Teapots, toilet doors and team play

“I always considered Rodney Marsh a sugar-coated turd.”

You don’t expect footballers to write like Oscar Wilde but I had hoped for something more eloquent from Len Glover, whose thundering runs down the wing for Leicester in the 1970s left such an impression on me as a callow, spotty youth that I named my hard disk after him.Glover’s memoir mines depths left unplumbed by Frank Worthington’s One Hump Or Two, a legendarily naff autobiography redeemed by the flicker-rama (which actually works), some amusing dressing room tales of Jimmy Bloomfield’s Leicester, and a hilarious scene where Omar Sharif, even more a legendary playboy than Worthington, declares himself “deeply moved” to meet a couple of Leicester players.

Glover: Not the biggest fan of Rodney Marsh 

But, on the basis of the nine page extract I downloaded from www.lenglover.co.uk, Glover’s memoir makes Worthington’s book read like the effervescent prose of Martin Amis. Len was a great player though. I can still hear the roar of anticipation that greeted him at Filbert Street whenever he got the ball on the left and bombed forward. Glover was almost what Michael Parkinson called a “closet winger.” Parky coined the term after watching wingers in local leagues who would flick the ball off a toilet door and nip past the defender to collect the rebound. Glover didn’t actually use a toilet door - just beat the defender so often and swiftly you suspected trickery was involved.Parkinson eulogises closet wingers in an amusing paperback called Football Crazy which suggested, only semi-seriously, that England manager Sir Alf Ramsey conceived his hatred of wingers after being left on the turf by one and told by a supporter: “Alf Ramsey, thou art about as much use as a chocolate teapot.”

Parky: Does love a good closet winger

It’s an intriguing theory and given that Alf, for all his genius, had a photographic – and phonographic – memory for slights, not entirely to be discounted. Terry Venables still believes he unwittingly sealed his fate as an international by going up to the stonefaced one at his first England training session and reminding Ramsey their parents had been neighbours.The 1960s may, officially, have been the swinging start to a classless society but Ramsey tried to disguise his estuary English and, asked where his parents lived, gave the chillingly detached reply: “In Dagenham I believe.”David Thomson’s 4-2, a heroic, brilliant and doomed attempt to narrate the history of the 1966 World Cup final kick by kick, captures Ramsey perfectly noting: “Alf had the haunted look of a disappointed father.” Ramsey belonged to a different generation of British hero, taking the stiff upper lip to such extremes that even as Geoff Hurst put England 4-2 ahead at Wembley he sat, unmoved, on the bench, while everyone around him lost their heads.

Alf maintains a poker face as England seal World Cup success

Since 1966, an anti-myth has sprung up around that triumph. Ramsey has been pigeonholed as a professional killjoy whose success killed something noble and artistic in the English game. This myth has been fuelled by the cult of Rob Steen’s mavericks – the 1970s geniuses like Marsh, Bowles, Currie and Worthington – ignored by Ramsey, Revie and many other top coaches.This cultural war is still being fought with the brilliant, rancorous Alan Hudson suggesting 1966 was all down to home advantage and that Ramsey, his nemesis, should be judged by his failure to qualify for the 1974 World Cup. Hudson even suggested that: “If Tony Waddington [his old Stoke manager] had been England manager we’d have won another World Cup.”Ramsey and Revie were not the first coaches to wrestle with the question of how much allowance you make for genius. And, 30 years later, nobody has really resolved the issue, each coach making a case-by-case judgement call with every troublesome genius.

But after 12 years of talented England players who have mysteriously failed to function as a team, maybe it’s time to admit Ramsey was right. And in Capello, the FA have appointed the closest thing you can get to Ramsey without entering the resurrection business.Glover never played for England. But he took it well. Unlike his Leicester teammate Alan Birchenall who, Worthington alleges, had to be restrained from hitting Bobby Charlton at an awards dinner because Charlton, Birch felt, “has been keeping me out the England team for years.”

Worthington in his early 1970s pomp 

Every now and then Birchenall would hit a screamer, justifying his selection by Jimmy Bloomfield who was probably the Foxes’ last great manager – and he left 31 years ago.

Leicester City 5 Ipswich Town 0, under Bloomfield in 1973/74, was the most exciting game I ever saw although, such are the vagaries of memory, that I recall the crossbar twanging – from a shot by Worthington – better than I do any of the goals, even though Frankie scored a hat-trick.

Funny thing memory. Of all the games I’ve watched, it’s the incongruous images that stand out. Like the Highbury faithful singing “There’s only one Brian Talbot” after the midfield workhorse scored a hat-trick against West Brom in the early 1980s. If I hadn’t been there, I’d never have believed it possible.I do though cherish the memory of Hristo Stoichkov’s wonder goal against Romania at Euro 96 – I can still picture the contemptuous ease with which he ran through the Romanian midfield. Stoichkov had it all: genius, arrogance, technique and monumental laziness.

His memoirs would be worth reading – sugar-coated expletives and all.

Stoichkov takes plaudits after wonder goal vs Romania

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