Wednesday, May 10, 2006

World Cup nostalgia from Wales

I grew up in Wrexham, north Wales, something of a footballing backwater. The two teams I supported then, and still do now, are Wrexham and Wales.

Recently a colleague has loaned me a copy of 'When Pele broke our hearts - Wales & the 1958 World Cup' by Mario Risoli. This book is an enlightening read in an age when many footballers are paid tens of thousands of pounds a week.

Here's a taster.

May 1957 and Wales face two World Cup qualifying games behind the Iron Curtain, East Germany in Leipzig and then Czechoslovakia in Prague seven days later. On the flight out the non-playing staff outnumber the players 13-12.

After defeat in Gemany, Wales are forced to call for replacements. One player targeted is Sunderland centre half Ray Daniel. At the time Daniel was on holiday in Swansea; he contacts Sunderland and asks them to send his boots to London. Sunderland send him a brand new pair of boots; this proves to be a bit of a problem.

Quoting another squad member...
"The boots in those days were thick and heavy-leathered with hard toes and knock-in studs.
It would take you about 12 months to break them in. They were very, very uncomfortable. We would put them in soapy water to soften them up and then stuff them with brown paper so they would fill out."

Daniel was in agony in his new boots, so much so that for the last 10-15 minutes of the match he took them off and played in just his socks.

Tell me, where did it all go wrong?

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