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Author Archive for Brian Glanville

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Jimmy McIlroy obituary

Elegant Burnley inside-forward who was a creative force in the remarkable Northern Ireland side of the 1950sThe footballer Jimmy McIlroy, who has died aged 86, was an elegant cornerstone of Burnley’s First Division title-winning side of the late 1950s …

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Roger Piantoni obituary

Footballer who was a pivotal member of the dynamic France team at the 1958 World CupThe footballer Roger Piantoni, who has died aged 86, was the fulcrum of the exciting France team that took third place in the Swedish World Cup of 1958. A highly accomp…

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Ray Wilson obituary

Pacy, mobile left-back who gave an extra attacking drive to the England World Cup-winning team of 1966Ray Wilson, who has died aged 83, had the lowest profile of any player in England’s 1966 World Cup final-winning team, and generally liked to keep it …

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Roy Bentley obituary

Innovative England centre-forward who was top scorer and captain when Chelsea won their first league title in 1955Roy Bentley, who has died aged 93, became the first deep-lying centre-forward in English football, in the style of the Hungarian Nándor Hi…

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Jimmy Armfield obituary

Blackpool and England footballer who was a member of the winning World Cup squad of 1966Around the time of the World Cup quarter-finals in 1966, the footballer Jimmy Armfield, who has died aged 82, was asked what chance he thought England had of winnin…

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Hans Schäfer obituary

Key member of West Germany’s first World Cup-winning side who went on to captain his country in the following two tournamentsThe footballer Hans Schäfer, who has died aged 90, played for West Germany in three World Cups – in 1954, 1958 and 1962 – earni…

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Jackie Sewell obituary

Footballer who commanded a world-record transfer fee in the 1950s

For four years in the 1950s, Jackie Sewell, who has died aged 89, was the most expensive footballer in Britain, having moved from his first league club, Notts County, to Sheffield Wednesday for a record £34,500 midway through the 1950-51 season.

A quick, clever and incisive inside-forward, Sewell scored half a dozen First Division goals in 10 games, which almost saved Wednesday from relegation; they eventually went down by the narrowest of margins, on goal average. The following season he scored 22 goals in 35 Second Division matches to bring them back up to the top flight, and his feats with Wednesday earned him his first England call-up, against Ireland in November 1951. The next summer he scored England’s first goal in a famous 3-2 friendly victory over Austria. Yet he would win only six international caps in all, and his misfortune was that two of them came against the brilliant Hungarians, who thrashed England 6-3 at Wembley in November 1953 and 7-1 in Budapest the following May. He was the last surviving member of the England team from the 1953 Hungary game.

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Cesare Maldini obituary

Italian footballer who managed the national side at the 1998 World Cup finals

To take over the managership of the Azzurri, the Italian national team, at a time of mid-season crisis, at the age of 66, to change its tactics, and to take it to London after a single friendly game, there to beat England at Wembley in a crucial World Cup qualification match in 1997, was a feat in itself. But Cesare Maldini, who has died aged 84, was also the father of one of the best players in that match, Paolo Maldini. The fact that Paolo went on to be a bigger star was consistent with Cesare’s record in encouraging footballing talent.

When the unpopular Arrigo Sacchi resigned as Italy manager midway through the 1996-97 season, Cesare Maldini was the only real candidate to succeed him: other possible names already held club posts at huge salaries. Immediately imposing a highly defensive catenaccio (door-bolt) system on the team, Maldini gambled boldly at Wembley, and won 1-0, a result that helped Italy qualify for the 1998 World Cup.

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Zito

Star midfielder in Brazil’s World Cup-winning sides of 1958 and 1962

The footballer Zito, who has died aged 82, was a hugely influential mainstay of the golden era Brazil sides that won the 1958 and 1962 World Cups, and a legend at his club Santos, in São Paolo, with whom he collected many championship and cup winners’ medals.

Zito made his debut for his country in 1955, but it was when he came into Brazil’s two-man midfield in their third game of the 1958 World Cup in Sweden that he made all the difference. Brazil had deployed an innovatory 4-2-4 system, which would subsequently sweep the footballing world, but there was a certain imbalance. Didi, one of their two midfielders, was the perfect, creative inside-forward, but his partner, Dino Sani, was a little too adventurous and a little too similar to be his partner. Zito, an organised right-half who could win the ball as well as use it, replaced Sani against the Soviet Union in Gothenburg and immediately tightened things up.

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Zito

Star midfielder in Brazil’s World Cup-winning sides of 1958 and 1962

The footballer Zito, who has died aged 82, was a hugely influential mainstay of the golden era Brazil sides that won the 1958 and 1962 World Cups, and a legend at his club Santos, in São Paolo, with whom he collected many championship and cup winners’ medals.

