Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story

Here is a new piece, part of my continued enthusiasm for the music of Bruce Springsteen

“Lights out tonight, trouble in the heartland”. How many times have countless Bruce Springsteen fans been thrilled by the evocative opening words of the Darkness on the Edge of Town album? While Born to Run and Born in the USA are the most famous records in Bruce’s career, a substantial body of opinion regards the Darkness album as his masterpiece. Across the thirty seven years since the release of his first discs, through many peaks, and some disappearances from view, Bruce has enjoyed the support of loyal fans. For many of these people the apex of Bruce’s career was 1978, a year that saw the release of Darkness on the Edge of Town, and a lengthy tour across North America, while Bruce has often spoken of the Darkness album as a crucial part of his music and life.

Re-winding five years, Bruce’s debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J., and its follow-up, The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, had both arrived in 1973, when he was aged 23, achieving a fair degree of critical and commercial success. The real breakthrough was Born to Run, which appeared in 1975, amidst much hype. This proved to be well-founded, as Born to Run is still held by critics to be one of the greatest albums in the history of rock music. Bruce suddenly achieved fame across the USA, being simultaneously featured on the front covers of both Time and Newsweek. The following year, Bruce’s career was put on hold, as he sought to extricate himself from an unfavourable deal with Mike Appel, his manager and record producer. Bruce asserted his position in a lengthy legal battle with Appel, that was not resolved until May 1977.

On June 1 1977 Bruce returned to recording, with John Landau, who had joined the production team for the Born to Run album (and was destined to become Springsteen’s manager), now at the helm in place of Appel. Within a few days of arriving at Atlantic Studios, in New York, Bruce and the E Street Band had recorded versions of 20 songs for possible inclusion on a fourth album. A few months later Bruce had an album’s worth of material nearly ready for release, but he was not satisfied with this, and the record was shelved. There was a change of studio from Atlantic – Bruce was not happy with either the sound or facilities there – to the Record Plant, also in New York, during October. Bruce continued to write and record new songs so that eventually about 70 pieces, some of them variants on other songs, were worked upon for the album. Bruce sought perfection, and continually re-worked his material, as the sessions drifted into 1978. At one point Bruce planned to call the album American Madness – a title borrowed from a 1932 film, directed by Frank Capra, about the Great Depression. Bruce worked through his own madness in the studio, with able support from John Landau, the two men being joint producers of the album, and Steve Van Zandt, who was credited as an assistant. Chuck Plotkin joined in the latter part of the process, to provide important help with the mixing, alongside Jimmy Iovine. After much consideration by Bruce of both song selection and sequencing, a group of recordings from the Record Plant sessions were chosen to be his fourth album.

The album cover featured stark photos, taken by Frank Stefanko, of Bruce stood in a bedroom – although this is not obviously the location. After a trip to the printers to approve the album cover, Bruce returned to the studio for a late remix of The Promised Land, which delayed the appearance of the record. Darkness on the Edge of Town was finally released on June 2 1978. The album contained a new lyrical approach from Bruce, with a hardness in the writing. Out of the dozens of songs recorded across many months, Bruce presented a set of ten tracks which portrayed the lives of working people, struggling amidst a gathering recession in the USA, but living lives of decency, and hoping for a better future. The overblown music of Born to Run was replaced with a leaner instrumental sound, which Bruce subsequently revealed had been influenced by the recent emergence of punk rock.

This collection of songs, each of which Bruce sang in the first person, was given unity by several recurring themes. The words “darkness” / “dark” appear in six of the tracks, while nine of them feature the “night” / “tonight”. “They” are mentioned in eight songs, with a general suggestion of nameless people who exert a negative influence (admittedly on The Promised Land “they” are “the dogs on main street”). “Work” / “worked” / “working” form part of six songs, and so do the words “dream” / “dreams”. Six is also the number of songs in which Bruce and his characters are found “driving” / “racing” / “riding”, or mentioning the names of cars. There are references to “blood” in four of the tracks, and the same number of songs use the word “born”. There is also time for “love” / “loved” in four of the songs on the album.

The album is greater than the sum of its parts, and the songs speak louder than a commentary, but a track-by-track review may provide some illumination of Darkness. The record opens with Badlands, a song destined to become one of Bruce’s concert anthems, with the enigmatic suggestion that “it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive”. Adam Raised a Cain, one of Bruce’s songs about family, is given a wider context with Biblical allusions. Something in the Night sees Bruce struggling against some faceless oppression. Candy’s Room is one of Bruce’s many songs about girls, but different to those of the past – Candy being a hard girl from Easy Street. In the old days of LPs, the first side closed with Racing in the Street, as Bruce hops into a 69 Chevy with a 396, to ride with his partner Sonny, and then an un-named girl. The instrumental passage at the end of the song is a moment of warmth – which has been powerfully extended in live performances. The second half opens with The Promised Land, a stirring tale of optimism and dignity, which echoes Badlands. Factory is the shortest song on the album (at 2 minutes 17 seconds), and understated, but an affecting tale about the rigours of work. Streets of Fire depicts a dramatic struggle against un-named forces. Prove It All Night is a great rock’n’roll love song, but one in which the battle against people lurking in the background – defined as “they” – is still real. The record closes with Darkness on the Edge of Town, the title track being the defining moment of the album, the tale of a man who seems to be fighting a losing battle in his life, but resolves to keep the struggle going. Bruce explained the outlook of the Darkness album in an interview with Tony Parsons, for the New Musical Express: “The characters ain’t kids, they’re older – you been beat you been hurt. But there’s still hope, there’s always hope. They throw dirt on you all your life, and some people get buried so deep in the dirt that they’ll never get out. The album’s about people who will never admit that they’re buried that deep”.

On May 23 1978, shortly before the release of Darkness, Bruce and the E Street Band set off on a tour of the USA, plus a few hops across the border to Canada, that was to stretch until the first day of 1979. Liberated from the pressures of the recording studio, and back performing in front of their fans for the first time since March 1977, Bruce and the band provided epic entertainment, with shows stretching towards three hours. The concerts received rave reviews, and led to a growth in Bruce’s reputation. A recording of Prove It All Night, from Berkeley on July 1, with the instrumental Paradise by the Sea, from the same show, as the B side, was prepared for a promotional single. Prove It All Night was a great version, with a lengthy instrumental opening, in which Bruce’s powerful guitar work was prominent. Paradise by the Sea used the melody of So Young and In Love, a Darkness out-take. The promotional record was cancelled, but the two recordings were issued to radio stations, and film of Bruce and the band performing Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), at Phoenix on July 8, was subsequently released to television companies, bringing footage of the exuberance of the live show to a wider audience.

Initial excitement about the album was tempered by disappointment, from the perspective of fans, that several major songs were omitted from Darkness, as Bruce felt they did not fit in with his concept. The inclusion of some of these songs, either in a double album, or as replacements for lesser tracks (Something in the Night and Streets of Fire spring to mind – both being made a bit over-dramatic by Bruce’s hollering) could have improved the record. The most significant omission was The Promise, which Bruce thought was too personal, as a song about himself. This tale of hopes and dreams which have been thwarted – or even betrayed – was a brilliant sequel to Thunder Road from the Born to Run album. There were suggestions that the song was a comment upon Bruce’s legal struggle with Mike Appel, to which Bruce responded by saying “I don’t write songs about lawsuits”. The Promise, which was first performed in August 1976, can be seen as a wider comment upon the way in which Bruce’s innocent dreams of rock’n’roll stardom were betrayed, starting with the hype surrounding Born to Run, before the culmination of the legal struggle with Appel. Dave Marsh, in Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story, published in 1979, suggested that The Promise deals with “the price everyone pays for success – and the dangers of settling for anything less”. Marsh added that the song may possibly have been inspired by Greil Marcus’ book Mystery Train, an exploration of the place of rock music in the culture of the USA. Marsh is married to Barbara Carr, a member of Bruce’s management team, and we can be confident he knows more about these things than most people, but the link to Mystery Train has seldom been taken up as an explanation of the song. Sometimes an artist’s motivations are sub-conscious, and it is possible to see the words “all my life, I fought this fight, the fight that no man can ever win” as an example of Bruce battling with his obsessive methods. Bruce recorded Because the Night, but decided not to use it. A tape of the song was passed to Patti Smith, working on her Easter album at the same studio complex as Bruce, by Jimmy Iovine. He was multi-tasking (or multi-tracking), as engineer on Bruce’s album and producer of Patti’s record. Patti wrote some changes to the lyrics, with Bruce’s approval, and had a major hit with her version of Because the Night, which was released in the Spring of 1978, a few weeks before the arrival of Bruce’s album. Bruce’s songwriting collaboration with Patti Smith, the “High Priestess of Punk”, would have strengthened the musical theme of the Darkness record. Fire was a song that Bruce submitted to Elvis Presley shortly before the latter’s death. Bruce subsequently passed the torch to Robert Gordon, who released Fire as a single in 1978, with Bruce playing piano. A cover version by the Pointer Sisters arrived later that year. Hearts of Stone and Talk to Me were recorded by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, featuring on their Hearts of Stone album in 1978. A couple of other songs from the Darkness sessions, Frankie and Rendezvous, were known to Bruce’s fans from live performances. The next few years saw the appearance of bootlegs covering out-takes from the Darkness sessions, and also concerts from the 1978 tour. The studio bootlegs showed that Bruce had recorded many impressive songs that were omitted from Darkness. Drive All Night, Independence Day, Ramrod, and Sherry Darling were each subsequently re-recorded, and released on The River in 1980. Other great recordings from the Darkness sessions included Don’t Look Back, Outside Looking In, Preacher’s Daughter, Spanish Eyes, and The Way. There were also Candy’s Boy and The Fast Song, two pieces which merged to become Candy’s Room.

