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England Postwar Lineups and Match Highlights
By Norman Giller, Football Author

Part 2:  1950-51 to 1954-55

Norman Giller, long-time football journalist and author of more than 60 football books, has generously sent us England lineups and match highlights from his recent Billy Wright biography, reviewed elsewhere on this website, and his book on England's managers, Don't Shoot the Manager (1994), with permission to reproduce them.

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No 33

Northern Ireland, Windsor Park, 7.10.50. England won 4-1

Williams   Ramsey   Aston            Wright*1   Chilton   Dickinson        

Matthews   Mannion              Lee1   Baily2    Langton

Highlights: Eddie Baily, more noted for his skilful scheming, scored two goals and big Jackie Lee, a Leicestershire cricketer, marked his only international with a goal. Northern Ireland were chasing an equaliser with the score at 2-1 when England scored twice in the last five minutes. Billy Wright netted his third and final goal for England with a shot that went into the net through a forest of legs, and Baily finished the Irish off with a superbly executed hook shot. Manchester United centre-half Allenby Chilton had to wait until he was thirty-two for this first cap as the selectors continued to hunt for a successor to Neil Franklin.

No 34

Wales, Roker Park, 15.11.50. England won 4-2

Williams   Ramsey*          Smith L   Watson   Compton   Dickinson        

Finney   Mannion1   Milburn1   Baily2   Medley

Highlights: Injured Billy Wright missed his first  after 33 successive matches. Alf Ramsey took over as skipper. Eddie Baily, nicknamed the ‘Cheeky Chappie’ because of his impersonation of comedian Max Miller, repeated his two-goal act. Arsenal centre-half Leslie Compton made his England debut at the age of thirty-eight alongside County cricketing colleague Willie Watson. Leslie remains the oldest player ever to have made an England debut. Les Medley partnered his Tottenham team-mate Baily on the left wing. Lionel Smith, converted from centre-half by Arsenal, came in at left-back. Goalkeeper Bert Williams kept his place in goal to maintain the Wolves record of having at least one player in the England team in every international match since the war. Trevor Ford, playing for Wales in front of his Sunderland fans, scored twice in the second half to give the Welsh the hope of a championship point. It was not until Jackie Milburn scored in the final seconds that England could feel confident that they had the match won.

No 35

Yugoslavia, Highbury, 22.11.50. Drew 2-2

Williams   Ramsey*            Eckersley   Watson   Compton   Dickinson        

Hancocks   Mannion   Lofthouse2 Baily  Medley

Highlights: Bolton centre-forward Nat Lofthouse announced his arrival on the international stage with two goals. It was the first time in post-war football that England had gone into action without either Matthews or Finney. Leslie Compton deflected the ball into his own net, and Yugoslavia forced a late equaliser to become the first Continental side to avoid defeat in England in a full international. Lofty scored his two goals in a five minute spell midway through the first-half. The Yugoslavs fought back bravely and their equalizer in the 72nd minute was reward for a battling performance against an England team that wasted at least five good scoring chances. Their goalkeeper, Beara, a former ball dancer, pulled off three blinding saves as England stormed forward in vain search of a late winner.

No 36

Scotland, Wembley, 14.4.51. England lost 3-2

Williams   Ramsey   Eckersley   Johnston   Froggatt J   Wright*

Matthews   Mannion              Mortensen        Hassall1   Finney1

Highlights: Wilf Mannion was carried off with a fractured cheekbone in the eleventh minute. With Walter Winterbottom accompanying Mannion to hospital, skipper Billy Wright took the decision to switch Finney to the right to partner Matthews and the two wing wizards often made the Scottish defenders think they were seeing double. The ten men of England made the Scots battle all the way after debutant Harold Hassall had given them a twenty-fifth minute lead. Hibs partners Bobby Johnstone and Lawrie Reilly netted for Scotland and then the barnstorming Billy Liddell made it 3-1. England, who had briefly been down to nine men after Stan Mortensen had been knocked out, refused to give in and Tom Finney conjured a goal. But the Scots held on for a deserved victory against the Auld Enemy.

No 37

Argentina, Wembley, 9.5.51. England won 2-1

Williams   Ramsey            Eckersley   Wright*       Taylor J   Cockburn        

Finney    Mortensen1   Milburn1   Hassall   Metcalfe

Highlights: Goals in the last ten minutes from Stan Mortensen and Jackie Milburn (following the two he had scored for Newcastle on the same pitch in the FA Cup final four days earlier) gave England a scrambled victory. Eccentric Argentinean goalkeeper Rugilo, nicknamed ‘Tarzan’, had the crowd roaring with laughter as he swung on the crossbar and clowned his way through the match, which was staged as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations.  Fulham centre-half Jim Taylor won the first of two caps at the age of thirty-three. Argentina were only the second country other than Scotland to play England at Wembley.

No 38

Portugal, Goodison Park, 19.5.51. England won 5-2

Williams   Ramsey*          Eckersley   Nicholson1   Taylor J   Cockburn        

Finney1   Pearson   Milburn2   Hassall1    Metcalfe

Highlights: For the only time in his career, Billy Wright was dropped because of loss of form. Bill Nicholson took over in the No 4 shirt, and had the distinction of scoring with his first kick in international football in what was to prove his only match for England. Portugal were a goal down in twenty seconds and level a minute later in a blistering start to the match. Jackie Milburn restored England’s lead in the eleventh minute. Alf Ramsey, skippering the side for a third time, mishit a back pass that let Portugal in for a second equaliser soon after half-time. Tom Finney then took over and ran the Portuguese into such dizzy array that at the after-match banquet their entire team stood and toasted ‘Mr. Finney, the Master.’  He scored a magnificent solo goal, and then laid on goals for Milburn and Harold Hassall.  