Zito made his debut for his country in 1955, but it was when he came into Brazil’s two-man midfield in their third game of the 1958 World Cup in Sweden that he made all the difference. Brazil had deployed an innovatory 4-2-4 system, which would subsequently sweep the footballing world, but there was a certain imbalance. Didi, one of their two midfielders, was the perfect, creative inside-forward, but his partner, Dino Sani, was a little too adventurous and a little too similar to be his partner. Zito, an organised right-half who could win the ball as well as use it, replaced Sani against the Soviet Union in Gothenburg and immediately tightened things up.

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Alex Forbes obituary

Scottish footballer who played for his country and made 240 appearances for Arsenal Continue reading…

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Alex Forbes obituary

Scottish footballer who played for his country and made 240 appearances for Arsenal Continue reading…

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Alfredo Di Stéfano obituary

Centre-forward of the all-conquering Real Madrid football team of the 1950s, which won five European Cups in a row Continue reading…

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Gyula Grosics obituary

Adventurous goalkeeper who played in three World Cups for Hungary’s ‘Mighty Magyars’ football team

Gyula Grosics, who has died aged 88, was the goalkeeper of the magnificent Hungarian team that won 6-3 at Wembley in November 1953, smashing England’s unbeaten record at home against foreign teams, then thrashed them 7-1 in Budapest the following May, but somehow failed to win the 1954 World Cup final against West Germany, in what came to be known as “the Miracle of Bern“.

Powerfully built, but lithe and flexible, Grosics was a key figure in Hungary’s “Mighty Magyars” squad from 1947 to 1962. He won 89 caps for his country and played in three World Cups. As a goalkeeper, he was ahead of his time, operating not only with athleticism and anticipation in the goal itself, but always ready to act as a kind of sweeper if his defence were breached, dashing well beyond his penalty area to kick the ball clear.

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Bellini obituary

Captain of the Brazilian team that won the 1958 World Cup

The footballer Bellini, alias Hilderaldo Luiz Bellini, who has died aged 83, was Brazil’s centre-half and captain when they first won the World Cup, in Sweden in 1958. A powerful, resolute and sometimes abrasive central marker, he was one of the key players in the four-in-a-line (or flat-back-four) defence that Brazil introduced at the tournament and that would go on to sweep the game after their triumph. In 1962 he was passed over for the team that contested and won the World Cup in Chile, his place going to Mauro; but he was centre-half in 1966, playing in the first two of Brazil’s three ill-fated games in England.

Bellini was born in the town of Itapira, in São Paulo state, and his first club was the local Itapira Atlético, followed by the São João da Boa Vista club, and Vasco da Gama in Rio de Janeiro, from 1952 until 1962. He then moved to São Paulo, and remained there until 1968.

“Being an easygoing sort of chap,” Bellini wrote, “I was perhaps not as ambitious as some.” He gained his first international recognition only at the relatively late age of 26, when he was chosen to be part of the squad for the South American Championship in Lima in 1957, though the centre-half role was filled by Edson. Bellini did not have to wait long to be capped, however. Hard on the heels of that tournament, Brazil played two World Cup qualifying games against Peru, and he was chosen for both of them. He did well enough not only to keep his place right through to the 1958 World Cup finals but to become captain. After victory in the final he was presented with the trophy on the pitch and lifted it triumphantly above his head – an unusual and expansive gesture for the times, and one that was to be much copied in subsequent years by other captains. A statue of Bellini in that pose was eventually erected in front of the Maracanã stadium in Rio.

“There was nothing extraordinary about our defensive methods,” he said about the team’s performance in Sweden. “I took it upon myself to tackle an opponent entering the defence from our right, a striker from the left being handled by Orlando.” Broadly speaking, Bellini was a dominant figure throughout the tournament, placing an emphasis on studying the opponents’ buildup from midfield and assessing where the thrust would come from.

He did have one fortunate moment during the goalless draw against England in the Ullevi stadium, Gothenburg, in Brazil’s second match. Derek Kevan, England’s centre-forward, was racing through when Bellini brought him down. There seemed good claims for a penalty, but the referee allowed play to go on.

He had stronger opposition to contend with when Brazil played France in Stockholm in the semi-final. The French players Raymond Kopa and Just Fontaine had proved a devastating combination, with little Kopa making the bullets for the quick, strong, stocky Fontaine to fire. Bellini called him “the best getter of goals I saw in Sweden”.