As far back as the mid-1970s, fans had been asking Bruce to release a live album. In 1984 Bruce, interviewed by David Hepworth for a BBC The Old Grey Whistle Test profile, said that the absence of a live album stemmed from his belief that the excitement of a concert could not be caught on a recording. Bruce did, however, express an interesting alternative view: “There are songs that I want to re-record, that I was unhappy with the original studio recordings of. Mainly the Darkness album, which was a record that I thought had some of my best songs, but I always felt was a little dry recording-wise. I felt we kinda underplayed and oversang a little bit. That stuff sounds quite a bit different in performance, and I’d be interested in getting different versions of some of those songs”. A live album finally arrived in 1986, in the form of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Live / 1975-85, a brilliant five LP box set (or three CDs for those who had moved on to the new format). Six songs from Darkness were included (the omissions being Something in the Night, Factory, Streets of Fire, and Prove It All Night), but only Adam Raised a Cain was a recording from the 1978 tour. The remainder of the Darkness songs were performances from 1980, 1981, and 1985 – including a version of Badlands that Bruce used to open a show in Arizona on the night after Ronald Reagan won his first Presidential election. The live set brought the first official release of both Fire and Because the Night (from concerts in 1978 and 1980 respectively). Non-Darkness songs from 1978 tour included Backstreets and Rosalita (Come Out Tonight). There was also a version of Paradise by the ‘C’ recorded at the Roxy in Los Angeles, six days after that planned for a promotional single, with a slightly new spelling of the title. The appearance of Paradise by the ‘C’ was paradoxical, given that the promotional version of Prove It All Night was omitted from the live box set – the latter recording has still not been officially released. Following the appearance of the live album, Bruce declared himself pleased with the results, as the concert versions gave a new perspective on his music: “I was never completely satisfied with any of the recorded versions of things we did – certainly not before The River. I never felt the band learned to play in the studio before The River. On Badlands or Darkness, the live versions are the way that stuff was supposed to sound. And we couldn’t have ever got that in the studio, even if we had been playing well – because the audience allows you to attack something with a lot more intensity, and if you did it the same in the studio, it would sound overdone or oversung”.

Bruce disbanded the E Street Band in 1989, and embarked on a new phase of his career, which proved to be far from prolific. After releasing Human Touch and Lucky Town as simultaneous albums in 1992 (nearly five years on from their predecessor, Tunnel of Love), Bruce toured with a new, and nameless, band in both 1992 and 1993. An MTV special from 1992 was released as the In Concert: MTV Plugged live album the following year, featuring a new version of Darkness on the Edge of Town. There was a brief reunion between Bruce and the E Street Band in 1995, for a recording session that provided some new songs for a Greatest Hits album. The only track from the Darkness set in this collection was Badlands, with Bruce writing in the liner notes: “This was the record, Darkness on the Edge of Town, where I figured out what I wanted to write about, the people that mattered to me, and who I wanted to be. I saw friends and family struggling to lead decent, productive lives and I felt an everyday kind of heroism in this. Still do”. Columbia expected long-time fans of Bruce to buy a CD that was mostly old material, that they presumably already owned, in order to obtain four previously unreleased tracks, but the return of the E Street Band was pleasing. Bruce and the band filmed some promotional videos together, but a few months later Bruce released The Ghost of Tom Joad as a virtually solo album (although there were some contributions from other musicians, including Danny Federici, Patti Scialfa, and Garry Tallent). Bruce also set off on a lengthy solo tour, with the E Street Band left at a loose end.

Tracks, the quadruple CD set released in 1998, brought together out-takes and rarities from across Bruce’s career. Similarly to the live set that appeared in 1986, this was something that aficionados had wanted for many years, and the Tracks collection was an outstanding alternative route through Bruce’s music. There were, however, some rather odd choices, in terms of both inclusions and omissions. Five out-takes from Darkness appeared in the collection, namely Give the Girl a Kiss, Iceman, So Young and in Love, Hearts of Stone, and Don’t Look Back. There was also a live version of Rendezvous, but from a concert on The River tour in 1980. This still left many songs from the Darkness sessions unreleased, and there was widespread surprise (to put it mildly) that The Promise had not appeared on Tracks, while space had been found for many lesser songs. Bruce explained he was not happy with a recording he had of The Promise from the Darkness sessions, feeling it was “plodding”. The release of Tracks prompted the appearance of one of best of the Bruce bootlegs, Deep Down in the Vaults, a triple CD of unreleased studio and live tracks spanning Bruce’s career to date. There were five pieces from the Darkness sessions, including a previously unknown version of The Promise, which was slow, stark, and awesome.

Tracks was followed in 1999 by 18 Tracks. Four years after Greatest Hits, fans of Bruce were given the choice by Columbia of buying an album that was mostly taken from Tracks in order to acquire three previously unreleased recordings. Many people did so, as 18 Tracks featured The Promise, with the song finally being officially available. It was not, however, a version of The Promise with the E Street Band from the Darkness sessions. Instead it was a new solo recording, from 1999, with Bruce simply singing and playing a piano. Bruce had carried out some overdubs for the recordings on Tracks, and touchingly recalled Vincent Lopez, sacked from the band in 1974, for a beefing up of Thundercrack. Lopez immediately returned to relative obscurity of playing with local bands in New Jersey, but the box set re-appraisal of Bruce’s career was followed by another revival of the past. High hopes of a lasting reunion between Bruce and the E Street Band, planted in 1995, reached fruition with a world tour during 1999 and 2000. Live in New York City, released in 2001, was a double CD of recordings from a couple of shows at Madison Square Garden the previous year. This included Badlands and Prove It All Night (this live version was nowhere near as good as that from 1978), plus Don’t Look Back. The DVD of the concerts had some extra songs, among them Darkness on the Edge of Town and The Promise, the latter being performed by Bruce as a solo piece with piano.

The Rising, Bruce’s response to the tragic events of September 11 2001, was released in 2002, being his first album of new material since The Ghost of Tom Joad, seven years earlier. The next few years saw regular record releases and concerts by Bruce, including The Rising world tour with the E Street Band, during 2002 and 2003. Columbia issued The Essential Bruce Springsteen in 2003, this being a triple CD retrospective, in which the first two discs featured 30 of Bruce’s best recordings across his career. These two discs were basically an expanded update of Greatest Hits, with 12 songs appearing in each collection. The 2003 compilation featured three pieces from Darkness, namely Badlands, the title track, and The Promised Land. In his liner notes, Bruce mentioned a few omitted songs that fans might think should have been there, with Racing in the Street being one of these. The disc of rare or previously unreleased material that completed The Essential Bruce Springsteen could be seen as an extension of Tracks, but the earliest material came from 1979, and there was not anything there related to Darkness.

