Clive Hayward – @Byehorse
SEVERAL DECADES OF HURT- MY SUMMER FOOTBALL AUTOBIOGRAPHY
With the Euros getting underway, I’m taking a glance back over my memories of past World Cups & European Championships. This is highly subjective and will focus mainly on the ups and downs of watching England. This segment sees me through from infancy to adulthood.
Increasingly- particularly on here- I am embracing the role of a grumpy old git. In fact, having been born in 1968, I often feel that I arrived too late. Having been, respectively, a glint in my father’s eye and a toddler for the fabled campaigns of 1966 and 1970, my first real memory of a tournament was the World Cup in 1974. England did not feature and it was in fact six long years after that before England managed to qualify for anything.
In 1974 a united Germany seemed as distant then as the next Labour government does now. This tournament was held in the affluent Western part of the Reich, and I remember it chiefly as the first time I realised what “goal difference” was. Scotland had a very handy side, but their fate was sealed because they only managed to score 2 goals against the plucky no hopers from Zaire. Scotland were unlucky enough to have been drawn with Brazil and another country which no longer exists: Yugoslavia. They drew both their games with the big boys but their modest performance against the minnows meant they very unluckily failed to progress. I couldn’t work out why my Dad and our neighbour Charlie were so pleased about it. Something about “that bastard Bremner”. West Germany were probably the best team in the mix despite having been surprised by East Germany, who beat them 1-0 in a group match. They were the Teutonic Roundheads to Holland’s “Total Football” Cavaliers. These two met in the final. I remember surprisingly large parts of that game, which will chiefly be remembered for our very own Jack Taylor giving Holland a penalty in the first minute. West Germany were having none of it, however, quickly easing into a 2-1 lead and becoming the first team to lift that beautiful golden, turkey thigh-bone shaped trophy. For some reason, I had developed early predictive skills (they didn’t last) and was delighted to win a 5 pence bet with my Dad.
This wasn’t the last we’d heard of Yugoslavia, a country that many outsiders admired but which was largely hated by its own people. This was a funny one. The Euros were not, at this stage, anything like the jamboree they are today. It was still a pretty low key tournament. Definite Carabao Cup vibes, with qualifiers leading to a 4 team finals in the Balkans. England hadn’t troubled the scorers, and the finalists were West Germany, Holland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia (who had had to qualify: no free place for the hosts). It literally lasted less than a week. There were two semi-finals, and a third place playoff which only attracted a crowd of 6766 in Zagreb, where Holland gained scant consolation for losing to Czechoslovakia by beating the hosts 3-2. This left West Germany and the Czechs to contest the final, which was a mini classic. West Germany battled back from 2 down to 2-2 at 90 minutes so for the first time I experienced extra time and then the gloriously exotic concept of a penalty shoot-out. A certain Mr Panenka ensured immortality when taking a dinked penalty which now bears his name. Thus did Czechoslovakia win a trophy before the country went the way of Yugoslavia in the European upheavals of the 1990s.
Now this was more like it! Argentina hosted the 11th World Cup and as a 10 year old I was all over it. No England again, of course, but Ally MacLeod’s Scotland had qualified again. They still had some fine players including Torquay Utd’s very own Bruce Rioch and Ally reckoned they were favourites to win it. By now, I had started to understand the concept of schadenfreude, and I celebrated with my Dad as they succumbed to a very average Peru and then failed to beat Torquay Utd’s very own Iran (Frank O’Farrell had recently finished a successful spell in charge of the Teheran tearaways). During the tournament I learned about time zones, about free kicks travelling faster at altitude (there were several 35 yard screamers) and that there was a country called Tunisia. Argentina took full advantage of the backing of a military dictatorship, some interesting refereeing and very compliant Peruvian defending to progress to the final, where they played everyone’s second favourite team of Holland. The Orange fought like lions but finally succumbed to 2 extra time goals as Mario Kempes picked his way through half a tonne of litter to send the home fans crazy in a deserved 3-1 win.
