A people’s history of the 1966 and England’s only ever success at a major tournament
As a young lad aged 13 I went to all the World Cup games played at Goodison Park. In those days before all — seated stadiums I would get into the ground early and stand by the wall next to the pitch. For most of the games I stood next to one of the big glass dugouts either side of the players’ entrance. The first game between Brazil and Bulgaria was held on a really balmy night and I remember Kenneth Wolstenholme standing at the side of the pitch before the game talking about the Brazilian support in the Bullens Road stand. It was fantastic to be able to get that close to the players and see them close up. During the match when Brazil were 2-0 up the Brazilian fans started “Olé” chants when Brazil kept the ball. I joined in and was rewarded with a slap from the Bulgarian coach who leaned out of the dugout to deliver it! He was admonished somewhat by some of the adults stood next to me and kept his head down after that.
I was eight years old and lived in Hendon, North London, about eight to ten miles from Wembley. I went to the local school and just down from it is the Hendon Hall Hotel. It was the place where Cup final teams used to stay and where the England team stayed before internationals. We would go down after school and get autographs. One day during the World Cup my dad took me to the pictures to see Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines at the Hendon Gaumont. I can remember going up to the circle and there, waiting for the doors to open for the next screening, was the whole England squad. I sat down next to George Cohen and gazing over to Jackie Charlton. For an eight-year-old boy it was mesmerising. After a few minutes the doors opened and everyone filtered in for their seats. I can’t remember anything about the film.
I was 13 during the 1966 World Cup and living in Durham City which welcomed the Italian and Soviet squads for two weeks, the latter training at the spanking new University sports centre with the Italians over the road on the grounds of the agricultural college. So my routine for a fortnight was to spend all my days there between the training sessions. Remarkably there was no security at all, but then there were remarkably few of us trying to hang out with these world greats.
My abiding memories (backed by photos and autographs) are of befriending Facchetti, Mazzola and Rivera and Lev Yashin who never seemed to tire of pesky autograph hunters.
I still have this image of the ferocity of the shots and Yashin shuffling a couple of giant steps to the right or left to prevent a goal into the top corner and, at least as I recall, punching them back from where they came well into the other half of the pitch. Of the Italian training sessions I only recall the dramatic shouting and how they would bite into whole lemons, the like of which I have never seen since.
From the Korean victory, our French teacher, who was in the seats, claimed that Rivera — who had been dropped — jumped to his feet when Pak Doo-Ik scored and screamed “Mamma Mia”.
My dad and I saw all the six group matches, plus the Soviet-Hungary quarter-final. A true feast capped by getting tickets to the final. I can also remember prior to the final making a St George’s Cross flag, bigger than I was and pinned to a large broomstick, and being allowed to take it into Wembley.
My parents lived in Edmonton — four children under eight in a two-bedroom flat. Our house was close to Harlow Common where there were a few football pitches. In the summer of 1966 I was six years old. Portugal had their camp a few hundred yards away in what is now the Moat House Hotel, back then known as the Saxon Inn. My brothers and I spent so many hours watching as the squad trained on the common. Eusébio of course was a magnificent athlete and a lovely man, as they all were. The locals got to be very fond of them all as I recall.
Another early memory as a young child is my father losing it during the Uruguay game and me quizzing my mother relentlessly as to what these strange unfamiliar new words really were…
We got our first television when I was 10, so that my dad could watch the World Cup. Even though it was only black and white, it totally changed our lives. We watched snooker (balls in shades of grey), Formula One motor racing, major series like Civilisation and The World At War, animal documentaries and dramas - The Forsyte Saga.
In 1966 I was 13 years old and lived in Wembley. Myself and a couple of friends had been “bunking” into the stadium to see various matches for the previous year or so. To the side and fairly high up on the walls besides all the steps leading up to the turnstiles were apertures with what looked like the archetypal prison bars set vertically into them. I assume the apertures were there to let light into the inner stairwells. We found that there was one place where the bars permitted a very tightly squeezed entry and we always got through those, usually to the cheering of the older supporters queueing up. Once through there was another squeeze through a folding gate and it was just a question of finding a sympathetic-looking official at the bottom of the steps leading into the arena. We did not go for the first game but saw all the other games played in England’s group. Also saw the quarter-final against Argentina (when Rattin was sent off), the semi-final against Portugal, the third-place play-off and the final against West Germany. For the final there were four of us and we spent the first half sitting high up in a gangway (would definitely get moved nowadays). There had been four empty seats nearby and no one came for them so we occupied them throughout the second half. High up behind the television gantries, on the halfway line.
