Jack Taylor, John Cruyff and West Germany’s 1974 World Cup Final

Peter Kenny Jones | The Football Historian

Moments in football history remain significant years after the event because football fans love to relive the greatest players, games, moments and even sometimes the referees. Football legends and legacies don’t come much greater than Franz Beckenbauer and John Cruyff and when these footballing juggernauts collided on the greatest stage of all, there were always going to be moments that would be remembered forever.

This game is notable, not just for being a World Cup Final, but for being a great game of football. The historical significance of the match is monumental, but when combined with the fact that a physical memento is now available just shy of 50 years after the event, the combination of legendary players on the greatest stage along with the possibility of possessing a moment of history from this moment, makes all of this even more special.

It is perhaps best to start by assessing the key figures of the game and the stopwatch before analysing the game.

Johan Cruyff

Cruyff stands alongside the likes of Pele and Maradona as a true footballing great. Blessed with remarkable ability, he was the lynchpin of the Netherland’s masterful 1974 display. Cruyff’s contribution to the game on the world stage will be forever etched in the memory of football fans the world over. 

Born just a stone’s throw away from the stadium now called the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam in 1947, Cruyff is the most celebrated Dutch footballer and undoubtably one of the best attacking players of his generation. He was an artist who treated the pitch as his canvas and the ball as his paintbrush. The great Ajax and Dutch teams of the 1970s managed by Rinus Michels orchestrated the tactical theory of ‘Total Football’, with Cruyff as their conductor.

Franz Beckenbauer

Franz Anton Beckenbauer, AKA ‘Der Kaiser’, remains a powerhouse of German football. He won 15 trophies in Germany as well as 3 American Leagues, the World Cup and the European Championships, all as a player before winning the league in Germany and France following managerial World Cup success for the German national side. He was at the peak of his powers in his late twenties as he captained the West German team to World Cup success on home soil.

The impervious central defender displayed the perfect combination of leadership, elegance and dominance. His ability to win the ball and start a new wave of attack means he has become widely accredited as the architect of the ‘sweeper’ role in defence. He remains the only defender to have won the coveted Ballon d’Or and has done so on two separate occasions. He remains a key cog in German football today and was integral to the awarding of the World Cup to Germany in 2006.

Jack Taylor

The Wolverhampton born referee Jack Taylor is comfortably one of the most respected referees in football history, a member of the English and FIFA Hall of Fame, his 30-year career saw him referee on the biggest stages possible. The financial disparity from football today and in the era of Taylor, particularly for a referee, is perhaps most obvious by the fact that he was still working for his family’s butchers when he was selected to referee in the World Cup Final. He refereed across the world but needed the income of the butchers to pay his mortgage.

The 1966 FA Cup Final and 1971 European Cup Final were precursors for the greatest day of Taylor’s professional life as he stood alongside Cruyff and Beckenbauer on the 7th of July 1974. No sooner had he looked up from his stopwatch to signal the start of the game, he was set to make history.

The 1974 World Cup Final

Cruyff’s Holland side faced the hosts, West Germany in the final. The Germans, much like the Dutch, had some talented players including their Captain Franz Beckenbauer. The build-up to the final was very much centred on who would guide their nation to glory, Cruyff or Beckenbauer. Taylor had to delay kick off as he noticed the corner flags had yet to be returned following the pre-match ceremony and so, slightly later than planned the game was underway.

Cruyff laid his marker down early in the match. He collected the ball deep in his own half, weaved through the West German midfield and defence before being brought down in the box. There had only been 80 seconds of the game, nevertheless Taylor was adamant and awarded the first ever penalty in a World Cup Final. The resulting spot kick was scored by Johan Neeskens, and it looked as though the Netherlands were on the brink of glory.

Taylor was set to make another big call just before the half-hour mark as German midfielder Bernd Hölzenbein was adjudged to be fouled in the box. There was more controversy regarding this decision as many, mainly Dutch, supporters believed Hölzenbein had dived. One thing Taylor was certain about was that he did not give the penalty to even up the decisions for both sides.

Germany scored and Gerd Müller made it 2-1 to the Germans before half time, thankfully for Taylor he didn’t need to intervene for that goal. Despite the best efforts of Cruyff’s side, they couldn’t breakdown a resolute West German defence under the stewardship of Beckenbauer and so they triumphed on home soil. As the final seconds ticked by, Taylor signalled the end of the game and the 75,000 strong Munch crowd erupted.

Few would have thought that Jack Taylor would become synonymous with the 1974 World Cup Final when they saw Cruyff and Beckenbauer face off before the game. However, Taylor became world famous for awarding two penalties, the fact his notoriety is attached to the historic nature of the decision and not for the fact that they were incorrect displays his refereeing proficiency.

It is remarkable that for a game that will forever be remembered by an astonishingly early refereeing decision, the timepiece used is now available and a tangible piece of World Cup history is available to the highest bidder! Fellows has placed an auction estimate of £3,000 – £5,000 on the item. It will feature as Lot 175 in the Luxury Watch Sale – a live auction taking place in the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, on Monday 14th June.

stopwatch omega
Peter Kenny Jones is a football historian and writer. Since graduating with a MA in History, specialising in football history within Merseyside during the1960’s, in January 2018, Peter has had over 160 published articles. He has appeared on both TV (TRT World, Channel 4, Squawka Football) and Radio (Times Radio) on several occasions. You can find more of his work via his website or Twitter @PeterKennyJones.

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