Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The First World Cup

When was the First World Cup played?  1930?  No, 1909.

Who were the first winners of the World Cup?

Uruguay?  No.  Brazil? No.  Italy? No.  Not even the Germans could claim to have won that title.

The first winners of World Cup were a team of part-time players representing England.
West Auckland F.C.

The idea for the tournament was dreamt up by a chap named Sir Thomas Lipton creator of the Lipton tea brand.  Born in Glasgow, Lipton was a keen yachtsman and regularly competed in the America’s Cup.  In 1905 he donated a trophy for the Copa Lipton, a competition between Uruguay and Argentina, on the condition both teams were made up of only native players.  The tournament was contested annually between 1905 and 1929 and has been played infrequently since, with the last meeting in 1992.

In 1909 Lipton was awarded the Grand Order of the Crown of Italy and responded by presenting a trophy for an international football tournament.  Back then football was an emerging sport and it was decided the countries to take part would be Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain with Italy hosting the tournament. The FA refused to be associated with it and declined the offer to send a team.  Lipton was desperate for Britain to be represented and sought about finding a replacement.

There are many theories as to how an amateur colliery team from Durham were chosen but the most credible seems to be that an employee of Lipton’s happened to be a referee in the Northern League and is thought to have been instrumental in asking West Auckland to take part.  Many of the players pawned their possessions to raise enough money to get the team to Italy.

One of the more amusing stories surrounding their inclusion was that Lipton wanted to send Woolwich Arsenal to Italy and sent an instruction to his secretary to “contact W.A.”.  However, at the time Woolwich Arsenal were not the famous club they later became, having only just been promoted from the Second Division and so this story would seem to be purely apocryphal. 

The four teams to compete in the inaugural tournament were

ITALY: Torino XI (made up of players from Juventus and Torino)
GERMANY:  Stuttgarter Sportfreunde
GREAT BRITAIN: West Auckland.

The competition kicked off on 11th April 1909 and West Auckland shocked the Germans by beating Stuttgart, 2-0.  Then the hosts were knocked out as Winterthur beat Torino XI, 2-1.  To avoid the disappointment of travelling all that way just for one match, a match for Third Place was arranged.  Torino XI beat Stuttgart, 2-1.

So to the Final, played on 12th April 1909 between West Auckland and FC Winterthur.  The Swiss side had won the League twice in the previous three seasons and were expected to win comfortably.  But West Auckland was awarded a penalty after just 6 minutes and their captain, Bob Jones coolly converted it.  Barely two minutes later Jock Jones made it 2-0 and the miners were able to control the game to make that the final score.

West Auckland: Jimmy Dickinson, Rob Gill, Jack Greenwell, Bob Jones, Tom Gill, Charlie “Dirty” Hogg, Ben Whittingham, Douglas Crawford, Bob Guthrie, Alf “Tot” Gubbins, Jock Jones, David “Ticer” Thomas, Tucker Gill

West Auckland, an amateur team from Durham, had become the unlikely winners of ‘the first World Cup’.

They were invited to defend the trophy two years later which again was held in Italy.  Germany didn’t send a team this time so Italy was represented by both Juventus and Torino with FC Zurich representing Switzerland.  West Auckland was up against the Swiss side in their first match and they won 2-0.  Juventus beat Torino in the other game so the Final would be between West Auckland and Juventus.  Torino beat Zurich to claim third place.

Held on 17th April 1911 in Turin, the Final was a particularly one-sided affair.  West Auckland contained only three players who had won the trophy two years previously, and they went onto to help the club lift the trophy again.  Unbelievably, they trounced Juventus, 6-1.  Goals from Bob Moor (2), Fred Dun (2), Andy Appleby and Joe Rewcastle gave them a famous victory. 

West Auckland: J. Robinson, Tom Wilson, Charlie Cassidy, Andy “Chips” Appleby, Michael Alderson, Bob “Drol” Moore, Fred Dunn, Joe Rewcastle, Bob Jones, Bob Guthrie, Charlie “Dirty” Hogg, T Riley, John Warick

Sir Thomas Lipton had stipulated if a winning team won the trophy in consecutive tournaments they would be entitled to keep it,  and so West Auckland FC had etched their name in the football history books as the first outright winners of the ‘World Cup’, and duly kept the trophy.

