1966 and all that: World Cup memories (1)


Pete Sixsmith packs his authoritative knowledge of football with a great recall of detail of the sort that used to earn old Leslie Welch a decent living as the Memory Man. Let’s start Pete’s series of recollections from the past 11 World Cups in the obvious place …

This is the first tournament that I can really remember. 1958 in Sweden didn’t have much impact on a seven-year-old wrapped up in the world of Lewis Jones and Jeff Stephenson at Leeds RLFC, while 1962 in Chile was a long way away and the TV pictures had to be flown over to appear a day late.

I have vague memories of the Battle of Santiago ( Italy and Chile kicked lumps out of each other, while the English referee Ken Aston looked on in amazement) and I do remember the stanchions on the goalposts in Santiago being curved rather than straight. And I wanted Czechoslovakia to win as I was a fledgling Communist.

The Finals in England in 1966 had a real impact on me. First of all, it meant we got a cover on the Fulwell End and seats in the Clock Stand Upper. It also showed us what a complete shower Newcastle United were as they had their games taken away from them and given to Midddlesbrough, because they were involved in a squabble with their council landlords and could not guarantee that work would be done on the stadium.

Finally, gave me the chance, as a 15-year-old to, see world class players up close for the first time. Lev Yashin, Sandrino Mazzola, Florian Albert, Valeri Voronin all appeared at Roker Park, and all showed in flashes why they were so good.

I saw four games, standing in the Roker End. It cost me £1.50 for the tickets (7/6d each) and the fare on the OK bus from Bishop was an extra 3/-. If we get it in 2018, I can’t see the ticket prices being that low.

There were foreign fans in the North East. The handful of Soviet citizens following their team had an endless supply of Red Star and Lenin badges to give to the urchins who followed them about. The Italians were noisy and waved flags and looked incredibly exotic as they paraded along the Seaburn sea front, wondering at the English diet of soggy vegetables, grey meat and fried fish. There were even some Chileans here and I have a badge that one of them gave me somewhere in the house.

The games themselves were rather mundane. Italy beat Chile in a mild mannered affair, USSR beat Italy and then their reserve team beat Chile to set up a quarter final against Hungary .

On paper, this looked to be a cracker, as the Hungarians were my favourite team in the tournament. They had beaten Brazil in a wonderful game at a packed Goodison Park , with Janos Farkas scoring a goal that I can remember to this day – a superb volley after a scintillating move. Florian Albert had been immense that day, prompting an Evertonian to say that “If I got home and found that Albert in bed with the missus, I’d go downstairs and make him a cup of tea”. Ah, what ever happened to Scouse wit of that quality!!!

The quarter final (only a manageable 16 teams then – no Africans) turned out to be a disappointing game, as the Hungarian goalkeeper, doing a passable impersonation of Kelvin Davies, let two soft ones in and the USSR steamroller moved on.

Much of our attention that afternoon was taken up by the half time scoreboard, newly placed in the corner of the Roker End. All four quarter finals were played at the same time and the guys running the scoreboard were up and down like a bride’s nightie, as The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North) streaked into a 3-0 lead against Portugal at Goodison Park, only for Eusebio to take control and score a hat trick – something he had not managed against Jimmy McNab a couple of years earlier.

England (who had been dismal in their group games) were playing Argentina and the wealthier members of the crowd had transistor radios stuck to their ears as Brian Moore described Antonio Rattin being sent off and then Geoff Hurst (1966’s Darren Bent?) heading a scarcely deserved winner.

That was the end of dear old Roker’s involvement in the tournament and we were able to sit back and watch England defeat Portugal in the semi final and then go on to that dramatic victory over the Federal Republic of Germany (West) at Wembley on July 30. How late in the year was that??

I watched it in the sitting room of the parental home, on my own as my parents and siblings had departed for a week’s holiday in Filey. I think my father watched it in the bar of the Imperial Hotel ( a pub – we stayed in peoples houses), while my mum saw the end of it in a TV shop in Hope Street .

It was a great event and for the next four years I was an England fan, although I never warmed to Alf Ramsey and his taciturn approach to the media. Later on, I respected him a lot more, particularly when I heard of his response to a Scottish journo who said: “Welcome to Scotland, Sir Alf.” “You must be f****** joking,” replied Ramsey.

World Cup Willie; “There’s some people on the pitch, they think it’s all over; it is now”; the Soviet linesmen; Genial Joe Mercer on the BBC who managed to pronounce everyone’s name in his own inimitable style – he gave up on the Bulgarian centre forward Georgi Asparoukhov – and the Italians being pelted with fruit on their return to Genoa after the DPR Korea (North) had put them out, made this a tournament to remember. It would be nice to get a repeat in 2018.

Next: How I watched the 1970 World Cup in Bleak House.

* Photo credit: David Howard at Flickr and David’s Kingsbury Collection

1 thought on “1966 and all that: World Cup memories (1)”

  1. I think one of the (many) unfortunate aspects of wall to wall tv coverage of football these days is that the WC doesn’t yield surprises like it once did. Household names on foreign shores were revealed to the rest of the world in their pomp. Sadly that doesn’t happen any more. Back in the days pre-internet and Murdoch et all ruling the skies, youngsters were only exposed the some of the greatest talents in world football through the grainy black and white images of the Topical Times Football Annual. This also had the effect of elevating the mundane to heights unachievable on a football field. The likes of Peter Rodrigues and Barry Endean were regarded in a similar light to Johann Neeskens and Eusebio.

    All that has gone. I remember talking about this during the last WC to an acquaintance who pointed to Philip Lahm being as an emerging talent, clearly failing to realise that Lahm was an established member of Bayern Munchen’s back 4.

    The last WC was rotten, and I still blame that on the absence of the Topical Times Annual for 2006. I hope this one’s a lot better. Do they still knock that out at Christmas?

Comments are closed.

Next Post