Matthew Monk

Matthew Monk is a school teacher from the UK who has the World Cup as one of his greatest passions. He will share his views about the past, present and future of this event.

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A Tale of Two Countries - Part Two

    In winning Group 4 of the 1982 World Cup, England might have expected some respite in the second stage, where FIFA was still keeping its mini-league system. Before the finals Greenwood was hoping to be in this position, and he was fully expecting to be facing Austria and Spain at worst, or maybe even Chile and Northern Ireland at best. Instead he got hosts Spain and the current European Champions, mighty West Germany. Yet again, more bad luck for England.

    Still without a fully fit Robson and missing Brooking and Keegan, Greenwood was resisting the clamour for Glenn Hoddle to be brought into the team, preferring to be cautious and rely on his defence that after all had only conceded three solitary goals in the last year. His side was also scoring goals - Mariner and Francis had scored ten between them in the previous ten games.

    Off the field England's fans were still finding trouble wherever they went. Following the unexpected success, thousands more fans boarded the 24-hour car ferries from Portsmouth to Bilbao or made the two day drive through France. The Spanish organisation committee Mundiespaña simply could not cope with this influx - hotel rooms were as expensive as gold and access to tickets was barely controlled. Indeed many found it easier to get one of the hotel rooms than it was to get a ticket for their country's section of the ground.

    For the first time they also decided to segregate the fans totally, and the police were given orders to round up any stragglers. This gave them free reign to pick off fans at will, and they duly did that, becoming almost as feared as the razor and knife wielding fascists roaming Madrid's parks and waste ground after dark searching for England fans to attack. Soon the England fans uniform of Union Jack t-shirt and bulldog tattoo was joined by bloodstains. In one attack a gang of fascists attacked three England fans sleeping in a Madrid park, beating two to a pulp and stabbing the other one several times.

    With the police unable or unwilling to control their own fans, the English swarmed together in huge groups, thousands strong in some cases. Many still defiantly carried the Basque flags they had picked up in Bilbao, although to be caught with one of those opened you up to attack from the police as well as the fascists. These people were no innocents though. Far from it, they knew exactly what they were doing. Fighting and looking for trouble had been a part of fan culture in England for over ten years. Just two years before a European Championship match in Italy had had to be stopped when tear gas fired by the police to stop fighting drifted onto the pitch and affected the players.

    Stupidly, the English FA had played up to these fans. Their mascot for the finals was Bobby the Bulldog - an evil, snarling, muscular, tattooed, fist-wielding bulldog wearing an England shirt. It must be the least friendly, most intimidating mascot ever devised. And the English fans in Spain took it to heart. Even today, twenty years later, you still see it tattooed on the bodies of England fans deported from away games after getting so drunk they become incapable of controlling themselves. To wear it permanently on your body became the mark of the hooligan. And as the press magnified the exploits of this type of person throughout the early 1980s it became a mark many wanted. It gave them notoriety and fame. It made them feared. In the same way Americans worshipped Rambo, many young English men revelled in their hooligan image and status. With it they could escape their boring, monotonous lives on the dole or in dead end jobs.

    Even as the number of hooligan related incidents in England started to dwindle as the 1980s went on, violence followed England at home and abroad more and more. It reached its peak in Düsseldorf in 1988 and throughout Italy in 1990, but for many the tales brought back from Spain started the whole ideal. And it was an ideal; many hooligans lived out the whole hooligan way of life at home and abroad until the government belatedly cracked down on them after Heysel.

    Four days after defeating Kuwait, England met West Germany at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, the huge concrete bowl owned by Real Madrid. With near war erupting on the streets between the English fans and Spanish, most inside the stadium were supporting Germany. Greenwood had managed to coax Robson back into near fitness and the centre of midfield, but he had lost much of his attacking verve and instead had to anchor the defence. This would have been the perfect chance to use Glenn Hoddle, especially for Graham Rix who was not making the type of impact he might have been expected to. Greenwood saw otherwise and kept his defensive line-up. Of course Keegan and Brooking were still injured.

