inside the box.Torres ran to the corner flag, thumb in mouth, to be met by his jubilant team-mates.> ️⚽️🙌🏆 Un gol que cambió para siempre la historia del fútbol español y de la @SeFutbol. > > ¡Te echaremos de menos, Fernando @Torres! pic.twitter.com/8GkzpgonQz> > — UEFA.com en español (@UEFAcom_es) > > June 21, 2019Andres Iniesta arrived first, then Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Ramos, Joan Capdevila, Xavi, Carles Puyol and Marcos Senna. In the crowd, thousands of Spain supporters celebrated wildly. Even the king and queen were on their feet.On its way inside the far post, the ball had bounced twice on the long grass and taken what seemed an age to hit the net.“The ball slid off the turf and the explosion of joy was incredible,” Torres said later.“The minutes were never-ending after that, anything could happen until the end of the match, but when the referee blew the whistle, all that tension turned to an immense feeling of satisfaction and pride.”That Spanish side went on to dominate international football for the next four years, winning a World Cup in 2010 and another European Championship in 2012. And although that team will always be associated with the passing and possession football of Xavi and Iniesta, it was Torres’ goal which sealed the all-important first piece of silverware.> 🏆 Campeón de Europa Sub-16 (2001) > 🏆 Campeón de Europa Sub-19 (2002) > 🏆 Campeón de Europa (2008) > 🏆 Campeón del Mundo (2010) > 🏆 Campeón de Europa (2012) > > 🙌🏼 Gracias por tanto, leyenda. Gracias, @Torres. > > 🔗 https://t.co/14c0c2ImX9 pic.twitter.com/Xgu9LsfjlO> > — Selección Española de Fútbol (@SeFutbol) > > June 21, 2019And he was there throughout. In 2010, he was selected for the World Cup despite undergoing knee surgery in April. “It has been four years waiting and if the timelines are good, I won’t think about missing it,” he said the day after his operation. “I’ll start working today.”Physically, Torres was not right in South Africa, but he still contributed: his run down the left against Chile forced Claudio Bravo off his line and left David Villa with an open goal for the first in a 2-1 win; and it was his cross which was cleared before Cesc set up Iniesta for the winner in the final against the Netherlands after he had come on in extra time.Two years later, he came off the bench again to score one and assist another as Spain beat Italy to claim Euro 2012. The goal and assist also saw El Niño win the Golden Boot ahead of Mario Gomez, thanks to him having played fewer minutes than the Germany forward.Torres also won his 100th cap in 2012, captaining the Spain side in the absence of skipper Iker Casillas, and the Porto goalkeeper led the tributes to the striker after he announced his retirement on Friday.“THANK YOU @Torres for all the good moments we have spent together,” he wrote on Twitter. “Be very proud of all you have given to football. You only have to see the affection you receive wherever you go. Good luck in your next chapter, Niño!”> GRACIAS @Torres por todos los buenos momentos que hemos pasado juntos. > Siéntete muy orgulloso de todo lo que le has dado al fútbol. Sólo tienes que ver todo el cariño que recibes por donde vas. Suerte en tu nueva etapa Niño! pic.twitter.com/qskduDuxTo> > — Iker Casillas (@IkerCasillas) > > June 21, 2019Casillas was right about the universal admiration for Torres and a host of former team-mates and rivals took to social media to pay tribute to El Niño.Steven Gerrard posted a picture of the two celebrating a Liverpool goal and wrote: “The smile says it all really I loved playing with you and it was a pleasure to share a dressing room together. Fantastic player and a great person. All the best with your future.”> View this post on Instagram> > The smile says it all really I loved playing with you and it was a pleasure to share a dressing room together . Fantastic player and a great person . All the best with your future ❤️> > A post shared by Steven Gerrard (@stevengerrard) on Jun 21, 2019 at 3:29am PDTAlongside Gerrard at Liverpool, Torres played perhaps the finest football of his career. In an explosive debut season, he netted 33 times in 46 appearances and he added 17 more as the Reds challenged for the title in 2008-09, losing out by four points to Manchester United.His move to Chelsea in January 2011 caused controversy and upset Liverpool fans, although most have since forgiven him. Torres struggled to get going as a Blues player, never quite looking the same after his injury and race to be fit for the World Cup in 2010, but he did win trophies at Stamford Bridge.One goal still stands out: his breakaway strike at Camp Nou in the Champions League semi-finals which saw Chelsea beat Barcelona en route to winning the biggest prize in club football.The following season, he also netted in the Europa League final as the Blues overcame Benfica. A sweet moment, no doubt, after his injury against the Lisbon giants in 2010.“We really wanted to win this Europa League,” he said afterwards. “Perhaps it was our only opportunity [to win this competition]. I’m very happy.”A short-lived spell at AC Milan came next, before a triumphant return to Atletico Madrid. Had things been different, Torres may never have left his home in the first place. But the Rojiblancos were a club in chaos in his first spell.Torres had made his debut as a 17-year-old, with the club then in Spain’s Segunda Division, while he was used as a bank guarantee as Atletico borrowed money from Valencia and was loaded with the additional burden of the captaincy at the age of just 19.So often left to fight a lost cause in attack, he hit 91 goals in his seven seasons at the Vicente Calderon but grew frustrated and decided to move on after a 6-0 defeat at home to Barcelona in 2006-07.When he returned, it was to a very different Atletico, but the fans had not forgotten his contribution and 45,000 turned up to see his unveiling at the Vicente Calderon.Back at Atleti, he scored 38 times in 160 games, but he craved a major trophy (having claimed only the Segunda Division title) with his boyhood club and was left heartbroken as the Rojiblancos were beaten on penalties by Real Madrid in the Champions League final in 2015-16.In his very last game for the club, that long wait ended as Atletico beat Marseille 2-0 in the Europa League final and a competition which had been considered secondary for the club earlier in the season meant everything to the fans' biggest idol.“Proud of this team and these fans,” Torres wrote on Instagram afterwards. Thank you with all my heart. I couldn’t be happier.”And after a brief spell in Japan with Sagan Tosu, El Niño announced his retirement with a video on social media on Friday. “I have something very important to announce,” he said. “After 18 exciting years, the time has come to put an end to my football career.”Twice European champion with Spain, a World Cup winner, Champions League winner, one of only eight Spanish players to make the Ballon d’Or podium, still the top-scoring Spaniard in Premier League history, goalscorer galore, Atletico idol and above all, one of football’s good guys, Torres will be missed on the football field.The 35-year-old will give a press conference in Japan on Sunday to discuss his decision and perhaps what is to come next. And whatever that is, he still has a big contribution to make.So it is not really an adiós, but more of an hasta luego to Fernando, the man who helped change Spanish football forever.(AFP/Getty Images)
Farewell to Fernando Torres, the man who changed Spanish football forever
“I would give anything to score a goal in the final,” Fernando Torres said on the eve of the Euro 2008 showpiece against Germany in Vienna. The following day, he not only did score, but his goal proved the catalyst for an era of dominance for La Roja.There were 32 minutes and 20 seconds on the clock.Xavi slid a low ball forward for Torres to chase.The striker’s first touch was not the best, but he beat Philipp Lahm for pace, racing around the full-back before chipping a delicate finish over the advancing Jens Lehmann and into the corner from just inside the box.Torres ran to the corner flag, thumb in mouth, to be met by his jubilant team-mates.> ️⚽️🙌🏆 Un gol que cambió para siempre la historia del fútbol español y de la @SeFutbol. > > ¡Te echaremos de menos, Fernando @Torres! pic.twitter.com/8GkzpgonQz> > — UEFA.com en español (@UEFAcom_es) > > June 21, 2019Andres Iniesta arrived first, then Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Ramos, Joan Capdevila, Xavi, Carles Puyol and Marcos Senna. In the crowd, thousands of Spain supporters celebrated wildly. Even the king and queen were on their feet.On its way inside the far post, the ball had bounced twice on the long grass and taken what seemed an age to hit the net.“The ball slid off the turf and the explosion of joy was incredible,” Torres said later.“The minutes were never-ending after that, anything could happen until the end of the match, but when the referee blew the whistle, all that tension turned to an immense feeling of satisfaction and pride.”That Spanish side went on to dominate international football for the next four years, winning a World Cup in 2010 and another European Championship in 2012. And although that team will always be associated with the passing and possession football of Xavi and Iniesta, it was Torres’ goal which sealed the all-important first piece of silverware.> 🏆 Campeón de Europa Sub-16 (2001) > 🏆 Campeón de Europa Sub-19 (2002) > 🏆 Campeón de Europa (2008) > 🏆 Campeón del Mundo (2010) > 🏆 Campeón de Europa (2012) > > 🙌🏼 Gracias por tanto, leyenda. Gracias, @Torres. > > 🔗 https://t.co/14c0c2ImX9 pic.twitter.com/Xgu9LsfjlO> > — Selección Española de Fútbol (@SeFutbol) > > June 21, 2019And he was there throughout. In 2010, he was selected for the World Cup despite undergoing knee surgery in April. “It has been four years waiting and if the timelines are good, I won’t think about missing it,” he said the day after his operation. “I’ll start working today.”Physically, Torres was not right in South Africa, but he still contributed: his run down the left against Chile forced Claudio Bravo off his line and left David Villa with an open goal for the first in a 2-1 win; and it was his cross which was cleared before Cesc set up Iniesta for the winner in the final against the Netherlands after he had come on in extra time.Two years later, he came off the bench again to score one and assist another as Spain beat Italy to claim Euro 2012. The goal and assist also saw El Niño win the Golden Boot ahead of Mario Gomez, thanks to him having played fewer minutes than the Germany forward.Torres also won his 100th cap in 2012, captaining the Spain side in the absence of skipper Iker Casillas, and the Porto goalkeeper led the tributes to the striker after he announced his retirement on Friday.“THANK YOU @Torres for all the good moments we have spent together,” he wrote on Twitter. “Be very proud of all you have given to football. You only have to see the affection you receive wherever you go. Good luck in your next chapter, Niño!”> GRACIAS @Torres por todos los buenos momentos que hemos pasado juntos. > Siéntete muy orgulloso de todo lo que le has dado al fútbol. Sólo tienes que ver todo el cariño que recibes por donde vas. Suerte en tu nueva etapa Niño! pic.twitter.com/qskduDuxTo> > — Iker Casillas (@IkerCasillas) > > June 21, 2019Casillas was right about the universal admiration for Torres and a host of former team-mates and rivals took to social media to pay tribute to El Niño.Steven Gerrard posted a picture of the two celebrating a Liverpool goal and wrote: “The smile says it all really I loved playing with you and it was a pleasure to share a dressing room together. Fantastic player and a great person. All the best with your future.”> View this post on Instagram> > The smile says it all really I loved playing with you and it was a pleasure to share a dressing room together . Fantastic player and a great person . All the best with your future ❤️> > A post shared by Steven Gerrard (@stevengerrard) on Jun 21, 2019 at 3:29am PDTAlongside Gerrard at Liverpool, Torres played perhaps the finest football of his career. In an explosive debut season, he netted 33 times in 46 appearances and he added 17 more as the Reds challenged for the title in 2008-09, losing out by four points to Manchester United.His move to Chelsea in January 2011 caused controversy and upset Liverpool fans, although most have since forgiven him. Torres struggled to get going as a Blues player, never quite looking the same after his injury and race to be fit for the World Cup in 2010, but he did win trophies at Stamford Bridge.One goal still stands out: his breakaway strike at Camp Nou in the Champions League semi-finals which saw Chelsea beat Barcelona en route to winning the biggest prize in club football.The following season, he also netted in the Europa League final as the Blues overcame Benfica. A sweet moment, no doubt, after his injury against the Lisbon giants in 2010.“We really wanted to win this Europa League,” he said afterwards. “Perhaps it was our only opportunity [to win this competition]. I’m very happy.”A short-lived spell at AC Milan came next, before a triumphant return to Atletico Madrid. Had things been different, Torres may never have left his home in the first place. But the Rojiblancos were a club in chaos in his first spell.Torres had made his debut as a 17-year-old, with the club then in Spain’s Segunda Division, while he was used as a bank guarantee as Atletico borrowed money from Valencia and was loaded with the additional burden of the captaincy at the age of just 19.So often left to fight a lost cause in attack, he hit 91 goals in his seven seasons at the Vicente Calderon but grew frustrated and decided to move on after a 6-0 defeat at home to Barcelona in 2006-07.When he returned, it was to a very different Atletico, but the fans had not forgotten his contribution and 45,000 turned up to see his unveiling at the Vicente Calderon.Back at Atleti, he scored 38 times in 160 games, but he craved a major trophy (having claimed only the Segunda Division title) with his boyhood club and was left heartbroken as the Rojiblancos were beaten on penalties by Real Madrid in the Champions League final in 2015-16.In his very last game for the club, that long wait ended as Atletico beat Marseille 2-0 in the Europa League final and a competition which had been considered secondary for the club earlier in the season meant everything to the fans' biggest idol.“Proud of this team and these fans,” Torres wrote on Instagram afterwards. Thank you with all my heart. I couldn’t be happier.”And after a brief spell in Japan with Sagan Tosu, El Niño announced his retirement with a video on social media on Friday. “I have something very important to announce,” he said. “After 18 exciting years, the time has come to put an end to my football career.”Twice European champion with Spain, a World Cup winner, Champions League winner, one of only eight Spanish players to make the Ballon d’Or podium, still the top-scoring Spaniard in Premier League history, goalscorer galore, Atletico idol and above all, one of football’s good guys, Torres will be missed on the football field.The 35-year-old will give a press conference in Japan on Sunday to discuss his decision and perhaps what is to come next. And whatever that is, he still has a big contribution to make.So it is not really an adiós, but more of an hasta luego to Fernando, the man who helped change Spanish football forever.(AFP/Getty Images)
Liverpool and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres has announced his retirement from football to end an incredible 18-year career.Torres played an integral role in Spain's golden era, helping them to become European champions and win the World Cup.The Spaniard announced his intent to speak to the media about his decision at a press conference in Tokyo on Sunday. “After 18 exciting years, the time has come to put an end to my football career,” the 35-year-old said. An icon at his boyhood club Atletico Madrid, with more than 100 goals over two spells, Torres burst on to the world scene with a scintillating spell at Liverpool in the Premier League. His form earned him a big-money move to Chelsea, but he failed to live up to his £50m price tag.He did contribute to the Blues winning the Champions League, a trophy that would elude him and Atletico Madrid in 2016, losing in the final against bitter rivals Real Madrid. That came after a brief stint at AC Milan., which again proved disappointing after much fanfare upon his arrival. He left Atletico in 2018 to join Japan’s Sagan Tosu but has failed to make an impact in the J-League side, scoring just four goals last year and failing to register at all in 2019. Torres made his Spain debut in 2003 and scored the winning goal in the 2008 European Championship final against Germany before helping his country win their first World Cup in 2010.He was the top scorer at Euro 2012 as Spain successfully defended their title and scored 38 goals in 110 appearances for his country in total, making him Spain’s country’s third-highest goalscorer behind David Villa (59) and Raul (44).Torres enjoyed his the most prolific spell at Liverpool between 2007 and 2011, netting 81 goals in 142 games across all competitions.He moved to Chelsea from Liverpool for a then British record fee of 50 million pounds ($63.49 million), and won the FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League with the London club.
Fernando Torres retirement: Former Liverpool and Chelsea star calls time on 18-year career after spell in Japan
Liverpool and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres has announced his retirement from football to end an incredible 18-year career.Torres played an integral role in Spain's golden era, helping them to become European champions and win the World Cup.The Spaniard announced his intent to speak to the media about his decision at a press conference in Tokyo on Sunday. “After 18 exciting years, the time has come to put an end to my football career,” the 35-year-old said. An icon at his boyhood club Atletico Madrid, with more than 100 goals over two spells, Torres burst on to the world scene with a scintillating spell at Liverpool in the Premier League. His form earned him a big-money move to Chelsea, but he failed to live up to his £50m price tag.He did contribute to the Blues winning the Champions League, a trophy that would elude him and Atletico Madrid in 2016, losing in the final against bitter rivals Real Madrid. That came after a brief stint at AC Milan., which again proved disappointing after much fanfare upon his arrival. He left Atletico in 2018 to join Japan’s Sagan Tosu but has failed to make an impact in the J-League side, scoring just four goals last year and failing to register at all in 2019. Torres made his Spain debut in 2003 and scored the winning goal in the 2008 European Championship final against Germany before helping his country win their first World Cup in 2010.He was the top scorer at Euro 2012 as Spain successfully defended their title and scored 38 goals in 110 appearances for his country in total, making him Spain’s country’s third-highest goalscorer behind David Villa (59) and Raul (44).Torres enjoyed his the most prolific spell at Liverpool between 2007 and 2011, netting 81 goals in 142 games across all competitions.He moved to Chelsea from Liverpool for a then British record fee of 50 million pounds ($63.49 million), and won the FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League with the London club.
Liverpool and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres has announced his retirement from football to end an incredible 18-year career.Torres played an integral role in Spain's golden era, helping them to become European champions and win the World Cup.The Spaniard announced his intent to speak to the media about his decision at a press conference in Tokyo on Sunday. “After 18 exciting years, the time has come to put an end to my football career,” the 35-year-old said. An icon at his boyhood club Atletico Madrid, with more than 100 goals over two spells, Torres burst on to the world scene with a scintillating spell at Liverpool in the Premier League. His form earned him a big-money move to Chelsea, but he failed to live up to his £50m price tag.He did contribute to the Blues winning the Champions League, a trophy that would elude him and Atletico Madrid in 2016, losing in the final against bitter rivals Real Madrid. That came after a brief stint at AC Milan., which again proved disappointing after much fanfare upon his arrival. He left Atletico in 2018 to join Japan’s Sagan Tosu but has failed to make an impact in the J-League side, scoring just four goals last year and failing to register at all in 2019. Torres made his Spain debut in 2003 and scored the winning goal in the 2008 European Championship final against Germany before helping his country win their first World Cup in 2010.He was the top scorer at Euro 2012 as Spain successfully defended their title and scored 38 goals in 110 appearances for his country in total, making him Spain’s country’s third-highest goalscorer behind David Villa (59) and Raul (44).Torres enjoyed his the most prolific spell at Liverpool between 2007 and 2011, netting 81 goals in 142 games across all competitions.He moved to Chelsea from Liverpool for a then British record fee of 50 million pounds ($63.49 million), and won the FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League with the London club.
Fernando Torres retirement: Former Liverpool and Chelsea star calls time on 18-year career after spell in Japan
Liverpool and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres has announced his retirement from football to end an incredible 18-year career.Torres played an integral role in Spain's golden era, helping them to become European champions and win the World Cup.The Spaniard announced his intent to speak to the media about his decision at a press conference in Tokyo on Sunday. “After 18 exciting years, the time has come to put an end to my football career,” the 35-year-old said. An icon at his boyhood club Atletico Madrid, with more than 100 goals over two spells, Torres burst on to the world scene with a scintillating spell at Liverpool in the Premier League. His form earned him a big-money move to Chelsea, but he failed to live up to his £50m price tag.He did contribute to the Blues winning the Champions League, a trophy that would elude him and Atletico Madrid in 2016, losing in the final against bitter rivals Real Madrid. That came after a brief stint at AC Milan., which again proved disappointing after much fanfare upon his arrival. He left Atletico in 2018 to join Japan’s Sagan Tosu but has failed to make an impact in the J-League side, scoring just four goals last year and failing to register at all in 2019. Torres made his Spain debut in 2003 and scored the winning goal in the 2008 European Championship final against Germany before helping his country win their first World Cup in 2010.He was the top scorer at Euro 2012 as Spain successfully defended their title and scored 38 goals in 110 appearances for his country in total, making him Spain’s country’s third-highest goalscorer behind David Villa (59) and Raul (44).Torres enjoyed his the most prolific spell at Liverpool between 2007 and 2011, netting 81 goals in 142 games across all competitions.He moved to Chelsea from Liverpool for a then British record fee of 50 million pounds ($63.49 million), and won the FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League with the London club.
Spain’s World Cup winning striker Fernando Torres announced his retirement from football on Friday, bringing an end to a glittering 18-year career.Torres, who scored more than 100 goals across two spells at his boyhood club Atletico Madrid, also played for Premier League sides Liverpool and Chelsea and Italy’s AC Milan.He left Atletico to join Japan’s Sagan Tosu in July last year but has struggled to hit the heights of his best days at Atletico and Liverpool at the J-League side.“After 18 exciting years, the time has come to put an end to my football career,” the 35-year-old wrote on Twitter, adding that he would hold a news conference in Japan on Sunday to explain his decision.Torres made his Spain debut in 2003 and scored the winning goal in the 2008 European Championship final against Germany before helping his country win their first World Cup in 2010.He was the top scorer at Euro 2012 as Spain successfully defended their title and scored 38 goals in 110 appearances for his country in total, making him Spain’s country’s third-highest goalscorer behind David Villa (59) and Raul (44).Torres enjoyed his the most prolific spell at Liverpool between 2007 and 2011, netting 81 goals in 142 games across all competitions.He moved to Chelsea from Liverpool for a then British record fee of 50 million pounds ($63.49 million), and won the FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League with the London club.
Fernando Torres retirement: Former Liverpool and Chelsea star calls time on 18-year career after spell in Japan
Spain’s World Cup winning striker Fernando Torres announced his retirement from football on Friday, bringing an end to a glittering 18-year career.Torres, who scored more than 100 goals across two spells at his boyhood club Atletico Madrid, also played for Premier League sides Liverpool and Chelsea and Italy’s AC Milan.He left Atletico to join Japan’s Sagan Tosu in July last year but has struggled to hit the heights of his best days at Atletico and Liverpool at the J-League side.“After 18 exciting years, the time has come to put an end to my football career,” the 35-year-old wrote on Twitter, adding that he would hold a news conference in Japan on Sunday to explain his decision.Torres made his Spain debut in 2003 and scored the winning goal in the 2008 European Championship final against Germany before helping his country win their first World Cup in 2010.He was the top scorer at Euro 2012 as Spain successfully defended their title and scored 38 goals in 110 appearances for his country in total, making him Spain’s country’s third-highest goalscorer behind David Villa (59) and Raul (44).Torres enjoyed his the most prolific spell at Liverpool between 2007 and 2011, netting 81 goals in 142 games across all competitions.He moved to Chelsea from Liverpool for a then British record fee of 50 million pounds ($63.49 million), and won the FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League with the London club.
Spain’s World Cup winning striker Fernando Torres announced his retirement from football on Friday, bringing an end to a glittering 18-year career.Torres, who scored more than 100 goals across two spells at his boyhood club Atletico Madrid, also played for Premier League sides Liverpool and Chelsea and Italy’s AC Milan.He left Atletico to join Japan’s Sagan Tosu in July last year but has struggled to hit the heights of his best days at Atletico and Liverpool at the J-League side.“After 18 exciting years, the time has come to put an end to my football career,” the 35-year-old wrote on Twitter, adding that he would hold a news conference in Japan on Sunday to explain his decision.Torres made his Spain debut in 2003 and scored the winning goal in the 2008 European Championship final against Germany before helping his country win their first World Cup in 2010.He was the top scorer at Euro 2012 as Spain successfully defended their title and scored 38 goals in 110 appearances for his country in total, making him Spain’s country’s third-highest goalscorer behind David Villa (59) and Raul (44).Torres enjoyed his the most prolific spell at Liverpool between 2007 and 2011, netting 81 goals in 142 games across all competitions.He moved to Chelsea from Liverpool for a then British record fee of 50 million pounds ($63.49 million), and won the FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League with the London club.
Fernando Torres retirement: Former Liverpool and Chelsea star calls time on 18-year career after spell in Japan
Spain’s World Cup winning striker Fernando Torres announced his retirement from football on Friday, bringing an end to a glittering 18-year career.Torres, who scored more than 100 goals across two spells at his boyhood club Atletico Madrid, also played for Premier League sides Liverpool and Chelsea and Italy’s AC Milan.He left Atletico to join Japan’s Sagan Tosu in July last year but has struggled to hit the heights of his best days at Atletico and Liverpool at the J-League side.“After 18 exciting years, the time has come to put an end to my football career,” the 35-year-old wrote on Twitter, adding that he would hold a news conference in Japan on Sunday to explain his decision.Torres made his Spain debut in 2003 and scored the winning goal in the 2008 European Championship final against Germany before helping his country win their first World Cup in 2010.He was the top scorer at Euro 2012 as Spain successfully defended their title and scored 38 goals in 110 appearances for his country in total, making him Spain’s country’s third-highest goalscorer behind David Villa (59) and Raul (44).Torres enjoyed his the most prolific spell at Liverpool between 2007 and 2011, netting 81 goals in 142 games across all competitions.He moved to Chelsea from Liverpool for a then British record fee of 50 million pounds ($63.49 million), and won the FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League with the London club.
Maybe it was pure coincidence that mere hours after West Ham announced that Andy Carroll was being released at the end of the season, Eden Hazard admitted he was leaving Chelsea. Hazard is a fine player, and would sashay into most teams in world football, but he’s not stupid. Even he knows that once Carroll’s menacing shadow appeared in the doorway at Cobham, a year of bench-warming and the occasional Carabao Cup appearance would be the limit of his ambitions for the 2019-20 season. Best to retreat to the relative safety of La Liga and wait for things to blow over.Then again, perhaps it was just coincidence. Actually, on reflection, it almost certainly was. The news of Carroll’s departure from West Ham didn’t so much break as waft into the ether, a wisp of white noise in the infra-red torrent accompanying English football’s biggest fortnight. Carroll is 30, hasn’t played since February, and it would be the height of understatement to observe that his former teams seem to be doing perfectly fine without him. Liverpool, the club that made him the most expensive British player in history, are in a second consecutive Champions League final under Jurgen Klopp. Next week England, having reinvented themselves along similar lines under Gareth Southgate, will go for Nations League glory in Portugal. Neither, in fairness, looks desperately in need of a striker whose Argos-sized catalogue of injuries has seen him miss 152 games in seven years at West Ham, and who even at his theoretical peak feels like a lost artefact, an anachronistic tribute act to a style of play – and a style of player – that elite football forsook some time ago. It’s not just that Carroll himself is moving on. The idea of Carroll – the concept of the thundering No9, the striking gargoyle, the one-man wrecking ball – seems also to have had its time. Nowadays if Carroll is evoked at all, it is as the sort of striker who offers you “something different”, which isn’t the most glowing tribute. Stacey Dooley would offer something different. A pile of Werner Herzog DVDs arranged in the shape of a human phallus would offer something different. A rotisserie chicken heated solely by the power of dreams would offer something different. When your only point of distinction is distinction itself, you’ve got problems.And on a wider level, English football is beginning to shed its Carrolls like dead skin. Look at this season’s top scorers in the Premier League and what is most conspicuous of all is the almost total absence of pure target men. Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Raheem Sterling and Hazard are essentially wide forwards. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sergio Aguero fit more in the ‘poacher’ category. Even Harry Kane sees himself more as a caring, sharing No10 these days: the sort of flatmate who will still glug all four of the Red Stripes you left in the fridge, but at least does you the courtesy of replacing them the following day.In fact, you probably have to go down to 10th on the list – Raul Jimenez at Wolves – before you find anything remotely resembling a traditional “big man”. Carroll himself didn’t score a league goal all season. His playing time stretched to just 455 minutes, his only goal a valedictory header at the end of largely frustrating FA Cup tie against Birmingham, best encapsulated by the time he got the ball eight yards from goal and dribbled it straight out of play for a goal-kick. Mutterings about his commitment and work ethic continue to beset him. But then, perhaps there’s nothing radically new in any of this. Even in his pomp, Carroll felt like something of a throwback: a spikily illicit pleasure in a largely bevelled-off game, the footballing equivalent of using your fingers to cover up the letters in ‘Scunthorpe’ to spell a rude word. It’s easy to forget that he signed for Liverpool in the same week as Luis Suarez: less elite forward pairing, more Hollywood buddy movie. Perhaps the real Andy Carroll was the memes we made along the way. And as his West Ham career crunched to an abortive halt, the popular conception of Carroll contracted along similar lines. By the end, he was regarded as a sort of useful idiot: the sort of striker who you expected to find one day living on his own farm, petting soft things, feeding alfalfa to the rabbits, living off the fatta the lan’. “He doesn’t really like watching football and isn’t interested in the history of the game,” his former manager Sam Allardyce said of him, which curiously was exactly the same sensation you used to get while watching an Allardyce team.Was Carroll really such a blunt instrument? Maybe these days, now injuries have stiffened him to the point of immobility. But when he was on it, he was a genuinely, thrillingly gifted player: possessed of sharp, intelligent movement, a surprising turn of pace, a death ray of a left-footed shot, an impressive agility honed over hours and hours of bikram yoga with his wife. And then of course, there were the headers: glanced headers, flicked headers, nodded headers, clearing headers, soaring headers, thumping headers, for-heaven’s-sake-get-the-women-and-children-below-deck headers. Carroll headers were like snowflakes: superficially all alike, but under the bonnet no two were ever the same. Perhaps his greatest gift, though, was his ability to sear himself into the memory. Louis Saha scored 163 senior goals, but under police interrogation I wouldn’t be able to describe a single one of them. Carroll may have scored far less frequently, but when he did, you remembered it. That scissor kick against Crystal Palace. That hat-trick against Arsenal. That soaring header against Sweden in Euro 2012, a moment that at the time felt genuinely transformative: English football symbolically casting off its scrupulous continental pretensions and embracing its inner yeoman, and thus a goal that neatly presaged the Brexit vote by four years.The temptation now is to write Carroll off as so much damaged goods. And perhaps his body and his reputation have taken too much of a hit. Perhaps those seven years at West Ham – a club that buys strikers for the sole purpose of ruining them for life – have taken too arduous a toll. But even now, as Carroll hobbles into an uncertain summer, you can still detect the faint twinges of longing. “Come back home, Andy,” one Newcastle fan urged on Twitter. “Could do a job for us,” mused a Rangers fan. “I’d take Carroll at Leeds,” another fan tweeted, “could do the job Llorente used to do for Bielsa at Bilbao.”Perhaps, ultimately, there’s something about Carroll that appeals to the little kernel of yearning that resides deep within every football fan: the ‘what if’. What if he could get himself fit? What if he could be nurtured back to his peak? What if you could sign Stewart Downing to ping him crosses all day long? What if you’re 1-0 down after 75 minutes and just need… something different? Perhaps that’s why, in a hostile landscape of relentless running, of strikers as defenders and wingers as strikers, the Carroll retains a simple, earthen allure: the last hope, in a world beyond hope.
The decline of Andy Carroll and the existential threat to the concept of a one-man wrecking ball
Maybe it was pure coincidence that mere hours after West Ham announced that Andy Carroll was being released at the end of the season, Eden Hazard admitted he was leaving Chelsea. Hazard is a fine player, and would sashay into most teams in world football, but he’s not stupid. Even he knows that once Carroll’s menacing shadow appeared in the doorway at Cobham, a year of bench-warming and the occasional Carabao Cup appearance would be the limit of his ambitions for the 2019-20 season. Best to retreat to the relative safety of La Liga and wait for things to blow over.Then again, perhaps it was just coincidence. Actually, on reflection, it almost certainly was. The news of Carroll’s departure from West Ham didn’t so much break as waft into the ether, a wisp of white noise in the infra-red torrent accompanying English football’s biggest fortnight. Carroll is 30, hasn’t played since February, and it would be the height of understatement to observe that his former teams seem to be doing perfectly fine without him. Liverpool, the club that made him the most expensive British player in history, are in a second consecutive Champions League final under Jurgen Klopp. Next week England, having reinvented themselves along similar lines under Gareth Southgate, will go for Nations League glory in Portugal. Neither, in fairness, looks desperately in need of a striker whose Argos-sized catalogue of injuries has seen him miss 152 games in seven years at West Ham, and who even at his theoretical peak feels like a lost artefact, an anachronistic tribute act to a style of play – and a style of player – that elite football forsook some time ago. It’s not just that Carroll himself is moving on. The idea of Carroll – the concept of the thundering No9, the striking gargoyle, the one-man wrecking ball – seems also to have had its time. Nowadays if Carroll is evoked at all, it is as the sort of striker who offers you “something different”, which isn’t the most glowing tribute. Stacey Dooley would offer something different. A pile of Werner Herzog DVDs arranged in the shape of a human phallus would offer something different. A rotisserie chicken heated solely by the power of dreams would offer something different. When your only point of distinction is distinction itself, you’ve got problems.And on a wider level, English football is beginning to shed its Carrolls like dead skin. Look at this season’s top scorers in the Premier League and what is most conspicuous of all is the almost total absence of pure target men. Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Raheem Sterling and Hazard are essentially wide forwards. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sergio Aguero fit more in the ‘poacher’ category. Even Harry Kane sees himself more as a caring, sharing No10 these days: the sort of flatmate who will still glug all four of the Red Stripes you left in the fridge, but at least does you the courtesy of replacing them the following day.In fact, you probably have to go down to 10th on the list – Raul Jimenez at Wolves – before you find anything remotely resembling a traditional “big man”. Carroll himself didn’t score a league goal all season. His playing time stretched to just 455 minutes, his only goal a valedictory header at the end of largely frustrating FA Cup tie against Birmingham, best encapsulated by the time he got the ball eight yards from goal and dribbled it straight out of play for a goal-kick. Mutterings about his commitment and work ethic continue to beset him. But then, perhaps there’s nothing radically new in any of this. Even in his pomp, Carroll felt like something of a throwback: a spikily illicit pleasure in a largely bevelled-off game, the footballing equivalent of using your fingers to cover up the letters in ‘Scunthorpe’ to spell a rude word. It’s easy to forget that he signed for Liverpool in the same week as Luis Suarez: less elite forward pairing, more Hollywood buddy movie. Perhaps the real Andy Carroll was the memes we made along the way. And as his West Ham career crunched to an abortive halt, the popular conception of Carroll contracted along similar lines. By the end, he was regarded as a sort of useful idiot: the sort of striker who you expected to find one day living on his own farm, petting soft things, feeding alfalfa to the rabbits, living off the fatta the lan’. “He doesn’t really like watching football and isn’t interested in the history of the game,” his former manager Sam Allardyce said of him, which curiously was exactly the same sensation you used to get while watching an Allardyce team.Was Carroll really such a blunt instrument? Maybe these days, now injuries have stiffened him to the point of immobility. But when he was on it, he was a genuinely, thrillingly gifted player: possessed of sharp, intelligent movement, a surprising turn of pace, a death ray of a left-footed shot, an impressive agility honed over hours and hours of bikram yoga with his wife. And then of course, there were the headers: glanced headers, flicked headers, nodded headers, clearing headers, soaring headers, thumping headers, for-heaven’s-sake-get-the-women-and-children-below-deck headers. Carroll headers were like snowflakes: superficially all alike, but under the bonnet no two were ever the same. Perhaps his greatest gift, though, was his ability to sear himself into the memory. Louis Saha scored 163 senior goals, but under police interrogation I wouldn’t be able to describe a single one of them. Carroll may have scored far less frequently, but when he did, you remembered it. That scissor kick against Crystal Palace. That hat-trick against Arsenal. That soaring header against Sweden in Euro 2012, a moment that at the time felt genuinely transformative: English football symbolically casting off its scrupulous continental pretensions and embracing its inner yeoman, and thus a goal that neatly presaged the Brexit vote by four years.The temptation now is to write Carroll off as so much damaged goods. And perhaps his body and his reputation have taken too much of a hit. Perhaps those seven years at West Ham – a club that buys strikers for the sole purpose of ruining them for life – have taken too arduous a toll. But even now, as Carroll hobbles into an uncertain summer, you can still detect the faint twinges of longing. “Come back home, Andy,” one Newcastle fan urged on Twitter. “Could do a job for us,” mused a Rangers fan. “I’d take Carroll at Leeds,” another fan tweeted, “could do the job Llorente used to do for Bielsa at Bilbao.”Perhaps, ultimately, there’s something about Carroll that appeals to the little kernel of yearning that resides deep within every football fan: the ‘what if’. What if he could get himself fit? What if he could be nurtured back to his peak? What if you could sign Stewart Downing to ping him crosses all day long? What if you’re 1-0 down after 75 minutes and just need… something different? Perhaps that’s why, in a hostile landscape of relentless running, of strikers as defenders and wingers as strikers, the Carroll retains a simple, earthen allure: the last hope, in a world beyond hope.
Maybe it was pure coincidence that mere hours after West Ham announced that Andy Carroll was being released at the end of the season, Eden Hazard admitted he was leaving Chelsea. Hazard is a fine player, and would sashay into most teams in world football, but he’s not stupid. Even he knows that once Carroll’s menacing shadow appeared in the doorway at Cobham, a year of bench-warming and the occasional Carabao Cup appearance would be the limit of his ambitions for the 2019-20 season. Best to retreat to the relative safety of La Liga and wait for things to blow over.Then again, perhaps it was just coincidence. Actually, on reflection, it almost certainly was. The news of Carroll’s departure from West Ham didn’t so much break as waft into the ether, a wisp of white noise in the infra-red torrent accompanying English football’s biggest fortnight. Carroll is 30, hasn’t played since February, and it would be the height of understatement to observe that his former teams seem to be doing perfectly fine without him. Liverpool, the club that made him the most expensive British player in history, are in a second consecutive Champions League final under Jurgen Klopp. Next week England, having reinvented themselves along similar lines under Gareth Southgate, will go for Nations League glory in Portugal. Neither, in fairness, looks desperately in need of a striker whose Argos-sized catalogue of injuries has seen him miss 152 games in seven years at West Ham, and who even at his theoretical peak feels like a lost artefact, an anachronistic tribute act to a style of play – and a style of player – that elite football forsook some time ago. It’s not just that Carroll himself is moving on. The idea of Carroll – the concept of the thundering No9, the striking gargoyle, the one-man wrecking ball – seems also to have had its time. Nowadays if Carroll is evoked at all, it is as the sort of striker who offers you “something different”, which isn’t the most glowing tribute. Stacey Dooley would offer something different. A pile of Werner Herzog DVDs arranged in the shape of a human phallus would offer something different. A rotisserie chicken heated solely by the power of dreams would offer something different. When your only point of distinction is distinction itself, you’ve got problems.And on a wider level, English football is beginning to shed its Carrolls like dead skin. Look at this season’s top scorers in the Premier League and what is most conspicuous of all is the almost total absence of pure target men. Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Raheem Sterling and Hazard are essentially wide forwards. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sergio Aguero fit more in the ‘poacher’ category. Even Harry Kane sees himself more as a caring, sharing No10 these days: the sort of flatmate who will still glug all four of the Red Stripes you left in the fridge, but at least does you the courtesy of replacing them the following day.In fact, you probably have to go down to 10th on the list – Raul Jimenez at Wolves – before you find anything remotely resembling a traditional “big man”. Carroll himself didn’t score a league goal all season. His playing time stretched to just 455 minutes, his only goal a valedictory header at the end of largely frustrating FA Cup tie against Birmingham, best encapsulated by the time he got the ball eight yards from goal and dribbled it straight out of play for a goal-kick. Mutterings about his commitment and work ethic continue to beset him. But then, perhaps there’s nothing radically new in any of this. Even in his pomp, Carroll felt like something of a throwback: a spikily illicit pleasure in a largely bevelled-off game, the footballing equivalent of using your fingers to cover up the letters in ‘Scunthorpe’ to spell a rude word. It’s easy to forget that he signed for Liverpool in the same week as Luis Suarez: less elite forward pairing, more Hollywood buddy movie. Perhaps the real Andy Carroll was the memes we made along the way. And as his West Ham career crunched to an abortive halt, the popular conception of Carroll contracted along similar lines. By the end, he was regarded as a sort of useful idiot: the sort of striker who you expected to find one day living on his own farm, petting soft things, feeding alfalfa to the rabbits, living off the fatta the lan’. “He doesn’t really like watching football and isn’t interested in the history of the game,” his former manager Sam Allardyce said of him, which curiously was exactly the same sensation you used to get while watching an Allardyce team.Was Carroll really such a blunt instrument? Maybe these days, now injuries have stiffened him to the point of immobility. But when he was on it, he was a genuinely, thrillingly gifted player: possessed of sharp, intelligent movement, a surprising turn of pace, a death ray of a left-footed shot, an impressive agility honed over hours and hours of bikram yoga with his wife. And then of course, there were the headers: glanced headers, flicked headers, nodded headers, clearing headers, soaring headers, thumping headers, for-heaven’s-sake-get-the-women-and-children-below-deck headers. Carroll headers were like snowflakes: superficially all alike, but under the bonnet no two were ever the same. Perhaps his greatest gift, though, was his ability to sear himself into the memory. Louis Saha scored 163 senior goals, but under police interrogation I wouldn’t be able to describe a single one of them. Carroll may have scored far less frequently, but when he did, you remembered it. That scissor kick against Crystal Palace. That hat-trick against Arsenal. That soaring header against Sweden in Euro 2012, a moment that at the time felt genuinely transformative: English football symbolically casting off its scrupulous continental pretensions and embracing its inner yeoman, and thus a goal that neatly presaged the Brexit vote by four years.The temptation now is to write Carroll off as so much damaged goods. And perhaps his body and his reputation have taken too much of a hit. Perhaps those seven years at West Ham – a club that buys strikers for the sole purpose of ruining them for life – have taken too arduous a toll. But even now, as Carroll hobbles into an uncertain summer, you can still detect the faint twinges of longing. “Come back home, Andy,” one Newcastle fan urged on Twitter. “Could do a job for us,” mused a Rangers fan. “I’d take Carroll at Leeds,” another fan tweeted, “could do the job Llorente used to do for Bielsa at Bilbao.”Perhaps, ultimately, there’s something about Carroll that appeals to the little kernel of yearning that resides deep within every football fan: the ‘what if’. What if he could get himself fit? What if he could be nurtured back to his peak? What if you could sign Stewart Downing to ping him crosses all day long? What if you’re 1-0 down after 75 minutes and just need… something different? Perhaps that’s why, in a hostile landscape of relentless running, of strikers as defenders and wingers as strikers, the Carroll retains a simple, earthen allure: the last hope, in a world beyond hope.
The decline of Andy Carroll and the existential threat to the concept of a one-man wrecking ball
Maybe it was pure coincidence that mere hours after West Ham announced that Andy Carroll was being released at the end of the season, Eden Hazard admitted he was leaving Chelsea. Hazard is a fine player, and would sashay into most teams in world football, but he’s not stupid. Even he knows that once Carroll’s menacing shadow appeared in the doorway at Cobham, a year of bench-warming and the occasional Carabao Cup appearance would be the limit of his ambitions for the 2019-20 season. Best to retreat to the relative safety of La Liga and wait for things to blow over.Then again, perhaps it was just coincidence. Actually, on reflection, it almost certainly was. The news of Carroll’s departure from West Ham didn’t so much break as waft into the ether, a wisp of white noise in the infra-red torrent accompanying English football’s biggest fortnight. Carroll is 30, hasn’t played since February, and it would be the height of understatement to observe that his former teams seem to be doing perfectly fine without him. Liverpool, the club that made him the most expensive British player in history, are in a second consecutive Champions League final under Jurgen Klopp. Next week England, having reinvented themselves along similar lines under Gareth Southgate, will go for Nations League glory in Portugal. Neither, in fairness, looks desperately in need of a striker whose Argos-sized catalogue of injuries has seen him miss 152 games in seven years at West Ham, and who even at his theoretical peak feels like a lost artefact, an anachronistic tribute act to a style of play – and a style of player – that elite football forsook some time ago. It’s not just that Carroll himself is moving on. The idea of Carroll – the concept of the thundering No9, the striking gargoyle, the one-man wrecking ball – seems also to have had its time. Nowadays if Carroll is evoked at all, it is as the sort of striker who offers you “something different”, which isn’t the most glowing tribute. Stacey Dooley would offer something different. A pile of Werner Herzog DVDs arranged in the shape of a human phallus would offer something different. A rotisserie chicken heated solely by the power of dreams would offer something different. When your only point of distinction is distinction itself, you’ve got problems.And on a wider level, English football is beginning to shed its Carrolls like dead skin. Look at this season’s top scorers in the Premier League and what is most conspicuous of all is the almost total absence of pure target men. Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Raheem Sterling and Hazard are essentially wide forwards. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sergio Aguero fit more in the ‘poacher’ category. Even Harry Kane sees himself more as a caring, sharing No10 these days: the sort of flatmate who will still glug all four of the Red Stripes you left in the fridge, but at least does you the courtesy of replacing them the following day.In fact, you probably have to go down to 10th on the list – Raul Jimenez at Wolves – before you find anything remotely resembling a traditional “big man”. Carroll himself didn’t score a league goal all season. His playing time stretched to just 455 minutes, his only goal a valedictory header at the end of largely frustrating FA Cup tie against Birmingham, best encapsulated by the time he got the ball eight yards from goal and dribbled it straight out of play for a goal-kick. Mutterings about his commitment and work ethic continue to beset him. But then, perhaps there’s nothing radically new in any of this. Even in his pomp, Carroll felt like something of a throwback: a spikily illicit pleasure in a largely bevelled-off game, the footballing equivalent of using your fingers to cover up the letters in ‘Scunthorpe’ to spell a rude word. It’s easy to forget that he signed for Liverpool in the same week as Luis Suarez: less elite forward pairing, more Hollywood buddy movie. Perhaps the real Andy Carroll was the memes we made along the way. And as his West Ham career crunched to an abortive halt, the popular conception of Carroll contracted along similar lines. By the end, he was regarded as a sort of useful idiot: the sort of striker who you expected to find one day living on his own farm, petting soft things, feeding alfalfa to the rabbits, living off the fatta the lan’. “He doesn’t really like watching football and isn’t interested in the history of the game,” his former manager Sam Allardyce said of him, which curiously was exactly the same sensation you used to get while watching an Allardyce team.Was Carroll really such a blunt instrument? Maybe these days, now injuries have stiffened him to the point of immobility. But when he was on it, he was a genuinely, thrillingly gifted player: possessed of sharp, intelligent movement, a surprising turn of pace, a death ray of a left-footed shot, an impressive agility honed over hours and hours of bikram yoga with his wife. And then of course, there were the headers: glanced headers, flicked headers, nodded headers, clearing headers, soaring headers, thumping headers, for-heaven’s-sake-get-the-women-and-children-below-deck headers. Carroll headers were like snowflakes: superficially all alike, but under the bonnet no two were ever the same. Perhaps his greatest gift, though, was his ability to sear himself into the memory. Louis Saha scored 163 senior goals, but under police interrogation I wouldn’t be able to describe a single one of them. Carroll may have scored far less frequently, but when he did, you remembered it. That scissor kick against Crystal Palace. That hat-trick against Arsenal. That soaring header against Sweden in Euro 2012, a moment that at the time felt genuinely transformative: English football symbolically casting off its scrupulous continental pretensions and embracing its inner yeoman, and thus a goal that neatly presaged the Brexit vote by four years.The temptation now is to write Carroll off as so much damaged goods. And perhaps his body and his reputation have taken too much of a hit. Perhaps those seven years at West Ham – a club that buys strikers for the sole purpose of ruining them for life – have taken too arduous a toll. But even now, as Carroll hobbles into an uncertain summer, you can still detect the faint twinges of longing. “Come back home, Andy,” one Newcastle fan urged on Twitter. “Could do a job for us,” mused a Rangers fan. “I’d take Carroll at Leeds,” another fan tweeted, “could do the job Llorente used to do for Bielsa at Bilbao.”Perhaps, ultimately, there’s something about Carroll that appeals to the little kernel of yearning that resides deep within every football fan: the ‘what if’. What if he could get himself fit? What if he could be nurtured back to his peak? What if you could sign Stewart Downing to ping him crosses all day long? What if you’re 1-0 down after 75 minutes and just need… something different? Perhaps that’s why, in a hostile landscape of relentless running, of strikers as defenders and wingers as strikers, the Carroll retains a simple, earthen allure: the last hope, in a world beyond hope.
Maybe it was pure coincidence that mere hours after West Ham announced that Andy Carroll was being released at the end of the season, Eden Hazard admitted he was leaving Chelsea. Hazard is a fine player, and would sashay into most teams in world football, but he’s not stupid. Even he knows that once Carroll’s menacing shadow appeared in the doorway at Cobham, a year of bench-warming and the occasional Carabao Cup appearance would be the limit of his ambitions for the 2019-20 season. Best to retreat to the relative safety of La Liga and wait for things to blow over.Then again, perhaps it was just coincidence. Actually, on reflection, it almost certainly was. The news of Carroll’s departure from West Ham didn’t so much break as waft into the ether, a wisp of white noise in the infra-red torrent accompanying English football’s biggest fortnight. Carroll is 30, hasn’t played since February, and it would be the height of understatement to observe that his former teams seem to be doing perfectly fine without him. Liverpool, the club that made him the most expensive British player in history, are in a second consecutive Champions League final under Jurgen Klopp. Next week England, having reinvented themselves along similar lines under Gareth Southgate, will go for Nations League glory in Portugal. Neither, in fairness, looks desperately in need of a striker whose Argos-sized catalogue of injuries has seen him miss 152 games in seven years at West Ham, and who even at his theoretical peak feels like a lost artefact, an anachronistic tribute act to a style of play – and a style of player – that elite football forsook some time ago. It’s not just that Carroll himself is moving on. The idea of Carroll – the concept of the thundering No9, the striking gargoyle, the one-man wrecking ball – seems also to have had its time. Nowadays if Carroll is evoked at all, it is as the sort of striker who offers you “something different”, which isn’t the most glowing tribute. Stacey Dooley would offer something different. A pile of Werner Herzog DVDs arranged in the shape of a human phallus would offer something different. A rotisserie chicken heated solely by the power of dreams would offer something different. When your only point of distinction is distinction itself, you’ve got problems.And on a wider level, English football is beginning to shed its Carrolls like dead skin. Look at this season’s top scorers in the Premier League and what is most conspicuous of all is the almost total absence of pure target men. Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Raheem Sterling and Hazard are essentially wide forwards. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sergio Aguero fit more in the ‘poacher’ category. Even Harry Kane sees himself more as a caring, sharing No10 these days: the sort of flatmate who will still glug all four of the Red Stripes you left in the fridge, but at least does you the courtesy of replacing them the following day.In fact, you probably have to go down to 10th on the list – Raul Jimenez at Wolves – before you find anything remotely resembling a traditional “big man”. Carroll himself didn’t score a league goal all season. His playing time stretched to just 455 minutes, his only goal a valedictory header at the end of largely frustrating FA Cup tie against Birmingham, best encapsulated by the time he got the ball eight yards from goal and dribbled it straight out of play for a goal-kick. Mutterings about his commitment and work ethic continue to beset him. But then, perhaps there’s nothing radically new in any of this. Even in his pomp, Carroll felt like something of a throwback: a spikily illicit pleasure in a largely bevelled-off game, the footballing equivalent of using your fingers to cover up the letters in ‘Scunthorpe’ to spell a rude word. It’s easy to forget that he signed for Liverpool in the same week as Luis Suarez: less elite forward pairing, more Hollywood buddy movie. Perhaps the real Andy Carroll was the memes we made along the way. And as his West Ham career crunched to an abortive halt, the popular conception of Carroll contracted along similar lines. By the end, he was regarded as a sort of useful idiot: the sort of striker who you expected to find one day living on his own farm, petting soft things, feeding alfalfa to the rabbits, living off the fatta the lan’. “He doesn’t really like watching football and isn’t interested in the history of the game,” his former manager Sam Allardyce said of him, which curiously was exactly the same sensation you used to get while watching an Allardyce team.Was Carroll really such a blunt instrument? Maybe these days, now injuries have stiffened him to the point of immobility. But when he was on it, he was a genuinely, thrillingly gifted player: possessed of sharp, intelligent movement, a surprising turn of pace, a death ray of a left-footed shot, an impressive agility honed over hours and hours of bikram yoga with his wife. And then of course, there were the headers: glanced headers, flicked headers, nodded headers, clearing headers, soaring headers, thumping headers, for-heaven’s-sake-get-the-women-and-children-below-deck headers. Carroll headers were like snowflakes: superficially all alike, but under the bonnet no two were ever the same. Perhaps his greatest gift, though, was his ability to sear himself into the memory. Louis Saha scored 163 senior goals, but under police interrogation I wouldn’t be able to describe a single one of them. Carroll may have scored far less frequently, but when he did, you remembered it. That scissor kick against Crystal Palace. That hat-trick against Arsenal. That soaring header against Sweden in Euro 2012, a moment that at the time felt genuinely transformative: English football symbolically casting off its scrupulous continental pretensions and embracing its inner yeoman, and thus a goal that neatly presaged the Brexit vote by four years.The temptation now is to write Carroll off as so much damaged goods. And perhaps his body and his reputation have taken too much of a hit. Perhaps those seven years at West Ham – a club that buys strikers for the sole purpose of ruining them for life – have taken too arduous a toll. But even now, as Carroll hobbles into an uncertain summer, you can still detect the faint twinges of longing. “Come back home, Andy,” one Newcastle fan urged on Twitter. “Could do a job for us,” mused a Rangers fan. “I’d take Carroll at Leeds,” another fan tweeted, “could do the job Llorente used to do for Bielsa at Bilbao.”Perhaps, ultimately, there’s something about Carroll that appeals to the little kernel of yearning that resides deep within every football fan: the ‘what if’. What if he could get himself fit? What if he could be nurtured back to his peak? What if you could sign Stewart Downing to ping him crosses all day long? What if you’re 1-0 down after 75 minutes and just need… something different? Perhaps that’s why, in a hostile landscape of relentless running, of strikers as defenders and wingers as strikers, the Carroll retains a simple, earthen allure: the last hope, in a world beyond hope.
The decline of Andy Carroll and the existential threat to the concept of a one-man wrecking ball
Maybe it was pure coincidence that mere hours after West Ham announced that Andy Carroll was being released at the end of the season, Eden Hazard admitted he was leaving Chelsea. Hazard is a fine player, and would sashay into most teams in world football, but he’s not stupid. Even he knows that once Carroll’s menacing shadow appeared in the doorway at Cobham, a year of bench-warming and the occasional Carabao Cup appearance would be the limit of his ambitions for the 2019-20 season. Best to retreat to the relative safety of La Liga and wait for things to blow over.Then again, perhaps it was just coincidence. Actually, on reflection, it almost certainly was. The news of Carroll’s departure from West Ham didn’t so much break as waft into the ether, a wisp of white noise in the infra-red torrent accompanying English football’s biggest fortnight. Carroll is 30, hasn’t played since February, and it would be the height of understatement to observe that his former teams seem to be doing perfectly fine without him. Liverpool, the club that made him the most expensive British player in history, are in a second consecutive Champions League final under Jurgen Klopp. Next week England, having reinvented themselves along similar lines under Gareth Southgate, will go for Nations League glory in Portugal. Neither, in fairness, looks desperately in need of a striker whose Argos-sized catalogue of injuries has seen him miss 152 games in seven years at West Ham, and who even at his theoretical peak feels like a lost artefact, an anachronistic tribute act to a style of play – and a style of player – that elite football forsook some time ago. It’s not just that Carroll himself is moving on. The idea of Carroll – the concept of the thundering No9, the striking gargoyle, the one-man wrecking ball – seems also to have had its time. Nowadays if Carroll is evoked at all, it is as the sort of striker who offers you “something different”, which isn’t the most glowing tribute. Stacey Dooley would offer something different. A pile of Werner Herzog DVDs arranged in the shape of a human phallus would offer something different. A rotisserie chicken heated solely by the power of dreams would offer something different. When your only point of distinction is distinction itself, you’ve got problems.And on a wider level, English football is beginning to shed its Carrolls like dead skin. Look at this season’s top scorers in the Premier League and what is most conspicuous of all is the almost total absence of pure target men. Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Raheem Sterling and Hazard are essentially wide forwards. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sergio Aguero fit more in the ‘poacher’ category. Even Harry Kane sees himself more as a caring, sharing No10 these days: the sort of flatmate who will still glug all four of the Red Stripes you left in the fridge, but at least does you the courtesy of replacing them the following day.In fact, you probably have to go down to 10th on the list – Raul Jimenez at Wolves – before you find anything remotely resembling a traditional “big man”. Carroll himself didn’t score a league goal all season. His playing time stretched to just 455 minutes, his only goal a valedictory header at the end of largely frustrating FA Cup tie against Birmingham, best encapsulated by the time he got the ball eight yards from goal and dribbled it straight out of play for a goal-kick. Mutterings about his commitment and work ethic continue to beset him. But then, perhaps there’s nothing radically new in any of this. Even in his pomp, Carroll felt like something of a throwback: a spikily illicit pleasure in a largely bevelled-off game, the footballing equivalent of using your fingers to cover up the letters in ‘Scunthorpe’ to spell a rude word. It’s easy to forget that he signed for Liverpool in the same week as Luis Suarez: less elite forward pairing, more Hollywood buddy movie. Perhaps the real Andy Carroll was the memes we made along the way. And as his West Ham career crunched to an abortive halt, the popular conception of Carroll contracted along similar lines. By the end, he was regarded as a sort of useful idiot: the sort of striker who you expected to find one day living on his own farm, petting soft things, feeding alfalfa to the rabbits, living off the fatta the lan’. “He doesn’t really like watching football and isn’t interested in the history of the game,” his former manager Sam Allardyce said of him, which curiously was exactly the same sensation you used to get while watching an Allardyce team.Was Carroll really such a blunt instrument? Maybe these days, now injuries have stiffened him to the point of immobility. But when he was on it, he was a genuinely, thrillingly gifted player: possessed of sharp, intelligent movement, a surprising turn of pace, a death ray of a left-footed shot, an impressive agility honed over hours and hours of bikram yoga with his wife. And then of course, there were the headers: glanced headers, flicked headers, nodded headers, clearing headers, soaring headers, thumping headers, for-heaven’s-sake-get-the-women-and-children-below-deck headers. Carroll headers were like snowflakes: superficially all alike, but under the bonnet no two were ever the same. Perhaps his greatest gift, though, was his ability to sear himself into the memory. Louis Saha scored 163 senior goals, but under police interrogation I wouldn’t be able to describe a single one of them. Carroll may have scored far less frequently, but when he did, you remembered it. That scissor kick against Crystal Palace. That hat-trick against Arsenal. That soaring header against Sweden in Euro 2012, a moment that at the time felt genuinely transformative: English football symbolically casting off its scrupulous continental pretensions and embracing its inner yeoman, and thus a goal that neatly presaged the Brexit vote by four years.The temptation now is to write Carroll off as so much damaged goods. And perhaps his body and his reputation have taken too much of a hit. Perhaps those seven years at West Ham – a club that buys strikers for the sole purpose of ruining them for life – have taken too arduous a toll. But even now, as Carroll hobbles into an uncertain summer, you can still detect the faint twinges of longing. “Come back home, Andy,” one Newcastle fan urged on Twitter. “Could do a job for us,” mused a Rangers fan. “I’d take Carroll at Leeds,” another fan tweeted, “could do the job Llorente used to do for Bielsa at Bilbao.”Perhaps, ultimately, there’s something about Carroll that appeals to the little kernel of yearning that resides deep within every football fan: the ‘what if’. What if he could get himself fit? What if he could be nurtured back to his peak? What if you could sign Stewart Downing to ping him crosses all day long? What if you’re 1-0 down after 75 minutes and just need… something different? Perhaps that’s why, in a hostile landscape of relentless running, of strikers as defenders and wingers as strikers, the Carroll retains a simple, earthen allure: the last hope, in a world beyond hope.
Maybe it was pure coincidence that mere hours after West Ham announced that Andy Carroll was being released at the end of the season, Eden Hazard admitted he was leaving Chelsea. Hazard is a fine player, and would sashay into most teams in world football, but he’s not stupid. Even he knows that once Carroll’s menacing shadow appeared in the doorway at Cobham, a year of bench-warming and the occasional Carabao Cup appearance would be the limit of his ambitions for the 2019-20 season. Best to retreat to the relative safety of La Liga and wait for things to blow over.Then again, perhaps it was just coincidence. Actually, on reflection, it almost certainly was. The news of Carroll’s departure from West Ham didn’t so much break as waft into the ether, a wisp of white noise in the infra-red torrent accompanying English football’s biggest fortnight. Carroll is 30, hasn’t played since February, and it would be the height of understatement to observe that his former teams seem to be doing perfectly fine without him. Liverpool, the club that made him the most expensive British player in history, are in a second consecutive Champions League final under Jurgen Klopp. Next week England, having reinvented themselves along similar lines under Gareth Southgate, will go for Nations League glory in Portugal. Neither, in fairness, looks desperately in need of a striker whose Argos-sized catalogue of injuries has seen him miss 152 games in seven years at West Ham, and who even at his theoretical peak feels like a lost artefact, an anachronistic tribute act to a style of play – and a style of player – that elite football forsook some time ago. It’s not just that Carroll himself is moving on. The idea of Carroll – the concept of the thundering No9, the striking gargoyle, the one-man wrecking ball – seems also to have had its time. Nowadays if Carroll is evoked at all, it is as the sort of striker who offers you “something different”, which isn’t the most glowing tribute. Stacey Dooley would offer something different. A pile of Werner Herzog DVDs arranged in the shape of a human phallus would offer something different. A rotisserie chicken heated solely by the power of dreams would offer something different. When your only point of distinction is distinction itself, you’ve got problems.And on a wider level, English football is beginning to shed its Carrolls like dead skin. Look at this season’s top scorers in the Premier League and what is most conspicuous of all is the almost total absence of pure target men. Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Raheem Sterling and Hazard are essentially wide forwards. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sergio Aguero fit more in the ‘poacher’ category. Even Harry Kane sees himself more as a caring, sharing No10 these days: the sort of flatmate who will still glug all four of the Red Stripes you left in the fridge, but at least does you the courtesy of replacing them the following day.In fact, you probably have to go down to 10th on the list – Raul Jimenez at Wolves – before you find anything remotely resembling a traditional “big man”. Carroll himself didn’t score a league goal all season. His playing time stretched to just 455 minutes, his only goal a valedictory header at the end of largely frustrating FA Cup tie against Birmingham, best encapsulated by the time he got the ball eight yards from goal and dribbled it straight out of play for a goal-kick. Mutterings about his commitment and work ethic continue to beset him. But then, perhaps there’s nothing radically new in any of this. Even in his pomp, Carroll felt like something of a throwback: a spikily illicit pleasure in a largely bevelled-off game, the footballing equivalent of using your fingers to cover up the letters in ‘Scunthorpe’ to spell a rude word. It’s easy to forget that he signed for Liverpool in the same week as Luis Suarez: less elite forward pairing, more Hollywood buddy movie. Perhaps the real Andy Carroll was the memes we made along the way. And as his West Ham career crunched to an abortive halt, the popular conception of Carroll contracted along similar lines. By the end, he was regarded as a sort of useful idiot: the sort of striker who you expected to find one day living on his own farm, petting soft things, feeding alfalfa to the rabbits, living off the fatta the lan’. “He doesn’t really like watching football and isn’t interested in the history of the game,” his former manager Sam Allardyce said of him, which curiously was exactly the same sensation you used to get while watching an Allardyce team.Was Carroll really such a blunt instrument? Maybe these days, now injuries have stiffened him to the point of immobility. But when he was on it, he was a genuinely, thrillingly gifted player: possessed of sharp, intelligent movement, a surprising turn of pace, a death ray of a left-footed shot, an impressive agility honed over hours and hours of bikram yoga with his wife. And then of course, there were the headers: glanced headers, flicked headers, nodded headers, clearing headers, soaring headers, thumping headers, for-heaven’s-sake-get-the-women-and-children-below-deck headers. Carroll headers were like snowflakes: superficially all alike, but under the bonnet no two were ever the same. Perhaps his greatest gift, though, was his ability to sear himself into the memory. Louis Saha scored 163 senior goals, but under police interrogation I wouldn’t be able to describe a single one of them. Carroll may have scored far less frequently, but when he did, you remembered it. That scissor kick against Crystal Palace. That hat-trick against Arsenal. That soaring header against Sweden in Euro 2012, a moment that at the time felt genuinely transformative: English football symbolically casting off its scrupulous continental pretensions and embracing its inner yeoman, and thus a goal that neatly presaged the Brexit vote by four years.The temptation now is to write Carroll off as so much damaged goods. And perhaps his body and his reputation have taken too much of a hit. Perhaps those seven years at West Ham – a club that buys strikers for the sole purpose of ruining them for life – have taken too arduous a toll. But even now, as Carroll hobbles into an uncertain summer, you can still detect the faint twinges of longing. “Come back home, Andy,” one Newcastle fan urged on Twitter. “Could do a job for us,” mused a Rangers fan. “I’d take Carroll at Leeds,” another fan tweeted, “could do the job Llorente used to do for Bielsa at Bilbao.”Perhaps, ultimately, there’s something about Carroll that appeals to the little kernel of yearning that resides deep within every football fan: the ‘what if’. What if he could get himself fit? What if he could be nurtured back to his peak? What if you could sign Stewart Downing to ping him crosses all day long? What if you’re 1-0 down after 75 minutes and just need… something different? Perhaps that’s why, in a hostile landscape of relentless running, of strikers as defenders and wingers as strikers, the Carroll retains a simple, earthen allure: the last hope, in a world beyond hope.
The decline of Andy Carroll and the existential threat to the concept of a one-man wrecking ball
Maybe it was pure coincidence that mere hours after West Ham announced that Andy Carroll was being released at the end of the season, Eden Hazard admitted he was leaving Chelsea. Hazard is a fine player, and would sashay into most teams in world football, but he’s not stupid. Even he knows that once Carroll’s menacing shadow appeared in the doorway at Cobham, a year of bench-warming and the occasional Carabao Cup appearance would be the limit of his ambitions for the 2019-20 season. Best to retreat to the relative safety of La Liga and wait for things to blow over.Then again, perhaps it was just coincidence. Actually, on reflection, it almost certainly was. The news of Carroll’s departure from West Ham didn’t so much break as waft into the ether, a wisp of white noise in the infra-red torrent accompanying English football’s biggest fortnight. Carroll is 30, hasn’t played since February, and it would be the height of understatement to observe that his former teams seem to be doing perfectly fine without him. Liverpool, the club that made him the most expensive British player in history, are in a second consecutive Champions League final under Jurgen Klopp. Next week England, having reinvented themselves along similar lines under Gareth Southgate, will go for Nations League glory in Portugal. Neither, in fairness, looks desperately in need of a striker whose Argos-sized catalogue of injuries has seen him miss 152 games in seven years at West Ham, and who even at his theoretical peak feels like a lost artefact, an anachronistic tribute act to a style of play – and a style of player – that elite football forsook some time ago. It’s not just that Carroll himself is moving on. The idea of Carroll – the concept of the thundering No9, the striking gargoyle, the one-man wrecking ball – seems also to have had its time. Nowadays if Carroll is evoked at all, it is as the sort of striker who offers you “something different”, which isn’t the most glowing tribute. Stacey Dooley would offer something different. A pile of Werner Herzog DVDs arranged in the shape of a human phallus would offer something different. A rotisserie chicken heated solely by the power of dreams would offer something different. When your only point of distinction is distinction itself, you’ve got problems.And on a wider level, English football is beginning to shed its Carrolls like dead skin. Look at this season’s top scorers in the Premier League and what is most conspicuous of all is the almost total absence of pure target men. Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Raheem Sterling and Hazard are essentially wide forwards. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sergio Aguero fit more in the ‘poacher’ category. Even Harry Kane sees himself more as a caring, sharing No10 these days: the sort of flatmate who will still glug all four of the Red Stripes you left in the fridge, but at least does you the courtesy of replacing them the following day.In fact, you probably have to go down to 10th on the list – Raul Jimenez at Wolves – before you find anything remotely resembling a traditional “big man”. Carroll himself didn’t score a league goal all season. His playing time stretched to just 455 minutes, his only goal a valedictory header at the end of largely frustrating FA Cup tie against Birmingham, best encapsulated by the time he got the ball eight yards from goal and dribbled it straight out of play for a goal-kick. Mutterings about his commitment and work ethic continue to beset him. But then, perhaps there’s nothing radically new in any of this. Even in his pomp, Carroll felt like something of a throwback: a spikily illicit pleasure in a largely bevelled-off game, the footballing equivalent of using your fingers to cover up the letters in ‘Scunthorpe’ to spell a rude word. It’s easy to forget that he signed for Liverpool in the same week as Luis Suarez: less elite forward pairing, more Hollywood buddy movie. Perhaps the real Andy Carroll was the memes we made along the way. And as his West Ham career crunched to an abortive halt, the popular conception of Carroll contracted along similar lines. By the end, he was regarded as a sort of useful idiot: the sort of striker who you expected to find one day living on his own farm, petting soft things, feeding alfalfa to the rabbits, living off the fatta the lan’. “He doesn’t really like watching football and isn’t interested in the history of the game,” his former manager Sam Allardyce said of him, which curiously was exactly the same sensation you used to get while watching an Allardyce team.Was Carroll really such a blunt instrument? Maybe these days, now injuries have stiffened him to the point of immobility. But when he was on it, he was a genuinely, thrillingly gifted player: possessed of sharp, intelligent movement, a surprising turn of pace, a death ray of a left-footed shot, an impressive agility honed over hours and hours of bikram yoga with his wife. And then of course, there were the headers: glanced headers, flicked headers, nodded headers, clearing headers, soaring headers, thumping headers, for-heaven’s-sake-get-the-women-and-children-below-deck headers. Carroll headers were like snowflakes: superficially all alike, but under the bonnet no two were ever the same. Perhaps his greatest gift, though, was his ability to sear himself into the memory. Louis Saha scored 163 senior goals, but under police interrogation I wouldn’t be able to describe a single one of them. Carroll may have scored far less frequently, but when he did, you remembered it. That scissor kick against Crystal Palace. That hat-trick against Arsenal. That soaring header against Sweden in Euro 2012, a moment that at the time felt genuinely transformative: English football symbolically casting off its scrupulous continental pretensions and embracing its inner yeoman, and thus a goal that neatly presaged the Brexit vote by four years.The temptation now is to write Carroll off as so much damaged goods. And perhaps his body and his reputation have taken too much of a hit. Perhaps those seven years at West Ham – a club that buys strikers for the sole purpose of ruining them for life – have taken too arduous a toll. But even now, as Carroll hobbles into an uncertain summer, you can still detect the faint twinges of longing. “Come back home, Andy,” one Newcastle fan urged on Twitter. “Could do a job for us,” mused a Rangers fan. “I’d take Carroll at Leeds,” another fan tweeted, “could do the job Llorente used to do for Bielsa at Bilbao.”Perhaps, ultimately, there’s something about Carroll that appeals to the little kernel of yearning that resides deep within every football fan: the ‘what if’. What if he could get himself fit? What if he could be nurtured back to his peak? What if you could sign Stewart Downing to ping him crosses all day long? What if you’re 1-0 down after 75 minutes and just need… something different? Perhaps that’s why, in a hostile landscape of relentless running, of strikers as defenders and wingers as strikers, the Carroll retains a simple, earthen allure: the last hope, in a world beyond hope.
The Barcelona man hopes his Euro 2012 winning captain recovers swiftly from a heart attack
Jordi Alba sends best wishes to Spain teammate Casillas
The Barcelona man hopes his Euro 2012 winning captain recovers swiftly from a heart attack
The Barcelona man hopes his Euro 2012 winning captain recovers swiftly from a heart attack
Jordi Alba sends best wishes to Spain teammate Casillas
The Barcelona man hopes his Euro 2012 winning captain recovers swiftly from a heart attack
The Barcelona man hopes his Euro 2012 winning captain recovers swiftly from a heart attack
Jordi Alba sends best wishes to Spain teammate Casillas
The Barcelona man hopes his Euro 2012 winning captain recovers swiftly from a heart attack
FILE PHOTO: Florent Malouda attends a training session at France's training center in Kircha near Donetsk June 12, 2012. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Florent Malouda attends a training session at France's training center in Kircha near Donetsk during the Euro 2012
FILE PHOTO: Florent Malouda attends a training session at France's training center in Kircha near Donetsk June 12, 2012. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Florent Malouda attends a training session at France's training center in Kircha near Donetsk June 12, 2012. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Florent Malouda attends a training session at France's training center in Kircha near Donetsk during the Euro 2012
FILE PHOTO: Florent Malouda attends a training session at France's training center in Kircha near Donetsk June 12, 2012. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo
Iker Casillas did not go gentle into that good night. Unlike some other members of the Spain team he captained to victory at Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, when the time came to leave La Liga, he did not seek out a lucrative semi-retirement gig as a talisman in a depressurisation league.
Iker Casillas: Last galactico standing shows Jose Mourinho that living well is the best revenge
Iker Casillas did not go gentle into that good night. Unlike some other members of the Spain team he captained to victory at Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, when the time came to leave La Liga, he did not seek out a lucrative semi-retirement gig as a talisman in a depressurisation league.
Iker Casillas did not go gentle into that good night. Unlike some other members of the Spain team he captained to victory at Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, when the time came to leave La Liga, he did not seek out a lucrative semi-retirement gig as a talisman in a depressurisation league.
Iker Casillas: Last galactico standing shows Jose Mourinho that living well is the best revenge
Iker Casillas did not go gentle into that good night. Unlike some other members of the Spain team he captained to victory at Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, when the time came to leave La Liga, he did not seek out a lucrative semi-retirement gig as a talisman in a depressurisation league.
Iker Casillas did not go gentle into that good night. Unlike some other members of the Spain team he captained to victory at Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, when the time came to leave La Liga, he did not seek out a lucrative semi-retirement gig as a talisman in a depressurisation league.
Iker Casillas: Last galactico standing shows Jose Mourinho that living well is the best revenge
Iker Casillas did not go gentle into that good night. Unlike some other members of the Spain team he captained to victory at Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, when the time came to leave La Liga, he did not seek out a lucrative semi-retirement gig as a talisman in a depressurisation league.
Kyle Walker gave the England squad a talk on how to handle the intensity of Montenegro’s hostile 15,000-seater stadium, as the only player to have appeared at the ground before.The full-back was called up for the side’s last game in Podgorica, a 2-2 draw in 2011 that saw projectiles thrown and a targeting of Wayne Rooney that infamously resulted in the then captain getting sent off and suspended for the start of Euro 2012.Southgate had earlier said that he likes seeing how young players respond to such situations, but England have been well prepared, with Walker detailing his experience as part of that.“Kyle is the only player to have played in the fixture, so he spoke a bit in the meeting yesterday about the experience to help the players prepare for what's coming so it's not a surprise,” Southgate said. “I expect all the players, even the younger ones, to show leadership in their own way. But to have the older ones setting the example in those tense moments.“It's really intense. A passionate local support. That's often the way travelling in Europe, playing qualifying ties. It's a really good experience of the younger players to go through and see how they come through it.”Southgate said the circumstances are all the more important because one of the things he has been seeking to improve with England is discipline, pointing to how often that has cost the country at tournaments. * Read more How Sterling learned to become England’s complete player“It's something we've talked about a lot,” Southgate revealed. “Tournaments is another classic. Our undoing has often been a lack of discipline in matches. That's expected of this group now. They have to respond in the right way, stay calm in moments. A lot of times, going down to 10 men affects the result of games. We have to make sure we don't allow them that opportunity.”Jordan Henderson meanwhile feels England are now too focused a team to let any hostile atmosphere affect them.“You don't think about it, to be honest. You're concentrating on the game, in the zone of playing football. The crowd is irrelevant. We're there to put on a performance, get three points. The mentality is to focused on playing football. It's part and parcel of being a professional footballer."It might not be like that tomorrow – it might be – but we have to be prepared for anything. As we've seen in the English leagues recently, it happens everywhere. The way [Jack] Grealish handled that situation [at Birmingham City with Aston Villa] was brilliant.”
Montenegro vs England: Kyle Walker gives team talk on how to handle fan hostility
Kyle Walker gave the England squad a talk on how to handle the intensity of Montenegro’s hostile 15,000-seater stadium, as the only player to have appeared at the ground before.The full-back was called up for the side’s last game in Podgorica, a 2-2 draw in 2011 that saw projectiles thrown and a targeting of Wayne Rooney that infamously resulted in the then captain getting sent off and suspended for the start of Euro 2012.Southgate had earlier said that he likes seeing how young players respond to such situations, but England have been well prepared, with Walker detailing his experience as part of that.“Kyle is the only player to have played in the fixture, so he spoke a bit in the meeting yesterday about the experience to help the players prepare for what's coming so it's not a surprise,” Southgate said. “I expect all the players, even the younger ones, to show leadership in their own way. But to have the older ones setting the example in those tense moments.“It's really intense. A passionate local support. That's often the way travelling in Europe, playing qualifying ties. It's a really good experience of the younger players to go through and see how they come through it.”Southgate said the circumstances are all the more important because one of the things he has been seeking to improve with England is discipline, pointing to how often that has cost the country at tournaments. * Read more How Sterling learned to become England’s complete player“It's something we've talked about a lot,” Southgate revealed. “Tournaments is another classic. Our undoing has often been a lack of discipline in matches. That's expected of this group now. They have to respond in the right way, stay calm in moments. A lot of times, going down to 10 men affects the result of games. We have to make sure we don't allow them that opportunity.”Jordan Henderson meanwhile feels England are now too focused a team to let any hostile atmosphere affect them.“You don't think about it, to be honest. You're concentrating on the game, in the zone of playing football. The crowd is irrelevant. We're there to put on a performance, get three points. The mentality is to focused on playing football. It's part and parcel of being a professional footballer."It might not be like that tomorrow – it might be – but we have to be prepared for anything. As we've seen in the English leagues recently, it happens everywhere. The way [Jack] Grealish handled that situation [at Birmingham City with Aston Villa] was brilliant.”
Kyle Walker gave the England squad a talk on how to handle the intensity of Montenegro’s hostile 15,000-seater stadium, as the only player to have appeared at the ground before.The full-back was called up for the side’s last game in Podgorica, a 2-2 draw in 2011 that saw projectiles thrown and a targeting of Wayne Rooney that infamously resulted in the then captain getting sent off and suspended for the start of Euro 2012.Southgate had earlier said that he likes seeing how young players respond to such situations, but England have been well prepared, with Walker detailing his experience as part of that.“Kyle is the only player to have played in the fixture, so he spoke a bit in the meeting yesterday about the experience to help the players prepare for what's coming so it's not a surprise,” Southgate said. “I expect all the players, even the younger ones, to show leadership in their own way. But to have the older ones setting the example in those tense moments.“It's really intense. A passionate local support. That's often the way travelling in Europe, playing qualifying ties. It's a really good experience of the younger players to go through and see how they come through it.”Southgate said the circumstances are all the more important because one of the things he has been seeking to improve with England is discipline, pointing to how often that has cost the country at tournaments. * Read more How Sterling learned to become England’s complete player“It's something we've talked about a lot,” Southgate revealed. “Tournaments is another classic. Our undoing has often been a lack of discipline in matches. That's expected of this group now. They have to respond in the right way, stay calm in moments. A lot of times, going down to 10 men affects the result of games. We have to make sure we don't allow them that opportunity.”Jordan Henderson meanwhile feels England are now too focused a team to let any hostile atmosphere affect them.“You don't think about it, to be honest. You're concentrating on the game, in the zone of playing football. The crowd is irrelevant. We're there to put on a performance, get three points. The mentality is to focused on playing football. It's part and parcel of being a professional footballer."It might not be like that tomorrow – it might be – but we have to be prepared for anything. As we've seen in the English leagues recently, it happens everywhere. The way [Jack] Grealish handled that situation [at Birmingham City with Aston Villa] was brilliant.”
Montenegro vs England: Kyle Walker gives team talk on how to handle fan hostility
Kyle Walker gave the England squad a talk on how to handle the intensity of Montenegro’s hostile 15,000-seater stadium, as the only player to have appeared at the ground before.The full-back was called up for the side’s last game in Podgorica, a 2-2 draw in 2011 that saw projectiles thrown and a targeting of Wayne Rooney that infamously resulted in the then captain getting sent off and suspended for the start of Euro 2012.Southgate had earlier said that he likes seeing how young players respond to such situations, but England have been well prepared, with Walker detailing his experience as part of that.“Kyle is the only player to have played in the fixture, so he spoke a bit in the meeting yesterday about the experience to help the players prepare for what's coming so it's not a surprise,” Southgate said. “I expect all the players, even the younger ones, to show leadership in their own way. But to have the older ones setting the example in those tense moments.“It's really intense. A passionate local support. That's often the way travelling in Europe, playing qualifying ties. It's a really good experience of the younger players to go through and see how they come through it.”Southgate said the circumstances are all the more important because one of the things he has been seeking to improve with England is discipline, pointing to how often that has cost the country at tournaments. * Read more How Sterling learned to become England’s complete player“It's something we've talked about a lot,” Southgate revealed. “Tournaments is another classic. Our undoing has often been a lack of discipline in matches. That's expected of this group now. They have to respond in the right way, stay calm in moments. A lot of times, going down to 10 men affects the result of games. We have to make sure we don't allow them that opportunity.”Jordan Henderson meanwhile feels England are now too focused a team to let any hostile atmosphere affect them.“You don't think about it, to be honest. You're concentrating on the game, in the zone of playing football. The crowd is irrelevant. We're there to put on a performance, get three points. The mentality is to focused on playing football. It's part and parcel of being a professional footballer."It might not be like that tomorrow – it might be – but we have to be prepared for anything. As we've seen in the English leagues recently, it happens everywhere. The way [Jack] Grealish handled that situation [at Birmingham City with Aston Villa] was brilliant.”
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during a training session at St George’s Park ahead of their match against Montenegro. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty ImagesGradski Stadion is one of Europe’s less accommodating venues for international football. Only around 15,000 will cram into Montenegro’s home ground to see if England can be overcome on Monday but they will make the noise of a crowd double the size.The stands at either end are concrete, compact and severe, hemmed close to the bylines in a manner reminiscent of Loftus Road. The home fans have a reputation for pushing the boundaries and England have found their limits tested in previous visits.Only Kyle Walker remains from the squad who travelled in 2013 and returned bruised by a late equaliser from Dejan Damjanovic. That was low-key fare compared with what passed 17 months previously on a night that brought Montenegro as close to success as they have been since being granted Uefa membership in January 2007.On a chaotic evening that had started serenely, England lost their way. Ashley Young and Darren Bent seemed to have put them in an impregnable position but then Elsad Zverotic pulled one back, Wayne Rooney lost his head and was sent off, and Andrija Delibasic sparked a pitch invasion by levelling in stoppage time. The point took England to Euro 2012 anyway; it gave Montenegro a play-off spot, too, but they still await qualification for a major finals and will need to upset the odds again.“Things that happen in the past are just nice results for Montenegro,” said their manager, the veteran former Partizan Belgrade coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic. His side began their qualifying campaign respectably on Friday in Sofia, ending up unfortunate to draw 1-1 with Bulgaria when their hosts were awarded an 82nd-minute penalty for a challenge Vladimir Jovovic appeared to have made outside the area. “When you concede a goal after the referee’s mistake it’s hard not to comment on it,” said the midfielder Marko Jankovic. Tumbakovic admitted they had “lost two points” but also said their priority had been to depart unbeaten.That aim having been achieved, an inconsistent Montenegro can legitimately sense an opportunity. Group A of the Euro 2020 qualifiers has a curious feel; England are overwhelming favourites but an argument could be made for any of the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Kosovo and Tumbakovic’s team making second place. All fall into the “banana skin” category and, while results against England may not be decisive, any major improvement on Czech Republic’s hammering at Wembley should breed optimism.“I’m really trying but I can’t,” Tumbakovic said when asked if he could pinpoint a weakness in the England party. “We in the coaching team are realistic.” But he will be aware England have floundered before in Gradski Stadion. Montenegro have few recognisable names, especially with Stevan Jovetic sidelined, but Tumbakovic suggested Stefan Savic – the Atlético Madrid centre-back and, like Jovetic, once of Manchester City – is winning his battle against the injury that kept him out of Friday’s game.The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.Montenegro also have a striker on form. Stefan Mugosa scored a beautifully-taken goal against Bulgaria, adding to three Nations League strikes last autumn. A hot prospect in his early 20s, Mugosa did not make the grade at Kaiserslautern and 1860 Munich but averages better than a goal every other game for Incheon United, his team in South Korea. “It’s a special feeling for me to play and score goals for the national team,” Mugosa said. At 27 he may now be fulfilling his potential and should partner the tricky Fatos Beciraj, a veteran of that historic match in 2011, up front.This is a workmanlike side in the main and England can improve on previous outcomes if they master the heat from behind the goalmouths. Montenegro were fined for their fans’ celebrations after the comeback from two down and Joe Hart was among those targeted with missiles on England’s next visit, with brawls also breaking out between home supporters.“The history of our duels tells us we can compete,” Jankovic said of the on-pitch skirmishes. Montenegro are rarely rolled over and, as a minimum, England must expect another fight.
England must contend with harsh memories when facing Montenegro
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during a training session at St George’s Park ahead of their match against Montenegro. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty ImagesGradski Stadion is one of Europe’s less accommodating venues for international football. Only around 15,000 will cram into Montenegro’s home ground to see if England can be overcome on Monday but they will make the noise of a crowd double the size.The stands at either end are concrete, compact and severe, hemmed close to the bylines in a manner reminiscent of Loftus Road. The home fans have a reputation for pushing the boundaries and England have found their limits tested in previous visits.Only Kyle Walker remains from the squad who travelled in 2013 and returned bruised by a late equaliser from Dejan Damjanovic. That was low-key fare compared with what passed 17 months previously on a night that brought Montenegro as close to success as they have been since being granted Uefa membership in January 2007.On a chaotic evening that had started serenely, England lost their way. Ashley Young and Darren Bent seemed to have put them in an impregnable position but then Elsad Zverotic pulled one back, Wayne Rooney lost his head and was sent off, and Andrija Delibasic sparked a pitch invasion by levelling in stoppage time. The point took England to Euro 2012 anyway; it gave Montenegro a play-off spot, too, but they still await qualification for a major finals and will need to upset the odds again.“Things that happen in the past are just nice results for Montenegro,” said their manager, the veteran former Partizan Belgrade coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic. His side began their qualifying campaign respectably on Friday in Sofia, ending up unfortunate to draw 1-1 with Bulgaria when their hosts were awarded an 82nd-minute penalty for a challenge Vladimir Jovovic appeared to have made outside the area. “When you concede a goal after the referee’s mistake it’s hard not to comment on it,” said the midfielder Marko Jankovic. Tumbakovic admitted they had “lost two points” but also said their priority had been to depart unbeaten.That aim having been achieved, an inconsistent Montenegro can legitimately sense an opportunity. Group A of the Euro 2020 qualifiers has a curious feel; England are overwhelming favourites but an argument could be made for any of the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Kosovo and Tumbakovic’s team making second place. All fall into the “banana skin” category and, while results against England may not be decisive, any major improvement on Czech Republic’s hammering at Wembley should breed optimism.“I’m really trying but I can’t,” Tumbakovic said when asked if he could pinpoint a weakness in the England party. “We in the coaching team are realistic.” But he will be aware England have floundered before in Gradski Stadion. Montenegro have few recognisable names, especially with Stevan Jovetic sidelined, but Tumbakovic suggested Stefan Savic – the Atlético Madrid centre-back and, like Jovetic, once of Manchester City – is winning his battle against the injury that kept him out of Friday’s game.The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.Montenegro also have a striker on form. Stefan Mugosa scored a beautifully-taken goal against Bulgaria, adding to three Nations League strikes last autumn. A hot prospect in his early 20s, Mugosa did not make the grade at Kaiserslautern and 1860 Munich but averages better than a goal every other game for Incheon United, his team in South Korea. “It’s a special feeling for me to play and score goals for the national team,” Mugosa said. At 27 he may now be fulfilling his potential and should partner the tricky Fatos Beciraj, a veteran of that historic match in 2011, up front.This is a workmanlike side in the main and England can improve on previous outcomes if they master the heat from behind the goalmouths. Montenegro were fined for their fans’ celebrations after the comeback from two down and Joe Hart was among those targeted with missiles on England’s next visit, with brawls also breaking out between home supporters.“The history of our duels tells us we can compete,” Jankovic said of the on-pitch skirmishes. Montenegro are rarely rolled over and, as a minimum, England must expect another fight.
<span>England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during a training session at St George’s Park ahead of their match against Montenegro. </span> <span>Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images</span> <p>Gradski Stadion is one of Europe’s less accommodating venues for international football. Only around 15,000 will cram into Montenegro’s home ground to see if England can be overcome on Monday but they will make the noise of a crowd double the size.</p> <p>The stands at either end are concrete, compact and severe, hemmed close to the bylines in a manner reminiscent of Loftus Road. The home fans have a reputation for pushing the boundaries and England have found their limits tested in previous visits.</p> <p>Only Kyle Walker remains from the squad who travelled in 2013 and returned bruised by a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/mar/26/montenegro-england-world-cup-qualifier" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:late equaliser from Dejan Damjanovic" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">late equaliser from Dejan Damjanovic</a>. That was low-key fare compared with what passed 17 months previously on a night that brought Montenegro as close to success as they have been since being granted Uefa membership in January 2007.</p> <p>On a chaotic evening that had started serenely, England lost their way. Ashley Young and Darren Bent seemed to have put them in an impregnable position but then Elsad Zverotic pulled one back, Wayne Rooney lost his head and was sent off, and Andrija Delibasic sparked a pitch invasion by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/football/2011/oct/07/montenegro-england-euro-2012" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:levelling in stoppage time" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">levelling in stoppage time</a>. The point took England to Euro 2012 anyway; it gave Montenegro a play-off spot, too, but they still await qualification for a major finals and will need to upset the odds again.</p> <p>“Things that happen in the past are just nice results for Montenegro,” said their manager, the veteran former Partizan Belgrade coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic. His side began their qualifying campaign respectably on Friday in Sofia, ending up unfortunate to draw 1-1 with Bulgaria when their hosts were awarded an 82nd-minute penalty for a challenge Vladimir Jovovic appeared to have made outside the area. “When you concede a goal after the referee’s mistake it’s hard not to comment on it,” said the midfielder Marko Jankovic. Tumbakovic admitted they had “lost two points” but also said their priority had been to depart unbeaten.</p> <p>That aim having been achieved, an inconsistent Montenegro can legitimately sense an opportunity. Group A of the Euro 2020 qualifiers has a curious feel; England are overwhelming favourites but an argument could be made for any of the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Kosovo and Tumbakovic’s team making second place. All fall into the “banana skin” category and, while results against England may not be decisive, any major improvement on Czech Republic’s hammering at Wembley should breed optimism.</p> <p>“I’m really trying but I can’t,” Tumbakovic said when asked if he could pinpoint a weakness in the England party. “We in the coaching team are realistic.” But he will be aware England have floundered before in Gradski Stadion. Montenegro have few recognisable names, especially with Stevan Jovetic sidelined, but Tumbakovic suggested Stefan Savic – the Atlético Madrid centre-back and, like Jovetic, once of Manchester City – is winning his battle against the injury that kept him out of Friday’s game.</p> <strong>The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.</strong> <p>Montenegro also have a striker on form. Stefan Mugosa scored a beautifully-taken goal against Bulgaria, adding to three Nations League strikes last autumn. A hot prospect in his early 20s, Mugosa did not make the grade at Kaiserslautern and 1860 Munich but averages better than a goal every other game for Incheon United, his team in South Korea. “It’s a special feeling for me to play and score goals for the national team,” Mugosa said. At 27 he may now be fulfilling his potential and should partner the tricky Fatos Beciraj, a veteran of that historic match in 2011, up front.</p> <p>This is a workmanlike side in the main and England can improve on previous outcomes if they master the heat from behind the goalmouths. Montenegro were fined for their fans’ celebrations after the comeback from two down and Joe Hart was among those targeted with missiles on England’s next visit, with brawls also breaking out between home supporters.</p> <p>“The history of our duels tells us we can compete,” Jankovic said of the on-pitch skirmishes. Montenegro are rarely rolled over and, as a minimum, England must expect another fight.</p>
England must contend with harsh memories when facing Montenegro
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during a training session at St George’s Park ahead of their match against Montenegro. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

