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The Mavericks: English Football When Flair Wore Flares

The Mavericks: English Football When Flair Wore Flares

Автор Rob Steen

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The Mavericks: English Football When Flair Wore Flares

Автор Rob Steen

Длина:
329 страниц
3 часа
Издатель:
Издано:
16 апр. 2020 г.
ISBN:
9781472974860
Формат:
Книга

Описание

First published 25 years ago, The Mavericks was one of a new breed of sophisticated football titles. Artfully combining sports journalism with social history and sharp pop culture references, The Mavericks explores 1970s football when a cult group of footballers delivered flair on the pitch and flamboyance off it.

Cocky, coiffured strikers meet David Bowie and Alvin Stardust; Gola boots exchange kicks with A Clockwork Orange and The Likely Lads; Admiral sock tags, platform heels and kipper ties mingle with cod wars, Harrods bombings and three-day weeks. In this, Steen recreates the early Seventies, the era when football joined the vanguard of English youth culture. This personal account revolves around seven Englishmen who followed in the trail blazed by football's first tabloid star, George Best – Stan Bowles, Tony Currie, Charlie George, Alan Hudson, Rodney Marsh, Peter Osgood and Frank Worthington.

Proud individuals amid an increasingly corporate environment, their invention and artistry were matched only by a disdain for authority and convention. Their belief in football as performance art, as showbiz, gave the game a boost, and elevated them to cult status. During their heyday, nevertheless, they were largely ignored by a succession of England managers, none of whom were able to assemble a side competent enough to qualify for the World Cup finals. Against a backdrop of increasing violence on the field and terraces alike, of battles between players and the Establishment, this book - now featuring a new Foreword and Postscript - examines an anomaly at the heart of English culture, one that symbolised the death of post-Sixties optimism, the end of innocence.
Издатель:
Издано:
16 апр. 2020 г.
ISBN:
9781472974860
Формат:
Книга

Об авторе

Rob Steen is an award-winning author, sportswriter and freshly retired senior lecturer in journalism at the University of Brighton. He has written for the Guardian, Independent, Financial Times, Sunday Times and Mojo. He has written numerous books on sport and has been shortlisted twice for the prestigious William Hill Sports Book of the Year award.


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Praise for The Mavericks

‘In an era of PR-bleaching and PC niceties The Mavericks is an oasis of flair, hair and devil-may-care attitude. Yet Rob Steen also highlights with real poignancy the sometimes grim and earthy reality behind the curtain. This brilliant book remains essential reading for anyone who likes social history with a nice backheel.’

Rick Broadbent, The Times

‘Wonderful evocation of the early 70s, an era when players weren’t afraid to express themselves – on the pitch or in the bar.’

Kevin Mitchell, The Guardian

‘A great book’

Henry Winter

‘If you still remain baffled as to why England failed to qualify for the 1974 and 1978 World Cups, this goes a long way to solving the mystery.’

Four Four Two - No.39 in Top 50 Football Books

‘Quite splendid ... just delicious – and brilliantly researched’

The Times

‘A lovely read, the kind in which you constantly annoy people by reading the funny bits out loud.’

Irish Post

‘If you enjoyed The Damned United you will savour Rob Steen’s The Mavericks, an evocative look at football when the game was enhanced by genuinely edgy entertainers rather than overpaid characterless robots.’

Waterstones.com

‘An evocative work which is given its cutting edge by the author’s success in uncovering the idiosyncrasies that set the fancy dans apart from each other as well as their mutual non-conformism.’

The Independent

‘The Mavericks is irresistible, artfully combining sports journalism with social history and sharp pop-culture references.’

Impact

To Laura, a London Tendaberry

Bloomsbury%20NY-L-ND-S_US.eps

Contents

Introduction (2020)

Introduction to 1994 edition

1 Sucking in the Seventies

2 Chairman Alf and the Godfather

3 Gunning for Trouble

4 Blue Was the Colour

5 I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea

6 Queen’s Park Arrangers

(i) The Jean Genie

(ii) The Bookies’ Favourite

(iii) Dr Heckle and Mr Jive

7 It’s Now or Never

Afterword

Acknowledgements

Bibliography

By the same author

Index

About the author

Plates

Introduction (2020)

Ooh Aah Cantona,

Ooh Aah Cantona

Ooh Aah, Ooh Aah, Ooh Aah

Cantona ...