Early in the game it seemed that Brazil would be in for a tormenting time, but an injury took the accomplished French centre-half, Robert Jonquet, off the pitch and the 10 French players eventually lost 5-2, with Pelé scoring a hat-trick. In the final, which Brazil also won 5-2, Agne Simonsson, Sweden’s centre-forward, did break through past Bellini for Sweden’s second goal but, by that time, Brazil had the match won.

In Chile four years later, Bellini was understudy to Mauro and did not get a game. Nevertheless, he felt that he made his contribution to Brazil’s success in training, tactical talks “and helping to stimulate and maintain the spirits of the party”.

In 1966 Brazil picked an older side, re-calling Bellini at the age of 36. He and the team survived their opening match against Bulgaria in Liverpool, winning 2-0. But in the second game Bellini and his fellow defenders could do little against the inspirational play of Hungary’s ubiquitous centre-forward, Flórián Albert. Bellini was dropped from the team, who also lost their third match, against Portugal, and were thus eliminated. He retired from football in 1969.

Bellini saw himself as a gentle giant, “a peaceful man off the field”. He went into business with his in-laws, opening a shop, “and in that role I look very little like a football player, particularly the hard, combative player I am said to be.” According to an interview in 2008 with Brasileiros magazine, he also trained as a lawyer, though he never practised. In recent years he had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

He is survived by his wife Giselda, whom he married in 1963, and their two children, Carla and Junior.

Bellini (Hilderaldo Luiz Bellini), footballer, born 7 June 1930; died 20 March 2014

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Sir Tom Finney obituary

Versatile Preston North End and England winger with a rare capacity for controlling the pace of a football match

Tom Finney, who has died aged 91, was perhaps the most complete British footballer of all time, yet he failed to win a single major honour for either club or country. Blessed with exquisite balance, skill and tactical intelligence, he played the game with a grace – or indeed good grace – given to very few: he was never booked, sent off or even ticked off by referees. Stanley Matthews may have been the public’s favourite, but to purists Finney was the greater all-rounder.

In the era of the maximum wage and before players enjoyed freedom of contract, there were many single-club players. So integral did Finney become to Preston North End, staying there from the age of 14 until retirement at 38, that when he went the club virtually went with him, relegated to the second division, never to return.

His brilliance inspired and often carried the team. Bill Shankly, an established right-half for Preston when Finney joined (and later manager of Liverpool), said of his friend: “Tom Finney would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age … even if he had been wearing an overcoat.” It was classic Shankly hyperbole, though few who saw Finney play would disagree with the sentiment.

Finney had a glittering career, but little silverware to show for it – the price he paid for loyalty. The only medals he collected were for the 1941 Wartime cup (not regarded as a full football honour), when Preston beat Arsenal 2-1, and the 1951 Second Division championship.

He even remained loyal to Preston when the Italian prince Roberto Lanza di Trabia made him an unimaginable offer to play for his team, Palermo, in Sicily. The prince had seen Finney play for England while they were touring Italy in 1952, and was so impressed he offered him a £10,000 signing-on fee, wages of £130 a month plus a bonus of up to £100 a game, a Mediterranean villa, a sports car and unlimited travel to and from Italy for his family. At the time, Finney was earning £14 a week with Preston (reduced to £12 in the summer close-season) plus a bonus of £2 for a win and £1 for a draw. To top up his wages, England’s best footballer ran a plumbing business on the side.

The club refused the transfer outright, even when a £30,000 fee was offered as compensation. Its desperation to hold on to Finney became apparent just a year after he retired. Deprived of its most inspirational figure, this historic small-town club – founder members of the Football League in 1888 and its first-ever champions – went into long-term decline.

Finney was born a street away from Deepdale, the home of the club he would come to embody. He was a slight, sickly boy, hampered by an infected gland in his neck. It was removed when he was 14, and shortly afterwards he gained a trial with Preston. Despite standing just 4ft 9in and weighing less than 5 stone, he was offered a contract to join the ground staff, but his father insisted that he learn a trade. So he signed instead as an amateur part-timer, and became an apprentice plumber – an occupation that would run parallel with (and outlast) his football career and lead to his nickname, the Preston Plumber.

Finney turned professional just after the outbreak of the second world war, which would steal years from his career. He had two excellent feet. A natural left-footer who began as an inside-left, he was switched by Preston to the right wing.

During the war he served with the Royal Armoured Corps and was a tank driver in north Africa and Italy, where he took part in the battle to capture Argenta in April 1945. He was also selected to play for several forces sides in Egypt, once lining up for the Eighth Army against the actor Omar Sharif, who was playing for King Farouk’s team.

