Tag Archives: #Football

Talking Of Football On Hospital Radio

Football and radio in the 21st century remain intrinsically linked through Hospital Radio Broadcasting and share many similarities. For decades, volunteers have provided live action coverage of games broadcast directly to hospitals, for patients to enjoy. You may wonder if such a service has any relevance anymore, and I would say it is as vital today as it has ever been.  You may also like to read my other blog concerning hospital radio here:

https://angiesallsorts.wordpress.com/2017/05/01/hospital-radio-in-the-21st-century/

Hospital radio as a concept was born in an era when TV was barely an infant, a personal music player, mobile phones and the internet were futuristic science fiction ideas, and radio was king of entertainment. Patient stays in hospital were far longer, visits severely restricted and contact with the outside world minimal. The BBC only had three programs, commercial radio did not exist, and the only real way of following your football team was to attend the match on a Saturday afternoon.

The core ethos of hospital radio was to provide patients with a service not easily found or available elsewhere.  The development of hospital radio was really to provide a much needed personal, message orientated light entertainment program that was easily accessible by patients. In fact, many hospital radio stations began their existence because of an overwhelming desire to provide sports commentary relevant to local teams, as the BBC didn’t provide a sufficiently detailed service.

The organisation I volunteer for, Radio Leighton in Crewe began as a direct consequence of an experimental broadcast of a Crewe Alexandra FC game in 1966. Our archives don’t record the details of that inaugural broadcast, but I know equipment was borrowed from Forward Radio in nearby Stoke who covered both Stoke City and Port Vale games. An internet search of the 66-67 fixture lists suggest Crewe v Bradford City (1-0) on 8th October 1966 could be a candidate, as both Stoke and Port Vale played away that week.  A second Crewe game was apparently covered on January 7th 1967, a FA Cup game against Darlington (2-1).  Both broadcasts proved so popular that the Mayor Councillor Herbert P Vernon convened a meeting to hear all about these activities.  And so it was on May 4th 1967 in the mayor’s chambers the Crewe and District Hospital Broadcast Service was conceived. Fund raising began and in 1968 on April 20th the Crewe v Wrexham game (0-0) was broadcast using our very own equipment. The following November a full broadcasting program to patients began.

Football clubs can vary from Premiership status to lower league county level and consequently differ in size enormously. Likewise hospitals can be huge complexes spread over several sites down to small county establishments. Teams can have anything from a global appeal to a much more localised support. Similarly hospital radio can be (in theory) available to a worldwide audience through internet broadcasting, cover a wider broadcasting area through FM or AM licences, or just be heard by patients within a specific hospital using an internal loop system (Radio Leighton). Clubs can be run on enormous budgets with huge staff numbers, going down to relying on a small cohort of people to run things on shoe string finances. Larger hospitals can rely on a wider geographical area to find volunteers and have a better chance of attracting sponsorship to enable, for example, 24/7 manned hospital radio stations. Radio Leighton being situated in a small town hospital very much runs on a shoe string budget and relies on a relatively small team of volunteers. Our organisation is indebted to both the Mid-Cheshire Hospital Authority and Crewe Alexandra FC. The hospital authorities ensure we have studio space and cover our daily costs, whilst Crewe Alex finance the costs involved in maintaining our phone link between the studio and stadium. In return for this, our football commentary team link also provides visually-impaired fans full action description.

Modern technology offers unlimited entertainment through streaming and instant connectivity and interaction with the world.  There is a lot of assumption in society that EVERYONE has the means to interact with this modern communication phenomenon. But the average age of patients today still finds the biggest majority of them without this capability, or the funds to sustain a service (such as Hospedia TV) during a longer than expected stay in hospital. In this instance, those excluded from the mobile technology world rely on whatever form of entertainment is provided within a hospital complex. That is why a free to access hospital radio service still remains important and an invaluable social service in the 21st century.

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The Poppy World Cup Qualifier: England v Scotland

England faces Scotland at Wembley in a World Cup football qualifier on Armistice Day November 11th 2016. Both teams wish to wear the poppy symbol as an act of remembrance, but face the wrath of FIFA sanctions if they do. The World governing body of football stipulates that no international team may wear any sign of political, religious or commercial affiliation, which they deem inappropriate. Alas, FIFA have once again in my opinion, shown how totally out of touch they really are with the game at ground level. Perhaps if they got out of their ivory towers, seen things as they really are in the sport and learned a little history they would get on a lot better.

