Martin Dowey’s Column The legend who didn’t win the top prize

editorial image

THE recent death of legendary midfielder Socrates got me looking back through the years and I was surprised to see that the brilliant bearded Brazilian never actually won a World Cup final.

I can remember Socrates from my youth as being a player who was so relaxed that he seemed half asleep.

That didn’t stop him controlling the game from the midfield, unlocking defences with ease and picking a pass from half a mile away.

Somehow he managed to make the headband cool, which is quite an achievement.

In the 1980s I recall buying the Brazilian Subbuteo team just because of him and a striker at the time called Antonio Careca.

I can even remember drawing a beard on one of the players in pencil to match Socrates’.

In my own World Cup finals on my astro-turf pitch in my parents’ front room it was always Brazil or England that came out on top - the Germans were always sent packing in the first round.

But in reality, that great Brazilian team of the 1980s failed to achieve anything of note.

They boasted the likes of Socrates, Zico, Careca, Falcao, Josimar and many others.

On paper, that side should have won everything on show at a canter, but as many a great man has said: “Football isn’t won on paper.”

I was only three in 1982, so I struggle to remember much about that World Cup, I had to ask my sports editor Andy Bloomfield for advice.

After cruising through the first group stage, they lost out to Italy and crashed out.

If you type World Cup 1982 into Google then many of the links and the videos that show up are based around Brazil and their talisman Socrates.

Four years later, with me watching in the children’s’ room of the Buck Inn in Hunmanby and a little more interested, everyone must have thought that the trophy was Brazil’s, but the French extinguished their dreams on penalties in the quarter-finals.

Brazilian football has always seemed to come and go in waves, with no reason why.

They dominated in 1958, 1962 and 1970, a drought was followed by more success in 1994 and 2002, before the current lack of silverware.

Throughout that period, they have had a plethora of skill and pace on show, maybe the samba flair isn’t all that is required.

Down the years there must have been many teams that - on paper - should have grasped victory, but in the end they were left with nothing but attractive football and memories.

The Dutch were one of these sides in 1990 after their success in the 1988 European Championships.

They looked unbeatable in the Euros, with Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit sparking a comfortable success.

Two years later they came unstuck against the efficient German side, who nullified football for years with their regimental play.

The Germans put paid to an impressive-looking England team’s hopes in 1996, with Tony Adams taking the role of the slightly less glamorous Socrates, as he had the captain’s armband.

Adams was the steel to Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer’s quality, but again, as always, the Germans got in the way.

It isn’t just limited to international football and football at the top level. You can arrange a quality side anywhere in the game and still not make the grade.

I recall in 2005, there was a tremendous buzz around the Athletic Ground, as everyone from fans to managers were predicting a push for promotion back to the Football League.

Boss Nick Henry and player-assistant Neil Redfearn did have a clear-out of Scott Kerr, Colin Cryan, Chris Senior and Tyrone Thompson in the summer, but the arrivals of Ian Clark, the returning Mark Quayle, Brian Wake, Mark Eccles, Simon Weaver, Jermaine Palmer, Dave Elebert and Jake Speight was said to be enough for a push for honours.

An opening-day 4-0 loss at Hereford was called a one-off, but only three wins came before November, in a season that resulted in Scarborough dropping down into the Conference North.

They didn’t have a country’s expectations on their back, but once things have been built-up, it is still difficult when they are knocked down.