Two years later another re-packaging arrived, as Born to Run: 30th Anniversary Edition was issued in 2005. A digitally remastered CD version of the album was combined with two DVDs, one being Wings for Wheels: The Making of Born to Run, which was a documentary, while the other disc was film of a famous (or infamous) concert at the Hammersmith Odeon, from a few weeks after release of the original album. The DVDs were excellent, but the lack of any new music in CD form was disappointing. Admittedly few songs other than the eight featured on the album had been recorded, but there were some extra tracks available, plus interesting alternative versions of the songs that appeared on Born to Run.

Fans hoped that an expanded version of Darkness would follow to mark that album’s thirtieth anniversary. When 2008 arrived, Bruce had a hectic schedule, touring and recording Working on a Dream, plus campaigning for Barack Obama in the US Presidential Election. Plans for a Darkness reissue were put on hold, although at the start of 2009 John Landau confirmed that a re-release was intended when time permitted. For the moment, there was a different reissue of material, as in January 2009 a second Greatest Hits album was released, this time billed as by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. The album was initially available in the USA, Canada, and Australia, featuring just 12 tracks. An expanded version, with 18 tracks, was released in Europe in June 2009. The collection was doubtless bought by completists, who already owned some of the individual recordings several times. The new Greatest Hits featured tracks starting in 1973 and concluding in 2007, but there was an eighteen year gap between 1984 and 2002. Part of this chasm was due to Bruce’s split from the E Street Band from 1989 to 1999, but the gap could have been lessened with tracks from the 1987 album Tunnel of Love, and Live in New York City, recorded in 2000. A further bridging of the gap with something from Bruce’s 1995 session with the band for that year’s Greatest Hits collection would have been a neat touch. Both the initial and expanded albums featured Badlands and Darkness on the Edge of Town. The inclusion of Because the Night and Fire (from Live / 1975-85) on the expanded version meant that 4 of the 18 songs stemmed from the Darkness-era. This was testament to the importance of Darkness in Bruce’s career, and possibly an admission from Bruce that he should have made more of Because the Night and Fire.

At the end of 2009, John Landau specifically said that a Darkness box set was 93 per cent complete. Landau’s figure subsequently proved to be misfounded, due to a return of perfectionism from Bruce, who went into Thrill Hill Recording during the Summer of 2010, to add overdubs to some of the Darkness out-takes. In August, Columbia announced details of a Darkness box set, the large scale of which had fans excited. The next few weeks saw the cinema release of a documentary film, which would be included in the box set, and the trailing of both audio and video clips from the collection on the Internet.

The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story, released on November 15 2010, is an incredible box set, featuring three CDs, three DVDs, and a book. In one of the most audacious re-packagings of material in the history of rock music, Bruce’s masterpiece, a 43 minute album, has been expanded into discs that stretch to eight and a half hours of music and film. This is story-telling in the grand manner. The presentation is impressive, with the box holding the book, into which the individual discs are inserted at intervals. The CD of Darkness on the Edge of Town is a digitally remastered version, produced by Bob Ludwig on June 2 2010, thirty two years to the day after the original album was released. There is a clear improvement in the sound quality on the new version. Amidst the continuation of a severe world recession, that had been triggered by a crisis in the banking system in 2007, the lyrical themes of Bruce’s Darkness album remain as relevant as they had been back in 1978.

The original record is followed by The Promise, a double CD, which was simultaneously released as a stand-alone album. This is a hypothetical album that could have been released between Born to Run and Darkness. The Promise features 22 songs, which were outtakes from the Darkness sessions, with several tracks having been partly re-recorded, apart from Save My Love, which was a new recording in 2010 of a song written ahead of Darkness. The highlights of the album are the title track and Because the Night. The appearance of The Promise meant that a version of this song from 1977-78 had finally received official release, but there were flaws, as one verse was missing without explanation, while the addition of a string arrangement detracted from the starkness of the original design. Because the Night had Bruce singing Patti Smith’s lyrics, which suggested a new vocal track from 2010, given that Bruce had consistently used his lyrics in live performances. Racing in the Street (’78) was a rougher alternative to the version previously released, with some different lyrics (the 69 Chevy being swapped for a 32 Ford). Come On (Let’s Go Tonight) was a prototype for Factory, and Candy’s Boy later became Candy’s Room. The studio original of Fire was longer than the live track from 1978, with the former lacking some of the greatness of the latter. On the other hand, the studio Rendezvous was as good as the live version from 1980 that had appeared on Tracks. The Promise also delivered top quality recordings of several other songs known to fans for many years, such as Gotta Get that Feeling, Outside Looking In, Spanish Eyes, and Wrong Side of the Street. The Way featured as a hidden song at the end of the album, on the same track as City at Night. The five songs from the Darkness sessions that appeared on Tracks were not used again on The Promise. At the end of the process, there had still not been an official release of Preacher’s Daughter or The Fast Song.

The book within the box set opens with two essays by Bruce. The first, covering the Darkness album, previously appeared in Songs, Bruce’s book of lyrics, published in 1998. The second essay is a new piece from Bruce, in which he writes about the choices that led to the content of the Darkness album, and the discarding of much substantial material. With a slight exaggeration, Bruce suggests that the songs on Darkness, the relevant outtakes on Tracks, plus the songs now on The Promise could have filled four albums. Bruce also writes about the musical influences that helped shape the songs recorded during the Darkness sessions. The remainder of the book combines copies of pages in Bruce’s notebook from the Darkness-sessions (with lyric and song selection ideas), the final lyrics to that album, photos of Bruce and the band, concert posters, and a newspaper report. There is also a separate insert with the lyrics of The Promise album. The book stands as a great document, combining insight into Bruce’s working methods with nostalgia.

The DVD content starts with The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. This is a fascinating documentary about the Darkness sessions, combining film of Bruce, the band, and the production team in the studio, with recollections from the same participants filmed in recent years. Bruce recalls that when he worked on Darkness, “More than rich, more than famous, more than happy, I wanted to be great”. In black and white film from the studio, Bruce is shown facing the frustrations of attempting to deliver his vision, something that, supported by the band and production team, he eventually achieved. The cover for the DVD has a photo of Bruce sat at a petrol station, in the night, which had been considered for the cover of Darkness. During the film, Bruce talks about his obsessive compulsive methods. Bruce expanded upon this theme in an interview with Brian Williams, broadcast on NBC’s The Today Show, a few weeks before the release of the box set. Bruce said “your OCD comes in handy” when Williams asked about the drive to make Darkness on the Edge of Town a great record. Bruce suggested: “Madness is not to be underrated. Madness in the appropriate place, and sometimes at the service of an aesthetic ideal, can help you get to higher ground sometimes”.

The second DVD features two pieces, present and past. First there is film of a performance of each of the songs from Darkness on the Edge of Town by Bruce and the E Street Band. Taking place in 2009, this is a spirited show, but its setting at an empty theatre in Asbury Park is rather unusual. The aim was to re-create the stark atmosphere of the album, by playing the songs without an audience. With the songs having developed in live performance over the years, Bruce had realised the suggestion he made about re-recording Darkness in 1984, albeit in film rather than on a record. The second half of this disc consists of Thrill Hill Vault, 1976-1978, which has film of Bruce and the band rehearsing / recording / performing 12 songs. These include a portrayal of a studio version of The Promise. The disc concludes with five songs filmed at Phoenix during 1978, including the familiar performance of Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), and a great Prove It All Night.

The final disc in The Promise set is Houston ’78 Bootleg: House Cut, the film of an entire concert, lasting a few minutes short of three hours. The quality of the film is not quite as good as at Phoenix, but the performance by Bruce and the E Street Band is amazing. The concert features seven songs from Darkness (the exclusions being Adam Raised a Cain, Factory, and Something in the Night), along with Because the Night, Fire, and Independence Day. There were also appearances from The Ties that Bind and Point Blank, new songs since the Darkness sessions that would feature on The River. Reverting to tradition, the concert included renditions by Bruce of other great material, including Spirit in the Night, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), The Fever, Born to Run, Thunder Road, and Jungleland. The concert DVD is a fitting conclusion to a brilliant set, which belatedly, but with brilliance, tells the full story of the central sequence in Bruce Springsteen’s career. The response from fans, many of whom had been hoping for something like this for more than thirty years, was ecstatic. Across the various elements of The Promise, an amazing tale of Bruce’s artistic creation is told, expanding the mystique of “wanting things that can only be found in the darkness on the edge of town”.

