We’re in Ron’s 22

1982 – Spain
Any English football fan over the age of 35 should  be able to sing the first few lines of the classic This Time.  One of the most underestimated football songs of all time, made all the better for seeing the England squad in the recording studio adding their voices resplendent in their red and blue jumpers.  As a 12 year old I rushed out and bought the album was a double gatefold with limited edition printed signature sheet as well as the picture disc 7-inch single which was the 7th best selling single in May 1982 (interestingly enough one place higher than the Scottish effort).

This Time, we’ll get it right sang the squad along with such classics as England, we’ll fly the flag (essentially a reworked ad for British Airways) , Bulldog Bobby (by Mike Reid of Eastenders fame), Head over heels by Kevin Keegan and a boring monologue about the road to Spain.  I’d like to think that my purchase of such an heirloom helped enormously in the album getting to number 37 in the charts – well after all it was only competing against Dare by the Human League, Rio by Duran Duran and Complete Madness.

This was the first World Cup England had successfully qualified for in 20 years.  Since 1962 they had been hosts in 66 and qualified as world champions four years later.  Under Ron Greenwood and despite the talents of Keegan, Trevor Brooking, Glenn Hoddle and a young Bryan Robson the team had struggled in qualifying, losing away to Romania, Switzerland and most embarrassingly to minnows Norway (prompting the infamous speech by the Norwegian commentator which can be heard here).  We did manage a win away to group favourites Hungary, where Sir Trev’s shot will always be lodged in that stantion.  So it came down to the final set of games.  This was in the olden days when nobody ever thought games could be thrown for betting purposes.  England were outsiders to qualify.  They had to hope that Romania and Switzerland drew, and then England beat the already qualified Hungarians a week later. And that is what happened.  Crowded round a small colour portable TV in my brothers room we saw Paul Mariner score early on to send us to Spain.

But we wouldn’t be alone.  Scotland had qualified for their third consecutive competition, alongside Northern Ireland who had come through a tricky qualifying group with Portugal and Sweden.  The Scots, never shy at boasting on vinyl recorded “We have a Dream”, again featuring the whole squad and the singing talents of that gingerheaded bloke from Gregorys Girl and Don Estelle from It Aint Half Hot Mum fame.  The Irish also got in on the act, teaming up with Dana to record “Yer Man”, which did not chart nor does there seem to be any record of in existence.

So June soon rolled round.  I was in my last year at our local Comp school before I headed off to the refinement of a Grammar School, which meant I could run home in approximately 7 minutes 23 seconds.  The tournament had been expanded to 24 teams meaning more World Cup virgins such as Honduras, Algeria, New Zealand, Cameroon and Kuwait.  All would play some part in the drama as the tournament kicked off on Sunday 13th June in the Camp Nou with defending champions Argentina, including a young Diego Maradona losing 1-0 to Belgium.

The next few days brought high drama.  Hungary, so impressive in qualifying scored 10 against Honduras including a 9 minute hatrick by Kiss.  Brazil, with possibly the most exciting team ever to grace the World Cup came from behind to beat Russia 2-1 with two stunning goals from bearded captain (and more recently Garforth Town player) Socrates, and the mercurial midfielder Eder.  The Scots also started well – in fact their win was the first (and only) time they had started a World Cup tournament with a win – when they beat New Zealand 5-2 in Malaga.

So Wednesday 16th June came around and England’s first game. I was less than 6 months old when England last played in the World Cup so this was a monumental occasion for me.  I had got Mum to iron my kit (great idea considering it was polyester) and it was laid out as if I was a member of the squad on my bed ready for the kick off at 4.15pm. I finished school at 4pm meaning I had 15 minutes to run home.  Great idea in principal but with every other 10 to 16 year old having the same idea and with a narrow tunnel under the railway to negotiate a bottleneck soon formed.  These were the days of political incorrectness and complete disregard for safety.  So what did we do if we couldn’t go under the railway line?  We went across it.  A well positioned plank carried us safely over the electric rail and we were across.  I ran down our road just as the teams were lining up – everyone had their curtains open and houses were decorated in the red, white and blue of England (at some point between 1982 and 1986 the blue simply disappeared).