No 39

France, Highbury, 3.10.51. Drew 2-2 (own goal1)

Williams   Ramsey   Willis Wright*   Chilton   Cockburn        

Finney   Mannion   Milburn              Hassall    Medley1

Highlights: Les Medley's first goal for England and an own goal saved a mediocre England team from a first home defeat by a foreign side. France were robbed of a deserved victory when Bert Williams made a desperate late save from French centre-forward Jacques Grumellon, who gave centre-half Allenby Chilton a nightmare afternoon. Arthur Willis, partnering his Spurs team-mate Alf Ramsey, was one of four players - along with Chilton, Henry Cockburn and Wilf Mannion - who never played for England again. It was a scrappy team performance and England’s problems continued in the middle of the defence. France could count themselves unlucky not to have won by a convincing margin, and it was Wolves goalkeeper Bert Williams who saved England from defeat with a succession of Swift-standard saves.

No 40

Wales, Ninian Park, 20.10.51. Drew 1-1

Williams   Ramsey  Smith L   Wright*   Barrass   Dickinson        

Finney   Thompson   Lofthouse   Baily1   Medley

Highlights: Eddie Baily saved England from defeat against a Welsh team in which Ivor Allchurch and Trevor Ford were constantly putting England’s defence under pressure. Newcastle right winger Billy Foulkes scored in the third minute with his first shot for Wales in international football. Baily, noted more for his scheming than his scoring, equalised with a rare header following a counter attack generated by a perfect pass from Billy Wright. Ford, the idol of Sunderland, missed two easy chances late in the game to give Wales their first victory over England since the war. Malcolm Barrass was the seventh centre-half tried by the selectors since the defection of Neil Franklin. Tommy Thompson, Aston Villa’s diminutive ball-playing inside-right, won the first of two caps.

No 41

Northern Ireland, Villa Park, 14.11.51. England won 2-0

Merrick   Ramsey  Smith L            Wright*   Barrass   Dickinson        

Finney   Sewell   Lofthouse2   Phillips   Medley

Highlights: The selectors experimented by giving inside-forwards Jackie Sewell and Len Phillips their first caps either side of Nat Lofthouse, who scored a goal in each half. Birmingham City goalkeeper Gil Merrick made the short journey to Villa Park for his first of twenty-three caps.  He kept a clean sheet, but was lucky in the second half when a screaming twenty-five yard shot from Barnsley forward Eddie McMorran crashed against the crossbar. Billy Wright gave a vintage performance. He was the boss both of the defence and the midfield. His tackles were panther-like in their speed, and then he always found a team-mate with a well judged pass.

No 42

Austria, Wembley, 28.11.51. Drew 2-2

Merrick   Ramsey1 (pen)   Eckersley   Wright*   Froggatt J   Dickinson        

Milton    Broadis   Lofthouse1   Baily   Medley

Highlights: An injury to Tom Finney forced yet  another permutation by the selectors, with Gloucester cricketer and Arsenal forward Arthur Milton partnering Ivor Broadis on the right wing. Austria, under the baton of the remarkable Ernst ‘Clockwork’ Ocwirk, took the lead in the forty-seventh minute after a first half of cut-and-thrust football of the highest quality. Ocwirk sent a precision free-kick into the penalty area where Melchior forced it wide of goalkeeper Gil Merrick. England equalised in the seventieth minute when the ice-cool Alf Ramsey scored from the penalty spot after his Spurs team-mate Eddie Baily had been sent sprawling. Six minutes later Ramsey made a goal for Nat Lofthouse with a pin-pointed free-kick which the Bolton centre-forward steered high into the net with a powerful header. Austria, rated one of the best sides in Europe and fresh from becoming the first overseas team to beat Scotland at home, saved the match two minutes from the end with a penalty by Stojaspal. There was some breath-taking attacking movements by both teams, yet all the goals came from set-piece play. Milton was the last player capped by England at cricket and football.  When Eddie Baily was fouled for the penalty, he picked himself up and said to his Spurs team-mate Alf Ramsey, ‘I’ve done all the hard work winning the blankety blank penalty, now make sure you score.’ Alf tucked the penalty away as coolly as if in a training session.

No 43

Scotland, Hampden Park, 5.4.52. England won 2-1

Merrick   Ramsey   Garrett   Wright*   Froggatt J   Dickinson        

Finney   Broadis   Lofthouse   Pearson2   Rowley J

Highlights: Two neatly taken goals by Stan Pearson stretched England’s unbeaten run in full internationals at Hampden Park to fifteen years. His first after eight minutes was a superb hooked shot, and his second just before half-time followed a mix-up in Scotland's defence. The Scots screamed that they were robbed of a penalty when Gil Merrick pulled down Lawrie Reilly, and the 134,504 crowd roared with rage when the referee waved play on. Reilly managed to score in the last minute, Scotland's first home goal against England since the war. But it was too late to stop an England victory that gave them a share of the Home Championship with Wales. Blackpool’s Tom Garrett made a sound debut at left-back in place of injured Bill Eckersley.

No 44

Italy, Florence, 18.5.52. Drew 1-1

Merrick   Ramsey  Garrett   Wright*   Froggatt J   Dickinson 

Finney   Broadis1   Lofthouse   Pearson   Elliott

Highlights: Only Billy Wright and Tom Finney remained of the England team that had conquered Italy 4-0 in Turin in 1948. Ivor Broadis gave England a fourth minute lead that was cancelled out by a spectacular solo effort from Amadei in the sixty-third minute. The idolised centre-forward Piola, who had helped Italy retain the World Cup in 1938, was recalled for a swansong appearance at the age of thirty-nine. It ended on a sad note for him when he missed an easy chance for a winner in front of an empty net. It was the cool heads of Wright and Ramsey that brought England safely through to a draw when the Italians were threatening to run riot in the second half.

