Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Shoot! 28 October 1978

The qualifying competition for the 1980 European Championships had just begun when this issue hit the shops. Shoot! covered the upcoming round of fixtures involving the home countries and devoted much of its content to it accordingly.

England v Republic of Ireland

Having already won 4-3 in Denmark, England were about to make their first trip to Dublin for 14 years. Ron Greenwood's men hadn't reached the finals of a major competition since 1970 and this appeared to be their best chance of doing so given the talent available.

The former West Ham boss had put the emphasis on attack against the Danes, a tactic that suited players like Kevin Keegan, Trevor Francis and Tony Woodcock, but the Ireland squad was widely regarded as the best one ever and were seen as worthy opponents. Player-manager Johnny Giles was able to choose from a wealth of new and established Football League stars such as Liam Brady, Steve Heighway and David O'Leary, yet England 'keeper Ray Clemence didn't see them as much of a threat when he wrote about them in his weekly column.

Clemence was quick to focus on Johnny Giles' playing role specifically. The former Leeds United star was 37 years old going into this match and the Liverpool number 1 noted how some Irish fans were asking Giles to step aside to allow someone younger to take his place. As it is, the Republic of Ireland stalwart brought much experience and a steadying influence to the squad and this bore fruit as Ireland went on to draw 1-1 with England in Dublin.

Scotland v Norway

Scotland, meanwhile, were adjusting to life under new manager Jock Stein. Following a disastrous World Cup campaign only a few months earlier, Ally McLeod had miraculously been given a vote of confidence by the Scottish FA and was allowed to start the Euro '80 qualifying competition. When his side then lost their first match 3-2 away to Austria, however, McLeod was relieved of his duties, allowing Stein to take his place.

Jock Stein was already perceived as something of a legend having guided Celtic to European Cup glory in 1967 – the first time a British club had won the competition – yet his reputation was called into question by writer Chris Davies.

Only 45 days earlier, Stein had taken on the manager's job at Leeds United but surprised the football world by performing a dramatic U-turn to lead the Scottish national team instead. Davies noted how Stein had often preached loyalty to his players in the past yet had now turned his back on the Elland Road club. Stein claimed his wife hadn't taken to their new life in Leeds, but this only prompted Davies to wonder how she could have developed such a dislike of the place in such a short space of time.

Stein had also said he felt unable to turn down the Scotland job on account of being so patriotic, yet he'd declined such an offer while acting as caretaker manager in 1965. All this was casting Stein in a less than favourable light, Davies concluded, to say nothing of the precarious nature Leeds were left in with no manager.

Stein went on to lead Scotland to a 3-2 win over Norway that week, but ultimately failed to maintain their form during the entire European qualifying campaign. Scotland finished next to bottom in their qualifying group below Belgium, Portugal and Austria when the competition ended 17 months later.

Tough times at Stamford Bridge

Domestically, the spotlight fell on Chelsea in more ways than one. Lumbering through a financial crisis, they'd seen gate receipts plummet after a couple of seasons spent in Division Two. Despite returning to the top flight in the 1977-78 season, their position looked vulnerable and an air of uncertainty had enveloped the club.

This was reflected in Ray Wilkins' regular column where he confided his inability to pinpoint the reasons behind Chelsea's poor run of form at the time. Though they were playing capably enough on their travels, Chelsea's performances at home were particularly poor. "We use the same formation but the ball is like a hot potato… no-one wants it" Wilkins remarked. The players were undoubtedly lacking in confidence and there was a need to be more professional, he went on to say.

A welcome distraction (to say nothing of a financial fillip) came in the form of a friendly match against New York Cosmos at Stamford Bridge a month earlier. The NASL outfit were on a European tour and had stopped off in West London to help The Blues generate some much-needed revenue.

A crowd of 40,000 turned up to see the match in which Johan Cruyff primarily caught the eye. Cruyff was invited to take part in the tour and was thought to be joining the New York club on a permanent basis having left Barcelona in the summer of 1978. Chelsea had also mounted a 'dramatic bid' for him according to Shoot! but his next move would be to Los Angeles Aztecs the following year. Meantime, Cruyff's show of skill and flair in the exhibition match against Chelsea earned him a place at the start of the opening title sequence of ITV's The Big Match as you can see here.

News Desk

In other news, Tottenham's Gerry Armstrong was expressing his dissatisfaction at the varying number of roles he found himself undertaking for the North London club. 'Play me up front - or let me go' ran the headline as the article reminded readers of Armstrong's many recent substitute appearances. Shoot! reported that Birmingham, Arsenal, Ipswich, Aston Villa, Luton and Fulham were all interested in the Northern Ireland international, but in fact he stayed at White Hart Lane until a move to Watford nearly two years later.

Manchester United, meanwhile, had posted a loss for the previous season of £290,349. This had been largely down to Dave Sexton splashing out £1 million on Leeds United pair Gordon McQueen and Joe Jordan, so we were led to believe, but United fans could sleep easy in their beds. The Manchester club had made sufficient enough profits over the previous three years to leave them with an overall profit of £624,468 – "just enough to buy Trevor Francis, if he should become available when he recovers from injury."

Regular features and colour pics

Finally, this issue of Shoot! contained many of its most well-known features including You Are The Ref ('Compiled by Clive Thomas'), Ask The Expert (a chance for readers to pit ridiculously dull trivia questions to the magazine's researchers in the hope of winning £1 for having their letter published) and Football Funnies (five cartoons that regularly challenged the Trades Descriptions Act and all selected by an invited football player of the day, in this case Manchester City's Peter Barnes).

Yet as everyone surely knows, Shoot! could always be relied upon to provide its readers with a liberal sprinkling of glossy colour photographs, and this edition was no exception. The middle pages contained part of a week-by-week pull-out booklet featuring top players from the home countries, this one including profiles of Scotland's Willie Donachie and Northern Ireland's Pat Rice. There was also a double-page spread showing snapshots from the last round of Euro '80 qualifying matches, but the back page was reserved for the obligatory team picture which this week took Stoke City as its subject.

The Potters were riding high in the Second Division at the time and would go on to gain promotion to the First Division at the end of the season, doing so with the barely believable combination of Garth Crooks and Howard Kendall among its roster list.


  1. Has anyone else noticed that Ireland are never referred to as Eire anymore? Always Republic of Ireland or Ireland.