I am totally in favour of both teams wearing the poppy symbol, especially with the game falling on the actual date when the guns of WW1 fell silent. It is particularly poignant when you consider the hostility between England and Scotland goes back centuries, when men fought on battlefields in the name of an English King, a Clan leader or a Young Pretender to the throne. Two nations shaped by their shared history through war, intertwined by a strange mix of inherent animosity and togetherness. What better way to honour the fallen of battle from both nations than by wearing the communal symbol of remembrance.

I’m aware that some people are of the opinion the poppy has become a political symbol which advocates support for interventions around the world. I don’t share that view, because if you think about it, war in general has been perpetuated throughout the ages by political manoeuvrings. Therefore you could say that ANY war or conflict is politically motivated and unjustified, not just the battles you disagree with. To me wearing a poppy shows a small sign of solidarity with all those who gave their lives in conflict situations, believing “ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die”.

The poppy became a symbol of remembrance in the UK shortly after the end of World War One, representing the poppy fields of Europe and the bloodshed spilt by the flowers of a whole generation. On the first Christmas Day of the war in 1914, a number of football matches broke out in several places along No Man’s Land in France. Warily laying down their weapons, soldiers from both warring factions came together to share small gifts and play improvised games of football. Peace on that 1914 Christmas morning was briefly restored, as the British and Germans celebrated a shared Christian faith and spoke the universal language of sport, and football was the most fluently spoken language between the two sides. Football gave the men a shared understanding, a reminder of their humanity and a brief sense of peace and camaraderie.    Hostilities resumed the day after and continued for four long hard years, orchestrated by military chiefs far away from the front lines. But on December 25th 1914 the foot soldiers took matters into their own hands and shed a light on what can be so good in sport. Thinking of those historical and unprecedented football matches makes it seem even more relevant that England and Scotland should wear their poppies with pride.

FIFA have not always been consistent in their edicts on the laws of football. In March 2016 a friendly match took place between the Republic of Ireland and Switzerland, where the home team displayed an overtly obvious “political” reference to the Easter Uprising of 1916. And FIFA did allow England to wear a black armband with a poppy logo on it for a November friendly match in 2011. But the match next week is a World Cup Qualifier which puts a different slant on the situation, and I guess they are trying to ensure every team conforms in the same way! But giving out mixed messages over the years does not help FIFA’s argument. Neither does the rather pompous comment made by the FIFA general secretary Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura “they are not the only countries affected by war”. That is not what the FA or SFA are saying at all, just that they would like to show a mutual mark of respect for a shared national remembrance day. If either England or Scotland had been playing Germany, I may have at least understood FIFA’s discomfort with the situation a little more.

FIFA should lead by example before riding rough shod over member nations with their interpretation of what political, religious and commercial neutrality actually means. Let FIFA be seen to conduct itself in a transparent and neutral manner, and show it has its own house in order first. But FIFA has shown itself to be a seeker of massive commercial advantages by awarding a World Cup to Qatar, a nation awash with cash but with no real football heritage. The decision can be interpreted as being religious and politically motivated as well. The successful Russia World Cup bid isn’t much better, though the nation is not as financially viable as the Middle East option. The rumblings of an “extended World Cup” that would allow more nations to take part in a qualifying round of the tournament, smacks of fleecing the average football fan out of their hard earned cash.  To me that idea is a purely commercial initiative to fill the FIFA coffers even more than they already are. And I haven’t even touched on the corruption charges meted out to several high ranking FIFA officials.

It seems that the Football Association and Scottish Football Association are agreed that they will defy the FIFA ruling, and wear a poppy symbol for the match. In a world where political correctness has gone mad, thank goodness some common sense prevails between my two home nations.

My Historical Euro All-Star X1

Twenty-four teams will contest the European Football Championships in France this year. Surprisingly only nine teams have won the tournament with twelve finalists in total, since the contest began in 1960.