No 45

Austria, Vienna, 25.5.52. England won 3-2

Merrick   Ramsey   Eckersley   Wright*            Froggatt J   Dickinson  

Finney   Sewell1   Lofthouse2   Baily   Elliott

Highlights: The match that earned Nat Lofthouse the nickname The Lion of Vienna. Eight minutes from the end, with the game deadlocked at 2-2, Tom Finney collected a long throw from Gil Merrick and released a pass that sent Lofty clear just inside the Austrian half. He galloped forty-five yards with a pack of defenders snapping at his heels, and collided with oncoming goalkeeper Musil as he released a shot. He was flat out unconscious and did not see the ball roll over the goal-line for the winning goal. The Bolton hero was carried off on a stretcher, but, still dazed, returned for the final five minutes. He struck a shot against a post in the closing moments. England's counter-attacking tactics had worked to perfection. They took the lead in the twenty-first minute after soaking up non-stop pressure from the Austrians, who were rated the number one team in Europe. A penetrating pass by Eddie Baily opened the heart of the Austrian defence and Lofthouse finished off the move with a left-foot volley deep into the net. The cheers of the squads of British soldiers in the 65,500 crowd were still filling the Prater Stadium when Jack Froggatt conceded a penalty from which Huber side-footed an equaliser. The Portsmouth centre-half quickly made amends with a pass that put Jackie Sewell through to score after he had wrong-footed the Austrian defenders with two exaggerated dummies. Austria pulled level again just before half-time through centre-forward Diego, who shrugged off Billy Wright's challenge before powering the ball past goalkeeper Gil Merrick. Then came the storybook climax from Lofthouse. The triumphant England players were carried back to their dressing-room on the shoulders of cheering Tommies, who had come from their posts in Germany in their thousands.

No 46

Switzerland, Zurich, 28.5.52. England won 3-0

Merrick   Ramsey   Eckersley   Wright*  Froggatt J   Dickinson        

Allen R   Sewell1   Lofthouse2   Baily   Finney

Highlights: Billy Wright was credited with taking over the England caps record from Bob Crompton with this forty-third international appearance (although most record books give Crompton’s old record as 41 caps). The Swiss were beaten by the same scoring combination that had won the match in Vienna three days earlier: Jackie Sewell one, Nat Lofthouse two. West Bromwich Albion’s versatile forward Ronnie Allen won the first of his five caps, and gave a lively performance on the right wing.  

No 47

Northern Ireland, Windsor Park, 4.10.52. Drew 2-2

Merrick   Ramsey   Eckersley   Wright*            Froggatt J   Dickinson  

Finney   Sewell   Lofthouse1   Baily   Elliott1

Highlights: Nat Lofthouse scored in the first minute and Billy Elliott in the last minute of a dramatic match. Sandwiched in between was the magic of Celtic ball artist Charlie Tully, who scored twice for Ireland. He beat Merrick from 25 yards and then with his specialist inswinging corner-kick after the Irish team had been reduced by injury to ten men (In a game for Celtic against Falkirk Tully netted direct from a corner and was ordered to re-take it because the referee was not ready. He immediately repeated the trick and put the ball in the exact same spot in the net!). Northern Ireland, urged on by a record 60,000 Windsor Park crowd, had two young midfield partners called Danny Blanchflower and Jimmy McIlroy dictating the pace and the pattern of the match. They were on the verge of their first victory over England since 1927 when Elliott silenced the celebrating fans with an equalising header in the desperate closing moments. Billy Wright and Jimmy Dickinson were the match stars for England, steadying the ship with their cool defensive work when the Irish threatened to take a stranglehold on the game. Team manager Walter Winterbottom was furious over the goal that Charlie Tully scored direct from a corner-kick. Charlie was famous for his in-swinging corners, and England had worked at cutting them out in training by placing Alf Ramsey on the near post and then centre-half Jack Froggatt directly behind goalkeeper Gil Merrick. The corner from which he scored was curling towards Ramsey, who suddenly ducked under the ball. Gil reached out but only caught thin air as the ball swung into the net. Alf said later that he thought Gil had shouted ‘mine’, but it had apparently been one of the Irish forwards. The crowd went berserk when the ball hit the net. And no wonder – it was Northern Ireland’s first international goal for eighteen months!

No 48

Wales, Wembley, 12.11.52. England won 5-2

Merrick   Ramsey   Smith L   Wright*   Froggatt J1   Dickinson        

Finney1   Froggatt R   Lofthouse2            Bentley1   Elliott

Highlights: This was the first time Wales had ever played at Wembley, and a Wednesday afternoon crowd of 93,500 paid record gate receipts of £43,000. England were two goals up in the first ten minutes through Tom Finney and Nat Lofthouse. Five minutes later Trevor Ford pulled a goal back for Wales, and was then involved in a collision with Jack Froggatt that led to the England centre-half being carried off. Billy Wright switched to the middle of the defence, with Billy Elliott dropping back from the wing to left-half. Jack Froggatt, whose cousin, Redfern, was making his debut at inside-right, came back on as a passenger on the left wing.  Remarkably, it was Jack who scored England’s third goal just before half-time with a brave diving header. Roy Bentley made it 4-1 in England’s first attack after half-time, with Ford instantly replying for Wales. Nat Lofthouse rounded off the scoring with a shot from twenty-five yards that goalkeeper Bill Shortt could only help into the net. The significant thing about this match was that it was the first time that Billy Wright played at centre-half for England.

