How do you solve a problem like Gerd Müller?

muller vogts

1973 was a momentous year: we joined the EU and (more importantly) I took my O-levels.  Due to EU legislation these are now called GCSEs.

The day I got my results has been recorded before:

To celebrate this grand union, the three new entrants, Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark played football against the six existing member states: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Germany (well, the bit of Germany not run by the Stasi). The game was held at Wembley; with the West Germans insisting no Russian ran the line.  For the Six (as they were known) there were many players you’d have had in your team up the common – Beckenbauer, Netzer, Gerd Müller and the Dutch player, Neeskens.  The Three had Arsenal, England and Ford Open Prison right back, Peter Storey.

It was fantastic seeing these great players from differing nations playing for two super teams. Of course, we have this today: it is called the Champion’s League. In 1973 this was a massive novelty as we celebrated joining the Common Market.

The year before we’d been celebrating the onset of the three-day week and my school had merged with the school across the rugby field and imaginatively called Bec-Hillcroft before they discovered Ernest Bevin once shopped at Tooting Broadway Market.

I was taken out two-thirds through my 4th year at Bec and sent to Emanuel.  I passed the entrance interview with the headmaster, not because of my academic prowess (I defy anyone who went to Bec to have had as much red biro strewn over their homework) but because the head was drunk and I could successfully juggle three empty bottles of Gordon’s Gin.

Whilst this move in theory was sensible, in practice it was a disaster. What my dad and I had underestimated was the different syllabuses between the two schools.

Having learned every nook, cranny and ox-bow lake along the Rhine Rift Valley, I soon discovered my newly-acquainted fourth-form classmates had been learning about northern America. I knew about Essen, they knew about Eskimos.

I knew every (bloody) word of Pygmalion while my fellow English Lit pupils pranced about the Quad (that’s what they called the playground at Emanuel) pretending they were Lady Macbeth; some of them were quite realistic as they were going through puberty and you never quite knew which octave they’d speak in. Some were handy with a dagger too.

Having done special music at Bec and could hum most of the overture to Weber’s Der Freischutz, my fellow musicians at Emanuel knew every single line to Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols.  I was 121 years behind!

I never bothered with science at Emanuel as giving the answer of “is it a little pip?” to the question “what is a pipette” during my first chemistry lesson, I was destined never to tamper with a Bunsen Burner ever again.

During the exams themselves I remember spending as little time possible in the hall which doubled as the exam room at Emanuel; Ileft most exams after 30 minutes.

I do remember being asked for Music O-level to write a short biography of Federic Chopin. Having swapped schools I was blissfully unaware of him and knew more about Peter Storey.  I liked to think, if he hadn’t got involved with fraud after finishing his football career, he may have written polonaises, etudes of even a three-year (rather than minute) waltz?

So, as we are about to countdown to leave the Common Market we joined in 1973, I’ve no regrets I never continued French O-level at Emanuel.  In two years’ time, if I travel to France, I shall simply speak slower and louder.

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu, as Baron von Trapp, who came on as a substitute for Berti Vogts in that 1973 Three vs Six game, would have said.

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