After the ticker tape filled world cup of Argentina ’78, it was Spain’s turn to host the world cup of 1982. Spain were given the ’82 world cup sixteen years before in 1966 about a week or so before the ’66 world cup began. West Germany and Argentina were given the right to host the ’74 and ’78 world cups at the same time Spain were awarded the ’82 tournament. The ’82 world cup would be England manager Ron Greenwood’s swan song as national team boss. Greenwood was the man who during the 1960’s had dragged West Ham United to prominence for the first time in the clubs history, he was a likeable intelligent English manager who could get his teams to play great football and win trophies.
Greenwood was a Lancastrian by birth but moved south to London with his family when he was still a small child. Greenwood began his playing career with Bradford Park Avenue before moving on back down south and to west London with Brentford, Chelsea and Fulham. Ron’s first managerial role came in the early ’60’s when he agreed to take the hot seat at West Ham. It was a shrewd choice by the West Ham board as Greenwood was about to take The Hammers to heights never before seen at the club. Greenwood was The Hammers team boss until 1974 when he was replaced by another West Ham legend, John Lyall. Greenwood moved “upstairs” becoming the club’s General Manager. After Don Revie’s short but disastrous reign as England boss came to end in 1977 the English FA turned to Ron Greenwood to take the reins of the national football team.
Under Greenwood England qualified for the European Championship of 1980 and in 1982, the F.I.F.A. World Cup. To reach the ’82 world cup England were drawn into the U.E.F.A. Qualifying Group 4 alongside Hungary, Romania, Norway and Switzerland. On paper at least it didn’t look too arduous for England, but the campaign would throw in the odd disappointing defeat for Greenwood’s men. As the 1980 – 1981 season kicked off in Division One, England were readying themselves for their first game of their qualifying campaign for Spain ’82. Incidentally, at the beginning of his tenure as England manager Ron Greenwood became the first England boss to select a black player for the national team. During the November of 1978 Viv Anderson of Nottingham Forest made his international debut aged 22, against Czechoslovakia in a friendly at Wembley stadium, therefore becoming the first black player to play for England. The game ended in a 1 – 0 victory for England, the goal coming from Steve Coppell of Manchester United in the 69th minute of the game.
“Yellow, purple or black. If they’re good enough, I’ll pick them” Ron Greenwood.
Their first fixture of that campaign for England was at home at Wembley stadium against Norway who were then managed by Tor Røste Fossen, a well-known figure of Norwegian football who was a goalkeeper by trade. On that Wednesday night in early December however, Fossen’s boys were put to the sword quite easily as England ran out comfortable winners to the tune of 4 – 0, England’s goals coming from Paul Mariner, Tony Woodcock with a couple from Terry McDermott of which one came via a penalty. So, a good start for Greenwood’s England. About a month later England were traveling to Eastern Europe for their next qualifying game this time against Romania. It was in Romania that one of those disappointing defeats that I mentioned earlier occurred. The Romanians had drew with Norway in Oslo so they were eager to notch up their first win of their qualifying campaign and they succeeded beating England 2 – 1 at the Stadionul Național, the goals for the Tricolorii were scored by Marcel Răducanu and Anghel Iordănescu, England’s goal was scored by Tony Woodcock of FC Cologne.
So it was quick spanner in the works for England in their qualifying campaign. By now the world cup qualifying phase was well and truly underway; the games for hopeful attendees for Spain coming thick and fast, just over a month after that disappointment in București the Swiss national football team arrived in London, England couldn’t afford another defeat so early in the qualifying phase. In front of around 70,000 fans England took the points with a 2 – 1 win over the Swiss. It wasn’t Switzerland’s day to be honest as Markus Tanner scored an own goal about twenty minutes into the game that put England in the driving seat about fifteen minutes later Paul Mariner put England 2 – 0 up, late in the second half Switzerland scored a consolation goal courtesy of Hans Jörg Pfister, so England took the points which got their campaign back on the road.
