This article has also been published in issue 29 of International Wales magazine (https://international.wales)
Every Group in the World Cup has its own unique issues and difficulties, and Group B is no exception. Harmless little Cymru will come up against a repressive, autocratic, crypto-fascist dictatorship and a militaristic, imperialistic, uber-capitalist planet-wrecker…and must also play Iran and the USA!
The record against the three Group B opponents is as follows:
Win Draw Loss
H = home
A = away
N = neutral
Cymru score shown first
Birth/death years of the deceased are given in brackets after their first mention
1 1978 A (Aryamehr Stadium, Tehran) W 1-0
This friendly was part of Iran’s preparation for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, the first time they had ever qualified (Qatar 2022 will be their 6th appearance at the tournament). There were 60,000 in the ground (renamed the Azadi Stadium in 1979 after the Iranian Revolution later in 1978) to see Cardiff City legend Phil Dwyer (1953-2021) score the winner in the 71st minute. Dwyer, who still holds the club’s all-time appearance record, was usually a defender but both City and Wales used him now and then as a bulldozing striker.
1 2003 A (Spartan Stadium, San José) L 0-2
Manager Mark Hughes took a party of reserves and fledglings on a jaunt to California to play this friendly. Only 12,000 turned up, including a handful of Welsh expats who endured an x-certificate performance that included the dismissal of young Leicester City midfielder Matthew Jones from Llanelli. He was never capped again.
2 2020 H (Liberty Stadium, Swansea) D 0-0
Little more than a work-out, this bore-draw is only noteworthy as Rob Page’s first match in charge following the standing down of Ryan Giggs.
1 1879 A (Kennington Oval, London) L 1-2
To begin at the beginning…It was nearly a case of ‘Snow Stopped Play’ at the Surrey cricket ground, where a thick blanket of snow made conditions so bad it was agreed to play two halves of just 30 minutes each. With the score 2-0 to England, William Davies (1855-1916) of Oswestry scored Wales’ first international goal (following three goalless defeats against Scotland) but England held on in front of an estimated 200 spectators – the smallest crowd ever to attend the fixture.
2 1880 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) L 2-3
Wales went 3-0 down but then fought back with two late goals, ultimately to no avail, after an injury reduced England to 10 men.
3 1881 A (Alexandra Meadows, Blackburn) W 1-0
A thoroughly deserved first ever win over England (and a first win against any opponent) was clinched by an opportunist strike from Druids winger Jackie Vaughan (1856-1935). Alexandra Meadows, a cricket ground briefly shared by Blackburn Rovers that still exists today, was packed with over 4,000 loud Lancastrians who did not take this defeat at all well.
4 1882 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) W 5-3
In a sensational match full of incident and controversy, Wales came from 3-1 behind to grab a stunning victory with two goals in the last three minutes in front of 5,000 at the Racecourse. Forward William Owen (1860-1937) of Ruthin became the first Welshman to score two goals in a match. The shellshocked English behaved like bad losers, while Welsh supporters were ecstatic. Little did anyone know it, but it would be 38 years before Wales would beat England again, 54 years before Wales would next get two consecutive wins over them – and never again would the head-to-head record stand at parity.
5 1883 A (Kennington Oval, London) L 0-5
Gallant Wales struggled manfully to stem the tide of English attacks but were overwhelmed, Clement Mitchell (1862-1937) of Upton Park scoring the fixture’s first hat-trick.
6 1884 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) L 0-4
Captain Jack Powell (1860-1947), just transferred to Bolton Wanderers from Druids, marshalled the Welsh defence magnificently, but understrength Wales eventually crumbled under the pressure.
7 1885 A (Leamington Street, Blackburn) D 1-1
The first draw took place at what was Blackburn Rovers’ home between 1881 and 1890 when the club moved to Ewood Park (no traces of the ground remain today; it was built over with terraced streets). Wales, weakened by Bolton refusing to release three top players, had brave, agile goalie Robert Mills-Roberts (1862-1935) to thank for an exciting, hard-earned draw.
8 1886 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) L 1-3
Bangor City winger Billy Lewis (1864-1935), whose 27 caps between 1885 and 1898 was the Welsh record until it was overhauled in 1908 by Billy Meredith (1874-1958), scored a cracker to put Wales 1-0 up at half-time, but England’s superior fitness told and they scored three times in the last 15 minutes.
9 1887 A (Kennington Oval, London) L 0-4
England, aggressive and superior in every department, peppered the Welsh goal with shots and could have won by a lot more. Wales never again played at the Oval, still Surrey’s cricket ground and an England test venue to this day.