No 49

Belgium, Wembley, 26.11.52. England won 5-0

Merrick   Ramsey   Smith L   Wright*   Froggatt J   Dickinson        

Finney   Bentley   Lofthouse2   Froggatt R1   Elliott2

Highlights: Nat Lofthouse kept up his one-man bombardment with a double strike that took his haul to nine goals in five games. Redfern Froggatt scored his first goal for England, and Burnley winger Billy Elliott netted twice against the outplayed Belgians. The game was played in a driving sleet, and ice patches formed on the famous Wembley turf, making it difficult for defenders to keep their feet. England led 2-0 at the end of a first-half in which they might have had half a dozen goals against a completely outplayed Belgian team.

No 50

Scotland, Wembley, 18.4.53. Drew 2-2

Merrick   Ramsey   Smith L   Wright*   Barrass            Dickinson       

Finney   Broadis2   Lofthouse   Froggatt R   Froggatt J

Highlights: Lawrie ‘Last Minute’ Reilly equalised for Scotland with the final kick of the match. It was Reilly’s second goal in reply to two from Ivor Broadis. The Scots, driven from midfield by Preston’s Tommy Docherty and Dundee’s Doug Cowie, dominated play for long spells and thoroughly deserved their late equaliser. They played for much of the second-half with only ten men after Rangers left-back Sammy Cox had been injured trying to stop a thrusting run by Tom Finney. Utility player Jack Froggatt, capped by England at centre-half and as an outside-left, partnered his cousin Redfern on the left wing. Each of the cousins missed simple chances to give England the lead before Broadis scored what looked like being a winning second goal. This draw meant that it was nineteen years since England had last beaten them on home ground. There were just thirty seconds left when Lawrie Reilly popped up with one of his typical late goals that so often saved Scotland.

No 51

Argentina, Buenos Aires, 17.5.53.

Abandoned at 0-0 after 23 minutes following a rain storm

Merrick   Ramsey   Eckersley   Wright*            Johnston   Dickinson   

Finney   Broadis            Lofthouse   Taylor T        Berry

The pitch became waterlogged following a cloudburst and British referee Arthur Ellis, up to his ankles in water, had no alternative but to abandon the game. Three days earlier an Argentinean X1 had beaten an FA X1 3-1 in an unofficial international watched by a crowd of 120,000 including Juan Peron and his wife, Eva. The selectors had to wait to see if the new left wing partnership of Manchester United team-mates Tommy Taylor and Johnny Berry would work at international level. Referee Arthur Ellis, later to make a name for himself in television's 'It’s A Knockout', was quite a joker. As he signalled for the teams to return to the dressing-rooms, he said to Billy Wright, ‘If we stay out any longer we’ll need lifeboats!’ The pitch just disappeared under a lake of water, and England’s kit was so wet that the players needed help from the training staff to strip off.

No 52

Chile, Santiago, 24.5.53. England won 2-1

Merrick   Ramsey   Eckersley   Wright*            Johnston   Dickinson   

Finney   Broadis   Lofthouse1   Taylor T1   Berry

Highlights: Tommy Taylor’s first goal for England in the forty-eighth minute was a freak. His intended cross was turned into the net by Chilean goalkeeper Livingstone-Eves, who was the son of a Scot. Nat Lofthouse scored the second decisive goal after one of a dozen thrusting runs by Finney, and three minutes later he headed another Finney cross against the bar. The Chileans scored their only goal seven minutes from the end when a Rojas shot was deflected wide of the diving Gil Merrick.

No 53

Uruguay, Montevideo, 31.5.53. England lost 2-1

Merrick   Ramsey   Eckersley   Wright*   Johnston   Dickinson        

Finney   Broadis   Lofthouse   Taylor T1   Berry

Highlights: World champions Uruguay turned on an exhibition against the old masters, and might have trebled their score but for being over elaborate with dazzling approach play. Abbadie gave Uruguay the lead in the twenty-seventh minute, and clever centre-forward Miguez made it 2-0 on the hour. Nat Lofthouse and Ivor Broadis struck the woodwork and Tommy Taylor scored in the closing moments after an Alf Ramsey shot had been blocked. It was a spirited fight back by England after they had struggled to hold the world champions in a one-sided first half. Miguez, a master of ball control and as crafty as a monkey, led the entire England defence a dance. Billy Wright, winning his 50th cap, played him as well as any defender could do, but several times was left tackling his shadow.

No 54

USA, New York City, 8.6.53. England won 6-3

Ditchburn   Ramsey              Eckersley   Wright*   Johnston   Dickinson        

Finney2   Broadis1   Lofthouse2   Froggatt R1   Froggatt J

Highlights: This first full soccer international staged in New York was arranged to mark the Queen’s Coronation six days earlier. It was the first international match that England had ever played under floodlights  The freak rain followed England from South America and a storm forced a 24-hour postponement. Then, under the floodlights at the Yankee Stadium, England – with Tom Finney running riot ­– avenged the 1-0 World Cup defeat with a comfortable victory in front of a 7,271 crowd. England missed a shoal of chances before Ivor Broadis gave them the lead two minutes before half-time. They quickly went 3-0 clear with goals early in the second half from Finney and Lofthouse. The Americans battled back with the help of a dubious penalty, but another goal each from Lofthouse and Finney followed by a sixth goal from Redfern Froggat underlined England’s supremacy in a match in which they could and should have reached double figures. At last, Billy Wright exorcised the ghosts that had haunted him ever since England’s humiliating 1-0 World Cup defeat by the USA in Brazil in 1950. He played like a man possessed, determined not to suffer the same embarrassment. This time England outshone the Yankee Stadium floodlights, and Billy’s beam at the final whistle signalled his great satisfaction. The press described England as avenging their World Cup defeat by the United States, but it was empty revenge because it was a pretty meaningless match that attracted very little interest in New York. There was a ghostly atmosphere in the Yankee Stadium with the seven thousands fans ‘lost’ in that vast arena. Terry Springthorpe, who had played for Wolves under Billy Wright’s captaincy when winning the 1949 FA Cup final, was in defence for the United States.

