Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Soccernostalgia Interview-Part Three

Once again I have the privilege to interview 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.
The purpose of this interview is to discuss England’s performances in the recent World Cup in Russia as well as to draw comparisons with previous World Cups, including the 1982 Tournament (the subject of our previous interview).
We are two weeks since the end of the World Cup and we have had some time to assess the World Cup in a somewhat objective manner.
I followed England’s World Cup from afar, therefore it’s important to ask the opinions of someone who was so to speak, there on the ground with a critical eye.

Question 1:
Soccernostalgia: The first thing that really stuck with me from the start was just how underwhelming the expectations of the media was from this England side.
Was it mostly due to the youth and inexperience of the side (including its Manager) or had they perhaps dealt with enough disappointments with England in International Tournaments?

Response: Definitely the former. The fact that many of the squad hadn't played at a major international football tournament before, allowed them to play without the hysteria that the media normally whip the public into. So often the previous teams had been put so high up on a pedestal that their feet couldn't touch the ground. Now, under a new younger manager that had coached many of the players at youth level, there was no real expectation.

 Question 2:
Soccernostalgia:  Prior to the World Cup, there was the Raheem Sterling ‘Gun Tatoo’ controversy. Was this just much ado about nothing and just a symptom today’s tabloid sensationalism?
In comparison, where there analogous controversies that you remember prior to the 1982 World Cup and beyond?

Response: For whatever reason, some would take a sinister view of things, Sterling has always been at the rough end of tabloid journalism. The tattoo "controversy" was just another in a long line of sensationalist headlines that just show up some of the media, not the player. It seems a nonsense that players have to come out and make official statements to dampen any fires that are started. In regards to 1982, yes the media had their favourites and not so, but it was nowhere near the level of dramatizing as it is now. After the tumultuous qualifying campaign the drama was more around which players would get selected, not their off the field behaviour.

Question 3:
Soccernostalgia: Harry Kane’s appointment as Team Captain further underlined the inexperience of the Team. We must remember that Kane earned his first cap only back in 2015. How do you feel about his appointment?
He did not appear to be a galvanizer or a strong personality in the mold of a Mick Mills, Bryan Robson, etc.
Speaking of the latter two, the 1982 side was experienced enough that many captains could have been selected. If fit, Keegan would have surely skippered in 1982, but Mills acquitted himself well enough.  

Response: Keegan was the captain. There is no argument there. Greenwood had centred his whole tenure around Keegan and thus took him to the finals when perhaps in hindsight, and especially now, the player wouldn't have travelled. Mills was a more than able captain and even though he couldn't lead with his dynamism on the pitch, his performances did lead by example as they were always commendable and he was the ultimate professional. Harry Kane was the more obvious choice before the this summer, his goals and temperament meant he could show the way forward. Not as vocal as others, and perhaps Jordan Henderson was more a natural leader. If you have 3,4 or even 5 players that can take on that mantle, that can only be a good thing right?

Photo From: L’Equipe, June 25, 2018
(Harry Kane, June 24, 2018, World Cup, England 6-Panama 1)

Question 4:
Soccernostalgia: Many feel this England squad performed well, precisely because they were not under excessive pressure.
As a way of comparison, when England entered the 1982 World Cup, they had not been in one since 1970, so it was uncharted territory for the squad. However, the team was much more experienced squad containing the likes of Keegan, Brooking and Liverpool and Ipswich players with European silverware winning experience.
Did the ‘realistic’ expectations of the Press help the performances or where there other factors in your opinion?

Response: In 1982 the England team, indeed the whole squad, were very confident and able players. All of them had big game experience of some kind, European or domestic, and this no doubt helped them as they went deeper into the tournament.  This years crop of talent will have benefited from the run they had in Russia. Many will not have experienced football at this level and will be richer for it. The likes of Trippier, Maguire and Rashford will have to back up their good summer in the Premier League as they know there are other younger players coming through. In both sets of players the press had their realistic ambitions for them, one exceeded, the other fell just short.

