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My World Cup: Bryan Douglas (England, 1958 and 1962)
TO this day he rues the fact that he was too tired to perform at his best at two World Cups, but Bryan Douglas will always feel privileged to have played against Garrincha and the great Brazil.
The Blackburn Rovers legend, now 75, represented England in 1958 and 1962 before a knee injury ended his 1966 dreams.
Scan through his World Cup appearances, and one opponent immediately leaps out.
The tournament may have changed dramatically in the half a century that has followed, but one thing has remained the same.
Brazil have always been Brazil.
It was the South Americans who won both World Cups that Douglas was involved in, and the names remain famous to this day.
But the Rovers man missed out on facing the greatest name of all by a matter of days, with a 17-year-old Pele making his World Cup debut in 1958 in the game after England had held Brazil 0-0.
Pele would go on to star in that World Cup but, four years later in Chile, he was absent again through injury as Brazil defeated England 3-1 in the quarter finals – in a game that, perhaps oddly, has become more famous for Jimmy Greaves’ attempts to capture a stray dog during the first half.
“Garrincha was playing for Brazil and he scored two goals,” remembers Douglas, who would later score against them in a friendly at Wembley in 1963.
“I do feel absolutely privileged to have played against players like that. Brazil had people like Didi and Santos, too.
“But if you could get on top of them, they could lose interest. I played them three times in my career and we drew twice.
“Pele was at the 1958 World Cup but he only came on the scene after we had played them.
“We didn’t know anything about him then. He was only 17 but once he played, gosh, I’ve never seen a better player.”
In those days the World Cup may not have been the event it is now, but the problem of players arriving at the tournament tired was just as big an issue.
“In 1958 Blackburn had just been promoted and we had played so many games,” said the winger, who played 36 times for England.
“When I got to the World Cup I was knackered. I don’t think I did play at my best at either World Cup. It did affect me.
“You look at it now and the players are playing week in, week out in the Premier League and then they’re all off again for the World Cup. No matter what people say, you do get mentally tired.”
With Rovers team-mate Ronnie Clayton also in the squad, Douglas appeared in all three group games in Sweden in 1958 along with Burnley goalkeeper Colin McDonald.
Having drawn against the Soviet Union in their opening game, they faced them again in a play-off after further draws against Brazil and Austria.
Douglas was dropped, England could find no way past Lev Yashin in a 1-0 defeat and their World Cup hopes – considered strong before the tragic deaths of Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor and Roger Byrne in the Munich air disaster months earlier – were over.
“It was a big blow,” said Douglas.
“We could have won it had we not lost those three.”
In 1962, England lost to Hungary, beat Argentina – Antonio Rattin and all – and drew with Bulgaria in front of crowds of around 7,000 before their quarter final loss to Brazil. But the trip to host country Chile remains the centre of many of Douglas’ memories.
“We were staying up in the Andes at a copper mine,” he said.
“We were a long way from home and there were no mobile phones or WAGS then. We played in Rancagua and it was a little village, it was like Clitheroe.
“There were only a few thousand at the games.
“The World Cup wasn’t as big as it is now, there wasn’t the glamour. But it did feel strange.
“Now England fans travel all over the world but there were only people from the consulate, about 100 there supporting us.”
Then came the regret of 1966.
“In 1965 I had gone to Lilleshall with the squad but at the start of that next season we had the polio scare, so Blackburn had only played one game,” Douglas recalled. “We played a friendly on the training ground and I got a bad injury.
"I didn’t play again until February 1966 and missed out on the squad.
“I enjoyed watching the final, but in the back of mind I was thinking I should have been there. I should have been part of it.”