Sheffield United legend, Colin Grainger, says his England debut in 1956 was “perfect.”
Grainger was called up by national team manager Walter Winterbottom for a match with Brazil at Wembley.
In a 4-2 victory the winger scored twice as England beat a side who would go onto become World Champions just two years later.
In his autobiography, The Singing Winger, Grainger remembers that superb game. With England already 1-0 up through a Tommy Taylor goal, the former Blades forward had the chance to double the lead.
“The ball went across the goal from Johnny Haynes, and there I was, drifting in at the far post, in perfect position to side-foot the ball home from four yards out,” writes Grainger, as quoted by The Blizzard.
“As England debuts went, this was perfect: five minutes of action, my first touch, and already I had engraved my name on the list of England goalscorers.”
Brazil equalised in the second half through Paulinho and Didi goals. Taylor did restore the lead, sandwiched between missed penalties from John Atyeo and Roger Byrne.
Then Grainger burst forwards.
“I picked the ball up on the halfway line, laid it off to Johnny Haynes and kept running,” he continued. “Haynes passed wide to Stanley Matthews, who made light work of Nilton Santos’s attempted tackle, and I continued my run towards the left of the penalty area.
“Matthews’s cross to the far post was accurate and clever, forcing Gilmar, the Brazil goalkeeper, out of position. I darted towards the six-yard box, jumped as high as I could, and met the ball a split-second before Gilmar got there, and the roar of the crowd confirmed that my header was nestling in the back of the net for a 4-2 lead.”
Who is Colin Grainger?
Only United fans now well into their 60s probably remember Grainger. Now aged 86, he played for the club for four years between 1953 and 1957. Grainger later moved onto the likes of Sunderland and Leeds United.
He would play only six more times for England after his debut, with his international career lasting just 11 months.
Only four other Blades have played for the Three Lions while at Bramall Lane since then. They are Alan Hodgkinson, Mick Jones, Tony Currie and Brian Deane.
Dean Henderson became the first United player since Deane to receive a call-up during the most recent international friendlies. Yet the goalkeeper didn’t make it off the bench.