Twenty seconds to go – not quite in time for kick off but never the less I wouldn’t miss a kick.  I crashed through the door (after all, who locked their front door in those days) and my brother laughed at my timing as England were 1-0 up.  Rubbish I said (I literally did as words like F#ck off and B#llocks hadn’t been invented by the Not The Nine o’Clock News team year) but he was right.  I had missed our big moment.  Fourteen seconds into the game Bryan “Bubbles” Robson (not to confuse him with Bryan “Pop” Robson) had volleyed England ahead.  A 3-1 victory in the end was a good result against an impressive Platini-inspired French team.  Looking back today at the side that beat France 10 of the starting 11 went onto be managers.  Hard to see that happening today somehow.

So what about the rest of the tournament?  Well in true TBIR style, here are our 10 highlights of the tournament that haven’t been erased from the brain by alcohol.

1. The Kuwait invasion – France are leading 3-1 in the group game versus Kuwait when Alain Giresse scores a fourth.  Despite appearing as if they can’t be arsed anymore, the Kuwaitees have stopped as they heard a whistle in the crowd.  Granted Valladolid is hardly the most lively of places but it would still be hard to have made out the whistle in the noise of the crowd.  The referee awards the goal.  Then from the VIP section came part of the Kuwaitee delegation, complete with headscarf and brother of the head of the Kuwait FA to complain to the referee.  Obviously showing him his gold bar in his pocket the referee disallows the goal.  The French contemplate walking off themselves but then striking would not be in their nature! They went on to score again to win 4-1.

2. West Germany 1 Algeria 2 – 16 June 1982 is a dark day in the history of German football as one of the biggest shocks in the World Cup occurred in the sunshine of Gijon.  However, what transpired a week or so later was even worse.  Again due to FIFA deciding not to schedule the deciding games at the same time Algeria’s 3-2 win over Chile meant that Germany and Austria could both progress the following day with the right result against each other, namely a West German win.  And lo and behold the game started with some urgency until Hrubesch scored in the 10th minute.  For the remaining 80 minutes the two teams passed the ball around without any attacking intend much to the disgust of the crowd.  Jonathan Pierce would have been in a fury if he was there.

3. Gerry Armstrong – Nobody expected Northern Ireland to progress in a group featuring the Spanish and the dangerous Yugoslavians.  Going into the last game versus Spain it looked odds on that Northern Ireland would be heading home with just two points.  Half time and no goals further backed this up and then Billy Hamilton received the ball wide, ran at the defence, put in a great cross that inexplicably Luis Arconada decided to dive and try and push clear.  This fell to Gerry Armstrong on the penalty spot and he smashed the ball home.  Despite the ridiculous sending off of Mal Donaghy on the hour mark the Irish held on to claim a famous victory and progress to the second round.

4. David Narey – Is there a finer moment in Scottish footballing history than 8.33pm on Friday 18 June 1982?  A long ball up to the Scottish forward line and a nice nod down by John Wark into the path of midfielder Narey who takes one touch before smashing the ball into the top corner of the net.  Into the Brazilian net with the outside of his boot.  No matter how many times we tried to recreate this in the playground we failed.  The goal of the tournament and the high point of their World Cup.

5. Alan Hansen and Willie Miller – So if the above is the high point in Scottish history then 9.33pm four days later must go down as a low point.  Needing to win to progress against the Russians and the scores balanced at 1-1, Hansen and Miller collide going for the same ball on the half way line allowing the Russians a free run on goal.  Faced only by Alan Rough in goal, Ramaz Shengelia gets down on all fours and nudges the ball along the ground with his nose to put the Scots out.

6. The Group of Death – As 24 teams doesn’t really lend itself to an easy tournament format FIFA decided to introduce a second round of 4 groups of 3 teams, with the winners of each group going into the semi-final.  The groups were drawn randomly and two of them contained the top six seeds in the tournament, notably Italy, Brazil and Argentina, then England, Spain and West Germany – nice!  In the first game in the former group the Italian cynical defensive machine of Gentile and Scirea stopped by fair means and foul and Maradona influenced creativity in the Italians 2-1 win in Barcelona.  Three days later with Brazil the opponents, Argentina knew they needed to win to stay in the tournament.  The words “pressure” and “Argentina” are not happy bed fellows and Brazil triumphed 3-1 with Maradona reduced to kicking the Brazilians until he was sent off in the final few minutes.

