Monday, 29 April 2013

World Cup - A Daily Mirror Special (1970)

It can never be underestimated just how much English football fans were looking forward to the 1970 World Cup. Having hosted and won the 1966 tournament, England were ready to take on anyone that dared snatch their title from them. With such self-confidence and excited anticipation, the entire country lapped up every bit of Mexico ‘70 ephemera they could find.

The Daily Mirror was not to be left out as it produced its special guide to the Finals. Calling on the talents of its writers, designers and photographers, the Mirror had all the ingredients required to inform and educate its readers.

Those self-same talents would be put to good use analysing the qualities of the England team and its likelihood to retain the Jules Rimet trophy. Undoubtedly one of the key elements for success would be the way Sir Alf’s squad adapted to the heat and altitude of the host nation. Ken Jones confirmed what we already knew from a recent Attic article:

“The planning began many months ago when the world’s greatest athletes were punishing their bodies in search of gold medals. Sir Alf Ramsey was there then, watching, probing, searching. He went to hotels, tasted food, explored training facilities and talked.”

Jones also correctly pre-empted the pace of the games in the searing heat of Mexico: “Running will have to be restricted and it will become a matter of precise judgement. If the ball is carelessly given away then England will find themselves in trouble. The order will be for no unnecessary effort and the tempo will be slowed down in an attempt to conserve energy.”

Harry Miller explored the rigorous preparations further still in his feature titled ‘Be Prepared’: “Players will be examined daily to see how much sun they have absorbed. There will also be regular checks on feet and a careful watch on diet.”

He went on: “Each player is being issued with two special pairs of sun-glasses [sic]. If you have colour television and expect to see England in a change strip of red - the colour worn when they beat West Germany in the 1966 World Cup Final - forget it! England will wear sky-blue when they are unable to play in traditional white. It has been found to absorb less heat.”

While there was ample pictorial evidence of the players receiving their inoculations, Harry Miller also discussed the important subject of how the squad would avoid boredom during their stay in Mexico: “A variety of indoor games, darts, draughts, feature films and the inevitable playing cards should help.” The Playstation Era this was not...

Further on, a brief description of each group in the tournament was provided although little was learned from each of these mini profiles. In the case of Group 2, a particularly bad prediction was made as the Italians, so it was said “will display the most brilliant football but their suspect temperament could well see the solid defensive play of the composed Swedes pipping them for the second qualifying place.” That’ll be the Italians that reached the Final, no doubt...

The Daily Mirror flooded each page of its guide to the World Cup with many photographs, all of them adding interest to the piece, with some having a curious novelty value. ‘The Magnificient Seven’ showed England’s Leeds United contingent wearing suits while ‘My World Cup’ looked like an easy excuse to show Bobby Moore’s then wife Tina in an England shirt. “Women’s rights are not part of the England soccer scene” said the caption, “but you have to admit Mrs Tina Moore shows pretty good form in Bobby’s international shirt.”

After the visual pleasantries that headed the feature, Frank McGhee took three pages to discuss pretty much every single decent team and player he’d ever seen in a World Cup. Throughout this huge indulgence, it was actually his opening gambit that was the most interesting to read. In it, he referred to Joao Saldanha, coach of the Brazilian team, whose views on the future of the tournament were somewhat gloomy in nature.

“He feels it will be killed eventually, maybe even during the coming decade, by the surfeit of national feelings and international troubles that affect it and which will in time sicken die hard fans and football associations of the competing nations” said McGhee. “And he insists that he won’t be sorry to see it disappear, to be replaced at the game’s grass roots by competition between clubs in which anthems and flags and patriotic drum-beating will be out of place.” Thought-provoking stuff.

At the back end of the Daily Mirror’s fine World Cup guide, Derek Wallis looked at ‘The Outsiders’ and wondered whether the likes of Israel, El Salvador or Morocco could repeat the achievements of North Korea four years earlier (they wouldn't), while Tony Cornell told us all about the efforts the BBC and ITV were making in preparing for the forthcoming televisual festival.

But this review ends with the back page feature focusing on the qualifying results that made up ‘The Road To Mexico.’ Before you ask, though, it wasn't the results that caught my eye - more the picture at the top of the page. It shows the draw being made for the 1970 World Cup Finals, and in particular one man holding aloft a piece of paper showing the name ‘Italy.’

Where these days team names are printed onto beautifully woven pieces of silk or elaborately decorated paper, back then the names of the teams were scrawled on by hand with a pen, and not particularly neatly either.

For that reason and that reason alone, we salute football’s ‘good old days’ and give thanks for this special Daily Mirror commemorative guide.


  1. It is very poor work to call the Soviet Union for Russia. Not to mention disrespectful to all the Ukrainians and Georgians in the team.


    1. Hi Horst,

      Unfortunately it was very common back then for people in Britain to incorrectly refer to the Soviet Union as 'Russia'. Even now, some people still do, but there's no excuse now because of countries like Ukraine and Georgia being independent.