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When Wales did what England couldn’t do - 1973 World Cup Qualification & The Clown
Friday, 22nd Mar 2024 19:30 by Keith Haynes

Wales will be looking to repeat their only ever win against Poland this Tuesday night in the UEFA play off final. The winners progress to Germany 2024. The finals take place between Friday June 14th and Sunday July 14th 2024.

If, and it is a huge one Wales beat Poland they will participate in Group D alongside,Netherlands, Austria and France, a tall order in itself. However, manager Rob Page was upbeat this morning, “We’re up against a tough team on Tuesday night. We’ll respect them, we’ll do even more analysis tomorrow and we’ll have a plan ready, but it is about our level of performance. When we play like we did against Croatia and Turkey here, if we can replicate those levels, then the result takes care of itself. It is a big ask for the lads to go again but we’ll have a plan in place. There is no more motivation needed than a Euros in Germany. We’ve been there, we’ve picked the hotel, we’ve got the training ground, we’re ready to go. We’ve just got one more game to get across the line.”

That was an interesting statement from Page, and despite some of the details being known it is pointless reporting on this next phase before Tuesday evening. Wales have just the one win against Poland back in 1973. The game in March of that year was a World Cup Qualifier with England the third team in the group. Wales beat Poland 2-0 at home but fell to a 3-0 scoreline away. This meant England had to beat Poland in their final geoup game to gain entry to the World Cup 1974. They didn’t, and the famous term ‘The Clown’ was used by a bemused Brian Clough to describe the Polish goalkeeper, Jan Tomaszewski (below) post match. Of course, Tomaszewski played a blinder, keeping England at bay (despite Sir Alf Ramsey’s team having thirty six shots on goal) and helping his country secure a 1-1 draw that sent them through – and England out. Despite being derided before kick-off, Tomaszewski retains fond memories of the match itself. “I have never watched the game again,” he told the BBC some years later. But if you have a game like this, you always remember it in your heart. I can wake up in the middle of the night and remember every minute.” He also played in the 2-0 loss to Wales.

Wales win in March 1973 was watched by less than 13,000 fans at Ninian Park, again even then prompting calls for a more national approach to Wales games. The starting line up below still carries a few household names. One Trevor Hockey scored the second goal that evening. A warrior like player who sadly died aged forty three after a five a side game in Keighley.

However, despite that being a successful evening, Wales failed to qualify as well, just like 1973 that Wales have won. The rest have been pretty dismal.

That win in 73’ is most certainly what is required come Tuesday evening. There needs to be a tenacity and desire often missing at these times and as we all know is etched in our footballing history. Page could redeem himself as even now certain quarters want to see him dismissed regardless of the outcome of this qualification campaign. It would be extremely hard to do so if Wales qualify and once again grace the European Championships.

Photograph licensed from Reuters & Ooen Source

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