No 55

Wales, Ninian Park, 10.10.53. England won 4-1

Merrick   Garrett   Eckersley   Wright*   Johnston   Dickinson        

Finney   Quixall   Lofthouse2   Wilshaw2   Mullen

Highlights: Dennis Wilshaw celebrated his first England cap with two goals, and Nat Lofthouse netted twice for the second successive match. All of England's goals came in the ten minutes either side of the half-time interval after Wales had taken a deserved twenty-third minute lead through Ivor Allchurch. Wales played for much of the game with left-back Alf Sherwood a passenger on the wing after he had been concussed in the thirty-second minute. Giant Leeds centre-forward John Charles might have had a hat-trick but for a succession of superb saves by England goalkeeper Gil Merrick. Albert Quixall, literally worth his weight in gold when sold by Sheffield Wednesday to Manchester United for £45,000 in 1958, made his England debut at inside-right at the age of twenty. Wales were unlucky not to have salvaged a draw from a game they often dominated. As in 1949-50, the Home Championship was used to determine Great Britain’s qualifiers for the World Cup finals. There were more than 60,000 fans packed into Ninian Park, and the atmosphere was just like the Welsh stoke up for their rugby internationals. England were hugely flattered with the size of the victory. This was the beginning of the rise of the greatest Welsh football team in their history, with John Charles and Ivor Allchurch laying the foundations to their memorable careers. There has been a more gifted all-round British footballer than Big John. He was equally effective at centre-forward or centre-half, and once he had moved to Juventus from Leeds he developed into the perfect player. He not only had great technique, but also the ideal temperament. His nickname the Gentle Giant was misleading because he could be as physical as Nat Lofthouse one minute and then as beautifully balanced as Tom Finney the next. He was commanding in the air and could head with the force of a Tommy Lawton. When the conversation gets around to who has been the greatest British footballer of all time John tends to get left out of the argument because he spent so much time in Italy, but he should be in anybody’s top six players. 

No 56

Rest of Europe, Wembley, 21.10.53. Drew 4-4

Merrick   Ramsey1 (Pen)   Eckersley   Wright*   Ufton   Dickinson        

Matthews   Mortensen1   Lofthouse   Quixall   Mullen2

Rest of Europe: Zeman (Spain),  Navarro (Spain),  Hanappi (Austra),    Cajkovski (Yugoslavia), Posipal (West Germany, Ocwirk (Austria), Boniperti (Italy)2, Kubala (Spain)2 (1 Pen), Nordahl  (Sweden), Vukas (Yugoslavia), Zebec (Yugoslavia).

Highlights: An Alf Ramsey penalty in the last minute gave England a draw in a showpiece match to mark the Football Association's 90th birthday. England trailed three times against the European all-stars in a Wednesday afternoon match that provided a feast of football for the 97,000 spectators. Some forty-six years later FIFA saw fit to downgrade the game to non-international status, but the Football Association awarded Billy Wright a cap and it stays in English records as a full international. That is good news for talented Charlton defender Derek Ufton, a solid batsman and understudy at Kent to wicket-keeper Godfrey Evans, who won his only cap in the game. England took the game very seriously because there was a lot of pride and prestige at stake. Considering they had only been together for a couple of days, the Rest of Europe side played some magnificent football. The pick of the players was Ladislav Kubala, who had been the first of the outstanding Hungarians to switch his football allegiance to Spain. Ask anybody from Barcelona or Budapest and they will tell you that he was in the class of Puskas. He had wonderful ball control and the ability to make space for himself with clever changes of pace. A naturally gifted genius, Kubala left Hungary just before the rise of their greatest of all teams. Just imagine how good they would have been had he still been available for selection! Kubala AND Puskas to mark. The mind boggles!

No 57

Northern Ireland, Goodison Park, 11.11.53. England won 3-1

Merrick   Rickaby   Eckersley   Wright*   Johnston   Dickinson        

Matthews   Quixall   Lofthouse1   Hassall2   Mullen

Highlights: Harold Hassall, playing alongside his Bolton team-mate Nat Lofthouse, scored the first of his two goals in just thirty seconds to mark his international recall after two years. It was Hassall’s fifth and last cap. Eddie McMorran equalised for the Irish nine minutes after half-time, and they were the superior side for long periods. Stanley Matthews turned the game England’s way with a typical mazy run on the hour before passing to Billy Wright, who set up a simple second goal for Hassall. It was Nat Lofthouse who wrapped up victory for England fifteen minutes later when he headed in a Jimmy Mullen cross, colliding with goalkeeper Smyth as he powered the ball into the net. Lofthouse limped off and Smyth was carried off with a broken nose. West Bromwich right-back Stan Rickaby played in his one and only England match in place of the injured Alf Ramsey.