I have come up with an all-star team selection of players spanning the lifetime of the championships. My inspiration was a select UEFA 50 list used for a competition, and members of the list had to fulfil at least two of the following criteria:

Featured in at least a semi-final

Featured in a team of the tournament (ref: ToT)

Featured as the Euro top scorer (ref: TS)

Featured in an iconic moment (ref: IM)

From 1960-1976 only four nations competed for the title of European Champions. This increased to eight from 1980-1992 and then sixteen from 1996-2012. As a result some names I expected to see as a UEFA option were not offered, for example Cruyff and Kahn.

Anyway, I’ve decided to comprise my team of players who can represent every winning country and two other finalists. My players represent every decade the tournament has been played. So here is my All-Star XI team using a 4-3-3 formation:

PETER SCHMEICHEL: Goal Keeper: 1992 winner Denmark (ToT)

I thought about having Yashin the Soviet Union keeper for 60 & 64 instead of Schmeichel but wanted the big Dane between the posts. Interestingly from the keeper options; (Buffon, Casillas, Yashin, Schmeichel and Zoff); Yashin has been the ONLY keeper EVER named European Player of the Year, which is a travesty.

GIACINTO FACCHETTI: Defender left-back: 1968 winner Italy (ToT)

FRANZ BECKENBAUER: Defender centre-back/sweeper: 1972 winner Germany (ToT). Germany has also won in 1980 & 1996.

ANTON ONDRUS: Defender centre back/sweeper: 1976 winner Czechoslovakia (ToT).  He also won the bronze medal in 1980.

SERGIO RAMOS: Defender right back: 2008 & 2012 winner Spain (2012 ToT). Spain’s previous win was in 1964.

MICHEL PLATINI: Midfielder: 1984 winner France-(ToT), player of tournament & TS (9). France won again in 2000. I had grave reservations in naming Platini due to his recent fall from grace in the game, but I wanted another player from the 80s. My more natural French choice is, and always will be, Zinedine Zidane the French captain in 2000.

THEODOROS ZAGORAKIS: Midfielder: 2004 winner Greece-(ToT), player of the tournament.

DRAGAN DZAJIC: Midfielder (left winger): 1968 finalist Yugoslavia-(ToT in 68 & 76). Yugoslavia was also a finalist in 1960.

MARCO VAN BASTEN: Striker: 1988 winner Netherlands-(ToT), best player of the tournament, TS (5), IM (volley against Soviet Union in final)

VALENTIN IVANOV: Striker: 1960 winner Soviet Union-joint TS (2). Also a finalist in 1964.

CRISTIANO RONALDO: Striker: 2004 finalist Portugal-(ToT 2004 & 2012). He has scored six goals in the Euro Championships so far.

I liked the idea of having strikers from the infancy of the European Championships through to its more mature years. Van Basten was the obvious choice to me for the “middle years” and so I avoided Denmark’s Brian Laudrup from 1992 and picked Schmeichel instead. This meant Ivanov for the Soviet Union could represent the early years in my strike force.

The only Euro finalist without a representative is Belgium from 1980 beaten 2-1 by Germany. There wasn’t any player from that country mentioned in the list of fifty.

My substitute’s bench would include at least one player to cover each position.

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy finalist 2012, (ToT 2008 & 2012).

Midfielder: Pavel Nedved (Czech Republic finalist 1996, (ToT 2004))

Defender: Paolo Maldini (Italy finalist 2000, (ToT 1988, 1996 & 2000)

Striker: Alan Shearer (England semi-finalist 1996-(ToT, TS (5) and second most prolific scorer in the Euro championships with a total of seven goals. Only Platini has scored more goals (9) but Cristiano Ronaldo may over take both men if he has a good 2016 tournament!

Bend It Like Beckham: The Musical

Bend It Like Beckham won the Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for Best Musical  in January 2016, just a few short days after announcing the production would finish at the Phoenix Theatre on March 5th. The world premiere took place on 15th May 2015 and I watched this joyous show last June and again this past weekend at the Phoenix. On each occasion my husband and I were both enthralled and elated by the wonderful combination of music and dance, which told the mixed tale of sport, culture and dreams. Somehow the production managed to infuse both eastern and western cultures together into a delightful and powerful show, that packed an emotional punch with an amusing under current.

