Football: Captain Wright recalls the shame of 1950

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

Billy Wright had seen it all before. 'I know how they'll be feeling,' the 69-year-old former England captain said. 'They'll be trying to shrink and hide in their shoes - just like we did.'

Wright, the Wolverhampton Wanderers stalwart who led England in their other humiliating defeat by the United States, at the 1950 World Cup in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, did not enjoy watching Wednesday's farce in Foxborough on television at his north London home.

However, Wright, who won 105 caps for his country, did offer some comfort to Graham Taylor, the beleaguered England manager. 'It might not be much comfort for him, but I can tell him it wasn't as big a disaster as when we lost to the United States,' Wright said.

'It was the worst moment of my career. We utterly dominated, hit the woodwork about 11 times, and still lost 1-0.

'When we played the Americans, they were nowhere near as well-organised and professional as today. So many sides are technically well-equipped that the playing field is levelling off around the world.

'The thing about Wednesday's game is that when they scored, I couldn't see us getting back into it. They played well and deserved to win,' Wright added. 'It may not have been a disaster on the scale of 1950, but to lose to the United States is still a disaster. It's one of the lowest points we've ever reached.'

Wright was not impressed with some of his successors in an England shirt. 'Some of our players did seem to be going through the motions a bit,' he said. 'Barnes has so much ability but he was never in it. The real question is whether we should have been playing this match at all. We play too much football and this trip was the last thing the players needed after a long, hard season.

Wright went on to play in two England sides who thrashed the Americans. 'Some of the players may be thinking it's the end of the world, but we've seen it before,' he added. 'My message to them would be to forget it all, roll their sleeves up another three inches, fight to get back their national pride and think about the World Cup. We can still do it.'

Roy Bentley, the former Chelsea forward who wore England's No9 shirt in Belo Horizonte, said that the England players must carry a lot of the blame for this latest defeat.

'It's not the losing that hurt as much as the way we lost, and the players have a lot to answer for,' Bentley said. 'While you don't have to be a former international to manage the England side, it does help because you know what the players are going through when you hit a rough patch.

'England's problems are deep-rooted in the long ball game, and while you can produce statistics that show it is effective, the simple truth is that world football has progressed and we are left behind.

'What we need is one governing body for football in England and a smaller Premier League, so that the national team can spend more time preparing for matches.'