1977 would be a happy and glorious year in England with the Queen celebrating her Silver Jubilee, but it would certainly prove to be an “Annus Horribilis” for the nation’s football team and particularly it’s manager, Don Revie. A year that would see him become a pariah in the English game started as it meant to go on with a chastening defeat to the Dutch masters.
Revie was never shy in tampering with his line up, a trait which completely hamstrung his time as England manager. With a potentially crucial qualifier against little Luxembourg coming up, where the number of goals they scored could become crucial, a friendly against the Dutch did not offer the sort of target practice required. Once again there were wholesale changes, but not in the shot shy attack that had so underperformed in Rome, but instead in the defence and midfield, an area where England had appeared to hold their own against the Italians.
Only Mick Channon was missing from that ineffectual front three, with Trevor Francis coming in his stead for his international debut. However only Dave Clement retained his place in the back four, with Kevin Beattie, Dave Watson and Mike Doyle replacing Mills, Hughes and McFarland. Paul Madeley slipped into the midfield in place of club colleague Trevor Cherry.
Over 90,ooo turned up at Wembley Stadium with ITV broadcasting the highlights later that evening with Brian Moore in the commentary box. Those who witnessed the match were widely regarded to have seen one of the finest displays ever produced by a side at the old stadium. Sadly it was the visitors, orchestrated by Johann Cruyff, that hit all the right notes.
Jan Peters grabbed both goals in a 2-0 win for the Dutch but it was Cruyff who was pulling the strings all night. Both goals saw England pulled apart by intricate passing moves before Peters applied the finishing touches.
So good were Holland that the Wembley crowd were torn between applauding the Dutch and chanting “Boring Boring England.” The natives were getting extremely restless and Revie was running out of time.