England out to Germany. The US out to Ghana. Last weekend was not auspicious from a footie perspective. Here in Ballard, folks were lined up around the block to get into the Market Arms, which had a large screen out on the sidewalk. People were standing on picnic tables doing shots at 11 am. And they needed them as the US went out in extra time.
England were crushed the following morning. I’m pleased to say I slept through most of the first half. It kicked off at 7:00 am PST. Clearly there were many problems with the English team. Two very obvious problems were the manager and the lack of striking power.
Much the same problems confronted the team in the 1970s. England failed to even qualify for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina. Many, including Roy Race, were concerned with the England set-up at the time. “I don’t agree with the whole England set-up…” Racey said. During an away game at Burndean shortly before Christmas somebody in the crowd shouted “Roy Race for England.” Racey wavered. “… maybe they’re right! Perhaps I should have offered my services to my country… No matter what I think of the set-up…” As 1977 turned into 1978 Roy continued to grapple with his decision not to play for England.
In the end it took two accidents. A serious car accident put the new England manager out of commission and led the FA to appoint Roy caretaker manager for an upcoming friendly against Holland (who ended up losing 3:1 to Argentina in the World Cup final later that year). Roy had planned to concentrate on managing, not playing, but a knee injury during training took out Danefield’s Kevin Taylor and left a gap up front that only Roy could fill. And the rest is, of course, history. England won 5:1. Trevor Francis got three. Malcolm MacDonald got two.
“That’s right, Roy…” said the FA after the game. “…we want you to become the manager of the England team… permanently.” The county sat on the edges of their settees, as Roy considered the offer. In the end he decided to stay with Melchester Rovers and England ended up with Ron Greenwood.
Things could have been so different. Perhaps more than half of the Melchester team wouldn’t have ended up dying in a terrorist attack in Basran, Roy’s wife, Penny, wouldn’t have died in a car wreck, and Roy wouldn’t have lost his foot in a helicopter crash. And perhaps England would have done a bit better. Hard to imagine anybody doing worse than Fabio Capello. And Roy with one foot would have been at least as effective as Wayne Rooney.