The two football protégés are Jules an English girl from a one parent family and Jess Bhamra the youngest daughter of a Sikh family. Jess is obsessed with David Beckham whilst Jules admires Mia Hamm the US soccer star, and both have their sporting heroes adorning bedroom walls. Jules already plays for a local women’s team (the Harriers) and having spotted Jess’s potential invites her to a trial. They quickly form a formidable partnership on the pitch but Jess has to lie about having a part-time job to continue training, having incurred the wrath of her parents who forbade her to play any longer. So an opportunity for Jess to play in Germany sees her torn between trying to be a dutiful daughter and being true to herself. This is beautifully portrayed at the end of the first half in a dream like sequence. On one side Pinky tells her sister Jess she owes her parents to be dutiful because they have worked so hard, and an eastern dance/music element dominates. On the other side Tony a good friend of Jess tells her she has to take her chance, be herself and show what she can do, and here a western music/sport element prevails. Neither side come together but as Jess clearly makes up her mind to travel to Germany she dreams of playing with David Beckham.

In the first half both mothers are at a loss to understand their daughters and sing the same lament “Tough Love”. Each desperately wants the best for their offspring, yet the girls both feel totally misunderstood and angrily sulk in their room. I found myself annoyed with Mrs Bhamra because she was so entrenched in the traditional ways of her culture and how things were done, she found it virtually impossible to see beyond that and acknowledge that perhaps the world of opportunities for girls was changing in 2001. She and her husband want Jess to go to university but no doubt to make her a better prospect for a future husband, not to make their daughter feel more fulfilled. Jules Mum Paula on the other hand tries so hard to be supportive to her child but usually has the effort thrown back in her face. How I wanted to tell Jules how damned lucky she was to have that kind of unstinting support.

At the start of the second half the audience see that Jess and Jules are effectively two sides of the same coin. Jess sings of being told she is a dreamer because she looks beyond her culture and the traditional expectations of her parents. Jules sings of being told she is a loser for hoping to transcend her class and its limitations. Both travel to Germany and triumph in their game and whilst out celebrating Jess kisses the football coach Joe, not realising that Jules is madly in love with him. This results in a major argument between the girls in the airport back home, witnessed by Jules Mum waving an English flag to celebrate the team win. Believing she has seen a lover’s tiff Paula concludes her daughter Jules must be gay! Jess meanwhile having fallen out with her friend must now go back to her parents, return to being a dutiful daughter helping with her sister’s wedding arrangements, and face the prospect of never playing football again. The mournful traditional wedding song heralds a daughter leaving her old family life to start a new one with her husband. This hauntingly beautiful music is reflected in Jess sadly sitting in her bedroom rolling up her football posters and bagging them for the bin. It looks like something has died in her too. The following day is Pinky Bhamra’s wedding day and also the day of a football final for the Harriers team. An American scout is to be there to watch Jules and Jess play, however Jess is at the temple for the wedding ceremony and looks thoroughly miserable in the process. There is a smashing moment here when Jess sings about her love of the game but her duty to her family is more important. Then Jules sings of missing her friend, Joe about his love for Jess and her amazing football talent, and Tony encourages his friend to slip away from the celebrations to play the second half of the football final. This quartet piece is very striking in its heartfelt interwoven emotion. When the main wedding ceremony is over Mr Bhamra agrees to allow Jess to play in the match if it would make her smile. She dashes off to make the game arriving just after the audience see a funny scene between Jules and her Mum. Paula dressed in an outfit for Ascot turns up to support her girl, lets it be known she’s aware of Jules “preferences” after all there is “a cup for every saucer” and waves a gay flag with pride. Mortified Jules laughingly reassures her Mum that she has only had eyes for Joe not Jess, but finally realises just how much her Mum does care about and love her.

As the wedding celebrations continue we see the football team get ready and warm up for their game. The football clearly represents the western street music culture whilst the wedding depicts the eastern traditional culture. But unlike in the first half where the torment of Jess meant they kept apart in this half a seamless fusion occurs. Both sides merge into one harmonious unified body of movement and it is wondrous to witness. Having her father’s blessing to play the game makes Jess whole again and this symbolically represents that epiphany.

