Because England have only the one World Cup to their name, there’s a tendency to exaggerate how far behind the best we’ve been since the end of the Second World War. It’s exaggerated because England’s greatest sides have always peaked in between tournaments – the 46-49 side being the principal victims.
But sometimes far worse things than bad timing have placed a truly world-class England side in obscurity. Look at these statistics from the second half of the 1950s.
England results between their 4-2 defeat by Uruguay at the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, and defeat to Yugoslavia in May 1958:
Won: 20 Drawn: 4 Lost: 4
England results between May 1958 and May 1960:
Won: 4 Drawn: 10 Lost: 7
On 6 February 1958, Manchester United’s aircraft bringing them home from Yugoslavia crashed at Munich Airport, killing – amongst many others – England back Roger Byrne, England midfielder Duncan Edwards and England centre forward Tommy Taylor.
So much is said about the Busby Babes that this side of the accident is lost. In essence, the the heart was torn out of one of the most successful England sides of modern times. Manchester United took five years to recover. England had to await the emergence of Jimmy Greaves.. star of another mispeaking England side.