I was competing in a swimming gala in Telford (then known as Dawley) when England played Portugal in the semi-final. I toyed with the idea of crying off from the swimming, but Alan, our volunteer coach, made it clear that no one would have a cold or cough that week! I have memories of confused messages/Chinese whispers from friends whose other friends had brought along transistor radios when Eusébio scored the penalty. It was a wee while before it became clear that England had not lost. Would that I could say the same about my swimming!
I had tickets for the group matches at Goodison, where Brazil were based. After a match that Brazil won, I remember coming away from the ground seeing Brazilians celebrating in and on cars in the street by hooting horns and sitting on the bonnets. It seemed extraordinary in the rather grey, dull British culture of the time.
“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive. But to be young was very heaven!” That quote from Wordsworth sums up for me the summer of 1966.
I was 16. My friends and I had arranged to meet up in Ashbourne, the town one mile from where I lived with my parents. We usually met on a street corner and then decided where to go. Sometimes the Rec, sometimes around the shops and sometimes we sat in a pub garden with a lemonade or went to the Green Man, the hotel where my dad worked, and had a free orange squash.
On this particular day, Ashbourne, a small market town in the Peak District, was buzzing with people. More than we had ever seen at that time of day. In fact more than we had ever seen at any time of day. And what’s more, they were all MALE. What on earth was going on? There were more young men and boys than we had ever seen in our entire life!
And so the World Cup had come to sleepy Ashbourne with the arrival of the West German supporters who were staying for a month near where the team were staying at the Peveril of the Peak hotel just outside Ashbourne. The next four weeks were absolutely wonderful. Every day we would go to town and hang out with the supporters who were really friendly.
After the first week we decided to go for the bigger fish and so, in our friend’s mini, we headed up to the Peveril to see if we could catch a glimpse of the players. Some of the older girls who were hanging out caught more than that! On Sunday there was always a disco at the Dog and Partridge pub nearby and it was there we encountered members of the team. We danced with them and then had quick snogs outside. I got quite close to a player who was in the final (not that close, I was only 16) but my friend, who was 20, got very close to another player, who fathered a child, unbeknownst to him. I think he died 40-odd years later without ever knowing.
By the last week and the final, we had been with the players quite a lot and were told that if they won we would be invited to the party at the hotel. We must have been the only English people who wanted West Germany to win, although deep down I was glad England won in the end, really.
I was six. There were nougat bars which cost 6d and had a free World Cup Willie badge with each bar. The boys at school competed to cover their blazers in these badges. The headmistress made us take them all off for class photos but apart from that she didn’t mind them.
I was in the Sixth Form at the time, at St Mary’s College, when we were offered the opportunity to watch all the matches held at Ayresome Park, selling ice cream for 10/- a match. I took up the offer and spent each match climbing up and down the stairs in the seating area.
Most of the Middlesbrough supporters were disgruntled at first that we were to see only North Korea and felt that Roker Park had stolen a march on us and would get all the better games. However, after the typical minnows’ display against an aggressive Russian team, which they lost 0-3, we began to warm to the new Red Devils. The first chants of “Viva Korea” began to appear during the next game with the ground erupting in the last two minutes with North Korea’s equalising goal.
The final game produced good sales of ice cream as I remember it as very warm, though the Italians failed to rise to the occasion. I found myself yelling “Viva Korea” after their goal, only to realise that I was in the middle of a hoard of Italian supporters — I didn’t sell any in that section but I did get out alive. The tension, volume and hope rose steadily during the second half, with support for the underdog rising to fever pitch. We even wanted the Russians to win to let North Korea through to the quarters. The keeper became a local hero for his saves which held the Italians at bay just long enough to give the whole crowd an unexpected feeling of joy.
I was 13 in the summer of 1966, old enough to remember the World Cup clearly but young enough to enjoy pasting newspaper clippings into my World Cup Willie Scrapbook every day of the tournament. Whether I would have remained so enthusiastic had we been knocked out, I don’t know, but by the end of July I had pasted in introductions to each team and reports of every game, and carefully written lists of all the games and results.
Looking through it now, it’s the hints of a then unknown future that make me smile most. The first sentence in the Radio Times introduction to England, quoting Alf Ramsey, “Yes, England will win the World Cup” (p4), echoed in the first sentence of the last article, post final (p40); the diplomatic blind eye to North Korea’s flag at the opening ceremony (p11); “Greaves has stitches in leg injury” after the French game (p24); the list of usually forgotten, but still remembered, officials for the final (p33). What also strikes me is the lukewarm assessment of England’s performance up until the semi-final and the beautiful unadorned simplicity of England’s kit.