Gradski Stadion is one of Europe’s less accommodating venues for international football. Only around 15,000 will cram into Montenegro’s home ground to see if England can be overcome on Monday but they will make the noise of a crowd double the size.

The stands at either end are concrete, compact and severe, hemmed close to the bylines in a manner reminiscent of Loftus Road. The home fans have a reputation for pushing the boundaries and England have found their limits tested in previous visits.

Only Kyle Walker remains from the squad who travelled in 2013 and returned bruised by a late equaliser from Dejan Damjanovic. That was low-key fare compared with what passed 17 months previously on a night that brought Montenegro as close to success as they have been since being granted Uefa membership in January 2007.

On a chaotic evening that had started serenely, England lost their way. Ashley Young and Darren Bent seemed to have put them in an impregnable position but then Elsad Zverotic pulled one back, Wayne Rooney lost his head and was sent off, and Andrija Delibasic sparked a pitch invasion by levelling in stoppage time. The point took England to Euro 2012 anyway; it gave Montenegro a play-off spot, too, but they still await qualification for a major finals and will need to upset the odds again.

“Things that happen in the past are just nice results for Montenegro,” said their manager, the veteran former Partizan Belgrade coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic. His side began their qualifying campaign respectably on Friday in Sofia, ending up unfortunate to draw 1-1 with Bulgaria when their hosts were awarded an 82nd-minute penalty for a challenge Vladimir Jovovic appeared to have made outside the area. “When you concede a goal after the referee’s mistake it’s hard not to comment on it,” said the midfielder Marko Jankovic. Tumbakovic admitted they had “lost two points” but also said their priority had been to depart unbeaten.

That aim having been achieved, an inconsistent Montenegro can legitimately sense an opportunity. Group A of the Euro 2020 qualifiers has a curious feel; England are overwhelming favourites but an argument could be made for any of the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Kosovo and Tumbakovic’s team making second place. All fall into the “banana skin” category and, while results against England may not be decisive, any major improvement on Czech Republic’s hammering at Wembley should breed optimism.

“I’m really trying but I can’t,” Tumbakovic said when asked if he could pinpoint a weakness in the England party. “We in the coaching team are realistic.” But he will be aware England have floundered before in Gradski Stadion. Montenegro have few recognisable names, especially with Stevan Jovetic sidelined, but Tumbakovic suggested Stefan Savic – the Atlético Madrid centre-back and, like Jovetic, once of Manchester City – is winning his battle against the injury that kept him out of Friday’s game.

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Montenegro also have a striker on form. Stefan Mugosa scored a beautifully-taken goal against Bulgaria, adding to three Nations League strikes last autumn. A hot prospect in his early 20s, Mugosa did not make the grade at Kaiserslautern and 1860 Munich but averages better than a goal every other game for Incheon United, his team in South Korea. “It’s a special feeling for me to play and score goals for the national team,” Mugosa said. At 27 he may now be fulfilling his potential and should partner the tricky Fatos Beciraj, a veteran of that historic match in 2011, up front.

This is a workmanlike side in the main and England can improve on previous outcomes if they master the heat from behind the goalmouths. Montenegro were fined for their fans’ celebrations after the comeback from two down and Joe Hart was among those targeted with missiles on England’s next visit, with brawls also breaking out between home supporters.

“The history of our duels tells us we can compete,” Jankovic said of the on-pitch skirmishes. Montenegro are rarely rolled over and, as a minimum, England must expect another fight.

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during a training session at St George’s Park ahead of their match against Montenegro. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty ImagesGradski Stadion is one of Europe’s less accommodating venues for international football. Only around 15,000 will cram into Montenegro’s home ground to see if England can be overcome on Monday but they will make the noise of a crowd double the size.The stands at either end are concrete, compact and severe, hemmed close to the bylines in a manner reminiscent of Loftus Road. The home fans have a reputation for pushing the boundaries and England have found their limits tested in previous visits.Only Kyle Walker remains from the squad who travelled in 2013 and returned bruised by a late equaliser from Dejan Damjanovic. That was low-key fare compared with what passed 17 months previously on a night that brought Montenegro as close to success as they have been since being granted Uefa membership in January 2007.On a chaotic evening that had started serenely, England lost their way. Ashley Young and Darren Bent seemed to have put them in an impregnable position but then Elsad Zverotic pulled one back, Wayne Rooney lost his head and was sent off, and Andrija Delibasic sparked a pitch invasion by levelling in stoppage time. The point took England to Euro 2012 anyway; it gave Montenegro a play-off spot, too, but they still await qualification for a major finals and will need to upset the odds again.“Things that happen in the past are just nice results for Montenegro,” said their manager, the veteran former Partizan Belgrade coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic. His side began their qualifying campaign respectably on Friday in Sofia, ending up unfortunate to draw 1-1 with Bulgaria when their hosts were awarded an 82nd-minute penalty for a challenge Vladimir Jovovic appeared to have made outside the area. “When you concede a goal after the referee’s mistake it’s hard not to comment on it,” said the midfielder Marko Jankovic. Tumbakovic admitted they had “lost two points” but also said their priority had been to depart unbeaten.That aim having been achieved, an inconsistent Montenegro can legitimately sense an opportunity. Group A of the Euro 2020 qualifiers has a curious feel; England are overwhelming favourites but an argument could be made for any of the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Kosovo and Tumbakovic’s team making second place. All fall into the “banana skin” category and, while results against England may not be decisive, any major improvement on Czech Republic’s hammering at Wembley should breed optimism.“I’m really trying but I can’t,” Tumbakovic said when asked if he could pinpoint a weakness in the England party. “We in the coaching team are realistic.” But he will be aware England have floundered before in Gradski Stadion. Montenegro have few recognisable names, especially with Stevan Jovetic sidelined, but Tumbakovic suggested Stefan Savic – the Atlético Madrid centre-back and, like Jovetic, once of Manchester City – is winning his battle against the injury that kept him out of Friday’s game.The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.Montenegro also have a striker on form. Stefan Mugosa scored a beautifully-taken goal against Bulgaria, adding to three Nations League strikes last autumn. A hot prospect in his early 20s, Mugosa did not make the grade at Kaiserslautern and 1860 Munich but averages better than a goal every other game for Incheon United, his team in South Korea. “It’s a special feeling for me to play and score goals for the national team,” Mugosa said. At 27 he may now be fulfilling his potential and should partner the tricky Fatos Beciraj, a veteran of that historic match in 2011, up front.This is a workmanlike side in the main and England can improve on previous outcomes if they master the heat from behind the goalmouths. Montenegro were fined for their fans’ celebrations after the comeback from two down and Joe Hart was among those targeted with missiles on England’s next visit, with brawls also breaking out between home supporters.“The history of our duels tells us we can compete,” Jankovic said of the on-pitch skirmishes. Montenegro are rarely rolled over and, as a minimum, England must expect another fight.
England must contend with harsh memories when facing Montenegro
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during a training session at St George’s Park ahead of their match against Montenegro. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty ImagesGradski Stadion is one of Europe’s less accommodating venues for international football. Only around 15,000 will cram into Montenegro’s home ground to see if England can be overcome on Monday but they will make the noise of a crowd double the size.The stands at either end are concrete, compact and severe, hemmed close to the bylines in a manner reminiscent of Loftus Road. The home fans have a reputation for pushing the boundaries and England have found their limits tested in previous visits.Only Kyle Walker remains from the squad who travelled in 2013 and returned bruised by a late equaliser from Dejan Damjanovic. That was low-key fare compared with what passed 17 months previously on a night that brought Montenegro as close to success as they have been since being granted Uefa membership in January 2007.On a chaotic evening that had started serenely, England lost their way. Ashley Young and Darren Bent seemed to have put them in an impregnable position but then Elsad Zverotic pulled one back, Wayne Rooney lost his head and was sent off, and Andrija Delibasic sparked a pitch invasion by levelling in stoppage time. The point took England to Euro 2012 anyway; it gave Montenegro a play-off spot, too, but they still await qualification for a major finals and will need to upset the odds again.“Things that happen in the past are just nice results for Montenegro,” said their manager, the veteran former Partizan Belgrade coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic. His side began their qualifying campaign respectably on Friday in Sofia, ending up unfortunate to draw 1-1 with Bulgaria when their hosts were awarded an 82nd-minute penalty for a challenge Vladimir Jovovic appeared to have made outside the area. “When you concede a goal after the referee’s mistake it’s hard not to comment on it,” said the midfielder Marko Jankovic. Tumbakovic admitted they had “lost two points” but also said their priority had been to depart unbeaten.That aim having been achieved, an inconsistent Montenegro can legitimately sense an opportunity. Group A of the Euro 2020 qualifiers has a curious feel; England are overwhelming favourites but an argument could be made for any of the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Kosovo and Tumbakovic’s team making second place. All fall into the “banana skin” category and, while results against England may not be decisive, any major improvement on Czech Republic’s hammering at Wembley should breed optimism.“I’m really trying but I can’t,” Tumbakovic said when asked if he could pinpoint a weakness in the England party. “We in the coaching team are realistic.” But he will be aware England have floundered before in Gradski Stadion. Montenegro have few recognisable names, especially with Stevan Jovetic sidelined, but Tumbakovic suggested Stefan Savic – the Atlético Madrid centre-back and, like Jovetic, once of Manchester City – is winning his battle against the injury that kept him out of Friday’s game.The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.Montenegro also have a striker on form. Stefan Mugosa scored a beautifully-taken goal against Bulgaria, adding to three Nations League strikes last autumn. A hot prospect in his early 20s, Mugosa did not make the grade at Kaiserslautern and 1860 Munich but averages better than a goal every other game for Incheon United, his team in South Korea. “It’s a special feeling for me to play and score goals for the national team,” Mugosa said. At 27 he may now be fulfilling his potential and should partner the tricky Fatos Beciraj, a veteran of that historic match in 2011, up front.This is a workmanlike side in the main and England can improve on previous outcomes if they master the heat from behind the goalmouths. Montenegro were fined for their fans’ celebrations after the comeback from two down and Joe Hart was among those targeted with missiles on England’s next visit, with brawls also breaking out between home supporters.“The history of our duels tells us we can compete,” Jankovic said of the on-pitch skirmishes. Montenegro are rarely rolled over and, as a minimum, England must expect another fight.
<span>England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during a training session at St George’s Park ahead of their match against Montenegro. </span> <span>Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images</span> <p>Gradski Stadion is one of Europe’s less accommodating venues for international football. Only around 15,000 will cram into Montenegro’s home ground to see if England can be overcome on Monday but they will make the noise of a crowd double the size.</p> <p>The stands at either end are concrete, compact and severe, hemmed close to the bylines in a manner reminiscent of Loftus Road. The home fans have a reputation for pushing the boundaries and England have found their limits tested in previous visits.</p> <p>Only Kyle Walker remains from the squad who travelled in 2013 and returned bruised by a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/mar/26/montenegro-england-world-cup-qualifier" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:late equaliser from Dejan Damjanovic" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">late equaliser from Dejan Damjanovic</a>. That was low-key fare compared with what passed 17 months previously on a night that brought Montenegro as close to success as they have been since being granted Uefa membership in January 2007.</p> <p>On a chaotic evening that had started serenely, England lost their way. Ashley Young and Darren Bent seemed to have put them in an impregnable position but then Elsad Zverotic pulled one back, Wayne Rooney lost his head and was sent off, and Andrija Delibasic sparked a pitch invasion by <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/football/2011/oct/07/montenegro-england-euro-2012" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:levelling in stoppage time" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">levelling in stoppage time</a>. The point took England to Euro 2012 anyway; it gave Montenegro a play-off spot, too, but they still await qualification for a major finals and will need to upset the odds again.</p> <p>“Things that happen in the past are just nice results for Montenegro,” said their manager, the veteran former Partizan Belgrade coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic. His side began their qualifying campaign respectably on Friday in Sofia, ending up unfortunate to draw 1-1 with Bulgaria when their hosts were awarded an 82nd-minute penalty for a challenge Vladimir Jovovic appeared to have made outside the area. “When you concede a goal after the referee’s mistake it’s hard not to comment on it,” said the midfielder Marko Jankovic. Tumbakovic admitted they had “lost two points” but also said their priority had been to depart unbeaten.</p> <p>That aim having been achieved, an inconsistent Montenegro can legitimately sense an opportunity. Group A of the Euro 2020 qualifiers has a curious feel; England are overwhelming favourites but an argument could be made for any of the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Kosovo and Tumbakovic’s team making second place. All fall into the “banana skin” category and, while results against England may not be decisive, any major improvement on Czech Republic’s hammering at Wembley should breed optimism.</p> <p>“I’m really trying but I can’t,” Tumbakovic said when asked if he could pinpoint a weakness in the England party. “We in the coaching team are realistic.” But he will be aware England have floundered before in Gradski Stadion. Montenegro have few recognisable names, especially with Stevan Jovetic sidelined, but Tumbakovic suggested Stefan Savic – the Atlético Madrid centre-back and, like Jovetic, once of Manchester City – is winning his battle against the injury that kept him out of Friday’s game.</p> <strong>The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.</strong> <p>Montenegro also have a striker on form. Stefan Mugosa scored a beautifully-taken goal against Bulgaria, adding to three Nations League strikes last autumn. A hot prospect in his early 20s, Mugosa did not make the grade at Kaiserslautern and 1860 Munich but averages better than a goal every other game for Incheon United, his team in South Korea. “It’s a special feeling for me to play and score goals for the national team,” Mugosa said. At 27 he may now be fulfilling his potential and should partner the tricky Fatos Beciraj, a veteran of that historic match in 2011, up front.</p> <p>This is a workmanlike side in the main and England can improve on previous outcomes if they master the heat from behind the goalmouths. Montenegro were fined for their fans’ celebrations after the comeback from two down and Joe Hart was among those targeted with missiles on England’s next visit, with brawls also breaking out between home supporters.</p> <p>“The history of our duels tells us we can compete,” Jankovic said of the on-pitch skirmishes. Montenegro are rarely rolled over and, as a minimum, England must expect another fight.</p>
England must contend with harsh memories when facing Montenegro
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford during a training session at St George’s Park ahead of their match against Montenegro. Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images

Gradski Stadion is one of Europe’s less accommodating venues for international football. Only around 15,000 will cram into Montenegro’s home ground to see if England can be overcome on Monday but they will make the noise of a crowd double the size.

The stands at either end are concrete, compact and severe, hemmed close to the bylines in a manner reminiscent of Loftus Road. The home fans have a reputation for pushing the boundaries and England have found their limits tested in previous visits.

Only Kyle Walker remains from the squad who travelled in 2013 and returned bruised by a late equaliser from Dejan Damjanovic. That was low-key fare compared with what passed 17 months previously on a night that brought Montenegro as close to success as they have been since being granted Uefa membership in January 2007.

On a chaotic evening that had started serenely, England lost their way. Ashley Young and Darren Bent seemed to have put them in an impregnable position but then Elsad Zverotic pulled one back, Wayne Rooney lost his head and was sent off, and Andrija Delibasic sparked a pitch invasion by levelling in stoppage time. The point took England to Euro 2012 anyway; it gave Montenegro a play-off spot, too, but they still await qualification for a major finals and will need to upset the odds again.

“Things that happen in the past are just nice results for Montenegro,” said their manager, the veteran former Partizan Belgrade coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic. His side began their qualifying campaign respectably on Friday in Sofia, ending up unfortunate to draw 1-1 with Bulgaria when their hosts were awarded an 82nd-minute penalty for a challenge Vladimir Jovovic appeared to have made outside the area. “When you concede a goal after the referee’s mistake it’s hard not to comment on it,” said the midfielder Marko Jankovic. Tumbakovic admitted they had “lost two points” but also said their priority had been to depart unbeaten.

That aim having been achieved, an inconsistent Montenegro can legitimately sense an opportunity. Group A of the Euro 2020 qualifiers has a curious feel; England are overwhelming favourites but an argument could be made for any of the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Kosovo and Tumbakovic’s team making second place. All fall into the “banana skin” category and, while results against England may not be decisive, any major improvement on Czech Republic’s hammering at Wembley should breed optimism.

“I’m really trying but I can’t,” Tumbakovic said when asked if he could pinpoint a weakness in the England party. “We in the coaching team are realistic.” But he will be aware England have floundered before in Gradski Stadion. Montenegro have few recognisable names, especially with Stevan Jovetic sidelined, but Tumbakovic suggested Stefan Savic – the Atlético Madrid centre-back and, like Jovetic, once of Manchester City – is winning his battle against the injury that kept him out of Friday’s game.

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Montenegro also have a striker on form. Stefan Mugosa scored a beautifully-taken goal against Bulgaria, adding to three Nations League strikes last autumn. A hot prospect in his early 20s, Mugosa did not make the grade at Kaiserslautern and 1860 Munich but averages better than a goal every other game for Incheon United, his team in South Korea. “It’s a special feeling for me to play and score goals for the national team,” Mugosa said. At 27 he may now be fulfilling his potential and should partner the tricky Fatos Beciraj, a veteran of that historic match in 2011, up front.

This is a workmanlike side in the main and England can improve on previous outcomes if they master the heat from behind the goalmouths. Montenegro were fined for their fans’ celebrations after the comeback from two down and Joe Hart was among those targeted with missiles on England’s next visit, with brawls also breaking out between home supporters.

“The history of our duels tells us we can compete,” Jankovic said of the on-pitch skirmishes. Montenegro are rarely rolled over and, as a minimum, England must expect another fight.

