This was the first tournament where they played for the “new” World Cup, Brazil having won the right to keep the old one in in perpetuity (which translated as 13 years, the time it took for someone to steal it).
It was staged in the Federal Republic of Germany (West) and it came at the end of my teaching career at Broom Cottages Secondary Modern School as it was subsumed into Ferryhill Comprehensive School.
England didn’t make it to the finals, having been knocked out by a splendid Polish team. How these names roll of the tongue: Gregor Lato, Jerzy Gorgon, Kazimiersk Deyna, Robert Gadocha, Zbigniew Gut and Jan Tomaszewski.
They really were a good side and had had little trouble dumping a poor England team out of the qualifiers, sending Sir H’Alf to spend more time with his family.
Tomaszewski had been labelled a clown by none other than Brian Clough before he defied everything that Kevin Hector, Colin Bell, Alan Clarke and Martin Chivers could throw at them. Not for the first time in his career, Cloughie was left looking a little daft as the giant keeper flung himself all over the Wembley penalty areas keeping the ball out. If only Ramsey had picked Rod Belfitt, we would have been there.
The problem now was who to support. Plenty of Eastern Europeans to follow; The German Democratic Republic (East) had made it as had Poland, Bulgaria and (my favourites) Yugoslavia. I saw them as the human face of European socialism, with their political system based on equality between the constituent republics and their charismatic leader, Marshal Tito. Didn’t last, did it?
They had a marvellous player called Dragan Dzajic who would be worth zillions nowadays, a tall rangy left winger (just like Roy Greenwood or Tommy Hutchinson, but better) who played for the wonderfully named Red Star Belgrade, a team that I knew played in red and white stripes.
And there was Scotland. They had qualified from a three team group consisting of Denmark and Czechoslovakia and were glorying in their qualification and the failure of England. They loved it and took a good following of fans to the Federal Republic, complete with kilts and bagpipes – and large quantities of Bells.
It wasn’t a great tournament. The weather was awful, Brazil were wretched, having dumped their samba style football for a more European style. There were some new countries there; Australia (“The Socceroos” – ugh!!!), Haiti (copious references to Papa Doc and the TonTon Macoute) and Zaire, the first African country to qualify.
Oh how we laughed as these dusky ragamuffins restricted Scotland to a 2-0 victory, ran out of the wall to kick the ball away before a Brazilian free kick and ended up being crushed by a rampant Yugoslavia. Little did we patronising Westerners know about the appalling brute Mobuto who ran the country and who had terrified his poor players.
The stars of the tournament were the Dutch and, from my point of view, Peter and Leonora Scott. Cruyff and Neeskens were phenomenal. The Cruyff turn was his party piece. Unveiled against Sweden, it left us open mouthed at the sheer audacity of it.
Next day in the playground small and not so small boys were trying it out and the thuggish playground defenders were crunching them into the gravel. The Cruyff turn never made it big in Ferryhill.
Peter Scott was a work colleague who lived in Bishop Middleham, a village a few miles from Ferryhill. He kindly invited us to his house to watch the afternoon kick offs, thereby assuring that we didn’t miss anything. His wife, Leonora fed us splendidly and the World Cup seemed to pass in a haze of home baked pies and scones. Scotty was a Sunderland supporter par excellence and fulfilled his parental duties by bringing his son and grandchildren up in the True Faith – see Tash Scott’s beautiful essay on her visit to Sunderland in the archive (thanks for the reminder, Pete; Tash’s tale has just been promoted to the Salut! Gold column down the right-hand sidebar – ed).
The Final was between the open, exciting Dutch and the rather more prosaic Federal Republic. They had lost to the DDR in a group game and had qualified from the second round group (FIFA having contradicted the old dictum “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” by introducing a second group stage). They beat Poland in the semi final, a game that was reminiscent of the watersplash at Grimsby a few years ago. Had Poland made it we could have legitimately asked the question: “If people in Poland are called Poles, why aren’t people in Holland called holes.”
That Holland should have won is incontrovertible. They were awarded a penalty by bluff, honest, Wolverhampton butcher Jack Taylor after two minutes, converted by Neeskens and thought that all they had to do was knock the ball about in order to win. The Germans thought otherwise and the wacky Marxist Paul Breitner levelled from the spot before Muller notched the winner before half time. Gerd Muller had the finest thighs I have ever seen on a player. An Indian elephant would have died for them.
Memories: Scotland failing to score enough against Zaire to go through; corned beef pie at the Scotts; the DDR sticking it up their considerably richer neighbours in front of a full house that included about 10 of their fans; the Cruyff turn; the heavy rain and (for their time) superb stadiums.
Oh, and having to go to work during the tournament.
Next: 1978, how I upset Mr and Mrs Neal next door and why I wanted a Peru shirt.
* Image of Marshal Tito’s statue from the Flickr pages of ?_Lisa_?