BY CRAIG STEPHEN
New Zealand’s famous run to the 1982 World Finals is etched in the nation’s consciousness and oft-referred to in any article about the All Whites (including my historical item on this same site – link here).
But perhaps we should forget about those defeats on Spanish soil to Scotland, Brazil and the Soviet Union at the finals, because there’s something far more audible to indulge in – the tie-in World Cup single. I couldn’t resist buying The Official New Zealand Team Record when I spotted it, almost hidden, in Slow Boat records though it wasn’t quite a bargain. It isn’t something you see every day after all, whether in Wellington or Valencia.
The guest appearance was supplied by Ray Woolf, a tuxedo-wearing showman with a beaming smile. And there he is on the cover with a beard that may now only be considered overgrown stubble, and a smile wider than the goalposts in Saudi Arabia.
Woolf was born in Dagenham, Essex, and his family came to New Zealand when he was 17. Within a month, the ambitious singer came to the attention of record label head, Eldred Stebbing, and he toured NZ supporting British pop starlet Helen Shapiro. And soon after he was a star himself. Of sorts.
The A-side features Heading For The Top, written by Carl Doy, better known for his work with Kiri Te Kanawa. On this bona fide song Woolf does his typical showman routine, while the warbling voices of the squad are diluted/ mutated. This is a family show, after all. Gosh, but it sounds like it could be from a musical.
While this track focuses on the team “playing the game the best we can to reach our final goal”, its companion, Marching On To Spain, shows a little more ambition. It was written by Vince Harris, and Google isn’t quite so helpful regarding this chap. Marching On … doesn’t feature Woolf, and features the immortal lines “we score goals, goals, goals and we’ll score some more again.”
They were certainly right about the first part as they stuck 13 past Fiji and five against Saudi Arabia in qualifying, but on the second, well, they only netted twice in Spain, both against a Scottish side 3-0 up and already thinking about their post-match cans of Tennents Super Brew.
Lyrics are kept to the minimum here and I was left with the mind-numbing quasi-religious chant of ‘Kiwis, All Whites/ Kiwis, All Whites’ rattling around in my head for the rest of the week.
The 1982 All Whites World Cup qualifying campaign was one of the most memorable in history, and briefly relegated the All Blacks to the inside back pages, as the Kiwis (population then three million, give or take a couple of thousand either way) battled through 15 qualifying matches, from the South Pacific to the Middle East, seeing off China (population one billion, give or take a hundred million or so) in a dramatic play-off in neutral Singapore.
That they did so with journeyman Brits and Irishmen such as Steve Sumner and local lads playing in a part-time national league, and turfed out the Aussies on the way, made it all the more remarkable. Alas, Spain was a step too far as they got cuffed by Brazil, the USSR and tournament ‘favourites’ Scotland.
It would take 28 years for Ricki Herbert to lead the All Whites to another World Cup finals. And no, I don’t think they recorded a World Cup single.
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