Pure Football, baby

En una época en que entrenadores como Mourinho son "reconocidos" en todo el mundo por su eficiencia-eficacia, los resultados pues, dirían algunos; es verdaderamente en bálsamo recordar a ese grupo de "soñadores" que poco a poco se retiran, esos que simplemente apostaban al Balompié Puro (Pure Football).
Greenwood, England’s high priest of pure football

David Lacey
Friday February 10, 2006
The Guardian

Ron Greenwood, who has died at 84, represented everything that football could be but has infrequently achieved. Throughout his career, as player, coach and manager, he strove to emphasise the game’s aesthetic qualities and became disillusioned when the need to win forced teams to compromise those beliefs.

And they were beliefs, not ideals, as he frequently replied when people described him as an idealist. Either way Greenwood wasted no time putting his philosophy on record when his autobiography was published in 1984, two years after he had ended a five-year tenure as England manager by taking the team unbeaten through the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

"At its best, the game is a joy," he wrote, "a battle of wit and muscle and character. It involves and inspires. It is always different and endlessly fascinating." Then the frustration. "That is the way football should be but sadly, shamefully, our professional game is slowly being ruined. It is being mutilated as a spectacle by impatient directors, accountants with acid in their pens, frightened managers, poor coaches and dull theorists.

"The spirit is wrong and it hurts me. I spent my whole career as a manager trying to stop this devaluation of the game. I cared more about the purity and finer values of football than I did about winning for winning’s sake – and if that is a sin then I am a sinner. Football should be about taking risks."

In the modern context, Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal would have appealed more to Greenwood than Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. During his 13 years as manager at West Ham, where he continued as general manager until taking over England in 1977, Greenwood fielded teams that, as he put it, were prepared to gamble. "We gambled with intelligence and skill," he explained, "otherwise we would have been committing suicide, but I wanted to see pleasure on the pitch and pleasure on the terraces."

In the early to mid-60s Upton Park had much to enjoy as Greenwood’s West Ham won the FA Cup and then the European Cup-Winners’ Cup. England went into the 1966 World Cup led by Bobby Moore with the emerging Martin Peters in midfield to be joined, crucially, by Geoff Hurst from the quarter-finals. Alf Ramsey’s tactics, in particular his dispensing with wingers, might not have met with Greenwood’s approval but the good habits Moore, Peters and Hurst had learned at Upton Park were crucial to England’s triumph.

When Greenwood succeeded Don Revie as a caretaker manager England were on the point of failing to qualify for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina and some of the press wanted the Football Association to give Brian Clough the job forthwith. But after Greenwood’s side roundly beat Italy 2-0 in the final, abortive, qualifier, with Steve Coppell and Peter Barnes on the flanks and reviving a moribund squad, the FA gave him the post full-time.

By 1979, Greenwood’s side were playing some of the best football ever seen from England before or since. Kevin Keegan, Trevor Brooking, Tony Woodcock, Trevor Francis, Ray Wilkins and Coppell epitomised Greenwood’s belief that the game should involve "lively minds in lively bodies". They qualified for the 1980 European Championship in Italy but went without the injured Francis and saw their opening game, a 1-1 draw with Belgium in Turin, disrupted by rioting fans and teargas. "I wish they would all be put on a boat and dropped in the ocean," Greenwood despaired. England were then eliminated 1-0 by the hosts.

The path to the 1982 World Cup in Spain proved hazardous and there came a moment when Greenwood, sickened by press reaction to a 2-1 defeat by Switzerland in Basle which seriously threatened England’s chances of qualifying, wanted to resign there and then. It took what Greenwood later described as "a heated emotional appeal by the England players" on the flight home to change his mind. "I was hurt and I had a feeling of shame," he recalled, "I could sense people looking at me as if I had committed some crime".

England won 3-1 in Hungary a week later and in spite of losing 2-1 in Norway still reached Spain, only for Greenwood to suffer more bad luck with injuries. These denied him the services of Brooking and Keegan until both came off the bench in what turned out to be his last match as national manager, the 0-0 draw with the hosts in Madrid which England needed to win by two goals to reach the semi-finals.

Greenwood had created what he hoped would be a dynasty of national managers by bringing Bobby Robson, Dave Sexton, Terry Venables and, albeit briefly, Clough into the England set-up. But while Robson and Venables later took over the squad, each reaching the last four of a major tournament, the dynastic idea was ignored once Greenwood had gone.

Greenwood’s mentor was Walter Winterbottom, the FA director of coaching who ran the England team before Ramsey, while his inspiration was the Hungarian side that won 6-3 at Wembley in 1953. "I sometimes think I have a little insight into how Paul felt on the road to Damascus," he reflected. "It was as if someone had removed the scales from my eyes. All my basic ideas . . . suddenly came together."

