The World Cup semi-final between West Germany and USSR took place 50 years ago today at Goodison Park. The match itself was a dour affair, typical of those that had preceded it, but the main controversy was off the field.

When the draw for the tournament was made in January 1966 the two semi-final venues were announced as Goodison Park and Wembley Stadium. The schedule of fixtures produced in FA News for July 1966 confirms where the games would take place. Goodison would host the first semi-final between the winners of quarter-final 1 (winners of Group 1 vs. second of Group 2) and quarter-final 3 ((winners of Group 3 vs. second of Group 4), while Wembley would host the second semi-final.

Many fans who had purchased packages of tickets in advance of the tournament correctly predicted that England were likely to win Group 1, and therefore, assuming they were successful in the quarter-final, they would play their semi-final at Goodison. However, fresh from creating controversy in Latin America with their choice of referees for the quarter-final ties, FIFA added further fuel to claims that the tournament was ‘fixed’ in England’s favour by switching the ties at short notice. After the quarter-finals it was announced that USSR and West Germany would play at Goodison with the England vs. Portugal fixture taking place at Wembley Stadium. The Guardian (26 July 1966) noted that “The official answer [for the decision] is that FIFA felt there was a better chance of a good gate there [Wembley] than at Goodison Park, which may or may not be true.”

According to the Liverpool Daily Post, Merseysiders called the decision “the greatest betrayal in sporting history.” David Bull, writing in the forthcoming issue of Soccer History Magazine expresses the views of many who had bought tickets expecting to see England play: “Come to think of it, ‘fickle’ is surely too feeble a description. Try ‘outrageous’ or – let’s get real – breach of contract.” He continues, “Still disgusted, 50 years on, I wish I’d been among the fans who held up a banner protesting at this callous breach. They weren’t just asked to take down their banner; they were marched down the tunnel by the stewards … we have ways of making you walk.”

In fact there were two banners as is made clear from the Guardian report of the match. From the photographs it appears that a group of four young men unfurled a banner stating “England Fix Insu£ts ‘Pool’” (the £ sign replacing the letter ‘l’ confirming the belief this was about money). When they attempted to carry the banner around the perimeter of the pitch they were removed from the ground. A second banner, “Down with FIFA, England for the Cup”, appears to have been displayed more discretely and was immediately taken down after the first group were ejected.

Disappointment on Merseyside was such that the match attracted the smallest gate of the five World Cup matches held at Goodison: just 38,273 attended. In comparison, the Portugal vs. Brazil group fixture was attended by 58,479 fans.

The match itself was extremely uninspiring. The Times called it “a battle of dreadnought and heavy armour.” The newspaper created controversy by harking back to World War Two in its report (the 1966 tournament took place just 21 years after the war ended) referring to the USSR team showing “something of the Stalingrad spirit.”

The Soviet team were hampered by an early injury to Sabo who played on although not fully fit. Haller gave Germany the lead on 43 minutes and almost immediately afterwards Chislenko, the USSR forward, was sent off. The second half continued in similar manner, the Germans roared on by 15,000 supporters with the locals showing their support for USSR. It was all over when Franz Beckenbauer netted from 25 yards to give West Germany a 2-0 lead and although Prokujan scored a late consolation goal the Germans were into the final, The closing stages were marked by chants of “England, England, England” from the locals.

So West Germany progressed to the final for the second time, having won the tournament in 1954, with their opponents to be decided at Wembley the following evening.


Fifty years ago today one of the most remarkable of all World Cup upsets took place when 1,000:1 outsiders North Korea (or to be accurate, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), defeated Italy, twice previous winners of the trophy by a single-goal margin at Middlesbrough’s Ayresome Park.

Korea, both North and South, still lived in the shadow of the Korean War which had ended with the armistice of 1953. Technically the two were still at war and the United Kingdom, an ally of South Korea, was also at war with the North. North Korea, it should be noted was somewhat different to how it is today. The country had recovered well from the Korean War supported at times by both the USSR and China and in fact economic growth in the 1960s was much greater than in South Korea.

