There may only be a border and the Severn Bridge that separates them but Wales and England enjoy a sporting rivalry heightened by culture, history, language, and no little hatred.
With the egg-chasers facing up this evening we look at the five best coming-together of these two enemies on the football field.
1/ England v Wales at the Kennington Oval 1879
Competition – Friendly
Result – 2-1 to England
As Maria sings in The Sound of Music, let’s start at the beginning, a very good place to start.
This was only England’s eighth international fixture. They had recently separated from their Scottish counterparts after initially sharing an organization and all previous seven games had been against them, the teams selected by the Anglo-Scottish Football Association. For nearly forty years (until they ventured to Vienna to face Austria in 1908) the England national side exclusively faced Scotland, Wales and Ireland as Britain was so dominant during football’s early inception and travel was restrictive and costly.
The most interesting aspect about this particular fixture is the clubs who the players usually turned out for. The likes of Old Etonians, Sheffield Albion, Clapham Rovers, and Thursday Wanderers evoke bellowing shorts, handlebar moustaches and footballs so weighty they would snap the modern metatarsal with one cross-field pass.
2/ Wales v England at Ninian Park 1949
Competition -World Cup Qualifier
Result – 4-1 to England
The first truly meaningful clash after over half a century of friendlies and Home Internationals.
Indeed this too was a Home International fixture that bizarrely doubled as a World Cup qualifier for the following year’s tournament in Brazil (where England would go on to be humiliated by the USA in one of the biggest footballing upsets of all-time).
The England team that walked out in Cardiff this October day contained five bona fide legends of the game in Billy Wright, Stan Mortensen, Len Shackleton, Jackie Milburn and Tom Finney, and were simply too strong for their Welsh opponents.
From this stellar collection of greats it was Finney who ran the show, a guy who Shankley once said would have been immense in any team or age even if he was wearing an overcoat.
3/ Wales v England 1963 at Ninian park
Competition – Friendly
Result – 4-0 to England
The game itself has little historical significance in the Wales/England canon besides it being one of many comfortable demolitions for the favourites. But it is included here for its portentious marker for England as their World Cup winning side slowly began to take shape under the schoolmasterly tutelage of Alf Ramsay.
They used the encounter to blood some untested youngsters such as Terry Paine and George Eastham and the nucleus of the side on this autumn afternoon went on to create history. Banks lined up between the sticks for only his fifth international appearance behind the supreme Moore who had garnered his first cap only twelve months previous.
The Wales side of this era also contained some superb talents such as the Allchurch brothers, Wyn Davies and Cliff Jones (the Giggs of his day, widely considered the best left winger in the world at the time). Yet they were simply out-classed by the future world beaters with Bobby Smith (like Jones, another member of the great Spurs double-winning side) grabbing a brace, and Charlton and Greaves finishing the rout off.
4/ England v Wales at Wembley 1974
Competition – World Cup Qualifier
Result – 1-1 draw
Wales predictably didn’t qualify for the finals in Germany but on this occasion, for the first time in their history, neither did England.
The infamous draw with Poland at Wembley (with an exasperated studio-bound Clough unjustly referring to the Polish keeper as ‘a clown’) is credited with being the main reason for this but with just three games to go England still had qualification entirely in their own hands.
Just three weeks earlier, in the preceding fixture, England had sneaked it with a 1-0 victory courtesy of a Colin Bell strike. In the return leg at Wembley the hosts were expected to triumph much more comfortably.
Wales however defended doggedly throughout and even took an early lead through Toshack. Although Norman Hunter snagged an equalizer shortly before the break England were unable to break down a determined Welsh rearguard.
The result meant that points were now required from the forthcoming Poland games and a heavy loss in Chorzitw followed soon after by the aforementioned stalemate on a greasy Wembley pitch signalled a bleak decade in the wilderness for England.
5/ Wales v England 1980 at the Racecourse Ground
Competition – Friendly
Result – 4-1 to Wales
Wales’s biggest ever win over their hated rivals and their first home victory since 1955. Although their line-up was blessed with plenty of flair and guile in Leighton James, Brian Flynn, Peter Nicholas, Terry Yorath, and the scheming Mickey Thomas, on paper at least this should have been a no contest. The England eleven was packed with experience and formidable reputations that included a Liverpool-heavy back-line stewarded by Clemence, a midfield orchestrated by Hoddle, and the dazzling wispiness of Peter Barnes and the cultured Brooking, minus his injured cohort Keegan, eternally probing and carving out chances for Mariner. This England Xl was potentially a great one and were preparing for the 1980 European Championships in Italy where they were expected to excel. Three weeks earlier they had notched up the hype further still by tearing apart World Champions Argentina at Wembley in an impressive 3-1 display.
Yet throughout this end-of-season friendly they were simply blown aside.
James tormented Cherry throughout and grabbed the third, following strikes by Thomas and Ian Walsh.
Gloriously for the boyos in attendance that day the scoring was concluded by an own-goal from big-nose himself, the permed Phil Thompson after yet more trickery by James.
It was an exhilarating team performance roared on by a packed Wrexham crowd who would have happily played on for ninety minutes more.
This was manager Mike England’s first match in charge and heralded in a prolonged false dawn of hope for Wales that persisted for well over a decade as the tiny country (with a population of just three million) produced such outstanding talents as Neville Southall, Ian Rush, Mark Hughes and Ryan Giggs yet continually failed to make any form of impact on the international stage.