Finney was given a relatively quick discharge from the army – not to play football, but because plumbers were needed to help with reconstruction. He made his long-delayed league debut for Preston at the age of 24 against Leeds United on 31 August 1946, the opening day of the first postwar season. It was the first of 473 competitive appearances for the club, in which he scored 210 goals.

Many comparisons were made between Finney and Matthews, whom he initially displaced on England’s right wing. Matthews was a showman, dubbed “the wizard of the dribble”, an out-and-out winger who would hug the touchline. Finney was more versatile, playing in all five forward positions over the course of his career, and could score as well as create goals.

In his autobiography, The Way It Was, published just after his death in 2000, Matthews wrote: “To dictate the pace and course of a game, a player has to be blessed with awesome qualities. Those who have accomplished it on a regular basis can be counted on the fingers of one hand – Pelé, Maradona, Best, Di Stéfano and Tom Finney.”

Finney made his England debut in a 7-2 trouncing of Northern Ireland in 1946, the first of 76 appearances in which he scored 30 goals, then a record. England looked strongest when both wingers were deployed, with Matthews on the right and the versatile Finney playing out of position on the left. The first time they played this way was in May 1947 in Lisbon against Portugal, who were routed 10-0. Matthews was irresistible, but Finney was in such devastating form that his direct opponent, the Portuguese captain and right-back Álvaro Cardoso, walked off the field in the first half, demanding to be substituted, and would never play for his country again. A year later, the pair outclassed Italy in Turin, Finney cutting in to score the last two English goals in a 4-0 humiliation of the holders of the World Cup, last competed for in 1938.

Finney appeared in three World Cups, though none was truly satisfactory. The imperious English Football Association had not entered the first three tournaments, held before the war, and had its comeuppance when it deigned to enter in 1950 in Brazil. England beat Chile in their first game, but then lost 1-0 to the US, a team of part-timers. The team then lost their final group game, also 1-0, to Spain, and were knocked out.

In 1954, in Switzerland, Finney helped England reach the quarter-finals and scored their second goal when they lost 4-2 to Uruguay. Four years later, in Sweden, he was injured in the opening match against the Soviet Union, which put him out of the rest of England’s disappointing tournament. Despite his injury, Finney stayed on the field to put away the penalty that gave England a 2-2 draw.

Finney’s personal milestones included being named footballer of the year in 1954, at the age of 32. He collected the award on the eve of the FA Cup final, a game for which he, and much of the nation, hoped he would finally obtain a winner’s medal. But Finney, normally so at home at Wembley, played what he later described as his worst ever game for Preston, as they lost 3-2 to West Bromwich Albion.

In 1956, a new Preston manager, Cliff Britton, moved Finney to a deep-lying centre-forward position. Making use of his balance, passing and ability to glide past players, Finney was able to play a more pivotal role in the team. He was a revelation, playing some of the best football of his life, and in 1957 became the first player to be voted English footballer of the year for a second time.

That season, he scored 27 goals in 40 games, as Preston, usually to be found mid-table, finished third in the league. The following season he scored 26 goals and the team were runners-up. They dropped to 12th in 1958-59, when he was able to play only 16 league games, for half a dozen goals.

Throughout his playing career Finney continued to build up his plumbing business, which was very much a going concern by the time he retired in 1960 – this when he had just completed a season in which he played 43 games, scoring 21 goals. He became president of the club, a magistrate and chairman of his local health authority. In 1998 he was knighted.

He married Elsie Noblett in 1945, and they had a son, Brian, and a daughter, Barbara. Elsie died in 2004.

Thomas Finney, footballer, born 5 April 1922; died 14 February 2014

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Luis Aragonés obituary

Irrepressible manager of the Spanish national side that won a European championship trophy after a 44-year wait

A gifted, inventive footballer and a controversial manager, both at club and international levels, Luis Aragonés, who has died aged 75 of leukaemia, was also a plain speaker with a sometimes explosive temper. However, he helped raise Spanish spirits to new heights in the summer of 2008 when he led the national side to their first title in 44 years as they lifted the European championship trophy.

Aragonés was already aged 70 when the Spaniards beat Germany 1-0 to win the cup in Vienna – making him the oldest coach to win the contest – having taken over four years earlier after the constantly underachieving side had again failed to distinguish themselves in the 2004 European Championship finals in Portugal. Further disappointment followed two years later in the World Cup finals in Germany, but Aragonés left the team well placed to consolidate their position as a major force in the international game under his successor Vicente del Bosque, winning both the 2010 World Cup and 2012 European Cup.

