Many people regard the 1971/72 football season as the greatest and Danny Abrahams’ book certainly makes a very strong case.
‘There was a season when the world’s greatest footballers were all on show at British grounds. Best, Keegan, Charlton and Moore were joined by Pele, Cruyff and Eusebio, while in the dugouts Clough, Shankly, Revie, and Allison duked it out in the closest ever championship title race. That season was 1971/72.’
It was a season when, in contrast to the current Premier League, a strong case could be made for eight or nine sides winning the title coupled with at least a dozen who could win the domestic cups.
Abrahams recounts the season month by month, chapter by chapter with the key games from all the divisions, domestic and European games plus international matches. It is a comprehensive insight into the football culture of the times in the context of national and world events.
He also unearths some special gems from the time. For example, centre-back David Webb started in goal for Chelsea against Ipswich in December 1971 and three months later he played as a forward in the return fixture, scoring a brace in Chelsea’s 2-1 win.
Abrahams believes that although we are now lucky to have wall-to-wall coverage of every goal, it has also robbed us of a rite of passage. He says that Joe Mercer’s view of television is worth repeating,
‘Nothing is left for the supporter to make up his own mind about. Football has much to do with memories. The memory can play tricks, but supporters love to look back, think a certain player did this or that in a game, that a certain goal was scored from 30 yards. It may not have happened exactly like that, but supporters love to believe it did. Television logs everything and as such disproves the memory. It’s robbing football of its romance.’
While this is primarily a homage to football’s greatest season the author does make some telling comparisons and identifies the significant differences between the early 70’s and modern-day football.
‘In the 20 seasons from 1995/96 to 2014/15, only four different teams won the Premier League. In the same 20 seasons, only seven different teams won the FA Cup. In 1972 Derby became the seventh different team to win the title in seven seasons, and Leeds were the tenth different Cup winner in ten seasons. If anything, the FA Cup was the glamour prize in domestic football back in 1972.’
While he acknowledges that today’s game is faster, less brutal, has more goals and you can see the foreign superstars playing in our safer grounds. What he believes is missing from the modern game is an old-fashioned word – charm.
It may be a slightly nostalgic view, but there is a large element of truth in it and this engrossing book goes a long way towards explaining why.
’71/’72: Football’s Greatest Season? By Daniel Abrahams. Published by Pitch Publishing. Price £16.99.
This review first appeared in the March/April 2022 edition of Late Tackle magazine.