Mick Mills: There’s echoes of Town in ‘78 – England have got a damn good chance
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England beat Sweden 2-0 in their World Cup quarter-final yesterday afternoon. STUART WATSON spoke to former Three Lions and Ipswich Town skipper Mick Mills, who thinks the Three Lions can go all the way.
Former England and Ipswich Town skipper Mick Mills makes a strong case for why England fans should dare to dream.
Gareth Southgate’s men easily dismissed Sweden 2-0 in their World Cup quarter-final yesterday, and now face Croatia on Wednesday for a place in the Final
It’s been a fairly easy run to the last four for Southgates’s men - wins over Tunisia, Panama, Colombia – on penalties – and now Sweden making for an unlikely route to the semi-finals.
But Mills, who was capped 42 times by his country and captained the team at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, uses his time at Town as an example as to why he believes Harry Kane could end up lifting the trophy in Moscow a week TODAY.
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“It’s opened up nicely for them and sometimes it is about the luck of the draw,” said the former full-back. “This reminds me of us (Ipswich) in ‘78.
“We put in a massive effort in the FA Cup – we beat Liverpool, Villa, had those four games against Leeds, but then lost in the semi-finals (to West Ham). We finished third that year too. Nobody talks about that team now though.
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“By contrast, in ‘78, we were below par in the league and we didn’t play anyone until we got to the semi-finals of the cup (Town beat Cardiff, Hartlepool, Bristol Rovers and Millwall in the early rounds).
“The path just opened up lovely for us. We beat West Brom, we got to the final and although Arsenal were the strong favourites they froze on the day and we rose to the occasion.
“Who’s to say the same couldn’t happen for England against, say, Brazil or France? That’s the beauty of cup football.
“We’re performing well, the system looks good and we’ve got a cool, calm, collected manager.”
Reflecting on Tuesday night’s penalty shoot-out victory, Mills said: “I must admit I felt quite calm. I was confident before the game because I felt we’d performed pretty well and coped with everything that had been put in front of us.
“I was calm right the way during the game and even when they equalised I thought ‘okay, that’s not ideal, but we’ll be alright’.
“The body-blow of that goal did affect them for the first 15 minutes of extra-time, but that was probably the only time over the 120 minutes that I thought it might not go according to plan.
“I was calm going into the penalties too because all the talk about history doesn’t bother me. What’s happened in the past has nothing to do with the current group of players. They seemed to relax themselves quite nicely.
“They won the shoot-out, they’ve had that little bit of a scare and I don’t think that will have done them any harm at all. That might just sharpen them up a bit and focus minds a bit more than had they finished with a comfortable 1-0 win.”
Role of captain
Mick Mills wore the captain’s armband eight times for England. Harry Kane reached that number on Tuesday night and has netted on every occasion he’s been skipper.
“He’s been absolutely magnificent,” said Mills. “I’ve never been an advocate of having someone up front being captain, but he’s been a great choice, he really has.
“As a person he’s great. Money has not affected that guy one iota. You can just tell he loves his football.
“Martin O’Neill mentioned recently that he did feel the extra responsibility when he was Northern Ireland captain in ‘82. It can be hard trying to focus on your own game and be a leader, but Harry’s coped with that superbly.
“People say being a football captain isn’t anything special, but you do become a bigger target for the media and the fans. Being a figurehead for the team is important.
“I was alright because I’d been the captain for Ipswich for the best part of 11 years and knew what it was all about. And being captain of that England team was easy because we had captains all over the pitch.”
Memories of ‘82
Mills looks back fondly on his own World Cup experience of 1982 and is frustrated that team doesn’t get the recognition he feel it deserves.
Ron Greenwood’s men beat France, Czechoslovakia and Kuwait in the initial group stage, then played out a pair of goalless draws against West Germany and the hosts Spain in the second group stage to miss out on a place in the semi-finals.
“My biggest disappointment is how the achievements of that team are never recognised,” said Mills.
“It’s the only time in the tournament’s history that there were two group stages.
“We came home unbeaten in five games and having conceded just one goal, yet that team doesn’t get mentioned when people now say ‘England have made one final, one semi-final and X number of quarters’.
“(Kevin) Keegan and (Trevor) Brooking were injured for most of that tournament and maybe that just tipped the scale against us.”