Monday, 3 May 2010

General Election 2010

Last year I wrote here about the opportunism of the Conservative Party in exploiting the MP's expenses scandal. Now that we are in the Election campaign, as a member of the Labour Party I feel that Gordon Brown and the leadership should be more combative towards the Conservative Party. My first ever published writing was a critical history of the Conservatives, which appeared in 1989, with a second edition following in 1990. The clear villain of the book was Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister at the time it was written. My view of Thatcher’s politics was set out in the final pages of the book. Perhaps the tone was a bit too strident, but twenty one years on from first publication, I stand by most of the following:

During the 1979 General Election campaign the Conservative Party concentrated on Labour's troubled time in office and their own alternative, which resembled that of 1970. Their manifesto was called Time For a Change. This was an unlikely title for a Conservative manifesto. That­cher constantly spoke of the need for a change of direction. The Election was held on May 3, and the Conservatives won 339 seats to Labour's 269, while the Liberals won 11 seats and the others 17. The Con­servatives had a majority of 43. Thatcher now became Britain's first woman Prime Minister. Thatcher's Government initially represented a balance between the adherents of her approach and the sceptics. She excluded Heath, who was to be a constant critic in the following years. The Conservatives' General Election victory was followed by victory in the first EEC Election, held in June. Thatcher proclaimed herself to be a "convic­tion politician", opposed to consensus. Her major pre­occupation was an attempt to reverse Britain's long term economic decline through monetarism. This was developed by Milton Friedman, an economist from the United States. It was a theory that had only been been properly tested by one of the world's most barbaric regimes, the Fascist military dictatorship of Chile. The result had been a spectacular failure. Thatcher's Govern­ment was soon showing itself to be a disaster for Britain. Thatcher's economic strategy involved reduced public expenditure, reduced taxation – especially for the ruling class – an attack on the trade unions, and privatisation. The result was mass unemployment. When Thatcher took power unemployment was above one million. She increased it to two million in August 1980, and then three million in January 1982. Thatcher showed herself to be authoritarian, inflexible and uncaring. Her Government attacked the democratic rights of the British people, most notably with restrictions on the powers of local authorit­ies. Thatcher followed an aggressive foreign policy. This involved hostility to the Soviet Union. At the end of 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Thatcher con­demned this action, being unconcerned that the Conserva­tive Party had instigated an invasion of Afghanistan a century earlier. She was involved in constant disputes with the EEC. Thatcher notably failed to improve the position of women. Her own position as the first woman to lead the Conservative Party was anomalous, as the Party has always been dominated by males, and has perpetuated male dominance of British society. Conserva­tive women, being reactionaries, have not sought to alter this.
Thatcher's approach immediately became known as Thatcherism. It was an ideological system whereas its predecessors in the Conservative Party, Peelism and Disraelianism, had not been. Thatcher was therefore placing herself outside of the mainstream of the Conservative Party, by proclaiming her belief in ideology whereas the Party had always previously prided itself on its non-ideo­logical nature. Thatcher's programme was proclaimed by her supporters as being radical. They even repeated the unlikely claim of Heath, that a Conservative Government was carrying out a revolution. In practice Thatcherism was reactionary, for it attacked many of the gains made by the British people, in an attempt to revive capitalism. Thatcher's policies provoked a great deal of opposition within the Conservative Party. She merely dismissed this, calling her opponents "wets." She gradually removed the "wets" from the Government. They spent a great deal of time complaining about Thatcher's approach, but failed to take any effective steps to hinder it. They did not have the courage to put forward an alternative Leader so Thatcher was re-elected as Party Leader each year with­out facing any challenge. The "wets" were joined by the unlikely figure of Peter Thorneycroft. Now that he saw what monetarism meant in practice he did not like it. He was replaced as Party Chairman in September 1981 by Cecil Parkinson. Meanwhile the Party organisation solidly sup­ported Thatcher. Each year her speech at the rally follow­ing the Party Conference prompted the pathetic spectacle of a marathon standing ovation.
The Government became increasingly unpopular, until its fortunes were revived by victory in the Falklands War. The Argentinian invasion of the Falklands in April 1982 represented a crisis for the Government, and prompted the resignation of Lord Carrington, the Foreign Secretary, Thereafter the military operation to recover the islands reflected well on Thatcher. She dishonestly presented the war as a fight against Fascism. She had previously allowed the sale of arms to the Fascist military dictatorship of Argentina. It was only now they were being used against Britain that Thatcher saw a problem. Nevertheless this surprise did not provoke Thatcher into opposition to Fas­cism. During the war she worked in alliance with the Fascist dictatorship of Chile against Argentina.
Besides the Falklands War, the Conservatives were helped by divisions in the Labour Party, which had led to the formation of the Social Democratic Party at the start of 1981. The SDP then formed the Alliance with the Liberal Party. The emergence of the Alliance appeared to increase the threat to the Conservatives, but eventually aided them by taking votes off of Labour at the next Election. This Election was held on June 9 1983. The Conservatives were little troubled in the campaign by the other Parties, which were in a weak state. The Conserva­tives won 397 seats, Labour 209, the Alliance 23, and the others 21. The Conservative majority was 144. The Conservatives' landslide victory was deceptive. It occurred due to the divided nature of the opposition. The Conservative Party's share of the vote was little higher than it had been in 1945.
Thatcher's second term was as unsuccessful as her first. There were constant problems. In October Cecil Parkin­son, who had recently relinquished the post of Party Chairman, resigned from the Government, when it was revealed that his former secretary, Sara Keays, was expecting his child. In February 1984 Harold Macmillan accepted a peerage on his nineteeth birthday, becoming the Earl of Stockton. He used his return to prominence to criticise Thatcher. He died in December 1986. The Conservative Party was divided over Thatcher's continu­ing attack on local government. The Government carried legislation that limited local authorities' powers to set their own rates, and abolished the Greater London Coun­cil and the Metropolitan County Councils – on account of their being Labour-controlled. In March 1984 the miners went on strike, in opposition to the Government's programme of running down the coal industry. For a whole year the Government was to preside over this dam­aging dispute without attempting to settle it. Meanwhile the Conservatives won the second EEC Election, which was held in June 1984, although Labour made gains. In October 1984 the IRA bombed the Grand Hotel at Brigh­ton where Conservative Party Conference representatives were staying. Several members of the Party were killed. In the Autumn of 1985 the Government discarded mone­tarism, realising that it had failed. Nevertheless the Government maintained its general economic plan. Although there had been some economic improvement it could not be called a success. Mass unemployment was only gradually reduced. The Government was seriously damaged by the events surrounding the Westland helicop­ter company at the beginning of 1986. Two Cabinet Min­isters, Michael Heseltine and Leon Brittan, resigned amid a Cabinet dispute over the ownership of the company. Thatcher's personal position seemed threatened by revel­ations about her role in the dispute, but she survived the crisis. Later in the year the Conservatives were damaged by another sex scandal. This featured Jeffrey Archer. He had previously been a Conservative MP and a successful businessman, only to lose his fortune and abandon his political career. He had retrieved his fortune with the large sales of a series of mediocre novels, and been appointed Deputy Chairman of the Party. Having rehabilitated himself, he now suffered another misfortune. He blundered his way into paying money to a prostitute, Monica Coghlan, who he had not met, in order that she would not reveal details of their alleged liaison. This was publicised, and the outcome was Archer's resignation.
Early in 1987 Thatcher paid a triumphant visit to the Soviet Union, relations having thawed. This enhanced Thatcher's reputation. The visit to the Soviet Union was an unlikely way for a Leader of the Conservative Party to improve her electoral prospects, but that was one of its aims. In May 1987 Thatcher called an Election for June 11. The Conservative manifesto was entitled The Next Moves Forward. In the foreword Thatcher took the unlikely step of associating herself with the idea of "One Nation". She claimed that her Government was fulfilling this aim. The Conservatives ran a poor campaign, but still won, largely because the opposition remained weak. The Conservatives won 375 seats, Labour 229, the Alliance 22 and the others 24. The Conservatives had won a majority of 100. The Election victory was followed by a reconstruction of the Govern­ment. This included the sacking of John Biffen – who had been Leader of the House of Commons. Biffen responded by saying that Thatcher's Government was Stalinist. The idea of the Conservative Party being influenced by Stalin­ism was certainly a new one. It was as unusual as That­cher proclaiming herself as a supporter of the "One Nation" approach. As Thatcher entered her third term in office, the thinking of the Conservative Party was charac­teristically incoherent.

