For this first written Interview on the blog, I have the pleasure to ask questions from Mr. Gary Jordan, the author of the book ‘Out of the Shadows: The Story of the 1982 England World Cup Team’
This work chronicles the England National Team under Ron Greenwood starting 1977 and culminating with the undefeated adventure of the 1982 World Cup.
On a personal level, this book brought back a lot of memories from that era and I also learned new information that I was unaware of.
If the names of Keegan, Brooking, Shilton, Hoddle and those Admiral jerseys strike a chord of nostalgia for you, this book is well worth a read.
Soccernostalgia: Hello Mr. Jordan, to start off congratulations on your well-researched and informative book.
What prompted you to write this book, Is it because perhaps you became a Football fan in this era and have a connection to it?
Response: Thank you for your kind words, and taking the time to read the book. The book mainly come about because the era had not been written about in great length, largely because it wasn’t a particularly succesful period for the national team. It was also the first World Cup that I rememebr watching on TV as a child.
Soccernostalgia: What are your earliest memories of Football and the English National Team itself?
Response: Earliest memory was the 1977 FA Cup final. Before I realised I had a local team on my doorstep (Wimbledon) I followed Manchester United. The final against Liverpool that year was the first time I realised the game was such a big event. As for England I was treated to a trip to Wembley to see us play Bulgaria in November 1979, Glenn Hoddles debut which he marked with a tremendous goal.
Soccernostalgia: Can you explain your general process in writing this book? The duration of research, number of interviews, etc.
Response: From initial pitch to the publisher it was roughly a two-year process. A lot of the book was from research – books, magazines, YouTube footage. Being reasonably new to writing my name isnt that established and I didn’t get that many interviews.
Soccernostalgia: Paul Mariner wrote the foreword for your book, what other prominent players of that era were interviewed for this work? Were they forthcoming in their recollections?
Response: As mentioned above, not many were forthcoming for interviews, was knocked back by some who had agents involved which was annoying. Live and learn I guess. Paul Mariner has been very kind and it was only fitting that he did the foreword for me as he scored the goal that took us to Spain.
Soccernostalgia: To go back to the beginning, Ron Greenwood took over in the summer of 1977 after the Don Revie scandal. At the time, England were virtually eliminated from the 1978 World Cup qualifiers (though they still maintained an outside chance).
There is always the ‘what-if’ Brian Clough had been appointed factor.
Was Ron Greenwood just a safe bet for the FA?
Response: Of course. Greenwood was well known in the FA to be a safe choice. His caliber of coaching couldn’t be knocked though, and even if he wasn’t as forthcoming as Revie or Clough when it came to a soundbite, he was very solid in his role.
Soccernostalgia: The Admiral jerseys are some of the indelible images that define that era. I was also surprised by reading your book that it was at the behest of Don Revie that these jerseys were chosen for England. What is the mystique surrounding this brand of jerseys?
Response: It was Revie that introduced stripes down the famous plain white shirt when first appointed. Some said they now looked like clown suits! Admiral were the top kit makers in the land at that time, if you weren't playing in an Admiral kit you soon would be. They were a juggernaught that sadly lost their way when other big manufacturers came on the scene and could be more competitive with what they could offer clubs, and fans.
Soccernostalgia: How did the cohabitation and the policy of alternating England’s number ones (Peter Shilton and Ray Clemence) come about? What do you generally think of this policy?
Response: It’s a queston that always comes up, and each individual will tell you their prefereed choice. If he could've played both he would have. Greenwood couldn’t decide between the two and this led to what I believe was the cause of our bad qualifying campaign. A sloid back line will need a solid goalie behind them. Without a true number one they will become uneasy. Another reason why the defence was so slid at the actual finals.
Soccernostalgia: After qualifying rather comfortably in the qualifiers of the 1980 Euros, England struggled for the 1982 World Cup qualifiers. What has been the accepted reason for this inconsistency?
Was the squad too dependent on Keegan and therefore struggled in his long absence for the early qualifiers?
