England Must Exorcise the Ghosts of 1973 World Cup Failure vs. Poland

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories

England must revisit one of their darkest moments if they are to achieve automatic qualification for the 2014 World Cup finals on Tuesday.

Forty years ago and just seven years after lifting the Jules Rimet trophy at Wembley, Sir Alf Ramsey's team needed a win over Poland in their last qualifier to ensure their place at the 1974 finals in West Germany.

A World Cup tournament without England was an unthinkable prospect, but a 2-0 defeat to the eastern European country four months earlier had left the country on the brink.

England captain Bobby Moore was deemed to be at fault for the loss in Katowice and paid the price of a first omission from the national team for 10 years, and instead Ramsey installed Norman Hunter of Leeds United in his defence with the West Ham legend left on the bench.

However, this was a home game and their Polish opponents were never going to stand a chance against whichever England team they faced, were they?

Cue the remarkable story of Poland goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski and his entry into Wembley folklore.

Tomaszewski appeared to have suffered a severe hand injury during the opening stages of the game, but England will not have thanked the Polish medical team for ensuring he recovered so quickly.

His saves on the night were stunning and even his mistakes did not fall England's way as Poland swiftly cleared the danger.

England goalkeeper Peter Shilton was left so untested that he fluffed his first piece of action by letting Jan Domarski, who had been freed by a great ball from Grzegorz Lato, score between his hands.

Leeds striker Allan Clarke equalised from the penalty spot for England, but with Tomaszewski producing the game of his life, Ramsey's team could not penetrate to Polish goal.

Television analyst Brian Clough refused to back down from his description of Tomaszewski as a clown even after he had pulled off a number of saves for the Poles at Wembley.

But the video above also shows the then-LKZ Lodz goalkeeper making a number of errors which he got away with during the match, although Clough's fellow panellist and Wolves legend Derek Dougan countered the "clown" description (clip courtesy of ITV.com).

The qualifier came in the same week as Clough controversially quit his position at Derby County after taking the Rams from the lower reaches of the old Division Two and into the European Cup semi-finals.

Failure to qualify for the 1974 World Cup finals also spelt the end of Ramsey's England managerial career. He was sacked the following year.

Being dropped for the Poland game would also signal the end of Moore's international career. He made his final England appearance against Italy the following month.

It was an inglorious end to the international careers of the two men who had been at the forefront of England's 1966 World Cup triumph.

However, this was an exceptional Poland side, who went on to finish third in 1974 with quality players such as Lato, Kazimierz Deyna and Andrzej Szarmach in their squad.

Indeed, it is arguable that only the weather conditions prevented Poland from reaching the final, with their second-round deciding group tie against West Germany played on a sodden pitch, which prevented them from playing their passing game.

The Poles defeated Brazil in the third-place play-off, but that was of little consolation to England, Ramsey and Moore. 

That fateful game against Poland at Wembley was played on Oct. 17, 1973. Two days short of its 40th anniversary, Roy Hodgson and his current England team will face the same opposition in the same situation, where only a win will suffice.

For Tomaszewski, read Artur Boruc?

Follow England (National Football) from B/R on Facebook

Follow England (National Football) from B/R on Facebook and get the latest updates straight to your newsfeed!

World Cup 2014

Subscribe Now

By signing up for our newsletter, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy.

Thanks for signing up.