Tuesday, 6 December 2011

World Soccer: August 1971

Some time ago I decided to search eBay for old issues of World Soccer magazine, the much-loved football magazine, now in its 51st year. I wasn’t sure how many I’d find (if any at all) but I’m pleased to report there were quite a few to choose from, one of which was from the month and year of my birth.

And so it was that I purchased the magazine in question and installed it in my personal collection of football memorabilia. What’s curious to note in this printed snapshot of the global game from 1971 is that this was unquestionably a time of arrivals and departures.

Red Devil Frank

Inside we heard from reporter Eric Thornton on the appointment of Frank O’Farrell as manager of Manchester United, a move which was looked upon as something of a gamble on the part of the Old Trafford club. Having led Leicester City to the Division Two title, he replaced Wilf McGuinness in the United hot seat, and it was suggested by Thornton that his football experience at all levels of the game would probably see him in good stead. As it turned out, his first season there wasn't bad, but his second started badly and he was dismissed from his post only 18 months after he'd first arrived.

Don Howe, understudy to manager Bertie Mee at Arsenal, was on his way out of Highbury to take charge at West Bromwich Albion. What made this something of a notable story at the time was the fact that his predecessor at The Hawthorns, Alan Ashman, heard about his sacking well after most of the British public. The story was leaked from Highbury and soon appeared in national newspapers while Ashman was enjoying a holiday in Greece.

Pele to Europe?

Leaving the international scene was none other than Pele, as reported by Roger MacDonald in ‘World Diary’. Pele’s playing career with Brazil had come to an end in a recent friendly against Yugoslavia, but it was his club career at Santos that had come under the spotlight in the summer of 1971. Newly-formed French club Paris Saint-Germain were said to be offering the World Cup legend around £680,000 to play for them at the time, but Pele was in no mood to switch allegiances having already turned down similar offers from Juventus, Inter and Real Madrid. How ironic to think of PSG buying their success in such a way...

Also retiring - this time from football altogether - was Spanish legend Francisco Gento. Norman Cutler reported that his departure from the club where he'd become such a popular captain and outside-left was strangely muted. His last match was the European Cup Winners Cup Final replay against Chelsea in Athens that year, after which Real simply released a statement showing which players would not be retained for the following season. Gento's name was on it, and that was all that was said.

As it is, Gento had not been at his peak for some time due to injury problems and the Bernabeu club had finally decided to release the Spanish international. Rightly enough, he was granted a much-deserved testimonial some time later, thereby allowing Real's fans the chance to give him a proper send-off.

World Cup '74

Elsewhere in the August '71 issue of World Soccer, there was the full draw for the qualifying competition of the 1974 World Cup. There had been a record 98 entrants for the qualifiers and with only 16 places available in the Finals, the South Americans were upset at only getting three of them - so much so that they staged a temporary walk-out at the draw when they hadn't been allocated the four spots they'd asked for. As it is, they were lucky - the 24 competing African countries were fighting over only one place, something Joao Havelange would seek to improve during his FIFA presidency.

Eric Batty, meanwhile, bemoaned the lack of imagination at the recent handing out of the Footballer of the Year and Manager of the Year awards. Both prizes went to Arsenal after their double-winning season; Frank McLintock and Bertie Mee being the respective recipients. Batty argued that TV, the media and popular press had been caught up in the wave of universal appreciation for The Gunners' achievements at the expense of more deserving subjects. In Eric Batty's view, players like Colin Bell, Martin Peters and Ralph Coates might have been better placed to win the player's award.

In other news...

In this issue, we also heard about Canada's struggle to draw decent home crowds for their international matches, the growing interest in soccer over in Texas - contrasted starkly with the lack of goals and excitement in the NASL, and the introduction of a new competition called the UEFA Cup (a replacement for the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup won by Leeds United that summer).

Eric Batty was also on hand with a player profile on a new young talent called Johan Cruyff. The Ajax centre-forward had already caught the eye in a European Cup tie against Liverpool in 1966 by scoring one goal in the 5-1 home leg in Amsterdam and both for Ajax in the 2-2 return leg at Anfield. "If one man personifies the new standards of Dutch soccer, that man is surely Johan Cruyff" commented Batty.

Finally, Andrew Dettre reported on a tour of Australia that had recently been undertaken by an English FA representative squad. Though the players returned with a 100% success rate on the field, the tour itself was deemed far from satisfactory, largely due to the wealth of unknown names making up the squad. Big crowds failed to materialise at most of the nine matches leaving the Australian FA with far less money than they hoped for to fund a world tour for their own national side.

Front cover  (top): Italian champions Inter walking out onto the field at Selhurst Park to play an Anglo-Italian Cup match against Crystal Palace.

Back cover (right): Team picture of Blackpool, winners of the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1971.

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