Question 5:
Soccernostalgia: Getting back to Raheem Sterling, he also took some criticism for wasting some chances, similar to Olivier Giroud with France.
Just like Giroud, His teammates and the management defended Sterling by noting how useful he was despite not scoring. How will his performances be judged in time? Did he help his cause in anyway?

Response: There have been many players in the past that haven't taken their club form into International level, especially at Finals. Sterling falls into this category. Yes, he does produce some great moments of inspirational play, this only adds to the frustration. His goal tally is the biggest concern as he gets into great areas. It will only be a matter of time before he is pushed by another player in his position and then we can see if he rises to the challenge, or falls away from the England squad. 

Question 6:
Soccernostalgia: Marcus Rashford could have potentially been England’s Kylian Mbappé. He is a young player with great potential, but did not take his chances when called upon. How do you see his performances?
As a way of comparison, it was almost unheard of for players of such youth to have been selected by the likes of Greenwood in 1982 and Bobby Robson beyond. In those eras, he would have most likely still been restricted to the U-21s. Do you remember players that young that could have made their way into the senior squad back in 1982?

Response:There were some fringe players that could've made the squad in 1982. Russell Osman, Alan Devonshire, Eric Gates, Cyrille Regis and Tony Morley all had good claims. Greenwood was nothing but loyal though, and those that had served him well through the qualification and even back to the Euro80 tournament, were never really in doubt of going to  Spain.

Question 7:
Soccernostalgia: This is complete conjecture, but how do you think England would have performed had Sam Allardyce remained in his post?
Which players would be in the squad had he remained?

Response: That's a very difficult one to answer. You could even ask if they had even qualified! Two very different styles of play, two very different managers. Big Sam would've been successful in his own way. had they played to a style that pleased our fans, and staved off any critics, who knows? The squad would've been fairly similar. Even though the pool of players is fairly large, the cream of the crop does seem to rise. Of course his "style" may have required players that weren't suited to the way we eventually played in Russia.

Question 8:
Soccernostalgia: During the 1986 World Cup, Gary Lineker was introduced to the World stage, while in 1990, then relative unknowns such as David Platt and Paul Gascoigne gained International recognition. These players were obviously already familiar to English Football fans but not necessarily to the global audience.
By 2018, it was difficult for any of the English players to break out in such a manner because just about all of them are already well known. Is this perhaps due to the global brand that the English Premier League is?
Perhaps someone like Harry Maguire gained more attention that he otherwise would have because he is playing for one of the ‘smaller’ clubs, but a breaking-out like a Lineker, Platt and Gascoigne is rare in this era, what are your thoughts on that? 

Response: It's easier to become a global household name if you're banging in the goals, or a creative player. That's just the nature of the game. Younger fans are more likely to copy the actions of those types of players than a hard nosed centre back. This year you could argue that the England players bucked that trend. Maguire, Trippier and Pickford were our outstanding players and who knows you could see the kids in the park with their names on the back of their replica kits. If it comes down to playing at a fashionable club I'm not sure that matters when you're pulling on your national shirt. For any player it should still be the ultimate ambition, if you then have a stellar tournament it will open doors no matter where you play your club football.

Photo From: L’Equipe, July 8, 2018
(Harry Maguire, July 3, 2018, World Cup, England 2-Sweden 0)

Question 9:
Soccernostalgia: Can you think of any English players that missed the Final cut that perhaps deserved to be there?
There did not appear to be any noteworthy omissions similar to Germany’s discarding of Leroy Sané. Jack Wilshere publicly expressed his disappointment, while Joe Hart could not really complain given his situation. Do you recall significant omissions from 1982 (perhaps Dave Watson, etc)?

Response: I've mentioned in a previous answer the few that could've made the plane to Spain. I think the most hard done by was Tony Morley. He was a player that could unlock the tightest of defences and could've really made a name for himself across the world stage. He like Wilshere now could've been that X factor we needed as the tired legs of the opposition wre there for the taking. The youngest of our players were Butcher and Sansom and they had a great World Cup and went on to become mainstays in the side. 