What a disappointment this was. I have no memory of England’s qualification campaign but it must have been successful because for the first time in my consciousness they managed to get on the plane for a “two-groups of 4” shebang. It swiftly ended in tears though, because after a decade of hooliganism at home we exported it to Turin. In that first game we disgraced ourselves off the pitch in a 1-1 draw with Belgium watched by a paltry crowd of 15,000. Defeat to always-strong Italy in the next match saw England knocked out before the postcards arrived home and a consolation win against no-hopers Spain(!) led to no celebrations whatsoever. I lost interest quickly, bearing registering that West Germany picked off an over-achieving Belgium on the final.
This was a proper extravaganza down in sunny Spain. Brazil were a brilliant side (Socrates, Zico), an unknown Italian football betting enthusiast by the name of Paolo Rossi couldn’t stop scoring goals and we really got our money’s worth from England, Scotland and the mighty Northern Ireland. Entertainingly, Scotland messed it up again. Despite taking the lead with a belting free kick against Brazil they went down 4-1 and made a hash of their crucial game against the USSR. Northern Ireland had the times of their lives, throwing off the disappointment of draws against Honduras and dear old Yugoslavia with a famous 1-0 win with 10 men against hosts Spain in Valencia. Norn Irn disappeared in the somewhat mystifying next stage of the tournament. This was England’s fate too. Let me try to explain.
England were on their way. They were Ron’s 22. Featuring the mighty Bryan Robson, we absolutely dominated our group. We started with a teatime kick-off in Bilbao against France. We brushed them aside, big Bryan getting on the end of a flicked-on throw after just 27 seconds to put us on the road to a 3-1 win. Czechoslovakia and Kuwait were beaten comfortably too and we really felt that good things were happening. The next stage really was perplexing though. In their wisdom, FIFA didn’t want too much knock out football, preferring to put teams into mini leagues of 3, with the winners progressing to the semi-final. Our opponents would be West Germany and an underwhelming Spain. We badly missed the injured Kevin Keegan but did really well to hold the best team in the world to a 0-0 draw. Disaster soon struck though. West Germany dispatched Franco’s favourites so we needed to better that 2-1 score-line to progress. With nothing realistically to play for Spain were there for the taking, but we huffed and puffed and never really looked like scoring. Keegan hobbled off the bench to miss a late sitter and we had to go home. It felt very unfair at the time: three wins, two draws and cheerio England. The consolation was that Italy- having knocked out Brazil in a classic- surprised the Bosch in the final, which I watched at a mate’s house. John Motson was able to scream “Marco Tardelli” at full volume as the Azzurri bagged their third World Cup.
A very good, Michel Platini-inspired France won their home tournament. England didn’t feature, having lost at home to fast-improving Denmark in the qualifiers. I have little to report from this summer, having been concentrating on paper rounds and O Levels. From memory, I don’t think the semi finals were even televised in the UK and I vaguely remember pretentiously trying to listen to French radio commentary of their win against Portugal.
Another decent effort from England, and another hard luck story. I was, by now, a grown up. Apparently. I had got myself a job at Presto and discovered alcohol. The World Cup was held in Mexico, a great venue and probably better than the original hosting country of Columbia. Dear old Bobby Robson led a very decent England squad featuring the likes of Shilton & Butcher, Waddle & Barnes, Beardsley & Lineker. Typically I would finish work, pick up a four pack of Kestrel Lager with some dry roasted nuts and hop on the number 2 Bayline home for a late evening kick-off.
England started poorly, losing to Portugal and then drawing with Morocco in a match famous for Ray Wilkins’ hilarious sending off. The pressure was right on for the final group match against eternal rivals Poland. No sweat. The fabulous Lineker smacked in a first half hat trick in a comfortable win. Proper knock out football ensued (thank goodness) and we were good enough to put 3 past Paraguay in the last 16, Peter Beardsley being particularly impressive.
You all know what happened next: the Hand of God game against a cocaine and Falklands-fuelled Argentina. Maradona was the best player in the world at that time and swept all before him as he virtually won the Copa Mundial on his own. Fair play to the boy, his second goal was wondrous, and he repeated it in the semi against Belgium. You still wonder what might have been though. In the last 20 minutes we really got at them down the left hand side, leading to a Lineker goal and he was so close to a carbon-copy equaliser. Bollocks!!!