The TV show was called ‘1966: A Nation Remembers’ (ITV), raking over the dying embers of bygone glory days when England not only had a football team of no mean talent, but actually won the World Cup.
Those of us of a maturing vintage (like the best of wine, we’re heading for the Celestial Cellars) were glued to the telly as England triumphed 4-2 over West Germany that sunny July afternoon, thanks to a Geoff Hurst hat-trick (the second of which was as dodgy as the proverbial £7 note).
The ref hadn’t a clue whether the ball had crossed the line. Hurst hammered it against the crossbar, it hit the ground oh-so-close to the goal-line, and boomeranged back into play. The Russian linesman allowed it, and it was suggested that perhaps he had heard, in his head, echoes of the German guns sounding from World Two, just two decades beforehand.
The Reds of England deserved their victory, with stars in the like of Gordon Banks, the sublime Bobby Moore, the rock-solid Jack Charlton, his world-class midfield brother Bobby, Geoff Hurst and the irrepressible Nobby Stiles (minus his two front teeth).
Nobby was a devout Catholic, who calmed his nerves on the morning of the final by rising with the milkman and heading off to the nearest Mass. (He had curbed the brilliant Eusebio in the semi-final – versus Portugal – so perhaps there’s something in this religion lark).
The Jules Rimet trophy was stolen before a ball was kicked in the competition, and Pickles the Dog sniffed it out. Pickles’ owner was tracked down and recalled he was given a reward of £5,000 (with which he bought a new house).
There were nuggets of memories up and down the country. A couple of Irish lads landed the job of displaying in the score high above the stand on a rickety scoreboard, and they were nearly dislodged as the stand shook with wildly celebrating fans.
A family on holiday in the Scottish Highlands had to drive virtually to the top of a mountain before they could receive a signal on the car radio – and a couple getting married in the Midlands were virtually ignored at the reception while the guests viewed the game on telly.
The piece de resistance was that the players’ wives (all except one of the footballers were married and the twelfth was engaged) weren’t permitted to attend the official banquet. They were herded into an upstairs room in the hotel where they were served their meal and each was presented with (of all things) a pair of scissors! And there was a poignant tale of an amorous member of the England panel – who hadn’t seen his wife during the seven weeks training and wasn’t in the final selection – heading upstairs to her boudoir, and asking “Have we time?”
Sadly, she was sporting a stylish beehive coiffeur and a new dress from Harrods, so he had to wait until after the banquet! Other players and wives dispersed to their rooms afterwards, others went to the Playboy Club, or to Danny La Rue’s Club, while Jimmy Greaves and his wife headed for Majorca and their holiday, the ace striker having failed to make the final.
Could you imagine the separate meal for wives – or ‘partners’ or WAGs– happening nowadays? Very few of today’s England team are married, it seems, and maybe going by results (especially the Iceland fiasco in the Euros) they should tie the knot without delay.
Still, I boldly predict that England will win the World Cup before long – the WOMEN’S World Cup, that is, for the ladies are doing rather well on the international scene. The male wearers of the three lions’ shirts truly are an insipid lot, even though they’re being paid £millions, compared to the heroes of 1966 and all that.
As for the Women’s World Cup banquet, what form will it take? It’ll be all mixed up, like today’s society. A few of the gals will be married, others will be in a same-sex relationship, many will be single, and perhaps a few will miss the final due to pregnancy!
Just nip around to McDonald’s for Chicken McMuffins (with egg) after the final girls! It’ll be less complicated…