Their presence in the tournament meant some minor alterations to procedures arising from the fact that the British Government did not recognise the North Korean state. A set of stamps from the Royal Mail that depicted the flags of all 16 participants was cancelled and it was agreed that national anthems would only be played before the opening fixture and the final, all but guaranteeing that the North Korean anthem would not be heard.

The team was a mystery to the English press and fans but were far from being the complete outsiders that was expected. Although their qualification was overshadowed by a withdrawal of all the African nations from the competition, it was achieved in style. A three-team tournament in Japan, also involving Australia and South Korea, became a two-legged play off with Australia in Phnom Penh. Both matches attracted huge attendances of more than 50,000. The first tie was fairly even after 45 minutes with the Koreans 1-0 up, but in the second half they scored almost at will, finishing up 6-1 winners. The second leg was very much a formality as they took the aggregate score to 9-2.
Having qualified, North Korea found themselves in the north-east group alongside Chile, Italy and the USSR. Despite the region’s reputation as being a hotbed of soccer, the group was the most disappointing of the four which comprised the opening round of the tournament. According to The Guardian’s Word Cup Diary (16 July 1966), “It was taken for granted that the Scots would qualify and bring thousands of supporters South.” Instead the organisers were faced with Italy and three of the nations with the smallest fan bases at the tournament: Chile, the Koreans and the USSR. Furthermore, the original choice of venues (Newcastle and Sunderland) had to be changed at relatively short notice due to problems with the lease of St James’ Park. Middlesbrough’s Ayresome Park was the replacement, rather unfortunately coinciding with Boro’s worst-ever season which had ended with relegation to Division Three for the first time in their history.

North Korea, everybody’s ‘mystery’ team would play all three of their group games at Ayresome Park. The mystery was revealed in their first match, against the USSR when they were overwhelmed physically and lost 3-0. According to David Lacey in The Guardian they were “a side of moderate ability, fit and fast.” Alec Cameron in the Daily Mail also noted the team was “superbly fit” but The Times offered little more than patronising comments. The Koreans were “these little men from the land of the Morning Calm,” and, “these little orientals.” Despite their defeat, the Middlesbrough crowd supported the Koreans, showing their appreciation for the underdog.

By the time of the second group game against Chile North Korea had won over the Ayresome Park faithful who adopted them as their own. Despite trailing to a first-half penalty, the Koreans more than held their own and a goal from Pak Seung Zin three minutes from time gave them an equaliser. The attendance was just 13,392 and the only 150 of the 4,000 seats installed in the “Bob End” were occupied.

And so to the final group game, against Italy, which took place on Tuesday 19 July. The Italians, confident of victory, rested several players but included Bulgarelli, who had been injured in the opening game with Chile. The match hinged around two incidents in the closing stages of the first half. On 35 minutes Bulgarelli was injured again and had to leave the field; there being no substitutes Italy continued with 10 men. Then seven minutes later Pak Doo Ik shot home from 15 yards to score what proved to be the only goal of the game. The Italians huffed and puffed in the second half but were fortunate not to concede more goals. Roared on by the home fans who chanted, “KO-RE-A! KO-RE-A! incessantly, the Koreans scraped home for the biggest World Cup upset since 1950, when the United States had defeated England 1-0 in Brazil. The Times, now less patronising noted “We came expecting the inevitable. We left having witnessed the impossible.” For the Daily Mail, “The Koreans were a team while the Italians looked like stragglers.” The Guardian noted at the final whistle, “One would have thought that Middlesbrough had won the FA Cup.”

North Korea had to wait 24 hours to confirm their place in the quarter-finals, but USSR duly despatched Chile to confirm that they would now meet Portugal at Goodison in the last eight of the competition. There was more drama at Goodison when the Koreans raced to an amazing three goal lead, but Portugal hit back, scoring two before half time and adding a further three after the break to win 5-3. Thus ended the fairy tale of North Korea.

