Brian Clough, Peter Shilton and a roundabout way of winning in Europe

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In 1980, Brian Clough (below) took Nottingham Forest to their second European Cup triumph in as many seasons. Like the Spurs side of nearly forty years later, Forest had beaten Ajax in their semi to reach the final in Madrid (although the 1980 final was held at the Santiago Bernabéu).

Preperation for such a big match can sometimes be fraught with problems, especially if you are a perfectionist in the same way that Cloughie undoubtedly was. This excellent tale, as told by the legendary Forest and England goalkeeper Peter Shilton (above), possibly explains a lot about Old Big ‘Ead’s more… er… unconventional problem solving methods:

When we got to Madrid, [assistant manager] Peter Taylor told me we had a great training pitch, but it was too hard. ‘You haven’t looked hard enough,’ Cloughie told us. ‘We know a grassed area that’s perfect.’ I couldn’t believe what Taylor was pointing at: we were standing in front of a roundabout, near the city centre, and on it was a circle of grass. It was fairly quiet, but a few cars came past, beeping horns.

Whether or not the roundabout actually had any impact on the eventual outcome of the final is unknown (probably not, or we’d be seeing Alisson and Hugo Lloris preparing for this season’s trip to Madrid in the same way!), but Forest won, beating Germany’s Hamburger SV by a single first half goal scored by John Robertson. In the end, Shilton was left with roundabout nothing to do.

Brian Clough

No, I don’t think he looks very impressed either…




FA Cup: The War of the Roses (1890)


It’s the FA Cup final this weekend, the traditional showpiece end of the football season – so we’ve been looking at some interesting finals of the past. Today’s final is from 1890, when Blackburn Rovers played Sheffield Wednesday in the first battle of the football War of the Roses…

The 1890 FA Cup final was the first time a team from Yorkshire had faced a team from Lancashire in the competition. If you know your history, you’ll know that this fact was guaranteed to add a little spice to the proceedings!

Held again at the Kennington Oval (which, incidentally, is one of only two venues to have hosted England football and cricket internationals as well as FA Cup finals – the other being Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane ground), this final marked the eighth and last appearance of Major Francis Marindin as referee.

An influential figure in the early development of what we would now see as the modern game during the nineteenth century, Marindin began as a player and was later described as “one of the outstanding referees who really knows the rules”.

On the day, poor old Wednesday were absolutely thrashed 6-1, which, I believe, is still a Cup final record score. Another record was set that day, when William Townley (who was later to go on to great success as a coach on the Continent) scored the first ever Cup final hat-trick, which helped send Blackburn home to Lancashire with the FA Cup trophy for the fourth time.

FA Cup: Working Class Heroes (1883)


It’s the FA Cup final this weekend, the traditional showpiece end of the football season – so we’ve been looking at some interesting finals of the past. Today’s match is from 1883, when Blackburn Olympic took on Old Etonians at the Kennington Oval in front of 8,000 people.

The FA Cup final of 1883 was a quietly important one, not only for its role in changing the tactics of the game but also its impact on the social standing and wider appeal of football. The public school dominance of the game was beginning to shift.

Blackburn were the eventual winners, beating the Old Etonians 2-1 after extra time and becoming the first working class side to triumph in the competition. Their victory was of  particular interest as they were playing a more modern passing and dribbling style that contrasted strongly with their public school opponents’ long-ball game.

It’s arguable that this final laid the foundations for the modern game, although neither of the teams involved played much of a role in the competition thereafter – Old Etonians never reached another FA Cup final after 1883, and for Blackburn Olympic, it was the pinnacle of their brief existance.

The Three v. The Six: A European Football Story

'The Three v The Six' programme front cover
‘The Three v The Six’ programme front cover

Long ago, way back even before the ASRV Editor was born, Britain joined the Common Market (the precursor to the European Union). To commemorate this momentous step forward in post-war international relations, how did we celebrate? That’s right, we arranged a football match…

With Brexit looming ever closer (or not, as the case may be), we thought it might be interesting to revisit this game forty-six years on – and maybe see how the football world reacted to our entry into Europe.

Held at Wembley Stadium on January 3rd 1973, this was a match between ‘The Three’, the countries who had just joined the Common Market (the UK, Ireland and Denmark), and ‘The Six’, the countries who were already members (West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France).

England 1966: England manager Sir Alf Ramsey
Manager of ‘The Three’, Sir Alf Ramsey

Some seriously famous names took to the Wembley pitch for both sides, including Bobby Charlton, Pat Jennings, Bobby Moore, Johnny Giles, Franz Beckenbauer, Dino Zoff, Berti Vogts, and Gerd Müller to name but a few.

‘The Three’ were managed by Sir Alf Ramsey, and ‘The Six’ by Helmut Schön (Ramsey’s German opposite number in the 1966 World Cup final). Interviewed about the match, Sir Alf refused to be drawn on the political side of things, commenting only that “[a]ll big Wembley occasions should be cherished”.

The players were equally vague about their views on the matter in a way that you’d never see today. Pat Jennings declared himself “really not interested” in the Common Market, and Alan Ball simply had concerns about “whether or not it will make my family’s summer holidays cheaper”.