My first memory was how easy it was to get a ticket. I was at Marsh Hill Boys School in Birmingham. From the top floor we could see Villa Park. One day a few of us went down to the ground and simply went up to the ticket office and bought tickets for the West Germany v Argentina game.
I’m now retired and living in France. On arriving here I joined a local veterans football team. Talking one night I told my tale of going to the World Cup match and another ex-pat turned round and said that he had been at the match. He had travelled from Leicester to see the game.
Went to all the matches on my Lambretta Cento 100cc (and very underpowered) scooter. I lived at home in Edgware and worked in Harrow. You could buy a foot long hot-dog at the stadium for a shilling.
I remember being very miffed when we drew 0-0 with Uruguay in the first game which I watched through a crack in the living room door halfway down our stairs of our terraced house in Thornton Heath as it was a night game (I was seven).
I was five years old and I went on holiday that summer with my family to a Butlins Holiday Camp where I dressed up as the mascot World Cup Willie — and won First Prize. I seem to remember that the prize was a plastic sub-machine gun. There was a tremendous sense of optimism about the future and the ‘greatness’ of the nation. Looking back now it seems an incredibly innocent age.
I was only ten years old. I met the North Korean team who were staying at a Jesuit retreat next to the school I attended. They stayed at least for a time at Loyola Hall in Rainhill near Liverpool. The school was run by nuns who I remember urged us to be cautious as they were communists. We were told that they had asked for the crucifixes to be removed from their bedrooms. I understand the team presented a chalice to the priests before they left.
I was six at the time and have vivid memories of the run-up to the World Cup as it was when we got our first black-and-white second-hand telly! My two sisters and I were so excited and the day my uncle’s friend, Norman, came to install it was like all out Christmases came at once. When the World Cup began, we started scrapbooks and collected tea cards and I became fascinated by all the funny names of the players.
I was a young girl living in Sunderland and my friend and I got wolf-whistled by some foreign footballers who were sightseeing in the area. Twenty-odd years later I organised a celebrity golf tournament. Bobby Moore took part, he was the most perfect gentleman, what a marvellous human being he was.
I was 14, travelling on a bus along Lord Street in Liverpool in the days when buses still travelled from there and along Church Street. I had just finished my exams at school and the weather was scorchingly hot and sunny. The city seemed to be full of exotic people, mostly Brazilians because Brazil and the great Pelé were playing at Everton’s ground at Goodison Park. The crowded street seemed to have more than its fair share of handsome dark-skinned men who stood out from the crowd. I remember feeling really proud that my city and my Dad’s team’s ground were playing host to such important guests.
The Soviet Union were playing Hungary in my hometown of Sunderland and several Russians (players or supporters, I don’t know) approached us — a bunch of 10 year olds — at the Barnes Park tennis courts. They handed out Lenin badges all round, which, of course, we wore to school the next day.
My Dad somehow managed to get both of us mini-season tickets for the games at Goodison Park. Portugal, Brazil, Hungary and Bulgaria were the teams in this group. Fresh from seeing Everton win the FA Cup in May, the thought of seeing such world-class stars as Pelé, Garrincha, Eusébio, Simões, Beckenbauer and Jairzinho was a dream come true for a 15 year old like me. Brazil were the ones everyone wanted to see though and their game against Portugal drew 62,000.
I went to two group games at Old Trafford with my parents. It was 20 years later that they let slip they knew Mr and Mrs Stiles and Nobby, who holidayed at my mum’s home farm in Ireland in the early 50s! “Well, it was really only his mum and dad, not Norbert.”
As a 10-year-old lad in 1966 from Liverpool on a school camping holiday in Peel on the Isle of Man early on in our stay we received mail from home which included a five-shilling postal order for extra spends, plus the great news that Sir Roger Hunt (honorary knighthood bestowed upon him by the Kop) had scored two goals for England the night before against France.
A few weeks later back home in Liverpool myself and a mate went to Goodison Park to savour the atmosphere of the World Cup, all the streets around Goodison Park were decorated with bunting and flags amidst a great carnival atmosphere when all of a sudden a drunken old man (probably about my age now) thrust a ticket in my hand for that night’s match. Brazil v Bulgaria, Pelé and all that… Then the dilemma hit home. One ticket and two 10-year-old lads, what do we do? Democracy kicked in, we’d have to sell the ticket and split the proceeds between us which we truly did. After selling the ticket for five shillings and getting blitzed on Schofields lemonade, crisps and Mars bars we thought we’d hit the jackpot.
