04/04/1984 London England 0-1
Jim Platt, Jimmy Nicholl, Mal Donaghy, Gerry McElhinney, John McClelland, Ian Stewart, Norman Whiteside, Martin O’Neill, Billy Hamilton, Gerry Armstrong, Sammy McIlroy
The British Home Championship had been a dying competition for many years. On 19th August 1983, it was finally put out of its misery, as England announced that they would not take part again after the 1983-84 season. Wthin weeks, the Scottish followed suit and so, one hundred years after its inception, the world’s oldest international football competition would be no more. England argued that they would be better served playing friendlies against top teams from around Europe and further afield, rather than playing Wales and Northern Ireland every year. Attendances were also a problem; even now, in the knowledge that this was England’s last ever Home International at Wembley, they still failed to sell more than 24,000 tickets, so the point was proved.
Northern Ireland and Wales were both hugely aggrieved at the demise of the competition, as it would cost them dearly from a financial point of view; the long decline of both countries in the decades since would suggest that their fears were well founded. The match itself passed by in low-key fashion. The crowd did not appear that interested, despite the historic nature of the occasion. The two teams had been drawn together in the same qualifying group for the 1986 World Cup, and both teams seemed more interested in using this match as a chance to build towards that competition, than in trying to win this match for its own sake.
The first half was particularly insipid, but England took the lead early in the second. A drive by Anderson was parried by Platt, but the ball fell nicely for Woodcock to head home the rebound. Francis later hit a post, but England created little, despite the best efforts of Wilkins, the best player on the pitch. The Irish created more chances than their hosts, but Shilton was rarely stretched. It was England’s 71st victory over Northern Ireland; they had lost only six. This was the last time that an England match was completed without a single substitution by either side.