Wales 4-1 England | Mike England’s memories of the day

mike oa
Sion Richards

Sion Richards

Friday, 15 May 2020, 18:10

Dylan Ebenezer talks to the former Wales manager about the famous 4-1 victory over England in his first game in charge of Wales back in May 17, 1980.

Wales 4-1 England | Dylan Ebenezer’s blog
This was the perfect afternoon. A bright sunny day, cool kits and The Racecourse bathed in stunning sunshine.

Forty years have passed but the glorious images are as dramatic as ever.

This game is part of Welsh football folklore – it’s up there with our greatest results.

This was also Mike England’s first game as manager. England smashing England. What a way to start.

I managed to grab an interview with Mike recently – both of us were struggling with the technology but we managed to record something in lockdown. It was a joy to talk with him.

I wasn’t at his first game – but I was at most of the other home games over the next few years.

I was at The Racecourse when Wales beat England (again) in 1984. Mark Hughes scoring the only goal on his debut. And imagine being a 9 year old child watching Sparky smashing that volley in the 3-0 win against Spain a year later. I still can’t quite believe what I saw.

Ian Rush scored twice in that game – one of the new generation of heroes that came through during Mike England’s early years. Rush, Hughes, Kevin Ratcliffe and Big Nev Southall. We were blessed with a few world class stars.

England was in charge for nearly eight years – making him one of the longest serving Welsh managers. And they were some of the cruelest years for the national side.

If there was a prize for glorious failure the FAW trophy cabinet would be bursting at the seams in the 80’s.

The team very nearly reached four tournaments in a row – the World Cup in 1982 and 86 – and Euro 84 and 88.

For every amazing result against England and Spain there are cruel memories of costly draws.

I was at Vetch in ‘81 when the floodlight s failed against Iceland – and of course, Scotland at Ninian Park in ‘85.

A win would have sent Wales to the ‘86 World Cup – Mexico and Maradona were waiting. With seven minutes to go they were ahead thanks to another goal by Mark Hughes. But suddenly the ball hit Dave Phillips’ arm – the ref pointed to the spot and the dream was over. Again…

A bigger tragedy was unfolding at the side of the pitch. The legendary Scotland manager, Jock Stein suffered a heart attack. He died on the way to hospital.

Despite a few very sad memories it was great to speak to Mike. He’s 78 but is still full of life and full of stories.

As a player he was considered one of the finest centre backs of his generation. He captained Wales and is a Tottenham legend. He also enjoyed an American adventure, playing with and against some of the biggest names in the game.

John Charles and Ivor Allchurch were in the team when he first played for Wales. At Spurs he played with Pat Jennings, Jimmy Greaves and Alan Gilzean, winning the FA Cup, UEFA Cup and the League Cup twice.

He played against Riva, Gerd Muller and of course, Pele.

His last game was in Pele’s last competitive match for The New York Cosmos. Leaving the stage in style…

The stories are never ending.

It was an absolute pleasure speaking to him.

Thanks for the chat, Mike. And thanks for the memories.