Wednesday, 18 May 2022

1985: England in Mexico

If you're a football lover who doesn't like cricket then I feel for you, as Chaka Khan might say. Those long summer months can be hellish without any action, as you count down to pre-season tours, friendlies, and the beginning of a new campaign that may just be the year that your club shines (or not).

The last few summers have been slightly unusual. Euro 2020 took place in 2021, and due to money the climate in Qatar, the 2022 World Cup has been pushed back to November/December. We do have the World Cup play-off and the Nations League to keep us going, but there is nothing quite like a proper summer tournament.

Monday, 9 May 2022

1981 European Cup final: Liverpool v Real Madrid

Sometimes an idea for a future blog just falls on my lap. But with a minute to go at the Bernabeu during the second leg of Real Madrid's semi-final against Manchester City, I have to admit that the prospect of me reminiscing about the 1981 European Cup final seemed distant.

Yet there is something about this Real Madrid team that throws all logic out of the window. Somehow they dragged the match into extra-time before they finished off a shellshocked City. "Improbably, miraculously, beyond their dreams and expectation," as the wonderful Peter Drury declared.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

1984: Watford v Everton goalfests

If you wanted full value for money from your football in the 1983/84 season, then a season ticket at Watford would have been a wise choice. The strike partnership of Mo Johnston and George Reilly, ably supported by the skilful wide men John Barnes and Nigel Callaghan, were providing the excitement from an attacking perspective. However, defending seemed an afterthought at times.

For a while it appeared as if the club had contracted a serious bout of second season syndrome. They may have finished second in 1982/83 but by December, Graham Taylor's team were in the relegation zone with just four league wins. Yet everything would change in 1984.

Monday, 25 April 2022

1984: Pat Nevin and that penalty

We all had our footballing heroes during our childhood. Maybe Jorginho was a big Pat Nevin fan, and he would spend hours reading about the diminutive Scottish winger and his time at Stamford Bridge. Certainly the tribute act performed by the Brazilian against West Ham last weekend would suggest this.

Jorginho's weak effort saved by Lukasz Fabianski immediately got many of us older football lovers rewinding our memory banks back to Nevin's tame attempt at the same ground on November 21, 1984. Fortunately for both Jorginho and Nevin, their awful misses did not matter ultimately. But it doesn't stop smart-arse bloggers like me writing a few words on the subject.

Thursday, 21 April 2022

1985/86: Manchester United v Chelsea

It's a marathon, not a sprint. An oft-used phrase in sport that sadly for those involved has proved to be correct on many occasions. Think Crisp in the 1973 Grand National, Rory McIlroy at the 2011 Masters, and Steve Davis in that black ball final. Timing in sport is everything.

It is possible to come flying out of the blocks and lead from the front. But in the case of Manchester United in the 1985/86 season, the pack had started to breathe down their necks as soon as the clocks went back in the autumn. Winning their first ten matches, and remaining unbeaten for the first 15, surely the long wait for the Division One title was over?

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

1986/87: Manchester United v Norwich City

The mid-80s had been a topsy-turvy experience for Norwich City fans. Winning the 1985 Milk Cup at Wembley was a joyous occasion, yet soon the experience would turn sour. Relegation at the end of the season, and the European ban placed on English clubs after Heysel, left Norwich in Division Two with their UEFA Cup spot taken away from them.

There would be a couple of crumbs of comfort after these twin disappointments. Ken Brown remained in charge to lead the club to the 1985/86 Second Division title, and with rivals Ipswich passing them on the way down, the club bounced back just as they (and Alan Partridge) regularly do in recent Premier League years.

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

1982 World Cup qualification: Wales

It can almost be viewed as the forgotten campaign, the chapter of heartbreak held between the hands of Joe Jordan and David Phillips. The story of Wales and their attempts to qualify for the 1982 World Cup is not one that is often told when recalling the history of Welsh agony since their only appearance at a finals tournament in 1958.

Maybe it is the 1977 and 1985 agonies that are the real reason for this. Anything compared to those two nights of Scottish-induced suffering will forever live in the shadows. But the 1982 campaign was just as deflating. A qualification programme of two halves that at first brought hope before the reality of despair arrived.