I watched the opening match, then went off to do my evening’s stint as a barman. The bar in question was at a place called Scalby Mills, which is at the northern end of the North Bay in Scarborough, Yorkshire. It was the summer before I went to Uni in the September. I was stacking clean pint glasses on the under-bar shelf, three per hand, hot from the glass washer, when one of them started to topple. No problem, I could nudge it back on with my knee. No, I couldn’t. It broke, sending me to get eight stitches across a dazzling white patella and immobilising me for the duration of the competition. As the Buddhists would say, we get the accidents we need…
For me the best match of the tournament was the semi-final between England and Portugal. Great goals and unbelievable tension after Portugal had brought the score back to 2-1. But perhaps most remarkable was something else entirely — one of my father’s friends, working late in central London that day, had on a whim decided the World Cup semi-final wouldn’t be a bad evening’s entertainment. So he took a tube to Wembley, paid for his ticket at the turnstile and arrived in the stands about five minutes after the game started. He confirmed what a wonderful game it was but it was the casual nature of the whole thing that always made me marvel. I can’t imagine you could have wandered in to a World Cup semi-final without a pre-booked ticket on many occasions since!
I remember the event simply because I wasn’t allowed to watch it. The men had the TV and cans of Watney’s Party Sevens. The women were sent out shopping for the afternoon - and had to take the children (including me) out with them. So I remember vividly this event that I really wanted to be part of - but was banished from!
I was 15 at the time and two of my friends and I went to London for the Stampex exhibition to see the Jules Rimet trophy. It was stolen that night. Friends at school joked that we had stolen it.
We lived in Harlow at the time. Uruguay were staying at a hotel in the town. When the semi-final stage was reached, Portugal moved into the same hotel. Some friends and I walked about two miles to the hotel in an attempt to catch a glimpse of Eusébio and his teammates. I don’t know what we expected, but we didn’t manage to see anything. I do think, though, given that we were never going to see a match live, it made us feel a little more involved, rather like seeing the Olympic Torch did in 2012.
I didn’t watch any of it. I recall being out on the window-cleaning round with my dad when the big matches were on but have to say I was completely uninterested as were the majority of my young mod mates at the time. More interested in going to the Mecca Highland Rooms [in Blackpool], listening to and dancing to the latest soul and I think by that time ska records and trying to pull girls. I was also waiting for my O-level results. I seem to recall copious amounts of snakebite at this time.
What an experience, I have many fond memories to this day. I still tell anyone who cares to listen, “I was there”! I saw every game at Wembley and one Friday evening game in the rain at the now disappeared White City Stadium. I believe the game was played there to avoid a Greyhound meeting at Wembley, unbelievable! Although it is nearly 50 years ago I still recall the atmosphere, colour and emotions as though it were yesterday.
I was at a wedding on the day of the 1966 World Cup final. The ceremony was scheduled for late afternoon which allowed the guests to watch the first 45 minutes of the game. At half-time with the score at 1-1 most of the guests were hooked and, unable to continue watching the game on television, they sat clustered around one of the guests at the back of the church with a transistor radio pressed to his ear. Any attempt to pretend that this wasn’t happening was blown away mid-service when the man with the tranny announced England’s second goal by bellowing, “We’ve scored!” This outrage was further compounded when the vicar called across to him, “Who got it?” I’m not making this up. There was more to come. Outside the church the photographer gathered everyone together for a group shot and called for a cheesy smile at which point a familiar voice came from the huddle, “They’ve equalised.” This resulted in a shot of people turning round in some dismay for confirmation of this. I’m pretty sure that photo didn’t make it into the wedding album. What it also meant was that a fair proportion of the guests were missing for the soup course at the wedding reception as they’d sloped off to watch extra-time on a telly in the nearest pub. Guess what the only topic of conversation was when the match was over? The bride looked ready to kill.
My parents had tickets for the first-round matches at Aston Villa and went into a draw for the final and got tickets. Dad always insisted that the disputed goal went in because he could see it from where he was in the stand. I took the match programme to school. Everyone wanted to touch it.
I was 18 at the time and remember being on holiday for two weeks prior to the final at what we’d now call an old-fashioned holiday camp. The organiser would announce the dances on match evenings with the phrase, “Ladies, enjoy yourselves!” I drove home in a Ford Popular and got in five minutes after the start.
