Ron Greenwood – RIP

At a time when the current incumbent has brought the position into disrepute with his ageing lothario antics, the sad news of the passing of Ron Greenwood brings a stark contrast into focus. A gentlemen from yesteryear, goodness alone knows what he thought of Eriksson and the noteriety that his overactive libido have gained.

His managerial career began at Highbury where he was Assistant Manager from 1958 to 1961, when he moved to Upton Park and took over the role of Manager. During his spell in charge, he guided his team to victories in the FA Cup Final in 1964 and the Cup Winners Cup in 1965. Appointed General Manager in 1974, he saw John Lyall’s team reach Wembley again in 1975, beating Fulham 2 – 0 to win the FA Cup and then in 1976, they were outclassed by Anderlecht in the Cup Winners Cup final. It was West Ham’s golden age, with a number of England internationals at the club during this time, notably Brooking, Moore, Peters, Hurst and Greaves.

He took over as England manager in 1977, following Don Revie’s decision to book a prolonged holiday in the Middle East. During the next 5 years, he would guide England to the European Championships in 1980 and the World Cup in 1982. There was a certain symmetry in his England career, beginning inauspiciously with a 0 – 0 draw against Switzerland (fielding 7 players from the dominant Liverpool team of the era) and ending with a 0 – 0 draw in the Santiago Bernabeu against Spain. During this time, England won 33 of the 55 games he was in charge, drawing 12 and losing 10, only 3 of which were at Wembley.

The 1980 European Championships qualifying was straightforward, with the only dropped point being in 1 – 1 draw at Lansdowne Road. England won the group comfortably by 6 points in the days of 2 points for a win. The campaign included a 4 – 3 win in Copenhagen and a 5 – 1 win in Belfast, something the current squad could only dream of. The other notable moment was Glenn Hoddle’s first England goal in a 2 – 0 win over Bulgaria at Wembley where for once he lived up to the hype, sidefooting a volley into the roof of the net from the edge of the penalty area. The finals themselves were not a success, memorable only for the violence off the pitch and Ray Wilkins goal against Belgium. That match finished 1 – 1 and the subsequent 0 – 1 defeat against Italy rendered the final group game against Spain meaningless, other than to restore some pride with a 2 – 1 victory.

The 1982 World Cup Qualifyers started with 4 – 0 thrashing of Norway in September of that year. A 2 – 1 defeat in Bucharest and 0 – 0 draw in the return, a 2 – 1 victory over the Swiss in between, threatened to derail the campaign. A dire performance in Basel led to a 2 – 1 defeat meaning that England had to win in Budapest 7 days later. England found their feet, Brooking left the ball in the stanchion and a win was sealed, 3 – 1, over the team who would go on to top the group. Just when it seemed England were back on track, defeat in Oslo (with the dire comments on Norwegian TV – yeah, our boys took a hell of a beating but yah boo sucks to you, we made it to the Finals) placed England’s fate in the hands of the footballing Gods. They smiled as Romania failed to win any of their last 3 matches, leaving Greenwoods team needing a win over Hungary at Wembley which arrived courtesy of Paul Mariners tap in (for some reason, I recalled him falling over and prodding the ball into the net with his nose but in reality, it came off his shin. Personally, I prefer my recollection over the facts…).

The Finals got off to a flyer with Bryan Robson scoring inside 30 seconds at the start of a 3 – 1 win over France in Bilbao. The Czechs and Kuwaitis were also seen off without conceding a goal leaving England in the Second Phase with Germany and the hosts, Spain, for company. Two goalless draws later and England were out, England having been undermined by injuries to Brooking and Keegan, who would miss a sitter against Spain. Greenwood able to take comfort from the fact that he is the only England manager to lead an undefeated team in a World Cup held on foreign soil.

The opposition chosen for friendlies was on the whole tough, Brazil were played twice (1 – 1 & 0 -1), Spain twice (2 – 0 in the Camp Nou & 1 – 2), Germany (1 – 2), Holland (2 – 0) and Argentina (3 – 1). Indeed only 3 of the teams played in the 5 years of his reign could truly be called weak, namely Australia, Iceland and Finland.

As a player, he was most notably a member of Chelsea’s 1955 Championship winning side. May he Rest In Peace.

Today’s tunes are from a group who were bottom of what I considered to be at the time, the best line up for a gig ever – The Smiths, supported by Billy Bragg and The Redskins. Given that the gig was over 20 years ago, I can still recall the anticipation and the event itself today. It still ranks in the top 5 gigs I’ve been too – The Jam at Wembley in December 1982 still ranks as No. 1:

The Redskins – Young and Proud (Anthem Of A Mistake)

The Redskins – Levi Stubbs Tears (Live)