10 1888 H (Alexandra Recreation Ground, Crewe) L 1-5
Hoping for a bigger pay-day to help compete with richer rivals England and Scotland, the FAW surrendered home advantage and switched the match 15 miles over the border to what was then Crewe Alexandra’s ground in Cheshire (the site is now an office block just north of the club’s Gresty Road ground). The 7,000+ crowd cheered England on and Wales duly got walloped in another second-half collapse.
11 1889 A (Victoria Ground, Stoke-on-Trent) L 1-4
League football was up and running in England and purpose-built soccer grounds were being developed across the country. The home of EFL founder member Stoke since 1878 was one of the best – this was the first of three internationals it would host – and a raucous Potteries’ crowd approaching 10,000 roared England to victory despite Wales taking an early lead and performing with considerable skill and determination.
12 1890 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) L 1-3
Wales were the better side for long periods and were 1-0 ahead at half-time. It didn’t last; the makeshift Welsh defence, handicapped by the refusal of English clubs to release players, shipped three quick goals in a second half repeatedly interrupted by crowd incursions.
13 1891 A (Newcastle Road, Sunderland) L 1-4
Sunderland’s ground between 1886 and 1898, when the club moved to Roker Park and housing covered the site, only hosted this solitary international match. England, by now a professional operation, swept brave but outclassed Wales aside in front of 15,000 caterwauling Wearsiders, a new record crowd for the fixture.
14 1892 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) L 0-2
A record Racecourse crowd of 6,000 did their utmost to urge Wales to victory, but yet again it was a defeat. Wales could not make their domination count whereas an experimental England eleven made the most of a couple of half-chances.
15 1893 A (Victoria Ground, Stoke-on-Trent) L 0-6
The Welsh selection committee picked five amateur debutants against an all-professional, full-strength England and the outcome was Wales’ heaviest defeat yet in the fixture, featuring a brilliant hat-trick from Fred Spiksley (1870-1948) of The Wednesday. Wales have never played at Stoke since. After Stoke City relocated in 1997, housing was eventually built on the Victoria Ground.
16 1894 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) L 1-5
England, with trademark arrogance, fielded an all-amateur side that conceded a surprise early goal before strolling to a 9th consecutive win over Wales – the all-time record to this day.
17 1895 A (Queen’s Club, London) D 1-1
England picked a team entirely drawn from the famous amateur side Corinthians and were partially punished for their contempt as untiring Wales battled to a draw to end the sequence of defeats. It actually should have been a win in the only soccer international ever played at the private sports club in West Kensington, but Wales fatally lost concentration soon after taking the lead through a Billy Lewis special.
18 1896 H (Arms Park, Cardiff) L 1-9
10,000 witnessed what is still Wales’ worst defeat to England, worst ever home defeat and second worst defeat of all time (only exceeded by the 9-0 loss in Glasgow 18 years previously). At the time this was England’s joint 3rd biggest win, today it is their joint 9th. Not an auspicious start to the FAW’s optimistic first attempt to spread the sport to southern Wales! Derby County’s destroying angel Steve Bloomer (1874-1938) scored five; his total of 12 goals against Wales remains the English record for the most goals against a single opponent. Let’s move on.
19 1897 A (Bramall Lane, Sheffield) L 0-4
A meagre crowd of only 5,000 bothered to turn up for Wales’ first and last match at Bramall Lane, the 3rd international of five in total played at what was then a three-sided ground Sheffield United shared with Yorkshire County Cricket Club. England sauntered to victory, despite being down to 10 men for the entire second-half.
20 1898 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) L 0-3
Young Billy Meredith, transferred from Chirk via Northwich Victoria to Manchester City in 1894, was increasingly standing out as a wizard on the wing, but he alone could make no difference to the ceaseless litany of disappointments.
21 1899 A (Ashton Gate, Bristol) L 0-4
At this juncture England were using their annual games against both Wales and Ireland in the Home International Championship as little more than trials for the ‘big one’ against Scotland. The first international ever played in Bristol took place at what was Bedminster’s ground from 1896 until Bristol City took over the site in 1904. 10,000 Bristolians enjoyed a leisurely win in which Wales huffed and puffed and England barely broke sweat.
22 1900 H (Arms Park, Cardiff) D 1-1
The 20,000 Welsh fans stuffed into the Arms Park – a record attendance for the fixture and the largest crowd yet at a football match in Wales – must have feared a repeat of 1896 when England went ahead after just four minutes. But Welsh passion and pride came to the fore at last and when Meredith scored a superb equaliser in the 55th minute the roar rumbled and ricocheted from Tiger Bay to the Wenallt and back.
23 1901 A (St James’ Park, Newcastle) L 0-6
It was back to the drawing board after this thrashing on a saturated mud-heap at another new venue for Wales. In truth England were flattered by the final score, which featured England’s first ever penalty, scored by captain Ernest Needham (1873-1936) of Sheffield United, and another Steve Bloomer goal feast – this time he got four.