The North Koreans were ‘The People’s Team’ of the 1966 tournament because they played football as it should be played, with attack first and foremost on their minds. The players may have been small in stature but the squad was tremendously fit and well prepared, and their complete enthusiasm for the game won over the fans at Ayresome Park, and then nationally following their quarter-final performance at Goodison. In many ways the tournament as a whole was a depressing one, dominated by defensive play and cynical tactics. It was so grim that Eric Batty, writing in Soccer Star, announced “We have entered the era of anti-football.” North Korea proved to be one of the few teams who came with a positive attitude to play football and entertain, and thoroughly deserved their moment of glory.



It is hardly a surprise to find out that Gibraltar’s Lincoln Red Imps club owe something to Lincoln City in its origins. The two not only share similar names (City’s nickname of course being the Red Imps) but also the Gibraltar club’s badge includes an imp similar in design to that used by City in the 1970s.

Lincoln Red Imps was formed in 1976 mostly drawing its players from the Blue Batons, a police youth team. Lincoln City may be currently languishing in the National League following relegation from the Football League in 2011, but 1975-76 was arguably the club’s best-ever season. Led by future England manager Graham Taylor, the Imps won the Division Four title in style creating what was then a new record points total of 74 (in those days two points were awarded for a win) and reaching the fourth round of the FA Cup, their best performance in the competition for over 50 years.

In August 1975, just before that season started there had been a boardroom shuffle at Sincil Bank, with Reg Brealey becoming one of six new men on the board and he was soon promoted to become vice-chairman.

Following their success the Imps were invited to take part in a four-team tournament in Gibraltar in May 1976 along with Blackburn Rovers, Sheffield United and Wolverhampton Wanderers, a rare venture by the club into Europe. Graham Taylor’s team performed with credit, drawing with both Sheffield United and Blackburn and losing both games in penalty shoot-outs.

Ties between the Imps and Gibraltar were further cemented when City vice-chairman Brealey inspired a friend and business contact, Charlie Poulson, to establish the Lincoln Red Imps club. The agreement was that Brealey would offer the club a sponsorship deal as long as they named themselves after Lincoln, although they were not to use the name Lincoln City. So Lincoln Red Imps was born.

Some 40 years later it is Gibraltar’s Lincoln Red Imps who are probably the better known club. Apart from spells under manager Colin Murphy in the 1980s the Sincil Bank club have come nowhere near equalling their exploits of 1975-76. In contrast Lincoln Red Imps have gone from strength to strength, winning the domestic title annually in recent seasons and featuring in the qualifying rounds for the Champions League. Yesterday evening they achieved the astonishing feat of defeating Celtic, the first British club to win the European Cup, 1-0 in the first leg of their second qualifying round tie.

… As for Reg Brealey, he remained on the Imps’ board until December 1977. In June 1980 he became a director of Sheffield United where he went on to serve as chairman from May 1981 until resigning in December 1990. He returned to Bramall Lane as chairman again in June 1993 remaining in that post until September 1995 and as a director until December 1995.

Fifty years ago today, on Monday 11 July, the 1966 World Cup finals began. The opening fixture saw England, as hosts, take on Uruguay in their Group One fixture.


The British press, while generally supportive of England’s campaign, did not expect to win the trophy. The Times, for example, on the morning of the match predicted that the four semi-finalists would be England, West Germany, Brazil and Italy (in fact the four seeded teams), with Italy defeating Brazil in the final. The Daily Mail, too, reflected this mixture of hope and reality with Brian James playing the role of ‘the hopeful supporter’ and JL Manning ‘the realist’.

The match was televised in full by both main channels, BBC 1 and ITV, although viewers of STV in Scotland had to wait until 8.55 for live coverage. BBC1 carried an episode of their football-related soap opera United! from 6.30 then switched to Wembley for 6.50 in plenty of time for the opening ceremony, which began at 7.00. ITV chose to run with Coronation Street, switching to the football at 7.25, five minutes before kick-off.

The 90 minutes of play produced very little excitement for the fans and there were few goalmouth incidents of note as the match finished without a hint of a goal. The Uruguayans played a deep defensive game which frustrated an England team that dominated the play but created little. The match statistics tell the story: England won 16 corners and conceded just one; they had 15 goal attempts, but 13 were from outside the penalty box and the Uruguayan ‘keeper was required to make just four saves. The Daily Mail headline summed it up: “Angry, baffled, goal-less England,” while The Times was equally disappointed: “England frustrated by contracting defence, Negative pattern set for days ahead.” The Times even suggested that “the man on the terrace” would have found the game “soporific and boring”.

