England face Poland tonight at Wembley, needing a win to be certain of World Cup qualification. Almost exactly 40 years ago, the national side were in a similar position, as ITN’s David Rose reported.
On 15 October 1973, News at Ten sent David Rose to Highbury to watch the the Polish football squad train for their crucial World Cup qualifier with England, to be played at Wembley on the 17th, writes Ian Searcey.
At the top of the three-team Group Five with four points to England’s three, the Poles only required a draw to qualify whereas England needed to win.
As everyone expected Poland to be playing for that draw, Rose talks about flaws in the Polish defence that the “fast English forwards could expose”, over pictures of goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski – a player described by Brian Clough as “a clown” – going through his paces.
In the event, despite England dominating the match and having 35 shots on goal, Tomaszewski played the game of his life, keeping out everything the “fast English forwards” could throw at him. A 1-1 draw saw the Poles through to the 1974 World Cup in West Germany at England’s expense.
Although World Cup winner Sir Alf Ramsey remained as manager for two more matches, his contract was not renewed when it came to an end in April 1974.
This defeat is often cited as the beginning of a long period of decline for the English national team, lasting until England’s semifinal appearance at Italia 90.