24 1902 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) D 0-0
Following ground improvements that rotated the pitch on its axis to face east-west rather than north-south, the Racecourse attendance record rose to 10,000 for this thriller. Wales looked the better side throughout, Meredith tormented England, charismatic goalie Leigh Roose (1877-1916) spectacularly saved another Needham penalty (the first ever missed by England), England failed to score for the first time in 52 matches, and the result was the first of the seven goalless draws to date.
25 1903 A (Fratton Park, Portsmouth) L 1-2
Wales should not have lost the only international match ever played at Fratton Park. With skilful Aberystwyth Town product Gren Morris (1877-1959) of Nottingham Forest supplementing Meredith, the Welsh attack had real quality, but England had all the luck on a quagmire of a pitch.
26 1904 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) D 2-2
Another humdinger at the Racecourse in front of another record gate of 10,000+ saw Wales take the lead twice only to be pegged back twice and denied a deserved victory.
27 1905 A (Anfield, Liverpool) L 1-3
There was more heartbreak for Wales in a first appearance at Anfield, where Meredith dazzled as the best forward on the pitch. Despite two injuries Wales dominated but were thwarted by two fortunate late goals. A theme was emerging: let’s call it the colonised’s cringe.
28 1906 H (Arms Park, Cardiff) L 0-1
Minus Meredith and reduced to 10 men by injury for the last 70 minutes, Wales played with fire and determination but were undone by a break-away goal minutes from the end.
29 1907 A (Craven Cottage, London) D 1-1
The fixture’s record crowd rose to 22,000 for the only international ever staged at Fulham’s home beside the Thames. Diminutive Lot Jones (1882-1941), a gifted grafter who followed Meredith’s path from Chirk to Manchester City, put Wales ahead – until that now familiar inability of Wales to turn superiority into victory against England reared its ugly head and they got a freakish equaliser.
30 1908 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) L 1-7
Wicked serendipity intervened again. Roose left the field concussed after just 15 minutes, full-back Charlie Morris (1880-1952) of Chirk and Derby County took over in goal, half-back Teddy Hughes (1886-1949) of Wrexham and Nottingham Forest was then carried off injured and nine-man Wales were 4-0 down by half-time. Kindly England permitted reserve goalie Bolton’s Dai Davies (1880-1944), who was watching from the stand, to become the fixture’s first substitute in the second half, but the damage was done and Wales received a thumping. To put the tin lid on it, Billy Meredith, by now working wonders with Manchester United, missed Wales’ first ever penalty!
31 1909 A (City Ground, Nottingham) L 0-2
There was nothing to choose between the two sides at the only international ever played at Nottingham Forest’s ground, but in a scrappy match spoiled by strong winds England knew how to win while Wales, weighed down by the psychological baggage of conquest, didn’t.
32 1910 H (Arms Park, Cardiff) L 0-1
Wales threw everything at England in front of a capacity crowd of 20,000 at the Arms Park, however half-back Andy Ducat (1886-1942) of Woolwich Arsenal broke the deadlock and England held on doggedly.
33 1911 A (The Den, London) L 0-3
It was all going so well at Millwall’s brand-new ground in New Cross. Wales, playing into a blizzard of sleet and snow, went in at half-time with the score at 0-0 and must have fancied their chances of getting that long coveted win. Classy Viv Woodward (1879-1954) had other ideas though: he scored two in a flurry of late goals. This was the only international match ever to take place at The Den, demolished in 1993 when Millwall moved to the New Den and now occupied by housing.
34 1912 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) L 0-2
Playing in front of a new Racecourse record attendance of 14,000 made no difference: on and on the agony went. It was an uphill struggle from the moment George Holley (1885-1942) of Sunderland scored England’s fastest goal against Wales in the 2nd minute.
35 1913 A (Ashton Gate, Bristol) L 3-4
England indulged themselves with an experimental side and went a goal behind in the 10th minute, yet still won more easily than the score suggests. Three quick-fire goals in eight disastrous first-half minutes did the damage. Ashton Gate’s dabble in international football has not been repeated.
36 1914 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) L 0-2
17,500 hopefuls turned up for the inaugural international at Cardiff City’s ground, opened in 1910 and replacing the rudimentary Arms Park as the FAW’s preferred venue in Cardiff. Plucky Wales impressed for a while but were stymied by an injury to Cogan-born Bolton winger Ted Vizard (1889-1973) which meant playing the whole second half with only 10 men. England duly capitalised, the run of winless games against them reached 32, and I returned to my damp-riddled hovel in Temperance Town and got drunk on fermented potato peel – unless that’s False Memory Syndrome…
37 1920 A (Highbury, London) W 2-1
After the six-year pause caused by WW1, Wales sensationally beat England for the first time in 38 years in what was Billy Meredith’s 48th and final appearance for his country. Afterwards he wept unashamedly in the dressing room; this was the victory he had dreamt of for almost 30 years. Years in which he had faced England 20 times in the ultimate David versus Goliath struggle and never won – until this dramatic final act at snow-covered Highbury. Though his record number of caps would later be surpassed by many players as the number of international matches per year increased exponentially, at 45 years and 229 days he remains the oldest player to win a Welsh cap (as well as the oldest from any country to play against England). In the match, another Chirk man Stan Davies (1898-1972) scored Wales’ first penalty goal. Although this was Wales’ only appearance at Highbury 11 further internationals were played at the north London ground, where Woolwich Arsenal had relocated from Plumstead in 1913, until the club moved again in 2006.
