The World Cup: priceless memories as kickoff nears

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The French ask earnest questions about the cost of their underperforming team’s luxury World Cup accommodation. Emile Heskey completes the double whammy: selected to compete at the highest level of a game he seldom plays, then crocks a key colleague in training. Paraguay carry Sunderland’s colours in Group F. And all the time Pete Sixsmith’s series of World Cup memories yields gems from the modern history of international football …


Photo courtesy of Elliott Brown


On a weekend
free of competitive football, Salut! Sunderland had a quiet time, attracting a relatively short procession of readers.

Dash off a knockabout piece about Alan Hutton and Spurs and Tottenham supporters arrive in droves. Question an Arsenal player’s attachment to the Corinthian spirit and the hit count hits the roof.

Pete Sixsmith’s fascinating retrospective on World Cup tournaments since England and 1966 deserves to be seen by equal numbers of readers. But the weekend’s losers were those who, by their absence, missed two more outstanding instalments.

The series reaches its natural end in Germany in 2006, so four reminiscences remain (five if you include an additional look at France 1998 by me).

Pete’s thoughts on the 1994 and the United States will appear later today. In the meantime, here are a few flashes, with links to the originals (just click the year or location), from the journey so far:

1966, England

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.

1970, Mexico


I remember cursing when the winner (German’s third goal v England) 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


1974, West Germany


Gerd Muller had the finest thighs I have ever seen on a player. An Indian elephant would have died for them.


1978, Argentina


The crowds turned out in their thousands and introduced us to the confetti celebration. Argentina embraced the beautiful game and, not for the first time, the beautiful game ignored the political realities of the host nation.


1982, Spain

… a brutal tournament. Italy had Claudio Gentile, a man whose name was a complete misnomer. He was probably the dirtiest and most sly player I have ever seen, so good at it that he could have taught Johnny Giles a thing or two.


1986, Mexico

a few weeks after the Finals, we had a staff game against our deadly rivals from Spennymoor Comp. We engaged one Mr George Courtney to referee it. He turned up, but with his own ball … “Oh, I got it after I had refereed Mexico v Paraguay. It’s the match ball”, boomed George. So, I may well be the only person on this site to have picked a World Cup Finals ball out of the net four times – although we won 6-4.

1990, Italy

Football wise, the tournament never really took off, but it was just a pleasure to watch the coolest people on the planet watching football. No beer bellies held in by T-shirts, no shaven heads and tattooed arms, rather men and women who instinctively knew how to dress, how to walk and how to be the centre of attention. It reminded me of Bishop Auckland Market Place on a Friday night.

Happy reading …

Colin Randall

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2 thoughts on “The World Cup: priceless memories as kickoff nears”

  1. Yep, they’ve been great. I find myself looking forward to the next one as I finish the current one. No idea how he sounds, mind.

  2. I totally agree Colin. These have been marvellous pieces. Peter’s recollection is so accurate and so superior to mine when it comes to the details. Written in his own inimitable style, I can hear him speaking when I read them in his equally unmistakeable tone. The lack of comments which I have also noted don’t necessarily represent a lack of interest. It seems more likely that they leave the reader with little to add. That is arguably the greatest compliment that can be paid. That’s how I’ve felt when I’ve read them anyway!

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