Ooh Aah Cantona

Manchester United supporters’ chant

Donald Trump might possibly not be remembered as the most admirable man who ever brushed his teeth in the White House. Eric Cantona knew his left foot from his right. And since this book was first published in 1994¹, the world’s most unkickable drug has undergone one or two changes. Ah, the delights of England’s foremost contribution to civilised discourse: understatement.

1994 saw an England-free World Cup. The Champions League and Premier League² were with us, just, but their Godzilla-like rise, from invaders to dictators – thanks in no small measure, in terms of the latter, to Monsieur Cantona – lay ahead. Ditto free agency, a globalised transfer market, all-powerful agents and bank-breaking broadcasting deals, paving the way for an explosion in wages, a sharpening of ambitions and a belated acknowledgement that players matter more than suits. Ditto the long-term decline – albeit not elimination – of hooliganism, which, combined with all-seater stadiums, baize-smooth pitches, anti-prejudice campaigns and closer attention to customer safety and satisfaction, have made the matchday experience less intimidating to women, non-heterosexuals, ethnic minorities, aesthetes, the disabled and anyone with an aversion to digestive disorders. Ditto Google, Facebook, Instagram, tweets, smartphones, live streaming, live bloggers and club websites, all of which would bring us closer to the action (and even closer to suffocation). Ditto also a generation of players whose professionalism, steeled by the rewards, has all but ended the ubiquity of the drinking culture.

In 1994, moreover, women’s football was about as hip as the Charleston. The second official Women’s World Cup, staged in Sweden in 1995, saw Brazil’s opening game draw a dash over 2000 spectators, though that still towered over England’s 655; full-time professionalism wasn’t even a pipe dream. The only progression one might have forecast with any confidence was that advances in fitness regimes, medicine, machines and diet would continue, the upshot unprecedented pace and stamina as well as speedier recovery from injury. In only one major respect has the game obviously regressed: as I write, not since Justin Fashanu in 1990 has an active male English League player publicly revealed his homosexuality.

In the interim, globalisation, in its Dr Jekyll guise, has all but erased many other ancient prejudices. Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ went through the entire 2003–04 Premier League season unbeaten with a first-choice XI numbering just two Britons, but if patriotic season ticket holders were bothered, their devotion showed no signs of dimming. Come the end of the 2018–19 campaign, players from 109 foreign nations had played in what the world now refers to as the EPL; in 1993–94, that figure was just 24, including 15 from Europe, one from Africa, none from Asia, none from South America or Italy, and a solitary son of Spain. The most radical and beneficial development, nonetheless, has been more important than all that.

Nothing more eloquently sums up the glorious simplicity of football, and hence its unchallenged standing in 21st-century sport, than its resistance to rule changes. By the late 1930s, three-quarters of a century after a confab at the Freemason’s Tavern in Covent Garden had produced the original common rules, there were but 17 laws. By telling comparison, those pertaining to cricket, as published in the 1938 edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, spanned 29 pages of the yellow bible; 70 years later, they ate up 60. The laws section of the 1998 Rothmans Book of Football Records, albeit in a larger format, required just 12.

Planet Football, then, was left feeling a little woozy when UEFA announced no fewer than nine rule changes for the 2019–20 Champions League. There could have been 10: a daft proposal to ban goals scored from penalty rebounds was voted down. Still, even that sounded like the fount of logic, common sense and all-round justness compared with the reason it took until 1891 for the penalty kick to be introduced: according to the public school old boys then running the Football Association, a gentleman was morally and constitutionally incapable of intentionally committing something so confoundedly bounder-ish as a foul.

The past quarter-century, indeed, has seen a welcome acceleration in regulatory change, driven by technological advances and those by-products of arch-professionalism, cynicism and negativity, that had combined to render Italia ’90 the ugliest of World Cups. Goalkeepers are no longer entitled to handle back passes delivered by foot; offside has been redefined to favour the attacking team and all but extinguish the offside trap; most recently, the video assistant referee (VAR) has entered the lexicon, bringing the promise – once the teething problems have been banished – of more accurate decision-making.

The critical breakthrough, though, came shortly before the men’s World Cup in 1998, when the tackle from behind was finally outlawed. Long enough ago for anyone under the age of 30 to react with blank-faced incredulity on being informed that it was ever legitimate. Long enough ago to cleanse more venerable memories of the way we were when the heroes of this book were strutting their extraordinary, exhilarating stuff. Almost.

