Football: Bearing the burden of national expectation: As the nation awaits a bold new era, Ken Jones looks back at some mixed starts for past England managers

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SEEN down the perspective of almost 50 years, few appointments in sport carry such an overwhelming sense of responsibility as being placed in charge of the England football team.

If Terry Venables is coach where his predecessors were managers, there is nothing titular about it. The burden of expectation is his entirely. 'Too much credit, too much of the blame,' was Sir Alf Ramsey's rueful conclusion towards the end of a momentous reign.

Despite the ludicrous clamour of anticipation raised on television, and by patriots in the employ of popular newspapers, miraculous transformation will not be on the agenda at Wembley tonight. Moving quickly from one discreet utterance to another, Venables has prepared the ground astutely. It is not merely victory that he seeks but a clearly defined purpose reflecting his confident personality. From that, the future can be shaped.

There are no blindingly obvious similarities between the position of Venables and that of Walter Winterbottom in 1946 when he was appointed as England's first manager. The future as Winterbottom and his patron, Sir Stanley Rous, saw it incorporated principles that were anathema to many in English football. Thus Winterbottom received scant credit when he kicked off his career with a 7-2 victory over Northern Ireland in Belfast. What did England need with coaching, especially from an academic, even one who had turned out for Manchester United, when they could call on such notables as Tommy Lawton, Wilf Mannion, Raich Carter, Tom Finney, Billy Wright and Frank Swift?

Having obtained his instruction bluntly on the field of play, a famed manager of the day, Billy Walker, said: 'In my opinion, planned coaching, like any other form of control, gets into a bureaucratic state which not only continues its mistakes, but tends to increase them.'

Hamstrung by an autocratic selection committee, seldom able to put out the team he wanted, Winterbottom presided over two morale-shattering defeats by Hungary, but reached the finals of four World Cups before resigning in 1962 to be succeeded by Alf Ramsey.

Considering his natural reticence and that he barely knew us, it is astonishing to recall that Ramsey gave out his first England team to three second-string football writers in a car when being ferried from the Football Association offices in Lancaster Gate to a London railway terminal. 'As a manager I have no experience of international football, so I shall have to learn quickly,' he said.

On reflection, the incident revealed more about Ramsey than inexperience allowed us to understand. Probably he was emphasising the independence gained from dismantling the long-established procedures Winterbottom was prepared to tolerate.

However, the first lesson provided Ramsey with plenty to think about. Taking up where his predecessor had left off, employing two wingers, Bobby Charlton and John Connelly, and with only minor concessions to security in midfield, he began with a 5-2 defeat against France in Paris on 27 February 1963 that put paid to England's interest in what was then the Nations' Cup, latterly the European Championship. Of those who turned out for England that night, including Jimmy Greaves, only two - Charlton and Bobby Moore - would appear in the World Cup final against West Germany three years later.

Not that the die was cast. Persisting with the formation inherited from his predecessor, Ramsey lost again, this time 2-1 against Scotland at Wembley, before England drew there, 1-1, against Brazil. It wasn't until December 1965 that a 2-0 victory in Madrid established the wingless system, 4-3-3 eventually turning to 4-4-2, that became the totem of his achievement.

When Ramsey fell victim to the antagonism he aroused among senior officials, Don Revie appeared to be the ideal appointment after England enjoyed a relaxed interlude under Joe Mercer's temporary stewardship. A gifted international, Revie had elevated Leeds United to a position of power in European football, so much was expected of him.

On 30 October 1974, England defeated Czechoslovakia 3-0 at Wembley, an auspicious start for their new manager. It didn't last. Disillusioned by impending failure to qualify for the 1978 World Cup finals, unwilling to risk the wrath of his employers, Revie resigned in scandalous circumstances, secretly taking up a coaching appointment in the United Arab Emirates. Seeking to restore respect, the Football Association turned belatedly to Ron Greenwood, whose impeccable credentials had been shamefully ignored, probably on the basis of his association with Winterbottom's ideals.

It was more than 10 years since Greenwood had won the European Cup-Winners' Cup with West Ham, who defeated Munich 1860 at Wembley in one of the most attractive finals on record, but his knowledge of the game was unsurpassed.

