THERE was a time when England were not always slow-starters in qualifiers.
The current side’s ability to salvage some key World Cup qualifying results by virtue of some crucial late goals has proved the main – some would say only – redeeming feature of a stodgy campaign, which fittingly saw the country book a place at Russia 2018 with a stoppage-time winner against Slovenia at Wembley nine days ago.
Take away three late goals against Slovakia, Scotland and Slovenia and England’s qualification would have been in grave peril and it all made you hanker, to some degree, to those rather more straightforward occasions of yore.Leon Wobschall
Take away three late goals against Slovakia, Scotland and Slovenia and England’s qualification would have been in grave peril and it all made you hanker, to some degree, to those rather more straightforward occasions of yore.
One of those arrived thirty years ago today on October 14, 1987 at Wembley where 45,528 fans watched Bobby Robson’s England secure their latest routing of Turkey, whose pain at the hands of the Three Lions intensified after plenty of misery prior to that.
Plainly in no mood to mess about or labour, England were two goals to the good inside eight minutes at a rain-saturated Wembley in what proved to be a thoroughly one-sided penultimate European Championship qualifier for Robson’s side.
It soon turned into a rout with England racing into a four-goal interval lead before finding the net another four times on the restart with Gary Lineker taking pride of place with his fourth international hat-trick.
The arrival of the Turks had previously brought out the best in Lineker, who scored his first treble for England almost exactly two years to the day, earler, on October 16, 1985 in the hosts’ 5-0 win which rubber-stamped qualification for the World Cup finals of the following year.
Turkey certainly proved far more obdurate opponents in the country’s next competitive meeting which was staged in Izmir in April, 1987, in a game which ended goalless.
But they reverted to type somewhat just under six months later at Wembley and they conceded eight goals without reply to England for the second time in the 1980s after being trounced 8-0 in Istanbul in a World Cup qualifier in November 1984.
England went ahead at Wembley after just 62 seconds from John Barnes and it soon got worse for the Turks when Lineker struck.
Barnes added another just before the half-hour mark before Lineker scored shortly before half-time to effectively settle the contest.
Bryan Robson deflected in a shot from Neil Webb – playing his first full international – to make it 5-0 on 58 minutes and the procession continued three minutes later when Peter Beardsley scored a rare header.
Lineker completed his hat-trick ten minutes later and there was still time for Webb to complete the massacre with a rasping volley as England moved to the top of their European championship qualifying table.
It was a game also notable for the appearance from the substitutes bench of much-travelled striker Cyrille Regis, who earned his fifth cap five years and a day after winning his fourth.
Robson’s side went onto book their passage to Euro ‘88 in outstanding fashion the following month in Belgrade with a thumping 4-1 win in Yugoslavia.
They call it qualification with a touch of style.