The ‘official’ attendances for matches appear to show the number of tickets sold. However, as most tickets were bought in packs for multiple fixtures it was often the case that many fans stayed away from the early games, hence the difference between the actual and official attendances. Another interesting feature was that one of the linesmen was Tofik Bakhramov of the USSR, who of course went on to play a significant role in the final. Finally, this was the first occasion when ‘doping’ tests were introduced at a major football tournament, with the first England players to be tested being Bobby Moore and Jack Charlton. There were no positive tests from any player during the tournament.

England 0, Uruguay 0
Wembley Stadium, London
Attendance: 87,148 (actual around 75,000)
England: G Banks; G Cohen, R Wilson; N Stiles, J Charlton, R Moore; A Ball, J Greaves, R Charlton, R Hunt, J Connelly
Uruguay: L Mazurkiewicz; H Troche, J Manicera, L Ubina, N Goncalves, O Caetano, J Cortes, M Viera, H Silva, P Rocha, D Perez

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Ian Nannestad

Editor, Soccer History Magazine

With this evening’s World Cup game between England and Italy in mind, we look back to 14 November 1934 to the second fixture between the two countries and the first on English soil.

England, as the founders of the modern game, still claimed world supremacy, but they were not members of FIFA and therefore had not taken part in the 1934 World Cup finals when hosts Italy had beaten all-comers to win the tournament and claim the title of World Champions.

The visitors could lay claim to being the best international team of the 1930s: they won the World Cup twice (1934 and 1938), the Olympic Games in 1936 and between April 1932 and November 1939 suffered just three defeats in a run of 53 games.

The English press were, perhaps as always, condescending of their Continental opponents. The Times, for example, referred to their success in the World Cup five months previously as “the so-called World Championship”. Expectations of a substantial England victory were high: “England should win, and win comfortably” noted the Daily Express, while the Daily Mirror thought England should win by the same score as they had recently beaten Wales (4-0) but that a “Ten-goal victory must be our aim”. These comments belied the importance of the match which would provide an important test of the strength of English football and the outcome created interest throughout Europe.

The fixture also carried political connotations. Mussolini’s fascist regime had politicised football and the national team as a way of promoting their version of nationhood, with Mussolini himself taking a close and personal interest in events. Controversially they had recruited several Oriundi, South American born players with historic family ties to Italy, to boost the national team and three of these had played in the 1934 World Cup winning team.

The game took place at Highbury on a Wednesday afternoon with a 2.30 kick-off. Gates opened at noon and the standard admission to the terraces was 2 shillings (equivalent to 10p in today’s money). For the first and only time to date England lined up with seven players from one team (Arsenal) and in general there was a lack of experience; the four non-Arsenal players included Stanley Matthews who was winning his second cap for England. Italy fielded five players from Juventus and three from Ambrosiana Inter. There were just two changes from their previous game against Czechoslovakia, which had been the World Cup final. The Times identified their star player as centre half Luis Monti who was the midfield pivot around which the team functioned. An Oriundi, Monti holds the distinction of being the only man to have played for two countries in World Cup finals, having also played for Argentina in 1930.

The teams lined up as follows:
England: Frank Moss (Arsenal); George Male (Arsenal), Eddie Hapgood (Arsenal, captain); Cliff Britton (Everton), Jack Barker (Derby County), Wilf Copping (Arsenal); Stanley Matthews (Stoke City), Ray Bowden (Arsenal), Ted Drake (Arsenal), Cliff Bastin (Arsenal), Eric Brook (Manchester City)
Italy: Carlo Cerosoni (Ambrosiana Inter); Eraldo Monziglio (Bologna), Luigi Allemandi (Ambrosiana Inter); Attilio Ferraris IV (Lazio, captain), Luis Monti (Juventus), Luigi Bertolini (Juventus); Enrique Guaita (Roma), Pietro Serantoni (Juventus), Giuseppe Meazza (Ambrosiana Inter), Giovanni Ferrari (Juventus), Raimondo Orsi (Juventus)
Referee: O Olssen (Sweden)