38 1921 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) D 0-0
Now with a fully professional team Wales were no longer a pushover – as shown by this tough, mud-spattered slog on a Sloper Road swamp.
39 1922 A (Anfield, Liverpool) L 0-1
A 3rd minute goal by inside-forward Bob Kelly (1893-1969), probably Burnley’s most naturally gifted player, was enough to beat Wales in a titanic struggle in front of 35,000 – a new record attendance for the fixture.
40 1923 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) D 2-2
In a gripping match redoubtable local hero Fred Keenor (1894-1972) put Wales ahead with a long-range piledriver (one of only two goals he ever scored for Wales in 32 appearances). England snatched the lead with two fluky goals either side of half-time and then, in the dying seconds, Ivor Jones (1899-1974) of Swansea Town, the founder of the famed Jones footballing dynasty from Merthyr, drilled home a last gasp leveller.
41 1924 A (Ewood Park, Blackburn) W 2-1
After going behind, two second-half goals in three minutes from speedy Swansea Town winger Willie Davies (1900-1953) and veteran Bolton stalwart Ted Vizard turned the match on its head. Keenor’s troops resisted England’s fight-back magnificently to pull off a famous triumph. Wales thus remained unbeaten in three matches at three different Blackburn grounds. England have never played in the town since.
42 1925 H (Vetch Field, Swansea) L 1-2
Wales were weakened by late withdrawals for their Swansea debut, and the scratch team struggled in vain on a pitch that resembled a morass.
43 1926 A (Selhurst Park, London) W 3-1
In the one and only international ever held at Crystal Palace’s ground, Wales outplayed England throughout to stun the 23,000 crowd. The unlikely hero was reserve striker John Fowler (1899-1975) of Swansea Town who scored twice to become the first Welshman since 1882 to bag a brace against England.
44 1927 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) D 3-3
The Racecourse attendance record increased again to 16,000 and the rammed crowd were rewarded with the only 3-3 draw in the fixture’s history. In a game that ebbed and flowed from end to end, Everton legend Dixie Dean (1907-1980), winning his first cap, and Cardiff City star Len Davies (1899-1945) both notched two goals.
45 1927 A (Turf Moor, Burnley) W 2-1
For the first and only time so far Wales won a third consecutive away game in England and also for the first time went three games undefeated against them – something that has only happened once subsequently. In a match littered with errors both sides scored an own-goal. Wales were solid and well-organised against a ragged England barracked mercilessly by the 32,000 crowd. Turf Moor’s first international has never been repeated.
46 1928 H (Vetch Field, Swansea) L 2-3
A record Vetch Field crowd of 22,000 saw the game lost by half-time, with Wales 2-0 down and Keenor a passenger on the wing after injury. Somehow he still nabbed a late consolation to make the score respectable. This was England’s second and final game at the Vetch, where only 18 international matches were staged before Swansea City moved out in 2005. The quirky ground was demolished in 2011 and replaced by a small park and allotments.
47 1929 A (Stamford Bridge, London) L 0-6
A chastening experience in a first (and to date last) appearance at Chelsea’s ground. Old problems such as a dearth of quality players and withdrawals made Wales look completely out of their depth. Middlesbrough’s George Camsell (1902-1966) – the player with the highest goals to games ratio in England’s history – bludgeoned a hat-trick.
48 1930 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) L 0-4
Apart from 36-year-old captain Keenor, Wales were reduced to putting out an inexperienced XI of second-stringers and paid the price.
49 1931 A (Anfield, Liverpool) L 1-3
A much better performance, in which Wales frequently looked the more skilful and inventive side, gave hope for the future. This defeat was the third in three Anfield appearances: there would be a catastrophic fourth in 1977 – but that was against Scotland, not England, in an infamous ‘home’ World Cup qualifier that I’m still trying to get over…
50 1932 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) D 0-0
25,250, a new record, squeezed into the Racecourse to see this high-quality draw in which Wales dominated territory and possession but just could not crack the English defence. A clutch of emerging talent was becoming evident, notably in this match Merthyr’s Dai Astley (1909-1989) of Aston Villa and Ton Pentre’s Jimmy Murphy (1910-1989) of West Bromwich Albion.