Veteran goalkeeper Iker Casillas has extended his contract with the Portuguese champions Porto until 2020.Casillas, who will be 38 in May, said on Wednesday: "It's not easy to count on someone who's almost 38-years-old. I'm grateful for the confidence shown in me and hope to finish my career at a club where I feel at home."Since arriving from Real Madrid in 2015, Casillas has made 149 appearances for Porto. He was a key member of the squad that helped Porto win its first title in five years.During his 16 years at Real Madrid, he won 18 trophies including five La Liga championships and three Champions League crowns.He was also skipper of the Spain squad that won Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.
Iker Casillas to stay at Porto until 2020
Veteran goalkeeper Iker Casillas has extended his contract with the Portuguese champions Porto until 2020.Casillas, who will be 38 in May, said on Wednesday: "It's not easy to count on someone who's almost 38-years-old. I'm grateful for the confidence shown in me and hope to finish my career at a club where I feel at home."Since arriving from Real Madrid in 2015, Casillas has made 149 appearances for Porto. He was a key member of the squad that helped Porto win its first title in five years.During his 16 years at Real Madrid, he won 18 trophies including five La Liga championships and three Champions League crowns.He was also skipper of the Spain squad that won Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.
FILE PHOTO: Macedonia's new head coach John Toshack reacts during Euro 2012 Group B qualifying soccer match against Andorra at Filip II Stadium in Skopje, September 6, 2011. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
Macedonia's new head coach Toshack reacts during Euro 2012 Group B qualifying soccer match against Andorra
FILE PHOTO: Macedonia's new head coach John Toshack reacts during Euro 2012 Group B qualifying soccer match against Andorra at Filip II Stadium in Skopje, September 6, 2011. REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
Cesare Prandelli lead Italy to runners-up spot at Euro 2012
Cesare Prandelli lead Italy to runners-up spot at Euro 2012
Cesare Prandelli lead Italy to runners-up spot at Euro 2012
Cesare Prandelli lead Italy to runners-up spot at Euro 2012 (AFP Photo/JOSE JORDAN)
Cesare Prandelli lead Italy to runners-up spot at Euro 2012
Cesare Prandelli lead Italy to runners-up spot at Euro 2012 (AFP Photo/JOSE JORDAN)
Cesare Prandelli lead Italy to runners-up spot at Euro 2012
Cesare Prandelli lead Italy to runners-up spot at Euro 2012
Cesare Prandelli lead Italy to runners-up spot at Euro 2012
Gareth Southgate has called on his players to seize their "great chance" to finally end the nation's 52-year wait for a major trophy after England were granted a favourable-looking passage to the European Championships. England take on Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Kosovo next year and, should they qualify, are guaranteed at least two finals matches at Wembley. The stadium, one of 12 Euro 2020 host cities, has been ordered by Uefa to relay the pitch after concerns were raised about the playing surface. Reflecting on the Euro 2020 draw, Southgate said his squad must capitalise their opportunities over the next 18 months, which also sees them with a golden chance to win the first Uefa Nations League. England find out at 1.30pm on Monday whether they play Switzerland, Holland or Portugal in the semi-finals of the new contest. England’s Euro 2020 qualification | Fixtures "I think it can be a really exciting 18 months," Southgate added. "We've got this coming summer to look forward to and then a big chance because we host and we have to make sure we are there. "That could be an incredibly exciting two year period from the World Cup right through and a great opportunity for our players." He said the prospect of qualification "should be motivation enough to make sure the performances are right." England have never played the Czechs in a competitive match since the break-up of Czechoslovakia, with one win and one draw from two previous friendly encounters. Similarly, they have not faced Kosovo, who only gained Fifa membership in 2016. "We're favourites and that's something we've got to start getting used to any way," said Southgate. "We're going to have high expectations over the next few years and adapting to that is probably key to our development as a team now." England could play at Wembley up to five times during the finals, which is being shared between 12 European host cities including Glasgow and Dublin. Southgate, a member of the Euro 96 squad that reached the semi-finals when England hosted the tournament, said: "It is an advantage for you. So you have to capitalise on those moments and then that's why it's not a bad thing that we have to deal with expectation." Euro 2020 qualification | Draw in full Southgate indicated he would continue to give youngsters a chance to stake their claims. Jadon Sancho, Joe Gomez and Harry Winks are among those vying for starting places. "I don't think we should limit in their minds what is possible," he said. Southgate said his side were going into the unknown against Kosovo, who this year are on an unbeaten run, having top-scored in the Nations League and won their group. Coach Bernard Challandes said their draw against England "will be the biggest event in the history of football in Kosovo". "It’s not only about football, it’s for the pride of the country," he said. "To play at Wembley is a dream, whether as a player or a coach. It’s a dream – but sometimes a dream can turn into a nightmare… but I’m very excited." England beat Bulgaria home and away en route to qualification for Euro 2012 and also faced them in qualifying for the 2000 and 1980 finals. Montenegro were qualification opponents for England for Euro 2012, and also for the 2014 World Cup finals. England have only beaten them once, drawing the other three encounters. Jason Burt's Euro 2020 draw verdict: Group-by-group breakdown Ljubisa Tumbakovic, the Montenegro manager, said England were "absolute favourites of the group," as he accepted his side were relatively unproven compared with the team that held Fabio Capello's side to two draws. He said: "When England previously played Montenegro, the national team was really ambitious. I have been head coach for three years and compared with that squad, which played four times against England, there are many, many new players. We are a young team. English fans will see many news players in the forthcoming match. The atmosphere is also very good." Meanwhile, Uefa, who are expected to receive more than £2billion in revenue from the summer tournament, said Wembley has committed to putting a new pitch, which could leave the FA facing a bill of up to £500,000. Concerns have been repeatedly made after the state of the turf was criticised following a busy winter of fixtures, including NFL and Tottenham Hotspur's Premier League and Champions League games. Martin Kallen, the events chief executive at Uefa, said: "Three months ago we would not have worried about it all. However, we met with the staff at Wembley after the recent Champions League games and they have said they will install a brand new pitch before the Euro 2020 finals. "We are satisfied that their ground staff are doing everything they can, it is just that they have hosted too many events in a short space of time. They are learning lessons and we are confident everything will be fine by the tournament."
Gareth Southgate excited by 'great opportunity' after England gain favourable Euro 2020 draw
Gareth Southgate has called on his players to seize their "great chance" to finally end the nation's 52-year wait for a major trophy after England were granted a favourable-looking passage to the European Championships. England take on Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Kosovo next year and, should they qualify, are guaranteed at least two finals matches at Wembley. The stadium, one of 12 Euro 2020 host cities, has been ordered by Uefa to relay the pitch after concerns were raised about the playing surface. Reflecting on the Euro 2020 draw, Southgate said his squad must capitalise their opportunities over the next 18 months, which also sees them with a golden chance to win the first Uefa Nations League. England find out at 1.30pm on Monday whether they play Switzerland, Holland or Portugal in the semi-finals of the new contest. England’s Euro 2020 qualification | Fixtures "I think it can be a really exciting 18 months," Southgate added. "We've got this coming summer to look forward to and then a big chance because we host and we have to make sure we are there. "That could be an incredibly exciting two year period from the World Cup right through and a great opportunity for our players." He said the prospect of qualification "should be motivation enough to make sure the performances are right." England have never played the Czechs in a competitive match since the break-up of Czechoslovakia, with one win and one draw from two previous friendly encounters. Similarly, they have not faced Kosovo, who only gained Fifa membership in 2016. "We're favourites and that's something we've got to start getting used to any way," said Southgate. "We're going to have high expectations over the next few years and adapting to that is probably key to our development as a team now." England could play at Wembley up to five times during the finals, which is being shared between 12 European host cities including Glasgow and Dublin. Southgate, a member of the Euro 96 squad that reached the semi-finals when England hosted the tournament, said: "It is an advantage for you. So you have to capitalise on those moments and then that's why it's not a bad thing that we have to deal with expectation." Euro 2020 qualification | Draw in full Southgate indicated he would continue to give youngsters a chance to stake their claims. Jadon Sancho, Joe Gomez and Harry Winks are among those vying for starting places. "I don't think we should limit in their minds what is possible," he said. Southgate said his side were going into the unknown against Kosovo, who this year are on an unbeaten run, having top-scored in the Nations League and won their group. Coach Bernard Challandes said their draw against England "will be the biggest event in the history of football in Kosovo". "It’s not only about football, it’s for the pride of the country," he said. "To play at Wembley is a dream, whether as a player or a coach. It’s a dream – but sometimes a dream can turn into a nightmare… but I’m very excited." England beat Bulgaria home and away en route to qualification for Euro 2012 and also faced them in qualifying for the 2000 and 1980 finals. Montenegro were qualification opponents for England for Euro 2012, and also for the 2014 World Cup finals. England have only beaten them once, drawing the other three encounters. Jason Burt's Euro 2020 draw verdict: Group-by-group breakdown Ljubisa Tumbakovic, the Montenegro manager, said England were "absolute favourites of the group," as he accepted his side were relatively unproven compared with the team that held Fabio Capello's side to two draws. He said: "When England previously played Montenegro, the national team was really ambitious. I have been head coach for three years and compared with that squad, which played four times against England, there are many, many new players. We are a young team. English fans will see many news players in the forthcoming match. The atmosphere is also very good." Meanwhile, Uefa, who are expected to receive more than £2billion in revenue from the summer tournament, said Wembley has committed to putting a new pitch, which could leave the FA facing a bill of up to £500,000. Concerns have been repeatedly made after the state of the turf was criticised following a busy winter of fixtures, including NFL and Tottenham Hotspur's Premier League and Champions League games. Martin Kallen, the events chief executive at Uefa, said: "Three months ago we would not have worried about it all. However, we met with the staff at Wembley after the recent Champions League games and they have said they will install a brand new pitch before the Euro 2020 finals. "We are satisfied that their ground staff are doing everything they can, it is just that they have hosted too many events in a short space of time. They are learning lessons and we are confident everything will be fine by the tournament."
Gareth Southgate has called on his players to seize their "great chance" to finally end the nation's 52-year wait for a major trophy after England were granted a favourable-looking passage to the European Championships. England take on Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Kosovo next year and, should they qualify, are guaranteed at least two finals matches at Wembley. The stadium, one of 12 Euro 2020 host cities, has been ordered by Uefa to relay the pitch after concerns were raised about the playing surface. Reflecting on the Euro 2020 draw, Southgate said his squad must capitalise their opportunities over the next 18 months, which also sees them with a golden chance to win the first Uefa Nations League. England find out at 1.30pm on Monday whether they play Switzerland, Holland or Portugal in the semi-finals of the new contest. Jason Burt's Euro 2020 draw verdict: Group-by-group breakdown "I think it can be a really exciting 18 months," Southgate added. "We've got this coming summer to look forward to and then a big chance because we host and we have to make sure we are there. "That could be an incredibly exciting two year period from the World Cup right through and a great opportunity for our players." He said the prospect of qualification "should be motivation enough to make sure the performances are right." England have never played the Czechs in a competitive match since the break-up of Czechoslovakia, with one win and one draw from two previous friendly encounters. Similarly, they have not faced Kosovo, who only gained Fifa membership in 2016. "We're favourites and that's something we've got to start getting used to any way," said Southgate. "We're going to have high expectations over the next few years and adapting to that is probably key to our development as a team now." England could play at Wembley up to five times during the finals, which is being shared between 12 European host cities including Glasgow and Dublin. Southgate, a member of the Euro 96 squad that reached the semi-finals when England hosted the tournament, said: "It is an advantage for you. So you have to capitalise on those moments and then that's why it's not a bad thing that we have to deal with expectation." Euro 2020 qualification | Draw in full Southgate indicated he would continue to give youngsters a chance to stake their claims. Jadon Sancho, Joe Gomez and Harry Winks are among those vying for starting places. "I don't think we should limit in their minds what is possible," he said. Southgate said his side were going into the unknown against Kosovo, who this year are on an unbeaten run, having top-scored in the Nations League and won their group. Coach Bernard Challandes said their draw against England "will be the biggest event in the history of football in Kosovo". "It’s not only about football, it’s for the pride of the country," he said. "To play at Wembley is a dream, whether as a player or a coach. It’s a dream – but sometimes a dream can turn into a nightmare… but I’m very excited." England beat Bulgaria home and away en route to qualification for Euro 2012 and also faced them in qualifying for the 2000 and 1980 finals. Montenegro were qualification opponents for England for Euro 2012, and also for the 2014 World Cup finals. England have only beaten them once, drawing the other three encounters. Ljubisa Tumbakovic, the Montenegro manager, said England were "absolute favourites of the group," as he accepted his side were relatively unproven compared with the team that held Fabio Capello's side to two draws. England were in the same group as Montenegro for World Cup 2014 qualification Credit: AP He said: "When England previously played Montenegro, the national team was really ambitious. I have been head coach for three years and compared with that squad, which played four times against England, there are many, many new players. We are a young team. English fans will see many news players in the forthcoming match. The atmosphere is also very good." Meanwhile, Uefa, who are expected to receive more than £2billion in revenue from the summer tournament, said Wembley has committed to putting a new pitch, which could leave the FA facing a bill of up to £500,000. Concerns have been repeatedly made after the state of the turf was criticised following a busy winter of fixtures, including NFL and Tottenham Hotspur's Premier League and Champions League games. Martin Kallen, the events chief executive at Uefa, said: "Three months ago we would not have worried about it all. However, we met with the staff at Wembley after the recent Champions League games and they have said they will install a brand new pitch before the Euro 2020 finals. "We are satisfied that their ground staff are doing everything they can, it is just that they have hosted too many events in a short space of time. They are learning lessons and we are confident everything will be fine by the tournament."
Gareth Southgate excited by 'great opportunity' after England gain favourable Euro 2020 draw
Gareth Southgate has called on his players to seize their "great chance" to finally end the nation's 52-year wait for a major trophy after England were granted a favourable-looking passage to the European Championships. England take on Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Kosovo next year and, should they qualify, are guaranteed at least two finals matches at Wembley. The stadium, one of 12 Euro 2020 host cities, has been ordered by Uefa to relay the pitch after concerns were raised about the playing surface. Reflecting on the Euro 2020 draw, Southgate said his squad must capitalise their opportunities over the next 18 months, which also sees them with a golden chance to win the first Uefa Nations League. England find out at 1.30pm on Monday whether they play Switzerland, Holland or Portugal in the semi-finals of the new contest. Jason Burt's Euro 2020 draw verdict: Group-by-group breakdown "I think it can be a really exciting 18 months," Southgate added. "We've got this coming summer to look forward to and then a big chance because we host and we have to make sure we are there. "That could be an incredibly exciting two year period from the World Cup right through and a great opportunity for our players." He said the prospect of qualification "should be motivation enough to make sure the performances are right." England have never played the Czechs in a competitive match since the break-up of Czechoslovakia, with one win and one draw from two previous friendly encounters. Similarly, they have not faced Kosovo, who only gained Fifa membership in 2016. "We're favourites and that's something we've got to start getting used to any way," said Southgate. "We're going to have high expectations over the next few years and adapting to that is probably key to our development as a team now." England could play at Wembley up to five times during the finals, which is being shared between 12 European host cities including Glasgow and Dublin. Southgate, a member of the Euro 96 squad that reached the semi-finals when England hosted the tournament, said: "It is an advantage for you. So you have to capitalise on those moments and then that's why it's not a bad thing that we have to deal with expectation." Euro 2020 qualification | Draw in full Southgate indicated he would continue to give youngsters a chance to stake their claims. Jadon Sancho, Joe Gomez and Harry Winks are among those vying for starting places. "I don't think we should limit in their minds what is possible," he said. Southgate said his side were going into the unknown against Kosovo, who this year are on an unbeaten run, having top-scored in the Nations League and won their group. Coach Bernard Challandes said their draw against England "will be the biggest event in the history of football in Kosovo". "It’s not only about football, it’s for the pride of the country," he said. "To play at Wembley is a dream, whether as a player or a coach. It’s a dream – but sometimes a dream can turn into a nightmare… but I’m very excited." England beat Bulgaria home and away en route to qualification for Euro 2012 and also faced them in qualifying for the 2000 and 1980 finals. Montenegro were qualification opponents for England for Euro 2012, and also for the 2014 World Cup finals. England have only beaten them once, drawing the other three encounters. Ljubisa Tumbakovic, the Montenegro manager, said England were "absolute favourites of the group," as he accepted his side were relatively unproven compared with the team that held Fabio Capello's side to two draws. England were in the same group as Montenegro for World Cup 2014 qualification Credit: AP He said: "When England previously played Montenegro, the national team was really ambitious. I have been head coach for three years and compared with that squad, which played four times against England, there are many, many new players. We are a young team. English fans will see many news players in the forthcoming match. The atmosphere is also very good." Meanwhile, Uefa, who are expected to receive more than £2billion in revenue from the summer tournament, said Wembley has committed to putting a new pitch, which could leave the FA facing a bill of up to £500,000. Concerns have been repeatedly made after the state of the turf was criticised following a busy winter of fixtures, including NFL and Tottenham Hotspur's Premier League and Champions League games. Martin Kallen, the events chief executive at Uefa, said: "Three months ago we would not have worried about it all. However, we met with the staff at Wembley after the recent Champions League games and they have said they will install a brand new pitch before the Euro 2020 finals. "We are satisfied that their ground staff are doing everything they can, it is just that they have hosted too many events in a short space of time. They are learning lessons and we are confident everything will be fine by the tournament."
Gareth Southgate has called on his players to seize their "great chance" to finally end the nation's 52-year wait for a major trophy after England were granted a favourable-looking passage to the European Championships. England take on Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Kosovo next year and, should they qualify, are guaranteed at least two finals matches at Wembley. The stadium, one of 12 Euro 2020 host cities, has been ordered by Uefa to relay the pitch after concerns were raised about the playing surface. Reflecting on the Euro 2020 draw, Southgate said his squad must capitalise their opportunities over the next 18 months, which also sees them with a golden chance to win the first Uefa Nations League. England find out at 1.30pm on Monday whether they play Switzerland, Holland or Portugal in the semi-finals of the new contest. Jason Burt's Euro 2020 draw verdict: Group-by-group breakdown "I think it can be a really exciting 18 months," Southgate added. "We've got this coming summer to look forward to and then a big chance because we host and we have to make sure we are there. "That could be an incredibly exciting two year period from the World Cup right through and a great opportunity for our players." He said the prospect of qualification "should be motivation enough to make sure the performances are right." England have never played the Czechs in a competitive match since the break-up of Czechoslovakia, with one win and one draw from two previous friendly encounters. Similarly, they have not faced Kosovo, who only gained Fifa membership in 2016. "We're favourites and that's something we've got to start getting used to any way," said Southgate. "We're going to have high expectations over the next few years and adapting to that is probably key to our development as a team now." England could play at Wembley up to five times during the finals, which is being shared between 12 European host cities including Glasgow and Dublin. Southgate, a member of the Euro 96 squad that reached the semi-finals when England hosted the tournament, said: "It is an advantage for you. So you have to capitalise on those moments and then that's why it's not a bad thing that we have to deal with expectation." Euro 2020 qualification | Draw in full Southgate indicated he would continue to give youngsters a chance to stake their claims. Jadon Sancho, Joe Gomez and Harry Winks are among those vying for starting places. "I don't think we should limit in their minds what is possible," he said. Southgate said his side were going into the unknown against Kosovo, who this year are on an unbeaten run, having top-scored in the Nations League and won their group. Coach Bernard Challandes said their draw against England "will be the biggest event in the history of football in Kosovo". "It’s not only about football, it’s for the pride of the country," he said. "To play at Wembley is a dream, whether as a player or a coach. It’s a dream – but sometimes a dream can turn into a nightmare… but I’m very excited." England beat Bulgaria home and away en route to qualification for Euro 2012 and also faced them in qualifying for the 2000 and 1980 finals. Montenegro were qualification opponents for England for Euro 2012, and also for the 2014 World Cup finals. England have only beaten them once, drawing the other three encounters. Ljubisa Tumbakovic, the Montenegro manager, said England were "absolute favourites of the group," as he accepted his side were relatively unproven compared with the team that held Fabio Capello's side to two draws. England were in the same group as Montenegro for World Cup 2014 qualification Credit: AP He said: "When England previously played Montenegro, the national team was really ambitious. I have been head coach for three years and compared with that squad, which played four times against England, there are many, many new players. We are a young team. English fans will see many news players in the forthcoming match. The atmosphere is also very good." Meanwhile, Uefa, who are expected to receive more than £2billion in revenue from the summer tournament, said Wembley has committed to putting a new pitch, which could leave the FA facing a bill of up to £500,000. Concerns have been repeatedly made after the state of the turf was criticised following a busy winter of fixtures, including NFL and Tottenham Hotspur's Premier League and Champions League games. Martin Kallen, the events chief executive at Uefa, said: "Three months ago we would not have worried about it all. However, we met with the staff at Wembley after the recent Champions League games and they have said they will install a brand new pitch before the Euro 2020 finals. "We are satisfied that their ground staff are doing everything they can, it is just that they have hosted too many events in a short space of time. They are learning lessons and we are confident everything will be fine by the tournament."
Gareth Southgate excited by 'great opportunity' after England gain favourable Euro 2020 draw
Gareth Southgate has called on his players to seize their "great chance" to finally end the nation's 52-year wait for a major trophy after England were granted a favourable-looking passage to the European Championships. England take on Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Kosovo next year and, should they qualify, are guaranteed at least two finals matches at Wembley. The stadium, one of 12 Euro 2020 host cities, has been ordered by Uefa to relay the pitch after concerns were raised about the playing surface. Reflecting on the Euro 2020 draw, Southgate said his squad must capitalise their opportunities over the next 18 months, which also sees them with a golden chance to win the first Uefa Nations League. England find out at 1.30pm on Monday whether they play Switzerland, Holland or Portugal in the semi-finals of the new contest. Jason Burt's Euro 2020 draw verdict: Group-by-group breakdown "I think it can be a really exciting 18 months," Southgate added. "We've got this coming summer to look forward to and then a big chance because we host and we have to make sure we are there. "That could be an incredibly exciting two year period from the World Cup right through and a great opportunity for our players." He said the prospect of qualification "should be motivation enough to make sure the performances are right." England have never played the Czechs in a competitive match since the break-up of Czechoslovakia, with one win and one draw from two previous friendly encounters. Similarly, they have not faced Kosovo, who only gained Fifa membership in 2016. "We're favourites and that's something we've got to start getting used to any way," said Southgate. "We're going to have high expectations over the next few years and adapting to that is probably key to our development as a team now." England could play at Wembley up to five times during the finals, which is being shared between 12 European host cities including Glasgow and Dublin. Southgate, a member of the Euro 96 squad that reached the semi-finals when England hosted the tournament, said: "It is an advantage for you. So you have to capitalise on those moments and then that's why it's not a bad thing that we have to deal with expectation." Euro 2020 qualification | Draw in full Southgate indicated he would continue to give youngsters a chance to stake their claims. Jadon Sancho, Joe Gomez and Harry Winks are among those vying for starting places. "I don't think we should limit in their minds what is possible," he said. Southgate said his side were going into the unknown against Kosovo, who this year are on an unbeaten run, having top-scored in the Nations League and won their group. Coach Bernard Challandes said their draw against England "will be the biggest event in the history of football in Kosovo". "It’s not only about football, it’s for the pride of the country," he said. "To play at Wembley is a dream, whether as a player or a coach. It’s a dream – but sometimes a dream can turn into a nightmare… but I’m very excited." England beat Bulgaria home and away en route to qualification for Euro 2012 and also faced them in qualifying for the 2000 and 1980 finals. Montenegro were qualification opponents for England for Euro 2012, and also for the 2014 World Cup finals. England have only beaten them once, drawing the other three encounters. Ljubisa Tumbakovic, the Montenegro manager, said England were "absolute favourites of the group," as he accepted his side were relatively unproven compared with the team that held Fabio Capello's side to two draws. England were in the same group as Montenegro for World Cup 2014 qualification Credit: AP He said: "When England previously played Montenegro, the national team was really ambitious. I have been head coach for three years and compared with that squad, which played four times against England, there are many, many new players. We are a young team. English fans will see many news players in the forthcoming match. The atmosphere is also very good." Meanwhile, Uefa, who are expected to receive more than £2billion in revenue from the summer tournament, said Wembley has committed to putting a new pitch, which could leave the FA facing a bill of up to £500,000. Concerns have been repeatedly made after the state of the turf was criticised following a busy winter of fixtures, including NFL and Tottenham Hotspur's Premier League and Champions League games. Martin Kallen, the events chief executive at Uefa, said: "Three months ago we would not have worried about it all. However, we met with the staff at Wembley after the recent Champions League games and they have said they will install a brand new pitch before the Euro 2020 finals. "We are satisfied that their ground staff are doing everything they can, it is just that they have hosted too many events in a short space of time. They are learning lessons and we are confident everything will be fine by the tournament."
The two great nations clash in UEFA Nations League action on Monday night, but can you recall who lined up in their last major championship meeting?
Quiz! Can you name the Holland and Germany teams from their meeting at Euro 2012?
The two great nations clash in UEFA Nations League action on Monday night, but can you recall who lined up in their last major championship meeting?
Scores on his return from suspension to seal a 1-0 victory over Ukraine at Euro 2012 (Anthony Devlin/PA)
Wayne Rooney’s England career in pictures
Scores on his return from suspension to seal a 1-0 victory over Ukraine at Euro 2012 (Anthony Devlin/PA)
Sent off on another night to forget as England draw 2-2 with Montenegro in a Euro 2012 qualifier (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Wayne Rooney’s England career in pictures
Sent off on another night to forget as England draw 2-2 with Montenegro in a Euro 2012 qualifier (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Paris St Germain have opened an investigation into a claim that club scouts recorded young players' 'origins' in order to limit the number of black players at their academy, a spokesman has confirmed. According to a report by French website Mediapart, this racial profiling took place between 2013 and spring of this year. Based on documents provided by the Football Leaks platform, the report says PSG's former chief scout in France, Marc Westerloppe, told his colleagues that "there is a problem with the direction of this club...there are too many West Indians and Africans in Paris". Scouts for the reigning French champions and current league leaders, the report claims, were asked to choose one of four options for every player they watched on an electronic form: French, North African, black African or West Indian. According to Mediapart, this system prompted an internal investigation in 2014 when one scout, Serge Fournier, described Yann Gboho, a French teenager who was born in the Ivory Coast and now plays for Rennes, as 'West Indian' because PSG "didn't want us to recruit players born in Africa, because you are never sure of their date of birth". Fournier also told the website that the drop-down menu on the electronic form "should have said white instead of French", as all the players the national scouts recommended were French. A spokesman for PSG, however, has told Press Association Sport that the club started a new investigation into these claims three weeks ago but disputed the suggestion that recording players' racial backgrounds was still happening this year. "We are talking about one recruiting unit with a manager who put that in place from 2013 until 2017, without our knowledge," he said, before adding "all these people have left" the club. Westerloppe now has a youth development role at Rennes, where Gboho plays and where PSG's former sports director Olivier Letang is now president. Supporters of PSG have reacted angrily to the Mediapart report on social media, pointing out that PSG's youth teams are predominately black, but the case does have parallels with another Mediapart story in 2011, when it revealed an apparent plan by the French Football Federation to limit the number of black and North African players in its youth system. That story almost cost former Manchester United defender Laurent Blanc his job as France manager, although he would quit a year later after a disappointing Euro 2012 campaign. Claims of racism within their scouting system have come during a tough week for PSG, as the Qatari-owned club has also been accused of trying to cheat European football's Financial Fair Play rules by artificially inflating sponsorship deals - allegations it has strongly denied.
PSG launch investigation into claims scouts chose to limit number of black players in their academy
Paris St Germain have opened an investigation into a claim that club scouts recorded young players' 'origins' in order to limit the number of black players at their academy, a spokesman has confirmed. According to a report by French website Mediapart, this racial profiling took place between 2013 and spring of this year. Based on documents provided by the Football Leaks platform, the report says PSG's former chief scout in France, Marc Westerloppe, told his colleagues that "there is a problem with the direction of this club...there are too many West Indians and Africans in Paris". Scouts for the reigning French champions and current league leaders, the report claims, were asked to choose one of four options for every player they watched on an electronic form: French, North African, black African or West Indian. According to Mediapart, this system prompted an internal investigation in 2014 when one scout, Serge Fournier, described Yann Gboho, a French teenager who was born in the Ivory Coast and now plays for Rennes, as 'West Indian' because PSG "didn't want us to recruit players born in Africa, because you are never sure of their date of birth". Fournier also told the website that the drop-down menu on the electronic form "should have said white instead of French", as all the players the national scouts recommended were French. A spokesman for PSG, however, has told Press Association Sport that the club started a new investigation into these claims three weeks ago but disputed the suggestion that recording players' racial backgrounds was still happening this year. "We are talking about one recruiting unit with a manager who put that in place from 2013 until 2017, without our knowledge," he said, before adding "all these people have left" the club. Westerloppe now has a youth development role at Rennes, where Gboho plays and where PSG's former sports director Olivier Letang is now president. Supporters of PSG have reacted angrily to the Mediapart report on social media, pointing out that PSG's youth teams are predominately black, but the case does have parallels with another Mediapart story in 2011, when it revealed an apparent plan by the French Football Federation to limit the number of black and North African players in its youth system. That story almost cost former Manchester United defender Laurent Blanc his job as France manager, although he would quit a year later after a disappointing Euro 2012 campaign. Claims of racism within their scouting system have come during a tough week for PSG, as the Qatari-owned club has also been accused of trying to cheat European football's Financial Fair Play rules by artificially inflating sponsorship deals - allegations it has strongly denied.
Michael Carrick has wondered for a long time if he might have something in common with two of England’s highest-profile cricketers of the modern age, Marcus Trescothick and Jonathan Trott, both of whom decided that the stress and anxiety they felt on tour was too high a price to pay. Carrick’s revelations this week about the depression and anxiety he felt for a period of his career, most pertinently after his Manchester United team lost the 2009 Champions League final to Barcelona, may prove to be a game-changer for elite English football. His newly-released autobiography, Between The Lines, details what he describes as his stress and depression with the kind of clarity that a player of his stature has never yet felt emboldened to make public. When we met this month, Carrick looked back upon the worst season of his life, culminating with him desperate to leave the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, and said that it was the stories of the two English cricketers that struck a chord. “I was thinking about Trescothick and Trott,” he says, “they came out and spoke about it and theirs [stress and anxiety] was being away with England and travelling and that kind of struck me about the 2010 World Cup. “It was just like ‘Get me out of here’ and as much as I was fighting it and thinking ‘What’s wrong with you? You have got nothing to worry about’, I just struggled. I couldn’t deal with it. I don’t know why. I still don’t know why. It just happens and you deal with it. I didn’t speak to anyone about it and my mum and dad didn’t know until the book came out. We are really close. I think they were a bit disappointed that they didn’t realise or I didn’t tell them.” Trescothick’s problems with mental health had become overwhelming in 2006 when he withdrew from England’s tour of India in February of that year. Carrick (R) did not enjoy his time at the 2010 World Cup Credit: Getty Images Despite attempts to come back, he announced his international retirement two years later although, like Carrick, there was never any question of his successful club career being curtailed. Trott left the Ashes tour of 2013 and two years later, having played on a West Indies tour in 2015 also announced his retirement from international cricket. As for Carrick, his international career carried on until he was 34 in the stop-start fashion it had always progressed although he never again went to another tournament having declined to be a standby player for Euro 2012. Both Trott and Trescothick have written extensively about their struggles with stress and anxiety and this is Carrick’s contribution – one to which he was committed. There was, he says, “no chance” that he would leave the issue out the book. “The Trescothick and Trott situation did ring a bell. There was no reason [to feel the way he did in 2010]. Jacey [his son] was born a few weeks before the World Cup, healthy and fine. My wife, Lisa, was struggling at home with a bad back and [daughter] Louise was two. So, they were having a tough time at home but not to the extent where I would be feeling like that.” What is notable about Carrick is just how hard he takes the bad times. “I was playing awful” he says of his annus horribilis, 2009-2010, a season in which he played 49 games for club and country, although those numbers do nothing to convince him otherwise. He goes back to the second leg of the 2010 Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich when he recalls in pin-sharp detail being “shrugged off the ball” by Ivica Olic for the Germans’ first goal. “The Bayern game sums it up. We are 3-0 up, cruising and then I made a mistake, they score, then they score again and it’s 3-2 and we are out the Champions League [on away goals]. It’s like it hit me again, as if everything is a disaster. It’s my fault, again. You start questioning yourself. Carrick in his current role as Manchester United's assistant manager Credit: REUTERS “It’s the constant battle of week to week, ups and downs. You have got to keep that level. Maybe it was me in 2009. That was the end of my third year at United. Maybe I just had enough. I haven’t got the answer and when we came back, I was better and kind of stronger but it did take quite some time to get over it. It was a case of that was my limit.” Was it that, simply the stress of playing for the most successful English club of the era, one for whom reaching the Champions League final was a basic expectation? “Stress. Maybe, yeah and when it came to the ultimate point I wasn’t quite there. There was probably an element of that exhaustion. Not physical but maybe mental. I don’t know.” The anxiety manifested itself in many different ways, especially in South Africa in the summer of 2010 but one of the most striking is Carrick recalling how he perceived others. Here was a player who at that stage had won three Premier League titles, the Champions League and two League Cups in the four years he had been at United since his first World Cup – yet he found himself unable to be happy. “I was looking at the lads in the England squad and thinking, ‘He looks like he’s flying. He’s not got a care in the world. He looks happy’. It’s a bizarre feeling that all those things that never mattered before are such a big deal.” As a coach now, Carrick says that he would see stress in a player of his: the demeanour, the slump of the shoulders – what he calls “that magic word, ‘confidence’”. “It shows what influence the mind has in top-level sport, from game to game. It’s tiny margins. Sometimes you feel fine, you see everything clearly and it’s great. Other times you get the ball, you see six things and you pick the wrong one. That’s just pure mind, confidence. Why? I don’t know. That’s something you have to fight with as an athlete.” Michael Carrick: Between The Lines, is out on Oct 18, with all proceeds going to the Michael Carrick Foundation.
Exclusive interview with Michael Carrick: 'At the World Cup it was like: get me out of here'
Michael Carrick has wondered for a long time if he might have something in common with two of England’s highest-profile cricketers of the modern age, Marcus Trescothick and Jonathan Trott, both of whom decided that the stress and anxiety they felt on tour was too high a price to pay. Carrick’s revelations this week about the depression and anxiety he felt for a period of his career, most pertinently after his Manchester United team lost the 2009 Champions League final to Barcelona, may prove to be a game-changer for elite English football. His newly-released autobiography, Between The Lines, details what he describes as his stress and depression with the kind of clarity that a player of his stature has never yet felt emboldened to make public. When we met this month, Carrick looked back upon the worst season of his life, culminating with him desperate to leave the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, and said that it was the stories of the two English cricketers that struck a chord. “I was thinking about Trescothick and Trott,” he says, “they came out and spoke about it and theirs [stress and anxiety] was being away with England and travelling and that kind of struck me about the 2010 World Cup. “It was just like ‘Get me out of here’ and as much as I was fighting it and thinking ‘What’s wrong with you? You have got nothing to worry about’, I just struggled. I couldn’t deal with it. I don’t know why. I still don’t know why. It just happens and you deal with it. I didn’t speak to anyone about it and my mum and dad didn’t know until the book came out. We are really close. I think they were a bit disappointed that they didn’t realise or I didn’t tell them.” Trescothick’s problems with mental health had become overwhelming in 2006 when he withdrew from England’s tour of India in February of that year. Carrick (R) did not enjoy his time at the 2010 World Cup Credit: Getty Images Despite attempts to come back, he announced his international retirement two years later although, like Carrick, there was never any question of his successful club career being curtailed. Trott left the Ashes tour of 2013 and two years later, having played on a West Indies tour in 2015 also announced his retirement from international cricket. As for Carrick, his international career carried on until he was 34 in the stop-start fashion it had always progressed although he never again went to another tournament having declined to be a standby player for Euro 2012. Both Trott and Trescothick have written extensively about their struggles with stress and anxiety and this is Carrick’s contribution – one to which he was committed. There was, he says, “no chance” that he would leave the issue out the book. “The Trescothick and Trott situation did ring a bell. There was no reason [to feel the way he did in 2010]. Jacey [his son] was born a few weeks before the World Cup, healthy and fine. My wife, Lisa, was struggling at home with a bad back and [daughter] Louise was two. So, they were having a tough time at home but not to the extent where I would be feeling like that.” What is notable about Carrick is just how hard he takes the bad times. “I was playing awful” he says of his annus horribilis, 2009-2010, a season in which he played 49 games for club and country, although those numbers do nothing to convince him otherwise. He goes back to the second leg of the 2010 Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich when he recalls in pin-sharp detail being “shrugged off the ball” by Ivica Olic for the Germans’ first goal. “The Bayern game sums it up. We are 3-0 up, cruising and then I made a mistake, they score, then they score again and it’s 3-2 and we are out the Champions League [on away goals]. It’s like it hit me again, as if everything is a disaster. It’s my fault, again. You start questioning yourself. Carrick in his current role as Manchester United's assistant manager Credit: REUTERS “It’s the constant battle of week to week, ups and downs. You have got to keep that level. Maybe it was me in 2009. That was the end of my third year at United. Maybe I just had enough. I haven’t got the answer and when we came back, I was better and kind of stronger but it did take quite some time to get over it. It was a case of that was my limit.” Was it that, simply the stress of playing for the most successful English club of the era, one for whom reaching the Champions League final was a basic expectation? “Stress. Maybe, yeah and when it came to the ultimate point I wasn’t quite there. There was probably an element of that exhaustion. Not physical but maybe mental. I don’t know.” The anxiety manifested itself in many different ways, especially in South Africa in the summer of 2010 but one of the most striking is Carrick recalling how he perceived others. Here was a player who at that stage had won three Premier League titles, the Champions League and two League Cups in the four years he had been at United since his first World Cup – yet he found himself unable to be happy. “I was looking at the lads in the England squad and thinking, ‘He looks like he’s flying. He’s not got a care in the world. He looks happy’. It’s a bizarre feeling that all those things that never mattered before are such a big deal.” As a coach now, Carrick says that he would see stress in a player of his: the demeanour, the slump of the shoulders – what he calls “that magic word, ‘confidence’”. “It shows what influence the mind has in top-level sport, from game to game. It’s tiny margins. Sometimes you feel fine, you see everything clearly and it’s great. Other times you get the ball, you see six things and you pick the wrong one. That’s just pure mind, confidence. Why? I don’t know. That’s something you have to fight with as an athlete.” Michael Carrick: Between The Lines, is out on Oct 18, with all proceeds going to the Michael Carrick Foundation.
Michael Carrick has wondered for a long time if he might have something in common with two of England’s highest-profile cricketers of the modern age, Marcus Trescothick and Jonathan Trott, both of whom decided that the stress and anxiety they felt on tour was too high a price to pay. Carrick’s revelations this week about the depression and anxiety he felt for a period of his career, most pertinently after his Manchester United team lost the 2009 Champions League final to Barcelona, may prove to be a game-changer for elite English football. His newly-released autobiography, Between The Lines, details what he describes as his stress and depression with the kind of clarity that a player of his stature has never yet felt emboldened to make public. When we met this month, Carrick looked back upon the worst season of his life, culminating with him desperate to leave the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, and said that it was the stories of the two English cricketers that struck a chord. “I was thinking about Trescothick and Trott,” he says, “they came out and spoke about it and theirs [stress and anxiety] was being away with England and travelling and that kind of struck me about the 2010 World Cup. “It was just like ‘Get me out of here’ and as much as I was fighting it and thinking ‘What’s wrong with you? You have got nothing to worry about’, I just struggled. I couldn’t deal with it. I don’t know why. I still don’t know why. It just happens and you deal with it. I didn’t speak to anyone about it and my mum and dad didn’t know until the book came out. We are really close. I think they were a bit disappointed that they didn’t realise or I didn’t tell them.” Trescothick’s problems with mental health had become overwhelming in 2006 when he withdrew from England’s tour of India in February of that year. Carrick (R) did not enjoy his time at the 2010 World Cup Credit: Getty Images Despite attempts to come back, he announced his international retirement two years later although, like Carrick, there was never any question of his successful club career being curtailed. Trott left the Ashes tour of 2013 and two years later, having played on a West Indies tour in 2015 also announced his retirement from international cricket. As for Carrick, his international career carried on until he was 34 in the stop-start fashion it had always progressed although he never again went to another tournament having declined to be a standby player for Euro 2012. Both Trott and Trescothick have written extensively about their struggles with stress and anxiety and this is Carrick’s contribution – one to which he was committed. There was, he says, “no chance” that he would leave the issue out the book. “The Trescothick and Trott situation did ring a bell. There was no reason [to feel the way he did in 2010]. Jacey [his son] was born a few weeks before the World Cup, healthy and fine. My wife, Lisa, was struggling at home with a bad back and [daughter] Louise was two. So, they were having a tough time at home but not to the extent where I would be feeling like that.” What is notable about Carrick is just how hard he takes the bad times. “I was playing awful” he says of his annus horribilis, 2009-2010, a season in which he played 49 games for club and country, although those numbers do nothing to convince him otherwise. He goes back to the second leg of the 2010 Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich when he recalls in pin-sharp detail being “shrugged off the ball” by Ivica Olic for the Germans’ first goal. “The Bayern game sums it up. We are 3-0 up, cruising and then I made a mistake, they score, then they score again and it’s 3-2 and we are out the Champions League [on away goals]. It’s like it hit me again, as if everything is a disaster. It’s my fault, again. You start questioning yourself. Carrick in his current role as Manchester United's assistant manager Credit: REUTERS “It’s the constant battle of week to week, ups and downs. You have got to keep that level. Maybe it was me in 2009. That was the end of my third year at United. Maybe I just had enough. I haven’t got the answer and when we came back, I was better and kind of stronger but it did take quite some time to get over it. It was a case of that was my limit.” Was it that, simply the stress of playing for the most successful English club of the era, one for whom reaching the Champions League final was a basic expectation? “Stress. Maybe, yeah and when it came to the ultimate point I wasn’t quite there. There was probably an element of that exhaustion. Not physical but maybe mental. I don’t know.” The anxiety manifested itself in many different ways, especially in South Africa in the summer of 2010 but one of the most striking is Carrick recalling how he perceived others. Here was a player who at that stage had won three Premier League titles, the Champions League and two League Cups in the four years he had been at United since his first World Cup – yet he found himself unable to be happy. “I was looking at the lads in the England squad and thinking, ‘He looks like he’s flying. He’s not got a care in the world. He looks happy’. It’s a bizarre feeling that all those things that never mattered before are such a big deal.” As a coach now, Carrick says that he would see stress in a player of his: the demeanour, the slump of the shoulders – what he calls “that magic word, ‘confidence’”. “It shows what influence the mind has in top-level sport, from game to game. It’s tiny margins. Sometimes you feel fine, you see everything clearly and it’s great. Other times you get the ball, you see six things and you pick the wrong one. That’s just pure mind, confidence. Why? I don’t know. That’s something you have to fight with as an athlete.” Michael Carrick: Between The Lines, is out on Oct 18, with all proceeds going to the Michael Carrick Foundation.
Exclusive interview with Michael Carrick: 'At the World Cup it was like: get me out of here'
Michael Carrick has wondered for a long time if he might have something in common with two of England’s highest-profile cricketers of the modern age, Marcus Trescothick and Jonathan Trott, both of whom decided that the stress and anxiety they felt on tour was too high a price to pay. Carrick’s revelations this week about the depression and anxiety he felt for a period of his career, most pertinently after his Manchester United team lost the 2009 Champions League final to Barcelona, may prove to be a game-changer for elite English football. His newly-released autobiography, Between The Lines, details what he describes as his stress and depression with the kind of clarity that a player of his stature has never yet felt emboldened to make public. When we met this month, Carrick looked back upon the worst season of his life, culminating with him desperate to leave the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, and said that it was the stories of the two English cricketers that struck a chord. “I was thinking about Trescothick and Trott,” he says, “they came out and spoke about it and theirs [stress and anxiety] was being away with England and travelling and that kind of struck me about the 2010 World Cup. “It was just like ‘Get me out of here’ and as much as I was fighting it and thinking ‘What’s wrong with you? You have got nothing to worry about’, I just struggled. I couldn’t deal with it. I don’t know why. I still don’t know why. It just happens and you deal with it. I didn’t speak to anyone about it and my mum and dad didn’t know until the book came out. We are really close. I think they were a bit disappointed that they didn’t realise or I didn’t tell them.” Trescothick’s problems with mental health had become overwhelming in 2006 when he withdrew from England’s tour of India in February of that year. Carrick (R) did not enjoy his time at the 2010 World Cup Credit: Getty Images Despite attempts to come back, he announced his international retirement two years later although, like Carrick, there was never any question of his successful club career being curtailed. Trott left the Ashes tour of 2013 and two years later, having played on a West Indies tour in 2015 also announced his retirement from international cricket. As for Carrick, his international career carried on until he was 34 in the stop-start fashion it had always progressed although he never again went to another tournament having declined to be a standby player for Euro 2012. Both Trott and Trescothick have written extensively about their struggles with stress and anxiety and this is Carrick’s contribution – one to which he was committed. There was, he says, “no chance” that he would leave the issue out the book. “The Trescothick and Trott situation did ring a bell. There was no reason [to feel the way he did in 2010]. Jacey [his son] was born a few weeks before the World Cup, healthy and fine. My wife, Lisa, was struggling at home with a bad back and [daughter] Louise was two. So, they were having a tough time at home but not to the extent where I would be feeling like that.” What is notable about Carrick is just how hard he takes the bad times. “I was playing awful” he says of his annus horribilis, 2009-2010, a season in which he played 49 games for club and country, although those numbers do nothing to convince him otherwise. He goes back to the second leg of the 2010 Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich when he recalls in pin-sharp detail being “shrugged off the ball” by Ivica Olic for the Germans’ first goal. “The Bayern game sums it up. We are 3-0 up, cruising and then I made a mistake, they score, then they score again and it’s 3-2 and we are out the Champions League [on away goals]. It’s like it hit me again, as if everything is a disaster. It’s my fault, again. You start questioning yourself. Carrick in his current role as Manchester United's assistant manager Credit: REUTERS “It’s the constant battle of week to week, ups and downs. You have got to keep that level. Maybe it was me in 2009. That was the end of my third year at United. Maybe I just had enough. I haven’t got the answer and when we came back, I was better and kind of stronger but it did take quite some time to get over it. It was a case of that was my limit.” Was it that, simply the stress of playing for the most successful English club of the era, one for whom reaching the Champions League final was a basic expectation? “Stress. Maybe, yeah and when it came to the ultimate point I wasn’t quite there. There was probably an element of that exhaustion. Not physical but maybe mental. I don’t know.” The anxiety manifested itself in many different ways, especially in South Africa in the summer of 2010 but one of the most striking is Carrick recalling how he perceived others. Here was a player who at that stage had won three Premier League titles, the Champions League and two League Cups in the four years he had been at United since his first World Cup – yet he found himself unable to be happy. “I was looking at the lads in the England squad and thinking, ‘He looks like he’s flying. He’s not got a care in the world. He looks happy’. It’s a bizarre feeling that all those things that never mattered before are such a big deal.” As a coach now, Carrick says that he would see stress in a player of his: the demeanour, the slump of the shoulders – what he calls “that magic word, ‘confidence’”. “It shows what influence the mind has in top-level sport, from game to game. It’s tiny margins. Sometimes you feel fine, you see everything clearly and it’s great. Other times you get the ball, you see six things and you pick the wrong one. That’s just pure mind, confidence. Why? I don’t know. That’s something you have to fight with as an athlete.” Michael Carrick: Between The Lines, is out on Oct 18, with all proceeds going to the Michael Carrick Foundation.
Michael Carrick has wondered for a long time if he might have something in common with two of England’s highest-profile cricketers of the modern age, Marcus Trescothick and Jonathan Trott, both of whom decided that the stress and anxiety they felt on tour was too high a price to pay. Carrick’s revelations this week about the depression and anxiety he felt for a period of his career, most pertinently after his Manchester United team lost the 2009 Champions League final to Barcelona, may prove to be a game-changer for elite English football. His newly-released autobiography, Between The Lines, details what he describes as his stress and depression with the kind of clarity that a player of his stature has never yet felt emboldened to make public. When we met this month, Carrick looked back upon the worst season of his life, culminating with him desperate to leave the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, and said that it was the stories of the two English cricketers that struck a chord. “I was thinking about Trescothick and Trott,” he says, “they came out and spoke about it and theirs [stress and anxiety] was being away with England and travelling and that kind of struck me about the 2010 World Cup. “It was just like ‘Get me out of here’ and as much as I was fighting it and thinking ‘What’s wrong with you? You have got nothing to worry about’, I just struggled. I couldn’t deal with it. I don’t know why. I still don’t know why. It just happens and you deal with it. I didn’t speak to anyone about it and my mum and dad didn’t know until the book came out. We are really close. I think they were a bit disappointed that they didn’t realise or I didn’t tell them.” Trescothick’s problems with mental health had become overwhelming in 2006 when he withdrew from England’s tour of India in February of that year. Carrick (R) did not enjoy his time at the 2010 World Cup Credit: Getty Images Despite attempts to come back, he announced his international retirement two years later although, like Carrick, there was never any question of his successful club career being curtailed. Trott left the Ashes tour of 2013 and two years later, having played on a West Indies tour in 2015 also announced his retirement from international cricket. As for Carrick, his international career carried on until he was 34 in the stop-start fashion it had always progressed although he never again went to another tournament having declined to be a standby player for Euro 2012. Both Trott and Trescothick have written extensively about their struggles with stress and anxiety and this is Carrick’s contribution – one to which he was committed. There was, he says, “no chance” that he would leave the issue out the book. “The Trescothick and Trott situation did ring a bell. There was no reason [to feel the way he did in 2010]. Jacey [his son] was born a few weeks before the World Cup, healthy and fine. My wife, Lisa, was struggling at home with a bad back and [daughter] Louise was two. So, they were having a tough time at home but not to the extent where I would be feeling like that.” What is notable about Carrick is just how hard he takes the bad times. “I was playing awful” he says of his annus horribilis, 2009-2010, a season in which he played 49 games for club and country, although those numbers do nothing to convince him otherwise. He goes back to the second leg of the 2010 Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich when he recalls in pin-sharp detail being “shrugged off the ball” by Ivica Olic for the Germans’ first goal. “The Bayern game sums it up. We are 3-0 up, cruising and then I made a mistake, they score, then they score again and it’s 3-2 and we are out the Champions League [on away goals]. It’s like it hit me again, as if everything is a disaster. It’s my fault, again. You start questioning yourself. Carrick in his current role as Manchester United's assistant manager Credit: REUTERS “It’s the constant battle of week to week, ups and downs. You have got to keep that level. Maybe it was me in 2009. That was the end of my third year at United. Maybe I just had enough. I haven’t got the answer and when we came back, I was better and kind of stronger but it did take quite some time to get over it. It was a case of that was my limit.” Was it that, simply the stress of playing for the most successful English club of the era, one for whom reaching the Champions League final was a basic expectation? “Stress. Maybe, yeah and when it came to the ultimate point I wasn’t quite there. There was probably an element of that exhaustion. Not physical but maybe mental. I don’t know.” The anxiety manifested itself in many different ways, especially in South Africa in the summer of 2010 but one of the most striking is Carrick recalling how he perceived others. Here was a player who at that stage had won three Premier League titles, the Champions League and two League Cups in the four years he had been at United since his first World Cup – yet he found himself unable to be happy. “I was looking at the lads in the England squad and thinking, ‘He looks like he’s flying. He’s not got a care in the world. He looks happy’. It’s a bizarre feeling that all those things that never mattered before are such a big deal.” As a coach now, Carrick says that he would see stress in a player of his: the demeanour, the slump of the shoulders – what he calls “that magic word, ‘confidence’”. “It shows what influence the mind has in top-level sport, from game to game. It’s tiny margins. Sometimes you feel fine, you see everything clearly and it’s great. Other times you get the ball, you see six things and you pick the wrong one. That’s just pure mind, confidence. Why? I don’t know. That’s something you have to fight with as an athlete.” Michael Carrick: Between The Lines, is out on Oct 18, with all proceeds going to the Michael Carrick Foundation.
Exclusive interview with Michael Carrick: 'At the World Cup it was like: get me out of here'
Michael Carrick has wondered for a long time if he might have something in common with two of England’s highest-profile cricketers of the modern age, Marcus Trescothick and Jonathan Trott, both of whom decided that the stress and anxiety they felt on tour was too high a price to pay. Carrick’s revelations this week about the depression and anxiety he felt for a period of his career, most pertinently after his Manchester United team lost the 2009 Champions League final to Barcelona, may prove to be a game-changer for elite English football. His newly-released autobiography, Between The Lines, details what he describes as his stress and depression with the kind of clarity that a player of his stature has never yet felt emboldened to make public. When we met this month, Carrick looked back upon the worst season of his life, culminating with him desperate to leave the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa, and said that it was the stories of the two English cricketers that struck a chord. “I was thinking about Trescothick and Trott,” he says, “they came out and spoke about it and theirs [stress and anxiety] was being away with England and travelling and that kind of struck me about the 2010 World Cup. “It was just like ‘Get me out of here’ and as much as I was fighting it and thinking ‘What’s wrong with you? You have got nothing to worry about’, I just struggled. I couldn’t deal with it. I don’t know why. I still don’t know why. It just happens and you deal with it. I didn’t speak to anyone about it and my mum and dad didn’t know until the book came out. We are really close. I think they were a bit disappointed that they didn’t realise or I didn’t tell them.” Trescothick’s problems with mental health had become overwhelming in 2006 when he withdrew from England’s tour of India in February of that year. Carrick (R) did not enjoy his time at the 2010 World Cup Credit: Getty Images Despite attempts to come back, he announced his international retirement two years later although, like Carrick, there was never any question of his successful club career being curtailed. Trott left the Ashes tour of 2013 and two years later, having played on a West Indies tour in 2015 also announced his retirement from international cricket. As for Carrick, his international career carried on until he was 34 in the stop-start fashion it had always progressed although he never again went to another tournament having declined to be a standby player for Euro 2012. Both Trott and Trescothick have written extensively about their struggles with stress and anxiety and this is Carrick’s contribution – one to which he was committed. There was, he says, “no chance” that he would leave the issue out the book. “The Trescothick and Trott situation did ring a bell. There was no reason [to feel the way he did in 2010]. Jacey [his son] was born a few weeks before the World Cup, healthy and fine. My wife, Lisa, was struggling at home with a bad back and [daughter] Louise was two. So, they were having a tough time at home but not to the extent where I would be feeling like that.” What is notable about Carrick is just how hard he takes the bad times. “I was playing awful” he says of his annus horribilis, 2009-2010, a season in which he played 49 games for club and country, although those numbers do nothing to convince him otherwise. He goes back to the second leg of the 2010 Champions League quarter-final against Bayern Munich when he recalls in pin-sharp detail being “shrugged off the ball” by Ivica Olic for the Germans’ first goal. “The Bayern game sums it up. We are 3-0 up, cruising and then I made a mistake, they score, then they score again and it’s 3-2 and we are out the Champions League [on away goals]. It’s like it hit me again, as if everything is a disaster. It’s my fault, again. You start questioning yourself. Carrick in his current role as Manchester United's assistant manager Credit: REUTERS “It’s the constant battle of week to week, ups and downs. You have got to keep that level. Maybe it was me in 2009. That was the end of my third year at United. Maybe I just had enough. I haven’t got the answer and when we came back, I was better and kind of stronger but it did take quite some time to get over it. It was a case of that was my limit.” Was it that, simply the stress of playing for the most successful English club of the era, one for whom reaching the Champions League final was a basic expectation? “Stress. Maybe, yeah and when it came to the ultimate point I wasn’t quite there. There was probably an element of that exhaustion. Not physical but maybe mental. I don’t know.” The anxiety manifested itself in many different ways, especially in South Africa in the summer of 2010 but one of the most striking is Carrick recalling how he perceived others. Here was a player who at that stage had won three Premier League titles, the Champions League and two League Cups in the four years he had been at United since his first World Cup – yet he found himself unable to be happy. “I was looking at the lads in the England squad and thinking, ‘He looks like he’s flying. He’s not got a care in the world. He looks happy’. It’s a bizarre feeling that all those things that never mattered before are such a big deal.” As a coach now, Carrick says that he would see stress in a player of his: the demeanour, the slump of the shoulders – what he calls “that magic word, ‘confidence’”. “It shows what influence the mind has in top-level sport, from game to game. It’s tiny margins. Sometimes you feel fine, you see everything clearly and it’s great. Other times you get the ball, you see six things and you pick the wrong one. That’s just pure mind, confidence. Why? I don’t know. That’s something you have to fight with as an athlete.” Michael Carrick: Between The Lines, is out on Oct 18, with all proceeds going to the Michael Carrick Foundation.
<p>For the second time in his career, a missed handshake was the talk of the town. Terry was banned for four games after being found guilty of racially abusing Ferdinand and the QPR defender refused to shake his hand next time they met. The incident had seen him stripped of the England captaincy for the second time before Euro 2012, after being reinstated by Fabio Capello. (Getty Images) </p>
Handshake No.2

For the second time in his career, a missed handshake was the talk of the town. Terry was banned for four games after being found guilty of racially abusing Ferdinand and the QPR defender refused to shake his hand next time they met. The incident had seen him stripped of the England captaincy for the second time before Euro 2012, after being reinstated by Fabio Capello. (Getty Images)

<p>Terry retired from England duty after Euro 2012. He made 78 appearances for his country and had two spells as captain, but was stripped of the honour both times (Getty Images) </p>
International retirement

Terry retired from England duty after Euro 2012. He made 78 appearances for his country and had two spells as captain, but was stripped of the honour both times (Getty Images)