Johnny Giles was more on message with an Irish viewpoint:

A small country like Ireland needs close business and trade links with other European nations, so I’m certainly in favour.

Their concerns were more with the game itself, obviously. But they needn’t have worried. Poor old Helmut Schön was on the losing side at Wembley again, as ‘The Three’ scored twice with no reply in the second half – the goals coming from Denmark’s Henning Jensen and Scotland’s Colin Stein. Quite a start to this new European adventure…

If you’d like to see those goals, here’s a newsreel snippet from the game:

Many thanks to Sid, who uncovered this unusual (and strangely relevant) match!

“Pele… What a save!”: On remembering Gordon Banks

Gordon Banks, World Cup 1970
Gordon Banks at the 1970 World Cup

CB writes…

He is the glory of English football. He’s also the glory of global football. He’s among the best goalkeepers in history. That’s only a small group when we talk about the best ones. This defines Gordon Banks – Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds United manager

The word ‘legend’ is frequently thrown about in football, often in reference to those who are, objectively, merely average players. But Gordon Banks, the England World Cup winning goalkeeper who died last week at the age of 81, really was a legend.

Easily the greatest English keeper of all time, he is still most famous for his truly astonishing, defying-the-laws-of-physics save from Pelé in the 1970 World Cup (in a tribute to Banks, his international team-mate Sir Bobby Charlton commented “Even though I was on the pitch and have seen it many times since, I still don’t know how he saved that header from Pelé”).

The safe hands of the ‘Banks of England’ were also the foundation of that world-beating England side that lifted the Jules Rimet trophy at Wembley Stadium in 1966. Somewhat ironically, Banks was later responsible for saving a penalty from West Ham’s ’66 hat-trick hero Geoff Hurst in the semi-final of the 1971-72 League Cup – and it’s a cracking save too!

Born ten years after England’s Wembley triumph, I grew up on tales of 1966 from my father. Along with his brother and their dad, he attended every one of England’s World Cup matches that year, including the famous final (incidentally, dad always maintained that Geoff Hurst goal didn’t go in. And he was right, it didn’t).

I knew who Gordon Banks was and what he’d done from an early age (even though I am too young to have ever seen him play). He was revered in my family, which makes his death feel almost like a personal loss. And I am sure I am not the only one to feel that way.

An inspiration to generations of fans and world-class goalkeepers alike, and, by all accounts, a bloody nice man too, his memory will live on. Stoke City, one of his former clubs, will be paying him a unique tribute this weekend – have a look at this:

I hope he’s having a pint and a catch-up with Bobby Moore right now….

White(out) Lane: Snowy Spurs

Construction at Tottenham Hotspur Football Club ground - snow panorama 2 (2017)
Spurs’ new stadium under construction in the snow (December 2017)

CB writes…

Last weekend was pretty miserable. Torrential rain and freezing winds had an impact on both the English and Scottish league programmes, with a number of games postponed or abandoned due to the revolting weather.

Modern undersoil heating and drainage both mean this happens much less these days – but in the past, inclement winter weather could be a real problem for even the biggest clubs.

These wonderful pics show a snowy White Hart Lane at various points in time from the mid-1920s to the late 1950s, and are a reminder of the amazing work that ground staff all over the country do in the wintertime. I don’t envy their job!

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Football at Christmas: Sam Bartram in the fog

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CB writes…

A short and sweet post today. This is one of my favourite football stories, and, as the festive season approaches, it had to be told! Until the 1950s, it was very common for a full league programme to be played on Christmas Day in England, something we would never think of in the modern era.

Sam Bartram - Charlton Athletic

On December 25th 1937, Chelsea were playing Charlton Athletic at Stamford Bridge. It was a cold and foggy day and the Charlton keeper Sam Bartram (above top at left, with the Chelsea goalie Vic Woodley) hadn’t seen much of the ball – or much of anything, really…. actually, let’s hear the story from the man himself, as I think this says all that needs to be said:

Soon after the kick-off fog began to thicken rapidly at the far end, travelling past Vic Woodley in the Chelsea goal and rolling steadily towards me. The referee stopped the game, and then, as visibility became clearer, restarted it. We were on top at this time, and I saw fewer and fewer figures as we attacked steadily.

I paced up and down my goal-line, happy in the knowledge that Chelsea were being pinned in their own half. ‘The boys must be giving the Pensioners the hammer’, I thought smugly, as I stamped my feet for warmth. Quite obviously, however, we were not getting the ball into the net, for no players were coming back to line up, as they would have done following a goal. Time passed, and I made several advances towards the edge of the penalty area, peering through the murk which was getting thicker every minute. Still I could see nothing. The Chelsea defence was clearly being run off its feet.

After a long time a figure loomed out of the curtain of fog in front of me. It was a policeman, and he gaped at me incredulously. ‘What on earth are you doing here?’ he gasped. ‘The game was stopped a quarter of a hour ago. The field’s completely empty.’

And when I groped my way to the dressing-room the rest of the Charlton team, already out of the bath, were convulsed with laughter.