Among my many rituals as a sports journalism lecturer, I would show undergraduates the DVD of the 1970 FA Cup final replay between Leeds United and Chelsea, a despicable contest unfairly blessed with a memorable fightback and two fabulous goals. Unfortunately, it was also a match over which the referee, Eric Jennings, exerted about as much control as King Canute had when confronted with the tide. ‘At times,’ warranted Hugh McIlvanney in The Observer, ‘it appeared that Mr Jennings would give a free-kick only on production of a death certificate.’ When the final whistle blew I always asked the students the same question: what struck you most? By no means everyone noticed that, despite the flailing fists and lunging studs, not a single soul had been sent off, nor so much as a single caution issued. Decades later, the former Football League referee and Harrow schoolmaster David Elleray studied a video of the game and concluded that, had he been on whistle duty, he’d have brandished 20 yellow cards and six reds.

Let’s be compassionate. The occasion may have got to Mr Jennings, freezing his instincts – after all, who wants to sully the season’s showpiece by reducing it to a five-a-side kickabout? Besides, the fault lay less with permissive refereeing and regulations – and the deep-rooted social attitudes that informed them – than with the unscrupulous players and the managers who inculcated that ruthlessness. Without more protective sanctions, meaningful change was impossible. If the extinction of the tackle from behind came too late to prevent the premature retirement at 28 of that Dutch maestro Marco van Basten, it seems unthinkable that Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo could have harvested the goals they have under the conditions that prevailed before they were born. The major consequence of this, allied to the way referees have been instructed to provide better protection, has been clear: fear of physical injury, while still present, is nowhere near as acute as it was, freeing minds and emboldening hearts.

Statistically, admittedly, the effects have been minimal. In the first complete Premier League season after the tackle from behind was banned, the goals-per-game average was 2.52, down from 2.68 the previous campaign; although 1999–2000 saw that figure soar to 2.79, by 2017–18 it was back down to 2.68. The World Cup has been no different. In 1998 there were 2.67 goals per game, down on the 2.71 mean in 1994; in the last two tournaments the respective figures have been 2.7 (in Brazil) and 2.6 (in Russia). Blame – if blame is appropriate – improved fitness and defensive organisation, but also the narrowing of the skills gap that had long separated Europe and South America from Africa and Asia. Still, we all know goals aren’t really the point. You cannot measure such things, of course, but can anyone seriously deny that the game feels fairer or that it has improved as a spectacle? As we bask in the still-dizzying glow of the 2018–19 Champions League semi-finals, certainly not anyone I know. Justification for Pelé’s enshrining of football as ‘the beautiful game’ has always been difficult to unearth, but it’s getting easier.

I wanted to give ninety minutes of joy to people. And I wanted that joy to come not from winning, but from being entertained, from witnessing something special.

Such was the philosophy of Arrigo Sacchi. He was certainly in good company, echoing the heartfelt desire of a pair of fabled Scots, Matt Busby and Jock Stein: the first professional managers of, respectively, George Best and Kenny Dalglish, by common consent the best, most consistently brilliant British footballers of televisual times.

As the coach who plotted AC Milan’s majestic march to consecutive European Cup and World Club Cup titles in 1989 and 1990, Sacchi had little cause for modesty. Here, after all, was a feat that united those august publications, France Football and World Soccer, both of which ranked his side as the finest club collective of them all. Recoiling at the nullity of catenaccio, switching the priority from negation to creation, Sacchi transformed the reputation of the Italian game. Granted, you can’t go too far wrong when you have the talents of van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Paolo Maldini at your disposal, but even the most sublime orchestra needs an inspiring conductor.

In fact, as Jonathan Wilson records in his enlightening and indispensable history of football tactics, Inverting the Pyramid, Sacchi regarded himself as both screenwriter and director, his players as actors. And never did he derive greater satisfaction than in 1989, when Milan, having ravaged Real Madrid in the semi-final, marmalised Steaua Bucharest 4–0 to hoist the European Cup. ‘Many believe that football is about the players expressing themselves,’ he reasoned. ‘But that’s not the case. Or, rather, it’s not the case in and of itself. The player needs to express himself within the parameters laid out by the manager … And it’s about being a player. Not just being skilful or being athletic. I didn’t want robots or individualists. I wanted people with the intelligence to understand me, and the spirit to put that intelligence to the service of the team. In short, I wanted people who knew how to play football.’