So that set up the decider – Brazil, the favourites versus Italy the dull defensive challengers.  The result – the game of the tournament as Italy twice led through Paolo Rossi before Brazil equalised, the second time through Falcão who then celebrated in vein popping elation.  But that man Rossi, just back after a ban from football for his part in a match fixing scandal scored his third to take Italy through to the semi-finals.

7. Keegan and Brooking – England’s best two players in qualifying.  Imagine Owen and Beckham in 2010….or may be not.  What about Rooney and err…Rooney being injured but still being included in the squad.  England coasted through the Group stages without needing them.  In the second round a 0-0 draw versus the West Germans was a good result, meaning a win was needed against the Spanish to take them through. Greenwood decided not to risk starting them but with time ticking away and a single goal all that England needed (if teams were level then goals conceded would decide the group – as Germany had conceded one to Spain, a 1-0 win would see England through).  With just over an hour gone he could wait no more and both players were introduced, clearly not fit.  Keegan had a chance to win it near the end but headed wide and England, despite going through the tournament unbeaten, went home with that flag they were flying firmly between their legs.

8. Lucky lucky Italy – If it wasn’t for an erroneous offside flag against Cameroon’s Roger Milla in the group stages the Italians would have been eliminated.  They scrapped through that stage with three draws from their three games then got lucky against Argentina in the next round.  Essentially they had that one good game against Brazil and all of a sudden they were playing the Poles in the semi-final.  Twenty four years later in Germany the story was similar when the Italians also went onto win the tournament.  In 1982 they came into the World Cup off the back of a huge betting controversy that had seen AC Milan and Lazio forceably relegated.  2006 it was the match fixing scandal when Juventus and AC Milan were implicated.

9. Dirty Dirty Germans – So the semi-finals saw Italy versus Poland and West Germany versus France.  The latter was a classic but will be remembered for one incident.  With the scores locked at 1-1 a long ball over the German defence put French defender Patrick Battiston in a one on one with keeper Harold Schumacher.  He flicked the ball past him but the keeper simply ignored this fact and carried on his jump directly at the Frenchman, smashing into him.  As the ball trickled narrowly wide Battiston lay unconscious on the floor.  The Dutch referee’s decision as the Frenchman was stretchered off needing oxygen and minus two teeth?  A goal kick. Judge for yourself if he got it right...

The game went into extra time and it seemed justice had been done when Tresor and Giresse put the French 3-1 up but we all know the script.  Back came the Germans with two goals, taking the game to penalties where they won 5-4 after Alain Bossis missed in sudden death.

10. Marco Tardelli’s arm pumping – So the final on the 11th July was between the lucky lucky Italians and the dirty dirty Germans.  The Fuller household was split.  In the blue corner was myself and my brother and my Dad simply because we despised Schumacher for his blatant cheating (Schumacher, cheating – surely those words would never be used together ever again?) and in the white corner was my Mum because she used to have a German penpal and once spent a week in the Black Mountains (a story that is wheeled out every time something German is mentioned) and my eldest brother who had learnt how to swear in German so thought that was a good reason.

It wasn’t a classic – in fact today people can remember few details about the actual game.  The first half was in fact pretty dull and it looked as if penalties might again be needed.  But it sprung to life near the hour mark when Rossi scored and then ten minutes later Marco Tardelli struck a fantastic shot from the edge of the box into the net and set off on his iconic arm pumping, eye popping celebration – he knew, he just knew.  Three one was the final score to the Italians.  I knew nothing of unfairness in football and was still stunned that a team like Brazil based on their group stage performance didn’t get an automatic bye into the final.  I could sympathise with them, being a West Ham fan and always being the bridesmaid.

1982 was a turning point for me.  Innocence would be replaced by girls four years later so this was probably the purist tournament for me.  As Bryan Adams sang “When I look back now, yeah I always want to be there”…And what was a Mexican wave called before 1986?

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One thought on “We’re in Ron’s 22

  1. Well your blog worked, I just bought your book and it looks great. Thanks. Johnny (lifelong Oxford United fan who hasn’t lived there for over 40 years and yet still travels home and away) :)

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