We Made Them Angry by Tom Brogan – Review
By Karl Hornsey
As a connoisseur and devotee of the 1982 football World Cup and anything to do with it, I was keen to get my hands on one of the latest books to document an element of the tournament – namely the efforts of the Scottish team under manager Jock Stein and their experiences before and during the finals in Spain. Author Tom Brogan has brought together the various strands involving one of the finest Scotland squads to leave these shores, putting the finals into their social context of the time, in particular the Falklands War which loomed large over the participation of all three home nations, marking We Made Them Angry out as an excellent addition to the canon of books about the tournament.
Brogan dives straight into the start of the qualifying campaign in 1980, which represented the first opportunity for Scotland to begin to put the nightmare of the 1978 finals behind them. On that occasion, then-manager Ally MacLeod proclaimed that Scotland were going to win the World Cup, before crashing out of the group stage in ignominious fashion, with a disillusioned and divided squad. The tale of that sorry saga is told in Graham McColl’s ’78: How a Nation Lost the World Cup, and there’s no doubt that the 1982 episode lacks much of the drama of what occurred four years previously, meaning that Brogan’s book focuses much more on events on the pitch and of a squad that was kept out of the news headlines by their experienced and pragmatic manager Stein.
While the qualifying campaign passed off with relatively little incident, as Scotland and Northern Ireland progressed at the expense of Sweden, Portugal and Israel, Brogan successfully brings the squad to life with pen portraits of some of the key players, giving an interesting and relevant background that helps to remind the reader of how so much has changed in football in the 40 years since the tournament. The author’s enthusiasm for his subject shines through, especially as the squad head to Spain for the finals, and the shambles of the draw for the finals and Stein’s constant battles to ensure his squad would be the most professional and organised ever sent by Scotland to a World Cup tournament are well covered.
“A story that deserved to be told”
Brogan is also helped by the fact that Scotland found themselves in one of the most interesting of groups once they reached Spain, with each of their matches against New Zealand, Brazil and the Soviet Union offering up a different challenge, and plenty of anecdotal quotes and musings from the players involved. And when those players include the likes of Liverpool trio Alan Hansen, Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness, and household names north and south of the border such as Gordon Strachan, Joe Jordan and Alan Brazil, then these are stories worth reading about.
It’s also a great idea to have spoken to several of the faithful Scotland supporters who made it their mission to watch their heroes in Spain, and the many ways in which they made it to the finals, despite ticketing challenges and an era before the internet and social media made such logistical planning infinitely easier. If I have a criticism of this book, then the subbing could have been a little tighter, which would have avoided simple errors such as describing iconic Brazil captain and attacking midfielder Socrates as a defender in one breath, followed in the very next sentence by referring to his ‘midfield role’.
On the whole though, Brogan has honed in on a story that deserved to be told and his narrative takes one back those 40 years to a time of social upheaval, a sport that was in a very different shape to the behemoth that has developed since, and the catalogue of books on the 1982 World Cup is nicely enhanced as a result.
‘We Made Them Angry’ by Tom Brogan is published by Pitch Publishing, £16.99 hardback