At Villa Park he built a competitive and talented young side who were dubbed, given the fad for alliterative nicknames such as Drake's Ducklings and the Busby Babes, the Mercer Minors. At the 1998 World Cup, his decision not to start a red-hot Michael Owen in the first two games was a head-scratcher. Throughout the World Cup campaign, when England were based at the Hendon Hall Hotel in North-West London, he attended mass every single morning. The movement of the front three caused havoc, creating opportunities for Dobson, Brooking and Bell to shoot as well as repeatedly carving out chances for themselves. Keegan, battered, bleeding and shaken, was not, however, spooked by his experience when he took the field. Yet football never showed the same loyalty to Stiles that Sir Alf had. Gallery: EVERY England manager ranked from worst to best (FourFourTwo). Most recent accounts of the sacking of Sir Alf Ramsey as England's manager on 1 May 1974 adopt the same tone, summoning a mixture of regret and indignation at such shabby maltreatment. In normal circumstances, they would have had enough time between May and August to lay the new pitch ahead of their first game in League Two. Wales, who hadn't scored a goal for 364 days, were easily outplayed but, paradoxically for David Lacey given Mercer's emphasis on attack, the defence, and Colin Todd in particular, deserved most credit. "Sir Alf's fate was sealed from that moment," wrote McKinstry. Weaver’s first season didn’t go well – cash-strapped Harrogate finished bottom of Conference North and were relegated back to the Northern Premier League. His tenure with the national team ended with a defeat by the Germans in a qualifier for the 2002 World Cup. As it turned out, Harrogate were unable to record a famous victory. By the time this fixture against Bolton arrived, it was anticipated that Harrogate fans would be allowed in - for the first and last time at the Keepmoat, with the Wetherby Road pitch due to be ready for the next home match against Barrow in two weeks’ time. Ramsey did. In 2010, after he had suffered a stroke which drastically reduced his sole source of income as an after-dinner speaker, he was forced to sell his European Cup winner's medal and his England shirt. He gave them a blueprint for renovation that was disastrously ignored when the caution and anxiety he had temporarily banished returned with a vengeance. Stiles deserved better. Twelve months later, Harrogate owner Bill Fotherby persuaded businessman Irving Weaver – Simon’s dad – to take over control of the club, and a new era began. Photograph: Press Association, but England failed comprehensively on a sodden pitch, England went ahead seconds before half-time, in front of a crowd of 100,000 at Zentralstadion. They remain an encouraging 12th in the table though, looking well capable of being the latest National League team to establish themselves in the Football League - since automatic promotion to the fourth tier was introduced in 1987, no team has ever been relegated straight back to non-league in their first season. It has always been my ambition to play for England, particularly at Wembley, and no one can know how I felt when I was taken off." They also triumphed at Tranmere on their League Cup debut, and a fortnight ago had the rare distinction of reaching the final of the FA Trophy while playing in the Football League, overcoming Notts County in the delayed semi-final of the 2019-20 competition. Even their money troubles did not threaten their relationship. The government decision to keep football behind closed doors has affected everyone, but it’s fans of clubs like Harrogate who are being hit the hardest right now. The same is likely to be true for followers of AFC Wimbledon, due to play their first fixture at the new Plough Lane on November 3. After the 1966 victory, the England manager Sir Alf Ramsey said that 'there were five world-class players' in his team, 'and Nobby Stiles was one of them'. The crowd clearly thought Kempes had dived, booing him as he ran up to take the penalty, continuing after he smacked it past Shilton and building to a climax moments later at the conclusion of the match.
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