‘The World’s Greatest Soccer Weekly’ was how Goal proudly announced itself on 10 August 1968. With its bright red cover, circular picture of Emlyn Hughes and George Best battling for a muddy ball and the potential to ‘win £2,000 free,’ the first issue must have stood out a mile on the shelves of newsagents up and down the UK.
Charlton’s Manchester United side were European Cup champions, but they’d lost their league title to Man City at the end of the 1967/68 season. It was therefore ironic that United faced City in the first eight days of the new season, not to mention West Brom and Everton, both of whom had featured in the 1968 FA Cup Final. The England international midfielder accepted this as an anomaly of the fixture computer but wondered if Don Revie and Bill Shankly could have come up with a worse start for United. Remember, this was an era when fixture computers were (a) new technology, and (b) beyond the realms of suspicious human manipulation. Innocent times.
Bobby Charlton was quick to pick out Everton as a rising force in the English game, as was reporter Alan Hughes. Fulham, however, seemed braced for the departure of Johnny Haynes, their mercurial forward who, at 32, was nearing the end of his career. Goal speculated that QPR were preparing a bid for Haynes after their young striker Rodney Marsh had suffered an injury. As things turned out, Haynes received his testimonial at Fulham and stayed until 1970, while Marsh remained at QPR until 1972 when Man City came calling.
It wasn’t just the external threats to football that made the Goal headlines. Internally, the laws of the game itself appeared to be restricting fans’ enjoyment too, according to Eric Nicholls. He argued that the tackle from behind needed to be punished more severely and that the rule-makers should concentrate on that rather than the goalkeeper’s ‘four-step’ law which seemed ‘potty’ and unfairly restricted the men between the posts. Nicholls (and many others) would have to wait decades before a straight red card could be awarded for a dangerous tackle from behind.
old footage from a World Cup match in the 1970’s or early 80’s, you’ll know what’s causing all the noise…