Born in Hortaleza, on the northern fringes of Madrid – and later nicknamed the Wise Man of Hortaleza – Aragonés was 14 when his father died, and the family made a living from having the only van in the area. Luis began playing for a Jesuit college team, and then Getafe, to the south of the capital, signing for Real Madrid in 1958. But he never got a game for them, and was lent to Real Oviedo, where in December 1960 he made his first-division debut. At the end of that season he went to the Seville club Real Betis, where he truly established himself, scoring 33 goals in 86 games.

Although no prodigy, Aragonés was an inside-right of high skill, intelligence and quality. In 1964, he joined Atlético Madrid, where he stayed for a decade in which the club won three championships and two cups, growing famous for his insidious free kicks and precise penalty kicks. In the 1969-70 season he was one of three top scorers in the Spanish league, with 16 goals. Between 1965 and 1972, he was capped 11 times by Spain.

Aragonés did much to get Atlético as far as the European Cup final in Brussels in 1974, not least in Belgrade against Red Star, conquerors in the second round of Liverpool: he scored Atlético’s first goal in a 2-0 win. The final – or to be precise, both finals, for there was a replay – was a strange affair. There were just six minutes left of extra time during the first encounter when Aragonés cleverly curled a free kick into Bayern Munich’s goal. That seemed to be that, but almost with the last kick of the game the big Bayern centre-forward, George Schwarzenbeck, thundered upfield to score from 30 yards. In the replay, Atlético collapsed and lost 4-0.

After the first six games of the 1974-75 season, Atlético offered Aragonés their managership, and he promptly retired as a player. He had scored 160 goals in 360 league games.

After six years managing Atlético, he left to take over Real Betis in 1981-82, but lasted only briefly before returning to Atlético for another five years. In 1987 he moved to Barcelona, succeeding the sacked Terry Venables, but lasted barely a single season, despite reviving the team.

In 1990 he moved across Barcelona to take charge of the Espanyol club. Thereafter his career was unsettled: two seasons back with Atlético (1991-93), two at Seville, two at Valencia, two at Betis, one at Oviedo (1999-2000), two one-year spells at Real Mallorca, sandwiching a couple of seasons back with Atlético (2001-03), during the first of which he brought them back from the second division. As a manager he won just one championship, with Valencia in 1977, but won the cup four times, in 1976, 1985, 1988 and 1992.

His initial task as national manager was to take Spain to the finals of the 2006 World Cup, a task he accomplished with some difficulty, needing victory in a play-off against Slovakia in November 2005. A crushing first leg 5-1 win in Madrid was followed by a 1-1 draw in Bratislava.

However, when it came to the finals in Germany, Thierry Henry had the chance of getting his own back for a racist jibe that Aragonés had made to another player, apparently in the cause of motivation. This had happened two years earlier, and the manager was heavily criticised. After cruising through the first round with wins over Ukraine, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, Spain then confronted France in the second round in Hanover. With the score at 1-1, Henry collapsed dramatically under a challenge from Carles Puyol. The resulting free kick from Zinédine Zidane reached Patrick Vieira, who scored, with Zidane himself making it 3-1 in injury time.

When the 2008 European finals arrived, Aragonés, whose team had qualified without panache and were seeded 12th, dropped the captain Raúl (Raúl González Blanco, also the captain of Real Madrid), preferring two younger strikers, Fernando Torres, then Liverpool’s newest star striker, and David Villa, both of whom were destined to shine. With first-round victories over Russia (4-1), Sweden (2-1) and Greece (2-1), Spain went on to eliminate the reigning world champions Italy deservedly on penalties (4-2) in the quarter-final — the first time that they had beaten Italy in a competitive match since 1920, also breaking Spain’s long record of defeats in penalty shoot-outs. They then beat Russia again (3-0) in the semi-final (Russia had progressed as runners-up in the initial group stage), and Germany in the final, thanks to a superb 33rd minute individual goal by the dynamic Torres. After lifting the trophy, they were further rewarded a few days later by being seeded number one in the Fifa world rankings, the first team never to have won a World Cup to achieve this.

Puyol remarked: “Aragonés taught us to believe it was possible. He was the first to be convinced that we, as a team playing with a clear style, could win.” Aragonés himself said: “The criticism has taught me a lot, except when I am insulted. It has stimulated me and encouraged me to do things better.” At the end of his 54-match tenure as national coach, his record stood at won 38, drawn 12, and lost only four – a Spanish record.

For most men of that age, having reached such a pinnacle, summer 2008 would have seemed a good moment to retire. But not the irrepressible Aragonés: he had a cussed, even eccentric, streak. He was once caught on camera cutting a television cable that he considered to be “suspiciously close” to the dug-out; he accused a fan of being “uglier than two horses”; and he once told a player to get on with the game because there was “nothing bloody wrong with you”; the player had a broken jaw.

