Saturday, 16 March 2013

England v Spain programme, 1968

You can tell how old this match-day programme is because on page 2 there’s an explanation of what the European Championships is all about and how it came to be formed. Your average English football fan actually had to be told what the competition was all about.

This somewhat thin pamphlet commemorating the occasion of England’s quarter-final against Spain in April 1968 may not contain much, but it gently informs and educates the reader about a tournament that was still only eight years old at the time. Of the two previous occasions when it was held, England hadn't taken part in the first and had been eliminated in the Preliminary Round during the second.

Things were different now, however. England were world champions and had qualified for the quarter finals of the 1968 European Championships by finishing top of a group featuring Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Spain, the visitors to Wembley for the first leg of this knockout tie, were European champions but had struggled to edge past a decent Czechoslovakia side in their group.

The Spanish side were making their second visit to Wembley in less than a year, as shown on page 4. A friendly match in May 1967 had resulted in a 2-0 win for the home side but “victory did not come easily, nor soon.” England fans had waited until the 72nd minute for Jimmy Greaves to break the deadlock while Roger Hunt added a second six minutes later.

Sunday Mirror journalist Sam Leitch made light of the fact that there was an abundance of goalkeeping talent at England’s disposal. As well as the legendary Gordon Banks, Sir Alf Ramsey could also call upon the talents of Chelsea’s Peter Bonetti and Manchester United’s Alex Stepney.

For those who think Chelsea’s free-spending habits are a recent development, Leitch provides food for thought: “How remarkable that both Bonetti and Stepney began last season with the same club - Chelsea! Despite having the security of Bonetti. Chelsea went out and paid a new record fee for a goalkeeper of £55,000 to Millwall for Stepney. Then put him in the reserves.”

The top talent between the sticks didn’t end there. Peter Springett (Sheffield Wednesday), Peter Grummitt (Nottingham Forest) and Peter Shilton (Leicester City) were all pushing for attention as well as someone who Sam Leitch came desperately close to tipping for future greatness: “Then there is a young man called Dave Clemence who appeared for England’s Under-23 team against the Welsh Under-23 earlier this season. Clemence is the Liverpool reserve keeper!” I wonder whatever happened to Liverpool’s ‘Dave’ Clemence...?

Jack Rollin, statistician par excellence, was on hand to give a profile of Spain’s recent success in the European Championships as well as England’s previous matches against them. Fortunately for the English, Spain had only won three of the last nine encounters, although one had contributed to England’s disastrous campaign in the finals of the 1950 World Cup.

With fortune on their side, then, Ramsey’s team could stride confidently out onto the Wembley turf knowing that only an earlier rendition of ‘Oklahoma’ by the Band of the Irish Guards could possibly outshine them.

By the end of the night, the home fans would witness a 1-0 win for England thanks to a late Bobby Charlton goal, and if they’d forked out the £21 fare for a two-day trip to Madrid the following month, they’d have also seen the 2-1 win that ultimately earned Sir Alf’s men a place in the Euro ‘68 semi-finals.


  1. As written on the cover, I've never heard it referred to as the Henri Delaunay Cup before!

  2. I think the Wembley authorities chose to use that title to make the competition sound more exotic and exciting, GoldstoneRapper! :)