FILE PHOTO: Football - Germany v Azerbaijan UEFA Euro 2012 Qualifying Group A - RheinEnergie-Stadion, Cologne, Germany - 7/9/10 General view of the RheinEnergie-Stadion Mandatory Credit: Action Images/Steven Paston/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Football - Germany v Azerbaijan UEFA Euro 2012 Qualifying Group A
FILE PHOTO: Football - Germany v Azerbaijan UEFA Euro 2012 Qualifying Group A - RheinEnergie-Stadion, Cologne, Germany - 7/9/10 General view of the RheinEnergie-Stadion Mandatory Credit: Action Images/Steven Paston/File Photo
How football (very nearly) came home By Rob Bagchi 3 AUGUST 2018 • 6:49 PM BST England's 2018 World Cup campaign was one of dizzying highs with an ultimately familiar low as its conclusion. Something, though, has shifted. Despite the disappointment of semi-final defeat to Croatia, there is a sense that some deep psychological scars are beginning to fade. “Football’s coming home” has been the rallying cry, and while the final destination will have to wait for now the route looks clearer than it has for years. This is the story of English football’s long and frequently arduous journey. ‘I know that was then…’ Eventually ‘the darkest day’ for the England football team would become so frustratingly routine that its employment even by the habitually trite would be abandoned as cliche. But at the start of the Fifties, when one indignity followed another and the realisation that our sense of entitlement on and off the field was a bankrupt concept, one of England’s conquerors struck a consoling tone. Six months after the chastening 6-3 defeat by Hungary at Wembley in November 1953 that killed the myth of English exceptionalism once and for all, Walter Winterbottom took his side to the Nep Stadion in Budapest where the Magical Magyars massacred them 7-1. After the match Geoffrey Green, the greatest of football correspondents, spoke to Jozsef Bozsik, the Hungarians’ magnificent if stately right-half, and, having gone through the fourth stage of grief, depression, had reached acceptance that England’s supremacy had gone the way of the Empire. And so he was surprised by Bozsik’s sincerity when he asked him if he was joking by asserting that the world still looked up to England. “You are still masters of football,” Bozsik said. “You will always be the masters. You fashioned the game, organised it and gave it to the world first of all. You were the original teachers.” It was of no little comfort to Green that respect overruled results. China, as acknowledged by Fifa, can demonstrate that a form of the game originated there during the Han dynasty in the second century BC and types of football were played in Japan, by indigenous peoples in the Americas and Australia, Ancient Greece and imperial Rome. But Bozsik was correct to say that the game as we know it developed over a thousand years in England from the Middle Ages to the mid-Victorian era. At first it was a ‘mob game’ played on Shrove Tuesday, Whitsuntide and Christmas with mass participation, no rules, no goals and the main objective was territorial, to move the ‘ball’ – initially a hog’s head, later a pig’s or sheep’s bladder – from one part of town to the other. It became a renegade activity, banned by the Lord Mayor of London and in more than 30 decrees from 1314 to 1667 but it thrived despite – probably due to – its propensity to encourage rioting and mischief. But as the industrial revolution began to change the culture of the country, and adults and children were forced to work a six-day week, Feast Day games declined and the public schools, where various hybrids had mutated and flourished over the past four centuries, became the hothouses for the codification of the game and its ultimate divergence into two distinct branches, rugby and football. Billy Wright and Ferenc Puskas lead England and Hungary out at Wembley in 1953 ‘Three Lions on a shirt’ By the late 1840s the multifarious strands of the game were causing confusion and limiting the opportunities for matches because of disputes about offside and handling the ball. In 1848 at Trinity College, Cambridge, undergraduates from Shrewsbury School, Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Winchester met to devise a common code and the Cambridge Rules, as they became known, influenced the drive towards universal regulations. The Sheffield Rules, formulated in the city where Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest association football club, were founded in 1857, have even more in common with the modern game but there was still no unified code. A meeting of London clubs was called at the Freemasons Tavern on Great Queen Street on Oct 26 1863 to address this millennium-old obstacle to harmonisation and, calling itself the Football Association, agreed to invite the public schools to join them to reconcile all the distinctions between their versions. Only Uppingham and Charterhouse accepted but by December 8 after six meetings they were able to publish the Laws of Football. Members of the Sheffield Association and the FA continued to play to their own codes but when Charles Alcock, still then the game’s most prominent player, became secretary and treasurer of the latter in 1870 and created the FA Cup, first won by Wanderers in 1872, it gradually became accepted by both parties that they needed uniform regulations and the mixed rules were adopted from 1877. In the same year as the inaugural Cup final, the FA, in a bid to spread its association version and win the race to standardise the game, officially challenged Scotland, where rugby remained dominant, to a match north of Hadrian’s Wall. On Nov 30 1872, 10 years after an unofficial representative game had ended in a goalless draw, England were held 0-0 at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Partick in the first properly sanctioned international match. The contrast in style between the two sides – England with their dribbling and reliance on individual flair, Scotland with a passing game and teamwork – was marked and it was the Scots professionals with their skill and shrewdness who would become the driving force for the first 50 years of the Football League after it was established in 1888. Such was the success of the first England-Scotland match which drew a crowd of more than 3,000, it became an annual fixture as did Wales in 1879 and Ireland in 1882, two years before the four associations fashioned the Home Championship. Scotland held the upper hand with victories in each of the first four years but by 1900 England, 12 years into “a new football mania”, had fought back for parity in front of vast crowds who made stars of Steve Bloomer, G.O. Smith and Vivian Woodward while Wales and Ireland were regularly walloped and left to a desultory battle for the wooden spoon. The home nations refused to join Fifa on its formation in 1904 and yo-yoed in and out of the organisation for the next four decades, Scotland, Wales and Ireland proving even more hostile to it and continental matches at first than England. The FA did sanction tours of central Europe in 1908 and 1909 when Austria were beaten 6-1, 11-1 and 8-1, Hungary 7-0, 4-2 and 8-2 but they did not invite a Fifa member to play them at home until ‘plucky Belgium’, the nation in whose defence Britain had ostensibly gone to war in 1914, came to Highbury in 1923 and were sent packing with a 6-1 thrashing. Wartime allies Belgium and France became annual fixtures in the Twenties, the high years of Dixie Dean, Billy Walker and Ernie Blenkinsop, but only Scotland provided a typically stern test though Ireland and Wales periodically bared their teeth and made the first part of the decade a troubling one for England even at the new Wembley Stadium. Defeat by the Celts could always be stomached, the illusion of superiority maintained when beaten by essentially your own countrymen, but in May 1929 they were at last bested by Spain in Madrid, going down 3-2 after an arduous train journey. Their chances were ruined by inconsistency of selection and, frankly, the self-serving boneheadedness of the selection committee. Stubbornness throughout the Home Nations’ associations over the issue of broken time payments to amateur players, tolerated by Fifa, provoked their withdrawal again from the organisation and the refusal to take part in the first three World Cups. Bilateral friendlies continued and famous victories over Italy, the world champions, in 1934 at Highbury and Germany, a year later at White Hart contributed to the myth that their absence from the tournament was the world’s not England’s loss. But in 1936, a strong team including Wilf Copping, Cliff Bastin and George Camsell were beaten in Vienna by a wonderful Austria side, and in 1938, though Bastin and Stanley Matthews scored for Eddie Hapgood’s side in a 6-3 victory over Germany in Berlin, the players’ agreement to give the Hitler salute before the match would taint it, the British ambassador and them. They were not to blame, though their willingness to comply with the suggestion has been glossed over retrospectively. A year later, a truly gifted generation of players – Matthews, Tommy Lawton, Joe Mercer, Willie Hall et al – put careers in their prime on hold to serve the country, sometimes in the white shirts of England to sustain morale, usually in khaki or air force blue. England have worn a three lions crest since 1872 ‘England's gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away’ At the end of the Second World War, when detachment, isolation and nationalism should have drowned forever in oceans of blood, the FA, under Stanley Rous, understandably adopted a more progressive and outward-looking tone. It bailed out Fifa and agreed to take part in the fourth World Cup, for which, in gratitude, they were given the most absurd qualification criteria: the top two in the 1949-50 Home Championship would go through to the Brazil finals. England won it and headed off with little preparation and only days to spare; Scotland, who finished second, had an almighty strop and refused to let their players go. England should have travelled in expectation, instead they went overcome by hubris. In 1948 they had gone to Turin with the greatest forward line in England’s history – Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Lawton, Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney – and put on arguably England’s greatest performance to beat the double world champions 4-0 in a courageously incisive and professional display supported by the world-class goalkeeping of Frank Swift to beat the world champions. Typically the numskulls on the selection committee never picked that front five again and Neil Franklin, the best centre-half in Europe, was lured to the rebel league in Colombia before the tournament and was blacklisted for his ‘disloyalty’ in trying to earn more than the maximum wage. Rous had enjoyed one victory over the committee, pushing through the appointment of the first team manager, Walter Winterbottom and he arrived in Brazil minus Matthews, who had been sent on a goodwill tour of Canada, deemed the priority by the FA, and only joined up with the team on the eve of the second game after their 2-0 victory over Chile. In Belo Horizonte they went down 1-0 to the pot-washers, amateurs and obscure expatriates of the USA, a result so unexpected that Fleet Street copytasters initially assumed they had won 10-0. Defeat by Spain in the final game sent them home long before Uruguay’s ‘Maracanazo’ victory over Brazil earned them their second World Cup. In the three years before England’s double defenestration by Hungary when, in Green’s famous words, Billy Wright, diddled by Ferenc Puskas resembled a “fire engine going to the wrong fire”, no lessons were learnt from Brazil and some famous victories were earned, not least when Nat Lofthouse achieved immortality as ‘The Lion of Vienna’ during the 3-2 win there in 1952. Public opinion and the newspapers were so startled by the twin gubbings at Wembley and in Budapest that certain modernisations that had been long overdue – the national preference for heavy shirts, armadillo boots as well as indifference to tactics and novel training methods – were finally applied but the selection committee remained in situ. England's long journey home The changes had not had enough time to bed in for the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, again secured by winning the Home Championship rather than by testing themselves against contrasting styles. A draw with Belgium and victory over the hosts were enough to put them through to the quarter-finals but they could not overcome defending champions Uruguay who went 3-1 up a minute after half-time and eventually won 4-2. England failed to get out of the group four years later in Sweden, losing a play-off to the USSR, but it is unfair to judge them harshly. Four months before the tournament began, they had lost their best forward, Tommy Taylor, best player, Duncan Edwards, and left-back, Manchester United’s inspirational captain, Roger Byrne, in the Munich Air Disaster. In 1956 Taylor had scored twice in a 4-2 victory over Brazil at Wembley and, in the trio’s final international together in November 1957 he had scored two more in a 4-0 whacking of France. Only 13 years after the war, in a far more stoical age, grief was suppressed but without them and because of what happened to them, England did not stand a chance. Brazil, for the first time, won the World Cup with a fine blend of youthful flair, instinctive brilliance and veteran nous. It may always have been their fate but England at full strength and perhaps with an enlightened selector also pushing for Eddie Colman’s inclusion, it may have been a close-run thing. Brazil retained their title four years later, knocking England out in the quarter final in Vina del Mar. Even though Gerry Hitchens and Jimmy Greaves had endured spells in Serie A, there was little continental enlightenment from the FA who, again, sent out a threadbare staff with Winterbottom and no team doctor. Johnny Haynes, by now the captain, was man-marked out of the tournament as he had been in Sweden and his disgruntlement at the press’s criticisms of him soured the atmosphere of the camp. Garrincha was irrepressible in the match and England went home unlamented, as usual less than the sum of their parts. At long last, though, a revolution was at hand. ‘Jules Rimet still gleaming’ Alf Ramsey made it his life’s work that any team he played in or managed would always be stronger than its constituent components. The FA, having won the rights to host the 1966 World Cup, recognised it needed someone to give them a competitive edge. Chasteningly for the association, the appointment of the Ipswich Town manager also gave them an uncompromising visionary whose dedication to his mission and his abrasiveness would be tolerated by the blazers but never embraced. He began with an ultimatum after taking the job on a full-time basis. Ramsey had been in the XI that had been humiliated by USA in Brazil and Hungary at Wembley and felt a player’s righteous sense of indignation about the whims and follies of the International Selection Committee and ensured it was disbanded before he took the job on a full-time basis. When asked what his goal was in 1966, he said that England would win it, and set about building his squad on a series of summer tours during 1963, 1964 and 1965 where he established himself as a player’s manager, strict but also friendly, purposeful and usually cheerful with them, if not with the press. They began the tournament on a run of seven successive victories and a side, as he put it, that was his best team, not necessarily made up of his best players. Consequently alongside the swans – Gordon Banks, Ray Wilson, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Martin Peters and Jimmy Greaves – there was a gaggle of geese, notably Jack Charlton, George Cohen, Roger Hunt and Nobby Stiles. England's captain Bobby Moore in action during the 1966 World Cup quarter-final match between England and Argentina at Wembley It was not until the brutal quarter-final victory over Argentina that he settled on his winning combination after an injury to Greaves in the third of three uninspired group games. Out went his experimentation with a single orthodox winger, in came Geoff Hurst and Alan Ball and the XI who will forever be known as ‘the Boys of 66’ at last took flight. They played all six games at Wembley and, as enthusiasm began to mount, their inhibitions were shed and they put on a magnificent performance to beat Portugal in the semi-final. On the morning of July 30 1966, Stiles went to mass, Bobby Charlton went shopping in Hendon, most players went for a walk and they arrived at the stadium in good time. In front of a vibrant crowd of 100,000 Hurst equalised six minutes after Helmut Haller had put West Germany ahead in the 12th minute and Wolfgang Weber levelled with a minute to spare following Martin Peters’ second half goal. Ramsey, famously, told them they had won it once and all they had to do was win it again, which they deservedly did in extra-time, Hurst completing his hat-trick first in dubious then in thrilling emphatic style. Moore, an elegant presence throughout, lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in glorious sunshine as the clouds parted above Wembley and the players and the manager, who would shortly be knighted, celebrated with characteristic modesty. The defence of the trophy four years later in Mexico, when Sir Alf maintained he had a better team, was stymied by West Germany’s comeback from 2-0 down in the quarter-final. The world may have turned against the team because of Ramsey’s prickliness and evident distaste of anything foreign, a trait bordering on full-blown xenophobia, but for the players, who were superb against the eventual winners Brazil in a majestic group game, it was undeserved. Had they not lost Banks to food poisoning before the game and had Ramsey kept Bobby Charlton on 10 minutes more to occupy Franz Beckenbauer, it is fair to speculate that they would have made it through to the final and had the opportunity of another go at Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson and the other all-time greats. ‘All those oh so nears, wear you down through the years’ If 1970 was essentially the end of the 1966 champagne years, the following 10 were figuratively the greatest hangover English football has ever endured. Ramsey, still a relatively young man but ever more hidebound and mistrustful, rebooted the team but could not find a fluid yet alone a fluent formula. Moore, in decline, carried on as his captain but after a 3-1 defeat in the European Championship quarter-final by West Germany at Wembley in 1972 when Gunther Netzer tore them to shreds, England spiralled ever more vertiginously into a mess of conservatism, caution and anxiety. Ramsey was sacked at the beginning of 1974 after defeat away in Poland and a draw at home ensured non-qualification for the World Cup at which West Germany emulated England by winning at home. Leeds United’s Don Revie took his place after a revivifying caretaker spell by Joe Mecer but the wide pool of players at his disposal encouraged constant tinkering in selection and his running feud with the chairman of the FA, Lord Thompson, left him deflated and mutinous. There were signs of progress – and the adoption of a garish kit more suited to the age – but injuries to Gerry Francis and Colin Bell killed the momentum and he sent out a team to face Italy in a World Cup qualifier in November 1976 that was so unbalanced defeat was all but inevitable. That loss meant that making it to the 1978 tournament was out of their hands and Revie, fearing he would be sacked, pre-empted the FA and jumped ship to the UAE, a decision that continues to blacken his reputation. Ron Greenwood was chosen as his successor when the people wanted Brian Clough yet the former West Ham manager did guide them to Euro 80, where they drew with Belgium, lost to Italy and beat Spain while their fans rioted, and the 1982 World Cup even though repeated setbacks in qualification frequently suggested his resignation was imminent. His two best players, Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking, were injured at the start of the tournament and would not play until the fifth and final game against the hosts. They won their first three matches, getting off to a flier against France, but as Bryan Robson waned, so did their fortunes and they could only draw against European champions West Germany and against Spain to go home unbeaten. Keegan, twice the Ballon d’Or winner and certainly the best English player of his generation, managed only 26 minutes of World Cup football in his storied career and missed a header late on in his sole cameo that would have given his side hope. Keegan never played for England again. Bobby Robson, who left Ipswich to succeed Greenwood, did not pick him for his first squad and the former captain announced his retirement with abrupt finality. Robson struggled at first and was spat at by fans at Wembley after a defeat by the Soviet Union in 1984, the year he failed to qualify for the Euros won at home by France. The behaviour of the England crowd had been toxic for years. Not much violence at home, but they had been jeering the players since about 1968 and screeching their exasperation. Away, particularly Scotland, provided the playground for assorted neophytes, headbangers and racists to do their worst and a nadir was reached on a flight from Brazil after John Barnes’ majestically serpentine goal at the Maracana when one piggy-eyed member of the ‘master race’ proclaimed that the goal didn’t count because it hadn’t been scored by a white man. Nonetheless England’s performances on that tour of South America suggested Robson was building a coherent system even if it was over-reliant on Bryan Robson, the marauding Manchester United captain whose bravery all too often put him in harm’s way. Robson started the first game in Mexico against Portugal having seemingly recovered from a dislocated shoulder. What we didn’t know was that it had popped out again during the training camp and his selection became even more of a risk. They ended the match defeated and with boos ringing out and Robson had his tournament finished during the draw with Morocco when he fell awkwardly and dislocated it again. Ray Wilkins, his deputy, lost his cool and was sent off and England were in disarray. The absence of his two midfield stalwarts left Bobby Robson with no option but to pick Peter Reid to do Glenn Hoddle’s running, introduce Peter Beardsley and the changes liberated Gary Lineker who scored six goals in the next three matches and won the Golden Boot despite England, after a heartening resurgence, leaving at the quarter-final stage at the hand of Diego Maradona and by virtue of his divine second goal. The knowledge that they had been cheated for the first goal left them departing with a sense of grievance but also with their honour intact. Now the tabloid press reached its Nero phase when their journalists jobs became a caper we were all supposed to enjoy and people who should have known better jumped from an anti-Robson bandwagon to a pro-‘Our Boys’ one with indecent opportunism. And poor Robson managed to stay sane if not undamaged through it all. Three defeats at Euro 88 when Lineker was stricken with glandular fever and Holland revived Total Football with a dynamic, athletic twist, would have ended Robson’s time in the job he loved best but for the length of his contract and he composed himself and the team to qualify for Italia 90. Paul Gascoigne’s skill and charm introduced an affable battiness into the side and helped England reconnect with the supporters. Although a wonderfully assured performance with three at the back against Holland in their second group game was followed by a dispiritingly sterile 1-0 win over Egypt, the 119th-minute victory over Belgium in the Round of 16, secured by virtue of Gascoigne’s vision and David Platt’s balletic volley, and their tenacious fight-back from 2-1 down in the quarter-final against a mesmerisingly sinuous Cameroon attack revealed their skill and fortitude. Here was the proof that would inspire the key line of Three Lions, the plaintive yet defiant: “But I know they can play.” They may have been let down in the past by excessive caution or the 11th-hour loss of Gordon Banks or diddled by the Hand of God but each time had highly capable players and now, at last, they were showing it. They made it to the semi-final with the nation behind them, played very well against West Germany and equalised when Lineker cushioned Parker’s cross on his thigh to manoeuvre Thomas Berthold and Klaus Augenthaler out of his path and fire a left-foot shot past Bodo Illgner with 10 minutes to go. Gary Lineker during the 1986 World Cup group match against Paraguay in Mexico City. England won the match 3-0 The drama of extra-time, for the third England game in succession, was enhanced by West Germany laying siege for what seemed like a lifetime, Waddle’s superb shot that hit the inside of the post, Gascoigne’s deserved booking for fouling Berthold and subsequent tears that sealed a nation’s love. West Germany had won shootouts en route to the final at the past two World Cups while England were enduring their first. At 3-3, Robson’s ‘banker’ Stuart Pearce went hard and straight. Illgner saved it with his legs and, with a distraught Pearce on his haunches in the centre-circle, Olaf Thon scored West Germany’s fourth. Waddle walked up in fifth place, deputising for his room-mate Gascoigne. “I felt like I was stepping off the world into silence,” he said, deciding to blast it but overcome by anxiety and tiredness, he got his body shape wrong, leant back and fired it into orbit. England were out but again left after a gallant campaign and Robson, who had been called a traitor by the newspapers and told to PSV off by the Sun for agreeing to take over in Eindhoven after the tournament because the FA would not renew his contract, was never maligned again. Would that we could say the same for his successor, Graham Taylor who, in three years in charge, took England backwards. If Robson had been on the road to enlightenment when he left, Taylor, a decent, honest man but also patently out of his depth with the newspaper sharks swirling around him and about to turn him into a root vegetable, could not marry his club football strategies to the international game. He seemed to be no judge of international quality, made some extraordinary selections but was still unlucky after an insipid exit from Euro 92 won by, of all people, Denmark, to miss out on the 1994 World Cup because he was denied a fit Gascoigne for long periods, his own intransigence over Waddle and a glaring refereeing error during the defeat by Holland in Rotterdam. Perhaps no England manager had a tougher inheritance given what had just preceded his appointment, yet it is only fair to concede that he made a mess of it. Terry Venables, by contrast, was more assured and when the news reporters went for him over his conduct at Tottenham and his business dealings, he always had the football pack on his side. He knew what he wanted to do and applied everything he had learnt at Crystal Palace, QPR, Barcelona and Spurs to fashion a 3-5-2 system that was similar to Robson’s but bolder in that he used wingers instead of full-backs in the wide roles. He was fortunate too in that he did not have to qualify for the next tournament, Euro 96 in England, and, after some boozy indiscretions on tour before their first game, they made the country fall in love with them again after half-time in their second fixture against Scotland when it all came together with Gascoigne, rejuvenated, Alan Shearer, devastatingly predatory, Paul Ince tireless, and Teddy Sheringham imaginatively creative. The country was festooned with cross of St George flags for the first time, Three Lions was adopted as an anthem and England made it through to the semi-finals after a commanding victory over Holland and a scrappy but unforgettable penalty shootout win against Spain featuring redemption for Pearce and a cry that could be heard in Turin. Once more they faced Germany and, as they had six years earlier, they played with poise and enterprise but couldn’t crack the eventual winners. At the end of 120 minutes and five successful penalties each, it was England that cracked, Gareth Southgate rolling his too close to Andreas Kopke. Venables left to spend more time with his solicitors and Glenn Hoddle took over a team that had the nation dancing to its tune and was seemingly on an upward trajectory after emerging from the dark ages. ‘So many jokes, so many sneers’ For the next 20 years England were mired in confusion and capriciousness. The Premier League, a breakaway from the Football League given the fig-leaf of FA sanction, made the English game plutocratically wealthy but the snake swallowed the pig, the club game devouring the FA’s intention that the whole point of secession was to put the national side at the apex of the sport. The clubs produced some sensationally talented players – Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole among many more – but the FA zigzagged from appointing a coaching virtuoso with some strange views in Hoddle, to the arch-motivator in Keegan, Sven Goran-Eriksson, the progressive pragmatist, to his No2, chalkboard guru Steve McClaren, and from him to the best coach money could buy, Fabio Capello, to Roy Hodgson, supposedly a veteran sage, and finally Sam Allardyce for a Lady Jane Grey reign. During that time England were well-supported at each tournament to which they went, losing on penalties at the last 16 stage to Argentina at France 98 which was won by the hosts, finally beating Germany in a competitive match at Euro 2000 in an otherwise terrible display, winning 5-1 in Munich under Eriksson when Owen had the world at his feet, doing well at the 2002 World Cup until overwhelmed by caution in the second-half of the quarter-final against eventual winners Brazil and, with Rooney rampant at Euro 2004, looking unstoppable until he was hit by the curse of the metatarsal that had already hobbled Beckham at the previous tournament and would do for Rooney again weeks before the next. At the 2006 World Cup they holed up in Baden-Baden where the divergence between their living standards and the people who followed them was never more naked and it was exploited first by some newspapers for prurient kicks and then as a tool of castigation when they were knocked out for the second tournament running by Portugal on penalties. Italy won it and England, beset by injuries and timidity, got as far as they deserved as was also the case under McClaren who failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and spent much of his time in the job with the crowd on his back, alarmed and angry at the incohesion and reticence of talented players. Capello came in and banned ketchup, brought the iron rod but couldn’t get a tune out of the same group of players and walked out on the eve of Euro 2012. His bored side had been eliminated at the last 16 stage at the 2010 World Cup when a youthful Germany left England looking like carthorses and their fans grateful that they didn’t have to witness them being filleted by Spain. The Italian tried to bring Scholes back into the fold but could not persuade England’s best midfielder to end six years of exile he felt forced into because Eriksson, even with his exorbitant salary, would not take on the responsibility of picking a balanced team if it meant leaving out either Gerrard or Lampard, or getting them to work in a diamond. Beckham did come back as a kind of elder statesman, now universally popular after a topsy-turvy relationship with the crowd and media which took him from pariah for his red card in 1998 to messiah with his goals against Greece and Argentina and back to earth in Germany. The one bright light remained Rooney who carried the attack between tournaments and succumbed to the general malaise during them. Longevity and dedication made him the most-capped outfield player and the highest scorer but he was banned for the start of Euro 2012 and could not drag England past Italy in the quarter-final, which they lost on penalties, or the opening match of the 2014 World Cup. Hodgson was paid almost as much as Capello and fared worse, going out at the group stage in Brazil when furious fans were strung along with the old line about building for the future even though it was plain to see that an inability to defend hardly boded well. Indeed they were knocked out by Iceland at Euro 2016 in the second round. He spent spells of the three tournaments pinching his face and left at the end of the last one with the national team flirting as much with irrelevance as embarrassment. "We’re a team, with our diversity and our youth, that represents modern England. In England, we have spent a bit of time being a bit lost as to what our modern identity is. I think we represent that modern identity and hopefully, people can connect with us." Gareth Southgate, 2018 ‘It’s coming home’ In only 21 months Gareth Southgate has changed all that, regenerating a bond between the team and its public in a way that only success in tournament football can achieve. Even last November, while paper aeroplanes were being thrown at Wembley during a friendly, and the usual charmless berks were littering Twitter with complaints about international breaks and railing about the lack of Premier League football, the current levels of elation and pride would have seemed preposterous. Yet Southgate, the first FA insider to be given the job since Winterbottom, has been an integral part of building the structure that fostered the recent renaissance of national age-group teams – England won the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups in 2017 – applied the principles he had picked up as a coach working in player development and blended them with his own experiences as an international under Venables, Hoddle, Keegan and Eriksson. Honesty and humility were paramount as well as presenting an open face to the world and as his young team rallied to beat Tunisia, marmalised Panama, withstood Colombia and flattened them in their first shoot-out victory for 22 years, the country fell for their character and integrity. As everything around us seems threatened by spitefulness, pusillanimity and chaos, they became a beacon not a distraction. The target before Russia 2018 was a place in the quarter-finals and England’s inexperienced squad, for once, over-achieved and made it to the semis for only the third time since 1950 by exploiting a kind draw with their panache, efficiency and determination. Croatia, a team with two of the best midfielders in the world, and relentless, streetwise forward runners, proved too savvy at this early stage but England created enough chances to impress upon everyone that this is only the beginning. The first steps on the long road have been taken. It will take a little longer than many hoped, but football is coming home. England's amazing World Cup: the best pics Registration wall CSS More World Cup 2018 01 Aug 2018,10:30pm Gareth Southgate to be offered new England deal beyond 2020 'to build a dynasty' 01 Aug 2018,5:00pm England moves step closer to hosting 2030 World Cup but distances itself from 2022 if Qatar stripped 24 Jul 2018,10:30pm Adam Lallana opens up on World Cup heartache: 'The lads had a massive tournament but I still have lots to give' 24 Jul 2018,3:35pm England manager Gareth Southgate nominated for Fifa coach of the year award
Three Lions pride: how football (very nearly) came home for England
How football (very nearly) came home By Rob Bagchi 3 AUGUST 2018 • 6:49 PM BST England's 2018 World Cup campaign was one of dizzying highs with an ultimately familiar low as its conclusion. Something, though, has shifted. Despite the disappointment of semi-final defeat to Croatia, there is a sense that some deep psychological scars are beginning to fade. “Football’s coming home” has been the rallying cry, and while the final destination will have to wait for now the route looks clearer than it has for years. This is the story of English football’s long and frequently arduous journey. ‘I know that was then…’ Eventually ‘the darkest day’ for the England football team would become so frustratingly routine that its employment even by the habitually trite would be abandoned as cliche. But at the start of the Fifties, when one indignity followed another and the realisation that our sense of entitlement on and off the field was a bankrupt concept, one of England’s conquerors struck a consoling tone. Six months after the chastening 6-3 defeat by Hungary at Wembley in November 1953 that killed the myth of English exceptionalism once and for all, Walter Winterbottom took his side to the Nep Stadion in Budapest where the Magical Magyars massacred them 7-1. After the match Geoffrey Green, the greatest of football correspondents, spoke to Jozsef Bozsik, the Hungarians’ magnificent if stately right-half, and, having gone through the fourth stage of grief, depression, had reached acceptance that England’s supremacy had gone the way of the Empire. And so he was surprised by Bozsik’s sincerity when he asked him if he was joking by asserting that the world still looked up to England. “You are still masters of football,” Bozsik said. “You will always be the masters. You fashioned the game, organised it and gave it to the world first of all. You were the original teachers.” It was of no little comfort to Green that respect overruled results. China, as acknowledged by Fifa, can demonstrate that a form of the game originated there during the Han dynasty in the second century BC and types of football were played in Japan, by indigenous peoples in the Americas and Australia, Ancient Greece and imperial Rome. But Bozsik was correct to say that the game as we know it developed over a thousand years in England from the Middle Ages to the mid-Victorian era. At first it was a ‘mob game’ played on Shrove Tuesday, Whitsuntide and Christmas with mass participation, no rules, no goals and the main objective was territorial, to move the ‘ball’ – initially a hog’s head, later a pig’s or sheep’s bladder – from one part of town to the other. It became a renegade activity, banned by the Lord Mayor of London and in more than 30 decrees from 1314 to 1667 but it thrived despite – probably due to – its propensity to encourage rioting and mischief. But as the industrial revolution began to change the culture of the country, and adults and children were forced to work a six-day week, Feast Day games declined and the public schools, where various hybrids had mutated and flourished over the past four centuries, became the hothouses for the codification of the game and its ultimate divergence into two distinct branches, rugby and football. Billy Wright and Ferenc Puskas lead England and Hungary out at Wembley in 1953 ‘Three Lions on a shirt’ By the late 1840s the multifarious strands of the game were causing confusion and limiting the opportunities for matches because of disputes about offside and handling the ball. In 1848 at Trinity College, Cambridge, undergraduates from Shrewsbury School, Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Winchester met to devise a common code and the Cambridge Rules, as they became known, influenced the drive towards universal regulations. The Sheffield Rules, formulated in the city where Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest association football club, were founded in 1857, have even more in common with the modern game but there was still no unified code. A meeting of London clubs was called at the Freemasons Tavern on Great Queen Street on Oct 26 1863 to address this millennium-old obstacle to harmonisation and, calling itself the Football Association, agreed to invite the public schools to join them to reconcile all the distinctions between their versions. Only Uppingham and Charterhouse accepted but by December 8 after six meetings they were able to publish the Laws of Football. Members of the Sheffield Association and the FA continued to play to their own codes but when Charles Alcock, still then the game’s most prominent player, became secretary and treasurer of the latter in 1870 and created the FA Cup, first won by Wanderers in 1872, it gradually became accepted by both parties that they needed uniform regulations and the mixed rules were adopted from 1877. In the same year as the inaugural Cup final, the FA, in a bid to spread its association version and win the race to standardise the game, officially challenged Scotland, where rugby remained dominant, to a match north of Hadrian’s Wall. On Nov 30 1872, 10 years after an unofficial representative game had ended in a goalless draw, England were held 0-0 at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Partick in the first properly sanctioned international match. The contrast in style between the two sides – England with their dribbling and reliance on individual flair, Scotland with a passing game and teamwork – was marked and it was the Scots professionals with their skill and shrewdness who would become the driving force for the first 50 years of the Football League after it was established in 1888. Such was the success of the first England-Scotland match which drew a crowd of more than 3,000, it became an annual fixture as did Wales in 1879 and Ireland in 1882, two years before the four associations fashioned the Home Championship. Scotland held the upper hand with victories in each of the first four years but by 1900 England, 12 years into “a new football mania”, had fought back for parity in front of vast crowds who made stars of Steve Bloomer, G.O. Smith and Vivian Woodward while Wales and Ireland were regularly walloped and left to a desultory battle for the wooden spoon. The home nations refused to join Fifa on its formation in 1904 and yo-yoed in and out of the organisation for the next four decades, Scotland, Wales and Ireland proving even more hostile to it and continental matches at first than England. The FA did sanction tours of central Europe in 1908 and 1909 when Austria were beaten 6-1, 11-1 and 8-1, Hungary 7-0, 4-2 and 8-2 but they did not invite a Fifa member to play them at home until ‘plucky Belgium’, the nation in whose defence Britain had ostensibly gone to war in 1914, came to Highbury in 1923 and were sent packing with a 6-1 thrashing. Wartime allies Belgium and France became annual fixtures in the Twenties, the high years of Dixie Dean, Billy Walker and Ernie Blenkinsop, but only Scotland provided a typically stern test though Ireland and Wales periodically bared their teeth and made the first part of the decade a troubling one for England even at the new Wembley Stadium. Defeat by the Celts could always be stomached, the illusion of superiority maintained when beaten by essentially your own countrymen, but in May 1929 they were at last bested by Spain in Madrid, going down 3-2 after an arduous train journey. Their chances were ruined by inconsistency of selection and, frankly, the self-serving boneheadedness of the selection committee. Stubbornness throughout the Home Nations’ associations over the issue of broken time payments to amateur players, tolerated by Fifa, provoked their withdrawal again from the organisation and the refusal to take part in the first three World Cups. Bilateral friendlies continued and famous victories over Italy, the world champions, in 1934 at Highbury and Germany, a year later at White Hart contributed to the myth that their absence from the tournament was the world’s not England’s loss. But in 1936, a strong team including Wilf Copping, Cliff Bastin and George Camsell were beaten in Vienna by a wonderful Austria side, and in 1938, though Bastin and Stanley Matthews scored for Eddie Hapgood’s side in a 6-3 victory over Germany in Berlin, the players’ agreement to give the Hitler salute before the match would taint it, the British ambassador and them. They were not to blame, though their willingness to comply with the suggestion has been glossed over retrospectively. A year later, a truly gifted generation of players – Matthews, Tommy Lawton, Joe Mercer, Willie Hall et al – put careers in their prime on hold to serve the country, sometimes in the white shirts of England to sustain morale, usually in khaki or air force blue. England have worn a three lions crest since 1872 ‘England's gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away’ At the end of the Second World War, when detachment, isolation and nationalism should have drowned forever in oceans of blood, the FA, under Stanley Rous, understandably adopted a more progressive and outward-looking tone. It bailed out Fifa and agreed to take part in the fourth World Cup, for which, in gratitude, they were given the most absurd qualification criteria: the top two in the 1949-50 Home Championship would go through to the Brazil finals. England won it and headed off with little preparation and only days to spare; Scotland, who finished second, had an almighty strop and refused to let their players go. England should have travelled in expectation, instead they went overcome by hubris. In 1948 they had gone to Turin with the greatest forward line in England’s history – Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Lawton, Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney – and put on arguably England’s greatest performance to beat the double world champions 4-0 in a courageously incisive and professional display supported by the world-class goalkeeping of Frank Swift to beat the world champions. Typically the numskulls on the selection committee never picked that front five again and Neil Franklin, the best centre-half in Europe, was lured to the rebel league in Colombia before the tournament and was blacklisted for his ‘disloyalty’ in trying to earn more than the maximum wage. Rous had enjoyed one victory over the committee, pushing through the appointment of the first team manager, Walter Winterbottom and he arrived in Brazil minus Matthews, who had been sent on a goodwill tour of Canada, deemed the priority by the FA, and only joined up with the team on the eve of the second game after their 2-0 victory over Chile. In Belo Horizonte they went down 1-0 to the pot-washers, amateurs and obscure expatriates of the USA, a result so unexpected that Fleet Street copytasters initially assumed they had won 10-0. Defeat by Spain in the final game sent them home long before Uruguay’s ‘Maracanazo’ victory over Brazil earned them their second World Cup. In the three years before England’s double defenestration by Hungary when, in Green’s famous words, Billy Wright, diddled by Ferenc Puskas resembled a “fire engine going to the wrong fire”, no lessons were learnt from Brazil and some famous victories were earned, not least when Nat Lofthouse achieved immortality as ‘The Lion of Vienna’ during the 3-2 win there in 1952. Public opinion and the newspapers were so startled by the twin gubbings at Wembley and in Budapest that certain modernisations that had been long overdue – the national preference for heavy shirts, armadillo boots as well as indifference to tactics and novel training methods – were finally applied but the selection committee remained in situ. England's long journey home The changes had not had enough time to bed in for the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, again secured by winning the Home Championship rather than by testing themselves against contrasting styles. A draw with Belgium and victory over the hosts were enough to put them through to the quarter-finals but they could not overcome defending champions Uruguay who went 3-1 up a minute after half-time and eventually won 4-2. England failed to get out of the group four years later in Sweden, losing a play-off to the USSR, but it is unfair to judge them harshly. Four months before the tournament began, they had lost their best forward, Tommy Taylor, best player, Duncan Edwards, and left-back, Manchester United’s inspirational captain, Roger Byrne, in the Munich Air Disaster. In 1956 Taylor had scored twice in a 4-2 victory over Brazil at Wembley and, in the trio’s final international together in November 1957 he had scored two more in a 4-0 whacking of France. Only 13 years after the war, in a far more stoical age, grief was suppressed but without them and because of what happened to them, England did not stand a chance. Brazil, for the first time, won the World Cup with a fine blend of youthful flair, instinctive brilliance and veteran nous. It may always have been their fate but England at full strength and perhaps with an enlightened selector also pushing for Eddie Colman’s inclusion, it may have been a close-run thing. Brazil retained their title four years later, knocking England out in the quarter final in Vina del Mar. Even though Gerry Hitchens and Jimmy Greaves had endured spells in Serie A, there was little continental enlightenment from the FA who, again, sent out a threadbare staff with Winterbottom and no team doctor. Johnny Haynes, by now the captain, was man-marked out of the tournament as he had been in Sweden and his disgruntlement at the press’s criticisms of him soured the atmosphere of the camp. Garrincha was irrepressible in the match and England went home unlamented, as usual less than the sum of their parts. At long last, though, a revolution was at hand. ‘Jules Rimet still gleaming’ Alf Ramsey made it his life’s work that any team he played in or managed would always be stronger than its constituent components. The FA, having won the rights to host the 1966 World Cup, recognised it needed someone to give them a competitive edge. Chasteningly for the association, the appointment of the Ipswich Town manager also gave them an uncompromising visionary whose dedication to his mission and his abrasiveness would be tolerated by the blazers but never embraced. He began with an ultimatum after taking the job on a full-time basis. Ramsey had been in the XI that had been humiliated by USA in Brazil and Hungary at Wembley and felt a player’s righteous sense of indignation about the whims and follies of the International Selection Committee and ensured it was disbanded before he took the job on a full-time basis. When asked what his goal was in 1966, he said that England would win it, and set about building his squad on a series of summer tours during 1963, 1964 and 1965 where he established himself as a player’s manager, strict but also friendly, purposeful and usually cheerful with them, if not with the press. They began the tournament on a run of seven successive victories and a side, as he put it, that was his best team, not necessarily made up of his best players. Consequently alongside the swans – Gordon Banks, Ray Wilson, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Martin Peters and Jimmy Greaves – there was a gaggle of geese, notably Jack Charlton, George Cohen, Roger Hunt and Nobby Stiles. England's captain Bobby Moore in action during the 1966 World Cup quarter-final match between England and Argentina at Wembley It was not until the brutal quarter-final victory over Argentina that he settled on his winning combination after an injury to Greaves in the third of three uninspired group games. Out went his experimentation with a single orthodox winger, in came Geoff Hurst and Alan Ball and the XI who will forever be known as ‘the Boys of 66’ at last took flight. They played all six games at Wembley and, as enthusiasm began to mount, their inhibitions were shed and they put on a magnificent performance to beat Portugal in the semi-final. On the morning of July 30 1966, Stiles went to mass, Bobby Charlton went shopping in Hendon, most players went for a walk and they arrived at the stadium in good time. In front of a vibrant crowd of 100,000 Hurst equalised six minutes after Helmut Haller had put West Germany ahead in the 12th minute and Wolfgang Weber levelled with a minute to spare following Martin Peters’ second half goal. Ramsey, famously, told them they had won it once and all they had to do was win it again, which they deservedly did in extra-time, Hurst completing his hat-trick first in dubious then in thrilling emphatic style. Moore, an elegant presence throughout, lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in glorious sunshine as the clouds parted above Wembley and the players and the manager, who would shortly be knighted, celebrated with characteristic modesty. The defence of the trophy four years later in Mexico, when Sir Alf maintained he had a better team, was stymied by West Germany’s comeback from 2-0 down in the quarter-final. The world may have turned against the team because of Ramsey’s prickliness and evident distaste of anything foreign, a trait bordering on full-blown xenophobia, but for the players, who were superb against the eventual winners Brazil in a majestic group game, it was undeserved. Had they not lost Banks to food poisoning before the game and had Ramsey kept Bobby Charlton on 10 minutes more to occupy Franz Beckenbauer, it is fair to speculate that they would have made it through to the final and had the opportunity of another go at Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson and the other all-time greats. ‘All those oh so nears, wear you down through the years’ If 1970 was essentially the end of the 1966 champagne years, the following 10 were figuratively the greatest hangover English football has ever endured. Ramsey, still a relatively young man but ever more hidebound and mistrustful, rebooted the team but could not find a fluid yet alone a fluent formula. Moore, in decline, carried on as his captain but after a 3-1 defeat in the European Championship quarter-final by West Germany at Wembley in 1972 when Gunther Netzer tore them to shreds, England spiralled ever more vertiginously into a mess of conservatism, caution and anxiety. Ramsey was sacked at the beginning of 1974 after defeat away in Poland and a draw at home ensured non-qualification for the World Cup at which West Germany emulated England by winning at home. Leeds United’s Don Revie took his place after a revivifying caretaker spell by Joe Mecer but the wide pool of players at his disposal encouraged constant tinkering in selection and his running feud with the chairman of the FA, Lord Thompson, left him deflated and mutinous. There were signs of progress – and the adoption of a garish kit more suited to the age – but injuries to Gerry Francis and Colin Bell killed the momentum and he sent out a team to face Italy in a World Cup qualifier in November 1976 that was so unbalanced defeat was all but inevitable. That loss meant that making it to the 1978 tournament was out of their hands and Revie, fearing he would be sacked, pre-empted the FA and jumped ship to the UAE, a decision that continues to blacken his reputation. Ron Greenwood was chosen as his successor when the people wanted Brian Clough yet the former West Ham manager did guide them to Euro 80, where they drew with Belgium, lost to Italy and beat Spain while their fans rioted, and the 1982 World Cup even though repeated setbacks in qualification frequently suggested his resignation was imminent. His two best players, Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking, were injured at the start of the tournament and would not play until the fifth and final game against the hosts. They won their first three matches, getting off to a flier against France, but as Bryan Robson waned, so did their fortunes and they could only draw against European champions West Germany and against Spain to go home unbeaten. Keegan, twice the Ballon d’Or winner and certainly the best English player of his generation, managed only 26 minutes of World Cup football in his storied career and missed a header late on in his sole cameo that would have given his side hope. Keegan never played for England again. Bobby Robson, who left Ipswich to succeed Greenwood, did not pick him for his first squad and the former captain announced his retirement with abrupt finality. Robson struggled at first and was spat at by fans at Wembley after a defeat by the Soviet Union in 1984, the year he failed to qualify for the Euros won at home by France. The behaviour of the England crowd had been toxic for years. Not much violence at home, but they had been jeering the players since about 1968 and screeching their exasperation. Away, particularly Scotland, provided the playground for assorted neophytes, headbangers and racists to do their worst and a nadir was reached on a flight from Brazil after John Barnes’ majestically serpentine goal at the Maracana when one piggy-eyed member of the ‘master race’ proclaimed that the goal didn’t count because it hadn’t been scored by a white man. Nonetheless England’s performances on that tour of South America suggested Robson was building a coherent system even if it was over-reliant on Bryan Robson, the marauding Manchester United captain whose bravery all too often put him in harm’s way. Robson started the first game in Mexico against Portugal having seemingly recovered from a dislocated shoulder. What we didn’t know was that it had popped out again during the training camp and his selection became even more of a risk. They ended the match defeated and with boos ringing out and Robson had his tournament finished during the draw with Morocco when he fell awkwardly and dislocated it again. Ray Wilkins, his deputy, lost his cool and was sent off and England were in disarray. The absence of his two midfield stalwarts left Bobby Robson with no option but to pick Peter Reid to do Glenn Hoddle’s running, introduce Peter Beardsley and the changes liberated Gary Lineker who scored six goals in the next three matches and won the Golden Boot despite England, after a heartening resurgence, leaving at the quarter-final stage at the hand of Diego Maradona and by virtue of his divine second goal. The knowledge that they had been cheated for the first goal left them departing with a sense of grievance but also with their honour intact. Now the tabloid press reached its Nero phase when their journalists jobs became a caper we were all supposed to enjoy and people who should have known better jumped from an anti-Robson bandwagon to a pro-‘Our Boys’ one with indecent opportunism. And poor Robson managed to stay sane if not undamaged through it all. Three defeats at Euro 88 when Lineker was stricken with glandular fever and Holland revived Total Football with a dynamic, athletic twist, would have ended Robson’s time in the job he loved best but for the length of his contract and he composed himself and the team to qualify for Italia 90. Paul Gascoigne’s skill and charm introduced an affable battiness into the side and helped England reconnect with the supporters. Although a wonderfully assured performance with three at the back against Holland in their second group game was followed by a dispiritingly sterile 1-0 win over Egypt, the 119th-minute victory over Belgium in the Round of 16, secured by virtue of Gascoigne’s vision and David Platt’s balletic volley, and their tenacious fight-back from 2-1 down in the quarter-final against a mesmerisingly sinuous Cameroon attack revealed their skill and fortitude. Here was the proof that would inspire the key line of Three Lions, the plaintive yet defiant: “But I know they can play.” They may have been let down in the past by excessive caution or the 11th-hour loss of Gordon Banks or diddled by the Hand of God but each time had highly capable players and now, at last, they were showing it. They made it to the semi-final with the nation behind them, played very well against West Germany and equalised when Lineker cushioned Parker’s cross on his thigh to manoeuvre Thomas Berthold and Klaus Augenthaler out of his path and fire a left-foot shot past Bodo Illgner with 10 minutes to go. Gary Lineker during the 1986 World Cup group match against Paraguay in Mexico City. England won the match 3-0 The drama of extra-time, for the third England game in succession, was enhanced by West Germany laying siege for what seemed like a lifetime, Waddle’s superb shot that hit the inside of the post, Gascoigne’s deserved booking for fouling Berthold and subsequent tears that sealed a nation’s love. West Germany had won shootouts en route to the final at the past two World Cups while England were enduring their first. At 3-3, Robson’s ‘banker’ Stuart Pearce went hard and straight. Illgner saved it with his legs and, with a distraught Pearce on his haunches in the centre-circle, Olaf Thon scored West Germany’s fourth. Waddle walked up in fifth place, deputising for his room-mate Gascoigne. “I felt like I was stepping off the world into silence,” he said, deciding to blast it but overcome by anxiety and tiredness, he got his body shape wrong, leant back and fired it into orbit. England were out but again left after a gallant campaign and Robson, who had been called a traitor by the newspapers and told to PSV off by the Sun for agreeing to take over in Eindhoven after the tournament because the FA would not renew his contract, was never maligned again. Would that we could say the same for his successor, Graham Taylor who, in three years in charge, took England backwards. If Robson had been on the road to enlightenment when he left, Taylor, a decent, honest man but also patently out of his depth with the newspaper sharks swirling around him and about to turn him into a root vegetable, could not marry his club football strategies to the international game. He seemed to be no judge of international quality, made some extraordinary selections but was still unlucky after an insipid exit from Euro 92 won by, of all people, Denmark, to miss out on the 1994 World Cup because he was denied a fit Gascoigne for long periods, his own intransigence over Waddle and a glaring refereeing error during the defeat by Holland in Rotterdam. Perhaps no England manager had a tougher inheritance given what had just preceded his appointment, yet it is only fair to concede that he made a mess of it. Terry Venables, by contrast, was more assured and when the news reporters went for him over his conduct at Tottenham and his business dealings, he always had the football pack on his side. He knew what he wanted to do and applied everything he had learnt at Crystal Palace, QPR, Barcelona and Spurs to fashion a 3-5-2 system that was similar to Robson’s but bolder in that he used wingers instead of full-backs in the wide roles. He was fortunate too in that he did not have to qualify for the next tournament, Euro 96 in England, and, after some boozy indiscretions on tour before their first game, they made the country fall in love with them again after half-time in their second fixture against Scotland when it all came together with Gascoigne, rejuvenated, Alan Shearer, devastatingly predatory, Paul Ince tireless, and Teddy Sheringham imaginatively creative. The country was festooned with cross of St George flags for the first time, Three Lions was adopted as an anthem and England made it through to the semi-finals after a commanding victory over Holland and a scrappy but unforgettable penalty shootout win against Spain featuring redemption for Pearce and a cry that could be heard in Turin. Once more they faced Germany and, as they had six years earlier, they played with poise and enterprise but couldn’t crack the eventual winners. At the end of 120 minutes and five successful penalties each, it was England that cracked, Gareth Southgate rolling his too close to Andreas Kopke. Venables left to spend more time with his solicitors and Glenn Hoddle took over a team that had the nation dancing to its tune and was seemingly on an upward trajectory after emerging from the dark ages. ‘So many jokes, so many sneers’ For the next 20 years England were mired in confusion and capriciousness. The Premier League, a breakaway from the Football League given the fig-leaf of FA sanction, made the English game plutocratically wealthy but the snake swallowed the pig, the club game devouring the FA’s intention that the whole point of secession was to put the national side at the apex of the sport. The clubs produced some sensationally talented players – Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole among many more – but the FA zigzagged from appointing a coaching virtuoso with some strange views in Hoddle, to the arch-motivator in Keegan, Sven Goran-Eriksson, the progressive pragmatist, to his No2, chalkboard guru Steve McClaren, and from him to the best coach money could buy, Fabio Capello, to Roy Hodgson, supposedly a veteran sage, and finally Sam Allardyce for a Lady Jane Grey reign. During that time England were well-supported at each tournament to which they went, losing on penalties at the last 16 stage to Argentina at France 98 which was won by the hosts, finally beating Germany in a competitive match at Euro 2000 in an otherwise terrible display, winning 5-1 in Munich under Eriksson when Owen had the world at his feet, doing well at the 2002 World Cup until overwhelmed by caution in the second-half of the quarter-final against eventual winners Brazil and, with Rooney rampant at Euro 2004, looking unstoppable until he was hit by the curse of the metatarsal that had already hobbled Beckham at the previous tournament and would do for Rooney again weeks before the next. At the 2006 World Cup they holed up in Baden-Baden where the divergence between their living standards and the people who followed them was never more naked and it was exploited first by some newspapers for prurient kicks and then as a tool of castigation when they were knocked out for the second tournament running by Portugal on penalties. Italy won it and England, beset by injuries and timidity, got as far as they deserved as was also the case under McClaren who failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and spent much of his time in the job with the crowd on his back, alarmed and angry at the incohesion and reticence of talented players. Capello came in and banned ketchup, brought the iron rod but couldn’t get a tune out of the same group of players and walked out on the eve of Euro 2012. His bored side had been eliminated at the last 16 stage at the 2010 World Cup when a youthful Germany left England looking like carthorses and their fans grateful that they didn’t have to witness them being filleted by Spain. The Italian tried to bring Scholes back into the fold but could not persuade England’s best midfielder to end six years of exile he felt forced into because Eriksson, even with his exorbitant salary, would not take on the responsibility of picking a balanced team if it meant leaving out either Gerrard or Lampard, or getting them to work in a diamond. Beckham did come back as a kind of elder statesman, now universally popular after a topsy-turvy relationship with the crowd and media which took him from pariah for his red card in 1998 to messiah with his goals against Greece and Argentina and back to earth in Germany. The one bright light remained Rooney who carried the attack between tournaments and succumbed to the general malaise during them. Longevity and dedication made him the most-capped outfield player and the highest scorer but he was banned for the start of Euro 2012 and could not drag England past Italy in the quarter-final, which they lost on penalties, or the opening match of the 2014 World Cup. Hodgson was paid almost as much as Capello and fared worse, going out at the group stage in Brazil when furious fans were strung along with the old line about building for the future even though it was plain to see that an inability to defend hardly boded well. Indeed they were knocked out by Iceland at Euro 2016 in the second round. He spent spells of the three tournaments pinching his face and left at the end of the last one with the national team flirting as much with irrelevance as embarrassment. "We’re a team, with our diversity and our youth, that represents modern England. In England, we have spent a bit of time being a bit lost as to what our modern identity is. I think we represent that modern identity and hopefully, people can connect with us." Gareth Southgate, 2018 ‘It’s coming home’ In only 21 months Gareth Southgate has changed all that, regenerating a bond between the team and its public in a way that only success in tournament football can achieve. Even last November, while paper aeroplanes were being thrown at Wembley during a friendly, and the usual charmless berks were littering Twitter with complaints about international breaks and railing about the lack of Premier League football, the current levels of elation and pride would have seemed preposterous. Yet Southgate, the first FA insider to be given the job since Winterbottom, has been an integral part of building the structure that fostered the recent renaissance of national age-group teams – England won the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups in 2017 – applied the principles he had picked up as a coach working in player development and blended them with his own experiences as an international under Venables, Hoddle, Keegan and Eriksson. Honesty and humility were paramount as well as presenting an open face to the world and as his young team rallied to beat Tunisia, marmalised Panama, withstood Colombia and flattened them in their first shoot-out victory for 22 years, the country fell for their character and integrity. As everything around us seems threatened by spitefulness, pusillanimity and chaos, they became a beacon not a distraction. The target before Russia 2018 was a place in the quarter-finals and England’s inexperienced squad, for once, over-achieved and made it to the semis for only the third time since 1950 by exploiting a kind draw with their panache, efficiency and determination. Croatia, a team with two of the best midfielders in the world, and relentless, streetwise forward runners, proved too savvy at this early stage but England created enough chances to impress upon everyone that this is only the beginning. The first steps on the long road have been taken. It will take a little longer than many hoped, but football is coming home. England's amazing World Cup: the best pics Registration wall CSS More World Cup 2018 01 Aug 2018,10:30pm Gareth Southgate to be offered new England deal beyond 2020 'to build a dynasty' 01 Aug 2018,5:00pm England moves step closer to hosting 2030 World Cup but distances itself from 2022 if Qatar stripped 24 Jul 2018,10:30pm Adam Lallana opens up on World Cup heartache: 'The lads had a massive tournament but I still have lots to give' 24 Jul 2018,3:35pm England manager Gareth Southgate nominated for Fifa coach of the year award