The match was played on my 13th birthday. I got a new transistor radio for my birthday and as I didn’t feel well listened to it in my bedroom. But it became too exciting so went downstairs to watch with my Mum and Dad so saw the best bits. I’m always so proud to tell people we won the World Cup on my birthday.
My dad was at the final and got his ticket because one of his mates had to work on that day. But more interesting — in my view anyway — is that the brother of one of my dad’s workmates owned Pickles, the dog that found the World Cup.
The best day of my life. I found my girlfriend at the time was not pregnant, saw the game live standing behind the Hurst non-goal end (saw every England game) and then went to Reading to see The Who at an early Reading Festival. Back for Trafalgar Square revelry, then home to my rented Ilford flat.
I had just turned 21 years old on July 12. I was working in Bradford for J H Langtry Langton as a junior quantity surveyor. We were entitled to two weeks paid holiday and could take these when we wanted. I had chosen to the last week in July and the first week in August, which was known as “Baildon and Shipley Tide weeks”. For the previous two or three years I had been hitchhiking abroad, usually not getting too far but seeing the sights of France, Germany, Belgium and Italy. In 1966 I once again set off, with a mate called Alan Turner, who later was to be my best man. We set off to hitchhike to London on the Friday night prior to the day of the final, London was our first destination.
We wanted to watch the game on TV, so at first we thought about standing outside a TV shop. We decided against that and thought maybe of trying to find a pub with it on, but ruled that out as back then pubs couldn’t stay open all day and usually closed at 3pm and reopened at 5.30pm, which was when the game was being played.
One of us had the idea of going to Wembley in the hope that as it would be busy, there might be a cafe open with a TV showing the match. So we left our rucksacks/kit bags in a left-luggage office at Kings Cross and got the tube to Wembley station. The train was full of people of different nationalities, many heading for the game.
When we got off at Wembley and headed down the platform we were approached by men trying to sell tickets for the game. We each bought a ticket but they weren’t for the same section, so once we were through the turnstiles, we waited outside one of sections until we found someone on their own who would swap their ticket for one of ours. Someone came along on their own who agreed to do us a favour and we gave him 5/- as an inducement to exchange tickets. So there we were inside Wembley at about 2.30pm and the 1966 World Cup final between England and West Germany was about to kick off.
I was seven in the summer of 66 and we had no TV so we used to walk round the corner to my aunt’s house to watch the games. I still have my World Cup Willie badge and can remember all the words to the song “Red, white and blue, World Cup Willie”. During the final I was very excited and fidgety and my dad kept telling me to sit still or leave the room! Most of all I remember the unbridled joy of my dear dad and my uncle dancing round the room when we won.
It was the day we were married in Wilmslow, Cheshire. The service was in the morning and towards the end of the reception the maitre’d suggested that if we wanted to watch the second half we should be leaving in about 15 minutes. My new wife and I went to a friend’s house and the rest of the crowd went to my mother-in-law’s to watch.
I was 21 years old, and attended the final with my father and a group of other Spurs supporters. Dad and I lived near Wembley Stadium, just the other side of the North Circular. We’d been to several of the preceding games at Wembley. The atmosphere was fantastic. I remember seeing the Queen for the first time, albeit from a distance. She wore a yellow coat and hat. When it was finished and we were walking down the outside steps, just in front of us was a German woman and I assumed her two teenage children, a son and daughter. All three were wearing German rosettes. The woman opened her handbag and without altering pace took out three red, blue and white England rosettes. She kept one for herself and handed the other two to her children, they each removed their German ones, which she placed into her handbag, and pinned on the English ones. I thought that they didn’t want to be seen as supporting the losing side, which I thought was bad, as West Germany played very well, especially to go to extra time. Many of us walked to the Harrow Tavern, as it was known then. It was absolutely jam-packed, singing and chanting the team’s names. My father wasn’t much of a drinker, but he had a couple of G&Ts that day.
I was 17, living in Cornwall. A friend invited me to London to look at the modern architecture. During the day we went to the South Bank and some other places. That evening we watched the 1966 World Cup on a small black and white TV. Afterwards we went to Soho and had a meal with this amazing red wine, Bull’s Blood, pretty naff by today’s standards but all the rave back then. Afterwards I remember walking down the street shouting at some Germans supporters how we had beaten them. All good fun.
As a young Scot (19 years of age) I was living in the Hornsey YMCA in North London during the World Cup in 1966. I watched the final on television in the hostel’s viewing room. Myself and a young German were the only two non-Englishmen in the room. Not surprisingly, we were the only two who cheered Germany’s goals. At least we had the grace not to boo when England scored the winner, but we did question its legitimacy. Needless to say, we weren’t the most popular of the hostel’s residents that day.
