With the World Cup hoving into view on the horizon, there are plenty of books out there aimed at parting you from a few of your hard earned shekels to get yourself in the mood for Putin’s propaganda party.
One of those is Out of the Shadows: The Story of the 1982 England World Cup Team by Gary Jordan – one of our legion of contributors.
Think back to a time when the England national time was much vaunted but regularly failed to deliver, both in terms of style and results. OK, we could be talking about almost any time since the Second World War in those respects but in the 1970s and early 80s the expectation and subsequent disappointments have rarely been matched. Set in a time when English club sides swept all before them in continental competition and the Auld Enemy Scotland outperformed them on the world stage, England’s repeated underachievement trumps anything we might perceive as failure by the so-called ‘Golden Generation’ and the rest.
England’s qualification for the 1982 World Cup in Spain under the universally respected Ron Greenwood is the ultimate conclusion of the story – after all, it was the first time they had appeared in the finals for 12 years and the shocking quarter-final capitulation to West Germany in the Mexican heat in 1970. But it is that early 70s fallow period that acts as the background to England’s wilderness years, as the tenures of Sir Alf Ramsey, Joe Mercer and Don Revie are picked apart in great detail in order to illustrate how disorganised and confused England and the FA had become in trying to not only repeat the glories of 1966, but also to arrest a rapid slide into mediocrity. While this is vital to the crux of the story, perhaps a little too much time is taken painting those pictures rather than getting quickly into the minutiae of the 1982 campaign.
Once we finally arrive in the qualification process, Jordan adequately recounts the fraught journey to Spain via tricky trips to Hungary, Romania and, of course, the infamous humiliation in Norway. Although it’s clear from the protagonists’ that their difficulties are perplexing, perhaps a sense of tension is lacking considering the stakes were so high.
This is also true for what should be a dramatic crescendo to the book. The finals tournament itself feels a little rushed given the detail which came before and while the high profile injury sagas involving star players Trevor Brooking and Kevin Keegan could maybe have been dealt with in a short chapter of their own, thankfully that narrative does not drown out everything else that occurred as England burst into the World Cup like a firework and spluttered out again at the second group stage.
If that period of England’s football history interests you then this book will act as a pleasant trip down memory lane, although it must be said that it’s debateable whether any new insight is thrown up from the myriad quotes from the likes of Paul Mariner, Phil Thompson and Greenwood himself. What Out of the Shadows certainly does deliver on is the ‘whats’ and ‘hows’, but perhaps it comes up just short with the ‘whys’ you might be looking for.
Out of the Shadows: The Story of the 1982 England World Cup Team by Gary Jordan is by Pitch Publishing and is available from their website HERE and on Amazon HERE