This is a vast and semi virtual falsification of football history – a CM/FM fantasy, if you like ...
There is definitively something special about an underdog. This mythical dog that strides towards victory, like David who fought Goliath, the giant everybody considered unbeatable. There is something special about this crooked legged, near sighted bastard which beats all the Greyhounds to the phoney rabbit against all odds.
The history of football is full of these miracles. One of the biggest miracles at the highest level is the West German victory against Hungary in the World Cup Final 1954. Nowadays it doesn’t seem very likely that this result was a surprise, let alone an underdog’s triumph, but Hungary had a remarkable team during the fifties with the Ronaldos, the Ronaldinhos and the Beckhams of the first decade of the post-war – namely players such as Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis og Zoltan Czibor.
West Germany won 3-2 after an exciting match where they were down 2-0 after 8 minutes. The last two German goals were scored by the recently deceased Helmut Rahn, and with Germany following the match on the radio the nation as a whole (or half?!) firmly blasted into a rush of joy and a great nationwide party – much like the party that followed the Danish victory at the European Championship in 1992; which brings the tale of winning underdogs closer to today.
A place in the sun
The key to understand the extremes in the German joy of 1954 is logically, that they were inevitably hated by almost any other nation worldwide because of WW2. Add the fact that the part of the country the Soviets hadn’t occupied was still being reconstructed and rebuilt, and it is clear that they needed every piece of self-confidence and recognition of pride that they could possibly get during this hard struggle towards “a place in the sun.” This victory is being pointed out by historians today as one of the main factors in the remake of the German spirit, in the ability to trust in themselves – which could be another parallel to the Danish victory in 1992 which changed a nation’s character from being the ones who only got close, to being the ones who can make it. But if there ever was an underdog which won against all odds, loathed and despised by almost everybody, it is most certainly the Germans winning the World Cup in 1954.
At club level the legendary 2-0 victory to Odense Boldklub away to Real Madrid (after losing 3-2 at home) comes to mind – the match in which Lars Høgh perhaps played the best match by a Danish goalkeeper ever. The giants of Madrid were beat by the tiny people of Odense.
Arsenal supporters may place the League Cup defeat to Luton Town in the same category!
The incredible Spurs
And who doesn’t remember the only just promoted and underestimated Spurs’ team which completed what my dear friend, Michael, and I thought was the definition of mission impossible, i.e. winning both cups and the league in the same season?! (In fact, we thought that there was some kind of bug that barred one team from winning so immodestly).
Who can possibly forget the team which star of the defence and captain was the unbelievably solid Italian Bertarelli; which central midfielder was the golden Dutchman Kohn; or which young, but steady forward was the England international striker Boothferry?! No? There you go…
Later we agreed that the three players were the reincarnation of Maldini, Bergkamp and Alan Shearer – but at the time of the Tottenham reign we hadn’t discovered the laws of regens!
The game was 6-7 seasons old, Michael and I had been playing it for quite a while and it was getting a little dawdling and monotonous, when I accepted the Spurs’ approach and left my job at Bristol Rovers. The Spurs were struggling to hold a place just above the bottom of the 1’st division (the Championship nowadays…). The following 18 months I managed to create an exceptional team that won every club tournament worth winning within the next 5-6 seasons. At the same time Michael turned Burnley into a respectable Premier League team that always lost pace at the end of the season and ended up in the middle of the table – regardless the fact that he foresaw at the opening of every season, that this time “the boys from Turf More are going to make it!”.
Those were the days, my friend! Nowadays when we meet, two old farts complaining about the state of the world, the ways of the young, or the criminals in the Government – or simply playing a little FM, this game becomes a topic at some point of the evening. There is always a parallel. There is always a “oh, this reminds me of…” E.g. when Crewe make a remarkable result, whether IRL or IFM, the following story pops up.
When my Spurs team was at its best every other team was the underdog when facing me. When I finally didn’t win a tournament I anticipated in, it was always a huge surprise. For the fourth year in a row I was destined to win the FA Cup, and it was going to be easily done because my opponent in the final was none other than Crewe. I had never, ever had such a lousy opponent in a final, and I had played quite a few. My partner in crime, Michael, and I were convinced that the magical border to land of 10-0 was going to be crossed! The Crewe’s crew was going to get beat up, yeah!
The Spurs’ were tight and fit, my kids were sleeping (!), the missus watched telly, and Michael had bought plenty of beer – the frame for a perfect night, so to speak.
But oh! the underdogs didn’t care. At all. After 90 appalling minutes Crewe had won 2-0. Bertarelli made an own goal, Kohn missed a penalty, and Boothferry was sent off – and Michael, that traitor, that Judas, he laughed so much and so full of scorn that hours had passed before I forgave him. The illusion of the perfect CM team burst, and the game in question never really was the same again. Shortly after this a new version of CM was released, and the Spurs game died rapidly due to uninstallation…
But from off that early night, when I played Crewe in the FA Cup final, a spell originated, a spell that Michael and I still try to put on each other, when one of us is getting too loud mouthed, too self-indulgent, too pleased with oneself.
It means, may an underdog come and put you in your place!
I know all FM players have equivalent stories. There is a game or two, most likely from the early days of CM, which has passed into “history”, because it was unique. Often it is one of the first games one played at all, or one of the first one succeeded in, anyway. We have to admit that we spend hours playing a strategically complicated game which demands of whole lot a trying before succeeded a little.
Come to think of it, I’ve never been manager in Crewe. Once bitten, twice shy. Well, now I’m going to break the spell and see how far I can take “the railwaymen”. A FA Cup victory seems unlikely – which is the attracting part of it. It isn’t going to be easy. It is going to be uphill. But I can manage!
And after all, there is definitively something special about an underdog.
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