My mother bent down in front of the TV to pick up the tray with the teapot on it just as Germany scored to send the match into overtime…
Very strong memory of the anguish of the 2-1 lead, heading for full-time. It felt like an equaliser was coming. Dying for a pee during extra-time but refusing to leave the sofa. Then Geoff Hurst smacked in the fourth. I was so impressed the keeper hadn’t seemed to move at all, just watched it fly in. Longest pee I can remember followed.
It was my first holiday without my parents. I went with three school friends to a chalet in Maldon in Essex. It was on the River Blackwater and one of the friends had a dinghy which we sailed. I spent the week of the final looking for somewhere to watch it. These were not the days where every pub in town had a TV and advertised that they showed live football and anyway I was only 16 and lived in fear that if I ever did go to a pub I would soon be spotted and a policeman would come in and arrest me!
I found a TV shop in Maldon high street that had their TVs fairly close to the door so I stood in the doorway to watch the game. The salespeople didn’t seem all that bothered about the game and eyed me with a little suspicion as I stood there and watched. At no point did they invite me into the shop so I could get a better view.
When Geoff Hurst scored the winner I couldn’t contain myself any longer and I threw my hands in the air and cheered loudly. I had forgotten that I was in a doorway and I stubbed my thumb on the door frame directly above my head and recall that it was painful for several days afterwards.
Eighteen months before the World Cup was to be played around a dozen of us applied for a book of tickets — 10 games in all including all the England group games. The camaraderie, the joy, the feeling of being free, even for a short time, from the drudgery of our jobs was truly intoxicating. We counted up at least eight times our section (to the right side behind the goal — where the players came out) started the mighty clap clap, clap clap clap England chants and thrilled as the chant swept around the ground. We were witnessing and were part of something so very special. All of us remember every game we saw. Come the final — what a day! Our band of happy lads went to the West End that evening. Shook hands with many German fans. We swam in the fountains at Trafalgar Square and had as many beers as we could afford.
I watched it on our TV, but left pretty quickly because I had arranged to meet a boy I fancied in the centre of Birmingham. I was wearing bell-bottom trousers and a skinny rib top — and I think I had a little crochet beret. A woman at the bus stop told me I was sinful for wearing trousers. We were the only ones getting on at the stop but she insisted on sitting next to me. The city centre was eerily quiet until a couple of hours later, when it became very merry. It was the first and last time I had Black and Tans with whisky chasers.
My dad had a friend in Germany who got tickets for the final, then couldn’t make it — so he took me. I was 11. We had £5 seats right opposite the royal box, among lots of German supporters, given the origin of the tickets. They had small German paper flags to wave, with a bear printed on in brown with a red tongue. Every time England scored they threw some on the floor and ground them up. I’ve seen a quick flash of me in the film Goal! as we were just below the camera gantry in the roof.
I was at Wembley with my dad and uncle. We left before the end because my dad was worried about missing the train back to Leeds.
I was a student then. It was the end of term, and my family had nobly volunteered to collect me and my luggage from my digs in Birmingham and drive me back home down the comparatively new M1 motorway. We didn’t have anything fancy like a car radio to tell us what was going on. It was only when we hit London — hearing car hooters going off en masse, and then in central London seeing jubilant crowds capering about — that we realised something spectacular must have happened. A thrill and a bit. Glorious.
I am one of an elite group in my generation. When others recall England’s victory in 1966, it is through the phrase, “It is now!” that they heard uttered live on TV by Kenneth Wolstenholme. But I didn’t hear those words until much later, because I WAS THERE. And for any sceptics, I have the tickets to prove it.
I was a 17 year old in 1966. I managed to buy a ticket for all the matches being played in London for a cost of just over £4 each! The highlight was of course being able to attend the final and seeing England win. I had been invited to attend my first formal black-tie dinner that evening and was in a quandary whether to stay until the finish as it would make getting to the function very rushed. In the end it was certainly worth staying. After the dinner, where I was by far the youngest guest, the ladies adjourned and I was left with cigar-smoking older gentlemen. I felt very out of my depth until someone asked, “Does anyone know who won the football?” I could answer that I had actually been there and share the wonderful story of us winning.
