Please don’t look at this series of blog posts and just think “I don’t like football” and then go on your merry way. All of these blog posts are about much more than football. In particular they concern the eternal battle between sporting genius and cream cakes.
In the last post, I said that there was one football match that I wish I had seen. It took place just a few months after I was born. It was England v Hungary, played on a cold, dull, misty afternoon on November 25th 1953 at Wembley. This game would later be called the “Game of the Century”
Kick off was at 2.15 pm because there were no floodlights. Hungary were the greatest team the world had ever known. They were Olympic champions, undefeated since 1950:
A good ten years ago I bought the programme for “Goal of the Century” on ebay. I paid more for it than I cared to communicate to my wife, but the big thing was that it contained three autographs. Of that more later. Here is the front cover:
The back cover showed, perhaps, the suggestion of a possible contributory factor to England’s problems:
The programme did everything possible to welcome the Hungarians. There was a pronunciation guide:
And news of an exhibition about Hungary:
There was a nice bit of “whistling in the dark”. A list of recent results against those pesky foreigners:
A couple too many draws, perhaps, but we had beaten both Belgium and Argentina. But had we played too few home games against foreign opposition ? Just five in eight years.
The programme had adverts for other games at Wembley but they were very inward looking. Firstly, the Varsity match:
And then, the next best thing to the biggest England game of the season:
Next time, we’ll look at the players and the timetable for the day’s events.
16 responses to “Look at that fat bloke, Stan (2)”
Love the list of goal scorers, even a Leicester City player in there!
Billy Wright just does not look like an athlete, looks as though he is going to work on a building site with his sleeves rolled up like that. I wouldn’t want him to tackle me that’s for sure. I used to like him on ITV World of Sport – pre Saint and Greavsie. I read that he was once the most famous footballer in England especially after he married one of the Beverley Sisters – the original Posh and Becks.
As famous as Dennis Compton with his Brylceemed hair!
Footballers and beer, I won’t mention poor George Best (I went to see him once giving an after dinner speech – pissed out of his head) but do you remember that TV advert with Bobby Moore and Martin Peters (about 1967) about going down to the local? Rather like Maradona snorting cocaine!
Thanks John, I am being sucked into a whirlpool of nostalgia.
Yes, I do remember that advert. It came from a different era. In 1966, for example, members of the England 1966 World Cup team could walk the streets around the stadium in complete safety. Billy Wright was a really nice man as far as I can see. And in his defence, not many defenders in the world could catch Puskas, as his goalscoring record shows.
Why are the Hungarians, (Poles and German’s), so good at football? – probably stupid question of the day. Thanks for another informative post John.
All three countries have had their decade of brilliance. For Hungary, the 1950s, for Poland the 1970s. Apart from that, they have not done a great deal. Germany is an exception. From 1970 on, they have not relented and have always been the best in the world or close to it. Their clubs are very well organised, they have lots of Germans playing in their top league and above all, their coaches have to be very highly qualified to be allowed to coach their top teams.
Thanks John. That certainly answers my question.
John, are you saying that having a lot of foreigner players in club sides means that local players don’t get to develop properly?
REPLY TO PAOL
Absolutely, yes. In our soccer Premier League only around 20% of players are English and that is reflected in our poor showing in international competitions. It is starting to be the same with France, Germany and Spain but so far, they have a lot more native born players to pick from than we do.
I would read Simon Barnes on whatever sport he chose to write about, for the very reasons you advocate not skipping your blog.
Absolutely. A top author like Simon Barnes will always be able to turn a sports story into one about human endeavour or even human wrong doing. Years ago, my favourite was Hugh McIlvanney whose work is still available at very low price on the Internet.
Some famous faces there, that takes me back!
Beware though, the “whirlpool of nostalgia” (see above). Next thing is you’ll be trying to identify the airliners you used to see Billy Wright and his colleagues getting onto on their way to more disappointments!
Oh dear – now you’ve sewn the seed!
This all happened before my time yet another fascinating stroll down history lane. Thank you, John. I’ll pretend I understood what all you said. Sorry but I don’t follow football. (shhhhhhh!) LOL
Hopefully, it doesn’t matter that you don’t follow football. I have tried to understand both baseball and American Football but I failed miserably. I’m afraid that the only thing that attracted me about the two sports was the event as a visual spectacle.
Regarding the quality of football in eastern Europe I believe some of it was due to British football coaches – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Hogan
Just a shame the best ones went abroad.
You’re right there. I’d forgotten all about the English football coaches in the pre and post war era who went all over Europe, having failed to find employment here. I think the problem lay with the fact that these coaches didn’t come back to a country which was happy to be insular and to feel superior with little real reason to.
I just don’t know if these coaches who went abroad did not return because they didn’t want to, or because they were turned down for jobs with English clubs.
It was a waste of talent, whatever the reason.