The team from Southall win the final thanks to an effort from Jess and both girls are offered a football scholarship to attend college and play in the US for a year. It looks like the Bhamra’s won’t allow Jess to go citing the prejudice they faced when they first arrived in England. But Jess retorted that was their road, but things can be better if you work for change and her appeal to them is heard. She will be travelling with Jules to the US and everyone gathers at the airport to see them off on their big adventure.

The music is infectious in this show as I witnessed in the London Tube station on Saturday night, when four separate groups of people along the platform were singing the same tune. I’d heard it on the escalators as well and walking along the street too. It is such an uplifting show you can’t help but smile and everyone was wearing a broad grin leaving the theatre. It is hoped the show will tour around the UK and travel to India. As the ultimate mood enhancer I recommend Bend It Like Beckham a piece of theatrical magic.

Betty and Becks enjoyed the show. Image credit abmj70
Betty and Becks enjoyed the show. Image credit abmj70

Off The Beaten Track 5: FA Carlsberg Trophy Final 2015

On Sunday March 29th at 1330 North Ferriby United faced Wrexham on the hallowed turf of Wembley Stadium to contest the FA Carlsberg Trophy final. Both teams started brightly but Wrexham quickly imposed their league supremacy, when Louis Moult opened the score line in the eleventh minute. From what I could ascertain from the BBC Radio Wales commentary, Wrexham remained dominant at least until half time with the score remaining at 0-1. The game appeared to be beyond North Ferriby’s reach when Jay Harris scored on 59 minutes, or at least that was the impression given by the Radio Wales commentary team who implied Wrexham were in “cruise control”. However, that did not take into account the heart and guts displayed by the “little men” from the East Ridings of Yorkshire.

The critical point of the game seems to have been the 72nd minute substitution of Dean Keates the Wrexham captain, when my audio feed began to describe the Welsh side as disappearing! North Ferriby Utd also seemed to have altered their formation to 4-4-2 compared to Wrexham’s 4-3-3. Suddenly the two front men for North Ferriby were causing trouble and Wrexham were struggling without a natural sitting midfielder, as all three on the pitch were inclined to go forward. Under this resurgence North Ferriby forced Wrexham’s keeper Coughlin to concede a penalty and captain Liam King slotted home to bring his team back into the game. It was now 1-2 with 76 minutes on the clock. With new found confidence North Ferriby (known as The Villagers) put increasing pressure on their opponents and were rewarded, when substitute Ryan Kendall scored to equalise four minutes from time. At 90 minutes the score was 2-2 with four added minutes on the clock. North Ferriby still pressing hard could have pulled off another goal to seal victory before regulation time was called, when Clarke’s last gasp effort produced a fantastic over the bar save from Coughlin. This ended a catastrophic fifteen minute period for Wrexham where they failed to peg back their opponents. At the 90+ minute boos rang out from the Wrexham fans end of the stadium.

EXTRA TIME

I wondered if the better fitness of the Wrexham team (known as The Dragons) would play a part in extra time, especially with the Welshmen having fresher players on the pitch. And although The Villagers appeared to be dead on their feet they kept running none the less. Wrexham’s right-back Steve Tomassen had no real support from the second half onwards, and endured a particularly torrid time from the pace of Jason St Juste. It was from this area that St Juste supplied the cross into the box for Kendall to head in North Ferriby’s third goal. A bit of a fluke with the ball having taken a wicked deflection, but a downward glancing header from Kendall ensured Coughlin picked the ball out of The Dragons net. For the first time North Ferriby were in the lead at 3-2 on 101 minutes. Just before the first fifteen minutes were indicated, Wrexham’s Manny Smith just missed connecting with a toe poke to equalise. Despite coming agonisingly close to scoring Wrexham fans once again indicated their displeasure at the team.

During the second period North Ferriby heroically soaked up the pressure from Wrexham who had all their team in the opposition half for much of the time, with as many as seven players in the box at one point. The Villagers Nathan Peat cleared off the line and Danny Hone put in a brave sliding tackle just before Wrexham’s Bishop pulled the trigger. It was inevitable though that this Welsh onslaught could not be repelled forever. On 118 minutes a vicious half volley from Louis Moult gave Wrexham an equaliser to make the game at 3-3 after 120+ minutes.