Months later in the April of 1981 England welcomed Romania to Wembley; sadly England spurned the chance for revenge for that defeat in Romania the previous October as the game at Wembley Stadium finished in a goalless draw. In late May Ron Greenwood’s England flew to Switzerland for a game at the St. Jakob Stadium in Basel against Paul Wolfisberg’s Swiss national team and as the East German referee blew for full time it looked like England’s ambitions to reach Spain were beginning to unravel. The Swiss won the game 2 – 1. The Swiss goals were scored by Alfred Scheiwiler of St. Gallen and Claudio Sulser of Grasshoppers Zürich, England’s goal was scored by Terry McDermott. England were now in a big of a mass dogfight fight to reach Spain, what seemed like a fairly easy group for the English was now turning into a bit of a scrap for Ron Greenwood’s team, no one was running away with Group Four, some surprising results were in evidence and it was becoming increasingly clear that the two teams that would progress from the group for Spain wouldn’t be known until the last games of the group.
Fortunately for England their next match was only a week after that defeat in Switzerland, so they wouldn’t have to wait long to get their march to Spain back on track. On the 6th of June England were in Hungary for a game with their hosts at the Népstadion (now known as the Ferenc Puskás Stadium) in Budapest. Historically that particularly venue was never a happy hunting ground for England, it was the stadium where England saw their worst ever defeat in international football when the famous Magyars lead by Ferenc Puskás destroyed England to the tune of 7 – 1 back in 1954. However, the England of 1981 would have a much better time at the Népstadion. Trevor Brooking opened the scoring for England in the eighteenth minute when Terry McDermott delivered the ball into Brooking’s path in the Hungarian eighteen yard box. Hungary could have equalized not long after, when following a corner floated into the England six yard area, Tibor Nyilasi of Ferencvárosi saw his header from close range hit the England cross bar.
As the first half was coming to an end the Hungarians were playing the better football so it was no surprise when following a nice little chip from András Törőcsik of Újpest Dózsa the home side gained parity when Imre Garaba of Honvéd had the simple task of putting the ball past Ray Clemence in the England penalty area. As the second half began it was England who looked the brighter side and it was Trevor Brooking of West Ham about a quarter of an hour into that second half who again scored for England. After some neat passing around the Hungary eighteen yard box he was able to smash the ball high into the Hungarian net where it stayed lodged between the framework of the goal posts.
That Brooking goal stung the Hungarians into action and it looked like a nailed on Hungarian equalizer when László Kiss of Vasas Sport Clubja was clean through on goal with only Clemence to beat, sadly for him his effort hit the side netting, England blew a sigh of relief. England made sure of the win when Kevin Keegan slotted the ball past the Hungarian goalie from a penalty awarded to England by the Italian referee after Keegan himself was brought down in the Hungarian eighteen yard box. The game finished 3 – 1 to England, that much needed away win putting some much needed wind into England’s sails.
Next up for Ron Greenwood’s men was a trip to Oslo to face Norway at the Ullevaal Stadion. The match that September was almost a year to the day that both England and Norway began their world cup qualifying campaign against each other in London at Wembley Stadium. That game as mentioned earlier finished in an England victory so now Norway had the chance to put one over England. Of course older fans will remember this was the game which saw Norwegian match commentator Bjørge Lillelien let rip with his famous speech after the referee had blown for full time in Oslo.
“We are the best in the world! We are the best in the world! We have beaten England 2-1 in football!! It is completely unbelievable! We have beaten England! England, birthplace of giants. Lord Nelson, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden, Clement Attlee, Henry Cooper, Lady Diana–we have beaten them all. We have beaten them all. Maggie Thatcher can you hear me? Maggie Thatcher, I have a message for you in the middle of the election campaign. I have a message for you: We have knocked England out of the football World Cup. Maggie Thatcher, as they say in your language in the boxing bars around Madison Square Garden in New York: Your boys took a hell of a beating! Your boys took a hell of a beating!” Bjørge Lillelien.
