Graham Rix was a fine winger, but with wingers not always being a necessity in Ron Greenwood's structural thinking, he had to rely a little on the opposition's tactical policy in order to enhance his prospects of playing in the World Cup from the start. Luckily, Greenwood opted for a hard-built central midfield to feed two natural wingers for the opener against France (the photo above is during the game), and it worked a treat. Rix, playing in front his Arsenal team-mate Kenny Sansom, did well as England won 3-1 and he stayed in the side for the remaining brace of group games as England also defeated Czechoslovakia and Kuwait. The second group phase didn't have a reason to faze England in the form they were in and Greenwood therefore made no tweaks to his favourite XI, just reversing the changes he had made for the Kuwait game for fatigue purposes as England had already assured themselves of qualification. This didn't affect Rix, who swung in a number of peach-like crosses from his byline in both matches against West Germany and Spain, but England couldn't get the breakthrough goal in either and came home undefeated after two 0-0 draws. Rix's World Cup ended when he was substituted by Greenwood to see if the returning Trevor Brooking, who had been carrying an injury, could inspire the team to a much-needed victory against Spain, but it wasn't to be. Graham's World Cup had been a personal success as he started all five matches, but the anti-climax felt by the team was reciprocated across the whole nation.
Bobby Robson took over as coach and used Rix in his first two matches - a 2-2 draw in qualification for the 1984 European Championships with Denmark, and a 2-1 friendly defeat to the West Germans - before indifferent form from both Graham and Arsenal prompted the new coach to look elsewhere, finding the phenomenonal talent of John Barnes in the process. Rix came back once in 1983 as a sub in a goalless European qualifier against Greece, and a burst of form a year later persuaded Robson to try him again in the Home Inetrnational match against Northern Ireland, but by now Barnes had his feet under the table. Rix's form improved when George Graham took over as Arsenal coach but by now he was nearing 30 and was not going to catch Robson's eye again with the likes of Barnes, Chris Waddle and Steve Hodge all ahead of him. Rix, who won 15 of his 17 caps playing in front of clubmate Sansom, didn't waste his talent in an England shirt, but tragically he did waste it in an Arsenal shirt once his England career was off and running, and with Robson relying on club form ahead of reputation, that probably cost him 40 more caps. (Matthew Rudd)