Hubbard's Cupboard: Englishman who guided Sweden to football gold
Saturday 11 August 2012
With so many golden goals being scored elsewhere, tonight's football final between Brazil and Mexico has been somewhat overshadowed, but the tournament of 1948 turned out to be one of the highlights of those London Games.
Lord Coe originally approached Sir Alex Ferguson to manage the 2012 GB football team but the Manchester United boss declined. However, in 1948 one of his equally illustrious predecessors had no such qualms, Sir Matt Busby taking charge of a squad which included several Scottish players, among them goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson, later to be one of Celtic's Lisbon Lions, the first British team to win the European Cup in 1967.
One of Simpson's Olympic team-mates, Angus Carmichael, then of Queens Park, recalls: "Sir Matt was a nice guy but we didn't have any tactics as such. He just told us to go out and play our normal game."
That did not prove good enough. Britain struggled past the Netherlands and France before being eliminated by Yugoslavia.
But there was success for another British manager. George Raynor, a miner's son from Barnsley who had been a journeyman player and reserve team trainer at Aldershot. He guided the Swedish team to a 3-1 victory over Yugoslavia in the Wembley final, demolishing Korea 12-0 on the way.
Sweden featured three brothers, Bertil, Gunnar and Knut Nordahl. The most famous was Gunnar, then a fireman, who later played for Milan. He was involved in one of the most bizarre goals of all time in the semi-final against Denmark.
The centre-forward, he had stayed upfield as the Danes attacked. Realising he was going to be offside as his team counter-attacked he quick-wittedly leapt into the Danish goal to remove himself from the field and, inside the goal, he caught the scoring header of his team-mate. Like Busby and Ferguson, Raynor was knighted – although in his case by the King of Sweden.
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