James Lawton: Memory of Ramsey's night shows changing times

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The Independent Online

Strange to think that 39 years ago England played a friendly match here that not only meant something, it literally shaped the finest moment in the nation's football history.

Strange to think that 39 years ago England played a friendly match here that not only meant something, it literally shaped the finest moment in the nation's football history.

Alf Ramsey, who unlike Sven Goran Eriksson, believed that you could learn something significant and lasting from every match you played, unveiled his wingless wonders in a brilliant 2-0 victory. Afterwards, the Spanish coach said that on that showing, and in that formation, England could beat any team in the world.

So it proved... but only after Ramsey had given a last chance to a crop of wingers he ultimately decided weren't good enough to keep out Alan Ball and Martin Peters.

Here yesterday, the England captain, David Beckham, said that he looked forward to breaking Bobby Charlton's record haul of England caps. Earlier, he had said that he would probably retire from international football after the 2006 World Cup.

Bobby Moore, who was captain when England alerted the world all those years ago, would never have been so bold. In those days you played from match to match, and you waited for the manager's nod. Times change, of course, and so have England's prospects.

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