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Our very good friend Little Dotmund is our guest writer this morning, and he has decided to pore over who are the 10 most significant figures in the history of the England football team, “in chronological order, so as to avoid arguments”, he says.
1. HERBERT CHAPMAN
Reason for inclusion: Tactical revolutionary
The greatest pre-war manager in English history, Chapman won titles with both Huddersfield Town and Arsenal. But it was his approach which was the key here. Whilst everyone else was completely insular in their thinking, Chapman was constantly hungry for new ideas. He pioneered the use of floodlights after seeing a match in Austria lit by car headlights. He devised the W-M formation which became the mainstay of football thinking around the globe until the Danubian School shook its foundations. He could have spared England the slow decline, had he not caught a fatal case of pneumonia, watching the Arsenal third team play on a freezing cold winter’s evening.
2. NANDOR HIDEGKUTI
Reason for inclusion: First man to show England they were completely backward-thinking
I could have picked any member of the great Hungary team who came to Wembley in 1953 and gave England a complete hiding, not to mention their visionary coach Gustav Sebes. I picked Nandor Hidegkuti for two reasons, though. Firstly, Hidegkuti scored a hattrick that day, the first goal coming in the 1st minute. Secondly (and more significantly), whilst Ferenc Puskas played a more conventional centre forward role on the pitch (albeit so well that he was impossible to keep down), Hidegkuti played in what is now called The Hole. This tactical innovation pulled England’s game-plan apart, and sounded the first warning shot that just THINKING we were the best wasn’t enough.
3. SIR ALF RAMSAY
Reason for inclusion: Coached England to what will probably be their only World Championship title
No list like this would be complete without Sir Alf. In the team beaten by the Hungarians in 1953, he went on to a stellar coaching career built around his own revolutionary playing system, 4-1-2-1-2. For Sir Alf, the system was paramount, the players picked to fit around it. Jack Charlton was famously included not for being the best player, but for being the best player for Ramsay’s tactical vision. Sir Alf Ramsay laid the blueprint for international success which has been completely ignored with flying colours by every single one of his successors.
4. JAN TOMASZEWSKI
Reason for inclusion: First in a long line of scapegoated opposition players blamed for England’s abject defeat, so as to not have to admit internal failings.
Tomaszewski – “The Man Who Stopped England” – was the goalkeeper of the Poland team who came to Wembley in 1973. England needed to beat them to qualify for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany. England’s torrid qualification campaign had included a 2-0 loss to Poland in Warsaw in 1972, Bobby Moore emblematically scoring an own goal and gifting the second by failing to control a pass. The Wembley match in 1973 has gone down in English football legend, Tomaszewski repeatedly keeping the English attackers at bay with some spectacular goalkeeping. Poland then made an incisive breakaway following Norman Hunter’s failed interception and scored. England equalised through an Allan Clarke penalty late on, but it wasn’t enough. History records, with typical English arrogance, that it was Tomaszewski’s other-worldly performance which kept an England team otherwise guaranteed qualification to the World Cup at bay. History does not record the fact that the Poland team went to West Germany the following summer and finished third in the tournament, beating Brazil in the third-place match, as well as having the tournament’s Golden Boot winner in Grzegorz Lato.
5. DON REVIE
Reason for inclusion: First England manager to resign
Revie had Sir Alf Ramsay’s impossible shoes to fill, so in retrospect his was always going to be a thankless task. History has been unkind to Revie – he’s remembered as the coach of the most loathed successful team in English football, his 1970s Leeds United machine, – and a failed England manager. The fact of the matter is, no-one could have done a better job with the players he had. They were individually good but collectively dreadful – a fact further emphasised by the fact that for their club sides, the same players were part of teams bringing home European silverware as a matter of course. Revie makes the list because he was the first man to see the England job as just that, just another job. And when he had grown sick of taking the flack in that job, he went off and found one he liked better.