Unfortunately, for an amateur club the whole escapade cost them and their celebrations were cut short by the desperate need to raise some money.  Westaucklandtownfc.co.uk explains what happened next;

As their only asset was the trophy, an arrangement was made with Mrs. Lancaster, the Landlady of the "Wheatsheaf Hotel" which served as headquarters for the club. The arrangement involved a loan of £40 by Mrs. Lancaster to the club, with the trophy as security which she could retain until the money was repaid. It remained in her possession for almost 50 years when, in 1960, Officials of the club managed to track down Mrs. Lancaster, who was alive and living in Liverpool. She obviously had all her faculties as she drove a hard bargain before handing over the trophy in return for £100. Upon it's return the trophy was put on display in the "Eden Arms" public house, which was the home of Club Secretary, Mr. Syd Douthwaite. It remained on show, and it was only when the Jules Rimmet Trophy was stolen in 1966 that Mr. Douthwaite began to lock it away.

The trophy then moved to West Auckland Workingmen’s Club whereupon it was stolen in January 1994.  It has never been recovered but a perfectly acceptable replica was made and sponsored by Unilever, who own the Liptons name, and is back in pride of place in the Workingmen’s Club.

In 1982, Tyne Tees Television made a film about the story called ‘The World Cup: A Captain’s Tale’ with Dennis Waterman playing the part of Bob Jones.  It also starred Nigel Hawthorne, Richard Griffiths, Ken Hutchison and Tim Healy.

Friday, 22 March 2013

England v San Marino - An Infamous History

On Friday England meet San Marino in a World Cup Qualifier.  It will be only the third meeting between the two nations.  The previous two both came during a turbulent time for England.

San Marino played their first competitive international on 14th November 1990 when they played host to Switzerland in a European Championship Qualifier.  Just 931 attended a game they lost 0-4.  They lost all 8 of their matches during that campaign, scoring just once.  For the 1994 World Cup Qualifiers they were drawn in England’s group, along with Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Turkey.

England were managed by Graham Taylor who had taken over from Bobby Robson after the 1990 World Cup.  They stuttered in qualifying for the 1992 European Championships needing a late goal from Gary Lineker in Poznan in their final game to go through.  They were then very disappointing in the finals in Sweden, failing to win a game, and Taylor was already under pressure.   The ’94 Qualifiers didn’t get off to the best of starts as Norway held them to a 1-1 draw at Wembley.  A month later Paul Gascoigne inspired England, scoring twice in a 4-0 win at home to Turkey.  February 1993 and San Marino visited Wembley.  By this time San Marino had been thumped 0-10 in Norway and 1-4 in Turkey as well as losing 0-2 at home to Norway. 

Goals were clearly going to be important in this group but England with Lineker now retired were short of attacking options.  QPR’s Les Ferdinand was handed his first cap for the game and would operate as the main striker, with John Barnes and David Platt on either side of him.  Platt was one of three England players playing their football in Italy by that time.  Platt with Juventus, Des Walker at Sampdoria and Gascoigne at Lazio.  Gascoigne, a revelation in Italia ’90 had only been able to add another 5 caps in the two and a half years since his tears at the Turin Semi-Final in 1990.

The game will be remembered for one thing.  The first instance of an England player being booed at Wembley by his own supporters.

John Barnes had, had a distinguished domestic playing career at Watford and Liverpool.  One of the most exciting players of his generation, he was instrumental in helping Liverpool win 2 League titles in 1988 and 1990.  By 1993 there was a growing perception he never replicated his club form for his country.  There was likely to be an undercurrent of racial prejudice but the wave of abuse seemed to spread around the stadium like a virus in the second half as Barnes seemed to be blamed for a poor performance from the home side.

Platt put England in front after 13 minutes and then doubled the lead 10 minutes later, but England struggled to create and convert their chances and were still only 2-0 up at the break.  The home fans began to get restless and took out their frustrations on Jamaican-born Barnes.  Every time he touched the ball the noise would reverberate around the stadium in an embarrassing cacophony which became painful to watch.  England eventually scored again midway through the second half when Platt completed his hat-trick.  As the game moved towards the final 10 minutes, Sheffield Wednesday’s Carlton Palmer scored his one and only goal for his country.  England scored two further goals in the last 7 minutes as Platt grabbed his fourth and Ferdinand scored on his debut.

The game has always gone down in the library of infamous nights for English football, but 6-0 might not have been such a bad result especially as the Dutch only managed the same score against the same opponents a month later.  But the treatment of Barnes divided the nation with many defending their right to voice their opinion as others wondered how it would ever help the player or the team.

ENGLAND: Woods (Sheffield Wednesday); Dixon (Arsenal), Adams (Arsenal), Walker (Sampdoria), Dorigo (Leeds); Palmer (Sheffield Wednesday), Batty (Leeds), Gascoigne (Lazio); Platt (Juventus), Ferdinand (QPR), Barnes (Liverpool)

Barnes was to push the abuse back in his detractors’ faces when he scored a fine free-kick two minutes into the next home game against Netherlands.  Platt scored his 7th goal of the campaign in that game but England could not hold onto their lead 2-0 and the Dutch fought back to earn a point.

