Andy Beckett’s book about Britain in the 1970s, “When The Lights Went Out”, is riveting: brilliantly researched (but the research, some of it verging on the obsessive, never once hampers the narrative), wise, illuminating and important. In passing, the author refers to a football match that took place on Jan 3rd 1973 at Wembley; it was part of a festival entitled Fanfare for Europe, intended to mark Britain’s admission into the EEC. The match was between a team “drawn from the original six Common Market nations, and one selected from the new member states – Britain, Denmark and Ireland.” Beckett notes that the match was played before “a less than half-full stadium”.
A less than half-full Wembley in 1973, before it became all-seater, would have meant a crowd of forty-odd thousand, and from here, that figure looks miraculous: it sounds like the least attractive game ever staged. Why would anyone go at all? “Come on you Britain, Denmark and Ireland!” It doesn’t trip off the tongue.