Friday, 23 April 2010

World Cup 2010

Hello and welcome to International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day 2010. With it also being Saint George's Day, here is a bit of English patriotism, ahead of the World Cup finals.

So Near and Yet So Far: England and the World Cup

English football is looking forward to the 2010 World Cup finals, eighty years on from the establishment of the competition, making this a good time to put England’s record in perspective. England are one of only seven countries to have won the World Cup, the others being Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany / West Germany, Italy, and Uruguay. Forty four years have passed since England’s famous triumph, as host nation, in 1966. The best achievement by an England team in a World Cup held on foreign soil saw a run to the 1990 Semi Finals, in Italy. There has been progress to the latter stages of the competition on several other occasions, but England have too often under-performed. In fact, England did not perform at all in the first three World Cups.

England gave football to the world in the nineteenth century, but subsequently developed an insular attitude to the formal organisation of the international game by the Federation Internationale de Football Association, formed on the initiative of France in 1904. England joined FIFA the following year, but withdrew in 1920, to avoid association with nations that Britain had fought against in the First World War. The English returned to FIFA in 1924, only to leave again four years later, in a dispute over the nature of amateurism. The first World Cup was played in Uruguay in 1930, and won by the host nation, but England were not among the participants, being ineligible as they were not current members of FIFA. England remained outside the fold as the 1934 and 1938 World Cups, hosted by Italy and France respectively, were both won by Italy. England even declined a special invitation from FIFA to compete in the 1938 finals, as a replacement for Austria, following the annexation of that country by Germany.

The Second World War led to the abandonment of plans to hold World Cups that would have culminated in 1942 and 1946. England rejoined FIFA in 1946, and entered the 1950 World Cup. The British Championship for 1949-50 doubled as a World Cup qualifying group, and England began with a 4-1 win against Wales, with Jackie Milburn scoring a hat trick. England subsequently beat Northern Ireland 9-2 – Jack Rowley providing four of the goals – and Scotland 1-0. England were led at the finals, staged in Brazil, by Walter Winterbottom, but the manager, who held the post from 1946 to 1962, was not in sole command of the team line-up, as he had to work with a selection committee, appointed by the Football Association. The team was captained by Billy Wright, who would also perform this role in the 1954 and 1958 finals. England began with a 2-0 win against Chile, with goals from Stan Mortensen and Wilf Mannion. In their next match England suffered a humiliating 1-0 defeat against the USA, who were rank outsiders, despite dominating the play. The goal was scored by Larry Gaetjens, a man who was originally from Haiti. A subsequent defeat against Spain eliminated England at the end of the first group stage. The four group winners progressed to a further group, which determined the winners of the competition, instead of the usual knock-out process. In the decisive match, Uruguay beat Brazil 2-1 to regain the world title.

For the 1954 World Cup, the British Championship was again utilised as a qualifying group, and England won all three of their matches. At the finals, staged in Switzerland, England drew 4-4 with Belgium and beat Switzerland 2-0 to emerge from the group stage, with Ivor Broadis and Nat Lofthouse each scoring twice in the first match. The star of the England attack in this tournament was Stanley Matthews, the legendary winger, who was now aged 39, and had only been included in the squad at the last minute by the selection committee, something which had also happened in 1950. England lost 4-2 against Uruguay in the Quarter Finals, with Gil Merrick, the goalkeeper, at fault for Uruguay’s first and last goals. The Uruguayans’ third goal was scored by Juan Schiaffino, after a team-mate had started a move with a drop kick, being allowed to do so by Erich Steiner, the Austrian referee. West Germany were to be the surprise winners of the World Cup this year, beating Hungary’s “Magic Magyars” 3-2 in the Final.

England sailed through the qualifiers for the 1958 World Cup, with Tommy Taylor scoring hat tricks as Denmark were beaten 5-2 and the Republic of Ireland 5-1. Taylor also scored twice in a 4-1 win against the Danes. Taylor was tragically killed in the Munich air disaster which decimated the Manchester United team in February 1958. Duncan Edwards, another star of the England team, died as a result of his injuries in the plane crash. Bobby Charlton, a survivor of the Munich crash, was in the England squad for the 1958 World Cup finals, staged in Sweden, but did not play in any of the matches. England drew all three of their group games, against the Soviet Union, Brazil, and Austria. Bobby Robson, a future England manager, was unlucky to have goals disallowed due to refereeing errors in the first and third matches. England met the Soviet Union for a second time, in a play-off to decide which team advanced with Brazil, who eventually went on to win the trophy, to the Quarter Finals. The Soviet Union won by a single goal, which meant that England returned home from the World Cup finals without a win – the only time this has happened.

England saw off Portugal and Luxembourg to qualify for the 1962 finals. A 9-0 win against Luxembourg, England’s largest ever in the World Cup, featured hat tricks by Bobby Charlton and Jimmy Greaves. England struggled through the group stage in Chile, losing to Hungary and drawing 0-0 with Bulgaria, either side of a 3-1 victory against Argentina, in the first World Cup meeting between the two countries. Ron Flowers, Charlton, and Greaves were the English scorers against Argentina. In the Quarter Finals, England were beaten 3-1 by Brazil, as Garrincha scored twice. With Pele, their young star in 1958, missing most of the 1962 tournament through injury, Garrincha emerged as the inspiration for Brazil, who retained the trophy.

Four years later England was the host nation for the 1966 finals, which meant that the team qualified automatically. England were now managed by Alf Ramsey, who had played in the 1950 finals. Ramsey modernised the organisation of the team, expertly captained by Bobby Moore, and also developed the 4-4-2 formation. England began with a goalless draw against Uruguay, before beating Mexico and France. Argentina were defeated by a single goal, from Geoff Hurst, in a bruising Quarter Final, in which Antonio Rattin, the visitors’ captain, was sent off amidst a lengthy dispute. In the Semi Finals, England defeated Portugal 2-1, with a brace of goals from Bobby Charlton. In a brilliant and dramatic Final, England beat West Germany 4-2, after extra time, with Geoff Hurst scoring a hat trick, while Martin Peters got England’s other goal. In a game of twists and turns, the Germans drew level at 2-2 in the last minute of normal time, with Wolfgang Weber scoring a dubious goal. In the break before extra time Ramsey exhorted his team to renewed efforts, telling them “You won it once, now you must win it again”. Ramsey also pointed to the tired Germans, and said they were finished. England regained the lead in extra time with a shot from Geoff Hurst, which apparently did not fully cross the goal-line. The match ended with Hurst scoring from a glorious shot into the roof of the net. England had finally won the trophy that matched its claims of leadership in world football.

In 1970 England were again given direct passage to the finals, this time as holders of the trophy. The tournament was held in Mexico, with heat and altitude being a major issue for visiting teams. England’s attempt to defend their world title is mostly recalled for a couple of defeats. In the group stage Brazil beat England 1-0, with a goal from Jairzinho, after Gordon Banks had made a famous save to deny Pele, who seemed set to score with a powerful header. Bobby Moore remained as captain, and played with great assurance, especially in the match against Brazil, despite having been arrested in Colombia, when falsely accused of theft, shortly before the tournament began. Single goal victories against Romania and Czechoslovakia, either side of the Brazil game, took England to the Quarter Finals, where they met West Germany. England built up a two goal lead, with goals from Alan Mullery and Martin Peters, but the Germans drew level, before winning 3-2 after extra time, getting the better of a tiring England team. Banks missed the game due to illness, having drunk some defective beer, and his replacement, Peter Bonetti, made errors. Alf Ramsey was blamed by many for his decision to substitute Bobby Charlton, making what proved to be his last international appearance, when England were leading 2-1, apparently resting the veteran player ahead of a hoped-for Semi Final. The tournament ended with Brazil beating Italy 4-1, to take the trophy for the third time.

