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When Kevin Keegan avoided England’s alphabetical numbering

When Kevin Keegan avoided England’s alphabetical numbering

Generally, England tend to be numbered fairly well – especially nowadays, when they are one of the last countries to retain 1-11 for internationals outside of major tournaments. However, the 1982 World Cup is something of an outlier – apart from captain Kevin Keegan and goalkeepers Ray Clemence, Joe Corrigan and Peter Shilton, the squad was numbered alphabetically.

  1. Ray Clemence
  2. Viv Anderson
  3. Trevor Brooking
  4. Terry Butcher
  5. Steve Coppell
  6. Steve Foster
  7. Kevin Keegan
  8. Trevor Francis
  9. Glenn Hoddle
  10. Terry McDermott
  11. Paul Mariner
  12. Mick Mills
  13. Joe Corrigan
  14. Phil Neal
  15. Graham Rix
  16. Bryan Robson
  17. Kenny Sansom
  18. Phil Thompson
  19. Ray Wilkins
  20. Peter With
  21. Tony Woodcock
  22. Peter Shilton

An article which appeared in the Coventry Evening Post on June 7, 1982 went some way towards explaining things.

It seems that England manager Ron Greenwood was keen to keep his cards close to this chest ahead of the opening game against France and didn’t want his numbering to give any indication as to what his thoughts were.

Strictly speaking, Keegan should have been number 9 – which would have given Glenn Hoddle 8, a better fit for his position. The striker had worn briefly both 10 and 11 for England during the 1970s but generally he carried 7 for his country, as he did for Liverpool and later Hamburg. Greenwood’s decision to buck the alphabetical trend showed an awareness of then-nascent phenomenon of branding.

The number 7 shirt seems to have become Kevin’s personal property in much the same way that Pelé always wore number 10 and Cruyff the number 14 shirt.

All the rest of are alphabetically listed.

However, Greenwood seems to have been operating under false information with regard to giving his goalkeepers 1, 13 and 22. Argentina were fully alphabetical at that World Cup, with Ossie Ardiles wearing 1, while most other countries gave number 12 rather than 13 to custodians.

Fifa’s rules stipulate that all goalkeepers have those numbers and I listed our three in alphabetical order. The numbers mean absolutely nothing and my decision will not be known until I pick the team to play France – and that won’t be until next Tuesday.

When that day came, England took to the field looking like this – having to wear their red change shirts as France were the ‘home’ team for the game and chose to wear white in the baking Spanish sun.

Unfortunately for Keegan, injury was to rule him out of almost all of that World Cup, with Mick Mills captaining the side in his absence. Keegan was brought on as a sub in England’s final game, the scoreless draw against Spain in the second group stage, which eliminated them. It proved to be his final cap.

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When Kevin Keegan avoided England’s alphabetical numbering