By Frank Swift, Manchester City and England.

It was my first match as captain of England in a full international, it was my greatest match and it was also one of England's greatest matches. No man can ask for more than that, and I know that I will never forget the golden sunshine of that Sunday evening in 1948 when England thrashed a great Italian side 4-0 at Turin.

The match had everything, it was the climax of an England tour of the continent and it came at a time when Italy were thought to have the finest football team in the world. This was the team which afterwards was almost wiped out by a tragic air crash, in which nine of the Italian team were killed.

But at that time they had beaten nearly everybody, and I was very conscious of the great honour of leading England against them, particularly as it was the first time that England had been captained by a goalkeeper. My selection as captain was naturally criticized, it was felt that as a goalkeeper I would be too remote from the play to encourage and direct my colleagues, but captaincy is not a matter of hand-clapping and shouting, it is a matter of confidence and comradeship in one another, and I think that the England team proved it that night.

The confidence and comradeship started in the dressing room, we knew what we were up against and we changed quietly. As the players finished lacing their boots, I knew that I ought to say a few words. I had heard that Eddie Hapgood, Stan Cullis, Joe Mercer, George Hardwick, and Tommy Lawton all say their piece in the dressing room as captains of England. But as silence fell and players looked over to me, I was too full of emotion to say anything, words just would not come.

Then Stanley Matthews got up, walked across and shook my hand, quietly he said "I'll give you everything tonight, Frank".  One by one the other players did the same, it was a wonderful moment. I walked into that vast Turin Stadium feeling on top of the world, 85,000 people, all seated, were spread in a vast bowl around us, most of them expected Italy to win, but I knew that we were going to give them the fight of their lives, and we did.

It had rained an hour or two before the kick-off, it wasn't much but it settled the dust and gave the ball a bit of weight, and somehow it made us feel at home. All our strategy was based on an early goal, most continental teams lose heart as soon as they lose the lead, and we felt that we would knock these master-men down to life-size, if we could score quickly, so we were delighted when we did.

After only four minutes, Stanley Matthews beat the left back Eliani and stroked the ball forward, Stan Mortensen went after it with a burst of speed, which in those days had to be seen to be believed, he had cut to the right of goal down to the goal-line. Then travelling at top speed, he smashed in a shot with the outside of his right foot which twisted past the astonished Italian goalkeeper into the net. It was a goal in a million, 'Morty' originally intended to centre the ball, but he saw the goalkeeper moving away to cover the cross, and with almost nothing to shoot at, he had the ball in the net like a flash.

That started it, far from discouraging the Italians, that goal goaded them into magnificent fury. For twenty minutes, they threw everything at us with bewildering inter-passing and brilliant speed. Shots, overhead kicks and even back headers flew at me from all directions, and once I had to scoop the ball one-handed off the line.

But I was lucky and the England defence in front of me was magnificent, Laurie Scott, Jack Howe, and Neil Franklin, Billy Wright, and Henry Cockburn; they all played their hearts out. Wilf Mannion at inside left, trod nearly every blade of grass in Turin, 'covering' for all he was worth. Twice the Italians got the ball into the net, but they were offside, and Spanish referee Pedro Escartin will always have my gratitude for having the courage to say so, Menti shot straight at me from four yards, then Carapellese twice nearly beat me after four-man movements, first with a shot, and five minutes later with a brilliant header.

Then the maestro, Stanley Matthews pushed another short ball through to Mortensen, this one was well inside our own half, but 'Morty' sprinted fifty yards changing pace to beat that fine centre half Parola, before hooking the ball back from the by-line again. This time 'Morty' didn't shoot, he pulled the ball back into the centre and Tommy Lawton, coming up like a train, blasted it into the back of the net. I was glad that Tom scored that goal because I think only I knew just what it had it had cost him in pain, to get into the England team. Tom was my room-mate on the tour and for days before the match, he had been in intense pain with kidney trouble.

Night after night he lay awake sweating as the attacks came and went, it was doubtful whether he would play, and when he was selected I was worried in case the pain came stabbing back in the middle of the game. I still don't know whether it did, but I do know that Tom never gave any sign of it. He hit the ball as if he hated it and it never left the ground as it slashed into the right corner of the net. Italy came right back, a lob from their captain, Mazzola left Gabetto in the clear but I had come right out and so was able to smother his shot. Then Gabetto beat me with a surprise back-header, but the ball hit the crossbar and I managed to dive on the rebound and hurl it away.

We were still two goals up at half time and slowly we started to play with power and rhythm, the Italian defence began to get really worried about Matthews and Mortensen and unconsciously, the game began to drift more and more towards those 'twin barbs'. As soon as it did, Tom Finney exploded into the match from the left wing. Midway through the second half, Tom sprinted in as a Mannion pass cunningly changed the direction of the attack, and hammered in a low left-foot shot for our third goal. A minute later, he scored again, and that broke the Italians' hearts. For this goal, Finney moved into the centre as Mortensen worked down the left of the field, at just the right moment 'Morty' slipped the ball across the goal, the Italian goalkeeper expected another left-foot snorter past his right hand, but Finney left him helpless with a right foot cross-shot past his left hand. As he did so, a little grey-haired man all alone slumped disconsolately on the touch-line, it was Signor Pozzo, the Italian team manager, and no-one had to tell him that he was already out of a job, he knew.

The rest was all England, they toyed with the tattered Italian defence, and gave a beautiful display of combined attacking football, poor Bacigalupo the Italian goalkeeper had as many shots slung at him in those last twenty minutes, as I did in the first. but now England were playing exhibition football, goals did not matter any more, and in the end, even the Italian crowd had to cheer. As the match ended, a wave of applause rolled up into the late evening, the whole 85,000 spectators, including a few delirious British servicemen, stood up clapping and cheering in a terrific ovation as we walked off the field. Next day, the biggest shop in the centre of Turin, cleared its windows of everything but a giant photograph of the England team. It was a larger than life-size, and across the top in huge letters ran a simple caption, it just read, "Made in England". I stood and looked at that for a long, long, time.


Swift, Scott, Howe, Wright, Franklin, Cockburn. Matthews, Mortensen, Lawton, Mannion, Finney.


Bacigalupo, Ballarin, Eliani, Annovazzi, Parola, Grezza, Menti, Loik, Gabetto, Mazzola, Carapellese.

Referee: P. Escartin (Spain)

Published by The Claxton Publishing Company Limited, 1960.