The 1974 World Cup saw England eliminated in the qualifiers for the first time, as they lost 2-0 away to Poland – with Alan Ball, a member of the team that won the 1966 Final, being sent off – and were held to a 1-1 draw at Wembley. England dominated the latter game, but were denied by brilliant goalkeeping from Jan Tomaszewski. Failure to qualify led to the dismissal of Alf Ramsey, which occurred shortly before the 1974 finals. Alf Ramsey was eventually replaced by Don Revie – after Joe Mercer had a spell as caretaker manager. Revie resigned from the post during the 1978 World Cup qualifiers, at which point Ron Greenwood took on the role as manager, initially in a caretaker capacity. England lost 2-0 away to Italy, but won the return by the same score, with goals from Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking. Italy won the group on goal difference, with the combined margin of their victories against Finland and Luxembourg being greater than those of England, who would again be absent from the finals. West Germany and Argentina respectively won the World Cups of 1974 and 1978, with both of them being the host nation, and beating the Netherlands in their Final. Perhaps a relatively good England team could claim to be unlucky, given the strength of the opponents they faced in the qualifiers, as Poland went on to take third place in 1974, and four years later Italy gained fourth place in the World Cup. In between, England were eliminated from the qualifiers for the 1976 European Championship by Czechoslovakia, who were to win that trophy, just as West Germany had in 1972 after defeating England in the Quarter Finals.

England returned to the World Cup finals in 1982, but only just, losing three out of eight matches in their qualifying group, and scraping through to the expanded, 24 team, tournament, held in Spain, as runners-up to Hungary. Once in the finals England got off to a great start, with Bryan Robson scoring after just 27 seconds in the 3-1 victory against France. The goal was celebrated by the English media as the fastest ever scored in the World Cup finals, despite two quicker goals having been recorded in past tournaments. Vaclav Masek scored for Czechoslovakia against Mexico after 15 seconds in 1962, and Ernst Lehner found the net on 25 seconds for Germany against Austria in 1934. England followed the win against France with victories against Czechoslovakia and Kuwait. In the second group stage, England were held to goalless draws by West Germany and Spain, and eliminated, despite being unbeaten in the tournament. Kevin Keegan and Trevor Brooking, who missed most of the tournament due to injuries, appeared as substitutes against Spain. Brooking had a good shot saved by Luis Arconada, and clever work by Bryan Robson set up a chance from which Kevin Keegan sadly headed wide of an inviting goal. The Germans were to reach the Final, but lost against Italy.

Ron Greenwood retired at the end of the 1982 finals, following which Bobby Robson led England through the next two World Cups. Throughout an eight year tenure as manager, Robson dealt calmly with a barrage of unfair criticism from the British press, and showed great enthusiasm for his role. England impressed in winning their group in the 1986 qualifiers, being unbeaten in eight matches. Bryan Robson notched a hat trick as Turkey were beaten 8-0 at Istanbul, and Gary Lineker likewise scored three times in the 5-0 win against the same opponents at Wembley. There was a bad start to the finals, in Mexico, with a defeat against Portugal, and goalless draw with Morocco. Ray Wilkins was sent off in the latter match, and Bryan Robson suffered a recurrence of a dislocated shoulder, which ruled him out of the remainder of the finals. England improved to beat Poland 3-0, with a hat trick from Gary Lineker, in the first meeting between the two teams since the qualifying match at Wembley in 1973. Paraguay were defeated by the same score in the Second Round, with Lineker netting twice. The other goal came from Peter Beardsley, this being the only England goal in the 1986 finals which was not scored by Lineker, who was off the pitch at the time, receiving treatment after being elbowed in the throat by a Paraguayan. In the Quarter Finals England met Argentina, a repeat of their match at the same stage in 1966. Diego Maradona scored twice for Argentina, within a few minutes, early in the second half. The first goal saw Maradona go unpunished for punching the ball into the net – immediately after the match he said the goal was scored by “a little bit of the hand of God, another bit by the head of Maradona”. In the diary that he wrote of the tournament, Robson lamented that England had been “cheated” by the way in which Maradona got his first goal, following which “he scored a second of staggering brilliance”. The latter goal was an amazing solo effort, as Maradona received the ball just inside the Argentinian half, and set off on an irresistible run, beating four English players at great pace, before taking the ball around the advancing Peter Shilton, and slotting it into the net. There was a late onslaught from England, in which Lineker scored, and was inches away from adding an equaliser, but Argentina prevailed 2-1. Lineker’s six goal haul won him the Golden Boot as the tournament’s leading scorer. The England players returned home on the day after the defeat against Argentina, but Bobby Robson remained in Mexico, and attended the Final, in which Argentina beat West Germany 3-2. In the book So Near and Yet So Far: Bobby Robson’s World Cup Diary 1982-86, Robson reflected: “Walking away from the Aztec Stadium I felt I could hold my head up high. Although we had finished in joint fifth place only, it was hugely encouraging for the country and for me. We were so close to being the best – only one disputed goal away from the World Champions”.

Robson’s faith was largely vindicated four years later. England were unbeaten in their qualifying matches for the 1990 World Cup, but only just reached the finals. England were twice held to goalless draws by Sweden, who finished at the top of the table. England qualified as runners-up, by drawing 0-0 away to Poland in their last match. Poland hit the crossbar in the final minute, when a defeat would have eliminated England. At the finals, staged in Italy, England’s first match opened with Gary Lineker scoring a typical opportunist goal against the Republic of Ireland after eight minutes, but the game ended as a 1-1 draw. England drew 0-0 with the Netherlands, but deserved to win, as they gave a skilful display in which Paul Gascoigne excelled. Gascoigne, who had only recently become a regular member of the England team, was about to establish himself as one of the best players in the world, at the age of 23. Gascoigne’s wayward talent had been nurtured by Bobby Robson, who said that the player was “daft as a brush”. A 1-0 win against Egypt saw England emerge at the top of their group, with a free kick from Gascoigne being headed in by Mark Wright. England’s knock-out match against Belgium was goalless until the final minute of extra time. Gascoigne made a powerful run through midfield, which led to his being brought down by a Belgian. Gascoigne lofted the resulting free kick into the penalty area, and David Platt scored with a volley on the turn, to give England a dramatic victory. England struggled to beat Cameroon 3-2, after extra time, in the Quarter Finals. Platt gave England the lead before the interval, but Cameroon scored twice in the second half. Lineker coolly equalised from a penalty late in normal time, before scoring a further goal from the spot in extra time. There was another late equaliser from Lineker in the Semi Finals, as England drew 1-1 with West Germany, after extra time, in a brilliant match, before losing 4-3 on penalties – Stuart Pearce’s penalty was saved, and Chris Waddle shot over the crossbar. During extra time Gascoigne was unlucky to pick up his second booking of the tournament. The realisation that, if England reached the Final, he would miss the match due to suspension, reduced Gascoigne to tears. With half of the nation watching the match on television, footage of Gascoigne’s tears, and pride, won the hearts of the English people. The Germans went on to beat Argentina 1-0 in the Final. Despite a 2-1 defeat against Italy in the Third Place Match, this England team left the tournament with a great reputation. Fourth place was England’s best placing in the World Cup since the trophy was won in 1966. On a personal level, Lineker’s four goals in the tournament, added to those scored in Mexico, enabled him to join the select band of players who have scored ten or more goals in the World Cup finals. Meanwhile Peter Shilton retired from a remarkable international career, having served England in 125 matches over a period of twenty years. The England team returned home as heroes, with Gascoigne the greatest hero of them all. “Gazzamania” was born, and the next few months saw the player engulfed in a whirlwind of publicity.

Bobby Robson departed as England manager at the end of the 1990 finals, becoming coach of PSV Eindhoven, and Graham Taylor oversaw the 1994 World Cup qualifiers. The latter campaign was captured in the television documentary Do I Not Like That, the title being a rather ungrammatical phrase used by Taylor, symbolic of his muddled leadership. England were held to draws at home to both Norway and Netherlands, and lost the away matches against both teams. England finished third in group, three points behind Norway, and two points behind the Dutch. The decisive game for England proved to be the 2-0 defeat against the Netherlands in Rotterdam, in which the first goal was scored by Ronald Koeman, who should have been sent off prior to this, for a foul on David Platt which prevented a goalscoring opportunity. In their last match England conceded a goal to San Marino after just eight seconds, before eventually winning 7-1, as Ian Wright scored four goals. England had previously beaten San Marino 6-0 at Wembley, with David Platt scoring four goals and also missing a penalty. When the 1994 finals were held in the USA, Norway were eliminated in the group stage by the Republic of Ireland, who were in turn beaten by the Netherlands in the Second Round. The Dutch lost 3-2 to Brazil in the Quarter Finals, and Brazil went on to win the World Cup, beating Italy in the Final, following a match that was a goalless draw, after extra time.

