The Football of my Life – Part One:

It has been a while since I posted on here, but after a hiatus which has seen me take on a lot of writing both in print and on the net, I am back where it all began and starting the project that I set this blog up for.

My original idea for this blog, and hence it’s title, was to talk about my experiences watching football and also to talk about how it’s affected and become an obsession in my life. The first few posts were about the experiences watching Leeds United and they got me some attention which has seen me write about them elsewhere.

What I also wanted to write about though were the games which have shaped me into the obssessed football fan I am today. The first football match I can remember watching was the 1978 FA Cup Final, when I was 6 years old, and since then I have been hooked. Growing up I watched as much on TV as I could, and then when I was 17 I bought a season ticket at Elland Road and fell in love with Leeds United.

Here then over the coming weeks and months, as well as talking about the matches of today, I’m gong to look back at the significant games in my lifetime, starting with a game that has been seen as a match which signalled the beginning of the end of Sir Alf Ramsey as England manager.  It was a game played almost 18 months before the famous draw with Poland, but it saw the balance of power in International football begin it’s swing to Germany, one which unfortunately has never swung back this way.

ENGLAND 1 WEST GERMANY 3

1972 European Championship Quarter Final 1st Leg

WEMBLEY STADIUM  29th APRIL 1972

Programme Cover - Courtesy of sportspages.com

The first significant game of my lifetime took place just three weeks after my birth. The format for the European Championships of 1972 had changed from a straight knockout tournament to one which featured qualification groups for the first time. However the “finals” format remained the same, with the semi-finals and final taking place over 1 week in one of the nations which qualified for the semi-finals.

The 32 nations that entered were divided into eight four team groups with the winner of each group progressing to a two-legged quarter final. England had come through a relatively easy group, containing Switzerland, Greece and Malta. However some of the performances were disappointing a 1-1 draw at home to Switzerland particularly unimpressive.

The draw for the quarter finals threw up another meeting with West Germany and a chance of revenge for the traumatic defeat in the World Cup quarter final in Leon two years earlier. The match though would signal the beginning of the end not only for some of the heroes of 66, but also for Sir Alf Ramsey.

The match was played on a Saturday evening, right at the culmination of the Football League season. Games not involving international players were still played on the Saturday afternoon, and the game attracted live TV coverage on the BBC (Unfortunately my copy has German commentary).

England lined up with Paul Madeley at right back and Norman Hunter at centre back alongside skipper Bobby Moore. Geoff Hurst and Martin Chivers were the target men with Francis Lee sniping behind them. Alan Ball, Colin Bell and Martin Peters patrolled the midfield.

West Germany had Gunter Netzer in their midfield, and it was his imperious performance which is most remembered in this game. With Gerd Muller up front, the Germans would always be dangerous.

Germany started the better, with Muller denied a goal by a sprawling Gordon Banks early on, as Der Bomber looked to latch onto a mishit Netzer shot. England’s tactics in the opening ten minutes seemed to be to put Sepp Maier in the German goal under pressure by putting long, high balls into the box for Chivers and Hurst to attack.

West Germany and particular Netzer took the game by the scruff of the neck, with their ability to drive forward with the ball. Paul Brietner made one surging run from left back before suffering a nosebleed and totally scuffing his shot, Then Netzer drove past the static England midfield before feeding Muller whose shot was scrambled past the post by Banks.

With the pressure mounting it seemed inevitable that the Germans would make the breakthrough, but it surprised everyone when it was England’s captain who made the crucial mistake. The performance of Bobby Moore (or Booby Moore as I just inadvertently typed) in this game was a blip on an otherwise superb career. His confidence as a footballer was horrendously misguided on 25 minutes, as dwelling in possession in the box he was tackled and Siggi Held rolled the ball back to Hoeness whose low drive beat Gordon Banks at his near post to open the scoring.

The away goal seemed to spark England into life, Francis Lee immediately going close as his header into the ground was turned over the bar on the up by Maier. Lee was suddenly involved in the game and starting to cause trouble as England laid siege on the German goal. Maier had to be at his best to first push a Peters long range effort round the post and then block Hurst’s effort from the resulting corner.

With half time looming, West Germany resorted to possession football to take the sting out of the English response, patiently holding the ball and resorting to long range efforts until the interval.

The second half followed the pattern of the latter stages of the first period. England now needing at least one goal drove forward, with West Germany happy to sit and contain, with the occasional break forward.

England came close to an equaliser just after the hour, with left back Emlyn Hughes being found by a delightful cross field ball by Moore, but his side foot half volley just clipped the top of the bar. Maier wasn’t being tested often enough though, England’s efforts in the main coming from range and missing the target.

12 minutes from time England though grabbed a deserved equaliser. A lovely sweeping move saw England push into the heart of the German defence. Peters found Colin Bell free inside the box, and despite Maier saving his effort, Lee was on hand to tap in the follow up.

The equaliser still meant advantage to the Germans, but at least gave England a fighting chance for the return in Berlin two weeks later. That difficult task became impossible though as England shot themselves in the foot, not once but twice in the closing six minutes.

The first barrel of England’s suicidal shot gun was used by Moore. His bad night culminated by conceding a penalty on 84 minutes, bringing down Siggi Held just inside the box. Netzer capped a fine individual performance by stroking home the penalty, despite the brave effort of Banks who pushed the shot onto the post but unfortunately with insufficient force to prevent it from crossing the line.

Banks was then culpable for the killer third goal, putting Hughes under intense pressure with a poor throw in his haste to push England forward. The Liverpool man was robbed by Hoeness and he played in Muller to drive home the final nail in England’s coffin in stoppage time.

After the game Sir Alf faced fierce criticism for his continued selection of his old guard. The ineffective performance of Geoff Hurst, in what proved to be his final international, had seen him replaced by Rodney Marsh and Moore had been at fault for two of the German goals. The way that Netzer had strolled around Wembley was also highlighted, and it was that more than anything which saw Ramsey infuriate the nation even more with his approach to the second leg.

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