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Get It On: How the ?70s Rocked Football By Jon Spurling

Release date: 04th March, 2022
Publisher: Biteback

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This book?s jacket cover describes the 1970s as the ?most ground-breaking decade in English football history?, a bit of a push considering what happened two decades later when the Premiership was created. The hyperbole is not only misplaced, it?s unnecessary because the 1970s were a time of significant social, political and sporting change across British society.

Granted, it?s possible to discern growing evidence of commercialism seeping into the national game. Programmes became ?matchday magazines?; advertising hoardings appeared more frequently at grounds and a small clutch of players at fashionable clubs were hired as male models. Yet the phrase ?Get It On? could easily be a reference to a much-anticipated meetings between players such as Tommy Smith and Bobby Gould ? two genuine hard men who never failed to square up to each other whenever they met.

A history and politics teacher, author Jon Spurling skilfully and knowledgeably puts football?s 1970s story into context. It was a time of the notorious 3-day week; of political unrest and
widespread strikes. In 1972, 23.9 million working days were lost through strikes; during 1979, the figure rose to 29.4 million. Musically, disco gave way to glam rock which, in turn, ushered in punk.

Hooliganism was also rife at football grounds. Trips to away fixtures could be hairy if, say, your coach was ?bricked? by home fans (your correspondent twice encountered this as our coach pulled away from Turf Moor), or if you had the misfortune to take a wrong turn en route to an away ground, only to happen upon a group of 200 lank-haired youths intent on administering a good hiding to opposition supporters.

On the field of play, the north?s dominance became the norm. Arsenal were crowned champions in 1971, but it was another 17 years before a club south of Birmingham won the league. In between, Everton, Derby County, Leeds United Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa shared seven league titles; Liverpool won the other ten, also lifting the European Cup in 1977 and 1978. Their fans revelled in Manchester United?s relegation to the Second Division in 1973.

Some things became regrettably familiar.

England failed to reach the final stages of the 1972 Euros, after which attention turned to qualification for the 1974 World Cup. Needing victory against Poland at Wembley to qualify, Poland?s ?keeper, Jan Tomaszewski, played a blinder (despite Brian Clough calling him ?a clown?) and the match ended 1-1. So too did Sir Alf Ramsey?s 11-year reign.

Don Revie took over (after Joe Mercer?s spell as caretaker manager), but while Revie had been outstanding at Elland Road, he could not replicate the magic while at England?s helm. Nor, for that matter, could anyone else since.

The 1970s were a decade of significant social upheaval and for fans interested in learning about a specific era of football before 1992, Get It On, published in early March, is an excellent place to begin.


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