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England's finest.

Byline: By Terry Phillips South Wales Echo

Mike England will be teeing off in Spain when two of his former clubs, Spurs and Cardiff City, clash in FA Cup action at Ninian Park tomorrow.

The former Wales international and manager is taking a break from running a care home and has taken a golfing break in the sun.

'I have a comfortable life and I'm happy,' says England, who spent one season with the Bluebirds in 1975.

He had announced his retirement, but Cardiff manager Jimmy Andrews persuaded him to have one more season and England helped the Bluebirds earn promotion from Division Three.

England, now aged 65, was born in Holywell, North Wales on December 2, 1941. He now lives in a village near Prestatyn and plays a major role in running a care home.

He turned to business ventures during his playing career, starting a timber import business with a neighbour called, simply, 'Mike England Timber' and later bought two care homes.

England the player was a top quality defender for Wales, while he later became manager of the national team and in his first match England were crushed 4-1 at Wrexham.

But he was badly affected when, during an international against Scotland at Ninian Park, Jock Stein died of a heart attack in the away dug-out.

It wasn't long before England stepped back from football management.

His professional playing career had started when, at the age of 18, he signed for Blackburn Rovers in 1959. He was in their FA Youth Cup-winning team in the same year.

He had arrived at Ewood Park as a non-contract player, but soon proved his worth.

England broke through to the first team for Blackburn and proved a dominant central defender who had power, strength and speed.

England, though, became disenchanted at Blackburn because he felt they lacked ambition and in 1966, following a number of transfer requests, he switched to Spurs for a British transfer record of pounds 95,000.

He scored 21 goals in 184 appearances for Blackburn, while he played 434 games for Spurs and won both domestic and European trophies.

He secured nearly 50 full international caps for Wales and later became national team manager.

During his career, England played in a variety of positions, including centre forward, and many felt he would have been a better wing-half, but he played the majority of his games at centre-half.

He helped Spurs win the Uefa Cup, FA Cup and League Cup, finally retiring in 1975.

A call from City team boss Andrews then persuaded him to make a comeback and he played through the 1975-76 season as the Bluebirds earned promotion. He scored one goal, against Halifax.

For the following few seasons, England was with New England Teamen in North America.

After managing Wales for eight years and earning some success, including that 4-1 win against England, he stepped back from football and retired to North Wales with second wife Marilyn.

His 'Mike England Timber Company' was established in October 1969 jointly by the former international player and manager with his next-door neighbour, sales representative John Hardman.

The company's fortunes progressed steadily over the years thanks to their commitment to quality and service.

Turnover grew consistently and employee numbers increased to match, hut Hardman died in 1987. His wife, Margery, continued at the head of affairs and the company continued to flourish.

Today, England is fit and well in North Wales. He enjoys playing golf and will be remembered by older fans of Spurs and Cardiff City as one of the best of his generation.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 6, 2007
Words:597
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