No 58

Hungary, Wembley, 25.11.53. England lost 6-3

Merrick   Ramsey1 (Pen)   Eckersley   Wright*   Johnston   Dickinson        

Matthews   Taylor E              Mortensen1         Sewell1   Robb

Highlights: This was England’s first defeat by foreign opponents on home territory, and the match that changed the face of English football. The Hungarians, Olympic champions and on a run of twenty-nine successive matches without defeat, played to a flexible 4-2-4 formation and made England’s 2-3-5 pattern seem about as outdated as a hansom cab on a motorway. Nandor Hidegkuti, a deep-lying centre-forward, nipped in for a hat-trick as two-goal Ferenc Puskas pulled the defence inside out. England were flattered by the 6-3 scoreline. Alf Ramsey, Bill Eckersley, Harry Johnston, Ernie Taylor, Stan Mortensen and George Robb never played for England again. Taylor and Robb were making their debuts. Hungary had given just a taste of what was to come in the first minute when Hidegkuti collected a through ball from Puskas, deceived centre-half Johnston with  a distracting dummy and then fired the ball high into the net from twenty yards. Gil Merrick was left flapping at mid-air. Moments after Sewell had equalised in the fifteenth minute England were flattened by a thirteen minute burst of Magyar magic. Two goals from the purist Puskas and another from the elusive Hidegkuti made it England 1, Hungary 4. The 100,000 Wembley spectators could not believe their eyes. Stan Mortensen pulled it back to 4-2 by half-time. But any hope England had of getting back into the game died within ten minutes of the second half. First the cultured Jozef Bozsik scored with a rising drive, and then Hidegkuti completed his hurricane hat-trick when he put the finishing touch to a dazzling succession of passes that ripped the England defence apart. Alf Ramsey scored a late penalty after his Tottenham team-mate George Robb, a schoolmaster, was pulled down by goalkeeper Grosics. The final scoreline could easily have read 10-3 to the Hungarians. Billy Wright had never been given such a chasing in all his life as the one he got from Ferenc Puskas.

No 59

Scotland, Hampden Park, 3.4.54. England won 4-2

Merrick   Staniforth   Byrne R   Wright*   Clarke H   Dickinson        

Finney   Broadis1            Allen R1   Nicholls1            Mullen1

Highlights: The England selectors made eight changes to the team taken apart by Hungary. Johnny Nicholls had good reason to remember his debut. It was his 23rd birthday and he celebrated with England's second goal, a flying header from a Tom Finney cross. Playing alongside his West Bromwich Albion team-mate Ronnie Allen, he was one of four debutants, along with Ron Staniforth, Harry Clarke and Manchester United left-back Roger Byrne, who was to prove himself one of the finest players ever to wear the No 3 shirt. Clarke, 31-year-old centre-half, followed Ditchburn, Ramsey, Willis, Nicholson and Medley as members of the Spurs ‘push-and-run’ team who were capped after the age of thirty-plus. Roared on by a vast crowd of 134,554, Scotland took the lead in the seventh minute through Blackpool’s Allan Brown. Ivor Broadis equalised eight minutes later after penetrating approach work by Wright and Finney. It was the same combination of Wright and Finney that set up England’s second goal by birthday boy Nicholls five minutes into the second half. Headed goals by Allen and Jimmy Mullen wrapped the game up for England and guaranteed them going to the World Cup finals as Home Champions. Scotland scored a strange second goal in the last minute when a cross from Willie Ormond suddenly swirled into the net.

No 60

Yugoslavia, Belgrade, 16.5.54. England lost 1-0

Merrick   Staniforth   Byrne R   Wright*   Owen   Dickinson        

Finney   Broadis   Allen R   Nicholls   Mullen

Highlights: Syd Owen, of Luton Town, was the eleventh centre-half tried since the defection of Neil Franklin to the outlawed Colombian league. England concentrated on a deep defence and a counter-attacking policy, and almost got away with a draw. Jimmy Mullen, Ronnie Allen and Johnny Nicholls had shots saved during breakaway raids, but the Yugoslavs were generally in control. They were always the sharper side and deserved their winning goal three minutes from the end when a 35-yard free-kick was deflected by Owen into the path of Mitic, who scored from six yards. This was Tom Finney’s fiftieth international for England, and England wanted so much to get at least a draw to mark the occasion. Tom was arguably the finest player to wear the England shirt in the early post-war years. Stanley Matthews was the people’s favourite, but most of the professionals would have given Tom the nod just ahead of Stanley because there was so much to his game. He was comfortable in any forward position, could dribble almost as well as Stanley and was as brave as a lion. The defeat in Yugoslavia did little to help our confidence as England went on to Budapest for the return match with Hungary …

No 61

Hungary, Budapest, 23.5.54. England lost 7-1

Merrick   Staniforth   Byrne R   Wright*   Owen   Dickinson        

Harris P   Sewell   Jezzard   Broadis1   Finney

Highlights: This was the biggest defeat in England’s 90-year football history (and continues to be so to this day). Just four of the England team had survived from the 6-3 slaughter at Wembley in November: Merrick, Wright, Dickinson and Finney. Fulham centre-forward Bedford Jezzard made a best-forgotten debut, while the unfortunate Peter Harris was winning his second and last cap after a gap of five years. His first cap came in the 2-0 home defeat by the Republic of Ireland in 1949. Puskas and Kocsis scored two goals each. The Hungarians, leading 3-0 at half-time, were six goals clear and cantering before Ivor Broadis opened the scoring for England. Hungary immediately replied with their seventh goal, scored by Puskas from a pass by Hidegkuti. Hungary’s scorers were Puskas (2), Kocsis (2), Lantos, Toth and Hidegkuti. Billy Wright came off with his face as white as his shirt, and looking like a man who had seen a ghost come back to haunt him. As hard as this giant-hearted man tried, he could not get near to suppressing the irrepressible Puskas.

No 62

Belgium, World Cup, Basle, 17.6.54. Drew 4-4 after extra-time

Merrick   Staniforth   Byrne R   Wright*   Owen   Dickinson        

Matthews   Broadis2   Lofthouse2   Taylor T   Finney

Highlights: A Jimmy Dickinson own goal during extra-time gave Belgium a draw in a helter-skelter match full of defensive blunders as England made an eventful start to their challenge for the World Cup. A goal down in five minutes, England produced some enterprising and energetic football and deserved their 2-1 half-time lead from goals by Ivor Broadis and Nat Lofthouse. The Lofthouse goal was a cracker, a spectacular diving header to send a Tom Finney cross powering into the net. When Broadis added a third goal early in the second half it looked odds on an England victory. Then defensive lapses let the Belgians in for two soft goals that took the game into extra-time. Nat Lofthouse made it 4-3 in the opening moments of extra-time, and England seemed destined for full points when Jimmy Dickinson turned an intended headed clearance into his own net. Billy Wright took over at centre-half in the closing stages as Syd Owen limped to a passenger’s role on the wing. It was to prove the most significant positional switch of Billy’s career.