If Sacchi can be seen as an enlightened despot partial to what he saw in the mirror, the romantics are led by the more self-effacing Danny Blanchflower, the Northern Irishman who captained Tottenham to the 1960–61 League-FA Cup double and was one of the most intelligent men ever to play with balls for a living. Deploring what he saw as an invasion of privacy, he was the first person to have the temerity to reject the advances of that faintly nauseating, decades-running TV tribute show This Is Your Life. He was, of course, far better known for the following call to arms, one that Sacchi may or may not have come across while he was toiling in his father’s shoe factory:

‘The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.’

As an ethos, for all the naivety some might reasonably detect, it is hard to think of anything that better captures the allure of spectator sport. That that ‘great fallacy’ has only grown in strength in the half-century since those sentiments were originally expressed has done nothing whatsoever to dim their life-affirming utopianism. Glory, after all, can be achieved in defeat. And we, the spectators and viewers and browsers who finance the planet’s most unkickable drug, want nothing more than to witness the glorious and the uplifting, to savour the oohs and the aahs.

Blanchflower’s foremost spiritual heir is Jorge Valdano, whose goals helped Argentina win the 1986 World Cup and who reinvented himself, according to Wilson, as ‘the eloquent philosopher prince of aesthetic football’. Coaches, he railed a decade ago, ‘have come to view games as a succession of threats and thus fear has contaminated their ideas. Every imaginary threat they try to nullify leads them to a repressive decision which corrodes aspects of football such as happiness, freedom and creativity.’ According to Valdano, for all that the latter won more trophies, and more recently at that, we recall Sacchi’s Milan more fondly, and better, than Fabio Capello’s Milan, just as we harbour a similar preference for Holland’s Total Footballers over their West German conquerors in the 1974 World Cup final: ‘It’s about the search for perfection. We know it doesn’t exist, but it’s our obligation towards football and, maybe, towards humanity to strive towards it. That’s what we remember. That’s what’s special.’

Which brings us back to the inspirations for this book. As I went through the proofs for this edition, I reacquainted myself with a prime slice of bollocks published in the Daily Mirror in those dimming days nearly half a century distant, when English football flexed knuckledusters and flair wore flares: ‘Football’, harrumphed Frank McGhee, ‘does not need people like Stan Bowles and George Best.’ Which was a bit like remarking that those Beatles chappies would have been just as popular without their noisy electric guitar contraptions. Still, McGhee’s assertion that a young man’s extreme skill should be sacrificed on the altar of self-suppression, defensive capabilities, deference and off-field monkishness, reinforcing the prevailing view of successive England managers, served one useful function: if you want to cite the most egregious denial of everything that makes sport worth watching, look no further.

But for that other convention-busting colossus of Irish football, Best, it is hard to imagine that Manchester United, for all Cantona’s daring doings, would still be the game’s most widely consumed brand half a century on; still home – by dint of reputation and legend if not reality – to the gladiators of glamour and glory. English football in the 1970s without those free spirits Bowles, Osgood and Hudson, George and Currie, Marsh and Worthington? Picture an X-rated black-and-white cartoon, though even that wouldn’t be sufficiently grisly or colourless. Could there be a more savage indictment of English football than that these foot artists, who together won silverware aplenty with their clubs, were wasted at international level during a decade that brought two failed World Cup qualification campaigns?

At bottom, naturally, it all came down to those prototype weapons of mass destruction, fear and jealousy. ‘There was an uproar when Portsmouth took me on [as a youth coach],’ recollected Peter Osgood. ‘People were saying things like, How can you ask a drunk and a womaniser to look after kids? People like me and Huddy, Stan, Marshy, Currie and Worthy, we all had a bad name. They’re frightened of you, you see. Frightened of your ability.’