How football (very nearly) came home By Rob Bagchi 3 AUGUST 2018 • 6:49 PM BST England's 2018 World Cup campaign was one of dizzying highs with an ultimately familiar low as its conclusion. Something, though, has shifted. Despite the disappointment of semi-final defeat to Croatia, there is a sense that some deep psychological scars are beginning to fade. “Football’s coming home” has been the rallying cry, and while the final destination will have to wait for now the route looks clearer than it has for years. This is the story of English football’s long and frequently arduous journey. ‘I know that was then…’ Eventually ‘the darkest day’ for the England football team would become so frustratingly routine that its employment even by the habitually trite would be abandoned as cliche. But at the start of the Fifties, when one indignity followed another and the realisation that our sense of entitlement on and off the field was a bankrupt concept, one of England’s conquerors struck a consoling tone. Six months after the chastening 6-3 defeat by Hungary at Wembley in November 1953 that killed the myth of English exceptionalism once and for all, Walter Winterbottom took his side to the Nep Stadion in Budapest where the Magical Magyars massacred them 7-1. After the match Geoffrey Green, the greatest of football correspondents, spoke to Jozsef Bozsik, the Hungarians’ magnificent if stately right-half, and, having gone through the fourth stage of grief, depression, had reached acceptance that England’s supremacy had gone the way of the Empire. And so he was surprised by Bozsik’s sincerity when he asked him if he was joking by asserting that the world still looked up to England. “You are still masters of football,” Bozsik said. “You will always be the masters. You fashioned the game, organised it and gave it to the world first of all. You were the original teachers.” It was of no little comfort to Green that respect overruled results. China, as acknowledged by Fifa, can demonstrate that a form of the game originated there during the Han dynasty in the second century BC and types of football were played in Japan, by indigenous peoples in the Americas and Australia, Ancient Greece and imperial Rome. But Bozsik was correct to say that the game as we know it developed over a thousand years in England from the Middle Ages to the mid-Victorian era. At first it was a ‘mob game’ played on Shrove Tuesday, Whitsuntide and Christmas with mass participation, no rules, no goals and the main objective was territorial, to move the ‘ball’ – initially a hog’s head, later a pig’s or sheep’s bladder – from one part of town to the other. It became a renegade activity, banned by the Lord Mayor of London and in more than 30 decrees from 1314 to 1667 but it thrived despite – probably due to – its propensity to encourage rioting and mischief. But as the industrial revolution began to change the culture of the country, and adults and children were forced to work a six-day week, Feast Day games declined and the public schools, where various hybrids had mutated and flourished over the past four centuries, became the hothouses for the codification of the game and its ultimate divergence into two distinct branches, rugby and football. Billy Wright and Ferenc Puskas lead England and Hungary out at Wembley in 1953 ‘Three Lions on a shirt’ By the late 1840s the multifarious strands of the game were causing confusion and limiting the opportunities for matches because of disputes about offside and handling the ball. In 1848 at Trinity College, Cambridge, undergraduates from Shrewsbury School, Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Winchester met to devise a common code and the Cambridge Rules, as they became known, influenced the drive towards universal regulations. The Sheffield Rules, formulated in the city where Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest association football club, were founded in 1857, have even more in common with the modern game but there was still no unified code. A meeting of London clubs was called at the Freemasons Tavern on Great Queen Street on Oct 26 1863 to address this millennium-old obstacle to harmonisation and, calling itself the Football Association, agreed to invite the public schools to join them to reconcile all the distinctions between their versions. Only Uppingham and Charterhouse accepted but by December 8 after six meetings they were able to publish the Laws of Football. Members of the Sheffield Association and the FA continued to play to their own codes but when Charles Alcock, still then the game’s most prominent player, became secretary and treasurer of the latter in 1870 and created the FA Cup, first won by Wanderers in 1872, it gradually became accepted by both parties that they needed uniform regulations and the mixed rules were adopted from 1877. In the same year as the inaugural Cup final, the FA, in a bid to spread its association version and win the race to standardise the game, officially challenged Scotland, where rugby remained dominant, to a match north of Hadrian’s Wall. On Nov 30 1872, 10 years after an unofficial representative game had ended in a goalless draw, England were held 0-0 at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Partick in the first properly sanctioned international match. The contrast in style between the two sides – England with their dribbling and reliance on individual flair, Scotland with a passing game and teamwork – was marked and it was the Scots professionals with their skill and shrewdness who would become the driving force for the first 50 years of the Football League after it was established in 1888. Such was the success of the first England-Scotland match which drew a crowd of more than 3,000, it became an annual fixture as did Wales in 1879 and Ireland in 1882, two years before the four associations fashioned the Home Championship. Scotland held the upper hand with victories in each of the first four years but by 1900 England, 12 years into “a new football mania”, had fought back for parity in front of vast crowds who made stars of Steve Bloomer, G.O. Smith and Vivian Woodward while Wales and Ireland were regularly walloped and left to a desultory battle for the wooden spoon. The home nations refused to join Fifa on its formation in 1904 and yo-yoed in and out of the organisation for the next four decades, Scotland, Wales and Ireland proving even more hostile to it and continental matches at first than England. The FA did sanction tours of central Europe in 1908 and 1909 when Austria were beaten 6-1, 11-1 and 8-1, Hungary 7-0, 4-2 and 8-2 but they did not invite a Fifa member to play them at home until ‘plucky Belgium’, the nation in whose defence Britain had ostensibly gone to war in 1914, came to Highbury in 1923 and were sent packing with a 6-1 thrashing. Wartime allies Belgium and France became annual fixtures in the Twenties, the high years of Dixie Dean, Billy Walker and Ernie Blenkinsop, but only Scotland provided a typically stern test though Ireland and Wales periodically bared their teeth and made the first part of the decade a troubling one for England even at the new Wembley Stadium. Defeat by the Celts could always be stomached, the illusion of superiority maintained when beaten by essentially your own countrymen, but in May 1929 they were at last bested by Spain in Madrid, going down 3-2 after an arduous train journey. Their chances were ruined by inconsistency of selection and, frankly, the self-serving boneheadedness of the selection committee. Stubbornness throughout the Home Nations’ associations over the issue of broken time payments to amateur players, tolerated by Fifa, provoked their withdrawal again from the organisation and the refusal to take part in the first three World Cups. Bilateral friendlies continued and famous victories over Italy, the world champions, in 1934 at Highbury and Germany, a year later at White Hart contributed to the myth that their absence from the tournament was the world’s not England’s loss. But in 1936, a strong team including Wilf Copping, Cliff Bastin and George Camsell were beaten in Vienna by a wonderful Austria side, and in 1938, though Bastin and Stanley Matthews scored for Eddie Hapgood’s side in a 6-3 victory over Germany in Berlin, the players’ agreement to give the Hitler salute before the match would taint it, the British ambassador and them. They were not to blame, though their willingness to comply with the suggestion has been glossed over retrospectively. A year later, a truly gifted generation of players – Matthews, Tommy Lawton, Joe Mercer, Willie Hall et al – put careers in their prime on hold to serve the country, sometimes in the white shirts of England to sustain morale, usually in khaki or air force blue. England have worn a three lions crest since 1872 ‘England's gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away’ At the end of the Second World War, when detachment, isolation and nationalism should have drowned forever in oceans of blood, the FA, under Stanley Rous, understandably adopted a more progressive and outward-looking tone. It bailed out Fifa and agreed to take part in the fourth World Cup, for which, in gratitude, they were given the most absurd qualification criteria: the top two in the 1949-50 Home Championship would go through to the Brazil finals. England won it and headed off with little preparation and only days to spare; Scotland, who finished second, had an almighty strop and refused to let their players go. England should have travelled in expectation, instead they went overcome by hubris. In 1948 they had gone to Turin with the greatest forward line in England’s history – Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Lawton, Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney – and put on arguably England’s greatest performance to beat the double world champions 4-0 in a courageously incisive and professional display supported by the world-class goalkeeping of Frank Swift to beat the world champions. Typically the numskulls on the selection committee never picked that front five again and Neil Franklin, the best centre-half in Europe, was lured to the rebel league in Colombia before the tournament and was blacklisted for his ‘disloyalty’ in trying to earn more than the maximum wage. Rous had enjoyed one victory over the committee, pushing through the appointment of the first team manager, Walter Winterbottom and he arrived in Brazil minus Matthews, who had been sent on a goodwill tour of Canada, deemed the priority by the FA, and only joined up with the team on the eve of the second game after their 2-0 victory over Chile. In Belo Horizonte they went down 1-0 to the pot-washers, amateurs and obscure expatriates of the USA, a result so unexpected that Fleet Street copytasters initially assumed they had won 10-0. Defeat by Spain in the final game sent them home long before Uruguay’s ‘Maracanazo’ victory over Brazil earned them their second World Cup. In the three years before England’s double defenestration by Hungary when, in Green’s famous words, Billy Wright, diddled by Ferenc Puskas resembled a “fire engine going to the wrong fire”, no lessons were learnt from Brazil and some famous victories were earned, not least when Nat Lofthouse achieved immortality as ‘The Lion of Vienna’ during the 3-2 win there in 1952. Public opinion and the newspapers were so startled by the twin gubbings at Wembley and in Budapest that certain modernisations that had been long overdue – the national preference for heavy shirts, armadillo boots as well as indifference to tactics and novel training methods – were finally applied but the selection committee remained in situ. England's long journey home The changes had not had enough time to bed in for the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, again secured by winning the Home Championship rather than by testing themselves against contrasting styles. A draw with Belgium and victory over the hosts were enough to put them through to the quarter-finals but they could not overcome defending champions Uruguay who went 3-1 up a minute after half-time and eventually won 4-2. England failed to get out of the group four years later in Sweden, losing a play-off to the USSR, but it is unfair to judge them harshly. Four months before the tournament began, they had lost their best forward, Tommy Taylor, best player, Duncan Edwards, and left-back, Manchester United’s inspirational captain, Roger Byrne, in the Munich Air Disaster. In 1956 Taylor had scored twice in a 4-2 victory over Brazil at Wembley and, in the trio’s final international together in November 1957 he had scored two more in a 4-0 whacking of France. Only 13 years after the war, in a far more stoical age, grief was suppressed but without them and because of what happened to them, England did not stand a chance. Brazil, for the first time, won the World Cup with a fine blend of youthful flair, instinctive brilliance and veteran nous. It may always have been their fate but England at full strength and perhaps with an enlightened selector also pushing for Eddie Colman’s inclusion, it may have been a close-run thing. Brazil retained their title four years later, knocking England out in the quarter final in Vina del Mar. Even though Gerry Hitchens and Jimmy Greaves had endured spells in Serie A, there was little continental enlightenment from the FA who, again, sent out a threadbare staff with Winterbottom and no team doctor. Johnny Haynes, by now the captain, was man-marked out of the tournament as he had been in Sweden and his disgruntlement at the press’s criticisms of him soured the atmosphere of the camp. Garrincha was irrepressible in the match and England went home unlamented, as usual less than the sum of their parts. At long last, though, a revolution was at hand. ‘Jules Rimet still gleaming’ Alf Ramsey made it his life’s work that any team he played in or managed would always be stronger than its constituent components. The FA, having won the rights to host the 1966 World Cup, recognised it needed someone to give them a competitive edge. Chasteningly for the association, the appointment of the Ipswich Town manager also gave them an uncompromising visionary whose dedication to his mission and his abrasiveness would be tolerated by the blazers but never embraced. He began with an ultimatum after taking the job on a full-time basis. Ramsey had been in the XI that had been humiliated by USA in Brazil and Hungary at Wembley and felt a player’s righteous sense of indignation about the whims and follies of the International Selection Committee and ensured it was disbanded before he took the job on a full-time basis. When asked what his goal was in 1966, he said that England would win it, and set about building his squad on a series of summer tours during 1963, 1964 and 1965 where he established himself as a player’s manager, strict but also friendly, purposeful and usually cheerful with them, if not with the press. They began the tournament on a run of seven successive victories and a side, as he put it, that was his best team, not necessarily made up of his best players. Consequently alongside the swans – Gordon Banks, Ray Wilson, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Martin Peters and Jimmy Greaves – there was a gaggle of geese, notably Jack Charlton, George Cohen, Roger Hunt and Nobby Stiles. England's captain Bobby Moore in action during the 1966 World Cup quarter-final match between England and Argentina at Wembley It was not until the brutal quarter-final victory over Argentina that he settled on his winning combination after an injury to Greaves in the third of three uninspired group games. Out went his experimentation with a single orthodox winger, in came Geoff Hurst and Alan Ball and the XI who will forever be known as ‘the Boys of 66’ at last took flight. They played all six games at Wembley and, as enthusiasm began to mount, their inhibitions were shed and they put on a magnificent performance to beat Portugal in the semi-final. On the morning of July 30 1966, Stiles went to mass, Bobby Charlton went shopping in Hendon, most players went for a walk and they arrived at the stadium in good time. In front of a vibrant crowd of 100,000 Hurst equalised six minutes after Helmut Haller had put West Germany ahead in the 12th minute and Wolfgang Weber levelled with a minute to spare following Martin Peters’ second half goal. Ramsey, famously, told them they had won it once and all they had to do was win it again, which they deservedly did in extra-time, Hurst completing his hat-trick first in dubious then in thrilling emphatic style. Moore, an elegant presence throughout, lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in glorious sunshine as the clouds parted above Wembley and the players and the manager, who would shortly be knighted, celebrated with characteristic modesty. The defence of the trophy four years later in Mexico, when Sir Alf maintained he had a better team, was stymied by West Germany’s comeback from 2-0 down in the quarter-final. The world may have turned against the team because of Ramsey’s prickliness and evident distaste of anything foreign, a trait bordering on full-blown xenophobia, but for the players, who were superb against the eventual winners Brazil in a majestic group game, it was undeserved. Had they not lost Banks to food poisoning before the game and had Ramsey kept Bobby Charlton on 10 minutes more to occupy Franz Beckenbauer, it is fair to speculate that they would have made it through to the final and had the opportunity of another go at Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson and the other all-time greats. ‘All those oh so nears, wear you down through the years’ If 1970 was essentially the end of the 1966 champagne years, the following 10 were figuratively the greatest hangover English football has ever endured. Ramsey, still a relatively young man but ever more hidebound and mistrustful, rebooted the team but could not find a fluid yet alone a fluent formula. Moore, in decline, carried on as his captain but after a 3-1 defeat in the European Championship quarter-final by West Germany at Wembley in 1972 when Gunther Netzer tore them to shreds, England spiralled ever more vertiginously into a mess of conservatism, caution and anxiety. Ramsey was sacked at the beginning of 1974 after defeat away in Poland and a draw at home ensured non-qualification for the World Cup at which West Germany emulated England by winning at home. Leeds United’s Don Revie took his place after a revivifying caretaker spell by Joe Mecer but the wide pool of players at his disposal encouraged constant tinkering in selection and his running feud with the chairman of the FA, Lord Thompson, left him deflated and mutinous. There were signs of progress – and the adoption of a garish kit more suited to the age – but injuries to Gerry Francis and Colin Bell killed the momentum and he sent out a team to face Italy in a World Cup qualifier in November 1976 that was so unbalanced defeat was all but inevitable. That loss meant that making it to the 1978 tournament was out of their hands and Revie, fearing he would be sacked, pre-empted the FA and jumped ship to the UAE, a decision that continues to blacken his reputation. Ron Greenwood was chosen as his successor when the people wanted Brian Clough yet the former West Ham manager did guide them to Euro 80, where they drew with Belgium, lost to Italy and beat Spain while their fans rioted, and the 1982 World Cup even though repeated setbacks in qualification frequently suggested his resignation was imminent. His two best players, Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking, were injured at the start of the tournament and would not play until the fifth and final game against the hosts. They won their first three matches, getting off to a flier against France, but as Bryan Robson waned, so did their fortunes and they could only draw against European champions West Germany and against Spain to go home unbeaten. Keegan, twice the Ballon d’Or winner and certainly the best English player of his generation, managed only 26 minutes of World Cup football in his storied career and missed a header late on in his sole cameo that would have given his side hope. Keegan never played for England again. Bobby Robson, who left Ipswich to succeed Greenwood, did not pick him for his first squad and the former captain announced his retirement with abrupt finality. Robson struggled at first and was spat at by fans at Wembley after a defeat by the Soviet Union in 1984, the year he failed to qualify for the Euros won at home by France. The behaviour of the England crowd had been toxic for years. Not much violence at home, but they had been jeering the players since about 1968 and screeching their exasperation. Away, particularly Scotland, provided the playground for assorted neophytes, headbangers and racists to do their worst and a nadir was reached on a flight from Brazil after John Barnes’ majestically serpentine goal at the Maracana when one piggy-eyed member of the ‘master race’ proclaimed that the goal didn’t count because it hadn’t been scored by a white man. Nonetheless England’s performances on that tour of South America suggested Robson was building a coherent system even if it was over-reliant on Bryan Robson, the marauding Manchester United captain whose bravery all too often put him in harm’s way. Robson started the first game in Mexico against Portugal having seemingly recovered from a dislocated shoulder. What we didn’t know was that it had popped out again during the training camp and his selection became even more of a risk. They ended the match defeated and with boos ringing out and Robson had his tournament finished during the draw with Morocco when he fell awkwardly and dislocated it again. Ray Wilkins, his deputy, lost his cool and was sent off and England were in disarray. The absence of his two midfield stalwarts left Bobby Robson with no option but to pick Peter Reid to do Glenn Hoddle’s running, introduce Peter Beardsley and the changes liberated Gary Lineker who scored six goals in the next three matches and won the Golden Boot despite England, after a heartening resurgence, leaving at the quarter-final stage at the hand of Diego Maradona and by virtue of his divine second goal. The knowledge that they had been cheated for the first goal left them departing with a sense of grievance but also with their honour intact. Now the tabloid press reached its Nero phase when their journalists jobs became a caper we were all supposed to enjoy and people who should have known better jumped from an anti-Robson bandwagon to a pro-‘Our Boys’ one with indecent opportunism. And poor Robson managed to stay sane if not undamaged through it all. Three defeats at Euro 88 when Lineker was stricken with glandular fever and Holland revived Total Football with a dynamic, athletic twist, would have ended Robson’s time in the job he loved best but for the length of his contract and he composed himself and the team to qualify for Italia 90. Paul Gascoigne’s skill and charm introduced an affable battiness into the side and helped England reconnect with the supporters. Although a wonderfully assured performance with three at the back against Holland in their second group game was followed by a dispiritingly sterile 1-0 win over Egypt, the 119th-minute victory over Belgium in the Round of 16, secured by virtue of Gascoigne’s vision and David Platt’s balletic volley, and their tenacious fight-back from 2-1 down in the quarter-final against a mesmerisingly sinuous Cameroon attack revealed their skill and fortitude. Here was the proof that would inspire the key line of Three Lions, the plaintive yet defiant: “But I know they can play.” They may have been let down in the past by excessive caution or the 11th-hour loss of Gordon Banks or diddled by the Hand of God but each time had highly capable players and now, at last, they were showing it. They made it to the semi-final with the nation behind them, played very well against West Germany and equalised when Lineker cushioned Parker’s cross on his thigh to manoeuvre Thomas Berthold and Klaus Augenthaler out of his path and fire a left-foot shot past Bodo Illgner with 10 minutes to go. Gary Lineker during the 1986 World Cup group match against Paraguay in Mexico City. England won the match 3-0 The drama of extra-time, for the third England game in succession, was enhanced by West Germany laying siege for what seemed like a lifetime, Waddle’s superb shot that hit the inside of the post, Gascoigne’s deserved booking for fouling Berthold and subsequent tears that sealed a nation’s love. West Germany had won shootouts en route to the final at the past two World Cups while England were enduring their first. At 3-3, Robson’s ‘banker’ Stuart Pearce went hard and straight. Illgner saved it with his legs and, with a distraught Pearce on his haunches in the centre-circle, Olaf Thon scored West Germany’s fourth. Waddle walked up in fifth place, deputising for his room-mate Gascoigne. “I felt like I was stepping off the world into silence,” he said, deciding to blast it but overcome by anxiety and tiredness, he got his body shape wrong, leant back and fired it into orbit. England were out but again left after a gallant campaign and Robson, who had been called a traitor by the newspapers and told to PSV off by the Sun for agreeing to take over in Eindhoven after the tournament because the FA would not renew his contract, was never maligned again. Would that we could say the same for his successor, Graham Taylor who, in three years in charge, took England backwards. If Robson had been on the road to enlightenment when he left, Taylor, a decent, honest man but also patently out of his depth with the newspaper sharks swirling around him and about to turn him into a root vegetable, could not marry his club football strategies to the international game. He seemed to be no judge of international quality, made some extraordinary selections but was still unlucky after an insipid exit from Euro 92 won by, of all people, Denmark, to miss out on the 1994 World Cup because he was denied a fit Gascoigne for long periods, his own intransigence over Waddle and a glaring refereeing error during the defeat by Holland in Rotterdam. Perhaps no England manager had a tougher inheritance given what had just preceded his appointment, yet it is only fair to concede that he made a mess of it. Terry Venables, by contrast, was more assured and when the news reporters went for him over his conduct at Tottenham and his business dealings, he always had the football pack on his side. He knew what he wanted to do and applied everything he had learnt at Crystal Palace, QPR, Barcelona and Spurs to fashion a 3-5-2 system that was similar to Robson’s but bolder in that he used wingers instead of full-backs in the wide roles. He was fortunate too in that he did not have to qualify for the next tournament, Euro 96 in England, and, after some boozy indiscretions on tour before their first game, they made the country fall in love with them again after half-time in their second fixture against Scotland when it all came together with Gascoigne, rejuvenated, Alan Shearer, devastatingly predatory, Paul Ince tireless, and Teddy Sheringham imaginatively creative. The country was festooned with cross of St George flags for the first time, Three Lions was adopted as an anthem and England made it through to the semi-finals after a commanding victory over Holland and a scrappy but unforgettable penalty shootout win against Spain featuring redemption for Pearce and a cry that could be heard in Turin. Once more they faced Germany and, as they had six years earlier, they played with poise and enterprise but couldn’t crack the eventual winners. At the end of 120 minutes and five successful penalties each, it was England that cracked, Gareth Southgate rolling his too close to Andreas Kopke. Venables left to spend more time with his solicitors and Glenn Hoddle took over a team that had the nation dancing to its tune and was seemingly on an upward trajectory after emerging from the dark ages. ‘So many jokes, so many sneers’ For the next 20 years England were mired in confusion and capriciousness. The Premier League, a breakaway from the Football League given the fig-leaf of FA sanction, made the English game plutocratically wealthy but the snake swallowed the pig, the club game devouring the FA’s intention that the whole point of secession was to put the national side at the apex of the sport. The clubs produced some sensationally talented players – Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole among many more – but the FA zigzagged from appointing a coaching virtuoso with some strange views in Hoddle, to the arch-motivator in Keegan, Sven Goran-Eriksson, the progressive pragmatist, to his No2, chalkboard guru Steve McClaren, and from him to the best coach money could buy, Fabio Capello, to Roy Hodgson, supposedly a veteran sage, and finally Sam Allardyce for a Lady Jane Grey reign. During that time England were well-supported at each tournament to which they went, losing on penalties at the last 16 stage to Argentina at France 98 which was won by the hosts, finally beating Germany in a competitive match at Euro 2000 in an otherwise terrible display, winning 5-1 in Munich under Eriksson when Owen had the world at his feet, doing well at the 2002 World Cup until overwhelmed by caution in the second-half of the quarter-final against eventual winners Brazil and, with Rooney rampant at Euro 2004, looking unstoppable until he was hit by the curse of the metatarsal that had already hobbled Beckham at the previous tournament and would do for Rooney again weeks before the next. At the 2006 World Cup they holed up in Baden-Baden where the divergence between their living standards and the people who followed them was never more naked and it was exploited first by some newspapers for prurient kicks and then as a tool of castigation when they were knocked out for the second tournament running by Portugal on penalties. Italy won it and England, beset by injuries and timidity, got as far as they deserved as was also the case under McClaren who failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and spent much of his time in the job with the crowd on his back, alarmed and angry at the incohesion and reticence of talented players. Capello came in and banned ketchup, brought the iron rod but couldn’t get a tune out of the same group of players and walked out on the eve of Euro 2012. His bored side had been eliminated at the last 16 stage at the 2010 World Cup when a youthful Germany left England looking like carthorses and their fans grateful that they didn’t have to witness them being filleted by Spain. The Italian tried to bring Scholes back into the fold but could not persuade England’s best midfielder to end six years of exile he felt forced into because Eriksson, even with his exorbitant salary, would not take on the responsibility of picking a balanced team if it meant leaving out either Gerrard or Lampard, or getting them to work in a diamond. Beckham did come back as a kind of elder statesman, now universally popular after a topsy-turvy relationship with the crowd and media which took him from pariah for his red card in 1998 to messiah with his goals against Greece and Argentina and back to earth in Germany. The one bright light remained Rooney who carried the attack between tournaments and succumbed to the general malaise during them. Longevity and dedication made him the most-capped outfield player and the highest scorer but he was banned for the start of Euro 2012 and could not drag England past Italy in the quarter-final, which they lost on penalties, or the opening match of the 2014 World Cup. Hodgson was paid almost as much as Capello and fared worse, going out at the group stage in Brazil when furious fans were strung along with the old line about building for the future even though it was plain to see that an inability to defend hardly boded well. Indeed they were knocked out by Iceland at Euro 2016 in the second round. He spent spells of the three tournaments pinching his face and left at the end of the last one with the national team flirting as much with irrelevance as embarrassment. "We’re a team, with our diversity and our youth, that represents modern England. In England, we have spent a bit of time being a bit lost as to what our modern identity is. I think we represent that modern identity and hopefully, people can connect with us." Gareth Southgate, 2018 ‘It’s coming home’ In only 21 months Gareth Southgate has changed all that, regenerating a bond between the team and its public in a way that only success in tournament football can achieve. Even last November, while paper aeroplanes were being thrown at Wembley during a friendly, and the usual charmless berks were littering Twitter with complaints about international breaks and railing about the lack of Premier League football, the current levels of elation and pride would have seemed preposterous. Yet Southgate, the first FA insider to be given the job since Winterbottom, has been an integral part of building the structure that fostered the recent renaissance of national age-group teams – England won the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups in 2017 – applied the principles he had picked up as a coach working in player development and blended them with his own experiences as an international under Venables, Hoddle, Keegan and Eriksson. Honesty and humility were paramount as well as presenting an open face to the world and as his young team rallied to beat Tunisia, marmalised Panama, withstood Colombia and flattened them in their first shoot-out victory for 22 years, the country fell for their character and integrity. As everything around us seems threatened by spitefulness, pusillanimity and chaos, they became a beacon not a distraction. The target before Russia 2018 was a place in the quarter-finals and England’s inexperienced squad, for once, over-achieved and made it to the semis for only the third time since 1950 by exploiting a kind draw with their panache, efficiency and determination. Croatia, a team with two of the best midfielders in the world, and relentless, streetwise forward runners, proved too savvy at this early stage but England created enough chances to impress upon everyone that this is only the beginning. The first steps on the long road have been taken. It will take a little longer than many hoped, but football is coming home. England's amazing World Cup: the best pics Registration wall CSS More World Cup 2018 01 Aug 2018,10:30pm Gareth Southgate to be offered new England deal beyond 2020 'to build a dynasty' 01 Aug 2018,5:00pm England moves step closer to hosting 2030 World Cup but distances itself from 2022 if Qatar stripped 24 Jul 2018,10:30pm Adam Lallana opens up on World Cup heartache: 'The lads had a massive tournament but I still have lots to give' 24 Jul 2018,3:35pm England manager Gareth Southgate nominated for Fifa coach of the year award
Three Lions pride: how football (very nearly) came home for England
How football (very nearly) came home By Rob Bagchi 3 AUGUST 2018 • 6:49 PM BST England's 2018 World Cup campaign was one of dizzying highs with an ultimately familiar low as its conclusion. Something, though, has shifted. Despite the disappointment of semi-final defeat to Croatia, there is a sense that some deep psychological scars are beginning to fade. “Football’s coming home” has been the rallying cry, and while the final destination will have to wait for now the route looks clearer than it has for years. This is the story of English football’s long and frequently arduous journey. ‘I know that was then…’ Eventually ‘the darkest day’ for the England football team would become so frustratingly routine that its employment even by the habitually trite would be abandoned as cliche. But at the start of the Fifties, when one indignity followed another and the realisation that our sense of entitlement on and off the field was a bankrupt concept, one of England’s conquerors struck a consoling tone. Six months after the chastening 6-3 defeat by Hungary at Wembley in November 1953 that killed the myth of English exceptionalism once and for all, Walter Winterbottom took his side to the Nep Stadion in Budapest where the Magical Magyars massacred them 7-1. After the match Geoffrey Green, the greatest of football correspondents, spoke to Jozsef Bozsik, the Hungarians’ magnificent if stately right-half, and, having gone through the fourth stage of grief, depression, had reached acceptance that England’s supremacy had gone the way of the Empire. And so he was surprised by Bozsik’s sincerity when he asked him if he was joking by asserting that the world still looked up to England. “You are still masters of football,” Bozsik said. “You will always be the masters. You fashioned the game, organised it and gave it to the world first of all. You were the original teachers.” It was of no little comfort to Green that respect overruled results. China, as acknowledged by Fifa, can demonstrate that a form of the game originated there during the Han dynasty in the second century BC and types of football were played in Japan, by indigenous peoples in the Americas and Australia, Ancient Greece and imperial Rome. But Bozsik was correct to say that the game as we know it developed over a thousand years in England from the Middle Ages to the mid-Victorian era. At first it was a ‘mob game’ played on Shrove Tuesday, Whitsuntide and Christmas with mass participation, no rules, no goals and the main objective was territorial, to move the ‘ball’ – initially a hog’s head, later a pig’s or sheep’s bladder – from one part of town to the other. It became a renegade activity, banned by the Lord Mayor of London and in more than 30 decrees from 1314 to 1667 but it thrived despite – probably due to – its propensity to encourage rioting and mischief. But as the industrial revolution began to change the culture of the country, and adults and children were forced to work a six-day week, Feast Day games declined and the public schools, where various hybrids had mutated and flourished over the past four centuries, became the hothouses for the codification of the game and its ultimate divergence into two distinct branches, rugby and football. Billy Wright and Ferenc Puskas lead England and Hungary out at Wembley in 1953 ‘Three Lions on a shirt’ By the late 1840s the multifarious strands of the game were causing confusion and limiting the opportunities for matches because of disputes about offside and handling the ball. In 1848 at Trinity College, Cambridge, undergraduates from Shrewsbury School, Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Winchester met to devise a common code and the Cambridge Rules, as they became known, influenced the drive towards universal regulations. The Sheffield Rules, formulated in the city where Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest association football club, were founded in 1857, have even more in common with the modern game but there was still no unified code. A meeting of London clubs was called at the Freemasons Tavern on Great Queen Street on Oct 26 1863 to address this millennium-old obstacle to harmonisation and, calling itself the Football Association, agreed to invite the public schools to join them to reconcile all the distinctions between their versions. Only Uppingham and Charterhouse accepted but by December 8 after six meetings they were able to publish the Laws of Football. Members of the Sheffield Association and the FA continued to play to their own codes but when Charles Alcock, still then the game’s most prominent player, became secretary and treasurer of the latter in 1870 and created the FA Cup, first won by Wanderers in 1872, it gradually became accepted by both parties that they needed uniform regulations and the mixed rules were adopted from 1877. In the same year as the inaugural Cup final, the FA, in a bid to spread its association version and win the race to standardise the game, officially challenged Scotland, where rugby remained dominant, to a match north of Hadrian’s Wall. On Nov 30 1872, 10 years after an unofficial representative game had ended in a goalless draw, England were held 0-0 at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Partick in the first properly sanctioned international match. The contrast in style between the two sides – England with their dribbling and reliance on individual flair, Scotland with a passing game and teamwork – was marked and it was the Scots professionals with their skill and shrewdness who would become the driving force for the first 50 years of the Football League after it was established in 1888. Such was the success of the first England-Scotland match which drew a crowd of more than 3,000, it became an annual fixture as did Wales in 1879 and Ireland in 1882, two years before the four associations fashioned the Home Championship. Scotland held the upper hand with victories in each of the first four years but by 1900 England, 12 years into “a new football mania”, had fought back for parity in front of vast crowds who made stars of Steve Bloomer, G.O. Smith and Vivian Woodward while Wales and Ireland were regularly walloped and left to a desultory battle for the wooden spoon. The home nations refused to join Fifa on its formation in 1904 and yo-yoed in and out of the organisation for the next four decades, Scotland, Wales and Ireland proving even more hostile to it and continental matches at first than England. The FA did sanction tours of central Europe in 1908 and 1909 when Austria were beaten 6-1, 11-1 and 8-1, Hungary 7-0, 4-2 and 8-2 but they did not invite a Fifa member to play them at home until ‘plucky Belgium’, the nation in whose defence Britain had ostensibly gone to war in 1914, came to Highbury in 1923 and were sent packing with a 6-1 thrashing. Wartime allies Belgium and France became annual fixtures in the Twenties, the high years of Dixie Dean, Billy Walker and Ernie Blenkinsop, but only Scotland provided a typically stern test though Ireland and Wales periodically bared their teeth and made the first part of the decade a troubling one for England even at the new Wembley Stadium. Defeat by the Celts could always be stomached, the illusion of superiority maintained when beaten by essentially your own countrymen, but in May 1929 they were at last bested by Spain in Madrid, going down 3-2 after an arduous train journey. Their chances were ruined by inconsistency of selection and, frankly, the self-serving boneheadedness of the selection committee. Stubbornness throughout the Home Nations’ associations over the issue of broken time payments to amateur players, tolerated by Fifa, provoked their withdrawal again from the organisation and the refusal to take part in the first three World Cups. Bilateral friendlies continued and famous victories over Italy, the world champions, in 1934 at Highbury and Germany, a year later at White Hart contributed to the myth that their absence from the tournament was the world’s not England’s loss. But in 1936, a strong team including Wilf Copping, Cliff Bastin and George Camsell were beaten in Vienna by a wonderful Austria side, and in 1938, though Bastin and Stanley Matthews scored for Eddie Hapgood’s side in a 6-3 victory over Germany in Berlin, the players’ agreement to give the Hitler salute before the match would taint it, the British ambassador and them. They were not to blame, though their willingness to comply with the suggestion has been glossed over retrospectively. A year later, a truly gifted generation of players – Matthews, Tommy Lawton, Joe Mercer, Willie Hall et al – put careers in their prime on hold to serve the country, sometimes in the white shirts of England to sustain morale, usually in khaki or air force blue. England have worn a three lions crest since 1872 ‘England's gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away’ At the end of the Second World War, when detachment, isolation and nationalism should have drowned forever in oceans of blood, the FA, under Stanley Rous, understandably adopted a more progressive and outward-looking tone. It bailed out Fifa and agreed to take part in the fourth World Cup, for which, in gratitude, they were given the most absurd qualification criteria: the top two in the 1949-50 Home Championship would go through to the Brazil finals. England won it and headed off with little preparation and only days to spare; Scotland, who finished second, had an almighty strop and refused to let their players go. England should have travelled in expectation, instead they went overcome by hubris. In 1948 they had gone to Turin with the greatest forward line in England’s history – Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Lawton, Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney – and put on arguably England’s greatest performance to beat the double world champions 4-0 in a courageously incisive and professional display supported by the world-class goalkeeping of Frank Swift to beat the world champions. Typically the numskulls on the selection committee never picked that front five again and Neil Franklin, the best centre-half in Europe, was lured to the rebel league in Colombia before the tournament and was blacklisted for his ‘disloyalty’ in trying to earn more than the maximum wage. Rous had enjoyed one victory over the committee, pushing through the appointment of the first team manager, Walter Winterbottom and he arrived in Brazil minus Matthews, who had been sent on a goodwill tour of Canada, deemed the priority by the FA, and only joined up with the team on the eve of the second game after their 2-0 victory over Chile. In Belo Horizonte they went down 1-0 to the pot-washers, amateurs and obscure expatriates of the USA, a result so unexpected that Fleet Street copytasters initially assumed they had won 10-0. Defeat by Spain in the final game sent them home long before Uruguay’s ‘Maracanazo’ victory over Brazil earned them their second World Cup. In the three years before England’s double defenestration by Hungary when, in Green’s famous words, Billy Wright, diddled by Ferenc Puskas resembled a “fire engine going to the wrong fire”, no lessons were learnt from Brazil and some famous victories were earned, not least when Nat Lofthouse achieved immortality as ‘The Lion of Vienna’ during the 3-2 win there in 1952. Public opinion and the newspapers were so startled by the twin gubbings at Wembley and in Budapest that certain modernisations that had been long overdue – the national preference for heavy shirts, armadillo boots as well as indifference to tactics and novel training methods – were finally applied but the selection committee remained in situ. England's long journey home The changes had not had enough time to bed in for the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, again secured by winning the Home Championship rather than by testing themselves against contrasting styles. A draw with Belgium and victory over the hosts were enough to put them through to the quarter-finals but they could not overcome defending champions Uruguay who went 3-1 up a minute after half-time and eventually won 4-2. England failed to get out of the group four years later in Sweden, losing a play-off to the USSR, but it is unfair to judge them harshly. Four months before the tournament began, they had lost their best forward, Tommy Taylor, best player, Duncan Edwards, and left-back, Manchester United’s inspirational captain, Roger Byrne, in the Munich Air Disaster. In 1956 Taylor had scored twice in a 4-2 victory over Brazil at Wembley and, in the trio’s final international together in November 1957 he had scored two more in a 4-0 whacking of France. Only 13 years after the war, in a far more stoical age, grief was suppressed but without them and because of what happened to them, England did not stand a chance. Brazil, for the first time, won the World Cup with a fine blend of youthful flair, instinctive brilliance and veteran nous. It may always have been their fate but England at full strength and perhaps with an enlightened selector also pushing for Eddie Colman’s inclusion, it may have been a close-run thing. Brazil retained their title four years later, knocking England out in the quarter final in Vina del Mar. Even though Gerry Hitchens and Jimmy Greaves had endured spells in Serie A, there was little continental enlightenment from the FA who, again, sent out a threadbare staff with Winterbottom and no team doctor. Johnny Haynes, by now the captain, was man-marked out of the tournament as he had been in Sweden and his disgruntlement at the press’s criticisms of him soured the atmosphere of the camp. Garrincha was irrepressible in the match and England went home unlamented, as usual less than the sum of their parts. At long last, though, a revolution was at hand. ‘Jules Rimet still gleaming’ Alf Ramsey made it his life’s work that any team he played in or managed would always be stronger than its constituent components. The FA, having won the rights to host the 1966 World Cup, recognised it needed someone to give them a competitive edge. Chasteningly for the association, the appointment of the Ipswich Town manager also gave them an uncompromising visionary whose dedication to his mission and his abrasiveness would be tolerated by the blazers but never embraced. He began with an ultimatum after taking the job on a full-time basis. Ramsey had been in the XI that had been humiliated by USA in Brazil and Hungary at Wembley and felt a player’s righteous sense of indignation about the whims and follies of the International Selection Committee and ensured it was disbanded before he took the job on a full-time basis. When asked what his goal was in 1966, he said that England would win it, and set about building his squad on a series of summer tours during 1963, 1964 and 1965 where he established himself as a player’s manager, strict but also friendly, purposeful and usually cheerful with them, if not with the press. They began the tournament on a run of seven successive victories and a side, as he put it, that was his best team, not necessarily made up of his best players. Consequently alongside the swans – Gordon Banks, Ray Wilson, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Martin Peters and Jimmy Greaves – there was a gaggle of geese, notably Jack Charlton, George Cohen, Roger Hunt and Nobby Stiles. England's captain Bobby Moore in action during the 1966 World Cup quarter-final match between England and Argentina at Wembley It was not until the brutal quarter-final victory over Argentina that he settled on his winning combination after an injury to Greaves in the third of three uninspired group games. Out went his experimentation with a single orthodox winger, in came Geoff Hurst and Alan Ball and the XI who will forever be known as ‘the Boys of 66’ at last took flight. They played all six games at Wembley and, as enthusiasm began to mount, their inhibitions were shed and they put on a magnificent performance to beat Portugal in the semi-final. On the morning of July 30 1966, Stiles went to mass, Bobby Charlton went shopping in Hendon, most players went for a walk and they arrived at the stadium in good time. In front of a vibrant crowd of 100,000 Hurst equalised six minutes after Helmut Haller had put West Germany ahead in the 12th minute and Wolfgang Weber levelled with a minute to spare following Martin Peters’ second half goal. Ramsey, famously, told them they had won it once and all they had to do was win it again, which they deservedly did in extra-time, Hurst completing his hat-trick first in dubious then in thrilling emphatic style. Moore, an elegant presence throughout, lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in glorious sunshine as the clouds parted above Wembley and the players and the manager, who would shortly be knighted, celebrated with characteristic modesty. The defence of the trophy four years later in Mexico, when Sir Alf maintained he had a better team, was stymied by West Germany’s comeback from 2-0 down in the quarter-final. The world may have turned against the team because of Ramsey’s prickliness and evident distaste of anything foreign, a trait bordering on full-blown xenophobia, but for the players, who were superb against the eventual winners Brazil in a majestic group game, it was undeserved. Had they not lost Banks to food poisoning before the game and had Ramsey kept Bobby Charlton on 10 minutes more to occupy Franz Beckenbauer, it is fair to speculate that they would have made it through to the final and had the opportunity of another go at Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson and the other all-time greats. ‘All those oh so nears, wear you down through the years’ If 1970 was essentially the end of the 1966 champagne years, the following 10 were figuratively the greatest hangover English football has ever endured. Ramsey, still a relatively young man but ever more hidebound and mistrustful, rebooted the team but could not find a fluid yet alone a fluent formula. Moore, in decline, carried on as his captain but after a 3-1 defeat in the European Championship quarter-final by West Germany at Wembley in 1972 when Gunther Netzer tore them to shreds, England spiralled ever more vertiginously into a mess of conservatism, caution and anxiety. Ramsey was sacked at the beginning of 1974 after defeat away in Poland and a draw at home ensured non-qualification for the World Cup at which West Germany emulated England by winning at home. Leeds United’s Don Revie took his place after a revivifying caretaker spell by Joe Mecer but the wide pool of players at his disposal encouraged constant tinkering in selection and his running feud with the chairman of the FA, Lord Thompson, left him deflated and mutinous. There were signs of progress – and the adoption of a garish kit more suited to the age – but injuries to Gerry Francis and Colin Bell killed the momentum and he sent out a team to face Italy in a World Cup qualifier in November 1976 that was so unbalanced defeat was all but inevitable. That loss meant that making it to the 1978 tournament was out of their hands and Revie, fearing he would be sacked, pre-empted the FA and jumped ship to the UAE, a decision that continues to blacken his reputation. Ron Greenwood was chosen as his successor when the people wanted Brian Clough yet the former West Ham manager did guide them to Euro 80, where they drew with Belgium, lost to Italy and beat Spain while their fans rioted, and the 1982 World Cup even though repeated setbacks in qualification frequently suggested his resignation was imminent. His two best players, Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking, were injured at the start of the tournament and would not play until the fifth and final game against the hosts. They won their first three matches, getting off to a flier against France, but as Bryan Robson waned, so did their fortunes and they could only draw against European champions West Germany and against Spain to go home unbeaten. Keegan, twice the Ballon d’Or winner and certainly the best English player of his generation, managed only 26 minutes of World Cup football in his storied career and missed a header late on in his sole cameo that would have given his side hope. Keegan never played for England again. Bobby Robson, who left Ipswich to succeed Greenwood, did not pick him for his first squad and the former captain announced his retirement with abrupt finality. Robson struggled at first and was spat at by fans at Wembley after a defeat by the Soviet Union in 1984, the year he failed to qualify for the Euros won at home by France. The behaviour of the England crowd had been toxic for years. Not much violence at home, but they had been jeering the players since about 1968 and screeching their exasperation. Away, particularly Scotland, provided the playground for assorted neophytes, headbangers and racists to do their worst and a nadir was reached on a flight from Brazil after John Barnes’ majestically serpentine goal at the Maracana when one piggy-eyed member of the ‘master race’ proclaimed that the goal didn’t count because it hadn’t been scored by a white man. Nonetheless England’s performances on that tour of South America suggested Robson was building a coherent system even if it was over-reliant on Bryan Robson, the marauding Manchester United captain whose bravery all too often put him in harm’s way. Robson started the first game in Mexico against Portugal having seemingly recovered from a dislocated shoulder. What we didn’t know was that it had popped out again during the training camp and his selection became even more of a risk. They ended the match defeated and with boos ringing out and Robson had his tournament finished during the draw with Morocco when he fell awkwardly and dislocated it again. Ray Wilkins, his deputy, lost his cool and was sent off and England were in disarray. The absence of his two midfield stalwarts left Bobby Robson with no option but to pick Peter Reid to do Glenn Hoddle’s running, introduce Peter Beardsley and the changes liberated Gary Lineker who scored six goals in the next three matches and won the Golden Boot despite England, after a heartening resurgence, leaving at the quarter-final stage at the hand of Diego Maradona and by virtue of his divine second goal. The knowledge that they had been cheated for the first goal left them departing with a sense of grievance but also with their honour intact. Now the tabloid press reached its Nero phase when their journalists jobs became a caper we were all supposed to enjoy and people who should have known better jumped from an anti-Robson bandwagon to a pro-‘Our Boys’ one with indecent opportunism. And poor Robson managed to stay sane if not undamaged through it all. Three defeats at Euro 88 when Lineker was stricken with glandular fever and Holland revived Total Football with a dynamic, athletic twist, would have ended Robson’s time in the job he loved best but for the length of his contract and he composed himself and the team to qualify for Italia 90. Paul Gascoigne’s skill and charm introduced an affable battiness into the side and helped England reconnect with the supporters. Although a wonderfully assured performance with three at the back against Holland in their second group game was followed by a dispiritingly sterile 1-0 win over Egypt, the 119th-minute victory over Belgium in the Round of 16, secured by virtue of Gascoigne’s vision and David Platt’s balletic volley, and their tenacious fight-back from 2-1 down in the quarter-final against a mesmerisingly sinuous Cameroon attack revealed their skill and fortitude. Here was the proof that would inspire the key line of Three Lions, the plaintive yet defiant: “But I know they can play.” They may have been let down in the past by excessive caution or the 11th-hour loss of Gordon Banks or diddled by the Hand of God but each time had highly capable players and now, at last, they were showing it. They made it to the semi-final with the nation behind them, played very well against West Germany and equalised when Lineker cushioned Parker’s cross on his thigh to manoeuvre Thomas Berthold and Klaus Augenthaler out of his path and fire a left-foot shot past Bodo Illgner with 10 minutes to go. Gary Lineker during the 1986 World Cup group match against Paraguay in Mexico City. England won the match 3-0 The drama of extra-time, for the third England game in succession, was enhanced by West Germany laying siege for what seemed like a lifetime, Waddle’s superb shot that hit the inside of the post, Gascoigne’s deserved booking for fouling Berthold and subsequent tears that sealed a nation’s love. West Germany had won shootouts en route to the final at the past two World Cups while England were enduring their first. At 3-3, Robson’s ‘banker’ Stuart Pearce went hard and straight. Illgner saved it with his legs and, with a distraught Pearce on his haunches in the centre-circle, Olaf Thon scored West Germany’s fourth. Waddle walked up in fifth place, deputising for his room-mate Gascoigne. “I felt like I was stepping off the world into silence,” he said, deciding to blast it but overcome by anxiety and tiredness, he got his body shape wrong, leant back and fired it into orbit. England were out but again left after a gallant campaign and Robson, who had been called a traitor by the newspapers and told to PSV off by the Sun for agreeing to take over in Eindhoven after the tournament because the FA would not renew his contract, was never maligned again. Would that we could say the same for his successor, Graham Taylor who, in three years in charge, took England backwards. If Robson had been on the road to enlightenment when he left, Taylor, a decent, honest man but also patently out of his depth with the newspaper sharks swirling around him and about to turn him into a root vegetable, could not marry his club football strategies to the international game. He seemed to be no judge of international quality, made some extraordinary selections but was still unlucky after an insipid exit from Euro 92 won by, of all people, Denmark, to miss out on the 1994 World Cup because he was denied a fit Gascoigne for long periods, his own intransigence over Waddle and a glaring refereeing error during the defeat by Holland in Rotterdam. Perhaps no England manager had a tougher inheritance given what had just preceded his appointment, yet it is only fair to concede that he made a mess of it. Terry Venables, by contrast, was more assured and when the news reporters went for him over his conduct at Tottenham and his business dealings, he always had the football pack on his side. He knew what he wanted to do and applied everything he had learnt at Crystal Palace, QPR, Barcelona and Spurs to fashion a 3-5-2 system that was similar to Robson’s but bolder in that he used wingers instead of full-backs in the wide roles. He was fortunate too in that he did not have to qualify for the next tournament, Euro 96 in England, and, after some boozy indiscretions on tour before their first game, they made the country fall in love with them again after half-time in their second fixture against Scotland when it all came together with Gascoigne, rejuvenated, Alan Shearer, devastatingly predatory, Paul Ince tireless, and Teddy Sheringham imaginatively creative. The country was festooned with cross of St George flags for the first time, Three Lions was adopted as an anthem and England made it through to the semi-finals after a commanding victory over Holland and a scrappy but unforgettable penalty shootout win against Spain featuring redemption for Pearce and a cry that could be heard in Turin. Once more they faced Germany and, as they had six years earlier, they played with poise and enterprise but couldn’t crack the eventual winners. At the end of 120 minutes and five successful penalties each, it was England that cracked, Gareth Southgate rolling his too close to Andreas Kopke. Venables left to spend more time with his solicitors and Glenn Hoddle took over a team that had the nation dancing to its tune and was seemingly on an upward trajectory after emerging from the dark ages. ‘So many jokes, so many sneers’ For the next 20 years England were mired in confusion and capriciousness. The Premier League, a breakaway from the Football League given the fig-leaf of FA sanction, made the English game plutocratically wealthy but the snake swallowed the pig, the club game devouring the FA’s intention that the whole point of secession was to put the national side at the apex of the sport. The clubs produced some sensationally talented players – Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole among many more – but the FA zigzagged from appointing a coaching virtuoso with some strange views in Hoddle, to the arch-motivator in Keegan, Sven Goran-Eriksson, the progressive pragmatist, to his No2, chalkboard guru Steve McClaren, and from him to the best coach money could buy, Fabio Capello, to Roy Hodgson, supposedly a veteran sage, and finally Sam Allardyce for a Lady Jane Grey reign. During that time England were well-supported at each tournament to which they went, losing on penalties at the last 16 stage to Argentina at France 98 which was won by the hosts, finally beating Germany in a competitive match at Euro 2000 in an otherwise terrible display, winning 5-1 in Munich under Eriksson when Owen had the world at his feet, doing well at the 2002 World Cup until overwhelmed by caution in the second-half of the quarter-final against eventual winners Brazil and, with Rooney rampant at Euro 2004, looking unstoppable until he was hit by the curse of the metatarsal that had already hobbled Beckham at the previous tournament and would do for Rooney again weeks before the next. At the 2006 World Cup they holed up in Baden-Baden where the divergence between their living standards and the people who followed them was never more naked and it was exploited first by some newspapers for prurient kicks and then as a tool of castigation when they were knocked out for the second tournament running by Portugal on penalties. Italy won it and England, beset by injuries and timidity, got as far as they deserved as was also the case under McClaren who failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and spent much of his time in the job with the crowd on his back, alarmed and angry at the incohesion and reticence of talented players. Capello came in and banned ketchup, brought the iron rod but couldn’t get a tune out of the same group of players and walked out on the eve of Euro 2012. His bored side had been eliminated at the last 16 stage at the 2010 World Cup when a youthful Germany left England looking like carthorses and their fans grateful that they didn’t have to witness them being filleted by Spain. The Italian tried to bring Scholes back into the fold but could not persuade England’s best midfielder to end six years of exile he felt forced into because Eriksson, even with his exorbitant salary, would not take on the responsibility of picking a balanced team if it meant leaving out either Gerrard or Lampard, or getting them to work in a diamond. Beckham did come back as a kind of elder statesman, now universally popular after a topsy-turvy relationship with the crowd and media which took him from pariah for his red card in 1998 to messiah with his goals against Greece and Argentina and back to earth in Germany. The one bright light remained Rooney who carried the attack between tournaments and succumbed to the general malaise during them. Longevity and dedication made him the most-capped outfield player and the highest scorer but he was banned for the start of Euro 2012 and could not drag England past Italy in the quarter-final, which they lost on penalties, or the opening match of the 2014 World Cup. Hodgson was paid almost as much as Capello and fared worse, going out at the group stage in Brazil when furious fans were strung along with the old line about building for the future even though it was plain to see that an inability to defend hardly boded well. Indeed they were knocked out by Iceland at Euro 2016 in the second round. He spent spells of the three tournaments pinching his face and left at the end of the last one with the national team flirting as much with irrelevance as embarrassment. "We’re a team, with our diversity and our youth, that represents modern England. In England, we have spent a bit of time being a bit lost as to what our modern identity is. I think we represent that modern identity and hopefully, people can connect with us." Gareth Southgate, 2018 ‘It’s coming home’ In only 21 months Gareth Southgate has changed all that, regenerating a bond between the team and its public in a way that only success in tournament football can achieve. Even last November, while paper aeroplanes were being thrown at Wembley during a friendly, and the usual charmless berks were littering Twitter with complaints about international breaks and railing about the lack of Premier League football, the current levels of elation and pride would have seemed preposterous. Yet Southgate, the first FA insider to be given the job since Winterbottom, has been an integral part of building the structure that fostered the recent renaissance of national age-group teams – England won the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups in 2017 – applied the principles he had picked up as a coach working in player development and blended them with his own experiences as an international under Venables, Hoddle, Keegan and Eriksson. Honesty and humility were paramount as well as presenting an open face to the world and as his young team rallied to beat Tunisia, marmalised Panama, withstood Colombia and flattened them in their first shoot-out victory for 22 years, the country fell for their character and integrity. As everything around us seems threatened by spitefulness, pusillanimity and chaos, they became a beacon not a distraction. The target before Russia 2018 was a place in the quarter-finals and England’s inexperienced squad, for once, over-achieved and made it to the semis for only the third time since 1950 by exploiting a kind draw with their panache, efficiency and determination. Croatia, a team with two of the best midfielders in the world, and relentless, streetwise forward runners, proved too savvy at this early stage but England created enough chances to impress upon everyone that this is only the beginning. The first steps on the long road have been taken. It will take a little longer than many hoped, but football is coming home. England's amazing World Cup: the best pics Registration wall CSS More World Cup 2018 01 Aug 2018,10:30pm Gareth Southgate to be offered new England deal beyond 2020 'to build a dynasty' 01 Aug 2018,5:00pm England moves step closer to hosting 2030 World Cup but distances itself from 2022 if Qatar stripped 24 Jul 2018,10:30pm Adam Lallana opens up on World Cup heartache: 'The lads had a massive tournament but I still have lots to give' 24 Jul 2018,3:35pm England manager Gareth Southgate nominated for Fifa coach of the year award
How football (very nearly) came home By Rob Bagchi 3 AUGUST 2018 • 6:49 PM BST England's 2018 World Cup campaign was one of dizzying highs with an ultimately familiar low as its conclusion. Something, though, has shifted. Despite the disappointment of semi-final defeat to Croatia, there is a sense that some deep psychological scars are beginning to fade. “Football’s coming home” has been the rallying cry, and while the final destination will have to wait for now the route looks clearer than it has for years. This is the story of English football’s long and frequently arduous journey. ‘I know that was then…’ Eventually ‘the darkest day’ for the England football team would become so frustratingly routine that its employment even by the habitually trite would be abandoned as cliche. But at the start of the Fifties, when one indignity followed another and the realisation that our sense of entitlement on and off the field was a bankrupt concept, one of England’s conquerors struck a consoling tone. Six months after the chastening 6-3 defeat by Hungary at Wembley in November 1953 that killed the myth of English exceptionalism once and for all, Walter Winterbottom took his side to the Nep Stadion in Budapest where the Magical Magyars massacred them 7-1. After the match Geoffrey Green, the greatest of football correspondents, spoke to Jozsef Bozsik, the Hungarians’ magnificent if stately right-half, and, having gone through the fourth stage of grief, depression, had reached acceptance that England’s supremacy had gone the way of the Empire. And so he was surprised by Bozsik’s sincerity when he asked him if he was joking by asserting that the world still looked up to England. “You are still masters of football,” Bozsik said. “You will always be the masters. You fashioned the game, organised it and gave it to the world first of all. You were the original teachers.” It was of no little comfort to Green that respect overruled results. China, as acknowledged by Fifa, can demonstrate that a form of the game originated there during the Han dynasty in the second century BC and types of football were played in Japan, by indigenous peoples in the Americas and Australia, Ancient Greece and imperial Rome. But Bozsik was correct to say that the game as we know it developed over a thousand years in England from the Middle Ages to the mid-Victorian era. At first it was a ‘mob game’ played on Shrove Tuesday, Whitsuntide and Christmas with mass participation, no rules, no goals and the main objective was territorial, to move the ‘ball’ – initially a hog’s head, later a pig’s or sheep’s bladder – from one part of town to the other. It became a renegade activity, banned by the Lord Mayor of London and in more than 30 decrees from 1314 to 1667 but it thrived despite – probably due to – its propensity to encourage rioting and mischief. But as the industrial revolution began to change the culture of the country, and adults and children were forced to work a six-day week, Feast Day games declined and the public schools, where various hybrids had mutated and flourished over the past four centuries, became the hothouses for the codification of the game and its ultimate divergence into two distinct branches, rugby and football. Billy Wright and Ferenc Puskas lead England and Hungary out at Wembley in 1953 ‘Three Lions on a shirt’ By the late 1840s the multifarious strands of the game were causing confusion and limiting the opportunities for matches because of disputes about offside and handling the ball. In 1848 at Trinity College, Cambridge, undergraduates from Shrewsbury School, Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Winchester met to devise a common code and the Cambridge Rules, as they became known, influenced the drive towards universal regulations. The Sheffield Rules, formulated in the city where Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest association football club, were founded in 1857, have even more in common with the modern game but there was still no unified code. A meeting of London clubs was called at the Freemasons Tavern on Great Queen Street on Oct 26 1863 to address this millennium-old obstacle to harmonisation and, calling itself the Football Association, agreed to invite the public schools to join them to reconcile all the distinctions between their versions. Only Uppingham and Charterhouse accepted but by December 8 after six meetings they were able to publish the Laws of Football. Members of the Sheffield Association and the FA continued to play to their own codes but when Charles Alcock, still then the game’s most prominent player, became secretary and treasurer of the latter in 1870 and created the FA Cup, first won by Wanderers in 1872, it gradually became accepted by both parties that they needed uniform regulations and the mixed rules were adopted from 1877. In the same year as the inaugural Cup final, the FA, in a bid to spread its association version and win the race to standardise the game, officially challenged Scotland, where rugby remained dominant, to a match north of Hadrian’s Wall. On Nov 30 1872, 10 years after an unofficial representative game had ended in a goalless draw, England were held 0-0 at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Partick in the first properly sanctioned international match. The contrast in style between the two sides – England with their dribbling and reliance on individual flair, Scotland with a passing game and teamwork – was marked and it was the Scots professionals with their skill and shrewdness who would become the driving force for the first 50 years of the Football League after it was established in 1888. Such was the success of the first England-Scotland match which drew a crowd of more than 3,000, it became an annual fixture as did Wales in 1879 and Ireland in 1882, two years before the four associations fashioned the Home Championship. Scotland held the upper hand with victories in each of the first four years but by 1900 England, 12 years into “a new football mania”, had fought back for parity in front of vast crowds who made stars of Steve Bloomer, G.O. Smith and Vivian Woodward while Wales and Ireland were regularly walloped and left to a desultory battle for the wooden spoon. The home nations refused to join Fifa on its formation in 1904 and yo-yoed in and out of the organisation for the next four decades, Scotland, Wales and Ireland proving even more hostile to it and continental matches at first than England. The FA did sanction tours of central Europe in 1908 and 1909 when Austria were beaten 6-1, 11-1 and 8-1, Hungary 7-0, 4-2 and 8-2 but they did not invite a Fifa member to play them at home until ‘plucky Belgium’, the nation in whose defence Britain had ostensibly gone to war in 1914, came to Highbury in 1923 and were sent packing with a 6-1 thrashing. Wartime allies Belgium and France became annual fixtures in the Twenties, the high years of Dixie Dean, Billy Walker and Ernie Blenkinsop, but only Scotland provided a typically stern test though Ireland and Wales periodically bared their teeth and made the first part of the decade a troubling one for England even at the new Wembley Stadium. Defeat by the Celts could always be stomached, the illusion of superiority maintained when beaten by essentially your own countrymen, but in May 1929 they were at last bested by Spain in Madrid, going down 3-2 after an arduous train journey. Their chances were ruined by inconsistency of selection and, frankly, the self-serving boneheadedness of the selection committee. Stubbornness throughout the Home Nations’ associations over the issue of broken time payments to amateur players, tolerated by Fifa, provoked their withdrawal again from the organisation and the refusal to take part in the first three World Cups. Bilateral friendlies continued and famous victories over Italy, the world champions, in 1934 at Highbury and Germany, a year later at White Hart contributed to the myth that their absence from the tournament was the world’s not England’s loss. But in 1936, a strong team including Wilf Copping, Cliff Bastin and George Camsell were beaten in Vienna by a wonderful Austria side, and in 1938, though Bastin and Stanley Matthews scored for Eddie Hapgood’s side in a 6-3 victory over Germany in Berlin, the players’ agreement to give the Hitler salute before the match would taint it, the British ambassador and them. They were not to blame, though their willingness to comply with the suggestion has been glossed over retrospectively. A year later, a truly gifted generation of players – Matthews, Tommy Lawton, Joe Mercer, Willie Hall et al – put careers in their prime on hold to serve the country, sometimes in the white shirts of England to sustain morale, usually in khaki or air force blue. England have worn a three lions crest since 1872 ‘England's gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away’ At the end of the Second World War, when detachment, isolation and nationalism should have drowned forever in oceans of blood, the FA, under Stanley Rous, understandably adopted a more progressive and outward-looking tone. It bailed out Fifa and agreed to take part in the fourth World Cup, for which, in gratitude, they were given the most absurd qualification criteria: the top two in the 1949-50 Home Championship would go through to the Brazil finals. England won it and headed off with little preparation and only days to spare; Scotland, who finished second, had an almighty strop and refused to let their players go. England should have travelled in expectation, instead they went overcome by hubris. In 1948 they had gone to Turin with the greatest forward line in England’s history – Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Lawton, Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney – and put on arguably England’s greatest performance to beat the double world champions 4-0 in a courageously incisive and professional display supported by the world-class goalkeeping of Frank Swift to beat the world champions. Typically the numskulls on the selection committee never picked that front five again and Neil Franklin, the best centre-half in Europe, was lured to the rebel league in Colombia before the tournament and was blacklisted for his ‘disloyalty’ in trying to earn more than the maximum wage. Rous had enjoyed one victory over the committee, pushing through the appointment of the first team manager, Walter Winterbottom and he arrived in Brazil minus Matthews, who had been sent on a goodwill tour of Canada, deemed the priority by the FA, and only joined up with the team on the eve of the second game after their 2-0 victory over Chile. In Belo Horizonte they went down 1-0 to the pot-washers, amateurs and obscure expatriates of the USA, a result so unexpected that Fleet Street copytasters initially assumed they had won 10-0. Defeat by Spain in the final game sent them home long before Uruguay’s ‘Maracanazo’ victory over Brazil earned them their second World Cup. In the three years before England’s double defenestration by Hungary when, in Green’s famous words, Billy Wright, diddled by Ferenc Puskas resembled a “fire engine going to the wrong fire”, no lessons were learnt from Brazil and some famous victories were earned, not least when Nat Lofthouse achieved immortality as ‘The Lion of Vienna’ during the 3-2 win there in 1952. Public opinion and the newspapers were so startled by the twin gubbings at Wembley and in Budapest that certain modernisations that had been long overdue – the national preference for heavy shirts, armadillo boots as well as indifference to tactics and novel training methods – were finally applied but the selection committee remained in situ. England's long journey home The changes had not had enough time to bed in for the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, again secured by winning the Home Championship rather than by testing themselves against contrasting styles. A draw with Belgium and victory over the hosts were enough to put them through to the quarter-finals but they could not overcome defending champions Uruguay who went 3-1 up a minute after half-time and eventually won 4-2. England failed to get out of the group four years later in Sweden, losing a play-off to the USSR, but it is unfair to judge them harshly. Four months before the tournament began, they had lost their best forward, Tommy Taylor, best player, Duncan Edwards, and left-back, Manchester United’s inspirational captain, Roger Byrne, in the Munich Air Disaster. In 1956 Taylor had scored twice in a 4-2 victory over Brazil at Wembley and, in the trio’s final international together in November 1957 he had scored two more in a 4-0 whacking of France. Only 13 years after the war, in a far more stoical age, grief was suppressed but without them and because of what happened to them, England did not stand a chance. Brazil, for the first time, won the World Cup with a fine blend of youthful flair, instinctive brilliance and veteran nous. It may always have been their fate but England at full strength and perhaps with an enlightened selector also pushing for Eddie Colman’s inclusion, it may have been a close-run thing. Brazil retained their title four years later, knocking England out in the quarter final in Vina del Mar. Even though Gerry Hitchens and Jimmy Greaves had endured spells in Serie A, there was little continental enlightenment from the FA who, again, sent out a threadbare staff with Winterbottom and no team doctor. Johnny Haynes, by now the captain, was man-marked out of the tournament as he had been in Sweden and his disgruntlement at the press’s criticisms of him soured the atmosphere of the camp. Garrincha was irrepressible in the match and England went home unlamented, as usual less than the sum of their parts. At long last, though, a revolution was at hand. ‘Jules Rimet still gleaming’ Alf Ramsey made it his life’s work that any team he played in or managed would always be stronger than its constituent components. The FA, having