Greenwood never stopped trying to put those ideas into practice and English football was all the better for it.

· You’ve read the piece, now have your say. Email your comments to football.editor@guardianunlimited.co.uk.

Ron Greenwood

West Ham and England football manager who believed more in skill than results

Brian Glanville
Friday February 10, 2006
The Guardian

When Ron Greenwood, who has died aged 84, worked as a teenager on the ground staff at Wembley stadium before the second world war, he could hardly have expected to return there as England’s team manager. But he did. In 1977, when Don Revie abruptly deserted the position, the Oxford don Sir Harold Thompson, looking for an equivalent of the white hen that never laid a stray egg, turned to the retired Greenwood, who then stayed in the post until 1982.

Before that, Greenwood had been, from 1961 to 1977, manager, coach and general manager of West Ham United. There were FA cups in 1964 and 1975, and the European cup winners’ cup in 1965, when West Ham beat Munich 1860. Under Greenwood’s shrewd, perfectionist rule, West Ham became the crucible of skillful football. It was an irony that he probably did more for the England team that won the 1966 World Cup by helping the development of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters than he did as manager in the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

Though born in Burnley, Greenwood grew up and was educated in Alperton, north-west London. He showed precocious footballing promise, playing inside-left for the district school side when he was only eight. He became an apprentice signwriter in 1937, but his skill in minor football circles in the Wembley area was spotted, and in 1940 he was signed by Chelsea, the club with which he would, in the 1954-55 season, win a league championship medal.

But also in 1940, war saw him begin five years in the RAF. In December 1945, Chelsea pocketed a large fee when they sold Greenwood, by now a solidly built, strong tackling centre-half, to the second division Bradford Park Avenue, where he was captain. In the 1948-49 season Bradford themselves got a substantial sum by transferring him to Brentford, for whom he played more than 300 matches.

Chelsea bought him back in 1952, and in the 1954-55 season he made 21 appearances, half the total, in an era when they won what would, until the 21st century, be their only championship. Early in 1955 Greenwood moved to Fulham, where he ended an honourable, if not exceptional, playing career.

He had long been interested in coaching, held a full FA coaching badge, and coached the Oxford University football team for three years, which would be a crucial factor when he became England manager – largely because Thompson, the dominating figure in Oxford football, had become equally powerful in the counsels of the FA. In the mid-1950s, Greenwood coached the Arsenal team – he was assistant manager in 1958 under George Swindin, though their philosophies were very different. Greenwood was essentially a purist who believed in the arts and skills of the game. He was also an idealist – which accounted largely for his later resignation as West Ham’s team manager. He was distressed by the way the professional game was going.

He had a spell managing amateur Eastbourne United and the England youth team, but the watershed of his career came when he was appointed manager of West Ham. "The crowds at West Ham haven’t been rewarded by results," he observed in 1977, "but they keep turning up because of the good football they see. Other clubs will suffer from the old bugbear that results count more than anything. This has been the ruination of English soccer." But, of course, under Greenwood’s aegis, West Ham had their triumphs.

Moore, Hurst and Peters all owed much to him. Moore was initially a centre-back, not especially strong in the air and certainly not quick. When Greenwood transformed him into a second stopper, playing on the left of the centre-half, he emerged as an outstanding defender, a regular England player at 21 and outstanding captain in the 1966 and 1970 World Cup tournaments.

Of Peters, who came into the England team during the 1966 tournament, Greenwood said he was 10 years ahead of his time. Hurst was a workaday wing-half whom Greenwood almost transferred to Southend United. Then he changed his mind, turned him into a striker, and Hurst went on to score a hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final.

Always didactic, Greenwood liked to give small, selective press conferences after West Ham’s home games. He emphasised what he called "good habits" – the ones that benefited not only the World Cup three, but successors like Trevor Brooking.

Whether it was wise to make Greenwood the England manager is a moot point. He seemed to have retired not only in body but in spirit, disillusioned with the game and curiously unfaithful to his proteges – never so much as when he left Brooking out of a Wembley international, preferring a clutch of less gifted Liverpool players. Later, after the hugely talented Glenn Hoddle crowned a fine debut for England against Bulgaria with a spectacular goal, Greenwood dropped him with the remark that "disappointment is part of football". By contrast, he seemed over-indulgent to a Kevin Keegan plainly no longer the force he once was.

Greenwood memorably remarked in 1978 that "football is a simple game. The hard part is making it look simple." His autobiography, Yours Sincerely, appeared in 1984. He is survived by his wife Lucy and his son and daughter.

· Ronald Greenwood, football manager, born November 11 1921; died February 9 2006

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