Ruud Doevendans

Ruud Doevendans has been an official columnist for a Dutch club and owns one of the largest collections of soccer videos containing hundreds of World Cup matches. We at PWC are proud to have him as a columnist. He will share his views about the past, present and future of the World Cup.

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They called him "The Clown"

    Having lost 2-0 in Poland, and drawing 1-1 with Wales at home, England lost control on their chances of reaching the World Cup 1974. To their fortune, Wales surprised once more when they downed Poland, so Alf Ramsey’s men still had it in their own hands when they faced the Poles at Wembley. A win would do for Germany. But that night, 7 years and 89 days after their most glorious moment when they beat West-Germany in the World Cup final, the English Empire fell apart. Poland, the Olympic champions of 1972, were capable to grab a hard-fought 1-1, and let England, mighty England, standing in the cold. England were eliminated in the qualification stages for the first time since entering the competition in 1950.

    Poland were always going to make it hard for England to beat them, and hard was the right word with players around like Miroslaw Bulzacki, Leslaw Cmikiewicz and Jerzy Gorgon. And then, there was this goalkeeper, this strange looking guy Jan Tomaszewski from Lodz. Yellow shirt, red shorts and white stockings, half-long hair, a clown they called him and that’s what he looked like. But Tomaszewski became the Miracle Man this night, denying England time and again. Oh yes, he also made mistakes and rather quite a few. He flapped at crosses, made easy saves look difficult, almost lost the ball while rolling it in the first minute and needed his share of luck, but in the end he was always in the right place.

    I never saw a team working so hard, being so dominant as England that night, without winning the game. It was ridiculous! Peters headed wide, Channon blasted the ball on the post in a scrimmage, Szymanowski slided the ball into corner before Clarke’s feet, Channon headed over after a Currie shot, Chivers saw his effort blocked. And then, this Tomaszewski: a magnificent save when Bell hammered to ball towards the far post, a low save on a Clarke header and a high save on a header from Channon, and somehow managing to get his feet in the way after he dropped a cross and Chivers was going to score. In the first half, England totalized 14 corners. They had done whatever they could, and although half-time came with 0-0, there was nothing lost for England. They would manage a goal in the second half, everyone was sure about it. Poland wasn’t even playing well, England made chance after chance, and one of them just had to go in. Poland had hardly been away from their own half. All Peter Shilton in the English goal had had to do, was picking up a few backpasses.

    But the worst was yet to come for Ramsey’s soldiers. After Tony Currie had missed a free chance and Tomaszewski had saved on a Chivers center, the big bomb. Norman Hunter – playing instead of old and tiring Bobby Moore – lost the ball to Gregorz Lato who passed it to Jan Domarski – playing instead of the injured star Wlodek Lubanski – who took a shot at goal. Peter Shilton should have easily saved it, but tried to make it good-looking. The ball slipped under his body, into the net. A disastrous mistake, 0-1 to Poland, 12 minutes gone in the second half.

    Still 100,000 fans at the roaring Wembley wouldn’t believe, that England wasn’t going to make it. And England, only minutes after conceding Domarski’ s goal, found back their morale when Martin Peters won a debatable penalty-kick being checked by left-back Adam Musial. Referee Vital Loraux from Belgium pointed to the spot. Alan Clarke took it, and this time Jan Tomaszewski went the wrong way without leaving his legs in the right place. There were 27 minutes left, for this one and only goal that England needed. But the defenders became stronger, time ran out, and Tomaszewski made one save after the other. Channon had a goal disallowed, Tomaszewski was there again when Clarke and Hunter tried their luck. Again Clarke headed over from Channon’s cross. Alf Ramsey decided not to use a substitute when it became clear the England was running out of steam, some 10 minutes from time. “Why substituting a player, when they are all playing so well”, Ramsey said afterwards. “The only thing I would have substituted, was luck in place of bad luck”. And England for once had Lady Fortune on their side when McFarland wasn’t sent off when committing a professional foul on Lato, and shortly after that the same Lato didn’t finish a fine move one-on-one with Peter Shilton.

    But how much all the fans were begging, how 11 English players were trying all they could, launching another “all-or-nothing” offensive, the result that the whole soccerworld awaited, failed to come. The last minutes were overwhelming and frantic. Kevin Hector, in the end sent on two minutes from time for his first international, almost headed in the winner, but Szymanowski rescued his team standing on the line. Tomaszewski, surprisingly enough looking so composed 8 months later during the World Cup, went on clowning and making vital saves. And when he was beaten finally, there was Bulzacki on the line saving in the final minute on a deflected Currie hammer. In the end, as the final whistle went, Norman Hunter and Peter Shilton were wearing the red noses.

    It surely was one of the most tense matches that I ever saw, a breathtaking encounter in a turbulent atmosphere. Jan Tomaszewski killed off England’s hopes of qualifying for the World Cup 1974. And they called him “The Clown".....



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