won the rights to host the 1966 World Cup, recognised it needed someone to give them a competitive edge. Chasteningly for the association, the appointment of the Ipswich Town manager also gave them an uncompromising visionary whose dedication to his mission and his abrasiveness would be tolerated by the blazers but never embraced. He began with an ultimatum after taking the job on a full-time basis. Ramsey had been in the XI that had been humiliated by USA in Brazil and Hungary at Wembley and felt a player’s righteous sense of indignation about the whims and follies of the International Selection Committee and ensured it was disbanded before he took the job on a full-time basis. When asked what his goal was in 1966, he said that England would win it, and set about building his squad on a series of summer tours during 1963, 1964 and 1965 where he established himself as a player’s manager, strict but also friendly, purposeful and usually cheerful with them, if not with the press. They began the tournament on a run of seven successive victories and a side, as he put it, that was his best team, not necessarily made up of his best players. Consequently alongside the swans – Gordon Banks, Ray Wilson, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Martin Peters and Jimmy Greaves – there was a gaggle of geese, notably Jack Charlton, George Cohen, Roger Hunt and Nobby Stiles. England's captain Bobby Moore in action during the 1966 World Cup quarter-final match between England and Argentina at Wembley It was not until the brutal quarter-final victory over Argentina that he settled on his winning combination after an injury to Greaves in the third of three uninspired group games. Out went his experimentation with a single orthodox winger, in came Geoff Hurst and Alan Ball and the XI who will forever be known as ‘the Boys of 66’ at last took flight. They played all six games at Wembley and, as enthusiasm began to mount, their inhibitions were shed and they put on a magnificent performance to beat Portugal in the semi-final. On the morning of July 30 1966, Stiles went to mass, Bobby Charlton went shopping in Hendon, most players went for a walk and they arrived at the stadium in good time. In front of a vibrant crowd of 100,000 Hurst equalised six minutes after Helmut Haller had put West Germany ahead in the 12th minute and Wolfgang Weber levelled with a minute to spare following Martin Peters’ second half goal. Ramsey, famously, told them they had won it once and all they had to do was win it again, which they deservedly did in extra-time, Hurst completing his hat-trick first in dubious then in thrilling emphatic style. Moore, an elegant presence throughout, lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in glorious sunshine as the clouds parted above Wembley and the players and the manager, who would shortly be knighted, celebrated with characteristic modesty. The defence of the trophy four years later in Mexico, when Sir Alf maintained he had a better team, was stymied by West Germany’s comeback from 2-0 down in the quarter-final. The world may have turned against the team because of Ramsey’s prickliness and evident distaste of anything foreign, a trait bordering on full-blown xenophobia, but for the players, who were superb against the eventual winners Brazil in a majestic group game, it was undeserved. Had they not lost Banks to food poisoning before the game and had Ramsey kept Bobby Charlton on 10 minutes more to occupy Franz Beckenbauer, it is fair to speculate that they would have made it through to the final and had the opportunity of another go at Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson and the other all-time greats. ‘All those oh so nears, wear you down through the years’ If 1970 was essentially the end of the 1966 champagne years, the following 10 were figuratively the greatest hangover English football has ever endured. Ramsey, still a relatively young man but ever more hidebound and mistrustful, rebooted the team but could not find a fluid yet alone a fluent formula. Moore, in decline, carried on as his captain but after a 3-1 defeat in the European Championship quarter-final by West Germany at Wembley in 1972 when Gunther Netzer tore them to shreds, England spiralled ever more vertiginously into a mess of conservatism, caution and anxiety. Ramsey was sacked at the beginning of 1974 after defeat away in Poland and a draw at home ensured non-qualification for the World Cup at which West Germany emulated England by winning at home. Leeds United’s Don Revie took his place after a revivifying caretaker spell by Joe Mecer but the wide pool of players at his disposal encouraged constant tinkering in selection and his running feud with the chairman of the FA, Lord Thompson, left him deflated and mutinous. There were signs of progress – and the adoption of a garish kit more suited to the age – but injuries to Gerry Francis and Colin Bell killed the momentum and he sent out a team to face Italy in a World Cup qualifier in November 1976 that was so unbalanced defeat was all but inevitable. That loss meant that making it to the 1978 tournament was out of their hands and Revie, fearing he would be sacked, pre-empted the FA and jumped ship to the UAE, a decision that continues to blacken his reputation. Ron Greenwood was chosen as his successor when the people wanted Brian Clough yet the former West Ham manager did guide them to Euro 80, where they drew with Belgium, lost to Italy and beat Spain while their fans rioted, and the 1982 World Cup even though repeated setbacks in qualification frequently suggested his resignation was imminent. His two best players, Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking, were injured at the start of the tournament and would not play until the fifth and final game against the hosts. They won their first three matches, getting off to a flier against France, but as Bryan Robson waned, so did their fortunes and they could only draw against European champions West Germany and against Spain to go home unbeaten. Keegan, twice the Ballon d’Or winner and certainly the best English player of his generation, managed only 26 minutes of World Cup football in his storied career and missed a header late on in his sole cameo that would have given his side hope. Keegan never played for England again. Bobby Robson, who left Ipswich to succeed Greenwood, did not pick him for his first squad and the former captain announced his retirement with abrupt finality. Robson struggled at first and was spat at by fans at Wembley after a defeat by the Soviet Union in 1984, the year he failed to qualify for the Euros won at home by France. The behaviour of the England crowd had been toxic for years. Not much violence at home, but they had been jeering the players since about 1968 and screeching their exasperation. Away, particularly Scotland, provided the playground for assorted neophytes, headbangers and racists to do their worst and a nadir was reached on a flight from Brazil after John Barnes’ majestically serpentine goal at the Maracana when one piggy-eyed member of the ‘master race’ proclaimed that the goal didn’t count because it hadn’t been scored by a white man. Nonetheless England’s performances on that tour of South America suggested Robson was building a coherent system even if it was over-reliant on Bryan Robson, the marauding Manchester United captain whose bravery all too often put him in harm’s way. Robson started the first game in Mexico against Portugal having seemingly recovered from a dislocated shoulder. What we didn’t know was that it had popped out again during the training camp and his selection became even more of a risk. They ended the match defeated and with boos ringing out and Robson had his tournament finished during the draw with Morocco when he fell awkwardly and dislocated it again. Ray Wilkins, his deputy, lost his cool and was sent off and England were in disarray. The absence of his two midfield stalwarts left Bobby Robson with no option but to pick Peter Reid to do Glenn Hoddle’s running, introduce Peter Beardsley and the changes liberated Gary Lineker who scored six goals in the next three matches and won the Golden Boot despite England, after a heartening resurgence, leaving at the quarter-final stage at the hand of Diego Maradona and by virtue of his divine second goal. The knowledge that they had been cheated for the first goal left them departing with a sense of grievance but also with their honour intact. Now the tabloid press reached its Nero phase when their journalists jobs became a caper we were all supposed to enjoy and people who should have known better jumped from an anti-Robson bandwagon to a pro-‘Our Boys’ one with indecent opportunism. And poor Robson managed to stay sane if not undamaged through it all. Three defeats at Euro 88 when Lineker was stricken with glandular fever and Holland revived Total Football with a dynamic, athletic twist, would have ended Robson’s time in the job he loved best but for the length of his contract and he composed himself and the team to qualify for Italia 90. Paul Gascoigne’s skill and charm introduced an affable battiness into the side and helped England reconnect with the supporters. Although a wonderfully assured performance with three at the back against Holland in their second group game was followed by a dispiritingly sterile 1-0 win over Egypt, the 119th-minute victory over Belgium in the Round of 16, secured by virtue of Gascoigne’s vision and David Platt’s balletic volley, and their tenacious fight-back from 2-1 down in the quarter-final against a mesmerisingly sinuous Cameroon attack revealed their skill and fortitude. Here was the proof that would inspire the key line of Three Lions, the plaintive yet defiant: “But I know they can play.” They may have been let down in the past by excessive caution or the 11th-hour loss of Gordon Banks or diddled by the Hand of God but each time had highly capable players and now, at last, they were showing it. They made it to the semi-final with the nation behind them, played very well against West Germany and equalised when Lineker cushioned Parker’s cross on his thigh to manoeuvre Thomas Berthold and Klaus Augenthaler out of his path and fire a left-foot shot past Bodo Illgner with 10 minutes to go. Gary Lineker during the 1986 World Cup group match against Paraguay in Mexico City. England won the match 3-0 The drama of extra-time, for the third England game in succession, was enhanced by West Germany laying siege for what seemed like a lifetime, Waddle’s superb shot that hit the inside of the post, Gascoigne’s deserved booking for fouling Berthold and subsequent tears that sealed a nation’s love. West Germany had won shootouts en route to the final at the past two World Cups while England were enduring their first. At 3-3, Robson’s ‘banker’ Stuart Pearce went hard and straight. Illgner saved it with his legs and, with a distraught Pearce on his haunches in the centre-circle, Olaf Thon scored West Germany’s fourth. Waddle walked up in fifth place, deputising for his room-mate Gascoigne. “I felt like I was stepping off the world into silence,” he said, deciding to blast it but overcome by anxiety and tiredness, he got his body shape wrong, leant back and fired it into orbit. England were out but again left after a gallant campaign and Robson, who had been called a traitor by the newspapers and told to PSV off by the Sun for agreeing to take over in Eindhoven after the tournament because the FA would not renew his contract, was never maligned again. Would that we could say the same for his successor, Graham Taylor who, in three years in charge, took England backwards. If Robson had been on the road to enlightenment when he left, Taylor, a decent, honest man but also patently out of his depth with the newspaper sharks swirling around him and about to turn him into a root vegetable, could not marry his club football strategies to the international game. He seemed to be no judge of international quality, made some extraordinary selections but was still unlucky after an insipid exit from Euro 92 won by, of all people, Denmark, to miss out on the 1994 World Cup because he was denied a fit Gascoigne for long periods, his own intransigence over Waddle and a glaring refereeing error during the defeat by Holland in Rotterdam. Perhaps no England manager had a tougher inheritance given what had just preceded his appointment, yet it is only fair to concede that he made a mess of it. Terry Venables, by contrast, was more assured and when the news reporters went for him over his conduct at Tottenham and his business dealings, he always had the football pack on his side. He knew what he wanted to do and applied everything he had learnt at Crystal Palace, QPR, Barcelona and Spurs to fashion a 3-5-2 system that was similar to Robson’s but bolder in that he used wingers instead of full-backs in the wide roles. He was fortunate too in that he did not have to qualify for the next tournament, Euro 96 in England, and, after some boozy indiscretions on tour before their first game, they made the country fall in love with them again after half-time in their second fixture against Scotland when it all came together with Gascoigne, rejuvenated, Alan Shearer, devastatingly predatory, Paul Ince tireless, and Teddy Sheringham imaginatively creative. The country was festooned with cross of St George flags for the first time, Three Lions was adopted as an anthem and England made it through to the semi-finals after a commanding victory over Holland and a scrappy but unforgettable penalty shootout win against Spain featuring redemption for Pearce and a cry that could be heard in Turin. Once more they faced Germany and, as they had six years earlier, they played with poise and enterprise but couldn’t crack the eventual winners. At the end of 120 minutes and five successful penalties each, it was England that cracked, Gareth Southgate rolling his too close to Andreas Kopke. Venables left to spend more time with his solicitors and Glenn Hoddle took over a team that had the nation dancing to its tune and was seemingly on an upward trajectory after emerging from the dark ages. ‘So many jokes, so many sneers’ For the next 20 years England were mired in confusion and capriciousness. The Premier League, a breakaway from the Football League given the fig-leaf of FA sanction, made the English game plutocratically wealthy but the snake swallowed the pig, the club game devouring the FA’s intention that the whole point of secession was to put the national side at the apex of the sport. The clubs produced some sensationally talented players – Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole among many more – but the FA zigzagged from appointing a coaching virtuoso with some strange views in Hoddle, to the arch-motivator in Keegan, Sven Goran-Eriksson, the progressive pragmatist, to his No2, chalkboard guru Steve McClaren, and from him to the best coach money could buy, Fabio Capello, to Roy Hodgson, supposedly a veteran sage, and finally Sam Allardyce for a Lady Jane Grey reign. During that time England were well-supported at each tournament to which they went, losing on penalties at the last 16 stage to Argentina at France 98 which was won by the hosts, finally beating Germany in a competitive match at Euro 2000 in an otherwise terrible display, winning 5-1 in Munich under Eriksson when Owen had the world at his feet, doing well at the 2002 World Cup until overwhelmed by caution in the second-half of the quarter-final against eventual winners Brazil and, with Rooney rampant at Euro 2004, looking unstoppable until he was hit by the curse of the metatarsal that had already hobbled Beckham at the previous tournament and would do for Rooney again weeks before the next. At the 2006 World Cup they holed up in Baden-Baden where the divergence between their living standards and the people who followed them was never more naked and it was exploited first by some newspapers for prurient kicks and then as a tool of castigation when they were knocked out for the second tournament running by Portugal on penalties. Italy won it and England, beset by injuries and timidity, got as far as they deserved as was also the case under McClaren who failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and spent much of his time in the job with the crowd on his back, alarmed and angry at the incohesion and reticence of talented players. Capello came in and banned ketchup, brought the iron rod but couldn’t get a tune out of the same group of players and walked out on the eve of Euro 2012. His bored side had been eliminated at the last 16 stage at the 2010 World Cup when a youthful Germany left England looking like carthorses and their fans grateful that they didn’t have to witness them being filleted by Spain. The Italian tried to bring Scholes back into the fold but could not persuade England’s best midfielder to end six years of exile he felt forced into because Eriksson, even with his exorbitant salary, would not take on the responsibility of picking a balanced team if it meant leaving out either Gerrard or Lampard, or getting them to work in a diamond. Beckham did come back as a kind of elder statesman, now universally popular after a topsy-turvy relationship with the crowd and media which took him from pariah for his red card in 1998 to messiah with his goals against Greece and Argentina and back to earth in Germany. The one bright light remained Rooney who carried the attack between tournaments and succumbed to the general malaise during them. Longevity and dedication made him the most-capped outfield player and the highest scorer but he was banned for the start of Euro 2012 and could not drag England past Italy in the quarter-final, which they lost on penalties, or the opening match of the 2014 World Cup. Hodgson was paid almost as much as Capello and fared worse, going out at the group stage in Brazil when furious fans were strung along with the old line about building for the future even though it was plain to see that an inability to defend hardly boded well. Indeed they were knocked out by Iceland at Euro 2016 in the second round. He spent spells of the three tournaments pinching his face and left at the end of the last one with the national team flirting as much with irrelevance as embarrassment. "We’re a team, with our diversity and our youth, that represents modern England. In England, we have spent a bit of time being a bit lost as to what our modern identity is. I think we represent that modern identity and hopefully, people can connect with us." Gareth Southgate, 2018 ‘It’s coming home’ In only 21 months Gareth Southgate has changed all that, regenerating a bond between the team and its public in a way that only success in tournament football can achieve. Even last November, while paper aeroplanes were being thrown at Wembley during a friendly, and the usual charmless berks were littering Twitter with complaints about international breaks and railing about the lack of Premier League football, the current levels of elation and pride would have seemed preposterous. Yet Southgate, the first FA insider to be given the job since Winterbottom, has been an integral part of building the structure that fostered the recent renaissance of national age-group teams – England won the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups in 2017 – applied the principles he had picked up as a coach working in player development and blended them with his own experiences as an international under Venables, Hoddle, Keegan and Eriksson. Honesty and humility were paramount as well as presenting an open face to the world and as his young team rallied to beat Tunisia, marmalised Panama, withstood Colombia and flattened them in their first shoot-out victory for 22 years, the country fell for their character and integrity. As everything around us seems threatened by spitefulness, pusillanimity and chaos, they became a beacon not a distraction. The target before Russia 2018 was a place in the quarter-finals and England’s inexperienced squad, for once, over-achieved and made it to the semis for only the third time since 1950 by exploiting a kind draw with their panache, efficiency and determination. Croatia, a team with two of the best midfielders in the world, and relentless, streetwise forward runners, proved too savvy at this early stage but England created enough chances to impress upon everyone that this is only the beginning. The first steps on the long road have been taken. It will take a little longer than many hoped, but football is coming home. England's amazing World Cup: the best pics Registration wall CSS More World Cup 2018 01 Aug 2018,10:30pm Gareth Southgate to be offered new England deal beyond 2020 'to build a dynasty' 01 Aug 2018,5:00pm England moves step closer to hosting 2030 World Cup but distances itself from 2022 if Qatar stripped 24 Jul 2018,10:30pm Adam Lallana opens up on World Cup heartache: 'The lads had a massive tournament but I still have lots to give' 24 Jul 2018,3:35pm England manager Gareth Southgate nominated for Fifa coach of the year award
Three Lions pride: how football (very nearly) came home for England
How football (very nearly) came home By Rob Bagchi 3 AUGUST 2018 • 6:49 PM BST England's 2018 World Cup campaign was one of dizzying highs with an ultimately familiar low as its conclusion. Something, though, has shifted. Despite the disappointment of semi-final defeat to Croatia, there is a sense that some deep psychological scars are beginning to fade. “Football’s coming home” has been the rallying cry, and while the final destination will have to wait for now the route looks clearer than it has for years. This is the story of English football’s long and frequently arduous journey. ‘I know that was then…’ Eventually ‘the darkest day’ for the England football team would become so frustratingly routine that its employment even by the habitually trite would be abandoned as cliche. But at the start of the Fifties, when one indignity followed another and the realisation that our sense of entitlement on and off the field was a bankrupt concept, one of England’s conquerors struck a consoling tone. Six months after the chastening 6-3 defeat by Hungary at Wembley in November 1953 that killed the myth of English exceptionalism once and for all, Walter Winterbottom took his side to the Nep Stadion in Budapest where the Magical Magyars massacred them 7-1. After the match Geoffrey Green, the greatest of football correspondents, spoke to Jozsef Bozsik, the Hungarians’ magnificent if stately right-half, and, having gone through the fourth stage of grief, depression, had reached acceptance that England’s supremacy had gone the way of the Empire. And so he was surprised by Bozsik’s sincerity when he asked him if he was joking by asserting that the world still looked up to England. “You are still masters of football,” Bozsik said. “You will always be the masters. You fashioned the game, organised it and gave it to the world first of all. You were the original teachers.” It was of no little comfort to Green that respect overruled results. China, as acknowledged by Fifa, can demonstrate that a form of the game originated there during the Han dynasty in the second century BC and types of football were played in Japan, by indigenous peoples in the Americas and Australia, Ancient Greece and imperial Rome. But Bozsik was correct to say that the game as we know it developed over a thousand years in England from the Middle Ages to the mid-Victorian era. At first it was a ‘mob game’ played on Shrove Tuesday, Whitsuntide and Christmas with mass participation, no rules, no goals and the main objective was territorial, to move the ‘ball’ – initially a hog’s head, later a pig’s or sheep’s bladder – from one part of town to the other. It became a renegade activity, banned by the Lord Mayor of London and in more than 30 decrees from 1314 to 1667 but it thrived despite – probably due to – its propensity to encourage rioting and mischief. But as the industrial revolution began to change the culture of the country, and adults and children were forced to work a six-day week, Feast Day games declined and the public schools, where various hybrids had mutated and flourished over the past four centuries, became the hothouses for the codification of the game and its ultimate divergence into two distinct branches, rugby and football. Billy Wright and Ferenc Puskas lead England and Hungary out at Wembley in 1953 ‘Three Lions on a shirt’ By the late 1840s the multifarious strands of the game were causing confusion and limiting the opportunities for matches because of disputes about offside and handling the ball. In 1848 at Trinity College, Cambridge, undergraduates from Shrewsbury School, Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Winchester met to devise a common code and the Cambridge Rules, as they became known, influenced the drive towards universal regulations. The Sheffield Rules, formulated in the city where Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest association football club, were founded in 1857, have even more in common with the modern game but there was still no unified code. A meeting of London clubs was called at the Freemasons Tavern on Great Queen Street on Oct 26 1863 to address this millennium-old obstacle to harmonisation and, calling itself the Football Association, agreed to invite the public schools to join them to reconcile all the distinctions between their versions. Only Uppingham and Charterhouse accepted but by December 8 after six meetings they were able to publish the Laws of Football. Members of the Sheffield Association and the FA continued to play to their own codes but when Charles Alcock, still then the game’s most prominent player, became secretary and treasurer of the latter in 1870 and created the FA Cup, first won by Wanderers in 1872, it gradually became accepted by both parties that they needed uniform regulations and the mixed rules were adopted from 1877. In the same year as the inaugural Cup final, the FA, in a bid to spread its association version and win the race to standardise the game, officially challenged Scotland, where rugby remained dominant, to a match north of Hadrian’s Wall. On Nov 30 1872, 10 years after an unofficial representative game had ended in a goalless draw, England were held 0-0 at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Partick in the first properly sanctioned international match. The contrast in style between the two sides – England with their dribbling and reliance on individual flair, Scotland with a passing game and teamwork – was marked and it was the Scots professionals with their skill and shrewdness who would become the driving force for the first 50 years of the Football League after it was established in 1888. Such was the success of the first England-Scotland match which drew a crowd of more than 3,000, it became an annual fixture as did Wales in 1879 and Ireland in 1882, two years before the four associations fashioned the Home Championship. Scotland held the upper hand with victories in each of the first four years but by 1900 England, 12 years into “a new football mania”, had fought back for parity in front of vast crowds who made stars of Steve Bloomer, G.O. Smith and Vivian Woodward while Wales and Ireland were regularly walloped and left to a desultory battle for the wooden spoon. The home nations refused to join Fifa on its formation in 1904 and yo-yoed in and out of the organisation for the next four decades, Scotland, Wales and Ireland proving even more hostile to it and continental matches at first than England. The FA did sanction tours of central Europe in 1908 and 1909 when Austria were beaten 6-1, 11-1 and 8-1, Hungary 7-0, 4-2 and 8-2 but they did not invite a Fifa member to play them at home until ‘plucky Belgium’, the nation in whose defence Britain had ostensibly gone to war in 1914, came to Highbury in 1923 and were sent packing with a 6-1 thrashing. Wartime allies Belgium and France became annual fixtures in the Twenties, the high years of Dixie Dean, Billy Walker and Ernie Blenkinsop, but only Scotland provided a typically stern test though Ireland and Wales periodically bared their teeth and made the first part of the decade a troubling one for England even at the new Wembley Stadium. Defeat by the Celts could always be stomached, the illusion of superiority maintained when beaten by essentially your own countrymen, but in May 1929 they were at last bested by Spain in Madrid, going down 3-2 after an arduous train journey. Their chances were ruined by inconsistency of selection and, frankly, the self-serving boneheadedness of the selection committee. Stubbornness throughout the Home Nations’ associations over the issue of broken time payments to amateur players, tolerated by Fifa, provoked their withdrawal again from the organisation and the refusal to take part in the first three World Cups. Bilateral friendlies continued and famous victories over Italy, the world champions, in 1934 at Highbury and Germany, a year later at White Hart contributed to the myth that their absence from the tournament was the world’s not England’s loss. But in 1936, a strong team including Wilf Copping, Cliff Bastin and George Camsell were beaten in Vienna by a wonderful Austria side, and in 1938, though Bastin and Stanley Matthews scored for Eddie Hapgood’s side in a 6-3 victory over Germany in Berlin, the players’ agreement to give the Hitler salute before the match would taint it, the British ambassador and them. They were not to blame, though their willingness to comply with the suggestion has been glossed over retrospectively. A year later, a truly gifted generation of players – Matthews, Tommy Lawton, Joe Mercer, Willie Hall et al – put careers in their prime on hold to serve the country, sometimes in the white shirts of England to sustain morale, usually in khaki or air force blue. England have worn a three lions crest since 1872 ‘England's gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away’ At the end of the Second World War, when detachment, isolation and nationalism should have drowned forever in oceans of blood, the FA, under Stanley Rous, understandably adopted a more progressive and outward-looking tone. It bailed out Fifa and agreed to take part in the fourth World Cup, for which, in gratitude, they were given the most absurd qualification criteria: the top two in the 1949-50 Home Championship would go through to the Brazil finals. England won it and headed off with little preparation and only days to spare; Scotland, who finished second, had an almighty strop and refused to let their players go. England should have travelled in expectation, instead they went overcome by hubris. In 1948 they had gone to Turin with the greatest forward line in England’s history – Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Lawton, Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney – and put on arguably England’s greatest performance to beat the double world champions 4-0 in a courageously incisive and professional display supported by the world-class goalkeeping of Frank Swift to beat the world champions. Typically the numskulls on the selection committee never picked that front five again and Neil Franklin, the best centre-half in Europe, was lured to the rebel league in Colombia before the tournament and was blacklisted for his ‘disloyalty’ in trying to earn more than the maximum wage. Rous had enjoyed one victory over the committee, pushing through the appointment of the first team manager, Walter Winterbottom and he arrived in Brazil minus Matthews, who had been sent on a goodwill tour of Canada, deemed the priority by the FA, and only joined up with the team on the eve of the second game after their 2-0 victory over Chile. In Belo Horizonte they went down 1-0 to the pot-washers, amateurs and obscure expatriates of the USA, a result so unexpected that Fleet Street copytasters initially assumed they had won 10-0. Defeat by Spain in the final game sent them home long before Uruguay’s ‘Maracanazo’ victory over Brazil earned them their second World Cup. In the three years before England’s double defenestration by Hungary when, in Green’s famous words, Billy Wright, diddled by Ferenc Puskas resembled a “fire engine going to the wrong fire”, no lessons were learnt from Brazil and some famous victories were earned, not least when Nat Lofthouse achieved immortality as ‘The Lion of Vienna’ during the 3-2 win there in 1952. Public opinion and the newspapers were so startled by the twin gubbings at Wembley and in Budapest that certain modernisations that had been long overdue – the national preference for heavy shirts, armadillo boots as well as indifference to tactics and novel training methods – were finally applied but the selection committee remained in situ. England's long journey home The changes had not had enough time to bed in for the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, again secured by winning the Home Championship rather than by testing themselves against contrasting styles. A draw with Belgium and victory over the hosts were enough to put them through to the quarter-finals but they could not overcome defending champions Uruguay who went 3-1 up a minute after half-time and eventually won 4-2. England failed to get out of the group four years later in Sweden, losing a play-off to the USSR, but it is unfair to judge them harshly. Four months before the tournament began, they had lost their best forward, Tommy Taylor, best player, Duncan Edwards, and left-back, Manchester United’s inspirational captain, Roger Byrne, in the Munich Air Disaster. In 1956 Taylor had scored twice in a 4-2 victory over Brazil at Wembley and, in the trio’s final international together in November 1957 he had scored two more in a 4-0 whacking of France. Only 13 years after the war, in a far more stoical age, grief was suppressed but without them and because of what happened to them, England did not stand a chance. Brazil, for the first time, won the World Cup with a fine blend of youthful flair, instinctive brilliance and veteran nous. It may always have been their fate but England at full strength and perhaps with an enlightened selector also pushing for Eddie Colman’s inclusion, it may have been a close-run thing. Brazil retained their title four years later, knocking England out in the quarter final in Vina del Mar. Even though Gerry Hitchens and Jimmy Greaves had endured spells in Serie A, there was little continental enlightenment from the FA who, again, sent out a threadbare staff with Winterbottom and no team doctor. Johnny Haynes, by now the captain, was man-marked out of the tournament as he had been in Sweden and his disgruntlement at the press’s criticisms of him soured the atmosphere of the camp. Garrincha was irrepressible in the match and England went home unlamented, as usual less than the sum of their parts. At long last, though, a revolution was at hand. ‘Jules Rimet still gleaming’ Alf Ramsey made it his life’s work that any team he played in or managed would always be stronger than its constituent components. The FA, having won the rights to host the 1966 World Cup, recognised it needed someone to give them a competitive edge. Chasteningly for the association, the appointment of the Ipswich Town manager also gave them an uncompromising visionary whose dedication to his mission and his abrasiveness would be tolerated by the blazers but never embraced. He began with an ultimatum after taking the job on a full-time basis. Ramsey had been in the XI that had been humiliated by USA in Brazil and Hungary at Wembley and felt a player’s righteous sense of indignation about the whims and follies of the International Selection Committee and ensured it was disbanded before he took the job on a full-time basis. When asked what his goal was in 1966, he said that England would win it, and set about building his squad on a series of summer tours during 1963, 1964 and 1965 where he established himself as a player’s manager, strict but also friendly, purposeful and usually cheerful with them, if not with the press. They began the tournament on a run of seven successive victories and a side, as he put it, that was his best team, not necessarily made up of his best players. Consequently alongside the swans – Gordon Banks, Ray Wilson, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Martin Peters and Jimmy Greaves – there was a gaggle of geese, notably Jack Charlton, George Cohen, Roger Hunt and Nobby Stiles. England's captain Bobby Moore in action during the 1966 World Cup quarter-final match between England and Argentina at Wembley It was not until the brutal quarter-final victory over Argentina that he settled on his winning combination after an injury to Greaves in the third of three uninspired group games. Out went his experimentation with a single orthodox winger, in came Geoff Hurst and Alan Ball and the XI who will forever be known as ‘the Boys of 66’ at last took flight. They played all six games at Wembley and, as enthusiasm began to mount, their inhibitions were shed and they put on a magnificent performance to beat Portugal in the semi-final. On the morning of July 30 1966, Stiles went to mass, Bobby Charlton went shopping in Hendon, most players went for a walk and they arrived at the stadium in good time. In front of a vibrant crowd of 100,000 Hurst equalised six minutes after Helmut Haller had put West Germany ahead in the 12th minute and Wolfgang Weber levelled with a minute to spare following Martin Peters’ second half goal. Ramsey, famously, told them they had won it once and all they had to do was win it again, which they deservedly did in extra-time, Hurst completing his hat-trick first in dubious then in thrilling emphatic style. Moore, an elegant presence throughout, lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in glorious sunshine as the clouds parted above Wembley and the players and the manager, who would shortly be knighted, celebrated with characteristic modesty. The defence of the trophy four years later in Mexico, when Sir Alf maintained he had a better team, was stymied by West Germany’s comeback from 2-0 down in the quarter-final. The world may have turned against the team because of Ramsey’s prickliness and evident distaste of anything foreign, a trait bordering on full-blown xenophobia, but for the players, who were superb against the eventual winners Brazil in a majestic group game, it was undeserved. Had they not lost Banks to food poisoning before the game and had Ramsey kept Bobby Charlton on 10 minutes more to occupy Franz Beckenbauer, it is fair to speculate that they would have made it through to the final and had the opportunity of another go at Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson and the other all-time greats. ‘All those oh so nears, wear you down through the years’ If 1970 was essentially the end of the 1966 champagne years, the following 10 were figuratively the greatest hangover English football has ever endured. Ramsey, still a relatively young man but ever more hidebound and mistrustful, rebooted the team but could not find a fluid yet alone a fluent formula. Moore, in decline, carried on as his captain but after a 3-1 defeat in the European Championship quarter-final by West Germany at Wembley in 1972 when Gunther Netzer tore them to shreds, England spiralled ever more vertiginously into a mess of conservatism, caution and anxiety. Ramsey was sacked at the beginning of 1974 after defeat away in Poland and a draw at home ensured non-qualification for the World Cup at which West Germany emulated England by winning at home. Leeds United’s Don Revie took his place after a revivifying caretaker spell by Joe Mecer but the wide pool of players at his disposal encouraged constant tinkering in selection and his running feud with the chairman of the FA, Lord Thompson, left him deflated and mutinous. There were signs of progress – and the adoption of a garish kit more suited to the age – but injuries to Gerry Francis and Colin Bell killed the momentum and he sent out a team to face Italy in a World Cup qualifier in November 1976 that was so unbalanced defeat was all but inevitable. That loss meant that making it to the 1978 tournament was out of their hands and Revie, fearing he would be sacked, pre-empted the FA and jumped ship to the UAE, a decision that continues to blacken his reputation. Ron Greenwood was chosen as his successor when the people wanted Brian Clough yet the former West Ham manager did guide them to Euro 80, where they drew with Belgium, lost to Italy and beat Spain while their fans rioted, and the 1982 World Cup even though repeated setbacks in qualification frequently suggested his resignation was imminent. His two best players, Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking, were injured at the start of the tournament and would not play until the fifth and final game against the hosts. They won their first three matches, getting off to a flier against France, but as Bryan Robson waned, so did their fortunes and they could only draw against European champions West Germany and against Spain to go home unbeaten. Keegan, twice the Ballon d’Or winner and certainly the best English player of his generation, managed only 26 minutes of World Cup football in his storied career and missed a header late on in his sole cameo that would have given his side hope. Keegan never played for England again. Bobby Robson, who left Ipswich to succeed Greenwood, did not pick him for his first squad and the former captain announced his retirement with abrupt finality. Robson struggled at first and was spat at by fans at Wembley after a defeat by the Soviet Union in 1984, the year he failed to qualify for the Euros won at home by France. The behaviour of the England crowd had been toxic for years. Not much violence at home, but they had been jeering the players since about 1968 and screeching their exasperation. Away, particularly Scotland, provided the playground for assorted neophytes, headbangers and racists to do their worst and a nadir was reached on a flight from Brazil after John Barnes’ majestically serpentine goal at the Maracana when one piggy-eyed member of the ‘master race’ proclaimed that the goal didn’t count because it hadn’t been scored by a white man. Nonetheless England’s performances on that tour of South America suggested Robson was building a coherent system even if it was over-reliant on Bryan Robson, the marauding Manchester United captain whose bravery all too often put him in harm’s way. Robson started the first game in Mexico against Portugal having seemingly recovered from a dislocated shoulder. What we didn’t know was that it had popped out again during the training camp and his selection became even more of a risk. They ended the match defeated and with boos ringing out and Robson had his tournament finished during the draw with Morocco when he fell awkwardly and dislocated it again. Ray Wilkins, his deputy, lost his cool and was sent off and England were in disarray. The absence of his two midfield stalwarts left Bobby Robson with no option but to pick Peter Reid to do Glenn Hoddle’s running, introduce Peter Beardsley and the changes liberated Gary Lineker who scored six goals in the next three matches and won the Golden Boot despite England, after a heartening resurgence, leaving at the quarter-final stage at the hand of Diego Maradona and by virtue of his divine second goal. The knowledge that they had been cheated for the first goal left them departing with a sense of grievance but also with their honour intact. Now the tabloid press reached its Nero phase when their journalists jobs became a caper we were all supposed to enjoy and people who should have known better jumped from an anti-Robson bandwagon to a pro-‘Our Boys’ one with indecent opportunism. And poor Robson managed to stay sane if not undamaged through it all. Three defeats at Euro 88 when Lineker was stricken with glandular fever and Holland revived Total Football with a dynamic, athletic twist, would have ended Robson’s time in the job he loved best but for the length of his contract and he composed himself and the team to qualify for Italia 90. Paul Gascoigne’s skill and charm introduced an affable battiness into the side and helped England reconnect with the supporters. Although a wonderfully assured performance with three at the back against Holland in their second group game was followed by a dispiritingly sterile 1-0 win over Egypt, the 119th-minute victory over Belgium in the Round of 16, secured by virtue of Gascoigne’s vision and David Platt’s balletic volley, and their tenacious fight-back from 2-1 down in the quarter-final against a mesmerisingly sinuous Cameroon attack revealed their skill and fortitude. Here was the proof that would inspire the key line of Three Lions, the plaintive yet defiant: “But I know they can play.” They may have been let down in the past by excessive caution or the 11th-hour loss of Gordon Banks or diddled by the Hand of God but each time had highly capable players and now, at last, they were showing it. They made it to the semi-final with the nation behind them, played very well against West Germany and equalised when Lineker cushioned Parker’s cross on his thigh to manoeuvre Thomas Berthold and Klaus Augenthaler out of his path and fire a left-foot shot past Bodo Illgner with 10 minutes to go. Gary Lineker during the 1986 World Cup group match against Paraguay in Mexico City. England won the match 3-0 The drama of extra-time, for the third England game in succession, was enhanced by West Germany laying siege for what seemed like a lifetime, Waddle’s superb shot that hit the inside of the post, Gascoigne’s deserved booking for fouling Berthold and subsequent tears that sealed a nation’s love. West Germany had won shootouts en route to the final at the past two World Cups while England were enduring their first. At 3-3, Robson’s ‘banker’ Stuart Pearce went hard and straight. Illgner saved it with his legs and, with a distraught Pearce on his haunches in the centre-circle, Olaf Thon scored West Germany’s fourth. Waddle walked up in fifth place, deputising for his room-mate Gascoigne. “I felt like I was stepping off the world into silence,” he said, deciding to blast it but overcome by anxiety and tiredness, he got his body shape wrong, leant back and fired it into orbit. England were out but again left after a gallant campaign and Robson, who had been called a traitor by the newspapers and told to PSV off by the Sun for agreeing to take over in Eindhoven after the tournament because the FA would not renew his contract, was never maligned again. Would that we could say the same for his successor, Graham Taylor who, in three years in charge, took England backwards. If Robson had been on the road to enlightenment when he left, Taylor, a decent, honest man but also patently out of his depth with the newspaper sharks swirling around him and about to turn him into a root vegetable, could not marry his club football strategies to the international game. He seemed to be no judge of international quality, made some extraordinary selections but was still unlucky after an insipid exit from Euro 92 won by, of all people, Denmark, to miss out on the 1994 World Cup because he was denied a fit Gascoigne for long periods, his own intransigence over Waddle and a glaring refereeing error during the defeat by Holland in Rotterdam. Perhaps no England manager had a tougher inheritance given what had just preceded his appointment, yet it is only fair to concede that he made a mess of it. Terry Venables, by contrast, was more assured and when the news reporters went for him over his conduct at Tottenham and his business dealings, he always had the football pack on his side. He knew what he wanted to do and applied everything he had learnt at Crystal Palace, QPR, Barcelona and Spurs to fashion a 3-5-2 system that was similar to Robson’s but bolder in that he used wingers instead of full-backs in the wide roles. He was fortunate too in that he did not have to qualify for the next tournament, Euro 96 in England, and, after some boozy indiscretions on tour before their first game, they made the country fall in love with them again after half-time in their second fixture against Scotland when it all came together with Gascoigne, rejuvenated, Alan Shearer, devastatingly predatory, Paul Ince tireless, and Teddy Sheringham imaginatively creative. The country was festooned with cross of St George flags for the first time, Three Lions was adopted as an anthem and England made it through to the semi-finals after a commanding victory over Holland and a scrappy but unforgettable penalty shootout win against Spain featuring redemption for Pearce and a cry that could be heard in Turin. Once more they faced Germany and, as they had six years earlier, they played with poise and enterprise but couldn’t crack the eventual winners. At the end of 120 minutes and five successful penalties each, it was England that cracked, Gareth Southgate rolling his too close to Andreas Kopke. Venables left to spend more time with his solicitors and Glenn Hoddle took over a team that had the nation dancing to its tune and was seemingly on an upward trajectory after emerging from the dark ages. ‘So many jokes, so many sneers’ For the next 20 years England were mired in confusion and capriciousness. The Premier League, a breakaway from the Football League given the fig-leaf of FA sanction, made the English game plutocratically wealthy but the snake swallowed the pig, the club game devouring the FA’s intention that the whole point of secession was to put the national side at the apex of the sport. The clubs produced some sensationally talented players – Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole among many more – but the FA zigzagged from appointing a coaching virtuoso with some strange views in Hoddle, to the arch-motivator in Keegan, Sven Goran-Eriksson, the progressive pragmatist, to his No2, chalkboard guru Steve McClaren, and from him to the best coach money could buy, Fabio Capello, to Roy Hodgson, supposedly a veteran sage, and finally Sam Allardyce for a Lady Jane Grey reign. During that time England were well-supported at each tournament to which they went, losing on penalties at the last 16 stage to Argentina at France 98 which was won by the hosts, finally beating Germany in a competitive match at Euro 2000 in an otherwise terrible display, winning 5-1 in Munich under Eriksson when Owen had the world at his feet, doing well at the 2002 World Cup until overwhelmed by caution in the second-half of the quarter-final against eventual winners Brazil and, with Rooney rampant at Euro 2004, looking unstoppable until he was hit by the curse of the metatarsal that had already hobbled Beckham at the previous tournament and would do for Rooney again weeks before the next. At the 2006 World Cup they holed up in Baden-Baden where the divergence between their living standards and the people who followed them was never more naked and it was exploited first by some newspapers for prurient kicks and then as a tool of castigation when they were knocked out for the second tournament running by Portugal on penalties. Italy won it and England, beset by injuries and timidity, got as far as they deserved as was also the case under McClaren who failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and spent much of his time in the job with the crowd on his back, alarmed and angry at the incohesion and reticence of talented players. Capello came in and banned ketchup, brought the iron rod but couldn’t get a tune out of the same group of players and walked out on the eve of Euro 2012. His bored side had been eliminated at the last 16 stage at the 2010 World Cup when a youthful Germany left England looking like carthorses and their fans grateful that they didn’t have to witness them being filleted by Spain. The Italian tried to bring Scholes back into the fold but could not persuade England’s best midfielder to end six years of exile he felt forced into because Eriksson, even with his exorbitant salary, would not take on the responsibility of picking a balanced team if it meant leaving out either Gerrard or Lampard, or getting them to work in a diamond. Beckham did come back as a kind of elder statesman, now universally popular after a topsy-turvy relationship with the crowd and media which took him from pariah for his red card in 1998 to messiah with his goals against Greece and Argentina and back to earth in Germany. The one bright light remained Rooney who carried the attack between tournaments and succumbed to the general malaise during them. Longevity and dedication made him the most-capped outfield player and the highest scorer but he was banned for the start of Euro 2012 and could not drag England past Italy in the quarter-final, which they lost on penalties, or the opening match of the 2014 World Cup. Hodgson was paid almost as much as Capello and fared worse, going out at the group stage in Brazil when furious fans were strung along with the old line about building for the future even though it was plain to see that an inability to defend hardly boded well. Indeed they were knocked out by Iceland at Euro 2016 in the second round. He spent spells of the three tournaments pinching his face and left at the end of the last one with the national team flirting as much with irrelevance as embarrassment. "We’re a team, with our diversity and our youth, that represents modern England. In England, we have spent a bit of time being a bit lost as to what our modern identity is. I think we represent that modern identity and hopefully, people can connect with us." Gareth Southgate, 2018 ‘It’s coming home’ In only 21 months Gareth Southgate has changed all that, regenerating a bond between the team and its public in a way that only success in tournament football can achieve. Even last November, while paper aeroplanes were being thrown at Wembley during a friendly, and the usual charmless berks were littering Twitter with complaints about international breaks and railing about the lack of Premier League football, the current levels of elation and pride would have seemed preposterous. Yet Southgate, the first FA insider to be given the job since Winterbottom, has been an integral part of building the structure that fostered the recent renaissance of national age-group teams – England won the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups in 2017 – applied the principles he had picked up as a coach working in player development and blended them with his own experiences as an international under Venables, Hoddle, Keegan and Eriksson. Honesty and humility were paramount as well as presenting an open face to the world and as his young team rallied to beat Tunisia, marmalised Panama, withstood Colombia and flattened them in their first shoot-out victory for 22 years, the country fell for their character and integrity. As everything around us seems threatened by spitefulness, pusillanimity and chaos, they became a beacon not a distraction. The target before Russia 2018 was a place in the quarter-finals and England’s inexperienced squad, for once, over-achieved and made it to the semis for only the third time since 1950 by exploiting a kind draw with their panache, efficiency and determination. Croatia, a team with two of the best midfielders in the world, and relentless, streetwise forward runners, proved too savvy at this early stage but England created enough chances to impress upon everyone that this is only the beginning. The first steps on the long road have been taken. It will take a little longer than many hoped, but football is coming home. England's amazing World Cup: the best pics Registration wall CSS More World Cup 2018 01 Aug 2018,10:30pm Gareth Southgate to be offered new England deal beyond 2020 'to build a dynasty' 01 Aug 2018,5:00pm England moves step closer to hosting 2030 World Cup but distances itself from 2022 if Qatar stripped 24 Jul 2018,10:30pm Adam Lallana opens up on World Cup heartache: 'The lads had a massive tournament but I still have lots to give' 24 Jul 2018,3:35pm England manager Gareth Southgate nominated for Fifa coach of the year award
How football (very nearly) came home By Rob Bagchi 3 AUGUST 2018 • 6:49 PM BST England's 2018 World Cup campaign was one of dizzying highs with an ultimately familiar low as its conclusion. Something, though, has shifted. Despite the disappointment of semi-final defeat to Croatia, there is a sense that some deep psychological scars are beginning to fade. “Football’s coming home” has been the rallying cry, and while the final destination will have to wait for now the route looks clearer than it has for years. This is the story of English football’s long and frequently arduous journey. ‘I know that was then…’ Eventually ‘the darkest day’ for the England football team would become so frustratingly routine that its employment even by the habitually trite would be abandoned as cliche. But at the start of the Fifties, when one indignity followed another and the realisation that our sense of entitlement on and off the field was a bankrupt concept, one of England’s conquerors struck a consoling tone. Six months after the chastening 6-3 defeat by Hungary at Wembley in November 1953 that killed the myth of English exceptionalism once and for all, Walter Winterbottom took his side to the Nep Stadion in Budapest where the Magical Magyars massacred them 7-1. After the match Geoffrey Green, the greatest of football correspondents, spoke to Jozsef Bozsik, the Hungarians’ magnificent if stately right-half, and, having gone through the fourth stage of grief, depression, had reached acceptance that England’s supremacy had gone the way of the Empire. And so he was surprised by Bozsik’s sincerity when he asked him if he was joking by asserting that the world still looked up to England. “You are still masters of football,” Bozsik said. “You will always be the masters. You fashioned the game, organised it and gave it to the world first of all. You were the original teachers.” It was of no little comfort to Green that respect overruled results. China, as acknowledged by Fifa, can demonstrate that a form of the game originated there during the Han dynasty in the second century BC and types of football were played in Japan, by indigenous peoples in the Americas and Australia, Ancient Greece and imperial Rome. But Bozsik was correct to say that the game as we know it developed over a thousand years in England from the Middle Ages to the mid-Victorian era. At first it was a ‘mob game’ played on Shrove Tuesday, Whitsuntide and Christmas with mass participation, no rules, no goals and the main objective was territorial, to move the ‘ball’ – initially a hog’s head, later a pig’s or sheep’s bladder – from one part of town to the other. It became a renegade activity, banned by the Lord Mayor of London and in more than 30 decrees from 1314 to 1667 but it thrived despite – probably due to – its propensity to encourage rioting and mischief. But as the industrial revolution began to change the culture of the country, and adults and children were forced to work a six-day week, Feast Day games declined and the public schools, where various hybrids had mutated and flourished over the past four centuries, became the hothouses for the codification of the game and its ultimate divergence into two distinct branches, rugby and football. Billy Wright and Ferenc Puskas lead England and Hungary out at Wembley in 1953 ‘Three Lions on a shirt’ By the late 1840s the multifarious strands of the game were causing confusion and limiting the opportunities for matches because of disputes about offside and handling the ball. In 1848 at Trinity College, Cambridge, undergraduates from Shrewsbury School, Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Winchester met to devise a common code and the Cambridge Rules, as they became known, influenced the drive towards universal regulations. The Sheffield Rules, formulated in the city where Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest association football club, were founded in 1857, have even more in common with the modern game but there was still no unified code. A meeting of London clubs was called at the Freemasons Tavern on Great Queen Street on Oct 26 1863 to address this millennium-old obstacle to harmonisation and, calling itself the Football Association, agreed to invite the public schools to join them to reconcile all the distinctions between their versions. Only Uppingham and Charterhouse accepted but by December 8 after six meetings they were able to publish the Laws of Football. Members of the Sheffield Association and the FA continued to play to their own codes but when Charles Alcock, still then the game’s most prominent player, became secretary and treasurer of the latter in 1870 and created the FA Cup, first won by Wanderers in 1872, it gradually became accepted by both parties that they needed uniform regulations and the mixed rules were adopted from 1877. In the same year as the inaugural Cup final, the FA, in a bid to spread its association version and win the race to standardise the game, officially challenged Scotland, where rugby remained dominant, to a match north of Hadrian’s Wall. On Nov 30 1872, 10 years after an unofficial representative game had ended in a goalless draw, England were held 0-0 at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Partick in the first properly sanctioned international match. The contrast in style between the two sides – England with their dribbling and reliance on individual flair, Scotland with a passing game and teamwork – was marked and it was the Scots professionals with their skill and shrewdness who would become the driving force for the first 50 years of the Football League after it was established in 1888. Such was the success of the first England-Scotland match which drew a crowd of more than 3,000, it became an annual fixture as did Wales in 1879 and Ireland in 1882, two years before the four associations fashioned the Home Championship. Scotland held the upper hand with victories in each of the first four years but by 1900 England, 12 years into “a new football mania”, had fought back for parity in front of vast crowds who made stars of Steve Bloomer, G.O. Smith and Vivian Woodward while Wales and Ireland were regularly walloped and left to a desultory battle for the wooden spoon. The home nations refused to join Fifa on its formation in 1904 and yo-yoed in and out of the organisation for the next four decades, Scotland, Wales and Ireland proving even more hostile to it and continental matches at first than England. The FA did sanction tours of central Europe in 1908 and 1909 when Austria were beaten 6-1, 11-1 and 8-1, Hungary 7-0, 4-2 and 8-2 but they did not invite a Fifa member to play them at home until ‘plucky Belgium’, the nation in whose defence Britain had ostensibly gone to war in 1914, came to Highbury in 1923 and were sent packing with a 6-1 thrashing. Wartime allies Belgium and France became annual fixtures in the Twenties, the high years of Dixie Dean, Billy Walker and Ernie Blenkinsop, but only Scotland provided a typically stern test though Ireland and Wales periodically bared their teeth and made the first part of the decade a troubling one for England even at the new Wembley Stadium. Defeat by the Celts could always be stomached, the illusion of superiority maintained when beaten by essentially your own countrymen, but in May 1929 they were at last bested by Spain in Madrid, going down 3-2 after an arduous train journey. Their chances were ruined by inconsistency of selection and, frankly, the self-serving boneheadedness of the selection committee. Stubbornness throughout the Home Nations’ associations over the issue of broken time payments to amateur players, tolerated by Fifa, provoked their withdrawal again from the organisation and the refusal to take part in the first three World Cups. Bilateral friendlies continued and famous victories over Italy, the world champions, in 1934 at Highbury and Germany, a year later at White Hart contributed to the myth that their absence from the tournament was the world’s not England’s loss. But in 1936, a strong team including Wilf Copping, Cliff Bastin and George Camsell were beaten in Vienna by a wonderful Austria side, and in 1938, though Bastin and Stanley Matthews scored for Eddie Hapgood’s side in a 6-3 victory over Germany in Berlin, the players’ agreement to give the Hitler salute before the match would taint it, the British ambassador and them. They were not to blame, though their willingness to comply with the suggestion has been glossed over retrospectively. A year later, a truly gifted generation of players – Matthews, Tommy Lawton, Joe Mercer, Willie Hall et al – put careers in their prime on hold to serve the country, sometimes in the white shirts of England to sustain morale, usually in khaki or air force blue. England have worn a three lions crest since 1872 ‘England's gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away’ At the end of the Second World War, when detachment, isolation and nationalism should have drowned forever in oceans of blood, the FA, under Stanley Rous, understandably adopted a more progressive and outward-looking tone. It bailed out Fifa and agreed to take part in the fourth World Cup, for which, in gratitude, they were given the most absurd qualification criteria: the top two in the 1949-50 Home Championship would go through to the Brazil finals. England won it and headed off with little preparation and only days to spare; Scotland, who finished second, had an almighty strop and refused to let their players go. England should have travelled in expectation, instead they went overcome by hubris. In 1948 they had gone to Turin with the greatest forward line in England’s history – Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Lawton, Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney – and put on arguably England’s greatest performance to beat the double world champions 4-0 in a courageously incisive and professional display supported by the world-class goalkeeping of Frank Swift to beat the world champions. Typically the numskulls on the selection committee never picked that front five again and Neil Franklin, the best centre-half in Europe, was lured to the rebel league in Colombia before the tournament and was blacklisted for his ‘disloyalty’ in trying to earn more than the maximum wage. Rous had enjoyed one victory over the committee, pushing through the appointment of the first team manager, Walter Winterbottom and he arrived in Brazil minus Matthews, who had been sent on a goodwill tour of Canada, deemed the priority by the FA, and only joined up with the team on the eve of the second game after their 2-0 victory over Chile. In Belo Horizonte they went down 1-0 to the pot-washers, amateurs and obscure expatriates of the USA, a result so unexpected that Fleet Street copytasters initially assumed they had won 10-0. Defeat by Spain in the final game sent them home long before Uruguay’s ‘Maracanazo’ victory over Brazil earned them their second World Cup. In the three years before England’s double defenestration by Hungary when, in Green’s famous words, Billy Wright, diddled by Ferenc Puskas resembled a “fire engine going to the wrong fire”, no lessons were learnt from Brazil and some famous victories were earned, not least when Nat Lofthouse achieved immortality as ‘The Lion of Vienna’ during the 3-2 win there in 1952. Public opinion and the newspapers were so startled by the twin gubbings at Wembley and in Budapest that certain modernisations that had been long overdue – the national preference for heavy shirts, armadillo boots as well as indifference to tactics and novel training methods – were finally applied but the selection committee remained in situ. England's long journey home The changes had not had enough time to bed in for the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, again secured by winning the Home Championship rather than by testing themselves against contrasting styles. A draw with Belgium and victory over the hosts were enough to put them through to the quarter-finals but they could not overcome defending champions Uruguay who went 3-1 up a minute after half-time and eventually won 4-2. England failed to get out of the group four years later in Sweden, losing a play-off to the USSR, but it is unfair to judge them harshly. Four months before the tournament began, they had lost their best forward, Tommy Taylor, best player, Duncan Edwards, and left-back, Manchester United’s inspirational captain, Roger Byrne, in the Munich Air Disaster. In 1956 Taylor had scored twice in a 4-2 victory over Brazil at Wembley and, in the trio’s final international together in November 1957 he had scored two more in a 4-0 whacking of France. Only 13 years after the war, in a far more stoical age, grief was suppressed but without them and because of what happened to them, England did not stand a chance. Brazil, for the first time, won the World Cup with a fine blend of youthful flair, instinctive brilliance and veteran nous. It may always have been their fate but England at full strength and perhaps with an enlightened selector also pushing for Eddie Colman’s inclusion, it may have been a close-run thing. Brazil retained their title four years later, knocking England out in the quarter final in Vina del Mar. Even though Gerry Hitchens and Jimmy Greaves had endured spells in Serie A, there was little continental enlightenment from the FA who, again, sent out a threadbare staff with Winterbottom and no team doctor. Johnny Haynes, by now the captain, was man-marked out of the tournament as he had been in Sweden and his disgruntlement at the press’s criticisms of him soured the atmosphere of the camp. Garrincha was irrepressible in the match and England went home unlamented, as usual less than the sum of their parts. At long last, though, a revolution was at hand. ‘Jules Rimet still gleaming’ Alf Ramsey made it his life’s work that any team he played in or managed would always be stronger than its constituent components. The FA, having won the rights to host the 1966 World Cup, recognised it needed someone to give them a competitive edge. Chasteningly for the association, the appointment of the Ipswich Town manager also gave them an uncompromising visionary whose dedication to his mission and his abrasiveness would be tolerated by the blazers but never embraced. He began with an ultimatum after taking the job on a full-time basis. Ramsey had been in the XI that had been humiliated by USA in Brazil and Hungary at Wembley and felt a player’s righteous sense of indignation about the whims and follies of the International Selection Committee and ensured it was disbanded before he took the job on a full-time basis. When asked what his goal was in 1966, he said that England would win it, and set about building his squad on a series of summer tours during 1963, 1964 and 1965 where he established himself as a player’s manager, strict but also friendly, purposeful and usually cheerful with them, if not with the press. They began the tournament on a run of seven successive victories and a side, as he put it, that was his best team, not necessarily made up of his best players. Consequently alongside the swans – Gordon Banks, Ray Wilson, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Martin Peters and Jimmy Greaves – there was a gaggle of geese, notably Jack Charlton, George Cohen, Roger Hunt and Nobby Stiles. England's captain Bobby Moore in action during the 1966 World Cup quarter-final match between England and Argentina at Wembley It was not until the brutal quarter-final victory over Argentina that he settled on his winning combination after an injury to Greaves in the third of three uninspired group games. Out went his experimentation with a single orthodox winger, in came Geoff Hurst and Alan Ball and the XI who will forever be known as ‘the Boys of 66’ at last took flight. They played all six games at Wembley and, as enthusiasm began to mount, their inhibitions were shed and they put on a magnificent performance to beat Portugal in the semi-final. On the morning of July 30 1966, Stiles went to mass, Bobby Charlton went shopping in Hendon, most players went for a walk and they arrived at the stadium in good time. In front of a vibrant crowd of 100,000 Hurst equalised six minutes after Helmut Haller had put West Germany ahead in the 12th minute and Wolfgang Weber levelled with a minute to spare following Martin Peters’ second half goal. Ramsey, famously, told them they had won it once and all they had to do was win it again, which they deservedly did in extra-time, Hurst completing his hat-trick first in dubious then in thrilling emphatic style. Moore, an elegant presence throughout, lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in glorious sunshine as the clouds parted above Wembley and the players and the manager, who would shortly be knighted, celebrated with characteristic modesty. The defence of the trophy four years later in Mexico, when Sir Alf maintained he had a better team, was stymied by West Germany’s comeback from 2-0 down in the quarter-final. The world may have turned against the team because of Ramsey’s prickliness and evident distaste of anything foreign, a trait bordering on full-blown xenophobia, but for the players, who were superb against the eventual winners Brazil in a majestic group game, it was undeserved. Had they not lost Banks to food poisoning before the game and had Ramsey kept Bobby Charlton on 10 minutes more to occupy Franz Beckenbauer, it is fair to speculate that they would have made it through to the final and had the opportunity of another go at Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson and the other all-time greats. ‘All those oh so nears, wear you down through the years’ If 1970 was essentially the end of the 1966 champagne years, the following 10 were figuratively the greatest hangover English football has ever endured. Ramsey, still a relatively young man but ever more hidebound and mistrustful, rebooted the team but could not find a fluid yet alone a fluent formula. Moore, in decline, carried on as his captain but after a 3-1 defeat in the European Championship quarter-final by West Germany at Wembley in 1972 when Gunther Netzer tore them to shreds, England spiralled ever more vertiginously into a mess of conservatism, caution and anxiety. Ramsey was sacked at the beginning of 1974 after defeat away in Poland and a draw at home ensured non-qualification for the World Cup at which West Germany emulated England by winning at home. Leeds United’s Don Revie took his place after a revivifying caretaker spell by Joe Mecer but the wide pool of players at his disposal encouraged constant tinkering in selection and his running feud with the chairman of the FA, Lord Thompson, left him deflated and mutinous. There were signs of progress – and the adoption of a garish kit more suited to the age – but injuries to Gerry Francis and Colin Bell killed the momentum and he sent out a team to face Italy in a World Cup qualifier in November 1976 that was so unbalanced defeat was all but inevitable. That loss meant that making it to the 1978 tournament was out of their hands and Revie, fearing he would be sacked, pre-empted the FA and jumped ship to the UAE, a decision that continues to blacken his reputation. Ron Greenwood was chosen as his successor when the people wanted Brian Clough yet the former West Ham manager did guide them to Euro 80, where they drew with Belgium, lost to Italy and beat Spain while their fans rioted, and the 1982 World Cup even though repeated setbacks in qualification frequently suggested his resignation was imminent. His two best players, Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking, were injured at the start of the tournament and would not play until the fifth and final game against the hosts. They won their first three matches, getting off to a flier against France, but as Bryan Robson waned, so did their fortunes and they could only draw against European champions West Germany and against Spain to go home unbeaten. Keegan, twice the Ballon d’Or winner and certainly the best English player of his generation, managed only 26 minutes of World Cup football in his storied career and missed a header late on in his sole cameo that would have given his side hope. Keegan never played for England again. Bobby Robson, who left Ipswich to succeed Greenwood, did not pick him for his first squad and the former captain announced his retirement with abrupt finality. Robson struggled at first and was spat at by fans at Wembley after a defeat by the Soviet Union in 1984, the year he failed to qualify for the Euros won at home by France. The behaviour of the England crowd had been toxic for years. Not much violence at home, but they had been jeering the players since about 1968 and screeching their exasperation. Away, particularly Scotland, provided the playground for assorted neophytes, headbangers and racists to do their worst and a nadir was reached on a flight from Brazil after John Barnes’ majestically serpentine goal at the Maracana when one piggy-eyed member of the ‘master race’ proclaimed that the goal didn’t count because it hadn’t been scored by a white man. Nonetheless England’s performances on that tour of South America suggested Robson