1966 was the year in which I became engaged and subsequently married on September 16. However my most exciting day in that year, and probably my whole life, was watching England win the World Cup at Wembley. My first visit to Wembley had been for the Cup final between Portsmouth and Wolves in 1939. I had been back many times since then for international matches both during and after the war watching stars such as Cullen, Matthews, Mortensen and Lofthouse. Another memory along the way was England’s defeat by Hungary. Nothing however matched the excitement of beating Germany and seeing the Geoff Hurst hat-trick — and to top it off my friend Lawrie at the end of the game producing a bottle of champagne and two glasses just like a magician with a white rabbit out of a top hat.
I was 18 and had just left school in July 1966. I was a keen West Ham supporter and had already been at Wembley in 1964 and 1965 to see West Ham in the FA Cup and European Cup-Winners finals. Bobby Moore was my favourite and had been for several years so it was very emotional to see him take the World Cup for England from the Queen.
The iconic photo of Bobby Moore supported by his colleagues holding the cup aloft is framed and hanging on my wall. And in addition I have the programmes for the three Wembley matches (signed later by Geoff Hurst) framed together with the two rosettes I wore on the day. England and West Ham — a unique piece of history.
My diary for 1966 (which I still have) records the day: “Went with Dave [he was a school friend and had managed to get the tickets] to see World Cup Final — England won 4-2 after extra-time Geoff 3, Martin 1 & Bobby collected cup — a West Ham final.” Later that evening I went with my boyfriend to see Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. The following day another friend (Alan) arrived with all the Sunday newspapers (also recorded in my diary) and I cut out and saved all the articles in a scrapbook.
I was nine. I watched it at home with my dad and sister. My dad bet me sixpence Germany would win. A few weeks later I went to watch it again at the cinema with my football friends from school. They turned the whole game into one glorious technicolor film. You don’t get that nowadays!
Remember meeting the Spanish team in Erdington Birmingham when they used the Delta Metals social club in Holly Lane to train on — my dad worked at the Delta at that time. We watched the final with my pal Steve on a black-and-white set in our living room I was 11. When the last goal went in I remember dad got so excited he upended the settee with me and my mate on it.
On the morning of 30 July 1966 I was at home looking after my two young children. My husband was getting ready to go to the final by train with his friends. He had been to all the matches. My husband was just leaving when the phone rang. He told me that there was a spare ticket and that this would be a memory of a lifetime for me. I had never seen England play or been to Wembley before. Having got the children ready we left in our car and went to my mother’s to leave the children. We parked at Wembley Town Hall and got to the ground just in time. We stood behind the goal and I had a clear view of that goal — the ball was well over the line! We are avid West Ham supporters and remain season ticket holders.
After the World Cup my wife June met Bobby Moore on many occasions as our children went to the same nursery school as his and he was often there to pick them up so had many chats with him.
My sister and I were allowed extra money for sweets on the day (usually we had to make our shilling’s worth of sweet ration last a week!), probably to help keep us quiet. The clearest memory for me was of Nobby Stiles skipping and the final goal plus my mum and dad dancing after the match to a medley of Beatles, Everley Brothers and Elvis records (on the Dansette). The best thing about it all is that my brother who is six years younger than me can’t remember it at all! If you have a younger brother, you’ll know what that means.
The episode I remember the most, though, (and it’s never been seen since) was my quiet, mild-mannered dad getting up from his seat when the final whistle went at the end of extra time and running around the house shouting his head off.
I was the only one watching at home. Mum, Dad, Gran and my sister were in the garden as they could not bear to watch it.
We flew from Cyprus to the UK to watch the World Cup at my aunt’s house in Grove Park, London. All went well until her walnut cabinet television developed a faulty tube which reduced the grainy 601 lines of the black and white picture to a compressed strip six inches high. We decamped to another aunt’s home, this time in Pontypridd, Glamorgan. I watched all the matches (as a 14-year-old girl I had never watched football on TV previously) but couldn’t bear to watch the final, so I recall making chocolate mousse with my aunt in the kitchen, but could hear the roars and groans coming from the lounge. The results — dessert and the final score — were brilliant.
We watched it on the telly at home. As extra-time approached, there was a thunderstorm and my mum insisted on the TV being turned off and the aerial unplugged (given that lightning would strike one house out of millions in south London). We listened to the only World Cup England are ever likely to win on a dodgy transistor radio. With hindsight, I think being struck by lightning has higher odds than an England World Cup win…
Before the contest started one of my friends said, “If England win the World Cup I’ll take off my trousers and shit in the road.” Afterwards we were curious to see if he would. As far as I know he didn’t.
