England’s unbeaten run under Don Revie was maintained in an entertaining clash against Wales, but only just as the side needed a late equalizer to rescue a point with a big contribution from a one cap wonder called Little.
Don Revie selected an experimental line up for the match against Wales, but it appears that every selection was an experiment for an England manager who was struggling to get to grips with the demands of international football. At Leeds United Revie had been able to get the best from a small pool of players, many of which were the best in the game at that time. With that great side on its last legs and a paucity of young talent coming through in the domestic game, Revie found himself unable to make a consistent selection. This team saw five changes to the one which had drawn against Northern Ireland the previous Saturday, and as usual there was another debutant as Ipswich Town’s David Johnson made his international bow up front. The striker was the 26th player selected by Revie in just 7 matches, and was his 9th new cap.
Wales were missing Terry Yorath, who was rested pending Leeds United’s European Cup Final against Bayern Munich the following week. The Welsh were about to enjoy their best international season since 1958 and were coming into the game on the back of a 2-2 draw with Scotland. John Toshack was the teams focal point up front.
Toshack’s club striking partner Kevin Keegan was the headline maker the day before the game as he stormed out of the England camp upon discovering he had been left out of the side. He claimed not to have been informed of the news in ” a proper way“ and with Revie loathe to criticise him it appeared he might have had a case. The England manager said : “I don’t want to say anything about it until I’ve spoken to the boy, in fairness to him.”
Coverage of the game was on Sportsnight on BBC 1 that night, with David Coleman on duty once again. Within 10 minutes he was commentating on a first England goal for David Johnson, as England started the game in fine fettle on a gorgeous summer night. A ball in behind the Welsh defence from Colin Todd found Gerry Francis. The QPR man then fed Colin Viljoen in the inside left position. His ball across goal deflected off a desperate Welsh challenge and looped into the air for Johnson to gleefully head into an empty net from about a yard out.
Mick Channon was back in the side and he tested Dai Davies with a shot from the edge of the area after a jinking run as England continued to pile forward. It was a rare display of consistent attacking quality by the home side and the Ipswich combination of Viljoen and Johnson combined again. Alan Ball, skippering the side again, sent Viljoen away again, this time in the inside right channel. Once again the cross found Johnson, but this time the big striker’s diving header was over the crossbar.
This period of footballing history was a strange time as the functionality of the football kit was slowly being eroded by the whims of kit designers. The contrast between the two was clear in this match as Wales wore their dowdy red shirts, England sporting their controversial Admiral kit, along with the now de-riguer wristbands.
Fashionable shirts do not necessarily make a good football team and Welsh functionality came to the fore in the second half as they took the game by the scruff of the neck and became the first team to breach Don Revie’s England defence.
The goal was a complete mess as England failed on numerous occasions to clear the danger of a Welsh corner. The ball was driven towards the penalty spot where it was headed towards goal. Arfon Griffiths, a veteran midfielder with Wrexham, failed to connect with the ball as he swung a boot at the bouncing ball, but did enough to force Ray Clemence into parrying the ball. Griffiths was able to poke the ball goalwards before it broke to Toshack to prod into the net.
If that was comical defending, it got even worse moments later as Wales went in front. A long throw was flicked on by Toshack, the ball hitting Ian Gillard in the chest. As he, Colin Todd and Clemence all left the ball to each other, Griffiths nipped in to fire the ball home and give the Welsh a 2-1 lead.
England were in danger of defeat and Don Revie made a substitution to try and change the game, throwing on a long haired forward from Aston Villa for his one and only cap, future Villa boss Brian Little.
The substitution lifted England and the crowd, particularly when Little fired just wide after a jinking run. With the clock ticking down, two of Englands debutants combined to rescue Revie’s side. Little was the creator sending in an excellent cross from the right hand side for Johnson to climb above Davies and head home.
The draw kept England’s hopes of winning the Home International Championship alive. However with Scotland breezing past Northern Ireland 3-0, England would have to beat the Scots in the traditional finale to the season to clinch the crown.