51 1933 A (St James’ Park, Newcastle) W 2-1
Playing some delightful football, fast, fluent and incisive, Wales got a wonderful result in a last appearance at St James’ Park when Dai Astley emphatically headed the winner eight minutes from the end.
52 1934 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) L 0-4
51,000, the biggest crowd yet at Ninian Park and the biggest yet for the fixture, saw Welsh fragility grievously exposed by a few absentees. It was a bad day for Tottenham Hotspur’s dazzling winger from Ebbw Vale Willie Evans (1912-1976): he missed a penalty and then was carried off with concussion.
53 1936 A (Molineux, Wolverhampton) W 2-1
For the 6th time in nine away games between 1920 and 1936 Wales won on English soil – an extraordinary purple patch when put in context. Previously there had been just one away win back in 1881; and in the 86 years that have passed since this exciting Molineux triumph, featuring goals from Astley and Wolves’ own Bryn Jones (1912-1985), there has been just one away win, 41 years later in 1977. Wales have not played at Wolverhampton a second time.
54 1936 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) W 2-1
At last! After 54 long years and 24 meetings, England lose on Welsh soil! After 54 years and 50 games Wales win twice in a row! And, at the 9th attempt, Wales defeat England in Cardiff! As the interminable wait for World Cup qualification illustrated, extreme patience is a pre-requisite for Welsh football supporters. In front of another huge Ninian crowd it was an unforgettable match for Birmingham City winger Seymour Morris (1913-1991) from Ynyshir, who scored direct from a corner on his debut, and burly Grimsby Town centre-forward Pat Glover (1910-1971) from Swansea, who headed the winner two minutes later.
55 1937 A (Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough) L 1-2
Down to the bare bones because of injuries, Wales worked their socks off in their only appearance at Ayresome Park but ultimately England prevailed. After Middlesbrough moved out the ground was demolished in 1997 and replaced with housing.
56 1938 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) W 4-2
Wales won two consecutive home games against England for the first time with a marvellous display of sustained attacking prowess in front of a record 50,000+ crowd. The stars aligned with three outstanding forwards performing at their peak: Astley, now at Derby, Bryn Jones, Arsenal’s record signing, and Idris Hopkins (1910-1994), a box of tricks winger from Merthyr who was instrumental in Brentford’s remarkable rise to England’s top tier. Cardiff throbbed with joyous hwyl deep into the night – but the dark clouds of war were gathering again; in 1939 soccer was called off for seven years, many football careers were nipped in the bud and this hugely promising Welsh team broke up.
57 1946 A (Maine Road, Manchester) L 0-3
Spirited and tenacious Wales had no answer to the skills of Wilf ’will o’ the wisp’ Mannion (1918-2000). Middlesbrough’s maestro scored two and made the other in front of 59,121, a new record crowd for the fixture. This was the first of only two internationals ever played at Maine Road, demolished in 2003 when Manchester City relocated and replaced by a housing development.
58 1947 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) L 0-3
55,000, the largest attendance yet at a football match in Wales, squashed like sardines into Ninian Park, but the match was decided almost before it began as slick England scored three times within the first 15 minutes with Stanley Matthews (1915-2000) running riot on the right wing.
59 1948 A (Villa Park, Birmingham) L 0-1
England were reduced to 10 men by injury after just 25 minutes but Wales, with fervour aplenty but lacking in creativity and the killer instinct, wasted the opportunity on a first appearance at Villa Park. Preston North End’s Tom Finney (1922-2014) scored the only goal of a drab game played in front of a new high for the fixture of 67,770
60 1949 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) L 1-4
This one had extra significance because the Home International Championships now doubled as a World Cup qualifying group for the 1950 tournament in Brazil. As the four home nations had refused to participate in the first three pre-WW2 World Cups this was thus the first ever World Cup match played by both Wales and England. The people of Wales knew the importance of the occasion and again the Ninian Park attendance record climbed to a new peak: 61,079. The game was settled during an England blitz of three goals in 12 minutes midway through the first-half. Ouch.
61 1950 A (Roker Park, Sunderland) L 2-4
A massive 59,000 crowd saw a tremendous tussle in Wales’ only appearance at Roker Park (demolished after Sunderland moved to the Stadium of Light in 1997). Fearless striker Trevor Ford (1923-2003) from Swansea was the inevitable centre of attention: a month earlier he had been transferred for a record UK fee from Aston Villa to Sunderland. He did not disappoint, playing superbly and scoring twice in the second-half to equal Billy Lewis’s record tally of 12 goals set back in 1896 (by Ford’s retirement in 1957 he had established a new goals record of 23 – to this day only topped by Bale and Rush). Wales could not snatch a well-deserved draw: a last-minute drive by Jackie Milburn (1924-1988) sealed England’s win.