No 63

Switzerland, World Cup, Berne, 20.6.54. England won 2-0

Merrick   Staniforth   Byrne R   McGarry   Wright*   Dickinson        

Finney   Broadis   Taylor T   Wilshaw1   Mullen1

Highlights: Wolves left wing partners Dennis Wilshaw and Jimmy Mullen scored the goals, and their club captain Billy Wright started his first match as England’s centre-half. Bill McGarry gave a solid debut performance in Wright’s old position at right-half against the host nation and in searing-hot conditions that sapped the energy of the players. Mullen scored the first goal three minutes before half-time to silence a capacity 60,000 crowd. Wilshaw clinched the victory with a superb individual goal midway through the second-half, cleverly evading three Swiss defenders before steering a firm shot into the net. Syd Owen’s injury had accidentally solved England’s on-going centre-half crisis. Billy Wright slotted into the position as naturally as if born to the job, and the Swiss centre-forward was not allowed a sniff at goal.

No 64

Uruguay, World Cup, Basle, 26.6.54. England lost 4-2

Merrick    Staniforth    Byrne R   McGarry   Wright*   Dickinson        

Matthews   Broadis   Lofthouse1   Wilshaw   Finney1

Highlights: Two mistakes by goalkeeper Gil Merrick let defending world champions Uruguay in for goals that turned this quarter-final match in their favour after Nat Lofthouse and Tom Finney had each scored to give England hope of causing an upset. Shuffling Stanley Matthews, the undisputed man of the match, hit a post and had a shot pushed off target before Uruguay clinched victory with their fourth goal in the eighty-fourth minute when Merrick failed to save a speculative shot from Ambrois. It was shell-shocked Merrick’s final match for England. He had let in thirty goals in his last ten games after conceding only fifteen in his first thirteen internationals. The Uruguayans had beaten Scotland 7-0 in a qualifying round match, but were never allowed to show that sort of superiority by an England team that performed with pride and purpose.

No 65

Northern Ireland, Windsor Park, 2.10.54. England won 2-0

Wood   Foulkes   Byrne R   Wheeler   Wright*   Barlow

Matthews   Revie1   Lofthouse   Haynes1   Pilkington

Highlights: Don Revie and Johnny Haynes got their first taste of international football together and scored a goal each. There were five other new caps in a team that had been completely re-modelled following the quarter-final exit from the World Cup finals: Ray Wood, Bill Foulkes, Johnny Wheeler, Ray Barlow and Brian Pilkington, who played in place of the injured Tom Finney. Foulkes, Wheeler, Barlow and Pilkington were not capped again after this victory.  The Irish worked desperately hard in a bid for their first victory over England since 1927, but the wind was knocked out of them by two goals inside two minutes late in the second half. Haynes exchanged a one-two pass with Revie before shooting wide of Portsmouth goalkeeper Norman Uprichard. Within a minute it was 2-0, Revie running on to a pass from Haynes and steering the ball low into the net. Haynes was just nineteen, and he already looked an assured and confident player who could hit accurate forty yard passes with either foot.  But the powers-that-be decided he was too young to trust with the role of midfield general, and he was dropped along with Don Revie and six other players.

No 66

Wales, Wembley, 10.11.54. England won 3-2

Wood   Staniforth   Byrne R   Phillips   Wright*   Slater           

Matthews   Bentley3   Allen R   Shackleton   Blunstone

Highlights: Roy Bentley, at last forgiven for his part in the 1950 World Cup humiliation against the United States, celebrated his recall by sinking Wales with a hat-trick. Two of his goals came from headers at the far post after he had exchanged passes with Matthews. John Charles, leading the Welsh attack with fire and flair, scored twice to bring the scores level at 2-2 before Bentley completed his hat-trick two minutes from the end of a thrilling match played on a rain-saturated Wembley surface. Bentley’s Chelsea team-mate Frank Blunstone made his England debut on the left wing and Bill Slater played alongside his Wolves skipper Billy Wright in his first international match. The duel between John Charles and Billy Wright was worth the admission money on its own. Two great and talented competitors locked in a struggle for supremacy. Charles won on points, but it would have been a knockout against any other England centre-half that the selectors had tried since the Neil Franklin fiasco. Wright managed to shut the big man out for most of the match, but he took the two chances that came his way in dynamic style.

No 67

West Germany, Wembley, 1.12.54. England won 3-1

Williams   Staniforth             Byrne R   Phillips   Wright*   Slater           

Matthews   Bentley1             Allen R1   Shackleton1    Finney

Highlights: The 100,000 crowd for this Wednesday afternoon match against the world champions broke the Wembley receipts record by paying £51,716 to watch a classic encounter. With Stanley Matthews running the German defenders into dizzy disarray, England took the lead in the twenty-seventh minute when Roy Bentley headed in a pin-pointed centre from the Maestro. Ronnie Allen made it 2-0 three minutes after half-time following neat combination work between Finney and Len Shackleton. The Germans pulled back to 2-1 through Beck before Shackleton, the Clown Prince, clinched a memorable victory in the eightieth minute with an impudent chip shot as the goalkeeper came racing towards him. Shack had thrilled the crowd throughout the match with his tricks, but he was too much an individualist for the taste of the selectors and never played for England again after a paltry five caps. It remains a mystery to many people why Len Shackleton did not win a cupboardful of caps. He just refused to conform. Shack upset the selectors with a book published in 1955 in which a chapter headed ‘The Average Director’s Knowledge of Football’ was left completely blank. Most of the England selectors were club directors. With his ability, he should have won dozens of caps but he just could not bring himself to toe the line. At least he could say he went out at the very top, because his brilliant goal made sure that England toppled the new world champions. The Germans included only three of the team that won the trophy in Switzerland as they started rebuilding ready for their defence of the World Cup in 1958. 

