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.
Read earlier columns
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
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
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