Response: Keegan was one factor, other injuries too meant the team ws always being changed. The smaller nations back then were to be swept away, and im not suggesting England were complacent in their approach but these nations (Norway, Switzerland) had players that were competing in top European leagues. This experience was rubbing off on teammates and it was a matter of time before they shocked someone. Just so happened it was in England's group.
Soccernostalgia: Ron Greenwood’s ‘false resignation’ on the airplane in the summer of 1981 is part of England’s Football folklore. What prompted his decision, did he feel the team was at an impasse?
Response: He certainly felt he had carried the team as far as it could go at that point. He didn’t have to prove himself anymore, or put himself in the firing line of the notorious British press. His loyal players came to the fore and talked sense into him. It wasn’t the right time to go.
Soccernostalgia: The relative non-use of a genuine talent like Glenn Hoddle has always been part of the debates surrounding the English National Team. Why did Greenwood (and actually Bobby Robson as well) use him so sparingly? It is because Greenwood wanted his tried and tested players and did want to risk or was there more?
Response: Hoddle was the kind of talent that only comes around every so often. Clough stated he wouldve built his team around him. Perhaps this was Greenwoods way of not being influenced by anyone outside. A stubborn approach. He was faithful to his team and Hoddle was a luxury player at the time, that if played could've backfired.
Soccernostalgia: England’s defeat at Oslo in September 1981 and the Norwegian Television commentary is an often-referenced part of Football History.
I remember reading (in World Soccer) that the English Football League had proposed to cancel the preceding weekend League fixtures so that the National Team could prepare.
However, Ron Greenwood insisted the League matches to go ahead so that the players could get competitive match practice.
After the matches, Trevor Brooking, Dave Watson and Steve Coppell had to withdraw due to injuries (a running theme for England).
Would it be fair to say that this was Ron Greenwood era’s at its lowest?
Response: Oh yes, Norway was very, very low (only USA 1950 and Iceland 2016 can come close) I mentioned how some of their players were playing across Europe. It was only one or two. These were the cliched teachers, accountants and butchers, mere amateurs of the game. In hindsight would a clear weekend off before have stopped this defeat? No one will ever know.
Soccernostalgia: One of the new things I learned by reading your book was that England’s participation at the World Cup was compromised at the outbreak of the Falklands War. This possibility was something that I had not read (or just missed) on other publications of that era. Nor did I know about the team being ‘insured’ against any terrorist activity.
Was there public (political) pressure to renounce on participating or was the English FA itself willing?
Response: With the Falklands conflict being as brutal as it was, it was clear that it was a very delicate position the FA found themselves in. They were in constant contact with the government. In the end it was their decision and I believe it was the right one to go and play. It would be on everyone's minds as the team came under heavy security, but it was the right choice.
Soccernostalgia: Another aspect that your book references, is how Greenwood could rarely call up a settled squad as it seemed like there were always injuries. It was amazing to learn that after so many years in the National team set up; Trevor Francis managed to play three straight matches for England, only during the 1982 World Cup. Also, how Bryan Robson was the only player ever present during the qualifiers.
Was the shear long length of the English League programme and its unending matches and rescheduled fixtures a detriment to his preparations? Did Greenwood use that as an excuse or just accepted the reality of it?
Response: Everyone knows that the English season is long and draining on our players come tournament time. It's an issue still to this day. How do you correct it? I'm not sure as so many people are traditionalists in their view. I don’t think Greenwood used it as an excuse, he knew how to look after the players during training to stop any further burn out.
Soccernostalgia: One must remember that England struggled during the 1982 World Cup qualifiers, where they lost three matches. In fact, England had the worst record of any of the European qualifying teams. How did England go from that to essentially winning game after game in the friendlies going into the World Cup? Was it because the pressure was lifted and they could now perform or did Greenwood devise a successful strategy?
