It’s my somewhat unfashionable opinion that England had the makings of a truly wonderful side in the ’70s – if they’d wanted to have one enough. (And that’s not necessarily a pejorative statement, by the way). Consider the following, all of whom would have been 30 or under in 1978 (Osgood would have been 31):
- Stan Bowles, 5 caps
- Tony Currie, 17 caps
- Charlie George, 1 cap (subst. famously at half-time)
- Rodney Marsh, 9 caps
- Alan Hudson, 2 caps
- Duncan Mackenzie, 0 caps
- Peter Osgood, 4 caps
- Bob Latchford, 12 caps
- Frank Worthington, 8 caps
“Lifestyle” is the word in the background here, but even so, this is bordering on the ridiculous, isn’t it? Take Hudson’s 2 caps – on his debut, he destroyed West Germany and we won 2-0. You can’t do that kind of thing twice, and we only won 5-0 in his second game against Cyprus, so of course, he had to be dropped thereafter.
There won’t have been any consistent reason for the exclusion of such spectacular footballers from the national side – I expect it was a matter of expediency, match by match, rather than any deliberate policy. But 1974, 1978, came and went, and you can’t go back to change things after it’s all over.
There’s a bitter-sweet picture in my head of Clough leading England out for the 1974 World Cup Final with a team composed of many of these players. Clough wasn’t considered as a successor to Ramsey, something that bewilders me (he was turned down, famously, in 1977 after Revie’s undignified departure). Fantasy, of course. But add to that the success of British sides (Rangers and Celtic too of course) in European club competition, and were would have been the national footballing inferiority complex we’re still trying to overcome today?