PENALTIES

Here is a breakdown of how the penalty shootout panned out with each team having to take SEVEN penalties to find the winner. Which keeper would turn out to be the hero of the hour Wrexham’s Andy Coughlin or North Ferriby’s Adam Nicklin?

North Ferriby went first.                                 Wrexham went second

Liam King SCORED 1-0                                    Wes York SCORED 1-1

Nathan Jarman SCORED 2-1                        Andy Bishop SCORED 2-2

Ryan Kendall SCORED 3-2                             Conor Jennings SAVED 3-2

Jason St Juste SAVED 3-2                               Neil Ashton SAVED 3-2

Tom Denton SAVED 3-2                                   Louis Moult SCORED 3-3

Matt Wilson SCORED 4-3                              Blaine Hudson SCORED 4-4

Nathan Peat SCORED 5-4                              Steve Tomassen SAVED 5-4

FA TROPHY WINNER North Ferriby United: 0-1 ht; 2-2 ft; 3-3 aet; 5-4 pens.

Going into this match North Ferriby were in ninth position in the Conference North Division and Wrexham fifteenth in the Conference Premiership Division. Never before until now had a Conference North side beaten a Conference Premier one. North Ferriby certainly punched way above their weight but deservedly won the trophy. It was Wrexham’s accolade for the taking but they inexplicably conceded their advantage.

North Ferriby is a community in the Kingston-upon-Hull area with a population of just under 4000. No doubt many of them were in the 14585 crowd at Wembley where they witnessed a dream come true. I’m sure Jason St Juste was happy to live the dream and receive a winner’s medal, having given up the opportunity of representing St Kitts & Nevis in an international qualifier against Turks and Caicos Islands, to appear at Wembley.

I heard all the action unfold using a battery operated analogue AM radio because I was out of range for the Welsh DAB radio service, and I had no reception for my phone so was unable to use the BBC Radio player app. Thank goodness for old technology, as it was certainly an unforgettable experience listening to the commentary as The Villagers won the FA Carlsberg Trophy. Well done lads and many congratulations on your wonderful achievement.

MY HISTORICAL BRITISH WORLD CUP SQUAD

23 Greats Who NEVER Graced the World Cup Stage

The World Cup was established in 1930 and the four home nations of the United Kingdom, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all played in the tournament at some time. However, rather than comment on players who have competed in this event, I’m more intrigued by those who never had the opportunity to show their skills on the World Cup Stage. Some of the “big names” you just assume must have taken part, whilst others never found much favour with their national teams, and three of them never managed a senior squad call up at all!!!

For simplicity I’m using the idea of a 4-4-2 formation to ensure an equal spread of players from each home nation. My squad will comprise of three goalkeepers, eight defenders, eight midfielders and four forwards, and all will have played within the lifetime of the World Cup (1930s-2000s.) So here after great deliberation are my 23 Greats for a British World Cup Squad.

Goal Keepers

NEVILLE SOUTHALL (Wales 1982-1997: 92 caps): One of the best keepers of his generation.

MAIK TAYLOR (N Ireland 1999-2011: 88 caps): With an English father and German mother Maik could have played for any of the home nations but opted for Northern Ireland. This undoubtedly gave him the best chance to taste international football at the highest level.

TONY COTON (England UNCAPPED): Played for Birmingham City, Watford, Manchester City, Sunderland and Hereford United between 1978 and 2004. But he only ever managed one England B cap in 1992.

I was torn between Tony Coton and John Lukic of Leeds United and Arsenal. John also never made the England senior squad managing seven U21 and one B squad caps from 1980 to 1990. But I decided on Tony because he played for the more “unfashionable” clubs and he was born in Tamworth which isn’t far from where I live now.

Defenders

BILLY McNEILL (Scotland 1961-1972: 29 caps: 3 goals) Centre Back: Retired from the game in 1975 having made 790 appearances for Celtic. Billy’s international career spanned an era where Scotland didn’t qualify for the World Cup (1962, 1966 & 1970). I’ve read McNeill was never subbed from a game during his playing career at Celtic which shows what an indomitable force he was in defence. With this in mind and the fact he captained Celtic to win the 1967 European Cup in Lisbon, I’m having Billy as my team captain.

