Thursday 18 May 2017, 13:26

Subbuteo strategy for England’s Greenwood

  • Ron Greenwood was England’s manager at Spain 1982

  • The Three Lions had failed to qualify for the 1974 and ’78 editions

  • Subbuteo, a hugely popular game at the time, is still going strong

By 1982, the full-sized version of the trophy in this photograph had already been battled for, and won, twice. England had been missing from the tournament on each occasion.

But after successive qualifying failures in 1974 and 1978, the Three Lions were back and heading for Spain. No wonder manager Ron Greenwood, the man captured in this image, found reason to smile.

While at West Ham United, Greenwood had already played a vital, if indirect, role in his country’s World Cup triumph of 1966. He did this by nurturing and developing the talents of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters at the Hammers, switching the positions of the former duo and transforming them from journeymen to world-beaters. Hurst described him as “the single most influential figure in my career”.

England had endured some troubled times since that ‘66 win but, with Greenwood at the helm, their return to the World Cup got off to the best possible start. Just 27 seconds were on the clock against France in their opening fixture when Bryan Robson opened the scoring, setting the tone for an impressive 3-1 win. Two more victories followed, as the Three Lions topped their group on maximum points after seeing off Czechoslovakia and Kuwait.

Greenwood’s team would, in fact, return from the tournament unbeaten. But two goalless draws in the second round against hosts Spain and West Germany were not sufficient to see them through to the semi-finals. Greenwood duly resigned and retired from the game, with Bobby Robson appointed as his successor.

Subbuteo, meanwhile - the famous table-top game shown in this image - continues to thrive. There is, in fact, an annual World Cup – the FISTF World Sports Table Football Championship – and this year’s event in France will celebrate Subbuteo’s 70th anniversary.

Did you know? This table-top classic is among dozens of football-inspired games that feature in the ‘Fields of Play’ exhibit at the FIFA Football Museum in Zurich.