62 1951 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) D 1-1
Merthyr-born winger Billy Foulkes (1926-1979) of Newcastle United scored with his first touch in international football in the 3rd minute, but Wales dropped their guard and England levelled almost immediately. From then on Wales laid siege to the English goal, with Swansea Town’s Ivor Allchurch (1929-1997) masterful in midfield, but just couldn’t deliver the knock-out blow.
63 1952 A (Wembley, London) L 2-5
England’s national stadium at Wembley had opened in 1923 but Wales had not been considered worthy of appearing there previously. Now, apart from a couple of exceptions, Welsh wanderings around the provinces of England were over: from henceforth playing in England meant a trip to Wembley. It was not an auspicious start: despite being handicapped by injury England pulverised Wales in front of the fixture’s all-time record gate of 94,000.
64 1953 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) L 1-4
Here was a terrible case of deja-vu: another Home Championship match doubling as a World Cup qualifier (this time for the 1954 tournament in Switzerland); another 61,000 crowd at Ninian Park; another 4-1 defeat. Allchurch actually put Wales ahead before England scored four in six catastrophic minutes either side of half-time.
65 1954 A (Wembley, London) L 2-3
So near but so far: ‘Gentle Giant’ John Charles (1931-2004) scored twice but he was outdone by a hat-trick from Chelsea’s Roy Bentley (1924-2018) in a top-grade Wembley thriller.
66 1955 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) W 2-1
After nine winless games, Wales got the better of England at last. Playing with fire and craft, Wales had Leeds United’s John Charles and brother Mel (1935-2016) of Swansea Town in imperious form in defence and midfield. The match was settled by two goals in two minutes from Barry Town product Derek Tapscott (1932-2008) of Arsenal and young Swansea winger Cliff Jones, whose uncle Bryn had scored in the last win 17 years earlier. The sell-out crowd was ecstatic.
67 1956 A (Wembley, London) L 1-3
In October 1956 Wales joined the 20th century and appointed Jimmy Murphy as their first manager – England’s equivalent Walter Winterbottom (1913-2002) had been appointed a decade earlier. Murphy would take Wales to the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, but this particular match, played in front of the fixture’s all-time second highest gate of 93,790, was wrecked by a 12th minute injury to goalie Jack Kelsey (1929-1992), who had been plucked from the Swansea & District League by Arsenal.
68 1957 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) L 0-4
Missing the likes of John Charles, Allchurch and Tapscott, Wales caved in after Totenham Hotspur full back Mel Hopkins (1934-2010) from the Rhondda Fawr scored an uncharacteristic silly own-goal in the 6th minute.
69 1958 A (Villa Park, Birmingham) D 2-2
After glory in Sweden this was another fine Welsh display, especially given that Juventus refused to release John Charles for the match and captain Dave Bowen (1928-1995) of Arsenal dislocated his shoulder in the 27th minute.
70 1959 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) D 1-1
In driving wind and incessant rain, the all-time record Ninian Park crowd of 62,634 almost blew the roof off the Bob Bank when 18-year-old Cardiff City tyro Graham Moore (1941-2016), winning his first cap, equalised in the final minute.
71 1960 A (Wembley, London) L 1-5
Depleted Wales couldn’t cope with an exhilarating show from the young Jimmy Greaves (1940-2021), then of Chelsea, and were comprehensively vanquished.
72 1961 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) D 1-1
Rhyl product Graham Williams of West Bromwich Albion, playing out of position on the wing, scored his only Wales goal in freakish circumstances when the boot of England defender Peter Swan (1936-2021) flew off and distracted his Sheffield Wednesday team-mate goalie Ron Springett (1935-2015). Another capacity crowd at Ninian Park exploded with glee. Just for a change Lady Luck was with Wales: England were handicapped by three walking wounded in a rough-house battle royal.
73 1962 A (Wembley, London) L 0-4
Only 27,500, a new record low for an England match at Wembley, saw this Wednesday afternoon walk-over against an uncoordinated, make-shift Welsh XI.
74 1963 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) L 0-4
Preparing to host the 1966 World Cup, England were now managed by the astute Alf Ramsey (1920-1999) and scaling new heights of excellence. Wales, in contrast, were plunging into a long barren phase, crippled by lack of money, infrastructure and professional footballers. This home thumping, in which Bobby Charlton’s 31st England goal set the country’s new scoring record, was the beginning of the end for Jimmy Murphy’s reign; Dave Bowen took the reins a few months later.
75 1964 A (Wembley, London) L 1-2
Ramsey fielded an experimental side and only 40,000 spectators turned up. Wales offered doughty resistance but little else in a dire match under the Wembley floodlights.