GERRY TAGGART (N Ireland 1990-2002: 51 caps: 7 goals) Centre Back: I chose Gerry because he was a defender who could score goals. It was a tough call between him and Aaron Hughes (79 caps 1 goal) but Gerry’s better goal ratio to caps won him a squad place.

MIKE ENGLAND (Wales 1962-1975: 44 caps: 4 goals) Centre Back: At the heart of the Spurs defence during the sixties and seventies. Mike seems to have commanded as much respect in his central defensive role as Billy McNeill.

STEVE BRUCE (England UNCAPPED) Centre Back: Early rejections by several clubs almost caused Steve to give up the game completely. Eventually he secured an apprenticeship with Gillingham moving onto Norwich City, Manchester United, Birmingham City and Sheffield United. Despite a playing career spanning 1979-1999 covering five World Cups where England qualified, Steve Bruce never had a senior call up. A single B squad cap and eight youth caps were all that Bruce was given. The international omission is hard to believe considering Steve Bruce’s integral part in defence during the earlier years of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign at Manchester United.

PETER RODRIGUES (Wales 1965-1974: 40 caps) Right Back: Won the FA Cup as captain of Southampton in 1976.

EMLYN HUGHES (England 1969-1980: 62 caps: 1 goal) Left Back: Emlyn was captain 23 times for his country but England didn’t qualify for the 1974 or 1978 tournaments. I’ve seen Hughes listed in a group of greatest “left-backs” on various websites, hence why I have him playing in this position. But I vaguely remember him in a more central defensive role or midfield position as a player. So he could be an excellent utility man if needed.

TOMMY GEMMELL (Scotland 1966-1971: 18 caps: 1 goal) Right/Left Back: In his senior career Gemmell made 380 appearances scoring 51 goals. His name can be found in the greatest right back listings on the web BUT although he was right footed apparently he excelled in the left back position. Gemmell probably was a more attack minded kind of player who could switch sides as a full back.

JOHNNY “Jackie” CAREY (N Ireland 1946-1949: 9 caps) Right/Left Back: Johnny played for both the Northern Ireland (IFA) and Ireland (FAI) international teams. For Ireland he gained 29 caps scoring three times. During his career it is reported that Johnny played in nine different positions including once in goal!! Matt Busby made Carey captain of his Manchester United team from 1946-1953. Carey is listed in greatest left back website reports but the Irish FA has Johnny recorded as a right back, therefore I’m guessing he could fill either role. From what I’ve read Carey seems to have been a more holding type of player.

Midfielders

JIM BAXTER (Scotland 1960-67: 34 caps: 3 goals) Centre: I have Jim orchestrating the midfield from the centre for my squad. Left footed Baxter was always part of my plans as he was another supremely gifted player not to have had the opportunity to test the World Cup waters.

DUNCAN EDWARDS (England 1955-58: 18 caps: 5 goals) Centre: The Munich Air Disaster robbed the football world of this huge talent. Had this awful incident not occurred I’m sure Edwards would have played in several World Cups but fate decided otherwise. Duncan’s name was one of the first to spring to mind for this project and I’m both saddened and honoured to name him in my team. His talent as a box to box midfielder was without question.

GARY SPEED (Wales 1990-2004: 85 caps: 7 goals) Centre: A player who needs no other plaudits when you know he became the most capped outfield player for Wales.

HOWARD KENDALL (England UNCAPPED) Centre: An integral part of the “holy trinity” of Everton’s midfield in the 1960s and 70s alongside Alan Ball and Colin Harvey. From 613 senior appearances Howard scored 65 goals. At the time of the 1964 FA Cup Kendall was the youngest finalist at Wembley. Although he represented England at schoolboy, youth and Under-23 level Howard never played at England senior level!! He did captain England youths in the Little World Cup of 1964 and for this reason I am making Howard Kendall my vice-captain.

I was torn between Kendall and Cliff Bastin for my midfield but eventually went for Kendall due to his central playing position. Bastin was a left winger and oddly enough I have too many players with a preferential left sided leaning (Giggs, Best and Baxter) already.

RYAN GIGGS (Wales 1991-2007: 64 caps: 12 goals) Left Wing: Only retired from the game this summer and clocked up 672 appearances for Manchester United scoring 114 goals.