The rest of the campaign proved a series of frustrations and disappointments for England as they just managed a 1-1 draw in Poland when Ian Wright’s late goal saved them.  It was Wright’s first goal for his country in his 9th appearance.  They were them humiliated 0-2 in Norway as a series of defensive errors ruined their chances.  A 3-0 win at Wembley when Poland visited was then followed by a frustrating defeat in Rotterdam.  Dutch defender, Ronald Koeman cynically brought Platt down when the Juventus man was through on goal.  To the dismay of Graham Taylor Koeman escaped a sending-off to then score a stunning free-kick barely a few minutes later.  When Bergkamp doubled the Dutch lead soon after, Taylor knew the game was up.

A fly-on-the-wall documentary captured Taylor sarcastically saying to the linesman to “thank your colleague for me, won’t you?.  He’s probably got me the sack with that decision”.

England’s slim hopes of qualifying rested on their trip to play San Marino in November 1993.  On the same night Poland entertained the Dutch in Poznan in a game England needed the Poles to win.  Even if the Poles could win, England needed a 7-goal margin of victory to be certain of qualification.

If the first game against San Marino was infamous, so was the return fixture.

The game was played in Bologna in the same venue they’d met the Dutch as both nations were expected to bring too many supporters for any ground in a San Marino, a country of just over 32,000 people.  Taylor decided to give a first cap to Blackburn’s winger, Stuart Ripley but any impression he could make on the game would prove futile.

If the Wembley meeting was to be remembered for John Barnes, then this game will be remembered for Stuart Pearce.  San Marino kicked off and a couple of swift forward passes saw the ball played through for striker, Gualtieri to run onto but Pearce got to the ball first just on the edge of the England penalty area.  As he faced his keeper, David Seaman, Pearce looked to pass the ball back but made a pathetic attempt and this allowed Gualtieri to nip in and poke the ball into the net.  Barely 8 seconds had gone in the game and a country who had scored only a couple of goals ever in their history, were now 1-0 up against England, a country who 3 years earlier were a penalty kick away from a World Cup Final.

BBC’s John Motson’s commentary paints the picture of what viewers were watching

“The stage is set for England's last and decisive match in this World Cup qualifying group. England in red, San Marino in blue, England needing to win by a seven-goal margin and hope that Poland can do them a favour in Poznan against Holland. [Whistle sounds to start game.] I'm sure you're aware now what's at stake. And Nicola Bacciocchi the number nine picks the ball up straight away and San Marino launch the first attack, oh and a mistake by Stuart Pearce and San Marino have scored. I don't believe this."
In Poznan things just got worse for England as Bergkamp put Netherlands in front, although Lesniak equalised just 4 minutes later.  It took 22 minutes for England to equalise when Paul Ince scored.  Ian Wright then put them in front 10 minutes before the break, with Les Ferdinand scoring England’s third 4 minutes later.  At half-time England were 3-1 up and Poland v Netherlands was still 1-1.  If Poland could score a 2nd then England just might be in with a chance. 

Ian Wright scored his 2nd of the game right after the re-start but then Bergkamp scored his 2nd for the Dutch and England’s feint hopes were now fading into off into a murky distance.  Wright ended up with 4 goals as England won 7-1 but Ronald de Boer rounded off the scoring for the Dutch and they were through with Norway.

ENGLAND : Seaman (Arsenal); Dixon (Arsenal), Walker (Sheffield Wednesday), Pallister (Man Utd), Pearce (Notts Forest); Ripley (Blackburn), Platt (Sampdoria), Sinton (Sheffield Wednesday), Ince (Man Utd); Wright (Arsenal), Ferdinand (QPR)

It would be the last time England failed to qualify for a major tournament until Steve McLaren came along for Euro 2008.

The game was a watershed for a few players as Andy Sinton and Des Walker were never seen again in an England shirt and Lee Dixon would only win one further cap.  But the highest profile casualty was manager, Graham Taylor, who quit the next day.  So ended a rather inauspicious period for the England national team.  Terry Venables was the replacement and almost three years later he too brought England within a penalty kick from a major international Final in Euro ’96.

One interesting aspect around this time is on the same night England were failing to qualify, Switzerland eased past Estonia, 4-0, to join Italy in qualifying from Group One.  The Swiss manager at the time?  Roy Hodgson.

England will be hoping Hodgson can do the same for them for Brazil 2014.