Question 10:
Soccernostalgia: The early success of England led to the revival of ‘It’s Coming Home’ song and the general meme associated with it.
Could you perhaps explain to a non-English audience the significance of that song ?  I do remember it was originally released in the lead up to the 1996 Euros that England were hosting.

Response:Yes, spot on. It was the unofficial theme song during the Euro 96 campaign played in England. Two comedians, Frank Skinner and David Baddiel, who were also huge football fans wrote the song with a popular music artist, Ian Broudie of The Lightning Seeds, and as the team progressed that summer it seemed everyone was singing it. It was of course meant to represent that it was coming home to the its birthplace. This summer it was sung with the belief that a trophy was at last being brought home. The line in the '96 song was "30 years of hurt", to recognise the last time England won a trophy back in 1966. Now of course its been 52 years of hurt.

Question 11:
Soccernostalgia: Picking up on the previous question, some critics took issue with the song. Gary Lineker responded to the critics by (I am paraphrasing) saying that it is essentially a self-deprecating song paying homage and longing for the successes of the past. Do you generally agree with him? Do you believe the essence of the song was missed and not understood by the non-English audience?

Response: As explained in the above answer the reason for bringing it back was the real sense of belief that England were on the brink of something special and could indeed be "coming home2 with the trophy. I don't really think it was misplaced. It got everyone out in Russia together, something they could all get behind. As with most things now social media takes over and the memes and hashtags that appeared were more a reason to feel a sense of overkill than the song ever did. That being said some were very creative and it was again something the nation could get behind.

Question 12:
Soccernostalgia: I tried as much as possible to follow the English coverage online and listened to many podcasts. It seemed for the most part they were objective yet hopeful until the elimination. I was somewhat surprised by Luka Modric’s statements of the arrogance of the English Press. I did not observe any of the stereotypical jingoism associated with English Football of the past. What are your thoughts on that and how do you think he may have come to that belief?

Response: In an age where you know every single aspect of the opponents players, you need to gain any advantage you can. If you pick up on something someone said to help galvanise and inspire, then you do it. I really don't think he meant any real harm in what he said, other than he picked up on what could've been a general train of thought of players being tired after two long games of football. Its not rocket science. It was a point scoring boast that wont see him applauded onto an English pitch again soon.

Photo From: L’Equipe, July 4, 2018
(July 3, 2018, World Cup, England 1-Colombia 1)

Question 13:
Soccernostalgia: Picking up on the English media coverage, there was a lot of hope and positive vibe early in the coverage when England were advancing. Until the semifinal match vs. Croatia, there appeared to be a genuine belief in the Press that England could reach the Final. After the loss, I observed (especially in the podcasts), this running theme that England had over-achieved by reaching that far and no one had really believed that they could win. Being there did you observe this as well, if so what are your thoughts?

Response: We did seem to do some back tracking after a lot of back slapping. We did more than expected in terms of reaching the last four, how we got there, the easier route - if there is such a thing - only helped set us up for a fall. It meant that progression should be easier therefore achieved. Then when we didn't reach the final it turned into a case of who did we actually beat of any real note. I'm in the school of you can only beat what's in front of you, on this occasion we did fall short of the big prize, but no doubt stronger than when we landed in Russia.

Question 14:
Soccernostalgia: Also after the elimination, I picked up in some circles this change of opinion on Kane. At first, he was the great striker that England had been looking for. Afterwards some tried to criticize him by pointing out that three of his goals were penalty kicks and another one was a deflection from another player’s shot that he was completely unaware of. Most notably, Gary Neville felt he was injured or off his game in the latter stages. Why such contrast in the coverage and did you notice it yourself?

Response: The coverage was spot on in terms of his performance. the only thing they perhaps got wrong was that of him being injured. I think it was more a case of defences knew how to play him and he got found out a little. It is something he will work on and try and add new wrinkles to his game. He ha the advantage of being young to help him there. He was red hot early on, and fully deserved the golden boot.

