Saturday, 6 April 2013

Shoot! 14 November 1981

Imagine a world where football fans across England could, in effect, choose which players could represent their country in international matches. Back in November 1981, Shoot! magazine wasn't quite able to offer such a direct influence on England team selection, but it did invite readers to send in their preferred team to beat Hungary in the upcoming crucial World Cup qualifier.

Having received a “phenomenal” response to their appeal in a previous issue, Shoot! compiled the team that its readers thought Ron Greenwood should pick. “Some positions were clear-cut” it said, while for “one or two we almost needed a recount” due to the closeness of the vote.

Peter Shilton was first choice between the posts, twice as popular as Ray Clemence who was said to have had a poor game two months earlier in the 2-1 defeat against Norway (you know the one...)

Bryan Robson, however, was an even bigger hit with the fans - his approval rating was 98% - while up front “only a handful of readers selected a team without [Kevin] Keegan. The final team selection was immortalised in a mocked up picture using some pre-Photoshop trickery known technically as ‘glueing other people’s heads on the wrong bodies.’

Seven of the starting eleven that faced the Hungarians at Wembley on 18 November 1981 was correctly predicted by Shoot! readers, but Ron Greenwood dealt a couple of wild cards from the bottom of the pack in the shape of Alvin Martin and Tony Morley. In the end, England secured the 1-0 win they needed to qualify for Spain ‘82, but some were already questioning Greenwood’s suitability as manager, not least former England striker Mick Channon.

“I believe the only thing wrong with England is the manager” he said. “Don’t get me wrong - I have no personal grudge against Ron Greenwood. I happen to believe he is a gentleman, a nice man. But I don’t believe he is the right man for the job.” Channon went on to explain his feelings: “Perhaps Ron does what the media thinks, rather than what he himself feels... I don’t know. But whatever it is, I don’t believe he has picked the right sides in recent years.” Channon’s comments after the 1-0 win over Hungary were not available at the time of writing.

In other news, Peter Beardsley was announcing his return to Canada to play for Vancouver Whitecaps - and appeared to care little for any English clubs wanting to sign him from Carlisle. “I thoroughly enjoyed my first summer over there and I'm already looking forward to returning” said Beardsley. “ I've heard reports that some English clubs are still interested in signing me, but they can forget it. I'm going back to Vancouver.” Beardsley ultimately had three spells with the Whitecaps - joining Manchester United in between where he played just one match in the League Cup - before finally restarting his English career proper at Newcastle United in September 1983.

Sadly things weren't going so well for England’s World Cup hero Gordon Banks back in 1981. Shoot! reported that “arguably the greatest goalkeeper ever seen” was “almost on the dole.”

Banks found himself out of work and lamented “ I'm more disappointed than bitter that I'm not still involved in football. I believe there is a need for specialised goalkeeper training.” He went on: “I didn't win my 73 caps by fluke and I feel my experience could help someone.”

Such a shame, then, that Banks’ views were a decade ahead of their time. It wouldn't be long before the former Leicester and Stoke goalkeeper found a new role, however. Since the 1980’s, he’s been one of the three men making up the Pools Panel that assesses postponed matches, one of the others being his former England team-mate, Roger Hunt.

A two-page feature on the Merseyside derby played around the time Shoot! was published gave Phil Thompson and Mick Lyons their chance to discuss the great rivalry between their sides. Everton had knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup in a rare victory earlier in the year, but Lyons’ reluctance to predict another Toffees win proved shrewd enough - Everton wouldn't get another win over The Reds until August 1984, and the match he and Thompson discussed finished a 3-1 win to Liverpool.

The letters page, Goal-Lines, had more negative comments about Ron Greenwood’s management of the England team, but it was Ron Atkinson’s flamboyant style that irritated Stephen Wash of Great Barr.

“There seems no end to Ron Atkinson’s pursuit of publicity and sensation firstly with the possible return of George Best and culminating in the signing of Bryan Robson on the Old Trafford pitch” he said. “It is a great pity that Buckingham palace was not available. The signing could have been done in the Throne Room with the Lord Chamberlain as witness.” Shoot! replied sternly: “Ron Atkinson is a personality. Football needs personalities. Personalities sell the game.” And Shoot! needs readers letters, let us not forget...

While England were toiling in their qualification for the 1982 World Cup, Viva Scotland! showed Jock Stein’s team already home and dry. A montage of pictures showed some of the action from a campaign in which Scotland faced Sweden, Israel, Portugal and Northern Ireland and lost only one of their eight games. A goalless draw against Billy Bingham’s men in their penultimate match secured qualification, enabling Scotland to play in their fourth consecutive World Cup Finals.

Elsewhere in Shoot! this week were all the old favourites: You Are The Ref, the colour centre-page team picture (in this case featuring Southampton),a run-down of recent results from around the UK and copious adverts for cheap football duvet covers and digital watches. We end, however, with the Super Focus interview with Wolves midfielder Peter Daniel in which we not only find out that his favourite food and drink are the impressive combination of ‘Halibut steak and Tetley bitter’ but also that his superstition as a player was to “Always come out last.”

Where this review is concerned, Peter, we hope we've done you proud.


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