Pete Sixsmithgets to within three decades of the 2010 starting post, with thoughts on takeaway chickens, Bryan Robson getting England off to a great start they couldn’t quite sustain, a Kevin Keegan missed sitter, armies of bluebottles – and the dirtiest player he’s ever seeen …
Held in Sunny Spain with 24 participants which included England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the latter for the first time since 1958. And we almost had a Sunderland player to cheer on as Jimmy Nichol was in the Northern Ireland squad and he had just left Roker Park after a loan spell. Come on ‘yer man!!
My knowledge of Spanish geography was much better than that of Argentina and I was confident that I knew where all the cities were. La Coruna fooled me for a bit, but I was taken by the way that the Organising Committee had spread the tournament about. – 14 cities and 17 stadiums.
I did a huge map for the classroom wall, using a piece of kit called an epidioscope which one of the Science teachers jealously guarded for his own use. I had students drawing flags and sticking them on while others were dragooned into cutting pictures out and putting them on the chart. The GCE results were down that year.
It was a tournament that is remembered for a number of mostly negative reasons.
First of all the group game between the FDR and Austria gave a very passable imitation of the Coventry City v Bristol City game circa 1977 – scroll down this link – as the FDR needed to win in order to go through and squeeze Algeria out. They did with typical Teutonic efficiency and out went the North Africans to the consternation of all fair minded people.
England scored the quickest goal when Bryan Robson put one in against France and although they went on to win the game, it was yet another lack lustre finals performance. They made the second group stage but failed dismally with Kevin Keegan missing an absolute sitter against the FDR thereby ensuring that Ron Greenwood and his not so gallant lads missed out on the semi finals.
Up until that time I quite admired Keegan, but that miss and his subsequent signing for the Mags turned me against him for ever. I have boycotted KK since that day.
I watched the games in my flat, usually accompanied by Ian Douglass (now resident in the USA). We would swill beer and eat roast chickens from Andrea’s Pizzeria in Main Street, having a nap between the afternoon game and the evening game.
One day I noticed a large number of bluebottles in the living room and sprayed them, only to return home from work the next day and find even more. This happened again and again and I also noticed a strange smell in the flat. I thought it was just the usual male odours but an eventual investigation discovered a half eaten chicken carcass behind the cushions of one of the chairs and a full colony of blow flies. Not one of my finest housekeeping moments.
As England came home early so did Northern Ireland, but not until they had caused a real upset by beating the hosts 1-0 in Valencia. Ian had a real downer on Billy Hamilton, who scored the goal, and kept shaking his head in disbelief that a player he regarded as an Auckland and District League player could score such a goal. Scotland failed to make the cut.
It was also a brutal tournament. Italy had Claudio Gentile, a man whose name was a complete misnomer. He was probably the dirtiest and most sly player I have ever seen, so good at it that he could have taught Johnny Giles a thing or two. He terrified Zico in a classic Brazil v Italy game, which saw Paolo Rossi score a hat trick, having previously looked about as effective as Tom Ritchie had for us. Gentile and his fellow central defender Scirea were world class thugs.
But neither were a patch on FDR goalkeeper Harald Schumacher who perpetrated the most violent assault I have ever seen on a football field when he wiped out the French full back Patrick Battiston. France were the real show ponies of the tournament and looked bang on for the final. After the GBH from Schumacher, they went 3-1 up in extra time. Any sensible side would have closed it down. but with a midfield of Tigana, Giresse and Platini, attack was the key word. They kept on going forward and the Germans brought it back to 3-3 with a goal from probably the craggiest (ugliest) player in any World Cup, Horst Hrubesch.
Guess what happened then? They won on penalties. Find that hard to believe don’t you. 5-4 and guess who the hero was? That’s right; Schumacher. Many, many people were seriously p***** off by this!
In the Final, they were whopped by the Italians. It’s a game that many remember for Marco Tardelli’s fantastic celebrations after he had scored Italy’s second goal. It became an iconic image at Ferryhill Comprehensive School. At least four of the staff had Tardelli on the wall, to serve as an inspiration to the young people in our charge – or perhaps we looked at it and thought “You lucky sod, playing football rather than having to do this”.
Abiding memories: the veins in Tardelli’s neck standing out like a relief map of The Alps as he celebrated; Keegan boycotting an open goal; the Kuwaiti team walking off on their Sheikh’s instructions; bloody flies.
Next: the Hand Of God and how DA Maradona showed he was the best in the world.