WE THOUGHT we'd plunder once again Tony Jones's 1958 Big Book of Football Champions, this week for its account of England's trip to Eastern Europe to play Yugoslavia and Russia.
Seven of the squad were Wolves and Albion players: Billy Wright, Peter Broadbent, Bill Slater and Eddie Clamp (Wolves) and Don Howe, Derek Kevan and Bobby Robson (WBA).
This being spring of 1958, it was mere months after the Munich air crash that took the lives of eight Manchester United players. They would have been nervous enough – especially Bobby Charlton, who had survived the Munich crash but seen so many of his team mates killed – but to make matters worse, there was a problem with the plane, which meant they had to get off in Switzerland and wait for a replacement.
"Friday, May 9th. The part left London airport for Beldgrade in a Viscount. Owing to an electrical fault, there was a delay of three hours at Zurich until a new Viscount arrived from England. In the party was Bobby Charlton, who was making his first flight since the Munich air disaster. So keen were the players that they trained soon after arrival. There was no floodlighting, so the players had to train in the darkness.
"Saturday May 10th. There was training in the morning at the Partisan Stadium. The weather had turned very hot and the pitch was being watered. In the evening there was a reception at the British Embassy for the England and Yugoslavia teams.
Sunday May 11th. England v Yugoslavia at the Partisan Stadium. Temperatures soared into the nineties and it was very humid as well. The conditions undoubtedly contributed to England's poor showing, but the fact remains that they were overwhelmed by a first rate team. The score 5-0 did not flatter the Yugoslavs at all. two brilliant forwards Milutinovic and Sekularac tormented the England defence in which only Wright lived up to reputation. The fact that the England forwards mustered only two shots between them is condemnation of their display. The score was 1-0 at the interval and an opportunistic hat trick by outside right Veselinovic in 29 minutes of the second half routed England.
"Monday, May 12th. There was a shopping expedition in the morning, mainly to collect souvenirs of leather and filigree silver. In the afternoon there was a boat trip on the River Danube."
The following day, the part set off for Moscow, and on the Wednesday trained in the Lenin Stadium, followed by a sight-seeing trip around the city and a film, Life in Russia – all over seen by the Soviet state, of course.
On Thursday 15th, the team were taken to the Kremlin and the Mausoleum, to see the embalmed bodies of Lenin and Stalin. After some training in the afternoon, they were treated to the opera Prince Igor at the Bolshoi Theatre.
The following day, manager Walter Winterbottom announced three changes for the forthcoming match, with Wolves' Eddie Clamp gaining his first England cap. Bobby Charlton was replaced at inside right by West Brom's Bobby Robson. The game finally came around on Sunday 18th May, with the team having enjoyed a reception at the British Embassy, Swan Lake at the ballet, and the Moscow State Circus. 106,000 fans, all seated, saw England put in a much stronger performance than they had in Yugoslavia:
"England commanded two thirds of the play and fully deserved the lead from the much-criticised centre forward Derek Kevan. Ivanov so clearly handed the ball before equalising that all the English players instinctively stopped. The Russians were very disappointing and on this evidence they have slipped back as a world soccer power."