was building a coherent system even if it was over-reliant on Bryan Robson, the marauding Manchester United captain whose bravery all too often put him in harm’s way. Robson started the first game in Mexico against Portugal having seemingly recovered from a dislocated shoulder. What we didn’t know was that it had popped out again during the training camp and his selection became even more of a risk. They ended the match defeated and with boos ringing out and Robson had his tournament finished during the draw with Morocco when he fell awkwardly and dislocated it again. Ray Wilkins, his deputy, lost his cool and was sent off and England were in disarray. The absence of his two midfield stalwarts left Bobby Robson with no option but to pick Peter Reid to do Glenn Hoddle’s running, introduce Peter Beardsley and the changes liberated Gary Lineker who scored six goals in the next three matches and won the Golden Boot despite England, after a heartening resurgence, leaving at the quarter-final stage at the hand of Diego Maradona and by virtue of his divine second goal. The knowledge that they had been cheated for the first goal left them departing with a sense of grievance but also with their honour intact. Now the tabloid press reached its Nero phase when their journalists jobs became a caper we were all supposed to enjoy and people who should have known better jumped from an anti-Robson bandwagon to a pro-‘Our Boys’ one with indecent opportunism. And poor Robson managed to stay sane if not undamaged through it all. Three defeats at Euro 88 when Lineker was stricken with glandular fever and Holland revived Total Football with a dynamic, athletic twist, would have ended Robson’s time in the job he loved best but for the length of his contract and he composed himself and the team to qualify for Italia 90. Paul Gascoigne’s skill and charm introduced an affable battiness into the side and helped England reconnect with the supporters. Although a wonderfully assured performance with three at the back against Holland in their second group game was followed by a dispiritingly sterile 1-0 win over Egypt, the 119th-minute victory over Belgium in the Round of 16, secured by virtue of Gascoigne’s vision and David Platt’s balletic volley, and their tenacious fight-back from 2-1 down in the quarter-final against a mesmerisingly sinuous Cameroon attack revealed their skill and fortitude. Here was the proof that would inspire the key line of Three Lions, the plaintive yet defiant: “But I know they can play.” They may have been let down in the past by excessive caution or the 11th-hour loss of Gordon Banks or diddled by the Hand of God but each time had highly capable players and now, at last, they were showing it. They made it to the semi-final with the nation behind them, played very well against West Germany and equalised when Lineker cushioned Parker’s cross on his thigh to manoeuvre Thomas Berthold and Klaus Augenthaler out of his path and fire a left-foot shot past Bodo Illgner with 10 minutes to go. Gary Lineker during the 1986 World Cup group match against Paraguay in Mexico City. England won the match 3-0 The drama of extra-time, for the third England game in succession, was enhanced by West Germany laying siege for what seemed like a lifetime, Waddle’s superb shot that hit the inside of the post, Gascoigne’s deserved booking for fouling Berthold and subsequent tears that sealed a nation’s love. West Germany had won shootouts en route to the final at the past two World Cups while England were enduring their first. At 3-3, Robson’s ‘banker’ Stuart Pearce went hard and straight. Illgner saved it with his legs and, with a distraught Pearce on his haunches in the centre-circle, Olaf Thon scored West Germany’s fourth. Waddle walked up in fifth place, deputising for his room-mate Gascoigne. “I felt like I was stepping off the world into silence,” he said, deciding to blast it but overcome by anxiety and tiredness, he got his body shape wrong, leant back and fired it into orbit. England were out but again left after a gallant campaign and Robson, who had been called a traitor by the newspapers and told to PSV off by the Sun for agreeing to take over in Eindhoven after the tournament because the FA would not renew his contract, was never maligned again. Would that we could say the same for his successor, Graham Taylor who, in three years in charge, took England backwards. If Robson had been on the road to enlightenment when he left, Taylor, a decent, honest man but also patently out of his depth with the newspaper sharks swirling around him and about to turn him into a root vegetable, could not marry his club football strategies to the international game. He seemed to be no judge of international quality, made some extraordinary selections but was still unlucky after an insipid exit from Euro 92 won by, of all people, Denmark, to miss out on the 1994 World Cup because he was denied a fit Gascoigne for long periods, his own intransigence over Waddle and a glaring refereeing error during the defeat by Holland in Rotterdam. Perhaps no England manager had a tougher inheritance given what had just preceded his appointment, yet it is only fair to concede that he made a mess of it. Terry Venables, by contrast, was more assured and when the news reporters went for him over his conduct at Tottenham and his business dealings, he always had the football pack on his side. He knew what he wanted to do and applied everything he had learnt at Crystal Palace, QPR, Barcelona and Spurs to fashion a 3-5-2 system that was similar to Robson’s but bolder in that he used wingers instead of full-backs in the wide roles. He was fortunate too in that he did not have to qualify for the next tournament, Euro 96 in England, and, after some boozy indiscretions on tour before their first game, they made the country fall in love with them again after half-time in their second fixture against Scotland when it all came together with Gascoigne, rejuvenated, Alan Shearer, devastatingly predatory, Paul Ince tireless, and Teddy Sheringham imaginatively creative. The country was festooned with cross of St George flags for the first time, Three Lions was adopted as an anthem and England made it through to the semi-finals after a commanding victory over Holland and a scrappy but unforgettable penalty shootout win against Spain featuring redemption for Pearce and a cry that could be heard in Turin. Once more they faced Germany and, as they had six years earlier, they played with poise and enterprise but couldn’t crack the eventual winners. At the end of 120 minutes and five successful penalties each, it was England that cracked, Gareth Southgate rolling his too close to Andreas Kopke. Venables left to spend more time with his solicitors and Glenn Hoddle took over a team that had the nation dancing to its tune and was seemingly on an upward trajectory after emerging from the dark ages. ‘So many jokes, so many sneers’ For the next 20 years England were mired in confusion and capriciousness. The Premier League, a breakaway from the Football League given the fig-leaf of FA sanction, made the English game plutocratically wealthy but the snake swallowed the pig, the club game devouring the FA’s intention that the whole point of secession was to put the national side at the apex of the sport. The clubs produced some sensationally talented players – Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole among many more – but the FA zigzagged from appointing a coaching virtuoso with some strange views in Hoddle, to the arch-motivator in Keegan, Sven Goran-Eriksson, the progressive pragmatist, to his No2, chalkboard guru Steve McClaren, and from him to the best coach money could buy, Fabio Capello, to Roy Hodgson, supposedly a veteran sage, and finally Sam Allardyce for a Lady Jane Grey reign. During that time England were well-supported at each tournament to which they went, losing on penalties at the last 16 stage to Argentina at France 98 which was won by the hosts, finally beating Germany in a competitive match at Euro 2000 in an otherwise terrible display, winning 5-1 in Munich under Eriksson when Owen had the world at his feet, doing well at the 2002 World Cup until overwhelmed by caution in the second-half of the quarter-final against eventual winners Brazil and, with Rooney rampant at Euro 2004, looking unstoppable until he was hit by the curse of the metatarsal that had already hobbled Beckham at the previous tournament and would do for Rooney again weeks before the next. At the 2006 World Cup they holed up in Baden-Baden where the divergence between their living standards and the people who followed them was never more naked and it was exploited first by some newspapers for prurient kicks and then as a tool of castigation when they were knocked out for the second tournament running by Portugal on penalties. Italy won it and England, beset by injuries and timidity, got as far as they deserved as was also the case under McClaren who failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and spent much of his time in the job with the crowd on his back, alarmed and angry at the incohesion and reticence of talented players. Capello came in and banned ketchup, brought the iron rod but couldn’t get a tune out of the same group of players and walked out on the eve of Euro 2012. His bored side had been eliminated at the last 16 stage at the 2010 World Cup when a youthful Germany left England looking like carthorses and their fans grateful that they didn’t have to witness them being filleted by Spain. The Italian tried to bring Scholes back into the fold but could not persuade England’s best midfielder to end six years of exile he felt forced into because Eriksson, even with his exorbitant salary, would not take on the responsibility of picking a balanced team if it meant leaving out either Gerrard or Lampard, or getting them to work in a diamond. Beckham did come back as a kind of elder statesman, now universally popular after a topsy-turvy relationship with the crowd and media which took him from pariah for his red card in 1998 to messiah with his goals against Greece and Argentina and back to earth in Germany. The one bright light remained Rooney who carried the attack between tournaments and succumbed to the general malaise during them. Longevity and dedication made him the most-capped outfield player and the highest scorer but he was banned for the start of Euro 2012 and could not drag England past Italy in the quarter-final, which they lost on penalties, or the opening match of the 2014 World Cup. Hodgson was paid almost as much as Capello and fared worse, going out at the group stage in Brazil when furious fans were strung along with the old line about building for the future even though it was plain to see that an inability to defend hardly boded well. Indeed they were knocked out by Iceland at Euro 2016 in the second round. He spent spells of the three tournaments pinching his face and left at the end of the last one with the national team flirting as much with irrelevance as embarrassment. "We’re a team, with our diversity and our youth, that represents modern England. In England, we have spent a bit of time being a bit lost as to what our modern identity is. I think we represent that modern identity and hopefully, people can connect with us." Gareth Southgate, 2018 ‘It’s coming home’ In only 21 months Gareth Southgate has changed all that, regenerating a bond between the team and its public in a way that only success in tournament football can achieve. Even last November, while paper aeroplanes were being thrown at Wembley during a friendly, and the usual charmless berks were littering Twitter with complaints about international breaks and railing about the lack of Premier League football, the current levels of elation and pride would have seemed preposterous. Yet Southgate, the first FA insider to be given the job since Winterbottom, has been an integral part of building the structure that fostered the recent renaissance of national age-group teams – England won the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups in 2017 – applied the principles he had picked up as a coach working in player development and blended them with his own experiences as an international under Venables, Hoddle, Keegan and Eriksson. Honesty and humility were paramount as well as presenting an open face to the world and as his young team rallied to beat Tunisia, marmalised Panama, withstood Colombia and flattened them in their first shoot-out victory for 22 years, the country fell for their character and integrity. As everything around us seems threatened by spitefulness, pusillanimity and chaos, they became a beacon not a distraction. The target before Russia 2018 was a place in the quarter-finals and England’s inexperienced squad, for once, over-achieved and made it to the semis for only the third time since 1950 by exploiting a kind draw with their panache, efficiency and determination. Croatia, a team with two of the best midfielders in the world, and relentless, streetwise forward runners, proved too savvy at this early stage but England created enough chances to impress upon everyone that this is only the beginning. The first steps on the long road have been taken. It will take a little longer than many hoped, but football is coming home. England's amazing World Cup: the best pics Registration wall CSS More World Cup 2018 01 Aug 2018,10:30pm Gareth Southgate to be offered new England deal beyond 2020 'to build a dynasty' 01 Aug 2018,5:00pm England moves step closer to hosting 2030 World Cup but distances itself from 2022 if Qatar stripped 24 Jul 2018,10:30pm Adam Lallana opens up on World Cup heartache: 'The lads had a massive tournament but I still have lots to give' 24 Jul 2018,3:35pm England manager Gareth Southgate nominated for Fifa coach of the year award
Three Lions pride: how football (very nearly) came home for England
How football (very nearly) came home By Rob Bagchi 3 AUGUST 2018 • 6:49 PM BST England's 2018 World Cup campaign was one of dizzying highs with an ultimately familiar low as its conclusion. Something, though, has shifted. Despite the disappointment of semi-final defeat to Croatia, there is a sense that some deep psychological scars are beginning to fade. “Football’s coming home” has been the rallying cry, and while the final destination will have to wait for now the route looks clearer than it has for years. This is the story of English football’s long and frequently arduous journey. ‘I know that was then…’ Eventually ‘the darkest day’ for the England football team would become so frustratingly routine that its employment even by the habitually trite would be abandoned as cliche. But at the start of the Fifties, when one indignity followed another and the realisation that our sense of entitlement on and off the field was a bankrupt concept, one of England’s conquerors struck a consoling tone. Six months after the chastening 6-3 defeat by Hungary at Wembley in November 1953 that killed the myth of English exceptionalism once and for all, Walter Winterbottom took his side to the Nep Stadion in Budapest where the Magical Magyars massacred them 7-1. After the match Geoffrey Green, the greatest of football correspondents, spoke to Jozsef Bozsik, the Hungarians’ magnificent if stately right-half, and, having gone through the fourth stage of grief, depression, had reached acceptance that England’s supremacy had gone the way of the Empire. And so he was surprised by Bozsik’s sincerity when he asked him if he was joking by asserting that the world still looked up to England. “You are still masters of football,” Bozsik said. “You will always be the masters. You fashioned the game, organised it and gave it to the world first of all. You were the original teachers.” It was of no little comfort to Green that respect overruled results. China, as acknowledged by Fifa, can demonstrate that a form of the game originated there during the Han dynasty in the second century BC and types of football were played in Japan, by indigenous peoples in the Americas and Australia, Ancient Greece and imperial Rome. But Bozsik was correct to say that the game as we know it developed over a thousand years in England from the Middle Ages to the mid-Victorian era. At first it was a ‘mob game’ played on Shrove Tuesday, Whitsuntide and Christmas with mass participation, no rules, no goals and the main objective was territorial, to move the ‘ball’ – initially a hog’s head, later a pig’s or sheep’s bladder – from one part of town to the other. It became a renegade activity, banned by the Lord Mayor of London and in more than 30 decrees from 1314 to 1667 but it thrived despite – probably due to – its propensity to encourage rioting and mischief. But as the industrial revolution began to change the culture of the country, and adults and children were forced to work a six-day week, Feast Day games declined and the public schools, where various hybrids had mutated and flourished over the past four centuries, became the hothouses for the codification of the game and its ultimate divergence into two distinct branches, rugby and football. Billy Wright and Ferenc Puskas lead England and Hungary out at Wembley in 1953 ‘Three Lions on a shirt’ By the late 1840s the multifarious strands of the game were causing confusion and limiting the opportunities for matches because of disputes about offside and handling the ball. In 1848 at Trinity College, Cambridge, undergraduates from Shrewsbury School, Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Winchester met to devise a common code and the Cambridge Rules, as they became known, influenced the drive towards universal regulations. The Sheffield Rules, formulated in the city where Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest association football club, were founded in 1857, have even more in common with the modern game but there was still no unified code. A meeting of London clubs was called at the Freemasons Tavern on Great Queen Street on Oct 26 1863 to address this millennium-old obstacle to harmonisation and, calling itself the Football Association, agreed to invite the public schools to join them to reconcile all the distinctions between their versions. Only Uppingham and Charterhouse accepted but by December 8 after six meetings they were able to publish the Laws of Football. Members of the Sheffield Association and the FA continued to play to their own codes but when Charles Alcock, still then the game’s most prominent player, became secretary and treasurer of the latter in 1870 and created the FA Cup, first won by Wanderers in 1872, it gradually became accepted by both parties that they needed uniform regulations and the mixed rules were adopted from 1877. In the same year as the inaugural Cup final, the FA, in a bid to spread its association version and win the race to standardise the game, officially challenged Scotland, where rugby remained dominant, to a match north of Hadrian’s Wall. On Nov 30 1872, 10 years after an unofficial representative game had ended in a goalless draw, England were held 0-0 at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Partick in the first properly sanctioned international match. The contrast in style between the two sides – England with their dribbling and reliance on individual flair, Scotland with a passing game and teamwork – was marked and it was the Scots professionals with their skill and shrewdness who would become the driving force for the first 50 years of the Football League after it was established in 1888. Such was the success of the first England-Scotland match which drew a crowd of more than 3,000, it became an annual fixture as did Wales in 1879 and Ireland in 1882, two years before the four associations fashioned the Home Championship. Scotland held the upper hand with victories in each of the first four years but by 1900 England, 12 years into “a new football mania”, had fought back for parity in front of vast crowds who made stars of Steve Bloomer, G.O. Smith and Vivian Woodward while Wales and Ireland were regularly walloped and left to a desultory battle for the wooden spoon. The home nations refused to join Fifa on its formation in 1904 and yo-yoed in and out of the organisation for the next four decades, Scotland, Wales and Ireland proving even more hostile to it and continental matches at first than England. The FA did sanction tours of central Europe in 1908 and 1909 when Austria were beaten 6-1, 11-1 and 8-1, Hungary 7-0, 4-2 and 8-2 but they did not invite a Fifa member to play them at home until ‘plucky Belgium’, the nation in whose defence Britain had ostensibly gone to war in 1914, came to Highbury in 1923 and were sent packing with a 6-1 thrashing. Wartime allies Belgium and France became annual fixtures in the Twenties, the high years of Dixie Dean, Billy Walker and Ernie Blenkinsop, but only Scotland provided a typically stern test though Ireland and Wales periodically bared their teeth and made the first part of the decade a troubling one for England even at the new Wembley Stadium. Defeat by the Celts could always be stomached, the illusion of superiority maintained when beaten by essentially your own countrymen, but in May 1929 they were at last bested by Spain in Madrid, going down 3-2 after an arduous train journey. Their chances were ruined by inconsistency of selection and, frankly, the self-serving boneheadedness of the selection committee. Stubbornness throughout the Home Nations’ associations over the issue of broken time payments to amateur players, tolerated by Fifa, provoked their withdrawal again from the organisation and the refusal to take part in the first three World Cups. Bilateral friendlies continued and famous victories over Italy, the world champions, in 1934 at Highbury and Germany, a year later at White Hart contributed to the myth that their absence from the tournament was the world’s not England’s loss. But in 1936, a strong team including Wilf Copping, Cliff Bastin and George Camsell were beaten in Vienna by a wonderful Austria side, and in 1938, though Bastin and Stanley Matthews scored for Eddie Hapgood’s side in a 6-3 victory over Germany in Berlin, the players’ agreement to give the Hitler salute before the match would taint it, the British ambassador and them. They were not to blame, though their willingness to comply with the suggestion has been glossed over retrospectively. A year later, a truly gifted generation of players – Matthews, Tommy Lawton, Joe Mercer, Willie Hall et al – put careers in their prime on hold to serve the country, sometimes in the white shirts of England to sustain morale, usually in khaki or air force blue. England have worn a three lions crest since 1872 ‘England's gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away’ At the end of the Second World War, when detachment, isolation and nationalism should have drowned forever in oceans of blood, the FA, under Stanley Rous, understandably adopted a more progressive and outward-looking tone. It bailed out Fifa and agreed to take part in the fourth World Cup, for which, in gratitude, they were given the most absurd qualification criteria: the top two in the 1949-50 Home Championship would go through to the Brazil finals. England won it and headed off with little preparation and only days to spare; Scotland, who finished second, had an almighty strop and refused to let their players go. England should have travelled in expectation, instead they went overcome by hubris. In 1948 they had gone to Turin with the greatest forward line in England’s history – Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Lawton, Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney – and put on arguably England’s greatest performance to beat the double world champions 4-0 in a courageously incisive and professional display supported by the world-class goalkeeping of Frank Swift to beat the world champions. Typically the numskulls on the selection committee never picked that front five again and Neil Franklin, the best centre-half in Europe, was lured to the rebel league in Colombia before the tournament and was blacklisted for his ‘disloyalty’ in trying to earn more than the maximum wage. Rous had enjoyed one victory over the committee, pushing through the appointment of the first team manager, Walter Winterbottom and he arrived in Brazil minus Matthews, who had been sent on a goodwill tour of Canada, deemed the priority by the FA, and only joined up with the team on the eve of the second game after their 2-0 victory over Chile. In Belo Horizonte they went down 1-0 to the pot-washers, amateurs and obscure expatriates of the USA, a result so unexpected that Fleet Street copytasters initially assumed they had won 10-0. Defeat by Spain in the final game sent them home long before Uruguay’s ‘Maracanazo’ victory over Brazil earned them their second World Cup. In the three years before England’s double defenestration by Hungary when, in Green’s famous words, Billy Wright, diddled by Ferenc Puskas resembled a “fire engine going to the wrong fire”, no lessons were learnt from Brazil and some famous victories were earned, not least when Nat Lofthouse achieved immortality as ‘The Lion of Vienna’ during the 3-2 win there in 1952. Public opinion and the newspapers were so startled by the twin gubbings at Wembley and in Budapest that certain modernisations that had been long overdue – the national preference for heavy shirts, armadillo boots as well as indifference to tactics and novel training methods – were finally applied but the selection committee remained in situ. England's long journey home The changes had not had enough time to bed in for the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, again secured by winning the Home Championship rather than by testing themselves against contrasting styles. A draw with Belgium and victory over the hosts were enough to put them through to the quarter-finals but they could not overcome defending champions Uruguay who went 3-1 up a minute after half-time and eventually won 4-2. England failed to get out of the group four years later in Sweden, losing a play-off to the USSR, but it is unfair to judge them harshly. Four months before the tournament began, they had lost their best forward, Tommy Taylor, best player, Duncan Edwards, and left-back, Manchester United’s inspirational captain, Roger Byrne, in the Munich Air Disaster. In 1956 Taylor had scored twice in a 4-2 victory over Brazil at Wembley and, in the trio’s final international together in November 1957 he had scored two more in a 4-0 whacking of France. Only 13 years after the war, in a far more stoical age, grief was suppressed but without them and because of what happened to them, England did not stand a chance. Brazil, for the first time, won the World Cup with a fine blend of youthful flair, instinctive brilliance and veteran nous. It may always have been their fate but England at full strength and perhaps with an enlightened selector also pushing for Eddie Colman’s inclusion, it may have been a close-run thing. Brazil retained their title four years later, knocking England out in the quarter final in Vina del Mar. Even though Gerry Hitchens and Jimmy Greaves had endured spells in Serie A, there was little continental enlightenment from the FA who, again, sent out a threadbare staff with Winterbottom and no team doctor. Johnny Haynes, by now the captain, was man-marked out of the tournament as he had been in Sweden and his disgruntlement at the press’s criticisms of him soured the atmosphere of the camp. Garrincha was irrepressible in the match and England went home unlamented, as usual less than the sum of their parts. At long last, though, a revolution was at hand. ‘Jules Rimet still gleaming’ Alf Ramsey made it his life’s work that any team he played in or managed would always be stronger than its constituent components. The FA, having won the rights to host the 1966 World Cup, recognised it needed someone to give them a competitive edge. Chasteningly for the association, the appointment of the Ipswich Town manager also gave them an uncompromising visionary whose dedication to his mission and his abrasiveness would be tolerated by the blazers but never embraced. He began with an ultimatum after taking the job on a full-time basis. Ramsey had been in the XI that had been humiliated by USA in Brazil and Hungary at Wembley and felt a player’s righteous sense of indignation about the whims and follies of the International Selection Committee and ensured it was disbanded before he took the job on a full-time basis. When asked what his goal was in 1966, he said that England would win it, and set about building his squad on a series of summer tours during 1963, 1964 and 1965 where he established himself as a player’s manager, strict but also friendly, purposeful and usually cheerful with them, if not with the press. They began the tournament on a run of seven successive victories and a side, as he put it, that was his best team, not necessarily made up of his best players. Consequently alongside the swans – Gordon Banks, Ray Wilson, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Martin Peters and Jimmy Greaves – there was a gaggle of geese, notably Jack Charlton, George Cohen, Roger Hunt and Nobby Stiles. England's captain Bobby Moore in action during the 1966 World Cup quarter-final match between England and Argentina at Wembley It was not until the brutal quarter-final victory over Argentina that he settled on his winning combination after an injury to Greaves in the third of three uninspired group games. Out went his experimentation with a single orthodox winger, in came Geoff Hurst and Alan Ball and the XI who will forever be known as ‘the Boys of 66’ at last took flight. They played all six games at Wembley and, as enthusiasm began to mount, their inhibitions were shed and they put on a magnificent performance to beat Portugal in the semi-final. On the morning of July 30 1966, Stiles went to mass, Bobby Charlton went shopping in Hendon, most players went for a walk and they arrived at the stadium in good time. In front of a vibrant crowd of 100,000 Hurst equalised six minutes after Helmut Haller had put West Germany ahead in the 12th minute and Wolfgang Weber levelled with a minute to spare following Martin Peters’ second half goal. Ramsey, famously, told them they had won it once and all they had to do was win it again, which they deservedly did in extra-time, Hurst completing his hat-trick first in dubious then in thrilling emphatic style. Moore, an elegant presence throughout, lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in glorious sunshine as the clouds parted above Wembley and the players and the manager, who would shortly be knighted, celebrated with characteristic modesty. The defence of the trophy four years later in Mexico, when Sir Alf maintained he had a better team, was stymied by West Germany’s comeback from 2-0 down in the quarter-final. The world may have turned against the team because of Ramsey’s prickliness and evident distaste of anything foreign, a trait bordering on full-blown xenophobia, but for the players, who were superb against the eventual winners Brazil in a majestic group game, it was undeserved. Had they not lost Banks to food poisoning before the game and had Ramsey kept Bobby Charlton on 10 minutes more to occupy Franz Beckenbauer, it is fair to speculate that they would have made it through to the final and had the opportunity of another go at Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson and the other all-time greats. ‘All those oh so nears, wear you down through the years’ If 1970 was essentially the end of the 1966 champagne years, the following 10 were figuratively the greatest hangover English football has ever endured. Ramsey, still a relatively young man but ever more hidebound and mistrustful, rebooted the team but could not find a fluid yet alone a fluent formula. Moore, in decline, carried on as his captain but after a 3-1 defeat in the European Championship quarter-final by West Germany at Wembley in 1972 when Gunther Netzer tore them to shreds, England spiralled ever more vertiginously into a mess of conservatism, caution and anxiety. Ramsey was sacked at the beginning of 1974 after defeat away in Poland and a draw at home ensured non-qualification for the World Cup at which West Germany emulated England by winning at home. Leeds United’s Don Revie took his place after a revivifying caretaker spell by Joe Mecer but the wide pool of players at his disposal encouraged constant tinkering in selection and his running feud with the chairman of the FA, Lord Thompson, left him deflated and mutinous. There were signs of progress – and the adoption of a garish kit more suited to the age – but injuries to Gerry Francis and Colin Bell killed the momentum and he sent out a team to face Italy in a World Cup qualifier in November 1976 that was so unbalanced defeat was all but inevitable. That loss meant that making it to the 1978 tournament was out of their hands and Revie, fearing he would be sacked, pre-empted the FA and jumped ship to the UAE, a decision that continues to blacken his reputation. Ron Greenwood was chosen as his successor when the people wanted Brian Clough yet the former West Ham manager did guide them to Euro 80, where they drew with Belgium, lost to Italy and beat Spain while their fans rioted, and the 1982 World Cup even though repeated setbacks in qualification frequently suggested his resignation was imminent. His two best players, Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking, were injured at the start of the tournament and would not play until the fifth and final game against the hosts. They won their first three matches, getting off to a flier against France, but as Bryan Robson waned, so did their fortunes and they could only draw against European champions West Germany and against Spain to go home unbeaten. Keegan, twice the Ballon d’Or winner and certainly the best English player of his generation, managed only 26 minutes of World Cup football in his storied career and missed a header late on in his sole cameo that would have given his side hope. Keegan never played for England again. Bobby Robson, who left Ipswich to succeed Greenwood, did not pick him for his first squad and the former captain announced his retirement with abrupt finality. Robson struggled at first and was spat at by fans at Wembley after a defeat by the Soviet Union in 1984, the year he failed to qualify for the Euros won at home by France. The behaviour of the England crowd had been toxic for years. Not much violence at home, but they had been jeering the players since about 1968 and screeching their exasperation. Away, particularly Scotland, provided the playground for assorted neophytes, headbangers and racists to do their worst and a nadir was reached on a flight from Brazil after John Barnes’ majestically serpentine goal at the Maracana when one piggy-eyed member of the ‘master race’ proclaimed that the goal didn’t count because it hadn’t been scored by a white man. Nonetheless England’s performances on that tour of South America suggested Robson was building a coherent system even if it was over-reliant on Bryan Robson, the marauding Manchester United captain whose bravery all too often put him in harm’s way. Robson started the first game in Mexico against Portugal having seemingly recovered from a dislocated shoulder. What we didn’t know was that it had popped out again during the training camp and his selection became even more of a risk. They ended the match defeated and with boos ringing out and Robson had his tournament finished during the draw with Morocco when he fell awkwardly and dislocated it again. Ray Wilkins, his deputy, lost his cool and was sent off and England were in disarray. The absence of his two midfield stalwarts left Bobby Robson with no option but to pick Peter Reid to do Glenn Hoddle’s running, introduce Peter Beardsley and the changes liberated Gary Lineker who scored six goals in the next three matches and won the Golden Boot despite England, after a heartening resurgence, leaving at the quarter-final stage at the hand of Diego Maradona and by virtue of his divine second goal. The knowledge that they had been cheated for the first goal left them departing with a sense of grievance but also with their honour intact. Now the tabloid press reached its Nero phase when their journalists jobs became a caper we were all supposed to enjoy and people who should have known better jumped from an anti-Robson bandwagon to a pro-‘Our Boys’ one with indecent opportunism. And poor Robson managed to stay sane if not undamaged through it all. Three defeats at Euro 88 when Lineker was stricken with glandular fever and Holland revived Total Football with a dynamic, athletic twist, would have ended Robson’s time in the job he loved best but for the length of his contract and he composed himself and the team to qualify for Italia 90. Paul Gascoigne’s skill and charm introduced an affable battiness into the side and helped England reconnect with the supporters. Although a wonderfully assured performance with three at the back against Holland in their second group game was followed by a dispiritingly sterile 1-0 win over Egypt, the 119th-minute victory over Belgium in the Round of 16, secured by virtue of Gascoigne’s vision and David Platt’s balletic volley, and their tenacious fight-back from 2-1 down in the quarter-final against a mesmerisingly sinuous Cameroon attack revealed their skill and fortitude. Here was the proof that would inspire the key line of Three Lions, the plaintive yet defiant: “But I know they can play.” They may have been let down in the past by excessive caution or the 11th-hour loss of Gordon Banks or diddled by the Hand of God but each time had highly capable players and now, at last, they were showing it. They made it to the semi-final with the nation behind them, played very well against West Germany and equalised when Lineker cushioned Parker’s cross on his thigh to manoeuvre Thomas Berthold and Klaus Augenthaler out of his path and fire a left-foot shot past Bodo Illgner with 10 minutes to go. Gary Lineker during the 1986 World Cup group match against Paraguay in Mexico City. England won the match 3-0 The drama of extra-time, for the third England game in succession, was enhanced by West Germany laying siege for what seemed like a lifetime, Waddle’s superb shot that hit the inside of the post, Gascoigne’s deserved booking for fouling Berthold and subsequent tears that sealed a nation’s love. West Germany had won shootouts en route to the final at the past two World Cups while England were enduring their first. At 3-3, Robson’s ‘banker’ Stuart Pearce went hard and straight. Illgner saved it with his legs and, with a distraught Pearce on his haunches in the centre-circle, Olaf Thon scored West Germany’s fourth. Waddle walked up in fifth place, deputising for his room-mate Gascoigne. “I felt like I was stepping off the world into silence,” he said, deciding to blast it but overcome by anxiety and tiredness, he got his body shape wrong, leant back and fired it into orbit. England were out but again left after a gallant campaign and Robson, who had been called a traitor by the newspapers and told to PSV off by the Sun for agreeing to take over in Eindhoven after the tournament because the FA would not renew his contract, was never maligned again. Would that we could say the same for his successor, Graham Taylor who, in three years in charge, took England backwards. If Robson had been on the road to enlightenment when he left, Taylor, a decent, honest man but also patently out of his depth with the newspaper sharks swirling around him and about to turn him into a root vegetable, could not marry his club football strategies to the international game. He seemed to be no judge of international quality, made some extraordinary selections but was still unlucky after an insipid exit from Euro 92 won by, of all people, Denmark, to miss out on the 1994 World Cup because he was denied a fit Gascoigne for long periods, his own intransigence over Waddle and a glaring refereeing error during the defeat by Holland in Rotterdam. Perhaps no England manager had a tougher inheritance given what had just preceded his appointment, yet it is only fair to concede that he made a mess of it. Terry Venables, by contrast, was more assured and when the news reporters went for him over his conduct at Tottenham and his business dealings, he always had the football pack on his side. He knew what he wanted to do and applied everything he had learnt at Crystal Palace, QPR, Barcelona and Spurs to fashion a 3-5-2 system that was similar to Robson’s but bolder in that he used wingers instead of full-backs in the wide roles. He was fortunate too in that he did not have to qualify for the next tournament, Euro 96 in England, and, after some boozy indiscretions on tour before their first game, they made the country fall in love with them again after half-time in their second fixture against Scotland when it all came together with Gascoigne, rejuvenated, Alan Shearer, devastatingly predatory, Paul Ince tireless, and Teddy Sheringham imaginatively creative. The country was festooned with cross of St George flags for the first time, Three Lions was adopted as an anthem and England made it through to the semi-finals after a commanding victory over Holland and a scrappy but unforgettable penalty shootout win against Spain featuring redemption for Pearce and a cry that could be heard in Turin. Once more they faced Germany and, as they had six years earlier, they played with poise and enterprise but couldn’t crack the eventual winners. At the end of 120 minutes and five successful penalties each, it was England that cracked, Gareth Southgate rolling his too close to Andreas Kopke. Venables left to spend more time with his solicitors and Glenn Hoddle took over a team that had the nation dancing to its tune and was seemingly on an upward trajectory after emerging from the dark ages. ‘So many jokes, so many sneers’ For the next 20 years England were mired in confusion and capriciousness. The Premier League, a breakaway from the Football League given the fig-leaf of FA sanction, made the English game plutocratically wealthy but the snake swallowed the pig, the club game devouring the FA’s intention that the whole point of secession was to put the national side at the apex of the sport. The clubs produced some sensationally talented players – Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole among many more – but the FA zigzagged from appointing a coaching virtuoso with some strange views in Hoddle, to the arch-motivator in Keegan, Sven Goran-Eriksson, the progressive pragmatist, to his No2, chalkboard guru Steve McClaren, and from him to the best coach money could buy, Fabio Capello, to Roy Hodgson, supposedly a veteran sage, and finally Sam Allardyce for a Lady Jane Grey reign. During that time England were well-supported at each tournament to which they went, losing on penalties at the last 16 stage to Argentina at France 98 which was won by the hosts, finally beating Germany in a competitive match at Euro 2000 in an otherwise terrible display, winning 5-1 in Munich under Eriksson when Owen had the world at his feet, doing well at the 2002 World Cup until overwhelmed by caution in the second-half of the quarter-final against eventual winners Brazil and, with Rooney rampant at Euro 2004, looking unstoppable until he was hit by the curse of the metatarsal that had already hobbled Beckham at the previous tournament and would do for Rooney again weeks before the next. At the 2006 World Cup they holed up in Baden-Baden where the divergence between their living standards and the people who followed them was never more naked and it was exploited first by some newspapers for prurient kicks and then as a tool of castigation when they were knocked out for the second tournament running by Portugal on penalties. Italy won it and England, beset by injuries and timidity, got as far as they deserved as was also the case under McClaren who failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and spent much of his time in the job with the crowd on his back, alarmed and angry at the incohesion and reticence of talented players. Capello came in and banned ketchup, brought the iron rod but couldn’t get a tune out of the same group of players and walked out on the eve of Euro 2012. His bored side had been eliminated at the last 16 stage at the 2010 World Cup when a youthful Germany left England looking like carthorses and their fans grateful that they didn’t have to witness them being filleted by Spain. The Italian tried to bring Scholes back into the fold but could not persuade England’s best midfielder to end six years of exile he felt forced into because Eriksson, even with his exorbitant salary, would not take on the responsibility of picking a balanced team if it meant leaving out either Gerrard or Lampard, or getting them to work in a diamond. Beckham did come back as a kind of elder statesman, now universally popular after a topsy-turvy relationship with the crowd and media which took him from pariah for his red card in 1998 to messiah with his goals against Greece and Argentina and back to earth in Germany. The one bright light remained Rooney who carried the attack between tournaments and succumbed to the general malaise during them. Longevity and dedication made him the most-capped outfield player and the highest scorer but he was banned for the start of Euro 2012 and could not drag England past Italy in the quarter-final, which they lost on penalties, or the opening match of the 2014 World Cup. Hodgson was paid almost as much as Capello and fared worse, going out at the group stage in Brazil when furious fans were strung along with the old line about building for the future even though it was plain to see that an inability to defend hardly boded well. Indeed they were knocked out by Iceland at Euro 2016 in the second round. He spent spells of the three tournaments pinching his face and left at the end of the last one with the national team flirting as much with irrelevance as embarrassment. "We’re a team, with our diversity and our youth, that represents modern England. In England, we have spent a bit of time being a bit lost as to what our modern identity is. I think we represent that modern identity and hopefully, people can connect with us." Gareth Southgate, 2018 ‘It’s coming home’ In only 21 months Gareth Southgate has changed all that, regenerating a bond between the team and its public in a way that only success in tournament football can achieve. Even last November, while paper aeroplanes were being thrown at Wembley during a friendly, and the usual charmless berks were littering Twitter with complaints about international breaks and railing about the lack of Premier League football, the current levels of elation and pride would have seemed preposterous. Yet Southgate, the first FA insider to be given the job since Winterbottom, has been an integral part of building the structure that fostered the recent renaissance of national age-group teams – England won the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups in 2017 – applied the principles he had picked up as a coach working in player development and blended them with his own experiences as an international under Venables, Hoddle, Keegan and Eriksson. Honesty and humility were paramount as well as presenting an open face to the world and as his young team rallied to beat Tunisia, marmalised Panama, withstood Colombia and flattened them in their first shoot-out victory for 22 years, the country fell for their character and integrity. As everything around us seems threatened by spitefulness, pusillanimity and chaos, they became a beacon not a distraction. The target before Russia 2018 was a place in the quarter-finals and England’s inexperienced squad, for once, over-achieved and made it to the semis for only the third time since 1950 by exploiting a kind draw with their panache, efficiency and determination. Croatia, a team with two of the best midfielders in the world, and relentless, streetwise forward runners, proved too savvy at this early stage but England created enough chances to impress upon everyone that this is only the beginning. The first steps on the long road have been taken. It will take a little longer than many hoped, but football is coming home. England's amazing World Cup: the best pics Registration wall CSS More World Cup 2018 01 Aug 2018,10:30pm Gareth Southgate to be offered new England deal beyond 2020 'to build a dynasty' 01 Aug 2018,5:00pm England moves step closer to hosting 2030 World Cup but distances itself from 2022 if Qatar stripped 24 Jul 2018,10:30pm Adam Lallana opens up on World Cup heartache: 'The lads had a massive tournament but I still have lots to give' 24 Jul 2018,3:35pm England manager Gareth Southgate nominated for Fifa coach of the year award
How football (very nearly) came home By Rob Bagchi 3 AUGUST 2018 • 6:49 PM BST England's 2018 World Cup campaign was one of dizzying highs with an ultimately familiar low as its conclusion. Something, though, has shifted. Despite the disappointment of semi-final defeat to Croatia, there is a sense that some deep psychological scars are beginning to fade. “Football’s coming home” has been the rallying cry, and while the final destination will have to wait for now the route looks clearer than it has for years. This is the story of English football’s long and frequently arduous journey. ‘I know that was then…’ Eventually ‘the darkest day’ for the England football team would become so frustratingly routine that its employment even by the habitually trite would be abandoned as cliche. But at the start of the Fifties, when one indignity followed another and the realisation that our sense of entitlement on and off the field was a bankrupt concept, one of England’s conquerors struck a consoling tone. Six months after the chastening 6-3 defeat by Hungary at Wembley in November 1953 that killed the myth of English exceptionalism once and for all, Walter Winterbottom took his side to the Nep Stadion in Budapest where the Magical Magyars massacred them 7-1. After the match Geoffrey Green, the greatest of football correspondents, spoke to Jozsef Bozsik, the Hungarians’ magnificent if stately right-half, and, having gone through the fourth stage of grief, depression, had reached acceptance that England’s supremacy had gone the way of the Empire. And so he was surprised by Bozsik’s sincerity when he asked him if he was joking by asserting that the world still looked up to England. “You are still masters of football,” Bozsik said. “You will always be the masters. You fashioned the game, organised it and gave it to the world first of all. You were the original teachers.” It was of no little comfort to Green that respect overruled results. China, as acknowledged by Fifa, can demonstrate that a form of the game originated there during the Han dynasty in the second century BC and types of football were played in Japan, by indigenous peoples in the Americas and Australia, Ancient Greece and imperial Rome. But Bozsik was correct to say that the game as we know it developed over a thousand years in England from the Middle Ages to the mid-Victorian era. At first it was a ‘mob game’ played on Shrove Tuesday, Whitsuntide and Christmas with mass participation, no rules, no goals and the main objective was territorial, to move the ‘ball’ – initially a hog’s head, later a pig’s or sheep’s bladder – from one part of town to the other. It became a renegade activity, banned by the Lord Mayor of London and in more than 30 decrees from 1314 to 1667 but it thrived despite – probably due to – its propensity to encourage rioting and mischief. But as the industrial revolution began to change the culture of the country, and adults and children were forced to work a six-day week, Feast Day games declined and the public schools, where various hybrids had mutated and flourished over the past four centuries, became the hothouses for the codification of the game and its ultimate divergence into two distinct branches, rugby and football. Billy Wright and Ferenc Puskas lead England and Hungary out at Wembley in 1953 ‘Three Lions on a shirt’ By the late 1840s the multifarious strands of the game were causing confusion and limiting the opportunities for matches because of disputes about offside and handling the ball. In 1848 at Trinity College, Cambridge, undergraduates from Shrewsbury School, Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Winchester met to devise a common code and the Cambridge Rules, as they became known, influenced the drive towards universal regulations. The Sheffield Rules, formulated in the city where Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest association football club, were founded in 1857, have even more in common with the modern game but there was still no unified code. A meeting of London clubs was called at the Freemasons Tavern on Great Queen Street on Oct 26 1863 to address this millennium-old obstacle to harmonisation and, calling itself the Football Association, agreed to invite the public schools to join them to reconcile all the distinctions between their versions. Only Uppingham and Charterhouse accepted but by December 8 after six meetings they were able to publish the Laws of Football. Members of the Sheffield Association and the FA continued to play to their own codes but when Charles Alcock, still then the game’s most prominent player, became secretary and treasurer of the latter in 1870 and created the FA Cup, first won by Wanderers in 1872, it gradually became accepted by both parties that they needed uniform regulations and the mixed rules were adopted from 1877. In the same year as the inaugural Cup final, the FA, in a bid to spread its association version and win the race to standardise the game, officially challenged Scotland, where rugby remained dominant, to a match north of Hadrian’s Wall. On Nov 30 1872, 10 years after an unofficial representative game had ended in a goalless draw, England were held 0-0 at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Partick in the first properly sanctioned international match. The contrast in style between the two sides – England with their dribbling and reliance on individual flair, Scotland with a passing game and teamwork – was marked and it was the Scots professionals with their skill and shrewdness who would become the driving force for the first 50 years of the Football League after it was established in 1888. Such was the success of the first England-Scotland match which drew a crowd of more than 3,000, it became an annual fixture as did Wales in 1879 and Ireland in 1882, two years before the four associations fashioned the Home Championship. Scotland held the upper hand with victories in each of the first four years but by 1900 England, 12 years into “a new football mania”, had fought back for parity in front of vast crowds who made stars of Steve Bloomer, G.O. Smith and Vivian Woodward while Wales and Ireland were regularly walloped and left to a desultory battle for the wooden spoon. The home nations refused to join Fifa on its formation in 1904 and yo-yoed in and out of the organisation for the next four decades, Scotland, Wales and Ireland proving even more hostile to it and continental matches at first than England. The FA did sanction tours of central Europe in 1908 and 1909 when Austria were beaten 6-1, 11-1 and 8-1, Hungary 7-0, 4-2 and 8-2 but they did not invite a Fifa member to play them at home until ‘plucky Belgium’, the nation in whose defence Britain had ostensibly gone to war in 1914, came to Highbury in 1923 and were sent packing with a 6-1 thrashing. Wartime allies Belgium and France became annual fixtures in the Twenties, the high years of Dixie Dean, Billy Walker and Ernie Blenkinsop, but only Scotland provided a typically stern test though Ireland and Wales periodically bared their teeth and made the first part of the decade a troubling one for England even at the new Wembley Stadium. Defeat by the Celts could always be stomached, the illusion of superiority maintained when beaten by essentially your own countrymen, but in May 1929 they were at last bested by Spain in Madrid, going down 3-2 after an arduous train journey. Their chances were ruined by inconsistency of selection and, frankly, the self-serving boneheadedness of the selection committee. Stubbornness throughout the Home Nations’ associations over the issue of broken time payments to amateur players, tolerated by Fifa, provoked their withdrawal again from the organisation and the refusal to take part in the first three World Cups. Bilateral friendlies continued and famous victories over Italy, the world champions, in 1934 at Highbury and Germany, a year later at White Hart contributed to the myth that their absence from the tournament was the world’s not England’s loss. But in 1936, a strong team including Wilf Copping, Cliff Bastin and George Camsell were beaten in Vienna by a wonderful Austria side, and in 1938, though Bastin and Stanley Matthews scored for Eddie Hapgood’s side in a 6-3 victory over Germany in Berlin, the players’ agreement to give the Hitler salute before the match would taint it, the British ambassador and them. They were not to blame, though their willingness to comply with the suggestion has been glossed over retrospectively. A year later, a truly gifted generation of players – Matthews, Tommy Lawton, Joe Mercer, Willie Hall et al – put careers in their prime on hold to serve the country, sometimes in the white shirts of England to sustain morale, usually in khaki or air force blue. England have worn a three lions crest since 1872 ‘England's gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away’ At the end of the Second World War, when detachment, isolation and nationalism should have drowned forever in oceans of blood, the FA, under Stanley Rous, understandably adopted a more progressive and outward-looking tone. It bailed out Fifa and agreed to take part in the fourth World Cup, for which, in gratitude, they were given the most absurd qualification criteria: the top two in the 1949-50 Home Championship would go through to the Brazil finals. England won it and headed off with little preparation and only days to spare; Scotland, who finished second, had an almighty strop and refused to let their players go. England should have travelled in expectation, instead they went overcome by hubris. In 1948 they had gone to Turin with the greatest forward line in England’s history – Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Lawton, Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney – and put on arguably England’s greatest performance to beat the double world champions 4-0 in a courageously incisive and professional display supported by the world-class goalkeeping of Frank Swift to beat the world champions. Typically the numskulls on the selection committee never picked that front five again and Neil Franklin, the best centre-half in Europe, was lured to the rebel league in Colombia before the tournament and was blacklisted for his ‘disloyalty’ in trying to earn more than the maximum wage. Rous had enjoyed one victory over the committee, pushing through the appointment of the first team manager, Walter Winterbottom and he arrived in Brazil minus Matthews, who had been sent on a goodwill tour of Canada, deemed the priority by the FA, and only joined up with the team on the eve of the second game after their 2-0 victory over Chile. In Belo Horizonte they went down 1-0 to the pot-washers, amateurs and obscure expatriates of the USA, a result so unexpected that Fleet Street copytasters initially assumed they had won 10-0. Defeat by Spain in the final game sent them home long before Uruguay’s ‘Maracanazo’ victory over Brazil earned them their second World Cup. In the three years before England’s double defenestration by Hungary when, in Green’s famous words, Billy Wright, diddled by Ferenc Puskas resembled a “fire engine going to the wrong fire”, no lessons were learnt from Brazil and some famous victories were earned, not least when Nat Lofthouse achieved immortality as ‘The Lion of Vienna’ during the 3-2 win there in 1952. Public opinion and the newspapers were so startled by the twin gubbings at Wembley and in Budapest that certain modernisations that had been long overdue – the national preference for heavy shirts, armadillo boots as well as indifference to tactics and novel training methods – were finally applied but the selection committee remained in situ. England's long journey home The changes had not had enough time to bed in for the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, again secured by winning the Home Championship rather than by testing themselves against contrasting styles. A draw with Belgium and victory over the hosts were enough to put them through to the quarter-finals but they could not overcome defending champions Uruguay who went 3-1 up a minute after half-time and eventually won 4-2. England failed to get out of the group four years later in Sweden, losing a play-off to the USSR, but it is unfair to judge them harshly. Four months before the tournament began, they had lost their best forward, Tommy Taylor, best player, Duncan Edwards, and left-back, Manchester United’s inspirational captain, Roger Byrne, in the Munich Air Disaster. In 1956 Taylor had scored twice in a 4-2 victory over Brazil at Wembley and, in the trio’s final international together in November 1957 he had scored two more in a 4-0 whacking of France. Only 13 years after the war, in a far more stoical age, grief was suppressed but without them and because of what happened to them, England did not stand a chance. Brazil, for the first time, won the World Cup with a fine blend of youthful flair, instinctive brilliance and veteran nous. It may always have been their fate but England at full strength and perhaps with an enlightened selector also pushing for Eddie Colman’s inclusion, it may have been a close-run thing. Brazil retained their title four years later, knocking England out in the quarter final in Vina del Mar. Even though Gerry Hitchens and Jimmy Greaves had endured spells in Serie A, there was little continental enlightenment from the FA who, again, sent out a threadbare staff with Winterbottom and no team doctor. Johnny Haynes, by now the captain, was man-marked out of the tournament as he had been in Sweden and his disgruntlement at the press’s criticisms of him soured the atmosphere of the camp. Garrincha was irrepressible in the match and England went home unlamented, as usual less than the sum of their parts. At long last, though, a revolution was at hand. ‘Jules Rimet still gleaming’ Alf Ramsey made it his life’s work that any team he played in or managed would always be stronger than its constituent components. The FA, having won the rights to host the 1966 World Cup, recognised it needed someone to give them a competitive edge. Chasteningly for the association, the appointment of the Ipswich Town manager also gave them an uncompromising visionary whose dedication to his mission and his abrasiveness would be tolerated by the blazers but never embraced. He began with an ultimatum after taking the job on a full-time basis. Ramsey had been in the XI that had been humiliated by USA in Brazil and Hungary at Wembley and felt a player’s righteous sense of indignation about the whims and follies of the International Selection Committee and ensured it was disbanded before he took the job on a full-time basis. When asked what his goal was in 1966, he said that England would win it, and set about building his squad on a series of summer tours during 1963, 1964 and 1965 where he established himself as a player’s manager, strict but also friendly, purposeful and usually cheerful with them, if not with the press. They began the tournament on a run of seven successive victories and a side, as he put it, that was his best team, not necessarily made up of his best players. Consequently alongside the swans – Gordon Banks, Ray Wilson, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Martin Peters and Jimmy Greaves – there was a gaggle of geese, notably Jack Charlton, George Cohen, Roger Hunt and Nobby Stiles. England's captain Bobby Moore in action during the 1966 World Cup quarter-final match between England and Argentina at Wembley It was not until the brutal quarter-final victory over Argentina that he settled on his winning combination after an injury to Greaves in the third of three uninspired group games. Out went his experimentation with a single orthodox winger, in came Geoff Hurst and Alan Ball and the XI who will forever be known as ‘the Boys of 66’ at last took flight. They played all six games at Wembley and, as enthusiasm began to mount, their inhibitions were shed and they put on a magnificent performance to beat Portugal in the semi-final. On the morning of July 30 1966, Stiles went to mass, Bobby Charlton went shopping in Hendon, most players went for a walk and they arrived at the stadium in good time. In front of a vibrant crowd of 100,000 Hurst equalised six minutes after Helmut Haller had put West Germany ahead in the 12th minute and Wolfgang Weber levelled with a minute to spare following Martin Peters’ second half goal. Ramsey, famously, told them they had won it once and all they had to do was win it again, which they deservedly did in extra-time, Hurst completing his hat-trick first in dubious then in thrilling emphatic style. Moore, an elegant presence throughout, lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in glorious sunshine as the clouds parted above Wembley and the players and the manager, who would shortly be knighted, celebrated with characteristic modesty. The defence of the trophy four years later in Mexico, when Sir Alf maintained he had a better team, was stymied by West Germany’s comeback from 2-0 down in the quarter-final. The world may have turned against the team because of Ramsey’s prickliness and evident distaste of anything foreign, a trait bordering on full-blown xenophobia, but for the players, who were superb against the eventual winners Brazil in a majestic group game, it was undeserved. Had they not lost Banks to food poisoning before the game and had Ramsey kept Bobby Charlton on 10 minutes more to occupy Franz Beckenbauer, it is fair to speculate that they would have made it through to the final and had the opportunity of another go at Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson and the other all-time greats. ‘All those oh so nears, wear you down through the years’ If 1970 was essentially the end of the 1966 champagne years, the following 10 were figuratively the greatest hangover English football has ever endured. Ramsey, still a relatively young man but ever more hidebound and mistrustful, rebooted the team but could not find a fluid yet alone a fluent formula. Moore, in decline, carried on as his captain but after a 3-1 defeat in the European Championship quarter-final by West Germany at Wembley in 1972 when Gunther Netzer tore them to shreds, England spiralled ever more vertiginously into a mess of conservatism, caution and anxiety. Ramsey was sacked at the beginning of 1974 after defeat away in Poland and a draw at home ensured non-qualification for the World Cup at which West Germany emulated England by winning at home. Leeds United’s Don Revie took his place after a revivifying caretaker spell by Joe Mecer but the wide pool of players at his disposal encouraged constant tinkering in selection and his running feud with the chairman of the FA, Lord Thompson, left him deflated and mutinous. There were signs of progress – and the adoption of a garish kit more suited to the age – but injuries to Gerry Francis and Colin Bell killed the momentum and he sent out a team to face Italy in a World Cup qualifier in November 1976 that was so unbalanced defeat was all but inevitable. That loss meant that making it to the 1978 tournament was out of their hands and Revie, fearing he would be sacked, pre-empted the FA and jumped ship to the UAE, a decision that continues to blacken his reputation. Ron Greenwood was chosen as his successor when the people wanted Brian Clough yet the former West Ham manager did guide them to Euro 80, where they drew with Belgium, lost to Italy and beat Spain while their fans rioted, and the 1982 World Cup even though repeated setbacks in qualification frequently suggested his resignation was imminent. His two best players, Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking, were injured at the start of the tournament and would not play until the fifth and final game against the hosts. They won their first three matches, getting off to a flier against France, but as Bryan Robson waned, so did their fortunes and they could only draw against European champions West Germany and against Spain to go home unbeaten. Keegan, twice the Ballon d’Or winner and certainly the best English player of his generation, managed only 26 minutes of World Cup football in his storied career and missed a header late on in his sole cameo that would have given his side hope. Keegan never played for England again. Bobby Robson, who left Ipswich to succeed Greenwood, did not pick him for his first squad and the former captain announced his retirement with abrupt finality. Robson struggled at first and was spat at by fans at Wembley after a defeat by the Soviet Union in 1984, the year he failed to qualify for the Euros won at home by France. The behaviour of the England crowd had been toxic for years. Not much violence at home, but they had been jeering the players since about 1968 and screeching their exasperation. Away, particularly Scotland, provided the playground for assorted neophytes, headbangers and racists to do their worst and a nadir was reached on a flight from Brazil after John Barnes’ majestically serpentine goal at the Maracana when one piggy-eyed member of the ‘master race’ proclaimed that the goal didn’t count because it hadn’t been scored by a white man. Nonetheless England’s performances on that tour of South America suggested Robson was building a coherent system even if it was over-reliant on Bryan Robson, the marauding Manchester United captain whose bravery all too often put him in harm’s way. Robson started the first game in Mexico against Portugal having seemingly recovered from a dislocated shoulder. What we didn’t know was that it had popped out again during the training camp and his selection became even more of a risk. They ended the match defeated and with boos ringing out and Robson had his tournament finished during the draw with Morocco when he fell awkwardly and dislocated it again. Ray Wilkins, his deputy, lost his cool and was sent off and England were in disarray. The absence of his two midfield stalwarts left Bobby Robson with no option but to pick Peter Reid to do Glenn Hoddle’s running, introduce Peter Beardsley and the changes liberated Gary Lineker who scored six goals in the next three matches and won the Golden Boot despite England, after a heartening resurgence, leaving at the quarter-final stage at the hand of Diego Maradona and by virtue of his divine second goal. The knowledge that they had been cheated for the first goal left them departing with a sense of grievance but also with their honour intact. Now the tabloid press reached its Nero phase when their journalists jobs became a caper we were all supposed to enjoy and people who should have known better jumped from an anti-Robson bandwagon to a pro-‘Our Boys’ one with indecent opportunism. And poor Robson managed to stay sane if not undamaged through it all. Three defeats at Euro 88 when Lineker was stricken with glandular fever and Holland revived Total Football with a dynamic, athletic twist, would have ended Robson’s time in the job he loved best but for the length of his contract and he composed himself and the team to qualify for Italia 90. Paul Gascoigne’s skill and charm introduced an affable battiness into the side and helped England reconnect with the supporters. Although a wonderfully assured performance with three at the back against Holland in their second group game was followed by a dispiritingly sterile 1-0 win over Egypt, the 119th-minute victory over Belgium in the Round of 16, secured by virtue of Gascoigne’s vision and David Platt’s balletic volley, and their tenacious fight-back from 2-1 down in the quarter-final against a mesmerisingly sinuous Cameroon attack revealed their skill and fortitude. Here was the proof that would inspire the key line of Three Lions, the plaintive yet defiant: “But I know they can play.” They may have been let down in the past by excessive caution or the 11th-hour loss of Gordon Banks or diddled by the Hand of God but each time had highly capable players and now, at last, they were showing it. They made it to the semi-final with the nation behind them, played very well against West Germany and equalised when Lineker cushioned Parker’s cross on his thigh to manoeuvre Thomas Berthold and Klaus Augenthaler out of his path and fire a left-foot shot past Bodo Illgner with 10 minutes to go. Gary Lineker during the 1986 World Cup group match against Paraguay in Mexico City. England won the match 3-0 The drama of extra-time, for the third England game in succession, was enhanced by West Germany laying siege for what seemed like a lifetime, Waddle’s superb shot that hit the inside of the post, Gascoigne’s deserved booking for fouling Berthold and subsequent tears that sealed a nation’s love. West Germany had won shootouts en route to the final at the past two World Cups while England were enduring their first. At 3-3, Robson’s ‘banker’ Stuart Pearce went hard and straight. Illgner saved it with his legs and, with a distraught Pearce on his haunches in the centre-circle, Olaf Thon scored West Germany’s fourth. Waddle walked up in fifth place, deputising for his room-mate Gascoigne. “I felt like I was stepping off the world into silence,” he said, deciding to blast it but overcome by anxiety and tiredness, he got his body shape wrong, leant back and fired it into orbit. England were out but again left after a gallant campaign and Robson, who had been called a traitor by the newspapers and told to PSV off by the Sun for agreeing to take over in Eindhoven after the tournament because the FA would not renew his contract, was never maligned again. Would that we could say the same for his successor, Graham Taylor who, in three years in charge, took England backwards. If Robson had been on the road to enlightenment when he left, Taylor, a decent, honest man but also patently out of his depth with the newspaper sharks swirling around him and about to turn him into a root vegetable, could not marry his club football strategies to the international game. He seemed to be no judge of international quality, made some extraordinary selections but was still unlucky after an insipid exit from Euro 92 won by, of all people, Denmark, to miss out on the 1994 World Cup because he was denied a fit Gascoigne for long periods, his own intransigence over Waddle and a glaring refereeing error during the defeat by Holland in Rotterdam. Perhaps no England manager had a tougher inheritance given what had just preceded his appointment, yet it is only fair to concede that he made a mess of it. Terry Venables, by contrast, was more assured and when the news reporters went for him over his conduct at Tottenham and his business dealings, he always had the football pack on his side. He knew what he wanted to do and applied everything he had learnt at Crystal Palace, QPR, Barcelona and Spurs to fashion a 3-5-2 system that was similar to Robson’s but bolder in that he used wingers instead of full-backs in the wide roles. He was fortunate too in that he did not have to qualify for the next tournament, Euro 96 in England, and, after some boozy indiscretions on tour before their first game, they made the country fall in love with them again after half-time in their second fixture against Scotland when it all came together with Gascoigne, rejuvenated, Alan Shearer, devastatingly predatory, Paul Ince tireless, and Teddy Sheringham imaginatively creative. The country was festooned with cross of St George flags for the first time, Three Lions was adopted as an anthem and England made it through to the semi-finals after a commanding victory over Holland and a scrappy but unforgettable penalty shootout win against Spain featuring redemption for Pearce and a cry that could be heard in Turin. Once more they faced Germany and, as they had six years earlier, they played with poise and enterprise but couldn’t crack the eventual winners. At the end of 120 minutes and five successful penalties each, it was England that cracked, Gareth Southgate rolling his too close to Andreas Kopke. Venables left to spend more time with his solicitors and Glenn Hoddle took over a team that had the nation dancing to its tune and was seemingly on an upward trajectory after emerging from the dark ages. ‘So many jokes, so many sneers’ For the next 20 years England were mired in confusion and capriciousness. The Premier League, a breakaway from the Football League given the fig-leaf of FA sanction, made the English game plutocratically wealthy but the snake swallowed the pig, the club game devouring the FA’s intention that the whole point of secession was to put the national side at the apex of the sport. The clubs produced some sensationally talented players – Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole among many more – but the FA zigzagged from appointing a coaching virtuoso with some strange views in Hoddle, to the arch-motivator in Keegan, Sven Goran-Eriksson, the progressive pragmatist, to his No2, chalkboard guru Steve McClaren, and from him to the best coach money could buy, Fabio Capello, to Roy Hodgson, supposedly a veteran sage, and finally Sam Allardyce for a Lady Jane Grey reign. During that time England were well-supported at each tournament to which they went, losing on penalties at the last 16 stage to Argentina at France 98 which was won by the hosts, finally beating Germany in a competitive match at Euro 2000 in an otherwise terrible display, winning 5-1 in Munich under Eriksson when Owen had the world at his feet, doing well at the 2002 World Cup until overwhelmed by caution in the second-half of the quarter-final against eventual winners Brazil and, with Rooney rampant at Euro 2004, looking unstoppable until he was hit by the curse of the metatarsal that had already hobbled Beckham at the previous tournament and would do for Rooney again weeks before the next. At the 2006 World Cup they holed up in Baden-Baden where the divergence between their living standards and the people who followed them was never more naked and it was exploited first by some newspapers for prurient kicks and then as a tool of castigation when they were knocked out for the second tournament running by Portugal on penalties. Italy won it and England, beset by injuries and timidity, got as far as they deserved as was also the case under McClaren who failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and spent much of his time in the job with the crowd on his back, alarmed and angry at the incohesion and reticence of talented players. Capello came in and banned ketchup, brought the iron rod but couldn’t get a tune out of the same group of players and walked out on the eve of Euro 2012. His bored side had been eliminated at the last 16 stage at the 2010 World Cup when a youthful Germany left England looking like carthorses and their fans grateful that they didn’t have to witness them being filleted by Spain. The Italian tried to bring Scholes back into the fold but could not persuade England’s best midfielder to end six years of exile he felt forced into because Eriksson, even with his exorbitant salary, would not take on the responsibility of picking a balanced team if it meant leaving out either Gerrard or Lampard, or getting them to work in a diamond. Beckham did come back as a kind of elder statesman, now universally popular after a topsy-turvy relationship with the crowd and media which took him from pariah for his red card in 1998 to messiah with his goals against Greece and Argentina and back to earth in Germany. The one bright light remained Rooney who carried the attack between tournaments and succumbed to the general malaise during them. Longevity and dedication made him the most-capped outfield player and the highest scorer but he was banned for the start of Euro 2012 and could not drag England past Italy in the quarter-final, which they lost on penalties, or the opening match of the 2014 World Cup. Hodgson was paid almost as much as Capello and fared worse, going out at the group stage in Brazil when furious fans were strung along with the old line about building for the future even though it was plain to see that an inability to defend hardly boded well. Indeed they were knocked out by Iceland at Euro 2016 in the second round. He spent spells of the three tournaments pinching his face and left at the end of the last one with the national team flirting as much with irrelevance as embarrassment. "We’re a team, with our diversity and our youth, that represents modern England. In England, we have spent a bit of time being a bit lost as to what our modern identity is. I think we represent that modern identity and hopefully, people can connect with us." Gareth Southgate, 2018 ‘It’s coming home’ In only 21 months Gareth Southgate has changed all that, regenerating a bond between the team and its public in a way that only success in tournament football can achieve. Even last November, while paper aeroplanes were being thrown at Wembley during a friendly, and the usual charmless berks were littering Twitter with complaints about international breaks and railing about the lack of Premier League football, the current levels of elation and pride would have seemed preposterous. Yet Southgate, the first FA insider to be given the job since Winterbottom, has been an integral part of building the structure that fostered the recent renaissance of national age-group teams – England won the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups in 2017 – applied the principles he had picked up as a coach working in player development and blended them with his own experiences as an international under Venables, Hoddle, Keegan and Eriksson. Honesty and humility were paramount as well as presenting an open face to the world and as his young team rallied to beat Tunisia, marmalised Panama, withstood Colombia and flattened them in their first shoot-out victory for 22 years, the country fell for their character and integrity. As everything around us seems threatened by spitefulness, pusillanimity and chaos, they became a beacon not a distraction. The target before Russia 2018 was a place in the quarter-finals and England’s inexperienced squad, for once, over-achieved and made it to the semis for only the third time since 1950 by exploiting a kind draw with their panache, efficiency and determination. Croatia, a team with two of the best midfielders in the world, and relentless, streetwise forward runners, proved too savvy at this early stage but England created enough chances to impress upon everyone that this is only the beginning. The first steps on the long road have been taken. It will take a little longer than many hoped, but football is coming home. England's amazing World Cup: the best pics Registration wall CSS More World Cup 2018 01 Aug 2018,10:30pm Gareth Southgate to be offered new England deal beyond 2020 'to build a dynasty' 01 Aug 2018,5:00pm England moves step closer to hosting 2030 World Cup but distances itself from 2022 if Qatar stripped 24 Jul 2018,10:30pm Adam Lallana opens up on World Cup heartache: 'The lads had a massive tournament but I still have lots to give' 24 Jul 2018,3:35pm England manager Gareth Southgate nominated for Fifa coach of the year award
