Friday, 2 July 2010

England Lose World Cup...Again

So England exits yet another World Cup at the hands of the Germans and on the back of the poorest showing since 1958. I can’t see us winning a major tournament ever again. But it wasn’t always like this.


When I was at junior school a lifetime ago, I was already a convert to our national sport, football, or soccer as the Yanks insist on calling it (correctly, I might add) and played it every spare minute of every day, but nothing had prepared me for the sort of playground politics that come with being a fan.

‘So what team do you support then?’ was the question that threw me, as giving the wrong answer could be fatal and the truth was, I didn’t support anyone. Luckily, the following Saturday saw the staging of the 1963 FA Cup Final when Manchester United stuffed Leicester City 3-1. I’d actually heard of Man U and as they were clearly winners, they would do for me. Thus it came to pass that a home counties boy who’d never travelled north past Luton let alone to the far north-west of the country became a Man U supporter for no other reason that they were there and I’ve followed them ever since.

So by 1966 when I would sit goggle eyed in front of our flickering black & white TV watching the World Cup games, it was United’s Bobby Charlton and Nobby Styles that I cheered on (in lieu of my true hero at United, Dennis Law, but he was Scottish). One of my fondest memories is Bobby’s thunderbolt goal against Mexico in the Group stage, a goal that still looks amazing today. Just have a look at that mazy run and catapult shot that bulges the net before the goalkeeper has time to reach it.



There was much comment at the time about Alf Ramsey’s assertion that Martin Peters was a player ten years ahead of his time. Actually if he had truly been ten years ahead of his time, he would’ve sported long greasy hair and wide lapels, but we’ll let that pass. In truth, Alf had picked the wrong man. Hindsight shows that it was Nobby Styles that was genuinely ahead of his time by his relentless harassing of the opposition and his willingness to stick the boot in. Watching those games from the 1960s, it is obvious that players had slightly more time and space to play. These days, the opposition close you down relentlessly, but not so then – except for Nobby who gained a reputation for doing just that with terrier-like tenacity.

Alf’s theory about Peters was that he had the ability to ‘ghost’ into shooting positions so late that he was never picked up – a trait that few possessed. But actually Geoff Hurst could do that as well, as his goal against Argentina in the bad-tempered quarter-final shows. This is actually my goal of the ’66 tournament and a memory that will never fade. It made me gasp at the time and still looks good today. The skill with which, Hurst glides in at the near post, unmarked, and just lets the ball skim over his head with enough purchase to guide it into the far corner of the goal is just awe-inspiring. Such delicacy in what was an ugly and spiteful game.

10 comments:

Charlie said...

At least you guys know what the World Cup is! America is great a lot of stuff but soccer (football) is not one of them.

Kit Courteney said...

Shame on you.

That's all I'm saying.

Shame!

:0P

musicobsessive said...

Charlie - you still managed a draw with us though Ha! Oh, well, at least we're beating the Aussies at cricket...for the time being anyway.

Kit - I'm at a bit of a loss here. What in particular should I be ashamed of? Being a Man U supporter? Liking Dennis Law? Realising that England are never going to win anything ever again? Oh well, looks like there's no hope for me...

Perplexio said...

Since my wife & father-in-law are both British and my mother-in-law is Kiwi I've actually watched a few World Cup games back in 2006 and again this year. The US team has really improved from their showing in '06 and I forsee them being quite the force to be reckoned with in '14. Youth league soccer here in the states has exploded in popularity over the past 10-15 years. So I do see Americans eventually taking a considerable interest in the World Cup... We're just not quite there yet.

My wife & I rented the movie Damned United a few weeks back. Michael Sheen did a brilliant job as Brian Clough... My father-in-law mentioned he believes Clough is one of the best coaches that England ever had and its a shame that he never had the opportunity to coach a team in the World Cup. Not being familiar enough with the sport or with Clough I can neither agree nor disagree.

musicobsessive said...

Hi Perplexio - Brian Clough was the England manager who never was. An inspirational, if eccentric, coach who took a small club like Nottingham Forest and made them European champions. He was overlooked for the England job for being too a-political and outspoken. The men-in-suits couldn't trust him to say the right things in front of the media and he would've rubbed them up the wrong way. A shame - he would've made a brilliant England Manager - an opinion held by all his peers.

Perplexio said...

If you haven't seen Damned United yet I highly recommend it.

YourZ said...

I was going to say the same thing as Charlie! Australia has yet to even get close to a World Cup. I would love to see them at least get into the finals. You and I do know a good football team, though - Man U all the way!

As for the cricket, well you know the only reason you're winning is because our boys are staying up late to watch football.

musicobsessive said...

YourZ - I seem to remember warning you about the Germans some time back. Didn't do either of us any good huh? Back to Man U for the both of us.

As to the cricket - at least we might give you a game or two later this year - unlike the last time we ventured down under. Should be a competitive series, I hope.

Perplexio said...

Just a heads up, in case you're interested... I've started a message board for the discussion of music. It's a bit more laidback/relaxed than a blog it's more for discussion than dissemination of information.

musicobsessive said...

Thanks Perplexio - looks interesting and a good source of inspiration for blog posts!