Critics have suggested that the title of this book should have been The Wasters. I still beg to differ, marginally: The Wasted would have done nicely. Threatened by their audacity, lack of inhibition and abundance of flair and hair, those chiefly responsible for managing the England team in the 1970s failed the Wizard of Os, the Loose Cannon, the Matador, Stan the Man, Huddy, Charlie and Worthy. They also failed those of us who longed to see that team as the embodiment of how we wanted the rest of the world to see us: strong and fair and wise, sure, but seasoned and spiced with a top-of-the-range superiority complex, a PhD in slyness and a good deal more winks than blinks. We yearned for the validation of victory, yes, but also for the buzz of beauty. And those failures stemmed from the unavoidable fact that those managers lost sight of the duties inherent in carrying out the (mostly thankless) job they had coveted: trusting, respecting, encouraging, motivating, reassuring, harnessing, uniting and inspiring substantial egos – the process by which you get the best from the best.

A chapter devoted to the Mavericks’ chief tormentors and unbelievers follows, but an early peek at the mindsets of Alf Ramsey and Don Revie seems in order. Ramsey’s greatest triumph was finding the right role for Bobby Charlton, for whom fulfilment had been delayed by reticence as much as adaptability. That Ramsey persisted with him so long, while refusing to muster anything like the same degree of patience for Osgood, Hudson and Marsh, much less a similar determination to make the most of their arguably greater talents, speaks volumes for the persuasiveness of goals – Charlton notched a dozen in 23 games under Ramsey prior to June 1966. It also tells you all you need to know about the benefits of being characterised as ‘The Right Sort’. Forget Ramsey physically stopping George Cohen from swapping shirts with an Argentinian, Pelé being chopped down by the Portuguese and Nobby Stiles jogging round Wembley sans front teeth: the most shocking image of the 1966 World Cup is the photo of Charlton at the Hendon Hall hotel, tie askew, top shirt button undone.

As for Revie, he was the classic example of a successful club manager promoted beyond his capabilities and sensibilities. Widely regarded as paranoid, to some he personified anti-football. ‘It has always riled me when I see the career Revie has had,’ confessed Bob Stokoe, who managed Sunderland to a nation-delighting upset of Revie’s Leeds United in the 1973 FA Cup final and had always believed Revie had bribed his Bury team before a League game in the early sixties. ‘He was always an evil man to me.’ Said Mick Channon, who wore the England captain’s armband under Revie: ‘I don’t think he could trust anyone.’ In his 2009 book The Manager: The Absurd Ascent of the Most Important Man in Football, The Guardian’s estimable Barney Ronay writes: ‘The fact is, the manager does not always embrace the light. Occasionally he seeks out the sinister. When he’s good, he’s very good. When he’s bad, he’s innocent of any charges until somebody proves otherwise. And when he’s really bad, he’s Don Revie.’

Ramsey and Revie were either unable or unwilling to recognise their own shortcomings and prejudices, let alone eradicate them. Their egos were even grander than those of their selections. As the alleged grown-ups, as the enforcers of the widening generation gap that split England in the 1970s, it was they who did the wasting.

Notes

1 Except where facts needed correction or clarification, or an inexact word required tweaking, this edition remains faithful to the original, and thus free of hindsight.

2 It says much for the uncertain early identity of the Premier League that, in 1994, it was better known as the Premiership, by which it was referred to in the original edition of this book. Similarly, all references to the ‘Championship’ refer to the pre-1992 First Division title.

Introduction to 1994 edition

19 June 1994: 12.30 a.m.

Dear Mr God (excuse the informality but you forgot to leave your surname on the ansaphone),

Yellow submarines remain elusive, but I think I’ve finally located the sea of green: Holloway Road at midnight. Two days into the World Cup and ‘Jack Charlton’s Ireland’ have just defeated Silvio Berlusconi’s squillionaires. For a few sweet hours, even the kebabs are getting well and truly Guinnless. Green shirts, green caps, green scarves, green neon. Oversized leprechauns raise glasses to passing motorists, toasting the craic, blissfully unaware that some of their spiritual brethren have just been blown away by a gale of Loyalist bullets in Lochinisland. My, what withering irony. You must be an Englishman.

Yet doubts persist. Forgive the bare-faced effrontery, but there are a few bones in urgent need of picking. What on earth possessed you to invent religion, or, for that matter, Toast Toppers? Furthermore, if you truly are an Englishman, why have the backhanders dried up? (While you ponder that last teaser, may I humbly suggest that you must be a Him. ‘For Goddess’s sake’ simply doesn’t emit the requisite spite. Besides, only the male instinct for the absurd could dream up a game in which John Burridge and Albert Camus could both excel in the same position.)

