out of the shadows book review cover

Out of the Shadows by journalist Gary Jordan is a look back at England’s ultimately failed 1982 World Cup campaign. It charts the journey of the national team from the inglorious end of the brief Revie era to Keegan’s fluffed header in the Bernabeu.

The author has clearly done a hell of a lot of research. Trawling through player’s biographies, websites and magazines to build his story. Shoot! Magazine is mentioned an awful lot. The book does suffer somewhat from the lack of first hand memories or new revelations. There is also no indication why the author wrote the book.

Was he at the tournament as a fan? As a journalist? Or just fascinated by a time when England were decidedly second class citizens in international football? That gripe aside Out of the Shadows is a solid account of a period which saw England back on the world stage for the first time in 12 years.

england team out of the shadows
The 1982 England World Cup squad / Pitch Publishing

The background to England coming out of the shadows

If you thought being an England fan is tough today you wouldn’t believe how bad it was in the 1970s. If you were around back then you didn’t even have the consolation of the inevitable quarter final defeat on penalties. England didn’t qualify for any World Cup during the decade.

The seventies had started with a defeat against West Germany in the quarter-final (of course) of the Mexico World Cup. England didn’t qualify for the 1974 and 1978 tournaments.

Flattering to deceive against the bigger nations, turgid performances against opposition they should blow away, and superstar players in domestic football failing to deliver on the international stage. It’s a familiar story.

It was against this backdrop of utter failure that England bravely sallied forth towards the 1982 World Cup in Spain. But first they had to qualify. Something they hadn’t done since 1962.

Out of the shadows?

The build up to the tournament makes up the bulk of the book. The end of Alf Ramsey, the resignation of Don Revie and the appointment of Ron Greenwood are covered in depth. Then it’s on to the qualifying campaign. The author tells how England made typically hard work of qualifying including the infamous defeat to Norway which had the Scandinavian commentator in meltdown.

The author recounts the story of England’s qualification in great detail. But strangely the chapters dedicated to the finals themselves are fairly brief.

A typically English failure

The finals saw England finish unbeaten in five matches with only one goal conceded. Yet they didn’t make the semi-finals. A 0-0 draw in their final match against Spain seeing them miss out to the Germans. Again.

It could have been all so different. But injuries to Trevor Brooking and Kevin Keegan immediately put England on the back foot. England’s two best players missed the entire finals except for the last 26 minutes of the Spanish game. Even then they both missed chances to score.

keegans missed header
That Kevin Keegan header / Pitch Publishing

If Brooking and Keegan had been fit for the whole tournament it could have been an entirely different ending. And I wasn’t the only England fan at the time who blamed our elimination on Greenwood only putting the duo on the bench for the vital game against Spain.

Not one of the better World Cups

Personally speaking the 1982 World Cup wasn’t a great event. Though there were highlights of course. Northern Ireland beating Spain. Algeria’s defeat of West Germany. The amazing Brazil v Italy match and the goals of Paolo Rossi. But ultimately the 1982 World Cup left a bad taste in the mouth. And not just because of England’s inglorious exit.

francis goal out of the shadows
Trevor Francis scores against Czechoslovakia / Pitch Publishing

There was the scandalous farce of a match between West Germany and Austria with neither team venturing over the halfway line for 80 minutes. Schumacher committing GBH on Patrick Battiston without conceding a free kick never mind a jail sentence. And the farcical organisation of the tournament which saw England and Cameroon eliminated without losing a game and Italy progressing without winning one.

Out of the Shadows tells England’s 1982 World Cup story well enough and if you are nostalgic for the Ron Greenwood era you’ll enjoy this recounting of the tale.

You can buy the book from Amazon or direct from Pitch Publishing.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

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