Out of the Shadows – England’s 1982 World Cup

The Story of England’s 1982 World Cup

Having missed out on the 1974 and 1978 World Cup finals, Espana ’82 was the first World Cup for a generation of English football fans with a national team to support. Leading up to the tournament there were England scrapbooks for young fans to buy, anticipation in the media for a nation whose clubs had won 5 of the previous 6 European Cups and of course there was a theme tune, “Ron’s 22” (‘This Time’) in the charts and on Top of the Pops.

Gary Jordan’s book ‘Out of the Shadows’ looks back at of all England’s matches in Spain as well of all of the qualifying matches preceding it, including the memorable win in Budapest broadcast on a Saturday evening to the nation in the early summer of 1981, when Trevor Brooking struck a superb goal that stuck in the stantchion.

In fact the first two-thirds of the book look back before the tournament, from the circumstances of Ron Greenwood’s appointment and a gradual overhaul of players, through to the warm-up games and final squad selection. And the book also looks at each of the players who missed out on being in the final twenty-two, including the great Cyrille Regis, injured for the tournament but who it is likely would have missed output anyway, despite being a much better front-line striker than the players Greenwood took. It is also still baffling how Garth Crooks, also mentioned in the ‘Nearly Men’ section of the book after the epilogue, never won a cap in the early eighties considering the caps less prolific players accumulated.

And despite remaining unbeaten in Spain, it was a tournament of disappointment and unfulfilled potential for England. Despite being the greatest English talent of a generation and a star of the 1981-82 season leading into the tournament, pulling the strings as Spurs challenged on four fronts, Glenn Hoddle only started a dead rubber and was left on the bench when England needed some flair and creativity to break-through to the semifinals.

Instead, the conservative Greenwood went to his trusted but injured duo of Brooking and Keegan, who had travelled unfit and sat out the first four games. Greenwood also wasn’t brave enough to take the in-form European Cup winner Tony Morley, instead sticking with Graeme Rix, who may well be taken apart in a more searching in-depth investigative book into the characters of that England dressing room.

Just 3 World Cups after being reigning champions in Mexico, which was eventually won by arguably the most exciting international side of all-time, a quote in the book from Steve Coppell sums up a lack of ambition and negative attitude of the England side:

“The manager might have to leave out a player and pick someone…not quite as gifted. We can’t compete with the natural flair of the South Americans nor the discipline of the West Germans. The British bulldog spirit. Like it or not, English football is about a dull, cold, grey afternoon and a plastic cup of Bovril.”

In hindsight, with attitudes like that, it is no surprise we went out tamely with two 0-0 draws and Greenwood telling his players to keep it that way at half-time in the penultimate game. Not so much Out of the Shadows but Made in the Dark.

The book draws on football biographies, archive footage and plenty of old issues of Shoot! Magazine in its story telling. The match reports are thorough and the best bits are arguably in the detail, from the pre-match routines to the story of the iconic Admiral kits having to be redesigned during the tournament to be fit for purpose. And though the book fails to properly analyse the failings of that England team it brings back memories of a significant campaign in the history of English football.


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