76 1965 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) D 0-0
The gate plummeted to 30,000 as Welsh hopes of qualifying for the 1966 World Cup had quickly evaporated. England fielded six of the players who would win the trophy the following year, while an uncultured Welsh side had to rely on passion and pride to compete.
77 1966 A (Wembley, London) L 1-5
In a match that doubled as a qualifier for the 1968 European Championship, Wales faced the 11 Englishmen who had lifted the World Cup five months earlier and, after an encouraging first 30 minutes, folded alarmingly after Geoff Hurst broke the deadlock.
78 1967 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) L 0-3
This was another Euro ’68 qualifier. What if Gordon Banks (1937-2019) hadn’t made an incredible save early in the game to claw away a shot from point-blank range by his Stoke team-mate Roy Vernon (1937-1993)? What ifs are worthless…
79 1969 A (Wembley, London) L 1-2
Part-time boss Dave Bowen just couldn’t turn a medley of not-quite-good-enough disconnected components into a winning team. Wales were 1-0 up at half-time and giving as good as they got, but England fought back with characteristic obduracy.
80 1970 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) D 1-1
England were preparing for the Mexico World Cup; Wales were striving to end a sequence of 13 without a win against them. It should have happened this time after Huddersfield Town’s Flintshire-born winger Dick Krzywicki put superior Wales ahead with a beauty (here comes the ‘but’), but Francis Lee of Manchester City slammed in an even better equaliser.
81 1971 A (Wembley, London) D 0-0
Dave Bowen combined new faces like Terry Yorath, John Roberts, Leighton Phillips and John Toshack with experienced campaigners like Peter Rodrigues, Rod Thomas, Alan Durban and Ron Davies and nearly got the mix right as Wales dominated without quite breaking through.
82 1972 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) L 0-3
An ugly, bruising, settling of old vendettas on a pitch like a ploughed field. With brutes like Peter Storey of Arsenal and Norman Hunter (1943-2020) of Leeds in their side, England were always going to prevail.
83 1972 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) L 0-1
Nothing to do with the Home Championship, this was a World Cup qualifier: the old enemies had been drawn in the same qualifying group for the 1974 tournament in West Germany. Guess what? Wales narrowly lost.
84 1973 A (Wembley, London) D 1-1
Two months later came the return World Cup qualifier. It was a great night for Wales, with roaming winger Leighton James and goalscorer John Toshack a constant threat and Holywell-born captain Mike England of Tottenham, at the veteran stage of his playing career, marshalling his men with cool authority. Bad news: the English nicked an unmerited draw. Good news: this failure to win ultimately meant they didn’t qualify for West Germany!
85 1973 A (Wembley, London) L 0-3
There were a few clearly lacking in international quality in a scratch Welsh line-up. Wembley, even with a reduced capacity of 76,000, was half empty. England racked up an easy win.
86 1974 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) L 0-2
Alf Ramsey had been replaced by caretaker manager Joe Mercer (1914-1990), who was ringing the changes: two young talents, Stan Bowles of QPR and Kevin Keegan of Liverpool, justified the policy with goals either side of half-time. The 25,000 attendance was the lowest at Ninian Park for an England match since 1923. This was Dave Bowen’s last of 12 unsuccessful attempts to defeat England. He too would be gone shortly and replaced by unknown English coaching wonk Mike Smith (1937-2021).
87 1975 A (Wembley, London) D 2-2
Don Revie (1927-1989) was installed as England manager while Mike Smith enjoyed a honeymoon period in charge of Wales: this excellent performance, starring midfield dynamo and passionate Welsh patriot John Mahoney of Stoke City, being typical in a run of results that saw Wales qualify for the Euro 1976 quarter-finals. Spoiler alert: the honeymoon didn’t last.
88 1976 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) L 1-2
England’s first game at the Racecourse for 44 years, a ‘friendly’ staged to mark the centenary of the FAW, was the familiar tale of Wales unable to translate ascendancy into a result.
89 1976 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) L 0-1
How Wales contrived to lose this after completely dominating from start to finish was mainly down to exceptional goalkeeping from Ray Clemence of Liverpool.
90 1977 A (Wembley, London) W 1-0
Unbelievable! After 23 winless matches and 22 years Wales at last beat England! On top of that, this was a first ever win at Wembley and a first win in England for 41 years! See, it can be done! Man of the match Leighton James, Llwchwr’s finest, first earned and then converted the clinching 44th minute penalty.
91 1978 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) L 1-3
A stopgap Welsh team, as ever weakened by withdrawals, fought like demons and looked the most likely to win. Then England – now managed by Ron Greenwood (1921-2006) after Revie’s ignominious departure – scored two spectacular goals in the last eight minutes.