Around 10,000 Italian fans cheered on their team and shortly before the kick-off a fan ran across the pitch waving a large Italian flag. England played what was a fairly modern 2-3-5 formation with the centre half as defender between the full backs, while Italy employed the centre half as a pivot playing more of a defensive midfield role. The match played, on a grey and misty November afternoon, began explosively: within the first 15 minutes England had missed a penalty, taken out Italy’s star man, gone 3-0 up and had full back Eddie Hapgood off the field with a broken nose.

In the very first minute Drake won a penalty only for Eric Brook’s spot kick to be saved. Then a minute later Drake was involved in a heavy challenge on Monti which left the Italian with a broken ankle. Shortly afterwards he left the field and the visitors were down to 10 men. On 8 minutes Brook headed England into the lead and added a second four minutes later from a free kick after Drake had been hacked down. Drake himself added a third on 15 minutes by which the game had descended into a battle royal, with the Italians engaging in what the British press considered to be rough house tactics. Drake came in for some particularly harsh treatment due to his involvement in Monti’s injury and general bustling style.

Having shaken up the England team in the first period, Italy dominated the second half and came close to snatching a draw after netting twice through Giuseppe Meazza. On more than one occasion they almost equalised, but England held out to earn a 3-2 win. The Italians, roared on for much of the second half by their flag-waving compatriots to chants of ‘Viva Italia’ ran to their supporters to give the fascist salute before leaving the field. Almost every member of the England team suffered injury – Brook with a broken arm, and Hapgood being the most serious.

The British press was universal in its condemnation of Italy’s tactics – headlines included ‘Game like a battle’ (Daily Mirror), ‘A travesty of soccer’ (Daily Express), ‘Battle not Football’ (Manchester Guardian) and ‘The Battle of Highbury’ (Daily Worker). Charles Buchan described it as “one of the roughest and toughest internationals I have ever seen” (A Lifetime in Football). The Daily Express carried the story on its front page, describing the Italian performance as “a display of ankle-tapping, tripping, obstruction, free-punching, bawling, brawling, shoulder-shrugging and a variety of other objectionable things that have never had a place in football.” There were widespread calls for England to stop playing against Continental teams – even The Spectator joined in – but these soon died down.

The game was of significance in that it represented a further to challenge to England’s perceived world supremacy from the Central European school of football. The national team had already lost to Austria and Czechoslovakia in tour matches during the summer of 1934 and this narrow victory, against an Italy team shorn of their best player and down to 10 men for all but a few minutes of the match, was further evidence that British football may not be the best in the world. Sadly, it was a warning that was not heeded and failure to consider the growing strengths of other nations was eventually to lead to something of a disaster at the hands of the USA in the 1950 World Cup finals.

Although there was widespread condemnation in England of the Italians tactics, the root cause appears to have been the visitors’ lack of knowledge of the British style of play. The players were incensed not just by the injury to Monti, but by the English tactics of shoulder charging, particularly of the goalkeeper, and of robust play of as type not permitted in Italy. There is evidence that the football authorities were aware that different styles of play and interpretations of the laws existed as is clear from referee Olssen’s comments to the Daily Mirror after the game (16 November 1934): “Their ideas of the rules differ from the English view. They were warned before the game started that it would be conducted according to English laws, but they could not change the style which they have adopted in Italy”.

The game has since entered the folklore of English soccer history under the title of ‘The Battle of Highbury’, perhaps the first and only time the Daily Worker (newspaper of the Communist Party), which coined the term, has made a significant contribution to the game’s history. In Italy the team became known as ‘The Lions of Highbury’ for what in fascist rhetoric was a near triumph against great adversity.

Tonight’s game is unlikely to produce such controversy although it is probably worth noting that England’s recent record against Italy is far from good. Since 1961 the teams have met 16 teams, with England winning just four times and losing nine. The most recent competitive fixture between the two was in the 2012 European Championship finals when Italy triumphed 4-2 on penalties in a quarter-final tie in Kiev. England’s two successful strikes came from Gerrard and Rooney, both likely to play this evening.

