24 England lessons we've learned from 50 years of failure: Roy, fetch your notes

Gareth Southgate, Terry Venables and Don Howe

It’s been 50 years and 24 major tournaments since England’s last success, and we’ve identified a lesson to learn from each one of them....

1. Retaliate at your peril

Euro 1968, Italy

Alan Mullery earned England’s first ever red card in their 1-0 semi-final defeat to Yugoslavia, but it wouldn’t be the last time England had a player sent off for lashing out at the opposition (David Beckham in 1998, Wayne Rooney in 2006) or the referee (Ray Wilkins in 1986). Silly boys.

2. It ain’t over ’til it’s over

1970 World Cup, Mexico

With England leading their quarter-final 2-1, Bobby Charlton giving Franz Beckenbauer the runaround and the proverbial Fat Lady clearing her throat, Alf Ramsey chose to give his ageing playmaker a rest with 20 minutes to go... even though his side had just conceded. Der Kaiser was freed and West Germany won 3-2 in extra time. Oops.

Sir Alf Ramsey and Bobby Charlton

Bobby Charlton looks on after England's collapse against Germany in the 1970 World Cup quarter-finals

3. Don’t get left behind

Euro 1972, Belgium

The game had moved on by the time England’s next meeting with Beckenbauer & Co. rolled around. A Gunter Netzer-inspired masterclass at Wembley during qualifying – the 3-1 win is regarded by many Germans as their greatest ever performance – showed just how much.

4. Don’t motivate the opposition

1974 World Cup qualifying

There’s no doubt that being called a ‘clown’ by Brian Clough inspired goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski’s heroics in 1973, as Poland qualified for the finals instead of England after holding on for a memorable draw at Wembley.

Jan Tomaszewski

Tomaszewski thwarts England again

5. Stick with a settled side

Euro 1976 qualifying

Don Revie was single-minded at Leeds but indecisive with England: for instance, Alan Ball was made captain for six games in the spring of 1975, then dropped without explanation, never to play again. Don’t chop and change.

Don Revie

Don't go changin' Don

6. Goals win groups

1978 World Cup qualifying

England missed out on the 1978 World Cup in Argentina by scoring three goals fewer than Italy. They were playing catch-up after their first two qualifiers against unfancied Finland, winning 4-1 away but only 2-1 at home. Italy beat the Finns 3-0 and 6-1 – and there are your three extra goals.

7. Beware fatigue

Euro 1980, Italy

With a staggering 21 European Cup winners’ medals shared between a squad led by double Ballon d’Or winner Kevin Keegan, England were hotly fancied at Euro 80

With a staggering 21 European Cup winners’ medals shared between a squad led by double Ballon d’Or-winner Kevin Keegan, England were hotly fancied at Euro 80. But all that club success had taken its toll. Keegan was carrying a knock and Trevor Francis was ruled out, while a young, fit Bryan Robson was left at home.

8. Peak at the right time

1982 World Cup, Spain

A 3-1 win over France, a 2-0 over Czechoslovakia, a 1-0 over Kuwait… you see where this is going. By the second group stage, Ron Greenwood’s side had run out of inspiration – and goals. Two 0-0s and it was ‘adios’ to Spain '82.