    With little trouble inside the stadium for the first time, the game started with both sides deploying all their defensive talent. West Germany had been many people's favourites going into the World Cup - they were European Champions again and coach Jupp Derwall talked a very good game. Before their first match against Algeria he had promised to jump into the sea if Germany lost - they did and he quickly stopped being so over confident. In fact the Germans had been so poor so far that they had had to rely on a very suspect 1:0 victory over Austria to see them through. They did not look capable of scoring, and while they were now employing Uli Stielike as a sweeper behind the defence, the way they had been ripped apart by Algeria left few confident in their defensive abilities.

    Partly because of the war going on outside the ground, but mainly as a result of the defensive web being weaved inside it and the stifling heat of a Madrid summer night, the game turned into the most sterile contest of the whole tournament. Neither side wanted to give anything away. Just as Robson's injury was hampering England, a pulled muscle stopped Karl-Heinz Rummenigge from getting into the English box with his usual threat. Little happened.

    Time after time the Förster brothers stopped Francis and Mariner, and at the other end the usually threatening Manni Kaltz was stopped by the English defence from unleashing any of his dangerous crosses. After the game this was all Ron Greenwood could point to when asked for his plus points. It says a lot about the attitude of both teams that keeping a right back in his own half was regarded as a major accomplishment. Finally as the game entered its last fifteen minutes, it sprang to life. Paul Breitner started to make inroads into the English half, and Pierre Littbarski livened up the Germans no end when he was brought on. With only five minutes left first Rummenigge hit the bar, then even closer, Bryan Robson had a header tipped over by Harald Schumacher. But a nil-nil draw satisfied both sides, both of who expected to beat Spain.

    Greenwood now had six days to get Brooking and Keegan fit. Both were making some progress, with Keegan nearer than Brooking. Keegan had missed so much football he was completely out of touch and had little form to speak of. Worse still it was now three years since he had won the last of his two European Footballer of the Year awards, and it was even longer since his glory days with Liverpool. He had scored only two goals for England since May 1980, and was probably less of a threat than Francis and Mariner. However he still had a big name, and as captain could hardly be dropped. Opposition defences expected him to play well, even when he did not - and that often meant Francis or Mariner was left unmarked.

    Brooking was probably more vital than Keegan. Also at the end of a long England career, Brooking had been playing his best football for a long time in the previous three years, including scoring some vital goals from midfield for his club and country. He controlled the attacking element of the England team; pulling strings and making the chances Keegan and Francis thrived on. With him alongside Robson and Wilkins at the heart of the midfield, room would be available for Hoddle to be included. And if Hoddle was still too mercurial, then Steve Coppell or Graham Rix could be used properly instead. Brooking gave so much extra to the England midfield. Unfortunately there was no way he would be fit to play the whole game against Spain - but Greenwood knew he would be able to use him at some stage.

    Back home the pressure was mounting on Greenwood. The positive press he had received following the wins against France and Czechoslovakia had come in the immediate aftermath of the announcement of victory in the Falklands. Now nearly a month had past, and most of the troops were already back in Britain or on their way home. The news agenda had moved on, and certainly in the tabloid press the soap opera of the England team was now the main news. Still there was always the never ending violence going on in the streets to keep the reporters happy.

    The six days in between the Germany match and the Spanish game had been a time where English fans tried to keep a low profile. The Spanish police had taken to using electric batons and cattle prods to beat small groups of fans, especially those who had been caught with Basque flags. In one incident on the day of the Spanish game hundreds of English fans were forced inside a bar while Guardia Civil reinforcements were called up. Blockaded inside, the English had no chance of escape.

    As television cameras and an expectant Spanish crowd gathered, the English were forced out to be beaten by two lines of police. The beating carried on for several minutes while the crowd cheered and did not stop until each police officer was happy. Little was changed by this utter brutality. The hardcore English hooligans who had travelled to Spain in their hundreds were long gone by this time, happy to fight in Bilbao against the French, but too scared to go to Madrid. Instead many ordinary fans - drunk, but otherwise within the law - were assaulted by the police and roaming gangs. This continued inside the Bernabéu - Spanish fans were allowed to throw missiles into the English section at will, while the Spanish police repeatedly charged the fans foolhardy enough to have gone to the game.

    England could not have faced a tougher, more hostile atmosphere if they had been playing in Buenos Aires. In Argentina, England's progress so far had passed unmentioned. But now the whole world was focussed on this match. It was the last game of the whole second stage, and would decide who played France in the second semi final. As the Argentinean commentators referred to England not by name but as 'the team in white', England had real chance of progression.