Calling upon seven Liverpool players for his first match, Greenwood had to be content with a 0-0 draw against Switzerland at Wembley. World Cup victories over Luxembourg and Italy quickly followed, but they were not enough to get England through to the 1978 finals in Argentina.

After reaching the quarter-finals in Spain four years later, Greenwood gave way to Bobby Robson, who, in common with Ramsey, had built a reputation at Ipswich.

Immediately, Robson found himself in a difficult match, away to Denmark with European Championship points at stake. The foreboding Robson felt after a 2-2 draw was borne out when England failed to qualify for the finals, his first major setback. By the time Robson came within a penalty shoot-out of taking England into the 1990 World Cup final, his successor was waiting in the wings. Whatever the outcome in Italy, the Football Association wanted Graham Taylor.

The only England manager other than Winterbottom not to have played internationally, Taylor began with a 1-0 victory over Hungary at Wembley, but by last summer his had proved to be a disastrous appointment.

ENGLAND MANAGERS' FIRST NIGHTS

WALTER WINTERBOTTOM

(v Northern Ireland, Belfast, 28 September, 1946): Swift (Manchester City); Scott (Arsenal), Hardwick (Middlesbrough), Wright (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Franklin (Stoke City), Cockburn (Manchester United), Finney (Preston North End), Carter (Derby County), Lawton (Chelsea), Mannion (Middlesbrough), Langton (Blackburn Rovers). Won 7-2 (Carter, Mannion 3, Finney, Lawton, Langton).

SIR ALF RAMSEY

(v France, Paris, 27 February, 1963): R Springett; (Sheffield Wednesday), Armfield (Blackpool), Henry (Tottenham Hotspur), Moore (West Ham United), Labone (Everton), Flowers (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Connelly (Burnley), Tambling (Chelsea), Smith (Tottenham Hotspur), Greaves (Tottenham Hotspur), Charlton (Manchester United). Lost 5-2 (Smith, Tambling).

DON REVIE

(v Czechoslovakia, Wembley, 30 October, 1974): Clemence (Liverpool); Madeley (Leeds United), Watson (Sunderland), Hunter (Leeds United), Hughes (Liverpool), Dobson (Everton), Bell (Manchester City), Francis (Queen's Park Rangers), Channon (Southampton), Worthington (Leicester City), Keegan (Liverpool). Subs: Brooking (West Ham United) for Dobson; Thomas (Queen's Park Rangers) for Worthington. Won 3-0 (Channon, Bell 2).

RON GREENWOOD

(v Switzerland, Wembley, 7 September 1977): Clemence (Liverpool); Neal (Liverpool), Cherry (Leeds United), McDermott (Liverpool), Watson (Manchester City), Hughes (Liverpool), Keegan (Hamburg), Channon (Manchester City), Francis (Birmingham City), Kennedy (Liverpool), Callaghan (Liverpool). Subs: Hill (Manchester United) for Channon; Wilkins (Chelsea) for Callaghan. Drew 0-0.

BOBBY ROBSON

(v Denmark, Copenhagen, 22 September, 1982): Shilton (Southampton); Neal (Liverpool), Sansom (Arsenal), Wilkins (Manchester United), Osman (Ipswich Town), Butcher (Ipswich Town), Morley (Aston Villa), Robson (Manchester United), Mariner (Ipswich Town), Francis (Sampdoria), Rix (Arsenal). Sub: Hill (Luton Town) for Morley. Drew 2-2 (Francis 2).

GRAHAM TAYLOR

(v Hungary, Wembley, 12 September, 1990): Woods (Rangers); Dixon (Arsenal), Pearce (Nottingham Forest), Parker (Queen's Park Rangers), Walker (Nottingham Forest), Wright (Derby County), Platt (Aston Villa), Gascoigne (Tottenham Hotspur), Bull (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Lineker (Tottenham Hotspur), Barnes (Liverpool). Subs: Dorigo (Chelsea) for Pearce; Waddle (Marseille) for Bull. Won 1-0 (Lineker).

(Photograph omitted)

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