Glenn Hoddle replaced Terry Venables as England coach immediately after the Euro 96 finals, in which England reached the Semi Finals, and lost to eventual champions Germany on penalties. Hoddle had been a gifted midfielder, who played for England in the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals. In the 1998 competition, England were beaten 1-0 by Italy at Wembley, this being England’s first defeat in a home World Cup qualifier. England subsequently drew 0-0 against Italy in Rome, with a solid performance, and won the group. England went into the 1998 finals without Paul Gascoigne, who was surprisingly excluded from the squad by Hoddle, with the manager concerned about Gascoigne’s level of fitness. England began with a 2-0 win against Tunisia, but some sloppy defending in their next match led to a 2-1 defeat against Romania. England bounced back to beat Colombia 2-0, with goals from Darren Anderton and David Beckham, the latter scoring with a brilliant free kick. The victory against Colombia meant England advanced to the knock-out stage, and much tougher South American opponents, in the form of Argentina. A tremendous contest was drawn 2-2, after extra time, with Michael Owen scoring a brilliant solo goal, and Beckham being sent off for retaliating when fouled by Diego Simeone. Argentina then won the match 4-3 on penalties, with Paul Ince and David Batty being the unlucky England players who did not score. Beckham’s silly act, which forced England to play almost all of the second half, plus extra time, a man short, severely limited the team’s attacking options, and was widely regarded as the cause of the team’s elimination. Hoddle chronicled England’s campaign in his infamous book My 1998 World Cup Story, which was published a few months after the finals. Hoddle wrote that his biggest mistake was not having Eileen Drewery, a faith healer, in France with the England squad. Most English football followers thought that Hoddle’s decision that the team should not seriously practice for a penalty shoot-out was a more glaring omission. Hoddle did not even select penalty takers in advance, merely asking for volunteers when the moment arrived against Argentina. He stated in his book: “David Batty was up for it. He was very, very confident. He told me he’d never taken a penalty, but it didn’t matter. I’d rather have someone who’s up for it than someone who’s not any day. Incey was up for it too. He’d had a fantastic game. He’d had to battle through and had put in a magnificent performance. They all had. Every single one of them”.

Hoddle, who was struggling as coach, made some callous remarks about disabled people at the start of 1999, and the Football Association dismissed him. Howard Wilkinson acted as caretaker manager, before being replaced by Kevin Keegan, who took England to the Euro 2000 finals. Keegan’s subsequent managerial role in the World Cup lasted a single match. England’s qualifying campaign for the 2002 competition opened in October 2000 with a 1-0 defeat against Germany, in the last match to be played at Wembley before it was demolished and rebuilt. The defeat prompted Keegan to immediately resign as England manager, admitting that he lacked the tactical understanding required to bring success at international level. Keegan departed saying: “I have no complaints. I have not been quite good enough. I blame no one but myself”. Keegan’s honesty was refreshing, but the timing was not good, with England’s next World Cup qualifier following just four days later. Howard Wilkinson returned as caretaker manager when England drew 0-0 with Finland in that match. Sven-Goran Eriksson took over as coach during the early part of 2001, with the Swede being the first foreigner to manage England. The Autumn saw England thrash Germany 5-1 in Munich, with a brilliant performance, in which Michael Owen scored a hat trick. The qualifying campaign ended with a 2-2 draw against Greece at Old Trafford, by which England secured a place in the finals. Having led a fight-back with a determined personal display, Beckham gained the vital point for England by scoring a spectacular goal, from a thirty yard free kick in stoppage time.

During the Spring of 2002 Beckham suffered a broken metatarsal playing for Manchester United against Deportivo La Coruna in the Champions League. Beckham managed to recover sufficiently to join the England squad for the World Cup finals, held in Japan and South Korea. England began with a 1-1 draw against Sweden. The next match saw England beat Argentina, with Beckham scoring the only goal from a penalty, thereby exorcising demons from the 1998 match. England completed the group stage with a goalless draw against Nigeria. In the Second Round, Denmark were impressively beaten 3-0, with goals from Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen, and Emile Heskey. England exited with a tame performance against Brazil, who won the Quarter Final meeting 2-1, despite Owen having put England ahead. Ronaldinho, who scored what proved to be the winning goal early in the second half, was sent off a few minutes later, but England failed to take advantage of having an extra man. Brazil subsequently won the trophy, beating Germany 2-0 in what is surprisingly the only World Cup meeting to date between these two giants of the competition. Many blamed Eriksson for England’s failure to effectively challenge for the trophy, with the coach adopting defensive tactics. Despite some lacklustre performances on the pitch, due to the continuing effects of his injury, the impression was that Beckham was one of the stars of the World Cup, as he received great adulation from the local public. He was already an established celebrity in the region due to advertising work.

England performed well in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers, apart from a surprise 1-0 defeat away to Northern Ireland, which was the only one of England’s ten games that was lost. A place in the finals was ultimately secured with a 1-0 win against Austria at Old Trafford in the penultimate game of the campaign, but David Beckham departed half an hour from time, being sent off as he received two yellow cards a minute apart. Each booking was unlucky, but Beckham’s petulant behaviour contributed to the dismissal. He now set the unenviable record of becoming the first player to be sent off twice for England. Four days later England beat Poland 2-1, in the eleventh World Cup meeting with a country that has been England’s most frequent opponent in the competition. Since losing to the Poles in 1973, England have been unbeaten in this sequence. The England team’s performances in the 2006 finals, staged in Germany, were generally disappointing. Beckham, as captain, failed to provide the spark of leadership, although he made some significant contributions. England beat Paraguay 1-0 in their first match, with a free kick from Beckham after three minutes leading to an own goal by Carlos Gammara. England made heavy weather of a 2-0 win against Trinidad and Tobago, and completed the group stage with a 2-2 draw against Sweden. In the Second Round, England beat Ecuador 1-0, with Beckham scoring from a free kick, but he struggled with the effects of dehydration, and vomited during the match. England’s campaign ended in the Quarter Finals, with a defeat against Portugal on penalties, following a match that was drawn 0-0, after extra time. Portugal won the penalty contest 3-1, as efforts by Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and Jamie Carragher were saved. England had now lost all three of the penalty contests they had been involved in during World Cups. England played half of the one hundred and twenty minutes a man short, as Wayne Rooney was sent off for a foul on Ricardo Carvalho. Rooney’s stupid reaction to provocation was reminiscent of Beckham’s failure against Argentina eight years earlier. Against Portugal, a clearly distraught Beckham was substituted shortly after half time, due to an injury. England’s most impressive play in the tournament was provided by the ten men in the second hour against Portugal. It appeared that these players raised their game once the team was left without Beckham and Rooney, who were the supposed stars. Rooney had been a doubtful participant a few weeks earlier, as he suffered a broken metatarsal – just as Beckham had in 2002. On the day following elimination, Beckham announced that he was resigning as England captain. This tournament also brought the end of Eriksson’s tenure as coach. The trophy was won by Italy, who beat France on penalties in the Final, which had been drawn 1-1, after extra time. The Italian squad succeeded despite the developing effects of the Calciopoli domestic match-fixing scandal, which had begun to surface a few weeks earlier. Italy’s players combined technical ability as footballers with mental toughness, believing that they were good enough to win the World Cup. These are qualities that England teams have generally lacked in their World Cup campaigns over the years.

