World champions captain Bobby Moore’s desperate challenge in the 87th minute is still there in Jim McCalliog’s mind as he remembers aiming and scoring one of the world’s most memorable winners. ‘Scotland take on England in the British Championship at home.
“We never really saw Bobby Moore tackle, but he must have done it when Bobby Lennox brought me in,” McCalliog said of the Wembley match watched by 99,000 people in April 1967. “I had it crushed before he could block it.”
But it wasn’t just about sending a message to those “who so easily dismissed us,” as McCalliog puts it. The match, won by Scotland 3-2, was the 20-year-old midfielder’s international debut and was the kind of test, he said, “that would allow my club and my country to see if I was really up to the task.”
The Home Championship, which will be played for another 17 years, will be a testing ground for many players. Ian Rush first came on the Wales bench when England were put to the sword 4-1 at Wrexham in 1980. He still has the match program, with an article about him -even “resembling at every moment the international player, in a dark context”. , long-necked shirt and V-neck sweater from Burton’s.
Mickey Thomas’ first international goal came in the same match. “Beating the English at any time was what we wanted and what the fans wanted,” Thomas says. “There was nothing like those games and it’s a tragedy that they’re gone.” Pat Jennings and George Best made their Northern Ireland debuts against Wales in April 1964, which they won 3–2.
Jim McCalliog scored the winner past Gordon Banks (pictured) in Scotland’s 3-2 victory over England in the 1967 British Home Championship.
The British Home Championship featured a galaxy of stars including Banks (right) and George Best (left)
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Comparing some of those titanic collisions with England’s 1-1 draw against Ukraine in Wroclaw on Saturday was a reminder of what was lost when the tournament ended, 100 years after its first edition.
England also had stories to tell. Emlyn Hughes saved his England career with a strong performance in the 0-0 draw against Wales at Wembley in 1979. Peter Shilton was a national hero after two huge saves saved a 1-1 draw against Wales. Scotland in 1984.
No less fascinating is what the Home Championship told us about the evolving sense of national identity within these islands from the 1970s onwards. At the start of the decade, Wales asked the FA to play the Welsh national anthem at Wembley before their match against England.
The request was granted for a time. But after the Welsh FA decided that only its anthem, and not the British one, would be played before a World Cup qualifier against Czechoslovakia at Wrexham in 1977, the English FA refused to play it when the teams met. met at Wembley a few months later.
This led to Mike Smith’s side, led by captain Terry Yorath, holding on and winning despite it all, as England returned to their starting position. Wales were inspired to win 1-0 thanks to a Leighton James penalty. This remains their only victory at Wembley.
Four days later, Scottish fans destroyed a Wembley crossbar following their 2–1 victory at the same stadium. There was good humor that day too, but manager Jock Stein was disturbed by the level of violence his compatriots brought to Wembley in 1979, when Kevin Keegan was spat at.
These scenes, filmed with low attendances at many matches and a desire to play in more glamorous friendlies, led England to announce in August 1983 that they would leave the tournament. Scotland also jumped ship, but there was sadness, worry and anger in Wales and Northern Ireland, the nations left behind.
Amid concerns over their loss of income – around £100,000 per season – both nations have called on England to reconsider their decision. But the 1983-84 championship was the last and the FA secretary, Ted Croker, drew up a brutal assessment.
“The reality is that we simply don’t have enough gaps in the schedule to play against the best teams in the world, like West Germany, Russia, Italy or the South Americans, and continue the international matches at home,” he said.
“Matches against Northern Ireland and Wales are no longer the major attractions they once were.” This seemed to confirm what small nations had always thought of England. Leighton James accused them of “arrogance”, leaving the tournament to “make more money playing meaningless friendlies”.
The tournament was briefly succeeded by the Rous Cup, contested by England and Scotland, which in May 1989 saw 24-year-old Steve Bull, who had just finished a season with Wolves in the old Third Division, replace John Fashanu, injured, and score. the second of England’s goals in a 2–0 victory. But the tournament, named in honor of English administrator Stanley Rous, was abolished after four years.
The British Home Championships, in which Graeme Souness (middle bottom) and John Toshack (middle top) played, were abolished in 1984.
They produced far more exciting matches than England’s forgettable 1-1 draw with Ukraine on Saturday.
The ability to inspire the Championship at home was present until the end. Northern Ireland, under the management of Billy Bingham, played their final match against England in 1984 with injury problems, with goalkeeper Jennings breaking his nose in a club match and player- Ballymena manager Jim Platt had to face Bobby Robson’s side at Wembley. .
“I’m dying to win but I’ll settle for a draw and I wouldn’t mind a close loss,” Bingham said. It would be the latter, with Tony Woodcock sealing the victory.
But England failed to beat the Scots, meaning Bingham’s side still won the final trophy, for only the third time. When Gerry Armstrong auctioned off his home championship medal a few years ago, the reserve price of £10,000 was befitting a deeply significant piece of Northern Irish football history.
“The color and splendor of these occasions were unforgettable,” recalls McCalliog. “The matches were important because of the level. You knew you were playing at a very high level. They revealed something about the player you were. That’s why they mattered so much.