GEORGE BEST (N Ireland: 37 caps: 9 goals) Left/Right Wing: One of the greatest footballers ever to come out of the UK, Best had the misfortune to play in between 1958 and 1982 the two years Northern Ireland qualified for the tournament. For an all too brief spell George Best lit up the football world during those 24 years, but his rewards came from the domestic game. Being a bit of a maverick player it could be said that having Best in the squad could be a risk, but the chance to play Best and Giggs in the same team is too much temptation. I’ve read that George played his best on the left wing of midfield, the same position as Ryan Giggs. However reports also described George as a natural with both feet, so to have him and Giggs play together I’d have George Best on the right wing instead.

KEITH GILLESPIE (N Ireland 1994-2008: 86 caps: 2 goals) Right Wing: In case my experiment with Best didn’t work out I wanted to ensure a natural right winger was in the squad. You can’t get much more consistent than Keith here who I believe could also fill in at right back or centre back.

JIMMY DELANEY (Scotland 1935-1948: 15 caps: 6 goals) Right Wing/Forward: Another utility player who could play outside right wing or up front as a centre forward. Jimmy is an emotional choice for me because he came from my home village of Cleland, and I grew up hearing stories about him. I also remember several Celtic greats turning out for this quiet unassuming man’s funeral. During a career spanning twenty-four years Jimmy won the Scottish Cup with Celtic, the FA Cup with Busby’s Manchester United and the Irish Cup with Derry City. A runner-up medal with Cork Athletic gave Delaney four cup medals from four countries. A badly broken arm (almost amputated) put Jimmy out of the game for nearly two years but he returned to show what a wonderful player he was.

Forwards

IAN RUSH (Wales 1980-1996: 73 caps: 28 goals): Welsh leading scorer and the complete striker, lethal in front of goal.

TOMMY LAWTON (England 1938-1948: 23 caps: 22 goals): Tommy played club football between 1935 and 1955 making 383 senior appearances and scoring 235 goals. Lawton may not be a name particularly well known to England fans but he should be up there with Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker as top England goal scorer. Unfortunately for Tommy his England and English League XI appearances during the war don’t seem to get any credit, which I personally think is shameful. If a player today can get a cap for five minutes play in a meaningless friendly (with under strength teams), then Tommy should get appropriate recognition for his extra 26 wartime appearances which brought a further 26 goals.

JIMMY McGRORY (Scotland: 1928-1933: 7 caps: 6 goals): Jimmy played for Celtic between 1922 and 1937 with a short loan spell at Clydebank. Taking into account all competitions Jimmy made 534 senior appearances and scored 538 times. Despite this prowess in front of goal McGrory was given a paltry seven caps for his country.

DAVID HEALY (N Ireland 2000-2013: 95 caps: 36 goals): Leading scorer for Northern Ireland. During the qualifying campaign for the European Championships of 2008 David scored thirteen times in eleven games becoming the highest ever goal scorer. He broke the record of Davor Suker (Croatia) who had scored twelve times in ten games. Healy was given a special award in recognition of his achievement.

My choice of Manager is Sir Mat Busby and my deputy manager is Jock Stein. The reasoning for Sir Matt’s appointment comes from the fact that he managed the Great Britain Olympic football team of 1948, so who better to run a squad of four nations! Of course he also managed Manchester United to European victory in 1968. Jock Stein is chosen because of his success with Celtic who became the FIRST British club to win the European cup in 1967. He was also the national manager for Scotland who led them to the 1982 World Cup Finals in Spain, but sadly passed away on the evening when Scotland qualified for the 1986 Finals.

To ensure all my players get a game in I shall provide two line ups using the 4-4-2 system. But I’m very tempted to mix it all up completely with a more unusual formation, and I believe I’ve got the man power to do that quite easily. Anyway, here are my less radical line ups….

Southall, LB Hughes, CB McNeill, CB Taggart, RB Rodrigues, LW Giggs, CM Baxter, CM Edwards, RW Best, Rush and McGrory

Taylor and Coton one half each, LB or RB Carey, CB England, CB Bruce, LB or RB Gemmell, LW Speed, CM Kendall, CM Gillespie, RW Delaney, Healy and Lawton.

My British World Cup Historical Squad
My British World Cup Historical Squad Flying The Flag