By Mark Rasdall
I wrote a piece about Greg Dyke, Chairman of the Football Association, in my blog on thefootballground (http://www.thefootballground.com/2013/09/05/greg-dyke-or-john-the-baptist/) this afternoon. Greg has expressed aspirations for England to win the World Cup in Qatar in 2022. Although this fits into a rather neat 10-year plan, which Greg is unlikely to see the end of, I fear he will also not see the end result he appears to desire. All the same, Leeds United supporters like myself will be missing watching our club this weekend as a result of the 'international break.' We will instead be facing up to two crucial World Cup qualifiers on Friday and next Tuesday. Greg obviously thinks we have no chance of winning next year's World Cup in Brazil citing the fact that no European team have ever won the trophy in South America - not even Germany, on penalties... all the same I shall be getting behind all of the 'home' nations as I always do.
Football fans of my generation will remember some great World Cup games of the past, not all with the results our countries expected: England losing in Poland and at Wembley in 1973; Scotland beating Wales to qualify for the Mexico World Cup in 1986, only for the result being soured almost immediately by the untimely death of Jock Stein; the Republic of Ireland in Italia '90 including that penalty from David O'Leary and, of course, Northern Ireland in Spain in 1982.
I was always looking out at the international games through a Leeds United lense of course. I remember a thunderbolt from Norman Hunter against Wales in the 1974 qualifying campaign as well as his Wembley mistake and then Allan Clarke's penalty. I remember Peter Lorimer and Billy Bremner playing for Scotland in 1974 in Germany - especially a famous 0.0 against Brazil. Further back, Terry Cooper playing fantastically for England during that best of all World Cup tournaments in Brazil in 1970 and Big Jack holding England's defence together with brother Bobby in 1966 - which is pretty much when I first entered this fantastic world of football we all inhabit.
More recently I was thinking of some of our great midfield players such as Brian Flynn playing for Wales and Robert Snodgrass for Scotland. Currently Ross McCormack is on Gordon Strachan's (remember him and smile) Scotland radar and, of course, Rudy treks over to Jamaica and back. Similarly, who could forget Lucas Radebe's contribution as South African captain or Gary Speed's performances for Wales. There are many, many more and these are just some of the players and match memories that instantly came into my mind.
The memories do come flooding back, don't they? I always dreaded LUFC players coming back injured as, selfishly I know, even from a very young age, Leeds United meant the world to me (not the more appropriately titled World Cup) and club always came before country.
I suppose that's why Greg Dyke is now addressing the 'problem' in that club football dominates our countries these days to the detriment of our national teams and the development of young, home-grown players for club as well as country. I was thrilled at Sam Byram and Tom Lees being called up for England as I always am when any Leeds United player gets international recognition. For me, watching players like Dawson and Mowatt first making basecamp at Leeds before going on to attempt the international peaks, will hopefully make these weekend breaks all the more worthwhile