Question 15:
Soccernostalgia: Another (after the fact) theme was that England was in the ‘weaker’ knock-out bracket and that is why they advanced far. Others pointed out that England had only defeated weaker teams such as Panama/Tunisia (again this was only said after the elimination). These types of criticisms were rare, but is there something in the culture of Football coverage of England that perhaps gives way to such statements after a loss? Can you draw parallels from the coverage after eliminations in 1982 and 1990?

Response: 1982 was somewhat different as the second stage was another group, albeit three teams. The way the draw played out it meant we were in a touch group despite winning all three of the first round games. This was due to the fact Northern Ireland beat hosts Spain early on and forced them into our second round group. We were still fancied to progress though after a goalless draw against West Germany. The fact we relied on two players to come off the bench with 20 minutes left to put us through didn't help. This was debated long and hard afterwards. In 1990 the last four place was again us being in the right side of the draw. Avoiding Brazil, Italy, Argentina. The team got better as they went on and the belief was very similar to what we felt this summer. The coverage throughout each of these finals was balanced and fair.

Question 16:
Soccernostalgia: It is somewhat hard to assess the qualities of this England squad. Apart from Croatia, the only strong side they faced were Belgium (twice) and the circumstances of both matches (mass substitutions) do not help to indicate England’s true worth. In the third place match, Belgium appeared hungrier and won accordingly. Were England, as some pointed out, in their right place?

Response: Yes. Simply. They were arguably not even a top four side this past summer. Belgium were many peoples favourites to win the World Cup so it was no shame to lose to them. The 3rd place game is something that most players will not want to play in. It must be so hard to pick up after the loss of a major semi-final. Most at this stage just want to get home to family and friends and a well deserved rest.

Question 17:
Soccernostalgia: After the 1990 semi-final elimination along with Gazza-mania and the emergence of David Platt, the English media predicted a brave new dawn. However, there are different circumstances. The 1990 squad was older and had many players such as Shilton and Butcher coming to the end of their road. The new Manager Graham Taylor slowly dismantled a talented team by discarding the likes of Waddle and Beardsley among others and England struggled in the 1992 Euros and did not build upon the 1990 success. For This 2018 squad is much younger and more importantly has the same Manager building up on the success. Do you think England will fare better as a result for the upcoming Euros?

Response: The platform is set and the expectations will be higher, That is new territory for this new breed. Southgate will have to be more clever with his tactics. He will be more exposed if he sticks to the current game plan. Times move fast in football and he cannot stand still. How the players adapt to being one of the favourites will be a test. The huge incentive is that the semis and final are being played at Wembley, so to win on home soil would be huge. 

Question 18:
Soccernostalgia: We cannot ignore the impact of Social Media in this World Cup. What would be comparable to ‘social media’ for the 1982 squad or is this a completely impossible comparison?   

Response: There is no real comparison. No mobile phones, no real sense of what the fans are feeling back home. Its hard to imagine the game now without that instant access to games, goals and players.

Question 19:
Soccernostalgia: In ten years time, how do you feel the English Press would look back at this World Cup?
In addition, to a non-English audience, what has been the impact of this World Cup Socially?

Response: Years from now it will obviously go one of two ways. If we do go on to win a trophy in the next three tournaments then it will be looked at fondly as the foundation to that success. If however we fail to build on what we've started this summer it will leave a sour taste with many as a great opportunity missed. Russia was not everyone's ideal location for a World Cup but everyone who attended, in whatever capacity, will say they were excellent hosts and that the football was of very good quality. With social media being what its is the global impact is nothing short of amazing. Even for those non-competing nations they still found themselves involved. Its hard not to when its the global game.

Soccernostalgia: Once again, I would like to thank you for this second interview.
To get news from Mr. Jordan, you may follow him on
Twitter: @Gazjor1 

To order the book
Pitch Publishing (2018)
ISBN-10: 1785313169
ISBN-13: 978-1785313165
Language: English

1 comment:

  1. In this world cup Gareth Southgate has gave us back our pride and respect giving youth a chance and building foundations for a bright future.