Time’s up. For what it’s worth, as an undeniably middle-class north London Semite, I prefer to think of you as the Bernd Schuster of Elysian Fields FC, a nomadic midfield creator who lost his bearings when he turned away from his kith and kin, in your case we Chosen Ones. You, an Englishman? Pah. How could someone with any regard for his country’s well-being be capable of even contemplating the stunt you pulled off shortly after 8 a.m. on 17 October 1973. There I was, one-third wondering how long Tony Currie lingered under the covers on the morning of a big game, one-third mid-canoodle with Olivia Newton-John, one-third glued to the end of Tony Blackburn’s faa-aantabulous Top Thirty rundown. Would it be the cross dressing majesty of ‘Ballroom Blitz’, or the stonking honky-tonking of ‘All the Way from Memphis’, or the raunch ’n’ roll of ‘Nutbush City Limits’? No chance. There it was, number bloody one for the fourth week running, toot-toot-fucking-tootling its way to shopping centre hell: ‘Eye Level’ by the Simon Park Orchestra.

Three stops down the Bakerloo Line in less than 12 hours’ time Currie and his compatriots would be kicking off Wembley Stadium’s most important match since 1966. West Germany and the World Cup would be at stake, not to mention a nation’s self-esteem. So what do you do? Take the theme to a worse than useless ITV show about a pretentious-looking Dutch cop by the name of Van Der Valk, chuck in a slice of prime middle-of-the-road sub-Mantovani rib oozing with 10 times the nausea content of the ‘Theme to Owen MD’, then ensure it’s still sizzling away on the nation’s collective stove come the moment for rousing chords and rolling drums. I suppose awarding England 26 corners to the opposition’s two was part of the wheeze too, eh? No wonder the Poles thought nothing of putting a clown between the sticks.

You may recall that 1973 was the year you urged me to sue football for divorce on grounds of mental cruelty and dereliction of duty. Subsequently, there have been periods when we have barely been on nodding terms, usually when Wimbledon are on a roll or Argentina are playing for penalties. Yet that umbilical tug persists, the affection too entrenched to permit prolonged indifference. Indeed, thanks to that walking, talking, galling Gaul, Eric Cantona, the 1993–94 season wooed me anew. In 1973, though, I found new lovers, reliable lovers, lovers who gave more than they took. American Graffiti came to the Edgware ABC, A Clockwork Orange to the Harrow Granada, Steely Dan and Todd Rundgren to my shamelessly mono record player, Summer of ’42 to my bedside, snogging to my sexless existence. Half a decade after its release, I fell for Astral Weeks, Van Morrison’s unique, timeless fusion of jazzy bel canto and bittersweet Belfast, rebirth and revelation.

You signed the decree nisi on Wednesday, 17 October. That was the night ‘Spiny’ Norman Hunter let Lato escape his clutches and Peter Shilton let Domarski’s dribble of a drive seep through his legs, when England’s sole route past Tomaszweski came via the penalty spot; the night when Alf Ramsey so lost track of time that he brought on Kevin Hector for Martin Chivers with, ooh, a minute or so remaining; when, in the dying seconds, the selfsame Hector botched a point-blank header your mum would have put away with her curlers in. What a silly old Hector.

What stuck in the craw was not so much that ‘we’ (OK, so I’m a schizophrenic) failed to win as the sickening sense of waste. Having helped whup an inept bunch of Heidis 7–0 a month earlier, Currie was there, true, but where were all the other Merlins? Peter Osgood was on the bench, Rodney Marsh on the shelf, Alan Hudson and Frank Worthington in the queue. Stan Bowles had the decided disadvantage of turning out for Queen’s Park Rangers, a club awarded one full England cap (to Marsh) in the 65 years since Evelyn Lintott and his mischievously upturned handlebar moustache were summoned to face the Irish in 1908. Charlie George was either injured or having a tiff with Bertie Mee. It was usually one or the other. To spectators, these were the Mavericks, heroes blessed with X-ray vision capable of ridding the world of dastardly man-markers. To managers and coaches they were drinkers, womanisers and, worst of all, non-conformists. They didn’t know their place. At international level, accordingly, they were thrown scraps. The Poles knew full well they hadn’t nicked a point off the best 11 players in England.

You signed the decree absolute at Stamford Bridge on New Year’s Eve,

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