Response: Whenever you pull on an England jersey there's always a certain amount of pressure to perform, from friendlies to tournaments. The gap between qualifying and the finals was one where the players were playing for places. Knowing the carrot of a World Cup place is at stake will only raise your game, or at least it should. The training may have not have been as intense as during qualifying but I don't believe it altered a great deal.
Soccernostalgia: It is quite unbelievable when one thinks that Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking’ s entire World Cup experience amounted to roughly twenty-seven minutes.
Especially in case of Keegan, he must surely be one of the best players ever to virtually have not played in a World Cup.
This is complete conjecture but how differently would England have played with the two being fit for duty?
Response: Its mentioned by a couple of players in the book that they believe it would have been different. It's so hypothetical. Logic says we would have been better, but we will have to file this one under the "who knows" category.
Soccernostalgia: On a personal note, the 1982 World Cup is my first memory of Football and is the event that turned me into a fan (I was nine years old at the time).
I remember the events surrounding this World Cup as it opened up a new world for me. What are your personal memories from this WC? (I am assuming you experienced it as well; please correct me if I am wrong).
Response: Yes this was my first real tournament that I fully experienced. The filling out of wallcharts, plotting teams progress through the rounds. I was the excited 11-year-old that watched with enthusiasm. The crackly commentary, as if done through an old phone line. The bright colours of all the teams, knowing who the best teams and players were. And here they were in front of us playing out a month long soap opera. Easy to get hooked.
Soccernostalgia: You mention the fact that when Bobby Robson became England Manager, he met Kevin Keegan and in fact hinted that he would select him, yet without a word discarded him. Has there been further explanation from Bobby Robson and Keegan himself about this incident?
Response: I know the two made up years after, how much was said for the press as opposed to what they really believed who knows. Did Keegan have a sense of entitlement? I'm sure he learnt from that moment, and he wouldn’t treat anyone like that in the future when he was manager at club and international level.
Soccernostalgia: The crux of your book deals with the 1982 World Cup qualifiers and the World Cup, but it’s generally a book about the entire Ron Greenwood era.
Objectively how do you view his tenure? Which areas do you feel he excelled and what do you think he may have gotten wrong (in terms of tactics and personnel)?
Response: The truth to how I belive his time in charge went is in the book title. He did bring us Out Of The Shadows, and back into the world stage. Of course, he had flaws, too loyal, too set in his ways, but what manager doesn’t? Far from genius he was as honest and hardworking as they come. His character perhaps rubbed off onto the team and they didn’t have that ruthless streak when it was needed most.
Soccernostalgia: After so many decades after the fact, Ron Greenwood is generally regarded as a Gentleman and a well-respected Manager. How did the Press really treat him especially during the struggles of the World Cup qualification?
(I ask this because his successor Bobby Robson is nowadays eulogized in much the same way, but I remember how the Press were constantly clamoring him to be sacked)
Response: It was a case of after Revie nothing could be as bad. They gave Greenwood some slack as he took over a team that was severely lacking in confidence. They knew it was a work in progress. When the losses to the Swiss and Norway came he of course took some flak, but most were leneint in their headlines compared to how Robson and later Graham Taylor were treated.
Soccernostalgia: Did you learn of new events in researching for this book that surprised you?
Response: Not so much new events. I knew of most of them, but needed to get more insight (Revie sacking/Falklands/Keegan's trip to Germany)
Soccernostalgia: In researching for this book, did you come across any interesting anecdotes that you could share? (These could be stories that perhaps did not make the final cut)
Response: Most of the stories made the book, even in a scaled down version. I'm sure if I had full access to all the players I'd be able to shed more light on some of the dressing room talk, there's always a story to tell within those walls it's just how much the players want to reveal.
Soccernostalgia: What is next for you as far as future project?
Response: I am currently researching and writing a book about the Ipswich Town team in their heyday of the late 70's – early 80s. All being well that should be published next year.
Soccernostalgia: Once again, I would like to thank you for the interview and your sharing of your memories.
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To order the book
Pitch Publishing (2018)