For his second look back on the past 11 World Cups,
Pete Sixsmithrecalls the one that gave him most pleasure, offers a one-word explanation of his withdrawal of support from England and reflects on the greatness of Pele …
The 1970 tournament is seen by many, including me, as the finest of all. It was the first one where colour TV was the rule rather than the exception, it had some brilliant football, capped by the greatest ever goal in a World Cup Final by a Brazilian full back after a pass by Pele – and it marked the end of my support for England.
Let’s get the final statement out of the way first and it can be summed up in one word; Monty. He didn’t go. He was the second best goalkeeper in the country and he didn’t go. Peter Bonetti of Chelsea did. Gordon West of Everton did. Jimmy Montgomery of provincial hicks Sunderland didn’t.
Neither did Colin Todd, despite the Fulwell End’s ditty of “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to Mexico, With Colin Todd in England’s squad, hi ho, hi ,ho” etc. I could deal with that one but not the omission of Monty. Ever since then I have had little enthusiasm for the national team.
I watched this one as a student at Sunderland College of Education. I was living in digs in the Barnes area in a house that was so grubby that Kim and Aggie would have had a field day and was so cold that even the mice (and there were a few) wore overcoats.
The elderly couple who accommodated us were reasonably happy to let us watch the late night games on their black and white Ekco, but most games were watched on the colour set in the Union TV room.
It was here that I saw Czechoslovakia’s Ladislav Petras score a quite superb opening goal against Brazil, only for the soon to be world champions come back and win 4-1 . That was the game where Pele almost chipped Ivo Viktor, a top class keeper, from 50+ yards.
The pictures were wonderful. Colour TV was still new and to see Brazil in yellow and blue rather than a lighter shade of monochrome was a stunning sight for many. Mexico wore a deep green and the blue of Italy was as azure as it had been at Roker Park four years previously.
England struggled to get going and lost out to Brazil in a game that is remembered for two things; a wonderful goal by Rivelinho and a stunning save by Gordon Banks from Pele, a save almost as good as that by Monty three years later at Boothferry Park. I also remember a series of tackles from Bobby Moore, partly because of their quality and partly because of the fact that my digs mate, a bluff youth from Mansfield, was a huge fan of Moore. He bellowed his approval every time Moore dispossessed an opponent.
It was still a 16 team tournament in those days and England progressed to a quarter final in Leon against West Germany. The story is well known. Banks had succumbed to food poisoning and Bonetti replaced him. Grumbles from many red and whites – “should have been Monty” – but this seemed irrelevant as Mullery and Peters put England 2 up. And then Ramsey made a decision which changed the whole game and probably the whole history of English football; he took Bobby Charlton off.
Did the Germans see this as a sign of over confidence? Did the England team see the departure of their iconic Ashingtonian as a warning sign? Whatever it was, the Teutonic Terrors roared back and goals from Beckenbauer, Seeler and Muller brought England’s run to an end.
I watched this one at home on a large (for the day) Bush TV which my dad had rented from Eclipse TV Services of Church Street. I remember cursing when the winner went in and making it perfectly clear that Monty would have saved all three while balancing a ball on the end of his nose and making a soufflé. Bloody Chelsea players!!
Germany lost a thrilling semi final to Italy, after extra time and it was the Azzuri who lined up against Brazil in the final. This was watched in the Union TV room with a Brazil/Italy split in the assembled multitude. I was still sulking over Monty’s non-inclusion and probably bored the rest to death with my assessment of Luigi Riva as being “useless” and Pele as being “over rated”. Then, as now, I could talk world class rubbish.
The final was a wonderful game in which the Italians played their part, but the game was the epitome of Brazilian quality. Carlos Alberto scored the final goal after the finest weighted pass you will ever see from the “over rated” Pele and the TV room erupted in spontaneous applause. It was a fitting end to a tournament that had captured the imagination of the world and saw the end of the original Jules Rimet Trophy as Brazil now claimed it permanently as 3 times winners.
To sum up: Riva wasn’t useless, Pele wasn’t over rated, Bobby Moore probably didn’t nick that bracelet and Monty should have gone.
Next: No England, but how we chuckled at Scotland and how I backed the GDR.
* With thanks to Des Byrne for the Pele image, from his Flickr photos