England fans will be feeling a concoction of emotions following the recent draw for the European Championship. The draw saw the Three Lions avoid the current European champions, the current World champions and the 2014 World Cup winners in the group stage, but should they top the group, are likely to face Portugal, Germany or France in the last-sixteen.
Regardless of the outcome, England’s new dawn under Gareth Southgate has the country bubbling with excitement at the prospect of what essentially is a home tournament with five Wembley fixtures should England go all the way.
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the competition we look back at the year of the European Championship’s inception (called the European Nation’s Cup initially). Most of our readers probably weren’t alive at the time, but for those who lived through the swinging sixties; The Beatles, the Cold War and a pre-presidential John F Kennedy, cast your mind back to 1960.
Lev Yashin - SOVIET UNION V Yugoslavia, European Nation’s Cup Final
The inaugural European international tournament cut a very different set up to the 24 team showcase we will enjoy this coming June. Only four teams featured, three from the Communist Bloc (and France), with teams in Western Europe almost unanimously boycotting due to the fraying tensions between the Soviet Union and the rest of the continent.
Lev Yashin is widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers to ever play the game and was a talisman for the Soviet Union in their golden era from the 1958 World Cup.
The Soviet Union would face Yugoslavia at the Parc De Princes in France, its first of three Euro finals, and battled out a 1-1 draw in normal time.
Yugoslavia had the edge throughout normal time on a slippery Paris pitch, but the man nicknamed ‘The Spider’ and one of the first ever ‘keepers to demonstrate a presence outside of his own goalmouth, kept his side in the game.
Viktor Ponedelnik’s strike with two minutes of extra time remaining gifted the Soviet Union their only ever international honour, but it was Lev Yashin who was hero of the moment.
The pioneer of modern goalkeeping would be nominated for the 1960 Ballon D’or and again star in the Soviet Union’s march to the Quarter Final of the 1962 World Cup and a fourth-place finish in 1966.
Gyula Grosics - Hungary
Until the 1970’s goalkeeper shirts were pretty much a standard issue green number across the board and certainly wouldn’t change design very freely.
However, with Eastern Europe striking fear into their Western counterparts on the political stage, the goalkeepers followed suit in the form of their attire.
Ironically one of the colourful characters of the game, Hungary’s Gyula Grosics was the first to don the black jersey, which was also followed by Lev Yashin, and earned him his nickname of ‘The Panther'.
Despite being placed under house arrest for espionage in 1949, Grosics was a national treasure until his retirement in 1962 and was part of Hungary’s golden generation that won an Olympic gold medal in 1952 and took part in three World Cup until 1962.
Believed to be the first ever ‘sweeper-keeper’, Grosics was one of the game’s mavericks and a protagonist in the evolution of goalkeepers and refused to be siloed.
His black shirt was testament to his rebellious soul in an era where few would dare steer from the norm and although the style is typically plain by today’s standards, he very much was considered to be a Jorge Campos-esque figure back in the mid-twentieth century.
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Bert The Forgotten Red...
Bruce Grobbelaar, Pepe Reina, Ray Clemence are all names who come to mind when talking about Liverpool’s best ever goalkeepers. However, few, if any, would roll the name Bert Slater off their tongue.
The winter of 1959 was one of discontent for Liverpool fans as their side languished near the bottom of the second division, which saw the sacking of Phil Taylor from the managerial position.
The appointment though would be more significant, as the great Bill Shankly was appointed manager, having thrashed Taylor’s men 5-0 the previous season as Huddersfield boss.
Shankly mastered a run of just 5 defeats in 23 games which saw Liverpool rise to third, just missing out on promotion.
Signed in the summer of 1959, Bert Slater had been dropped after a shocking start to his stay on Merseyside, but was reinstated instantly by his new boss. In the latter stages of the 1959/60 was a formidable force which saw the Reds emerged as promotion hopefuls.
The run saw the Scot concede just two goals in the final five matches of the season, in an era where games in England were relatively free scoring and help set a platform on which a hugely successful Liverpool era was built on.
His performances throughout the first half of 1960 helped Slater maintain a vice-like grip on the number one jersey and although Liverpool again missed out on promotion the following year, they were eventually crowned second division champions in 1961/1962.
Slater would be moved on at the end of that season, forging a very successful career afterwards as part of a Dundee United side that lifted the league title and reached the European Cup semi-final.