Scotland’s National Team: Eleven Impossible Jobs, Plus Substitutes

The first thing Capello said on becoming England manager was that when an Englishman pulled on his international shirt, he lost all the confidence he felt at his club: he played in fear. The task for Capello was to create the conditions for confidence that already existed at Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool. And in…

Did Fan Violence Kill That Word Soccer?

Further to Gabriele Marcotti’s article on why “soccer” is not an Americanism, (thankyou Ross for the link, btw) I’ve noticed something really quite interesting about the way the word has been used by the heavy press. Take this clipping from the Daily Telegraph (24th February 1978): (contra that heading, it is the Telegraph). Calmly and…

Alf Ramsey Picks The Team: Budgie’s 1964

The mid-sixties brought a gentlemen’s agreement: Liverpool would do the music, and London would do the football. It might have happened earlier. Most capital cities dominated the football in their respective countries, and London had only missed out because we’d invented the game, and invented it north of Watford Gap. But by 1964, the English…

Alf Ramsey Picks The Team: 1963

By 1963, England’s top players would have been well used to foreign travel. They were familiar with the routine and experience of flying, so Ramsey’s first fixture shouldn’t have posed a problem just because it was an away friendly. But it was an away friendly in Paris, that most unfriendly and unEnglish of cities. It…

Alf Ramsey Picks The Team: Prologue

He wasn’t first choice: that was Jimmy Adamson of Burnley. And when the job offer did come, he didn’t agree straightaway. Alf Ramsey had enough about him to negotiate, and, courtesy of those elocution lessons he always denied, the voice to do it with. In 1962, these words were not blindingly obvious: I think an…

The Friendly Clubs: Ipswich Town

There was a period in the early 1980s when the great clubs of England’s industrial cities gave way to smaller clubs from quieter places. Southampton, Ipswich, Norwich, Watford and Luton all had their great days between Clough’s first European Cup and the end of the Falklands Conflict. To this south-eastern boy, they were¬† home teams,…

Why Did British Football Cease To Innovate?

What British football had become by 1905, the world game reflects now. League systems, knock-out cups, international matches, the basic rules, professionalism, the nature of the football club, football administration – they’re all British inventions dating from a hectic 42 year period beginning in 1863 with the formation of the Football Association. But in the…

Statistics Telling a Sad Story

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…