92 1979 A (Wembley, London) D 0-0
Greenwood’s emphasis on attacking football was bringing back the crowds. There were 70,000 to see Mike Smith’s well-organised men, almost at full strength for once, work their socks off, refuse to concede an inch of Wembley’s wide open spaces and cling on for a nail-biting draw.
93 1980 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) W 4-1
Wow!! The biggest ever win over England, and a first win on home soil since 1955, sent over 24,000 at the Racecourse into delirium. Mike England had now replaced Smith and this result didn’t seem at all likely when Ipswich Town striker Paul Mariner (1953-2021) put England ahead, but a quick equaliser from Wrexham product Mickey Thomas of Manchester United (the 2nd of 11 English clubs he played for) opened the floodgates and Ian Walsh of Crystal Palace, Leighton James and an own-goal added three more to inflict an almighty hammering. More! More!
94 1981 A (Wembley, London) D 0-0
For only the second time in the entire history of the fixture, Wales put together an undefeated run of three matches with a disciplined, enterprising performance. It really should have been another win, but Walsh missed two sitters.
95 1982 H (Ninian Park, Cardiff) L 0-1
With 20-year-old Ian Rush a threat in attack, classy Kevin Ratcliffe supervising the defence and tough-tackling Peter Nicholas policing the midfield, Wales made life difficult for England and might have prevailed before England’s late clincher if half-chances had been taken. This was the last of 24 England appearances at Ninian Park (84 international matches in total were played there). Cardiff City relocated in 2009, the ground was demolished and housing was built on the site.
96 1983 A (Wembley, London) L 1-2
On his way to surpassing the record goal haul of 23 jointly held by Trevor Ford and Ivor Allchurch (he ended his Wales career in 1996 with 28), Rush scored his fifth Welsh goal (and first against England) in the 14th minute and almost made it 2-0 nine minutes later when his shot struck the post. England, with Bobby Robson (1933-2009) now in the hot-seat, fought back – and only won because the ref awarded a debatable penalty 10 minutes from the end.
97 1984 H (Racecourse, Wrecsam) W 1-0
England unilaterally decreed that the Home International Championships should be wound up after the 1984 tournament (too much aggro from the Scottish fans, too little revenue from matches with piddling Wales and Northern Ireland). For Wales it ended where it had all begun at the Racecourse, and with the great pleasure of a rare win against the perfidious prats. On his debut, 20-year-old Rhiwabon-reared Mark Hughes of Manchester United headed a superb winning goal.
98 2004 A (Old Trafford, Manchester) L 0-2
Two decades went by before the next meeting, which only happened because Wales and England were drawn in the same qualification group for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. To illustrate how long had elapsed, the two managers were now Sven-Göran Eriksson and Mark Hughes! As for the game, held in Manchester because Wembley was being rebuilt, no comment.
99 2005 H (Millennium Stadium, Cardiff) L 0-1
For the return World Cup qualifier, the biggest ever attendance for a Wales v England match in Cymru (70,795) assembled. Seven Welsh Cup finals had been held at the old National Stadium between 1990 and 1996, but this was the first international football match on Taff’s Acre for 95 years – albeit in a somewhat altered structure compared to the old Arms Park. John Toshack was now the Welsh boss, blooding fledglings and trying to alter the defeatist mind-set. It didn’t work on this occasion, but seeds were being sown.
100 2011 H (Millennium Stadium, Cardiff) L 0-2
The draw for the 2012 Euros in Poland/Ukraine placed Wales in the same group as England, so there were two more meetings in 2011. Nearly 69,000 optimists saw nervous, jittery Wales, managed by Gary Speed (1969-2011), brushed aside by Fabio Capello’s England, both goals coming in the first 15 minutes.
101 2011 A (Wembley, London) L 0-1
Wales’ first game at the ‘new’ Wembley. Ashley Young. 35th minute. 77,128. That’s enough.
102 2016 N (Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens) L 1-2
The traumatic anguish of this last-minute defeat at the 2016 Euros in France is still too raw for me to process.
103 2020 A (Wembley, London) L 0-3
A 6th consecutive loss to England – the worst run since 1914 – was played behind closed doors because of the pandemic. The friendly (sic) would have broken the smallest ever attendance record set at the very first encounter way back in 1879, were it not for the hordes of non-paying spectators – such as managers Gareth Southgate and Ryan Giggs, backroom teams, coaching staff, physiotherapists, psychotherapists, sports psychologists, benches of squad members, cameramen, commentators, pundits, VAR adjudicators, grooming stylists, tattooists, beard trimmers, social media assistants, bespoke private equity fund managers and libel lawyers…you couldn’t make this stuff up!
CYMRU v ENGLAND SUMMARY
Fascinating read packed with interesting detail, very entertaining and enjoyable
Fantastic, 106 match reports flowing brilliantly, stats galore and jokes!
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