World War One broke out at the end of July 1914, but professional football continued until the 1914-15 season had been completed, principally because the players were already engaged to professional contracts and it would been difficult and possibly expensive to break these contracts.

Some footballers were effectively conscripted to the Army immediately, these being men who were either members of the Army Reserve or the Territorial Army. The impact in Scotland was substantial: “practically every First League club will lose one or more players” noted the Dundee Evening Telegraph (5 August 1914); Aberdeen lost four men. However, the effects of this were minimal in England with the exception of Nottingham Forest who lost three Army reservists: Bill Fiske, Bob Firth and Jack Bell, and as a consequence they were given permission to sign loan players to replace them.

Shortly after the start of the 1914-15 season Donald Bell’s request to the Bradford directors to be released from his contract was granted and in November 1914 he enlisted in the 9th (Service) Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment as a Private. It is often suggested that he was the first professional footballer in England to enlist (i.e. sign up as a volunteer) for Army service during the War, but it has not been possible to confirm this. It is certainly the case that he was one of the first and by the end of November 1914 the only players that had volunteered for the Army apart from Bell were a handful of Southern League men from Exeter City, Llanelly and Plymouth Argyle. It was only following the formation of the Footballers’ Battalion in December 1914 that there was a gradual movement of players to ‘join the colours’.

The 9th (Service) Battalion spent the winter of 1914-15 at Belton Camp near Grantham, initially living in tents before tin huts were provided. As well as training for battle the men engaged in plenty of sport and Donald Bell was a valued member of the battalion football team which achieved success against other army teams, winning 10 and drawing 1 of the 11 matches played. He was promoted to Lance Corporal by April 1915 and then had a spell of active service in France before obtaining an officer’s commission.

The Yorkshire Evening Post reported in November 1915 that Second Lieutenant Bell was back in England with the Green Howards but soon afterwards he returned to France. He was home on leave again at the start of June 1916, when he married Rhoda Margaret Bonson, daughter of James and Mary Bonson, at the Wesleyan Methodist chapel in her home town of Kirkby Stephen.

Within days he returned to the front, where his battalion was held in reserve for the opening of the battle of the Somme. They were ordered into action on 5 July at Horseshoe Trench, south-east of La Boiselle. At 6 pm Bell’s company attacked and took the trench, but came under heavy enfilade fire from a German machine-gun post. Taking the initiative, Bell led a corporal and a private up a communication trench, then charged across open ground, shooting the machine-gunner with his revolver and destroying the post and the rest of the gunners with hand grenades. He was typically modest and wrote, in what turned out to be his final letter to his mother, that the general officer commanding had congratulated the battalion and personally thanked him. He talked down his deed as ‘the biggest fluke alive and I did nothing’, but he was proud for his father’s sake, ‘for I know he likes his lads to be at the top of the tree’. His father had criticized his preference for play above work but ‘my athletics came in handy this trip’. His faith is also clear: ‘I believe that God is watching over me and it rests with him whether I pull through or not’. It was for this act of bravery that he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

On 10 July 1916 Bell was with a bombing party that captured the village of Contalmaison, but the Germans counter-attacked, setting up a machine-gun. Bell led his party in a successful frontal attack on the gun, but was killed in the fighting. He was buried on the Mametz road out of the village, at a spot which became known as Bell’s redoubt. In the opinion of a fellow officer: ‘He was ready to risk his life many times over if only he could lessen the risk to his men and brother officers’. His batman, Private John Byers, wrote to Bell’s widowed bride: ‘The men worshipped him in their simple, wholehearted way … he saved the lot of us … by his heroic act’.

Donald Simpson Bell is quite rightly remembered for his bravery on the battlefield rather than his performances as a footballer, and is commemorated by a stained glass window in the chapel of Westminster College (now located in Oxford and part of Oxford Brookes University) and by a memorial at Bell’s Redoubt erected in 2000 and partly funded by the PFA, the Football Association and the Football League.