6. KEVIN KEEGAN
Reason for inclusion: The ultimate Great English Hope
England will be all right. We have got Keegan. We have got Gascoigne. We have got Gerrard, Rooney, Owen, Lineker, John Barnes, Beckham. Brazil were not all right because they had Pele, they were all right because they had a team. And amongst this team were players like Jairzinho, Pele, Gerson, Tostao, Garrincha, Clodoaldo, Rivelino, Vava, Carlos Alberto… It’s a widely stated MEDIA FACT that any of the current English players could walk into any team in the world, without stopping to realise that for most of them, it would be their first ever experience of the team ethic. Keegan is the first in a long line of English players who were brilliant, but not brilliant enough to win games all on their own. He’s also one of the few I feel sorry for, being as he was so clearly focussed on helping England to do well. The current players occupying the Keegan position seem fairly content just to help themselves. The less said about his time as England manager the better, really.
7. BRIAN CLOUGH
Reason for inclusion: First person to be passed over by the FA for non-footballing reasons
Brian Clough is arguably the greatest ever English football manager. Along with Herbert Chapman, Clough is the only manager to win the English League with more than one club, a feat made all the more remarkable in Clough’s case by the fact he did it with hyper-unfashionable teams from the provinces. The FA took one look at him and thought he’d be outspoken and controversial, make waves in the national game, completely turning it on its head. He’d be a PR disaster! They were, of course, right, as Clough later admitted himself. They are also the most asanine reasons a FOOTBALL Association could ever give for not appointing a national FOOTBALL team manager. England’s loss was Nottingham Forest’s gain – Clough went on to win consecutive teams with the team in the late 1970s. Just consider that for a moment. Really consider it.
8. BOB PAISLEY
Reason for inclusion: First person to not want the wretched England job at all
Bob Paisley is the most successful English club manager of all time. Whilst England were floundering like a beached whale in the 1970s, the Liverpool team he and the rest of Bill Shankly’s Bootroom team had assembled completely straddled the world. For all this, he never dreamed of managing the England team, that poisoned chalice which had already done for the career of Don Revie. Fair enough, says I.
9. MATTHEW LE TISSIER
Reason for inclusion: Best English player to only win eight caps (EIGHT)!
He was frequently overweight, often lazy, and he smoked. He played for unfashionable Southampton, who were perpetually on the cusp of relegation from the top flight. Without Le Tissier, though, Southampton WOULD have sunk without a trace. He scored 162 league goals for the Saints, in an era when the rest of the whole team combined managed about 7 per season. He was a luxury player, perhaps, but he was a complete genius on a football pitch, able to conjure something out of absolutely nothing. His England career spanned 1994 to 1998, under Venables and Glenn Hoddle (who, you might have thought, would have been more sympathetic to a player of Le Tissier’s ilk). He should in fact have won 100 caps, starting in the Graham Taylor era. He could have player Le Tissier on his own in midfield and it would have been more effective that Platt, Palmer, Sinton and Daley.
10. SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON
Reason for inclusion: First overseas coach of the England national team
An unexpected piece of sensible thinking from the otherwise bewildered FA. The fact that Sven failed to win absolutely everything, ever (including Rear of the Year), however, has allowed the FA to slip back into their normal fug of lunacy. “We had a foreign coach, it didn’t work, so we’ll just get the first English bloke with a UEFA Pro licence who walks through *that* door to be our next manager. Oh, hello Steve”.
Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.
Forgive what must seem a ridiculous question, but I’m both an American and new to football — what are “caps?” International appearances? International wins?
Exactly right – international appearances. They’re not literally given them any more for every match, but are for tournament finals and friendly matches.
I would have expected Sir Bobby Charlton to get in there given that he is England’s top scorer to date! Or the much-capped Peter Shilton? It seems to focus on negative aspects of England’s history rather than the positive apart from Sir Alf Ramsey’s inclusion.
Great article- one slight mistake can I pull up which is that there is one other manager who has won the English league title with two different clubs- Daglish won it with Liverpool and Blackburn.
Overall though great article- it’d be interesting to assess Winterbottom’s influence as well though- I’ve always thought that one of the real sadnesses for England is the 1958 world cup after the Munich air crash.