It was very disappointing match for England, a beating they didn’t receive but they were beaten when they really should have won this match, when the Polish referee Jerzy Kacprzak blew for full time it was Norway 2 England 1. The only bright spot for England was Bryan Robsons first international goal for England. It was typical Robbo. Well inside the Norwegian eighteen yard box and heavily challenged by the Norwegian full backs Robbo was having trouble staying on his feet, it was only down to sheer determination that he put the ball into the Norwegian net. That defeat in Oslo meant that in their final qualifying game in Group Four England had to beat Hungary at Wembley Stadium in order to go to the world cup in Spain. That final game of Group Four for Greenwood’s team in the middle of November of 1981 occurred a week after Switzerland had drew with Romania in Bern, so that meant England had to win against Kálmán Mészöly’s Hungary, a draw simply wouldn’t be enough. Ron Greenwood fielded a strong team for that must win game. In goal was Peter Shilton, the four defenders were Phil Neal, Mick Mills, Phil Thompson and Alvin Martin. In midfield was Bryan Robson, Steve Coppell, Terry McDermott and Trevor Brooking. Up front was team captain Kevin Keegan and Paul Mariner.
Although they would finish the group as winners no matter how this match went Hungarian team manager Kálmán Mészöly lined up his team with five defenders a midfield of only two players with three players playing as strikers, an interesting formation to say the least. When the French referee Georges Konrath blew his whistle for the start of the game there were more than 90,000 flag waving nervous England fans in the old Wembley Stadium. A week after Ron Greenwood had turned sixty years of age, he had come in for criticism at times as England boss, when appointed to the England hot seat the first thing he had said to the press was that he promised that he would take England to a world cup finals. England bossed the game from start to finish, the Hungarians never gave Shilton the England goalkeeper any real problems at all throughout the game. England won the match 1 – 0 courtesy of a Paul Mariner goal in the fourteenth minute but to be fair the score line in no way reflected England’s dominance in this game.
All the England players during the final group game against Hungary played extremely well, Bryan Robson was the man of the match and was the only England player to play in all the qualifying games from start to finish. For the first time since 1962 England had successfully qualified through a qualifying group campaign. Greenwood had well and truly delivered on his promise, bringing England in from the international wilderness. Hungary and England were going to Spain, Romania, Switzerland and Norway had to lick their wounds on their way home.
Ron Greenwood took a twenty two man squad to Spain. The squad consisted of three goalkeepers who Peter Shilton of Nottingham Forest, Ray Clemence who was about to join Tottenham Hotspur from Liver and Manchester City’s Joe Corrigan. The seven defenders were Viv Anderson of Nottingham Forest, Terry Butcher and team captain Mick Mills of Ipswich Town, Steve Foster of Brighton &Hove Albion, Phil Neal and Phil Thompson of Liverpool and Kenny Sansom of Arsenal. The seven midfielders were Ray Wilkins, Steve Coppell and Bryan Robson of Manchester United, Terry McDermott of Liverpool, Trevor Brooking of West Ham, Glen Hoddle of Tottenham Hotspur and Graham Rix of Arsenal. The five strikers were Paul Mariner of Ipswich Town, Tony Woodcock of German club FC Cologne, Trevor Francis of Manchester City, Peter Withe of Aston Villa and Kevin Keegan of Southampton who had recently returned to English football from his stint in the Bundesliga with S.V. Hamburg.
By the time of summer 1982 the English game had, for only a season, winners of league games had been awarded three points, however FIFA were still only awarding two points for a win in competitive matches, interestingly it wouldn’t be until the world cup of 1994 hosted by the USA that we would see three points awarded for a win at a world cup tournament. For the world cup tournament itself England were drawn into Group Four as the seeded team, joining Ron Greenwood’s boys were France, Kuwait and Czechoslovakia. Once in Spain England would be based in the Northern Spanish city of Bilbao in the Basque region of Spain, playing all their initial group games at the Estadio San Mamés home of Athletic Club of Bilbao, a stadium with a capacity of around 46,000. It was modestly sized stadium yet it was very British like in the sense that the terraces were very near the pitch therefore making it a very atmospheric stadium indeed.
