George Raynor

George Raynor

George S. Raynor (January 13, 1907, in Wombwell, Yorkshire – November 24, 1985) was an English professional footballer and one of the most successful international football managers ever.

Playing career

Raynor first played football in the non-Leagues for Elsecar Bible Class, Mexborough Athletic and Wombwell. When he did sign professional forms Raynor's career took him only on an uninspired jaunt around the Football League. Between 1930 and 1939 he played for five different League clubs. The last of these: Aldershot in the season before the start of the War. However, whilst in the course of working as a training instructor in Baghdad during hostilities, Raynor had clubbed together an international football team and this had come to the notice of the Secretary of the Football Association Stanley Rous. Thereafter, as Brian Glanville notes (with some poetic licence) in his The Story of the World Cup, "the FA whisked him in 1946 from reserve team trainer at Aldershot to the team managership of Sweden".


Raynor was an irascible, indefatigable figure, character notes that possibly aligned him more to a responsive Sweden than they ever would in conservative England and accordingly, with his insights into club management coming to the fore, Sweden quickly developed into a force. Under his tutelage, Sweden gave England a scare before losing 4-2 at Highbury in 1947. [ [ Norman Giller's England Lineups and Match Highlights 1946-47 to 1949-50 ] ]

Olympic Triumph

The following year Sweden, famously, won the 1948 Olympic Games title defeating Yugoslavia 3-1 in the final. At that stage Raynor was assisted by Putte Kock. They had assessed the team and decided that Nils Liedholm and Kjell Rosén could work effectively as defensive midfielders. The team had a core of players who would go on to play in Italy's Serie A championship. Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Liedholm (later famously called Gre-No-Li) formed the wonderfully inventive striking force and each were picked up by impressed Italian scouts following the Gold-medal victory.

1950 World Cup

Divested of his best players and belaboured by the constraints of domestic initiative whereby professionals were barred from playing for the national side, Raynor was still able to qualify the side for the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil where the team overcame Italy and finished in third place; losing only by the odd goal in five to the eventual champions, Uruguay.

1952 Olympic Bronze

Raynor was still in charge of the national side for their Bronze medal performance at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki and for the November 1953 international against Hungary in Budapest, a fortnight before the famous England v Hungary (1953) game. Raynor is reputed to have said: "If we win, I'll paint [the Stalin statue's] moustache red." His idea, not adopted by the English at Wembley, was simply to man-mark Nandor Hidegkuti thus nullifying his impact on the game. [ [,3858,4891900-103,00.html Football | Swedes at a loss to understand Eriksson's bashing ] ] The match finished in a 2-2 draw.

Club management

Raynor drifted back and forth into club management throughout this time with AIK in Stockholm (1948-1951 season), Lazio in Rome (1954-5 season) and Coventry City FC in England (for 5 months in 1956) but was back as national manager for the 1958 FIFA World Cup held in Sweden.

1958 World Cup

By that stage the Swedish FA had decided to allow professionalism in domestic football, but there was still the need to go cap in hand to the Italian clubs in order to confirm the selection of Kurt Hamrin (from Padova) and Liedholm (at AC Milan) and there was still a need to convince the Swedish public of the need to play 'foreigners' in the national side. Raynor said "It would have been impossible for us to meet world-class opposition without such performers as Liedholm, Gren, Hamrin and Skoglund. Some people thought it wrong to play these "Italians" as the side was not representative of Swedish football. Perhaps it wasn’t, but it was representative of the footballers Sweden produced." [ [ - Football Italia ] ]

Again Raynor assisted in getting Sweden to the final against Brazil; a 3-1 defeat of the 1954 FIFA World Champions West Germany confirming their quality. He famously said that if Sweden get the first goal in the Final 'Brazil would panic all over the show'. Up to that stage the Brazilians had yet to go a goal down and when they were held, particularly by the Welsh in the quarter-final, they had struggled to unlock the defence. As it happened the Swedes did score first; Liedholm scoring after four minutes, but Brazil rode the set-back and both Pelé and Vavá scored a brace in a 5-2 victory for the South Americans. The runners-up place is still the greatest achievement ever for Sweden in a major football competition. Raynor achieved some sort of dream when managing the Swedish side to a 3-2 victory against England at Wembley in 1959 (to become only the second foreign side to win at Wembley); Agne Simonsson's match winner earned him the Svenska Dagbladet’s gold medal.

Later career

Nine years after these triumphs Raynor was being made redundant after a seven-month stint managing Doncaster Rovers in the English Fourth Division. But perhaps nothing illustrates the contrast between Raynor's international profile and his English one better than the fact that during his career he managed Lazio and, later, found work as a manager with Skegness Town.

He published a book in 1960 called "Football ambassador at large". []


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