Time to put your shirt on.. It's the way we were, 1971 style

26 July 2012 / 12:11

A shirt worn 41 years ago in  the last Olympic football match played by Great Britain’s men  is helping to raise funds for a hospice.

The red shirt (pictured) was worn by Wycombe Wanderers defender John Delaney when he played against Bulgaria in Sofia in May 1971. It is now on display at the Iain Rennie Hospice charity shop in Hazlemere, Bucks, as part of a special display to mark the Olympics.

‘I spoke to the shop manager and asked if she would like to have an Olympic shirt to put  in his window  She was overjoyed.  It is a very striking item "

Great Britain has not fielded a football side in the Olympic Games since Rome, 1960, but they hoped to qualify for the Munich Games in 1972.

Great Britain had been drawn against Bulgaria in an Olympic qualifying round back in 1971. It was the year of the Arsenal Double team, Charlie George's horizontal goal celebration, hot pants and T.Rex.

The British team were drawn from amateur clubs in the old Isthmian and Northern Leagues because eligibility rules then strictly ruled out professionals. Yet the Bulgarians had players who had been in their 1970 World Cup squad.

It is a far cry from today's Team GB squad managed by Stuart Pearce and Delaney concedes: “We were amateurs up against seasoned professionals .

"When we played at Wembley, the Bulgarians guessed something was up when they came out in front of only a few thousand. They expected  to be playing in front of 100,000.”

Britain nevertheless won the first leg at Wembley 1-0.

“The Bulgarians were not worried about that ,"  he recalled. "They knew they would bring out their big guns for the second leg."

The team flew out for the second leg in the week of the 1971 FA Cup final almost unnoticed and the only support they had in a huge crowd was from British Embassy staff.

"I will never forget there was a sign above the goal which said 'GOODBYE SWEET DREAMS'.”

The Bulgarians were soon into a four-goal lead and eventually won 5-0. Britain were under pressure throughout and Delaney recalled a conversation with fellow defender Ted Powell.

“We got the ball over the half way line and he said that we should push up. I said: 'You go, they will be back in a minute'.”

Though Delaney and his team mates never represented Great Britain at the Olympic Games themselves, his pride at pulling on the jersey is clear. It  must haver cost me hundreds of pounds but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

"It is something they cannot take away from you.” he said.