The other group games would be played 174 miles to the south in Valladolid at the Estadio Municipal José Zorrilla, home of Real Valladolid. England would play their opening game of world cup ’82 on the Wednesday 16th of June against Michel Hidalgo’s France. That Wednesday afternoon leading up to kick off I was in the park playing football with friends, all eyes on watches whoever had one on. It was the school summer holidays and a world cup tournament was the ticket to enjoy it, as we ran home from the park about four-ish the sense of excitement was huge, we were about to see England in a world cup tournament for the first time in our lives. I lived on a fairly busy street in Manchester at the time, nothing overtly busy just a few kids playing in the street, people washing their cars etc., as I looked out of our front bay window with only about two minutes to go to kick off the street was deserted, everyone was sat in front of their televisions. Spain 1982 was the first world cup England had been at in twelve years and they played like it, eager to be let off the leash at a world cup tournament.
That opening in Bilbao was all about England, France were never in it to be honest. This was the game that Bryan Robson announced himself on the world stage scoring the then quickest goal at the world cup finals when he found the French net after only about twenty seven or so seconds into the first half. Just over twenty minutes later Gérard Soler the Moroccan born Bordeaux striker equalised for the French with a fiercely struck shot to Shilton’s left, the England goalie having no chance of saving it. When the Portuguese ref blew for half time it honours even, 1 – 1. The second half began with England the better side which was pretty much the story of the match, England were superior to their French opponents all over the pitch throughout the game.
Just over twenty minutes into the second half Bryan Robson heads in his second goal of the game. A good run into French territory by Robson’s United team mate Steve Coppell enabled Trevor Francis to float a beautiful cross into the French eighteen yard box which was met perfectly by Robson’s head, the ball ending up in the French net; it was fantastic piece of football from England. With about eight minutes of the game left Paul Mariner made sure of the win with an easy shot past the French goalkeeper after Trevor Francis’s effort on goal was sliced into Mariners path, the game finished 3 – 1 in England’s favour. The following day Czechoslovakia beat Kuwait 1 – 0 in Valladolid and a few days later on the 20th England met Czechoslovakia in Bilbao. To be fair to the Czechs they gave England more of a game, the first goal of the game came just after the hour mark when Trevor Francis knocked the ball from close distance, an unlucky turn of events for the Czechs and to make matters worse FK Bratislava defender Jozef Barmoš put the ball in to his net about four minutes after England took the lead, the game finished with another win for Greenwood’s men. That 2 – 0 victory over the Czechs meant that England had qualified for the next phase of the tournament, England’s final game of the group against Kuwait was effectively a dead rubber.
Five days later that final game versus Kuwait ended in a 1 – 0 win for England, the scored by Trevor Francis. So when the first group stage came to an end England topped the group with France in second place, three points from three games was enough to put France through to the next phase. The next stage of world cup ’82 consisted of four groups each with three teams; each team would play each other with the team finishing top going through to the semifinals. England were in Group B along with West Germany and host nation Spain. Not an easy group for England, West Germany as we all know were a fantastic side full of world class players and Spain were foaming at the mouth in anticipation at being given a second chance to impress a watching nation after a disappointing opening group stage.
“We have qualified now for what I think is the beginning of the World Cup. We must wait and see the other results, but I think it would be better to avoid Germany. If Northern Ireland and Scotland can do it, it would be a nice boost for British football.” Ron Greenwood.
Well, England drew 0 – 0 with both West Germany and Spain, West Germany beat the Spanish 2 – 1 in Madrid so they would be the ones going through to the semifinals, Spain had endured a hugely disappointing world cup. England could hold their heads up, they had only conceded the one goal, that goal scored by Gérard Soler during England’s 3 – 1 humbling of France in the opening game and they were going home undefeated.