Wednesday, 29 January 2014

News of the World Football Annual 1966-67

As the dust began to settle on the 1966 World Cup, English football realigned its sights once again on domestic matters. For the top club managers in the land, it was time to stiffen the sinews and summon up the blood. Many knew that great success was within touching distance, whether it be in the League, cups or European competitions. Hope was in the air and for some it seemed only a matter of time before a piece of silverware was rightfully earned.

In the News of the World Football Annual 1966-67, Bill Shankly spoke of his team’s growing appetite for continental glory. Liverpool had reached the European Cup semi-finals at their first attempt in 1964-65 and followed it with a defeat in the final of the Cup-Winners’ Cup against Borussia Dortmund the following season. Now they were ready to try and go one better in the European Cup of 66/67 and Shankly was in confident mood.

“Not once in 1965-66 did we lose two successive matches” he said. “It was a testimony to the players that they bounced back after each defeat. And only 14 men were called upon in our 43 League and Cup fixtures; one of them, Bobby Graham, appearing only in the final game away to Nottingham Forest.”


The history books show that the increasing pressures on Liverpool’s minimal band of players resulted in a demanding and ultimately unsuccessful season for them. Their European Cup campaign started in stuttering fashion with a play-off win against Romanian side Petrolul Ploieşti, only to end in the Second Round with a thumping 7-3 aggregate defeat to a Johan Cruyff-inspired Ajax. They fared little better on the home front - 10 defeats led them to a fifth place finish in the League Championship, while their local rivals Everton ended their FA Cup run in the fifth round.

Bobby Charlton was similarly hopeful about Manchester United’s upcoming season. Having recently received the Footballer of the Year award, the England international was pleased at his personal fortunes, but less happier with his team’s exit from the previous season’s European Cup at the semi-final stage.

“Don’t let me beat about the bush” said Charlton. “Defeat by Partizan of Yugoslavia… was a shattering blow to United. After our great 5-1 Lisbon victory over Benfica, we felt it was our year - and that we could become the first British club to win the prize.”

Little did Bobby Charlton know that exciting times were ahead. The 1966-67 season saw Celtic become the first British team to win the European Cup while Manchester United won the First Division championship. That in turn allowed United to compete in the European Cup in 1967-68 and go on to become the second British winner of the trophy.

Tommy Docherty seemed less happy with his lot as Chelsea manager. His side were facing a season that for once didn't involve playing in Europe, although it wasn't for the want of trying. Beaten by Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup semi-finals the season before and thumped 5-0 by Barcelona in an Inter-Cities Fairs Cup semi-final play-off, Docherty felt that his side were on the verge of greatness.

“Now the target for Chelsea in the months ahead is crystal clear. With a playing staff which I believe I have strengthened as the result of incoming and outgoing transfers, we must establish ourselves as England’s Number One club. And that means winning League or Cup, or both if it can be done.”

Yet again, Chelsea came close but not close enough. Though the 1966-67 season started badly for Docherty when Peter Osgood broke his leg in October 1966, Chelsea ultimately reached the FA Cup Final in 1967, but were beaten 2-1 by Tottenham. A ninth-place finish in the League completed another disappointing season for The Blues and in October 1967, Docherty resigned as manager. Ironically, most of the team he’d put together finally did win some silverware a few years after his departure and undoubtedly became one of the top clubs in the country around the turn of the decade.

The News of the World Annual once again provided a review of the previous season’s events in its ‘Football Diary’ feature. Here we get a tantalising glimpse into not just the world of football but British life in the mid-to-late sixties.

Before the 1965 season got underway, Fulham’s chairman and comedian Tommy Trinder received a £50 fine for “failing to give written undertaking not to repeat remarks he’d made on TV about referees.” Alan Ball, Nobby Stiles and Pat Crerand were also out of pocket before the World Cup-winning season. All three were fined between £75 and £100 “following incidents in Continental matches.”


At Manchester City it was all change as the Maine Road club appointed Joe Mercer as their new manager, shortly followed by his assistant, Malcolm Allison. Unable to play their part as the season started, however, were Gordon Banks who had a broken wrist, and Luton’s David Pleat who had a leg fracture. For one of them, a full recovery would be vital to England’s chances of becoming world champions. (Clue: It wasn’t David Pleat.)

In October, the first soccer match shown on closed-circuit TV took place as Coventry City’s fans watched their team’s match at Cardiff on four big screens erected at Highfield Road. Coventry played in the red and white striped shirts of Stoke to aid visibility for their fans watching 120 miles away. Coventry went on to win 2-1.

Hooliganism was on the increase with disturbances taking place at Manchester United, Burnley and Huddersfield, while in November, England’s 16-month unbeaten run of 10 games came to an end after a 3-2 defeat to Austria at Wembley. They became only the third team after Hungary and Sweden to beat England at home.

November 1965 was also the month when Brian Clough’s managerial career began as he took the reigns at Hartlepools United. The following month, future Northern Ireland boss Billy Bingham started his managerial career at Southport.

At the start of 1966, however, the worrying increase in off-the-field violence took a shocking turn for the worse as Everton manager Harry Catterick was “kicked and knocked down by young Everton hooligans following defeat at Blackpool.”

On the field, things weren't much better. In February 1966, a match between Leeds and Valencia in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup saw both teams dismissed from the field for 10 minutes after a “fierce brawl” as police intervened to bring the matter under control. After the match resumed, three players were sent off, one of which was Jack Charlton.

In mid-March, a flurry of transfer activity saw Manchester City sign Colin Bell from Bury for £40,000 after Mike Summerbee had arrived at Maine Road the previous August. Allan Clarke switched from Walsall to Fulham for £35,000 while Rodney Marsh travelled the short distance from Fulham to QPR for £15,000.

At the end of the month, the World Cup had been stolen while on display in London and found again a week later by a dog called Pickles. Where shock value was concerned, that was nothing - in early April, Bobby Moore supposedly wanted to leave West Ham and was ‘seeking a new club,’ according to the Annual.

Finally, as the season ended amidst further reports of hooliganism, sendings-off and other turmoil, it was time for awards to be handed out to the biggest achievers. Manchester City won promotion to the First Division, Liverpool won the League Championship, Everton won the FA Cup, and the Football Writers Association made Bobby Charlton their Footballer of the Year.

A season of highs and lows reviewed and another one eagerly anticipated by the News of the World Football Annual. Yet for all that, the book missed out on the greatest event of them all. Because of an early printing deadline, the World Cup of 1966 was regrettably absent from any of its pages. Ah, never mind. It’s not like England were going to win it or anything.

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