    To reach that semi final against a team they had already comprehensively beaten England had to beat Spain 2:0. This was because West Germany had beaten Spain 2:1. Spain were thus out, and had little to play for, except their pride in front of a worldwide television audience. Many Spanish people wanted to desperately stop the English advancing because of all the violence that had accompanied their fans. More than this though they also wanted to strike a blow for Latin brotherhood after the Falklands and could not stomach the idea of England winning through. So the Spanish simply shut up shop, and defended.

    England had lost Steve Coppell before the game to another injury, but instead of playing Hoddle or even risking Brooking, Greenwood elected to start with Tony Woodcock up front in a three-man-attack. As usual the defence held very firm - Don Howe had worked wonders in organising them in a short space of time. This was to backfire for England in the long term, as he was called on time and again by subsequent managers Bobby Robson and Graham Taylor to solve their problems. His ideas worked in 1982 (as they had in for Arsenal in the early 1970s) but they became exposed more than once as the 1980s and 1990s wore on.

    Back in the Bernabéu, England were making heavy weather of the game. Spain started very nervously and Luis Arconada in goal looked particularly shaky as he had throughout the tournament. England had little to offer though, chances came and went, and with the Spanish crowd happy for their team to take a nil-nil draw Greenwood only had one card left to play. With half an hour left he turned to Keegan and Brooking.

    Brooking's impact was immediate. He found space were no one else had, and quickly made a chance for himself. Turning inside the area he unleashed a powerful shot that looked to have broken the deadlock - until Luis Arconada pushed it away at the last moment with his only good save of the whole tournament. Still England had chances. Robson - freed by Brooking's added impetus - floated a good ball into Keegan's path. Keegan leapt unhindered on the back post, and made a good firm connection with the ball - it flashed agonisingly wide with Arconada spectating. England were out of time, and were going out of the World Cup.

    Spain themselves could have won the game near the end, but they barely deserved to, and it ended all square at 0:0. England had two points from two draws, Spain one point. Above them both were West Germany with three points, and they went on to the Sevilla semi final against France. England had remained unbeaten, had conceded only one goal, while scoring six, but were still going home. Strangely they were not the first team to go out of the World Cup undefeated, Scotland in 1974, Brazil in 1978 and Cameroon in the earlier rounds of 1982 beating them to it.

    Unlike those other teams though England had only conceded one goal, and had started off looking like world-beaters before drifting limply out of the tournament. And they could not even cite bribery, as the Brazilians had been able to do in 1978.

    It was all so anti-climatic. Instead of retuning to celebrations (as would happen if the same thing happened today) England went home with minimal fuss, and the team quickly broke up. Mick Mills (who had captained the team from right back in the absence of Keegan), Trevor Brooking and Kevin Keegan never played for England again. Soon after Steve Coppell picked up his career ending injury and disappeared from the squad as well. In the space of two years only Peter Shilton, Kenny Sansom, Terry Butcher, Glenn Hoddle, Bryan Robson and Ray Wilkins of the squad of 22 that went to Spain still played for England - and by the time England next met the Germans at the World Cup in 1990 only Shilton, Butcher and Robson were left. Even then only Shilton played the whole game. Almost all have stayed in the game somewhere, either as coaches or media pundits. Keegan and Hoddle have even had a chance at being England manager themselves.

    Perhaps because new manager Bobby Robson changed the team so much, so quickly, their achievements were lost. Similarly the two sterile games they played in Madrid did not help to make them fondly remembered. The sheer unrelenting level of violence surrounding England at España 82 does not help either. Within three years English clubs were banned from European competition following the Heysel disaster, and uncontrollable violence in England led in part to the move to bringing in all seater stadia which itself kicked off the money-go-round of the Premiership. In these sanitised days of family entertainment, the dark days of the late 1970s and early 1980s are never discussed - they are certainly never looked back on with affection.

    Nonetheless, in becoming only the second English team to return home from the World Cup undefeated they have a place in history all to themselves. After the tournament FIFA scrapped the mini-league system and re-introduced the knock out matches. So if an England team ever manages to come home from the World Cup undefeated again it will mean they will do so as World Champions. It is unlikely we will ever see anything like the English journey through Spain again.



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