So for the first time in his career he left Spain, to take over as manager of the Turkish club Fenerbahçe. However, the following summer they finished fourth in the league, and he was dismissed.

Aragonés is survived by his wife, Pepa, five children and 11 grandchildren.

• José Luis Aragonés Suárez, footballer and football manager, born 28 July 1938; died 1 February 2014

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Luis Aragonés obituary

Irrepressible manager of the Spanish national side that won a European championship trophy after a 44-year wait

A gifted, inventive footballer and a controversial manager, both at club and international levels, Luis Aragonés, who has died aged 75 of leukaemia, was also a plain speaker with a sometimes explosive temper. However, he helped raise Spanish spirits to new heights in the summer of 2008 when he led the national side to their first title in 44 years as they lifted the European championship trophy.

Aragonés was already aged 70 when the Spaniards beat Germany 1-0 to win the cup in Vienna – making him the oldest coach to win the contest – having taken over four years earlier after the constantly underachieving side had again failed to distinguish themselves in the 2004 European Championship finals in Portugal. Further disappointment followed two years later in the World Cup finals in Germany, but Aragonés left the team well placed to consolidate their position as a major force in the international game under his successor Vicente del Bosque, winning both the 2010 World Cup and 2012 European Cup.

Born in Hortaleza, on the northern fringes of Madrid – and later nicknamed the Wise Man of Hortaleza – Aragonés was 14 when his father died, and the family made a living from having the only van in the area. Luis began playing for a Jesuit college team, and then Getafe, to the south of the capital, signing for Real Madrid in 1958. But he never got a game for them, and was lent to Real Oviedo, where in December 1960 he made his first-division debut. At the end of that season he went to the Seville club Real Betis, where he truly established himself, scoring 33 goals in 86 games.

Although no prodigy, Aragonés was an inside-right of high skill, intelligence and quality. In 1964, he joined Atlético Madrid, where he stayed for a decade in which the club won three championships and two cups, growing famous for his insidious free kicks and precise penalty kicks. In the 1969-70 season he was one of three top scorers in the Spanish league, with 16 goals. Between 1965 and 1972, he was capped 11 times by Spain.

Aragonés did much to get Atlético as far as the European Cup final in Brussels in 1974, not least in Belgrade against Red Star, conquerors in the second round of Liverpool: he scored Atlético’s first goal in a 2-0 win. The final – or to be precise, both finals, for there was a replay – was a strange affair. There were just six minutes left of extra time during the first encounter when Aragonés cleverly curled a free kick into Bayern Munich’s goal. That seemed to be that, but almost with the last kick of the game the big Bayern centre-forward, George Schwarzenbeck, thundered upfield to score from 30 yards. In the replay, Atlético collapsed and lost 4-0.

After the first six games of the 1974-75 season, Atlético offered Aragonés their managership, and he promptly retired as a player. He had scored 160 goals in 360 league games.

After six years managing Atlético, he left to take over Real Betis in 1981-82, but lasted only briefly before returning to Atlético for another five years. In 1987 he moved to Barcelona, succeeding the sacked Terry Venables, but lasted barely a single season, despite reviving the team.

In 1990 he moved across Barcelona to take charge of the Espanyol club. Thereafter his career was unsettled: two seasons back with Atlético (1991-93), two at Seville, two at Valencia, two at Betis, one at Oviedo (1999-2000), two one-year spells at Real Mallorca, sandwiching a couple of seasons back with Atlético (2001-03), during the first of which he brought them back from the second division. As a manager he won just one championship, with Valencia in 1977, but won the cup four times, in 1976, 1985, 1988 and 1992.

His initial task as national manager was to take Spain to the finals of the 2006 World Cup, a task he accomplished with some difficulty, needing victory in a play-off against Slovakia in November 2005. A crushing first leg 5-1 win in Madrid was followed by a 1-1 draw in Bratislava.

However, when it came to the finals in Germany, Thierry Henry had the chance of getting his own back for a racist jibe that Aragonés had made to another player, apparently in the cause of motivation. This had happened two years earlier, and the manager was heavily criticised. After cruising through the first round with wins over Ukraine, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, Spain then confronted France in the second round in Hanover. With the score at 1-1, Henry collapsed dramatically under a challenge from Carles Puyol. The resulting free kick from Zinédine Zidane reached Patrick Vieira, who scored, with Zidane himself making it 3-1 in injury time.