Len Shackleton became a respected football writer after his retirement, and reminiscing in the press box one day he regaled colleagues with this story that captures the times in which he played: “After scoring what I considered one of my finest ever goals to help England beat world champions Germany at Wembley, I was handed a third-class rail ticket for the overnight sleeper back to Sunderland. I said to the Bowler Hat handing me the ticket, ‘Couldn’t you raise enough money for a first-class ticket?’ The FA official said that all the first-class tickets had been sold. When I got to Kings Cross I had no trouble transferring to first-class because there was plenty of space, and I was happy to pay the five pounds difference out of my own pocket. By the time I’d paid tax and expenses, I was left with just £20 out of my £50 match fee. The Wembley receipts for the match were over £50,000, but we footballers who had drawn the crowd and the money were considered third-class citizens by those blinkered fools who ran the Football Association.”  

No 68

Scotland, Wembley,  2.4.55. England won 7-2

Williams   Meadows    Byrne R   Armstrong   Wright*   Edwards  

Matthews   Revie1   Lofthouse2   Wilshaw4   Blunstone

Highlights: Stanley Matthews was the engineer and Dennis Wilshaw the executioner in this annihilation of the Scots. Wilshaw’s four goals included the first hat-trick by an England player against Scotland. Duncan Edwards, the human powerhouse from Manchester United, was, at 18 years 183 days, the youngest England player of the 20th century. Chelsea right-half Ken Armstrong collected his only cap, and later emigrated to New Zealand for whom he won thirteen caps. This was England’s first victory over Scotland at Wembley since 1934. Wilshaw started his goal rush in the first minute, and two goals from Nat Lofthouse and one from Don Revie gave England a commanding 4-1 lead at half-time. Scotland caved in as Wilshaw snatched three goals in thirteen minutes in the last third of the match. Tommy Docherty, who ran himself into the ground for the Scots, got a little reward for all his work when he scored with a late free-kick. The talk afterwards was of the powerhouse performance from Duncan Edwards, who looked the complete player in his debut.

No 69

France, Paris, 15.5.55. England lost 1-0

Williams   Sillett P   Byrne R   Flowers   Wright*               Edwards

Matthews   Revie   Lofthouse   Wilshaw   Blunstone

Highlights: Peter Sillett, making his debut at right-back, conceded the thirty-sixth minute penalty from which the great Raymond Kopa scored the winning goal for France. Just a month earlier Sillett’s penalty goal against Wolves had virtually clinched the League championship for Chelsea, and forced Wolves into settling for runners-up place. Ron Flowers, making his debut alongside his Wolves skipper Billy Wright, had to wait three years for his second cap and then won forty in a row – an unbroken sequence beaten only by Billy’s seventy consecutive appearances. The nearest England came to scoring was when Frank Blunstone was unceremoniously pulled down as he shaped to shoot. England appeals for a penalty were turned down, while the German referee had no hesitation in awarding the penalty to France for a less obvious foul by Sillett.

No 70

Spain, Madrid, 18.5.55. Drew 1-1

Williams   Sillett P   Byrne R   Dickinson   Wright*   Edwards          

Matthews   Bentley1   Lofthouse   Quixall   Wilshaw

Highlights: In a bad-tempered match Nat Lofthouse had his shirt ripped off his back in the first-half, and played throughout the second half with a numberless shirt. Even Stanley Matthews was drawn into the roughhouse, and conceded a free-kick with a tackle, the first time anybody could recall him committing a foul. Roy Bentley scored from a Lofthouse pass in the thirty-eighth minute and Spain equalised in the sixty-fifth minute following a mistake by Duncan Edwards that was as rare as a foul by Matthews. The trouble flared after Lofthouse had been rugby tackled to the ground when on a run towards the penalty area. There were so many personal feuds going on after this that the game lost all of its rhythm, and the Italian referee had little or no control. England’s players were furious over the foul against Lofthouse, and they could not believe it when the player who had rugby tackled him was allowed to stay on the pitch. Tempers were on a short fuse, and when Stanley Matthews was moved to foul somebody then something had to be seriously wrong. The referee completely lost it, and the wonder is that there were no legs broken. It was one of the roughest and most bad spirited games in which England had played overseas.

No 71

Portugal, Oporto, 22.5.55. England lost 3-1

Williams   Sillett P   Byrne R   Dickinson   Wright*   Edwards          

Matthews   Bentley1   Lofthouse (Quixall)   Wilshaw   Blunstone

Highlights: England were disjointed from the moment Nat Lofthouse went off injured with the score at 1-1. Albert Quixall came on as substitute in what was his final England appearance. It was also Roy Bentley’s last match for England after twelve appearances in three different shirts over a period of six years. His nineteenth minute goal could not save England from their first defeat by Portugal. Defensive errors let the Portuguese in for two late goals and a famous victory. Stanley Matthews and Billy Wright were the only players on the pitch who had featured in the 10-0 slaughter of  Portugal in Lisbon eight years earlier. Billy Wright owned up to being responsible for Portugal’s third goal. Trying to find our goalkeeper Bert Williams with a back header, he misdirected the ball and it opened the way for an easy goal. You would have thought Portugal had won the World Cup when the final whistle went. Thousands of spectators poured on to the pitch, and mobbed their players. It just went to show that beating England was still counted as the big prize.

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