Three Lions pride: how football (very nearly) came home for England
How football (very nearly) came home By Rob Bagchi 3 AUGUST 2018 • 6:49 PM BST England's 2018 World Cup campaign was one of dizzying highs with an ultimately familiar low as its conclusion. Something, though, has shifted. Despite the disappointment of semi-final defeat to Croatia, there is a sense that some deep psychological scars are beginning to fade. “Football’s coming home” has been the rallying cry, and while the final destination will have to wait for now the route looks clearer than it has for years. This is the story of English football’s long and frequently arduous journey. ‘I know that was then…’ Eventually ‘the darkest day’ for the England football team would become so frustratingly routine that its employment even by the habitually trite would be abandoned as cliche. But at the start of the Fifties, when one indignity followed another and the realisation that our sense of entitlement on and off the field was a bankrupt concept, one of England’s conquerors struck a consoling tone. Six months after the chastening 6-3 defeat by Hungary at Wembley in November 1953 that killed the myth of English exceptionalism once and for all, Walter Winterbottom took his side to the Nep Stadion in Budapest where the Magical Magyars massacred them 7-1. After the match Geoffrey Green, the greatest of football correspondents, spoke to Jozsef Bozsik, the Hungarians’ magnificent if stately right-half, and, having gone through the fourth stage of grief, depression, had reached acceptance that England’s supremacy had gone the way of the Empire. And so he was surprised by Bozsik’s sincerity when he asked him if he was joking by asserting that the world still looked up to England. “You are still masters of football,” Bozsik said. “You will always be the masters. You fashioned the game, organised it and gave it to the world first of all. You were the original teachers.” It was of no little comfort to Green that respect overruled results. China, as acknowledged by Fifa, can demonstrate that a form of the game originated there during the Han dynasty in the second century BC and types of football were played in Japan, by indigenous peoples in the Americas and Australia, Ancient Greece and imperial Rome. But Bozsik was correct to say that the game as we know it developed over a thousand years in England from the Middle Ages to the mid-Victorian era. At first it was a ‘mob game’ played on Shrove Tuesday, Whitsuntide and Christmas with mass participation, no rules, no goals and the main objective was territorial, to move the ‘ball’ – initially a hog’s head, later a pig’s or sheep’s bladder – from one part of town to the other. It became a renegade activity, banned by the Lord Mayor of London and in more than 30 decrees from 1314 to 1667 but it thrived despite – probably due to – its propensity to encourage rioting and mischief. But as the industrial revolution began to change the culture of the country, and adults and children were forced to work a six-day week, Feast Day games declined and the public schools, where various hybrids had mutated and flourished over the past four centuries, became the hothouses for the codification of the game and its ultimate divergence into two distinct branches, rugby and football. Billy Wright and Ferenc Puskas lead England and Hungary out at Wembley in 1953 ‘Three Lions on a shirt’ By the late 1840s the multifarious strands of the game were causing confusion and limiting the opportunities for matches because of disputes about offside and handling the ball. In 1848 at Trinity College, Cambridge, undergraduates from Shrewsbury School, Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Winchester met to devise a common code and the Cambridge Rules, as they became known, influenced the drive towards universal regulations. The Sheffield Rules, formulated in the city where Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest association football club, were founded in 1857, have even more in common with the modern game but there was still no unified code. A meeting of London clubs was called at the Freemasons Tavern on Great Queen Street on Oct 26 1863 to address this millennium-old obstacle to harmonisation and, calling itself the Football Association, agreed to invite the public schools to join them to reconcile all the distinctions between their versions. Only Uppingham and Charterhouse accepted but by December 8 after six meetings they were able to publish the Laws of Football. Members of the Sheffield Association and the FA continued to play to their own codes but when Charles Alcock, still then the game’s most prominent player, became secretary and treasurer of the latter in 1870 and created the FA Cup, first won by Wanderers in 1872, it gradually became accepted by both parties that they needed uniform regulations and the mixed rules were adopted from 1877. In the same year as the inaugural Cup final, the FA, in a bid to spread its association version and win the race to standardise the game, officially challenged Scotland, where rugby remained dominant, to a match north of Hadrian’s Wall. On Nov 30 1872, 10 years after an unofficial representative game had ended in a goalless draw, England were held 0-0 at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Partick in the first properly sanctioned international match. The contrast in style between the two sides – England with their dribbling and reliance on individual flair, Scotland with a passing game and teamwork – was marked and it was the Scots professionals with their skill and shrewdness who would become the driving force for the first 50 years of the Football League after it was established in 1888. Such was the success of the first England-Scotland match which drew a crowd of more than 3,000, it became an annual fixture as did Wales in 1879 and Ireland in 1882, two years before the four associations fashioned the Home Championship. Scotland held the upper hand with victories in each of the first four years but by 1900 England, 12 years into “a new football mania”, had fought back for parity in front of vast crowds who made stars of Steve Bloomer, G.O. Smith and Vivian Woodward while Wales and Ireland were regularly walloped and left to a desultory battle for the wooden spoon. The home nations refused to join Fifa on its formation in 1904 and yo-yoed in and out of the organisation for the next four decades, Scotland, Wales and Ireland proving even more hostile to it and continental matches at first than England. The FA did sanction tours of central Europe in 1908 and 1909 when Austria were beaten 6-1, 11-1 and 8-1, Hungary 7-0, 4-2 and 8-2 but they did not invite a Fifa member to play them at home until ‘plucky Belgium’, the nation in whose defence Britain had ostensibly gone to war in 1914, came to Highbury in 1923 and were sent packing with a 6-1 thrashing. Wartime allies Belgium and France became annual fixtures in the Twenties, the high years of Dixie Dean, Billy Walker and Ernie Blenkinsop, but only Scotland provided a typically stern test though Ireland and Wales periodically bared their teeth and made the first part of the decade a troubling one for England even at the new Wembley Stadium. Defeat by the Celts could always be stomached, the illusion of superiority maintained when beaten by essentially your own countrymen, but in May 1929 they were at last bested by Spain in Madrid, going down 3-2 after an arduous train journey. Their chances were ruined by inconsistency of selection and, frankly, the self-serving boneheadedness of the selection committee. Stubbornness throughout the Home Nations’ associations over the issue of broken time payments to amateur players, tolerated by Fifa, provoked their withdrawal again from the organisation and the refusal to take part in the first three World Cups. Bilateral friendlies continued and famous victories over Italy, the world champions, in 1934 at Highbury and Germany, a year later at White Hart contributed to the myth that their absence from the tournament was the world’s not England’s loss. But in 1936, a strong team including Wilf Copping, Cliff Bastin and George Camsell were beaten in Vienna by a wonderful Austria side, and in 1938, though Bastin and Stanley Matthews scored for Eddie Hapgood’s side in a 6-3 victory over Germany in Berlin, the players’ agreement to give the Hitler salute before the match would taint it, the British ambassador and them. They were not to blame, though their willingness to comply with the suggestion has been glossed over retrospectively. A year later, a truly gifted generation of players – Matthews, Tommy Lawton, Joe Mercer, Willie Hall et al – put careers in their prime on hold to serve the country, sometimes in the white shirts of England to sustain morale, usually in khaki or air force blue. England have worn a three lions crest since 1872 ‘England's gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away’ At the end of the Second World War, when detachment, isolation and nationalism should have drowned forever in oceans of blood, the FA, under Stanley Rous, understandably adopted a more progressive and outward-looking tone. It bailed out Fifa and agreed to take part in the fourth World Cup, for which, in gratitude, they were given the most absurd qualification criteria: the top two in the 1949-50 Home Championship would go through to the Brazil finals. England won it and headed off with little preparation and only days to spare; Scotland, who finished second, had an almighty strop and refused to let their players go. England should have travelled in expectation, instead they went overcome by hubris. In 1948 they had gone to Turin with the greatest forward line in England’s history – Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Lawton, Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney – and put on arguably England’s greatest performance to beat the double world champions 4-0 in a courageously incisive and professional display supported by the world-class goalkeeping of Frank Swift to beat the world champions. Typically the numskulls on the selection committee never picked that front five again and Neil Franklin, the best centre-half in Europe, was lured to the rebel league in Colombia before the tournament and was blacklisted for his ‘disloyalty’ in trying to earn more than the maximum wage. Rous had enjoyed one victory over the committee, pushing through the appointment of the first team manager, Walter Winterbottom and he arrived in Brazil minus Matthews, who had been sent on a goodwill tour of Canada, deemed the priority by the FA, and only joined up with the team on the eve of the second game after their 2-0 victory over Chile. In Belo Horizonte they went down 1-0 to the pot-washers, amateurs and obscure expatriates of the USA, a result so unexpected that Fleet Street copytasters initially assumed they had won 10-0. Defeat by Spain in the final game sent them home long before Uruguay’s ‘Maracanazo’ victory over Brazil earned them their second World Cup. In the three years before England’s double defenestration by Hungary when, in Green’s famous words, Billy Wright, diddled by Ferenc Puskas resembled a “fire engine going to the wrong fire”, no lessons were learnt from Brazil and some famous victories were earned, not least when Nat Lofthouse achieved immortality as ‘The Lion of Vienna’ during the 3-2 win there in 1952. Public opinion and the newspapers were so startled by the twin gubbings at Wembley and in Budapest that certain modernisations that had been long overdue – the national preference for heavy shirts, armadillo boots as well as indifference to tactics and novel training methods – were finally applied but the selection committee remained in situ. England's long journey home The changes had not had enough time to bed in for the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, again secured by winning the Home Championship rather than by testing themselves against contrasting styles. A draw with Belgium and victory over the hosts were enough to put them through to the quarter-finals but they could not overcome defending champions Uruguay who went 3-1 up a minute after half-time and eventually won 4-2. England failed to get out of the group four years later in Sweden, losing a play-off to the USSR, but it is unfair to judge them harshly. Four months before the tournament began, they had lost their best forward, Tommy Taylor, best player, Duncan Edwards, and left-back, Manchester United’s inspirational captain, Roger Byrne, in the Munich Air Disaster. In 1956 Taylor had scored twice in a 4-2 victory over Brazil at Wembley and, in the trio’s final international together in November 1957 he had scored two more in a 4-0 whacking of France. Only 13 years after the war, in a far more stoical age, grief was suppressed but without them and because of what happened to them, England did not stand a chance. Brazil, for the first time, won the World Cup with a fine blend of youthful flair, instinctive brilliance and veteran nous. It may always have been their fate but England at full strength and perhaps with an enlightened selector also pushing for Eddie Colman’s inclusion, it may have been a close-run thing. Brazil retained their title four years later, knocking England out in the quarter final in Vina del Mar. Even though Gerry Hitchens and Jimmy Greaves had endured spells in Serie A, there was little continental enlightenment from the FA who, again, sent out a threadbare staff with Winterbottom and no team doctor. Johnny Haynes, by now the captain, was man-marked out of the tournament as he had been in Sweden and his disgruntlement at the press’s criticisms of him soured the atmosphere of the camp. Garrincha was irrepressible in the match and England went home unlamented, as usual less than the sum of their parts. At long last, though, a revolution was at hand. ‘Jules Rimet still gleaming’ Alf Ramsey made it his life’s work that any team he played in or managed would always be stronger than its constituent components. The FA, having won the rights to host the 1966 World Cup, recognised it needed someone to give them a competitive edge. Chasteningly for the association, the appointment of the Ipswich Town manager also gave them an uncompromising visionary whose dedication to his mission and his abrasiveness would be tolerated by the blazers but never embraced. He began with an ultimatum after taking the job on a full-time basis. Ramsey had been in the XI that had been humiliated by USA in Brazil and Hungary at Wembley and felt a player’s righteous sense of indignation about the whims and follies of the International Selection Committee and ensured it was disbanded before he took the job on a full-time basis. When asked what his goal was in 1966, he said that England would win it, and set about building his squad on a series of summer tours during 1963, 1964 and 1965 where he established himself as a player’s manager, strict but also friendly, purposeful and usually cheerful with them, if not with the press. They began the tournament on a run of seven successive victories and a side, as he put it, that was his best team, not necessarily made up of his best players. Consequently alongside the swans – Gordon Banks, Ray Wilson, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Martin Peters and Jimmy Greaves – there was a gaggle of geese, notably Jack Charlton, George Cohen, Roger Hunt and Nobby Stiles. England's captain Bobby Moore in action during the 1966 World Cup quarter-final match between England and Argentina at Wembley It was not until the brutal quarter-final victory over Argentina that he settled on his winning combination after an injury to Greaves in the third of three uninspired group games. Out went his experimentation with a single orthodox winger, in came Geoff Hurst and Alan Ball and the XI who will forever be known as ‘the Boys of 66’ at last took flight. They played all six games at Wembley and, as enthusiasm began to mount, their inhibitions were shed and they put on a magnificent performance to beat Portugal in the semi-final. On the morning of July 30 1966, Stiles went to mass, Bobby Charlton went shopping in Hendon, most players went for a walk and they arrived at the stadium in good time. In front of a vibrant crowd of 100,000 Hurst equalised six minutes after Helmut Haller had put West Germany ahead in the 12th minute and Wolfgang Weber levelled with a minute to spare following Martin Peters’ second half goal. Ramsey, famously, told them they had won it once and all they had to do was win it again, which they deservedly did in extra-time, Hurst completing his hat-trick first in dubious then in thrilling emphatic style. Moore, an elegant presence throughout, lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in glorious sunshine as the clouds parted above Wembley and the players and the manager, who would shortly be knighted, celebrated with characteristic modesty. The defence of the trophy four years later in Mexico, when Sir Alf maintained he had a better team, was stymied by West Germany’s comeback from 2-0 down in the quarter-final. The world may have turned against the team because of Ramsey’s prickliness and evident distaste of anything foreign, a trait bordering on full-blown xenophobia, but for the players, who were superb against the eventual winners Brazil in a majestic group game, it was undeserved. Had they not lost Banks to food poisoning before the game and had Ramsey kept Bobby Charlton on 10 minutes more to occupy Franz Beckenbauer, it is fair to speculate that they would have made it through to the final and had the opportunity of another go at Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson and the other all-time greats. ‘All those oh so nears, wear you down through the years’ If 1970 was essentially the end of the 1966 champagne years, the following 10 were figuratively the greatest hangover English football has ever endured. Ramsey, still a relatively young man but ever more hidebound and mistrustful, rebooted the team but could not find a fluid yet alone a fluent formula. Moore, in decline, carried on as his captain but after a 3-1 defeat in the European Championship quarter-final by West Germany at Wembley in 1972 when Gunther Netzer tore them to shreds, England spiralled ever more vertiginously into a mess of conservatism, caution and anxiety. Ramsey was sacked at the beginning of 1974 after defeat away in Poland and a draw at home ensured non-qualification for the World Cup at which West Germany emulated England by winning at home. Leeds United’s Don Revie took his place after a revivifying caretaker spell by Joe Mecer but the wide pool of players at his disposal encouraged constant tinkering in selection and his running feud with the chairman of the FA, Lord Thompson, left him deflated and mutinous. There were signs of progress – and the adoption of a garish kit more suited to the age – but injuries to Gerry Francis and Colin Bell killed the momentum and he sent out a team to face Italy in a World Cup qualifier in November 1976 that was so unbalanced defeat was all but inevitable. That loss meant that making it to the 1978 tournament was out of their hands and Revie, fearing he would be sacked, pre-empted the FA and jumped ship to the UAE, a decision that continues to blacken his reputation. Ron Greenwood was chosen as his successor when the people wanted Brian Clough yet the former West Ham manager did guide them to Euro 80, where they drew with Belgium, lost to Italy and beat Spain while their fans rioted, and the 1982 World Cup even though repeated setbacks in qualification frequently suggested his resignation was imminent. His two best players, Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking, were injured at the start of the tournament and would not play until the fifth and final game against the hosts. They won their first three matches, getting off to a flier against France, but as Bryan Robson waned, so did their fortunes and they could only draw against European champions West Germany and against Spain to go home unbeaten. Keegan, twice the Ballon d’Or winner and certainly the best English player of his generation, managed only 26 minutes of World Cup football in his storied career and missed a header late on in his sole cameo that would have given his side hope. Keegan never played for England again. Bobby Robson, who left Ipswich to succeed Greenwood, did not pick him for his first squad and the former captain announced his retirement with abrupt finality. Robson struggled at first and was spat at by fans at Wembley after a defeat by the Soviet Union in 1984, the year he failed to qualify for the Euros won at home by France. The behaviour of the England crowd had been toxic for years. Not much violence at home, but they had been jeering the players since about 1968 and screeching their exasperation. Away, particularly Scotland, provided the playground for assorted neophytes, headbangers and racists to do their worst and a nadir was reached on a flight from Brazil after John Barnes’ majestically serpentine goal at the Maracana when one piggy-eyed member of the ‘master race’ proclaimed that the goal didn’t count because it hadn’t been scored by a white man. Nonetheless England’s performances on that tour of South America suggested Robson was building a coherent system even if it was over-reliant on Bryan Robson, the marauding Manchester United captain whose bravery all too often put him in harm’s way. Robson started the first game in Mexico against Portugal having seemingly recovered from a dislocated shoulder. What we didn’t know was that it had popped out again during the training camp and his selection became even more of a risk. They ended the match defeated and with boos ringing out and Robson had his tournament finished during the draw with Morocco when he fell awkwardly and dislocated it again. Ray Wilkins, his deputy, lost his cool and was sent off and England were in disarray. The absence of his two midfield stalwarts left Bobby Robson with no option but to pick Peter Reid to do Glenn Hoddle’s running, introduce Peter Beardsley and the changes liberated Gary Lineker who scored six goals in the next three matches and won the Golden Boot despite England, after a heartening resurgence, leaving at the quarter-final stage at the hand of Diego Maradona and by virtue of his divine second goal. The knowledge that they had been cheated for the first goal left them departing with a sense of grievance but also with their honour intact. Now the tabloid press reached its Nero phase when their journalists jobs became a caper we were all supposed to enjoy and people who should have known better jumped from an anti-Robson bandwagon to a pro-‘Our Boys’ one with indecent opportunism. And poor Robson managed to stay sane if not undamaged through it all. Three defeats at Euro 88 when Lineker was stricken with glandular fever and Holland revived Total Football with a dynamic, athletic twist, would have ended Robson’s time in the job he loved best but for the length of his contract and he composed himself and the team to qualify for Italia 90. Paul Gascoigne’s skill and charm introduced an affable battiness into the side and helped England reconnect with the supporters. Although a wonderfully assured performance with three at the back against Holland in their second group game was followed by a dispiritingly sterile 1-0 win over Egypt, the 119th-minute victory over Belgium in the Round of 16, secured by virtue of Gascoigne’s vision and David Platt’s balletic volley, and their tenacious fight-back from 2-1 down in the quarter-final against a mesmerisingly sinuous Cameroon attack revealed their skill and fortitude. Here was the proof that would inspire the key line of Three Lions, the plaintive yet defiant: “But I know they can play.” They may have been let down in the past by excessive caution or the 11th-hour loss of Gordon Banks or diddled by the Hand of God but each time had highly capable players and now, at last, they were showing it. They made it to the semi-final with the nation behind them, played very well against West Germany and equalised when Lineker cushioned Parker’s cross on his thigh to manoeuvre Thomas Berthold and Klaus Augenthaler out of his path and fire a left-foot shot past Bodo Illgner with 10 minutes to go. Gary Lineker during the 1986 World Cup group match against Paraguay in Mexico City. England won the match 3-0 The drama of extra-time, for the third England game in succession, was enhanced by West Germany laying siege for what seemed like a lifetime, Waddle’s superb shot that hit the inside of the post, Gascoigne’s deserved booking for fouling Berthold and subsequent tears that sealed a nation’s love. West Germany had won shootouts en route to the final at the past two World Cups while England were enduring their first. At 3-3, Robson’s ‘banker’ Stuart Pearce went hard and straight. Illgner saved it with his legs and, with a distraught Pearce on his haunches in the centre-circle, Olaf Thon scored West Germany’s fourth. Waddle walked up in fifth place, deputising for his room-mate Gascoigne. “I felt like I was stepping off the world into silence,” he said, deciding to blast it but overcome by anxiety and tiredness, he got his body shape wrong, leant back and fired it into orbit. England were out but again left after a gallant campaign and Robson, who had been called a traitor by the newspapers and told to PSV off by the Sun for agreeing to take over in Eindhoven after the tournament because the FA would not renew his contract, was never maligned again. Would that we could say the same for his successor, Graham Taylor who, in three years in charge, took England backwards. If Robson had been on the road to enlightenment when he left, Taylor, a decent, honest man but also patently out of his depth with the newspaper sharks swirling around him and about to turn him into a root vegetable, could not marry his club football strategies to the international game. He seemed to be no judge of international quality, made some extraordinary selections but was still unlucky after an insipid exit from Euro 92 won by, of all people, Denmark, to miss out on the 1994 World Cup because he was denied a fit Gascoigne for long periods, his own intransigence over Waddle and a glaring refereeing error during the defeat by Holland in Rotterdam. Perhaps no England manager had a tougher inheritance given what had just preceded his appointment, yet it is only fair to concede that he made a mess of it. Terry Venables, by contrast, was more assured and when the news reporters went for him over his conduct at Tottenham and his business dealings, he always had the football pack on his side. He knew what he wanted to do and applied everything he had learnt at Crystal Palace, QPR, Barcelona and Spurs to fashion a 3-5-2 system that was similar to Robson’s but bolder in that he used wingers instead of full-backs in the wide roles. He was fortunate too in that he did not have to qualify for the next tournament, Euro 96 in England, and, after some boozy indiscretions on tour before their first game, they made the country fall in love with them again after half-time in their second fixture against Scotland when it all came together with Gascoigne, rejuvenated, Alan Shearer, devastatingly predatory, Paul Ince tireless, and Teddy Sheringham imaginatively creative. The country was festooned with cross of St George flags for the first time, Three Lions was adopted as an anthem and England made it through to the semi-finals after a commanding victory over Holland and a scrappy but unforgettable penalty shootout win against Spain featuring redemption for Pearce and a cry that could be heard in Turin. Once more they faced Germany and, as they had six years earlier, they played with poise and enterprise but couldn’t crack the eventual winners. At the end of 120 minutes and five successful penalties each, it was England that cracked, Gareth Southgate rolling his too close to Andreas Kopke. Venables left to spend more time with his solicitors and Glenn Hoddle took over a team that had the nation dancing to its tune and was seemingly on an upward trajectory after emerging from the dark ages. ‘So many jokes, so many sneers’ For the next 20 years England were mired in confusion and capriciousness. The Premier League, a breakaway from the Football League given the fig-leaf of FA sanction, made the English game plutocratically wealthy but the snake swallowed the pig, the club game devouring the FA’s intention that the whole point of secession was to put the national side at the apex of the sport. The clubs produced some sensationally talented players – Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole among many more – but the FA zigzagged from appointing a coaching virtuoso with some strange views in Hoddle, to the arch-motivator in Keegan, Sven Goran-Eriksson, the progressive pragmatist, to his No2, chalkboard guru Steve McClaren, and from him to the best coach money could buy, Fabio Capello, to Roy Hodgson, supposedly a veteran sage, and finally Sam Allardyce for a Lady Jane Grey reign. During that time England were well-supported at each tournament to which they went, losing on penalties at the last 16 stage to Argentina at France 98 which was won by the hosts, finally beating Germany in a competitive match at Euro 2000 in an otherwise terrible display, winning 5-1 in Munich under Eriksson when Owen had the world at his feet, doing well at the 2002 World Cup until overwhelmed by caution in the second-half of the quarter-final against eventual winners Brazil and, with Rooney rampant at Euro 2004, looking unstoppable until he was hit by the curse of the metatarsal that had already hobbled Beckham at the previous tournament and would do for Rooney again weeks before the next. At the 2006 World Cup they holed up in Baden-Baden where the divergence between their living standards and the people who followed them was never more naked and it was exploited first by some newspapers for prurient kicks and then as a tool of castigation when they were knocked out for the second tournament running by Portugal on penalties. Italy won it and England, beset by injuries and timidity, got as far as they deserved as was also the case under McClaren who failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and spent much of his time in the job with the crowd on his back, alarmed and angry at the incohesion and reticence of talented players. Capello came in and banned ketchup, brought the iron rod but couldn’t get a tune out of the same group of players and walked out on the eve of Euro 2012. His bored side had been eliminated at the last 16 stage at the 2010 World Cup when a youthful Germany left England looking like carthorses and their fans grateful that they didn’t have to witness them being filleted by Spain. The Italian tried to bring Scholes back into the fold but could not persuade England’s best midfielder to end six years of exile he felt forced into because Eriksson, even with his exorbitant salary, would not take on the responsibility of picking a balanced team if it meant leaving out either Gerrard or Lampard, or getting them to work in a diamond. Beckham did come back as a kind of elder statesman, now universally popular after a topsy-turvy relationship with the crowd and media which took him from pariah for his red card in 1998 to messiah with his goals against Greece and Argentina and back to earth in Germany. The one bright light remained Rooney who carried the attack between tournaments and succumbed to the general malaise during them. Longevity and dedication made him the most-capped outfield player and the highest scorer but he was banned for the start of Euro 2012 and could not drag England past Italy in the quarter-final, which they lost on penalties, or the opening match of the 2014 World Cup. Hodgson was paid almost as much as Capello and fared worse, going out at the group stage in Brazil when furious fans were strung along with the old line about building for the future even though it was plain to see that an inability to defend hardly boded well. Indeed they were knocked out by Iceland at Euro 2016 in the second round. He spent spells of the three tournaments pinching his face and left at the end of the last one with the national team flirting as much with irrelevance as embarrassment. "We’re a team, with our diversity and our youth, that represents modern England. In England, we have spent a bit of time being a bit lost as to what our modern identity is. I think we represent that modern identity and hopefully, people can connect with us." Gareth Southgate, 2018 ‘It’s coming home’ In only 21 months Gareth Southgate has changed all that, regenerating a bond between the team and its public in a way that only success in tournament football can achieve. Even last November, while paper aeroplanes were being thrown at Wembley during a friendly, and the usual charmless berks were littering Twitter with complaints about international breaks and railing about the lack of Premier League football, the current levels of elation and pride would have seemed preposterous. Yet Southgate, the first FA insider to be given the job since Winterbottom, has been an integral part of building the structure that fostered the recent renaissance of national age-group teams – England won the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups in 2017 – applied the principles he had picked up as a coach working in player development and blended them with his own experiences as an international under Venables, Hoddle, Keegan and Eriksson. Honesty and humility were paramount as well as presenting an open face to the world and as his young team rallied to beat Tunisia, marmalised Panama, withstood Colombia and flattened them in their first shoot-out victory for 22 years, the country fell for their character and integrity. As everything around us seems threatened by spitefulness, pusillanimity and chaos, they became a beacon not a distraction. The target before Russia 2018 was a place in the quarter-finals and England’s inexperienced squad, for once, over-achieved and made it to the semis for only the third time since 1950 by exploiting a kind draw with their panache, efficiency and determination. Croatia, a team with two of the best midfielders in the world, and relentless, streetwise forward runners, proved too savvy at this early stage but England created enough chances to impress upon everyone that this is only the beginning. The first steps on the long road have been taken. It will take a little longer than many hoped, but football is coming home. England's amazing World Cup: the best pics Registration wall CSS More World Cup 2018 01 Aug 2018,10:30pm Gareth Southgate to be offered new England deal beyond 2020 'to build a dynasty' 01 Aug 2018,5:00pm England moves step closer to hosting 2030 World Cup but distances itself from 2022 if Qatar stripped 24 Jul 2018,10:30pm Adam Lallana opens up on World Cup heartache: 'The lads had a massive tournament but I still have lots to give' 24 Jul 2018,3:35pm England manager Gareth Southgate nominated for Fifa coach of the year award
How football (very nearly) came home By Rob Bagchi 3 AUGUST 2018 • 6:49 PM BST England's 2018 World Cup campaign was one of dizzying highs with an ultimately familiar low as its conclusion. Something, though, has shifted. Despite the disappointment of semi-final defeat to Croatia, there is a sense that some deep psychological scars are beginning to fade. “Football’s coming home” has been the rallying cry, and while the final destination will have to wait for now the route looks clearer than it has for years. This is the story of English football’s long and frequently arduous journey. ‘I know that was then…’ Eventually ‘the darkest day’ for the England football team would become so frustratingly routine that its employment even by the habitually trite would be abandoned as cliche. But at the start of the Fifties, when one indignity followed another and the realisation that our sense of entitlement on and off the field was a bankrupt concept, one of England’s conquerors struck a consoling tone. Six months after the chastening 6-3 defeat by Hungary at Wembley in November 1953 that killed the myth of English exceptionalism once and for all, Walter Winterbottom took his side to the Nep Stadion in Budapest where the Magical Magyars massacred them 7-1. After the match Geoffrey Green, the greatest of football correspondents, spoke to Jozsef Bozsik, the Hungarians’ magnificent if stately right-half, and, having gone through the fourth stage of grief, depression, had reached acceptance that England’s supremacy had gone the way of the Empire. And so he was surprised by Bozsik’s sincerity when he asked him if he was joking by asserting that the world still looked up to England. “You are still masters of football,” Bozsik said. “You will always be the masters. You fashioned the game, organised it and gave it to the world first of all. You were the original teachers.” It was of no little comfort to Green that respect overruled results. China, as acknowledged by Fifa, can demonstrate that a form of the game originated there during the Han dynasty in the second century BC and types of football were played in Japan, by indigenous peoples in the Americas and Australia, Ancient Greece and imperial Rome. But Bozsik was correct to say that the game as we know it developed over a thousand years in England from the Middle Ages to the mid-Victorian era. At first it was a ‘mob game’ played on Shrove Tuesday, Whitsuntide and Christmas with mass participation, no rules, no goals and the main objective was territorial, to move the ‘ball’ – initially a hog’s head, later a pig’s or sheep’s bladder – from one part of town to the other. It became a renegade activity, banned by the Lord Mayor of London and in more than 30 decrees from 1314 to 1667 but it thrived despite – probably due to – its propensity to encourage rioting and mischief. But as the industrial revolution began to change the culture of the country, and adults and children were forced to work a six-day week, Feast Day games declined and the public schools, where various hybrids had mutated and flourished over the past four centuries, became the hothouses for the codification of the game and its ultimate divergence into two distinct branches, rugby and football. Billy Wright and Ferenc Puskas lead England and Hungary out at Wembley in 1953 ‘Three Lions on a shirt’ By the late 1840s the multifarious strands of the game were causing confusion and limiting the opportunities for matches because of disputes about offside and handling the ball. In 1848 at Trinity College, Cambridge, undergraduates from Shrewsbury School, Eton, Harrow, Rugby and Winchester met to devise a common code and the Cambridge Rules, as they became known, influenced the drive towards universal regulations. The Sheffield Rules, formulated in the city where Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest association football club, were founded in 1857, have even more in common with the modern game but there was still no unified code. A meeting of London clubs was called at the Freemasons Tavern on Great Queen Street on Oct 26 1863 to address this millennium-old obstacle to harmonisation and, calling itself the Football Association, agreed to invite the public schools to join them to reconcile all the distinctions between their versions. Only Uppingham and Charterhouse accepted but by December 8 after six meetings they were able to publish the Laws of Football. Members of the Sheffield Association and the FA continued to play to their own codes but when Charles Alcock, still then the game’s most prominent player, became secretary and treasurer of the latter in 1870 and created the FA Cup, first won by Wanderers in 1872, it gradually became accepted by both parties that they needed uniform regulations and the mixed rules were adopted from 1877. In the same year as the inaugural Cup final, the FA, in a bid to spread its association version and win the race to standardise the game, officially challenged Scotland, where rugby remained dominant, to a match north of Hadrian’s Wall. On Nov 30 1872, 10 years after an unofficial representative game had ended in a goalless draw, England were held 0-0 at the West of Scotland Cricket Ground in Partick in the first properly sanctioned international match. The contrast in style between the two sides – England with their dribbling and reliance on individual flair, Scotland with a passing game and teamwork – was marked and it was the Scots professionals with their skill and shrewdness who would become the driving force for the first 50 years of the Football League after it was established in 1888. Such was the success of the first England-Scotland match which drew a crowd of more than 3,000, it became an annual fixture as did Wales in 1879 and Ireland in 1882, two years before the four associations fashioned the Home Championship. Scotland held the upper hand with victories in each of the first four years but by 1900 England, 12 years into “a new football mania”, had fought back for parity in front of vast crowds who made stars of Steve Bloomer, G.O. Smith and Vivian Woodward while Wales and Ireland were regularly walloped and left to a desultory battle for the wooden spoon. The home nations refused to join Fifa on its formation in 1904 and yo-yoed in and out of the organisation for the next four decades, Scotland, Wales and Ireland proving even more hostile to it and continental matches at first than England. The FA did sanction tours of central Europe in 1908 and 1909 when Austria were beaten 6-1, 11-1 and 8-1, Hungary 7-0, 4-2 and 8-2 but they did not invite a Fifa member to play them at home until ‘plucky Belgium’, the nation in whose defence Britain had ostensibly gone to war in 1914, came to Highbury in 1923 and were sent packing with a 6-1 thrashing. Wartime allies Belgium and France became annual fixtures in the Twenties, the high years of Dixie Dean, Billy Walker and Ernie Blenkinsop, but only Scotland provided a typically stern test though Ireland and Wales periodically bared their teeth and made the first part of the decade a troubling one for England even at the new Wembley Stadium. Defeat by the Celts could always be stomached, the illusion of superiority maintained when beaten by essentially your own countrymen, but in May 1929 they were at last bested by Spain in Madrid, going down 3-2 after an arduous train journey. Their chances were ruined by inconsistency of selection and, frankly, the self-serving boneheadedness of the selection committee. Stubbornness throughout the Home Nations’ associations over the issue of broken time payments to amateur players, tolerated by Fifa, provoked their withdrawal again from the organisation and the refusal to take part in the first three World Cups. Bilateral friendlies continued and famous victories over Italy, the world champions, in 1934 at Highbury and Germany, a year later at White Hart contributed to the myth that their absence from the tournament was the world’s not England’s loss. But in 1936, a strong team including Wilf Copping, Cliff Bastin and George Camsell were beaten in Vienna by a wonderful Austria side, and in 1938, though Bastin and Stanley Matthews scored for Eddie Hapgood’s side in a 6-3 victory over Germany in Berlin, the players’ agreement to give the Hitler salute before the match would taint it, the British ambassador and them. They were not to blame, though their willingness to comply with the suggestion has been glossed over retrospectively. A year later, a truly gifted generation of players – Matthews, Tommy Lawton, Joe Mercer, Willie Hall et al – put careers in their prime on hold to serve the country, sometimes in the white shirts of England to sustain morale, usually in khaki or air force blue. England have worn a three lions crest since 1872 ‘England's gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away’ At the end of the Second World War, when detachment, isolation and nationalism should have drowned forever in oceans of blood, the FA, under Stanley Rous, understandably adopted a more progressive and outward-looking tone. It bailed out Fifa and agreed to take part in the fourth World Cup, for which, in gratitude, they were given the most absurd qualification criteria: the top two in the 1949-50 Home Championship would go through to the Brazil finals. England won it and headed off with little preparation and only days to spare; Scotland, who finished second, had an almighty strop and refused to let their players go. England should have travelled in expectation, instead they went overcome by hubris. In 1948 they had gone to Turin with the greatest forward line in England’s history – Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Lawton, Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney – and put on arguably England’s greatest performance to beat the double world champions 4-0 in a courageously incisive and professional display supported by the world-class goalkeeping of Frank Swift to beat the world champions. Typically the numskulls on the selection committee never picked that front five again and Neil Franklin, the best centre-half in Europe, was lured to the rebel league in Colombia before the tournament and was blacklisted for his ‘disloyalty’ in trying to earn more than the maximum wage. Rous had enjoyed one victory over the committee, pushing through the appointment of the first team manager, Walter Winterbottom and he arrived in Brazil minus Matthews, who had been sent on a goodwill tour of Canada, deemed the priority by the FA, and only joined up with the team on the eve of the second game after their 2-0 victory over Chile. In Belo Horizonte they went down 1-0 to the pot-washers, amateurs and obscure expatriates of the USA, a result so unexpected that Fleet Street copytasters initially assumed they had won 10-0. Defeat by Spain in the final game sent them home long before Uruguay’s ‘Maracanazo’ victory over Brazil earned them their second World Cup. In the three years before England’s double defenestration by Hungary when, in Green’s famous words, Billy Wright, diddled by Ferenc Puskas resembled a “fire engine going to the wrong fire”, no lessons were learnt from Brazil and some famous victories were earned, not least when Nat Lofthouse achieved immortality as ‘The Lion of Vienna’ during the 3-2 win there in 1952. Public opinion and the newspapers were so startled by the twin gubbings at Wembley and in Budapest that certain modernisations that had been long overdue – the national preference for heavy shirts, armadillo boots as well as indifference to tactics and novel training methods – were finally applied but the selection committee remained in situ. England's long journey home The changes had not had enough time to bed in for the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, again secured by winning the Home Championship rather than by testing themselves against contrasting styles. A draw with Belgium and victory over the hosts were enough to put them through to the quarter-finals but they could not overcome defending champions Uruguay who went 3-1 up a minute after half-time and eventually won 4-2. England failed to get out of the group four years later in Sweden, losing a play-off to the USSR, but it is unfair to judge them harshly. Four months before the tournament began, they had lost their best forward, Tommy Taylor, best player, Duncan Edwards, and left-back, Manchester United’s inspirational captain, Roger Byrne, in the Munich Air Disaster. In 1956 Taylor had scored twice in a 4-2 victory over Brazil at Wembley and, in the trio’s final international together in November 1957 he had scored two more in a 4-0 whacking of France. Only 13 years after the war, in a far more stoical age, grief was suppressed but without them and because of what happened to them, England did not stand a chance. Brazil, for the first time, won the World Cup with a fine blend of youthful flair, instinctive brilliance and veteran nous. It may always have been their fate but England at full strength and perhaps with an enlightened selector also pushing for Eddie Colman’s inclusion, it may have been a close-run thing. Brazil retained their title four years later, knocking England out in the quarter final in Vina del Mar. Even though Gerry Hitchens and Jimmy Greaves had endured spells in Serie A, there was little continental enlightenment from the FA who, again, sent out a threadbare staff with Winterbottom and no team doctor. Johnny Haynes, by now the captain, was man-marked out of the tournament as he had been in Sweden and his disgruntlement at the press’s criticisms of him soured the atmosphere of the camp. Garrincha was irrepressible in the match and England went home unlamented, as usual less than the sum of their parts. At long last, though, a revolution was at hand. ‘Jules Rimet still gleaming’ Alf Ramsey made it his life’s work that any team he played in or managed would always be stronger than its constituent components. The FA, having won the rights to host the 1966 World Cup, recognised it needed someone to give them a competitive edge. Chasteningly for the association, the appointment of the Ipswich Town manager also gave them an uncompromising visionary whose dedication to his mission and his abrasiveness would be tolerated by the blazers but never embraced. He began with an ultimatum after taking the job on a full-time basis. Ramsey had been in the XI that had been humiliated by USA in Brazil and Hungary at Wembley and felt a player’s righteous sense of indignation about the whims and follies of the International Selection Committee and ensured it was disbanded before he took the job on a full-time basis. When asked what his goal was in 1966, he said that England would win it, and set about building his squad on a series of summer tours during 1963, 1964 and 1965 where he established himself as a player’s manager, strict but also friendly, purposeful and usually cheerful with them, if not with the press. They began the tournament on a run of seven successive victories and a side, as he put it, that was his best team, not necessarily made up of his best players. Consequently alongside the swans – Gordon Banks, Ray Wilson, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Martin Peters and Jimmy Greaves – there was a gaggle of geese, notably Jack Charlton, George Cohen, Roger Hunt and Nobby Stiles. England's captain Bobby Moore in action during the 1966 World Cup quarter-final match between England and Argentina at Wembley It was not until the brutal quarter-final victory over Argentina that he settled on his winning combination after an injury to Greaves in the third of three uninspired group games. Out went his experimentation with a single orthodox winger, in came Geoff Hurst and Alan Ball and the XI who will forever be known as ‘the Boys of 66’ at last took flight. They played all six games at Wembley and, as enthusiasm began to mount, their inhibitions were shed and they put on a magnificent performance to beat Portugal in the semi-final. On the morning of July 30 1966, Stiles went to mass, Bobby Charlton went shopping in Hendon, most players went for a walk and they arrived at the stadium in good time. In front of a vibrant crowd of 100,000 Hurst equalised six minutes after Helmut Haller had put West Germany ahead in the 12th minute and Wolfgang Weber levelled with a minute to spare following Martin Peters’ second half goal. Ramsey, famously, told them they had won it once and all they had to do was win it again, which they deservedly did in extra-time, Hurst completing his hat-trick first in dubious then in thrilling emphatic style. Moore, an elegant presence throughout, lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in glorious sunshine as the clouds parted above Wembley and the players and the manager, who would shortly be knighted, celebrated with characteristic modesty. The defence of the trophy four years later in Mexico, when Sir Alf maintained he had a better team, was stymied by West Germany’s comeback from 2-0 down in the quarter-final. The world may have turned against the team because of Ramsey’s prickliness and evident distaste of anything foreign, a trait bordering on full-blown xenophobia, but for the players, who were superb against the eventual winners Brazil in a majestic group game, it was undeserved. Had they not lost Banks to food poisoning before the game and had Ramsey kept Bobby Charlton on 10 minutes more to occupy Franz Beckenbauer, it is fair to speculate that they would have made it through to the final and had the opportunity of another go at Pele, Jairzinho, Gerson and the other all-time greats. ‘All those oh so nears, wear you down through the years’ If 1970 was essentially the end of the 1966 champagne years, the following 10 were figuratively the greatest hangover English football has ever endured. Ramsey, still a relatively young man but ever more hidebound and mistrustful, rebooted the team but could not find a fluid yet alone a fluent formula. Moore, in decline, carried on as his captain but after a 3-1 defeat in the European Championship quarter-final by West Germany at Wembley in 1972 when Gunther Netzer tore them to shreds, England spiralled ever more vertiginously into a mess of conservatism, caution and anxiety. Ramsey was sacked at the beginning of 1974 after defeat away in Poland and a draw at home ensured non-qualification for the World Cup at which West Germany emulated England by winning at home. Leeds United’s Don Revie took his place after a revivifying caretaker spell by Joe Mecer but the wide pool of players at his disposal encouraged constant tinkering in selection and his running feud with the chairman of the FA, Lord Thompson, left him deflated and mutinous. There were signs of progress – and the adoption of a garish kit more suited to the age – but injuries to Gerry Francis and Colin Bell killed the momentum and he sent out a team to face Italy in a World Cup qualifier in November 1976 that was so unbalanced defeat was all but inevitable. That loss meant that making it to the 1978 tournament was out of their hands and Revie, fearing he would be sacked, pre-empted the FA and jumped ship to the UAE, a decision that continues to blacken his reputation. Ron Greenwood was chosen as his successor when the people wanted Brian Clough yet the former West Ham manager did guide them to Euro 80, where they drew with Belgium, lost to Italy and beat Spain while their fans rioted, and the 1982 World Cup even though repeated setbacks in qualification frequently suggested his resignation was imminent. His two best players, Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking, were injured at the start of the tournament and would not play until the fifth and final game against the hosts. They won their first three matches, getting off to a flier against France, but as Bryan Robson waned, so did their fortunes and they could only draw against European champions West Germany and against Spain to go home unbeaten. Keegan, twice the Ballon d’Or winner and certainly the best English player of his generation, managed only 26 minutes of World Cup football in his storied career and missed a header late on in his sole cameo that would have given his side hope. Keegan never played for England again. Bobby Robson, who left Ipswich to succeed Greenwood, did not pick him for his first squad and the former captain announced his retirement with abrupt finality. Robson struggled at first and was spat at by fans at Wembley after a defeat by the Soviet Union in 1984, the year he failed to qualify for the Euros won at home by France. The behaviour of the England crowd had been toxic for years. Not much violence at home, but they had been jeering the players since about 1968 and screeching their exasperation. Away, particularly Scotland, provided the playground for assorted neophytes, headbangers and racists to do their worst and a nadir was reached on a flight from Brazil after John Barnes’ majestically serpentine goal at the Maracana when one piggy-eyed member of the ‘master race’ proclaimed that the goal didn’t count because it hadn’t been scored by a white man. Nonetheless England’s performances on that tour of South America suggested Robson was building a coherent system even if it was over-reliant on Bryan Robson, the marauding Manchester United captain whose bravery all too often put him in harm’s way. Robson started the first game in Mexico against Portugal having seemingly recovered from a dislocated shoulder. What we didn’t know was that it had popped out again during the training camp and his selection became even more of a risk. They ended the match defeated and with boos ringing out and Robson had his tournament finished during the draw with Morocco when he fell awkwardly and dislocated it again. Ray Wilkins, his deputy, lost his cool and was sent off and England were in disarray. The absence of his two midfield stalwarts left Bobby Robson with no option but to pick Peter Reid to do Glenn Hoddle’s running, introduce Peter Beardsley and the changes liberated Gary Lineker who scored six goals in the next three matches and won the Golden Boot despite England, after a heartening resurgence, leaving at the quarter-final stage at the hand of Diego Maradona and by virtue of his divine second goal. The knowledge that they had been cheated for the first goal left them departing with a sense of grievance but also with their honour intact. Now the tabloid press reached its Nero phase when their journalists jobs became a caper we were all supposed to enjoy and people who should have known better jumped from an anti-Robson bandwagon to a pro-‘Our Boys’ one with indecent opportunism. And poor Robson managed to stay sane if not undamaged through it all. Three defeats at Euro 88 when Lineker was stricken with glandular fever and Holland revived Total Football with a dynamic, athletic twist, would have ended Robson’s time in the job he loved best but for the length of his contract and he composed himself and the team to qualify for Italia 90. Paul Gascoigne’s skill and charm introduced an affable battiness into the side and helped England reconnect with the supporters. Although a wonderfully assured performance with three at the back against Holland in their second group game was followed by a dispiritingly sterile 1-0 win over Egypt, the 119th-minute victory over Belgium in the Round of 16, secured by virtue of Gascoigne’s vision and David Platt’s balletic volley, and their tenacious fight-back from 2-1 down in the quarter-final against a mesmerisingly sinuous Cameroon attack revealed their skill and fortitude. Here was the proof that would inspire the key line of Three Lions, the plaintive yet defiant: “But I know they can play.” They may have been let down in the past by excessive caution or the 11th-hour loss of Gordon Banks or diddled by the Hand of God but each time had highly capable players and now, at last, they were showing it. They made it to the semi-final with the nation behind them, played very well against West Germany and equalised when Lineker cushioned Parker’s cross on his thigh to manoeuvre Thomas Berthold and Klaus Augenthaler out of his path and fire a left-foot shot past Bodo Illgner with 10 minutes to go. Gary Lineker during the 1986 World Cup group match against Paraguay in Mexico City. England won the match 3-0 The drama of extra-time, for the third England game in succession, was enhanced by West Germany laying siege for what seemed like a lifetime, Waddle’s superb shot that hit the inside of the post, Gascoigne’s deserved booking for fouling Berthold and subsequent tears that sealed a nation’s love. West Germany had won shootouts en route to the final at the past two World Cups while England were enduring their first. At 3-3, Robson’s ‘banker’ Stuart Pearce went hard and straight. Illgner saved it with his legs and, with a distraught Pearce on his haunches in the centre-circle, Olaf Thon scored West Germany’s fourth. Waddle walked up in fifth place, deputising for his room-mate Gascoigne. “I felt like I was stepping off the world into silence,” he said, deciding to blast it but overcome by anxiety and tiredness, he got his body shape wrong, leant back and fired it into orbit. England were out but again left after a gallant campaign and Robson, who had been called a traitor by the newspapers and told to PSV off by the Sun for agreeing to take over in Eindhoven after the tournament because the FA would not renew his contract, was never maligned again. Would that we could say the same for his successor, Graham Taylor who, in three years in charge, took England backwards. If Robson had been on the road to enlightenment when he left, Taylor, a decent, honest man but also patently out of his depth with the newspaper sharks swirling around him and about to turn him into a root vegetable, could not marry his club football strategies to the international game. He seemed to be no judge of international quality, made some extraordinary selections but was still unlucky after an insipid exit from Euro 92 won by, of all people, Denmark, to miss out on the 1994 World Cup because he was denied a fit Gascoigne for long periods, his own intransigence over Waddle and a glaring refereeing error during the defeat by Holland in Rotterdam. Perhaps no England manager had a tougher inheritance given what had just preceded his appointment, yet it is only fair to concede that he made a mess of it. Terry Venables, by contrast, was more assured and when the news reporters went for him over his conduct at Tottenham and his business dealings, he always had the football pack on his side. He knew what he wanted to do and applied everything he had learnt at Crystal Palace, QPR, Barcelona and Spurs to fashion a 3-5-2 system that was similar to Robson’s but bolder in that he used wingers instead of full-backs in the wide roles. He was fortunate too in that he did not have to qualify for the next tournament, Euro 96 in England, and, after some boozy indiscretions on tour before their first game, they made the country fall in love with them again after half-time in their second fixture against Scotland when it all came together with Gascoigne, rejuvenated, Alan Shearer, devastatingly predatory, Paul Ince tireless, and Teddy Sheringham imaginatively creative. The country was festooned with cross of St George flags for the first time, Three Lions was adopted as an anthem and England made it through to the semi-finals after a commanding victory over Holland and a scrappy but unforgettable penalty shootout win against Spain featuring redemption for Pearce and a cry that could be heard in Turin. Once more they faced Germany and, as they had six years earlier, they played with poise and enterprise but couldn’t crack the eventual winners. At the end of 120 minutes and five successful penalties each, it was England that cracked, Gareth Southgate rolling his too close to Andreas Kopke. Venables left to spend more time with his solicitors and Glenn Hoddle took over a team that had the nation dancing to its tune and was seemingly on an upward trajectory after emerging from the dark ages. ‘So many jokes, so many sneers’ For the next 20 years England were mired in confusion and capriciousness. The Premier League, a breakaway from the Football League given the fig-leaf of FA sanction, made the English game plutocratically wealthy but the snake swallowed the pig, the club game devouring the FA’s intention that the whole point of secession was to put the national side at the apex of the sport. The clubs produced some sensationally talented players – Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole among many more – but the FA zigzagged from appointing a coaching virtuoso with some strange views in Hoddle, to the arch-motivator in Keegan, Sven Goran-Eriksson, the progressive pragmatist, to his No2, chalkboard guru Steve McClaren, and from him to the best coach money could buy, Fabio Capello, to Roy Hodgson, supposedly a veteran sage, and finally Sam Allardyce for a Lady Jane Grey reign. During that time England were well-supported at each tournament to which they went, losing on penalties at the last 16 stage to Argentina at France 98 which was won by the hosts, finally beating Germany in a competitive match at Euro 2000 in an otherwise terrible display, winning 5-1 in Munich under Eriksson when Owen had the world at his feet, doing well at the 2002 World Cup until overwhelmed by caution in the second-half of the quarter-final against eventual winners Brazil and, with Rooney rampant at Euro 2004, looking unstoppable until he was hit by the curse of the metatarsal that had already hobbled Beckham at the previous tournament and would do for Rooney again weeks before the next. At the 2006 World Cup they holed up in Baden-Baden where the divergence between their living standards and the people who followed them was never more naked and it was exploited first by some newspapers for prurient kicks and then as a tool of castigation when they were knocked out for the second tournament running by Portugal on penalties. Italy won it and England, beset by injuries and timidity, got as far as they deserved as was also the case under McClaren who failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and spent much of his time in the job with the crowd on his back, alarmed and angry at the incohesion and reticence of talented players. Capello came in and banned ketchup, brought the iron rod but couldn’t get a tune out of the same group of players and walked out on the eve of Euro 2012. His bored side had been eliminated at the last 16 stage at the 2010 World Cup when a youthful Germany left England looking like carthorses and their fans grateful that they didn’t have to witness them being filleted by Spain. The Italian tried to bring Scholes back into the fold but could not persuade England’s best midfielder to end six years of exile he felt forced into because Eriksson, even with his exorbitant salary, would not take on the responsibility of picking a balanced team if it meant leaving out either Gerrard or Lampard, or getting them to work in a diamond. Beckham did come back as a kind of elder statesman, now universally popular after a topsy-turvy relationship with the crowd and media which took him from pariah for his red card in 1998 to messiah with his goals against Greece and Argentina and back to earth in Germany. The one bright light remained Rooney who carried the attack between tournaments and succumbed to the general malaise during them. Longevity and dedication made him the most-capped outfield player and the highest scorer but he was banned for the start of Euro 2012 and could not drag England past Italy in the quarter-final, which they lost on penalties, or the opening match of the 2014 World Cup. Hodgson was paid almost as much as Capello and fared worse, going out at the group stage in Brazil when furious fans were strung along with the old line about building for the future even though it was plain to see that an inability to defend hardly boded well. Indeed they were knocked out by Iceland at Euro 2016 in the second round. He spent spells of the three tournaments pinching his face and left at the end of the last one with the national team flirting as much with irrelevance as embarrassment. "We’re a team, with our diversity and our youth, that represents modern England. In England, we have spent a bit of time being a bit lost as to what our modern identity is. I think we represent that modern identity and hopefully, people can connect with us." Gareth Southgate, 2018 ‘It’s coming home’ In only 21 months Gareth Southgate has changed all that, regenerating a bond between the team and its public in a way that only success in tournament football can achieve. Even last November, while paper aeroplanes were being thrown at Wembley during a friendly, and the usual charmless berks were littering Twitter with complaints about international breaks and railing about the lack of Premier League football, the current levels of elation and pride would have seemed preposterous. Yet Southgate, the first FA insider to be given the job since Winterbottom, has been an integral part of building the structure that fostered the recent renaissance of national age-group teams – England won the Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups in 2017 – applied the principles he had picked up as a coach working in player development and blended them with his own experiences as an international under Venables, Hoddle, Keegan and Eriksson. Honesty and humility were paramount as well as presenting an open face to the world and as his young team rallied to beat Tunisia, marmalised Panama, withstood Colombia and flattened them in their first shoot-out victory for 22 years, the country fell for their character and integrity. As everything around us seems threatened by spitefulness, pusillanimity and chaos, they became a beacon not a distraction. The target before Russia 2018 was a place in the quarter-finals and England’s inexperienced squad, for once, over-achieved and made it to the semis for only the third time since 1950 by exploiting a kind draw with their panache, efficiency and determination. Croatia, a team with two of the best midfielders in the world, and relentless, streetwise forward runners, proved too savvy at this early stage but England created enough chances to impress upon everyone that this is only the beginning. The first steps on the long road have been taken. It will take a little longer than many hoped, but football is coming home. England's amazing World Cup: the best pics Registration wall CSS More World Cup 2018 01 Aug 2018,10:30pm Gareth Southgate to be offered new England deal beyond 2020 'to build a dynasty' 01 Aug 2018,5:00pm England moves step closer to hosting 2030 World Cup but distances itself from 2022 if Qatar stripped 24 Jul 2018,10:30pm Adam Lallana opens up on World Cup heartache: 'The lads had a massive tournament but I still have lots to give' 24 Jul 2018,3:35pm England manager Gareth Southgate nominated for Fifa coach of the year award
Three Lions pride: how football (very nearly) came home for England
How football (very nearly) came home By Rob Bagchi 3 AUGUST 2018 • 6:49 PM BST England's 2018 World Cup campaign was one of dizzying highs with an ultimately familiar low as its conclusion. Something, though, has shifted. Despite the disappointment of semi-final defeat to Croatia, there is a sense that some deep psychological scars are beginning to fade. “Football’s coming home” has been the rallying cry, and while the final destination will have to wait for now the route looks clearer than it has for years. This is the story of English football’s long and frequently arduous journey. ‘I know that was then…’ Eventually ‘the darkest day’ for the England football team would become so fru