When the 2008 European finals arrived, Aragonés, whose team had qualified without panache and were seeded 12th, dropped the captain Raúl (Raúl González Blanco, also the captain of Real Madrid), preferring two younger strikers, Fernando Torres, then Liverpool’s newest star striker, and David Villa, both of whom were destined to shine. With first-round victories over Russia (4-1), Sweden (2-1) and Greece (2-1), Spain went on to eliminate the reigning world champions Italy deservedly on penalties (4-2) in the quarter-final — the first time that they had beaten Italy in a competitive match since 1920, also breaking Spain’s long record of defeats in penalty shoot-outs. They then beat Russia again (3-0) in the semi-final (Russia had progressed as runners-up in the initial group stage), and Germany in the final, thanks to a superb 33rd minute individual goal by the dynamic Torres. After lifting the trophy, they were further rewarded a few days later by being seeded number one in the Fifa world rankings, the first team never to have won a World Cup to achieve this.

Puyol remarked: “Aragonés taught us to believe it was possible. He was the first to be convinced that we, as a team playing with a clear style, could win.” Aragonés himself said: “The criticism has taught me a lot, except when I am insulted. It has stimulated me and encouraged me to do things better.” At the end of his 54-match tenure as national coach, his record stood at won 38, drawn 12, and lost only four – a Spanish record.

For most men of that age, having reached such a pinnacle, summer 2008 would have seemed a good moment to retire. But not the irrepressible Aragonés: he had a cussed, even eccentric, streak. He was once caught on camera cutting a television cable that he considered to be “suspiciously close” to the dug-out; he accused a fan of being “uglier than two horses”; and he once told a player to get on with the game because there was “nothing bloody wrong with you”; the player had a broken jaw.

So for the first time in his career he left Spain, to take over as manager of the Turkish club Fenerbahçe. However, the following summer they finished fourth in the league, and he was dismissed.

Aragonés is survived by his wife, Pepa, five children and 11 grandchildren.

• José Luis Aragonés Suárez, footballer and football manager, born 28 July 1938; died 1 February 2014

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Bert Williams obituary

Wolves and England goalkeeper, he went to the 1950 World Cup

One of the finest English goalkeepers since the second world war, Bert Williams, who has died aged 93, won the league championship and FA Cup with Wolverhampton Wanderers. For the national side, he played in their first World Cup finals, in Brazil in 1950.

He had first been chosen to play for England in an unofficial Victory International against France at Wembley in 1945, which the French surprisingly drew 2-2. He returned to the England team against France the following year in Paris: England lost 2-1, one of the French goals coming when Williams was forced over his goal line with the ball.

His official international debut came in Paris in 1949, when England won 3-1 despite an untypical mistake from Williams that gave away an early goal. It was plain by then that Frank Swift, who had for years been England’s first choice keeper, was approaching the end of his career. With a superb display at home against Italy in the same year, Williams secured the succession.

The first of three dramatic saves, all in the first half, came from Rinaldo Martino, the Argentine, playing inside-left for Italy that day. Put clean through by Amedeo Amadei with an inspired pass, he had only Williams to beat. His shot was hard and true, but Williams catapulted himself across his goal to reach it. Next he blocked Riccardo Carapellese’s point-blank drive, and finally he twisted in mid-air to save a shot by Benito Lorenzi that suddenly changed course when it hit the England left back, John Aston.

Now assured a spot in the international team, Williams was England’s goalkeeper the following year in the World Cup finals, and it was hardly his fault that they should fail so embarrassingly. He kept a clean sheet when Chile were beaten 2-0 in Rio in the opening game. Then came catastrophe; a 1-0 defeat by a scratch team from the US, followed by defeat against Spain by the same score. In all, Williams won 24 full England caps between 1949 and 1955, his last against Wales.

Born in Bradley, Staffordshire, Williams had joined the ground staff of Walsall, then a Third Division club, at the age of 15, and at 16 made his league debut. At 5ft 10in, it was originally thought he might not be tall enough for a professional goalkeeper, but he was fortunate that the manager of Walsall was the celebrated ex-England goalkeeper Harry Hibbs, who stood at 5ft 9in and displayed a sympathetic attitude towards his stature.

Williams’s fledgling career was interrupted by the second world war, and he joined the Royal Air Force as a fitness instructor. Afterwards he joined Wolves in September 1945 for just short of £4,000, and under the legendary managership of Stan Cullis won the FA Cup against Leicester City at Wembley in 1949 and a League Championship medal in 1954. Aside from his outstanding goalkeeping abilities, his quick and accurate distribution often helped to set up attacks that led to goals.

