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England Manager: Ron Greenwood

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 29 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss

Manager : 1977-1982

Ron Greenwood had not been actively managing a team for some years when he was suddenly picked as an emergency caretaker for England after Don Revie left the post with two matches remaining of the qualifying rounds for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

Player and Coach

Greenwood had followed the traditional route of player first, with Brentford, Chelsea and Fulham, then moving into coaching and managing after the end of his playing career. One of his early coaching positions was at Oxford University where he was noticed by Sir Harold Thompson, who would eventually become Chairman of the FA. This link led to him being appointed to the England Youth and Under-23 sides as a coach, and in 1962 he was appointed manager of West Ham United.

West Ham England Nucleus

Greenwood took the Hammers to FA Cup and European Cup Winners Cup success and continued to manage them until 1974 when he stepped up to the general manager position. During his time he nurtured the lynchpins of the England World Cup winning team of Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst, and it is Greenwood who is largely credited with converting Hurst from an average left-half into a lethal striker.

Emergency Tactics

His stint as England manager was initially in a caretaker capacity for the summer of 1977 after Revie’s dramatic exit. With the remaining two qualifiers in the autumn and only a friendly against Switzerland beforehand, Greenwood decided to base his side on the current Liverpool team, then far and away the most successful English club side.

But even with a core of six players from Liverpool, and Kevin Keegan, who had only left Liverpool three months earlier, the result was a 0-0 draw, and the next qualifier, against Luxembourg, made the lack of goal-scoring ability even more plain as England could only score two goals.

Failure to Qualify

This match would return to haunt them as they then went on to beat Italy 2-0 in the last match and finish second on goal difference to Italy. Had they been able to put four more goals in against Luxembourg (and they had won the first match 5-0), they would have been through.

Permanent Appointment

Still, the result was close enough for the FA to appoint Greenwood permanently to the post in December, and plans were laid for the next major competition, the European Championship. The following spring a clean sweep in the Home Championship improved morale, although the Scots fans sung ‘we’re going to Argentina’ all the way to the end, after Steve Coppell’s 83rd minute strike had sealed an England win at Hampden Park.

Qualification for Euro ’80 was achieved relatively easily but at the tournament itself, in a tough group with Belgium, Italy and Spain, one lost match, one win and one draw did not garner enough points to progress.

1982 World Cup

Greenwood nearly resigned after the last qualifying match for the 1982 World Cup in Spain. A famous win against Hungary in Budapest, where no away side had ever won before, secured England’s place at the finals in Spain. But a run of bad defeats leading up to this success had led Greenwood to this decision and he thought it best to resign early to give the new man a chance to get his feet under the table before the tournament.

First Retirement Attempt

Greenwood confided in Kevin Keegan as the plane was coming in to land on the way back from Budapest but Keegan collected a posse of senior players to persuade him to finish what they had all started. Greenwood was not a manager who had a warm relationship with players, and many regarded him as aloof and distant, but this incident demonstrated the respect and support that he had engendered.

At the finals the goal-scoring problem reared its head again. Both Keegan and Trevor Brooking were carrying injuries and couldn’t play in the group matches, and Bryan Robson, the hub of midfield, had scored twice in the opener against France but had then been injured. England won all their group matches, but only managed 1-0 against Kuwait with so many influential players absent, and went into a second group stage with West Germany and Spain.

Final Agony

Robson returned to the side but they could only draw 0-0 with West Germany and so had to beat Spain, who were already out, to go through to the semi-finals. With the match at 0-0 Greenwood finally gambled, sending on Brooking and Keegan at 63 minutes, but it was not enough, even though Keegan agonisingly put a close range header wide in the dying minutes.

Retirement at Last

Greenwood did retire after that, taking an unusual record with him as the only England manager to be undefeated at a World Cup tournament, apart from Sir Alf Ramsey. Greenwood had taken England to their first World Cup for over ten years, which was recognised by an MBE. He made many appearances afterward as an analyst on radio commentaries, and died in 2006 after a long illness.

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