With Hodgson’s boys looking good for World Cup qualification in a Pole filled Wembley tonight you’d think England would be a beautiful place of rainbows and optimistic thoughts instead of the gloomy autumn clouds hovering over everyone’s pessimistically groaning head.
Rather than being proud of potentially joining the world’s best at next summer’s tournament, fan’s already have us out of the group stages next year to Ethiopia and simultaneously dislike the use of sturdy old players and promising young talents.
But we should be thankful. We didn’t always have the luxury of being unsatisfied with success; as with haircuts, people had it worse in the 70s.
So read and watch on and be grateful that you won’t have to witness these scenarios tonight.
Poland 2 – 0 England, World Cup Qualifier 1973
England got what appeared to be a sweet deal in qualification for 1974’s West German World Cup; just Poland and Wales in qualification. But it was about as sweet as a James Milner’s crossing and, when England traveled to Chorzow in ’73, several horrifying things happened.
First of all England wore yellow shirts like some kind of knock off Brazil, and secondly the man who’s so English his heart is shaped like a lion – Bobby Moore – had a ‘mare.
First of all, England’s World Cup winning captain scored an own goal, then he got caught in possession after making an uncharacteristic poor decision under pressure. To top it off, Alan Ball – another winner in ’66 – got a red card in what was Poland’s first and currently only defeat of England.
England 1 – 1 Poland, World Cup Qualifier 1973
After the yellow nightmare Poland routinely beat Wales meaning England would have to beat them at Wembley to advance to Germany.
Everything looked good though; England had just beaten Austria 7-0 in a friendly and had recovered from the last Poland game. By all accounts, the Polish were in for a hell of a game.
There was just one thing that Alf Ramsey and co hadn’t banked on though – Jan ‘The Clown’ Tomaszewski, the Polish goalkeeper.
They say every player plays the game of his life at some point, and this was Tomaszewski’s. Staring down the barrel of 36 shots and 26 corners, the keeper’s resistance was only broken by a Allan Clarke penalty which only served to cancel out the earlier Polish goal conceded by a combination of Norman Hunter’s sluggishness and Peter Shilton’s ability to give away easy goals at key moments.
At a 0-0 half-time Brian Clough reassured viewers that goals would be coming, calling Tomaszewski a “circus clown in gloves” (something he apologised personally for years later), but they didn’t.
A series of great saves and some debatable box work saw England held to a draw, knocked out of the group, and Tomaszewski become a folk hero.
Bar that truly ridiculous save from Colin Bell, the most amazing thing about ‘The Clowns’ performance is that – in true pre-Premier League style – he broke five bones in his wrist after two minutes and continued on to play an outstanding game.
Think about that next time Ashley Young ‘breaks’ his shin pad on a particularly unruly blade of grass.