After he retired, with 420 Wolves appearances to his credit, Williams opened two sports outfitter shops and ran a smallholding before setting up a coaching school for goalkeepers. It had much success, producing at least 10 League keepers, among them Phil Parkes of Wolves and Joe Corrigan of Manchester United. “There is a bigger wastage of manpower in soccer than in any other industry,” Williams lamented in 1970. “All herded together, doing the same exercises. Nobody to give them the individual coaching they need.”

The school closed in 1971, but a leisure centre in Wolverhampton bears his name.

After the death of his wife Evelyn in 2002, he devoted himself to fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Society, and in 2010 was appointed MBE for services to football and charity.

He is survived by his children, Annette, Vaughan and Paul.

• Bert Frederick Williams, footballer, born 31 January 1920; died 19 January 2014

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Bill Foulkes obituary

Manchester Utd ‘rock’ who survived the 1958 Munich air disaster

In his remarkable 17-year career with Manchester United, during which he played in no fewer than 688 matches, Bill Foulkes, who has died aged 81, scored only nine goals. But one of them was among the most important ever scored for the club. It came in the second leg European Cup semi-final of 1968 against Real Madrid in a packed Santiago Bernabéu stadium. United had won the first leg at Old Trafford, 1-0, but for much of the first half they were outplayed, finding themselves 3-1 down and therefore 3-2 behind on aggregate.

David Sadler with an unorthodox flick made the score 3-2 then, ignoring cries of warning from his team-mates, Foulkes, the 36-year-old veteran at centre-back, trotted up field. When George Best beat his man and crossed, there was Foulkes to side-foot the ball into the net and United into the European Cup final.

It must have been all the more satisfying for Foulkes, in that as long ago as 1957, in the first leg of the European Cup semi-final, also at the Bernabéu, playing right-back, his original role, he had been given a torrid time by the flying Real left-winger, Paco Gento, who was far too fast for him. United’s manager, Matt Busby, had eulogised Gento’s pace before the game, which prompted the young Bobby Charlton to ask himself, “What did that mean to Bill Foulkes, who had to mark him?” In the event, Foulkes gave away Real’s first goal in a 3-1 defeat when he fouled Gento, the referee played the advantage rule, and the left-winger raced on to set up a goal for the Argentinian Héctor Rial.

Foulkes, who was 5ft 11in tall and weighed just over 13 stone, was born in St Helens, Lancashire. In his teens he became a miner at Lea Green colliery, and played for Whiston Boys Club. His talent came to the notice of Manchester United and it was there that he spent the whole of his professional playing career.

His first-team debut came against Liverpool in December 1952, and he gained a single cap for England, against Northern Ireland in 1954. Only then did he give up part-time work at the colliery, and from 1955 was faced with the difficulty of reconciling his football commitments with doing national service.

League championship medals came in 1956, 1957, 1965 and 1967, and Foulkes was a member of the United team that beat Leicester City in the FA Cup final of 1963. He was one of the survivors of the horrific crash of the team’s aeroplane at Munich airport in February 1958, returning from a European Cup match in Belgrade. A couple of weeks later, a United side carpentered together by Jimmy Murphy, the acting manager while Busby was recovering from his injuries, met Sheffield Wednesday at Old Trafford before 65,000 impassioned fans in the FA Cup. “Sheffield had no chance,” thought Foulkes, “and I felt sorry for them. The crowd was hysterical, and I wasn’t far off being the same way.” United won 3-0, and went on to reach the cup final.

In the Munich disaster, the team had lost both their first-choice centre-halves, Mark Jones, who had died, and Jackie Blanchflower, so badly hurt that he would never play again. In due course Foulkes moved into the middle to replace them, a dominating and implacable figure nicknamed “Rock Face”. He could not be thrown off his game by physical challenge, though he did have troubles when faced by a quick centre-forward. It was at centre-back that he won his European Cup medal at Wembley, in the United team that beat Benfica 4-1 after extra time, following their success against Real Madrid.

Only Charlton in Foulkes’s day, and Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs since, have made more appearances for United. Charlton said of him: “He was as hard as nails, as tough as teak – I was always glad I didn’t have to play against him.”

After his final first-team appearance in 1969, Foulkes coached Manchester United’s reserves, who tended to find him a hard taskmaster. In 1975, he went to the US, where he managed the Chicago Sting and the Tulsa Roughnecks. From 1980, he managed clubs in Norway, and from 1988 to 1991 he was in Japan, managing FC Mazda of Hiroshima.

Foulkes is survived by his wife, Teresa, daughter, Amanda, and sons, Stephen and Geoffrey.

• William Anthony Foulkes, footballer, born 5 January 1932; died 25 November 2013

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