England leave Scot’s Greaves-ing

Magnificent England stand head and shoulders above their rivals, as Walter Winterbottom’s boys trounce Scotland in Wembley’s home championship clash.

“HAIL HAYNES! It feels great to be English”. So The Daily Express stated in the year that both Sierra Leona and Tanganyika gained independence from the UK, and Britain applied for the EEC. Meanwhile, for those whose interests remained in Britain, 1961 was a year of unforgettable football.

If you lived in Britain at the time, it was nearly impossible to pick up a newspaper without reading about members of the England national football team. Jimmy Greaves was on the verge of a transfer move to Italian giants A.C Milan, after turning down a huge offer from Newcastle United. In Scotland, fans of Dundee United saw their side perform through their golden age, finishing at the summit of the Scottish Division One.

As far as rivalries go, most fans would be hard-pushed to find an encounter with more importance than international football’s senior fixture. Geography may align both nations, but the two couldn’t have been further apart in a game that saw England’s finest waltz their way towards their greatest ever victory over Scotland.

Historic Fixture

On an unusually warm April morning, the Scottish international side arrived at Wembley to a lukewarm reception, as the home crowd sang the tune of Three Lions. Despite being short on numbers, the klaxon from the travelling fans succeeded in seeping through the uproar of the 97 000 strong crowd. The atmosphere of the fixture was lively and tense, but for some English players, the surroundings were far from congenial.

Alan Hodgkinson recalls the game and how it was an honour to play in the England side.

“I was a young guy at the time,” recalls Hodgkinson, as he begins a day of helping Oxford United prepare for their final challenge of the season.

“I was playing in the team with people like Stanley Mathews, Tom Finney and Billy Wright. As a young man, going out and playing with these players against a very experienced Scotland side in front of 100,000 people, which I had never done before, was quite a nerve-racking experience.”

Having undertaken the 120 mile drive from Sheffield, the ex-England goalkeeper pulled up directly behind me, just moments after I arrived at Oxford United’s stadium. Any identity-based confusion was immediately cast aside, as I noticed the small ‘A H’ printed across the 74-year-old’s training jacket.

The heavy morning clouds began to clear over the Kassam stadium, where the noticeably popular goalkeeping coach was greeted by numerous young players. As he sits in the barren dugout, his face crinkles with laughter, as if a close friend has just whispered a private joke.

“I’ll always remember coming up the tunnel; we were all in a line, I was behind the captain Billy Wright, and I remember thinking what the hell am I doing here?”

While the Wembley fixture always produced an atmosphere teasing at the overwhelming, the  15th April 1961 was something special; this was even recognised by Queen Elizabeth II, who made her first ever appearance at a game between the two.

England rose to the occasion, delivering an antipasto of white-shirted dominance, as organic football produced an early goal courtesy of Bobby Robson. The infamous Frank Haffey typified his abominable reputation between the sticks, when he failed to stifle an England attack, gifting Jimmy Greaves his second. The East Ham-born striker’s name had graced the countries newspapers in the build-up, and now the pre-match mantra was being answered.

“Well, Jimmy Greaves was a great goal-scorer,” he says calmly. “I played with him and against him when Tottenham met Sheffield United. He was one of the best goal scorers I have ever played against, and his record proves that”. Even now, the blend of a teammate’s respect and an opponent’s rivalry underpin his words.

It’s the second half that the game will be remembered for. Scotland started the half convincingly, as Dave Mackay grasped one back. It was Dave Wilson who restored fragments of hope for Scotland, but despite quickly recovering two, the sides were never really rubbing shoulders.

Goalkeeping errors

England’s fourth came after a discouraged Haffey made an error as subtle as an armed robbery. “I have some sympathy for Haffey, because it isn’t easy coming to Wembley and playing against England in those days,” admitted Hodgkinson. Not only was this the goal that sank Scotland’s hopes, but it was the fumble that was rumoured to have sparked the keepers Australian emigration. The trap door had opened. England were running riot.

“My main memory of the game is of Frank Haffey’s performance and criticisms”. He pauses while as he recalls the events. “I was lucky enough to have had a great experience and a great journey through my career. Unfortunately, Frank Haffey was one of a number of Scottish goalies that didn’t perform well at Wembley. This particular performance contributed to him leaving the country for Australia.

“In 1986 I became the first ever keeper to become a goalkeeping coach, and I got involved with Scotland as the national goalie coach after I was invited to take the job. I took it because there was a program on at the time called Saint and Greavsie, where all they did on Saturday lunchtime was criticise Scottish goalkeepers. So I took the job, and redeveloped all the Scottish goalies, finishing there after 17 years and 200 internationals with Scotland, two world cups and two European championships.”

England’s success can’t only be credited to Haffey’s misfortunes. The English midfield seemed to stroll through an effortless, albeit rewarding second half, playing convincingly and fending off the opposition with magnificent ease. After Bryan Douglas and Bobby Smith showed the Scottish defence to be far less than watertight, tame efforts left Ian McColl’s frustrations thinly-veiled, as his side’s hopes were ebbing away.

Today’s football

Looking back at the squad, it’s hard not compare the state of modern English football to 1961’s diverse international side. England’s squad was made up of home-grown players that were populating the First Division, coming from teams such as: Sheffield United and Fulham. Today, the squad seems to have weeded out the few English players in the top five teams.

“As a guy from yesteryear, I find it’s no-longer a British game. There are so many wonderful foreign players that have already come in, and lots more will continue to arrive, however I think it’s been a detriment to our English youth players. There’s the odd one that may come through, but it’s becoming an increasing problem – particularly for goalkeepers.

“I was the instigator who took Peter Schmeichel to Manchester United for Alex Ferguson, and since then there has been an abundance of foreign goalkeepers, which in my opinion, has been detrimental for the English goalie, and it will only get worse. You only win the World Cup with a world class goalie. We’ve never had a consistently world class keeper, and I find that very disappointing.”

Fortunately, England did have world class goalkeepers throughout the 1960s, as well as a squad that were every bit as popular as today’s players, who were earning a fraction of the salary. In the same year, the abolition of the players wage cap resulted in Haynes earning a reported 100 pounds-per-week. Today, you may be surprised to see a top flight player earning less than 1000 times that amount. 1961 Truly was a lifetime ago.

“When you’re a professional player now, you have a big profile, and everyone wants to see you all of the time, like a celebrity. In the modern era, going out-of-line can instantly cause players serious problems.”

Wayne Rooney, Manchester United and England’s £250,000-per-week striker, is as much a brand as he is a player. The so-called ‘working class boy next door’ is harder to access than Tristan Da Cunha. His name helps transport football around the globe, and he earns a wage accordingly, but don’t be surprised to see him depart midway through an international friendly, due to country falling second to club.

“The game has changed in many ways: Obviously there is the monetary aspect of it, but also, now you’re constantly being watched, and if you do something wrong, expect to be reprimanded. Today you get players with huge sponsorships. With the sponsorship in my day, all you got was a suite, a couple of nylon shirts, an FA tie and a pair of Adidas football boots.”

It may be sometime before England’s football fans can relive the glory of the 1960s. The country’s finest have now been replaced with a conservative team selection followed by an equally cautious approach to playing. Where you once would have caught the bus with a professional player on the route to work, you now stand behind closed gates watching the latest tinted-windowed sports car speed by. There is no doubt that in an era of incomparable international success, this was the solitary domestic fixture that portrayed English football at its magnificent best.

Lewis Smith

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