Retro Football: Bobby Robson’s England Hammer Non-League Aylesbury United In Preparation For 1988 European Championships (Photos & Video)

Chris Wright

19th, December 2017


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In his infinite, delightfully discombobulated wisdom, Bobby Robson hatched a foolproof plan in the weeks running up to the 1988 European Championships in order to prepare his England team for the rigours of international tournament football.

Indeed, with Russia, the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland laying in wait in the group stages, Robson decided that the most practical warm-up would be to have his team thrash a non-league side to help spike their confidence.

The idea was loosely based on the friendlies that the all-conquering Hungary side of the 1950s used to play against local factory teams in the build-up to important matches. England had also employed a similarly tactic before the 1986 World Cup, playing low-key games against University teams.

Aylesbury United, newly-crowned champions of the Beazer Homes League (now the Evo-Stik League) and newly-promoted to the Vauxhall Conference, were selected as opponents for the occasion, with the Three Lions duly descending on their now-defunct Buckingham Road ground in June of 1988.

While the Ducks’ squad consisted solely of part-time semi-professionals, Robson brought with him a full-strength squad boasting the likes of Peter Shilton, David Seaman, Terry Butcher, Tony Adams, Stuart Pearce, Glenn Hoddle, Bryan Robson, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley, Chris Waddle and Gary Lineker.

Of course, England had a field day, with Peter Beardsley helping himself to four goals in a slightly hollow 7-0 rout.

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Alas, Aylesbury failed to register a goal in front of a club-record 6,000 crowd, but they did come perilously close when their star striker, the magnificently-named Cliff Hercules, nodded a deep freekick against Shilton’s crossbar shortly before half-time…

As it transpired, Robson’s ploy didn’t have much of an impact as brave England went on to lose every single game they played at Euro 1988.

Aylesbury spent one season in the Conference before being relegated back down to the seventh tier, where they remained for some time.