Eriksson was replaced by Steve McClaren, the latter of whom was dismissed as England failed to qualify for the Euro 2008 finals. The next England coach was Fabio Capello, an Italian who had played for his country in the 1974 World Cup finals. Given a new impetus by Capello, England played excellent football in the 2010 qualifiers, winning nine of their ten matches, and scoring 34 goals. Croatia were beaten 4-1 away, with Theo Walcott scoring a hat trick, and 5-1 at home. The campaign began with eight successive victories, this being England’s longest ever winning sequence in the World Cup. David Beckham featured in nine of the qualifying matches – with all but one of these appearances seeing him arrive from the substitutes’ bench – but an Achilles injury, sustained when playing for Milan in March 2010, prevented Beckham from becoming the first English player to participate in the finals of four World Cups. When they get to South Africa, England will meet the USA, Algeria, and Slovenia in the group stage, with this appearing to be a good draw. England lost against the USA in the only previous World Cup meeting between the teams, sixty years ago, but have won most of the encounters since then. England’s sole previous meeting with Slovenia was a 2-1 win in a friendly at Wembley, as recently as September 2009. Algeria will be new opponents for England, as the team from the home of football continue their World Cup odyssey.
The following is a full list of England’s matches in the World Cup:

15.10.1949 Cardiff Wales 4-1
16.11.1949 Manchester Northern Ireland 9-2
15.04.1950 Glasgow Scotland 1-0
25.06.1950 Rio de Janeiro Chile 2-0
29.06.1950 Belo Horizonte USA 0-1
02.07.1950 Rio de Janeiro Spain 0-1

10.10.1953 Cardiff Wales 4-1
11.11.1953 Liverpool Northern Ireland 3-1
03.04.1954 Glasgow Scotland 4-2
17.06.1954 Basle Belgium 4-4
20.06.1954 Berne Switzerland 2-0
26.06.1954 Basle Uruguay 2-4

05.12.1956 Wolverhampton Denmark 5-2
08.05.1957 Wembley Republic of Ireland 5-1
15.05.1957 Copenhagen Denmark 4-1
19.05.1957 Dublin Republic of Ireland 1-1
08.06.1958 Gothenburg Soviet Union 2-2
11.06.1958 Gothenburg Brazil 0-0
15.06.1958 Boras Austria 2-2
17.06.1958 Gothenburg Soviet Union 0-1

19.10.1960 Luxembourg Luxembourg 9-0
21.05.1961 Lisbon Portugal 1-1
28.09.1961 London Luxembourg 4-1
25.10.1961 Wembley Portugal 2-0
31.05.1962 Rancagua Hungary 1-2
02.06.1962 Rancagua Argentina 3-1
07.06.1962 Rancagua Bulgaria 0-0
10.06.1962 Vina del Mar Brazil 1-3

11.07.1966 Wembley Uruguay 0-0
16.07.1966 Wembley Mexico 2-0
20.07.1966 Wembley France 2-0
23.07.1966 Wembley Argentina 1-0
26.07.1966 Wembley Portugal 2-1
30.07.1966 Wembley West Germany 4-2

02.06.1970 Guadalajara Romania 1-0
07.06.1970 Guadalajara Brazil 0-1
11.06.1970 Guadalajara Czechoslovakia 1-0
14.06.1970 Leon West Germany 2-3

15.11.1972 Cardiff Wales 1-0
24.01.1973 Wembley Wales 1-1
06.06.1973 Katowice Poland 0-2
17.10.1973 Wembley Poland 1-1

13.06.1976 Helsinki Finland 4-1
13.10.1976 Wembley Finland 2-1
17.11.1976 Rome Italy 0-2
30.03.1977 Wembley Luxembourg 5-0
12.10.1977 Luxembourg Luxembourg 2-0
16.11.1977 Wembley Italy 2-0

10.09.1980 Wembley Norway 4-0
15.10.1980 Bucharest Romania 1-2
19.11.1980 Wembley Switzerland 2-1
29.04.1981 Wembley Romania 0-0
30.05.1981 Basle Switzerland 1-2
06.06.1981 Budapest Hungary 3-1
09.09.1981 Oslo Norway 1-2
18.11.1981 Wembley Hungary 1-0
16.06.1982 Bilbao France 3-1
20.06.1982 Bilbao Czechoslovakia 2-0
25.06.1982 Bilbao Kuwait 1-0
29.06.1982 Madrid West Germany 0-0
05.07.1982 Madrid Spain 0-0

17.10.1984 Wembley Finland 5-0
14.11.1984 Istanbul Turkey 8-0
27.02.1985 Belfast Northern Ireland 1-0
01.05.1985 Bucharest Romania 0-0
22.05.1985 Helsinki Finland 1-1
11.09.1985 Wembley Romania 1-1
16.10.1985 Wembley Turkey 5-0
13.11.1985 Wembley Northern Ireland 0-0
03.06.1986 Monterrey Portugal 0-1
06.06.1986 Monterrey Morocco 0-0
11.06.1986 Monterrey Poland 3-0
18.06.1986 Mexico City Paraguay 3-0
22.06.1986 Mexico City Argentina 1-2

19.10.1988 Wembley Sweden 0-0
08.03.1989 Tirana Albania 2-0
26.04.1989 Wembley Albania 5-0
03.06.1989 Wembley Poland 3-0
06.09.1989 Stockholm Sweden 0-0
11.10.1989 Katowice Poland 0-0
11.06.1990 Cagliari Republic of Ireland 1-1
16.06.1990 Cagliari Netherlands 0-0
21.06.1990 Cagliari Egypt 1-0
27.06.1990 Bologna Belgium 1-0
01.07.1990 Naples Cameroon 3-2
04.07.1990 Turin West Germany 1-1
West Germany won 4-3 on penalties
07.07.1990 Bari Italy 1-2

14.10.1992 Wembley Norway 1-1
18.11.1992 Wembley Turkey 4-0
31.03.1993 Izmir Turkey 2-0
28.04.1993 Wembley Netherlands 2-2
29.05.1993 Katowice Poland 1-1
02.06.1993 Oslo Norway 0-2
08.09.1993 Wembley Poland 3-0
13.10.1993 Rotterdam Netherlands 0-2
17.11.1993 Bologna San Marino 7-1

01.09.1996 Kishinev Moldova 3-0
09.10.1996 Wembley Poland 2-1
09.11.1996 Tbilisi Georgia 2-0
12.02.1997 Wembley Italy 0-1
30.04.1997 Wembley Georgia 2-0
31.05.1997 Katowice Poland 2-0
10.09.1997 Wembley Moldova 4-0
11.11.1997 Rome Italy 0-0
15.06.1998 Marseille Tunisia 2-0
22.06.1998 Toulouse Romania 1-2
26.06.1998 Lens Colombia 2-0
30.06.1998 St. Etienne Argentina 2-2
Argentina won 4-3 on penalties

07.10.2000 Wembley Germany 0-1
11.10.2000 Helsinki Finland 0-0
24.03.2001 Liverpool Finland 2-1
28.03.2001 Tirana Albania 3-1
06.06.2001 Athens Greece 2-0
01.09.2001 Munich Germany 5-1
05.09.2001 Newcastle Albania 2-0
06.10.2001 Manchester Greece 2-2
02.06.2002 Saitama Sweden 1-1
07.06.2002 Sapporo Argentina 1-0
12.06.2002 Osaka Nigeria 0-0
15.06.2002 Niigata Denmark 3-0
21.06.2002 Shizuoka Brazil 1-2

04.09.2004 Vienna Austria 2-2
08.09.2004 Katowice Poland 2-1
09.10.2004 Manchester Wales 2-0
13.10.2004 Baku Azerbaijan 1-0
26.03.2005 Manchester Northern Ireland 4-0
30.03.2005 Newcastle Azerbaijan 2-0
03.09.2005 Cardiff Wales 1-0
07.09.2005 Belfast Northern Ireland 0-1
08.10.2005 Manchester Austria 1-0
12.10.2005 Manchester Poland 2-1
10.06.2006 Frankfurt Paraguay 1-0
15.06.2006 Nuremberg Trinidad and Tobago 2-0
20.06.2006 Cologne Sweden 2-2
25.06.2006 Stuttgart Ecuador 1-0
01.07.2006 Gelsenkirchen Portugal 0-0
Portugal won 3-1 on penalties

06.09.2008 Barcelona Andorra 2-0
10.09.2008 Zagreb Croatia 4-1
11.10.2008 Wembley Kazakhstan 5-1
15.10.2008 Minsk Belarus 3-1
01.04.2009 Wembley Ukraine 2-1
06.06.2009 Almaty Kazakhstan 4-0
10.06.2009 Wembley Andorra 6-0
09.09.2009 Wembley Croatia 5-1
10.10.2009 Dnepropetrovsk Ukraine 0-1
14.10.2009 Wembley Belarus 3-0