I was 11 and watched it on TV with my older sister in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, and remember the great excitement. It was the first and only football match I’ve ever seen and I suspect that’s true for my sister too.
I was only three and a half at the time, living in York, but my mum wanted England and my dad, an American, had put a bet on Germany winning. My only memory is that of my dad laughing and laughing hard when Germany scored at the end of normal time, and my Mum punching him over and over on the back, saying “Shut up! Shut up!”
I was six at the time and remember most of all my mum turning on the radio about 10 minutes after the final finished; first record on: “The taxman’s taken all my dough...”
My sister and I grew up in Wembley and were aged seven and five respectively at the time of the match. We watched the match with our parents on a black-and-white TV in our parents’ bedroom as Mum had flu. As soon as the match finished we walked down towards Wembley Stadium. The road leading up to the North Circular was lined with people and we joined the cheering and joy when the England team drove past in a coach.
On this Saturday my father, a lifetime football fan and one-time player, agreed to drive me and three friends to Windsor for the music festival. We were all 16 at the time. Football? We did not care a jot. The Who were topping the bill. Cream were playing their first set the next day. In the middle of the music there was an announcement with the result. Greeted by a single cheer. Then the music continued.
My father’s memory of the day says it all. “Not one of the miserable buggers even said thank you.”
I was there! With my father, Robert, and my wife Marjorie. Because we had tickets for a West End show that evening we had to leave the ground immediately after the final whistle. Hurrying down to the underground we managed to board the first tube train away from Wembley. Imagine our amazement when we sat down to the cries from the other passengers (at least a dozen or so) of “What was the final score? Did we win?” They had left their seats before the end to ensure they missed the crowd.
I wonder what they tell their grandchildren?
From Afar But There In Spirit
I was in the Royal Navy and watched it in a pub in North Queensferry, Scotland, just me and the landlord.
I watched most of the games on TV but missed the final as I went on my first holiday with a couple of friends, camping near Bowness-on-Windermere. That afternoon I remember seeing a couple of brief glimpses of the match in a butcher’s shop. My compensation for missing the match was meeting my first serious girlfriend, the beautiful Audrey from Windermere.
Having booked my summer holiday months ahead, without thinking for a moment that England had a hope of getting to the final, England v West Germany coincided with our Dover-Calais crossing. With my friend Richard, I was driving to Italy in his sister’s MGB. We found ourselves on deck during a pretty rough crossing listening to the running commentary around a very basic transistor radio with scratchy reception. There were lots of England supporters and a fair number of Germans too. As the game progressed, more and more people congregated around the radio. Half-time coincided with us being half way across the Channel. The second half was anguish for everybody, accompanied by the fact I was feeling increasingly seasick. More and more beers were being bought by everybody. As we came into the harbour the Germans equalised. Groans all round. When we disembarked we found the guy with the radio and all hung around on the quayside. At one point the radio cut out and we frantically dashed about trying to pick up reception. When England won we all piled off to a local hostelry, probably 20 or 30 of us, our new friends who we met on the boat. We celebrated England’s win over several hours at which point we realised we were not in a fit state to commence our long drive to Italy. We hung around to sober up, big smiles on our faces.
I went to Derby Baths in Blackpool as usual on that Saturday afternoon with my friend Marion. We were expecting to meet up with the usual gang and I was particularly looking forward to seeing a boy I fancied but there were no boys there at all. No lifeguards either or indeed any other adults so we amused ourselves by running around and doing all the things normally not allowed. Weirdly magical and certainly unforgettable.
When the World Cup came round my dad bought two books of tickets, one for me, one for him. We went to a couple of early games and then I was playing cricket. When England got to the final I got a call saying would I play a cricket match? I was trying to establish myself. Nobody wanted to play this bloody game but I’d do anything for a game of cricket. So I didn’t go to the World Cup final. I gave my ticket away to play in a game instead.
My dad went. He was a very straight bloke, a civil servant, liked everything orderly. He didn’t like the hassle of queues and things. If we ever went to see a film we’d go in after it had started and sit down to watch it from halfway through to the end and start again until we went back to the bit we started at. It wasn’t until I was older that I ever watched a film properly.
My dad, not wanting to get stuck in the crowd at Wembley, left the final with five minutes to go. It was 2-1 when he left. I missed the game for a game of cricket, my dad missed extra-time because he didn’t like queuing.
37 years later, when England got to the 2003 Rugby World Cup final in Australia, it was transmitted back in England at 9am on a Saturday morning. My little girl had a gymnastics class so we decided to record it, we went off to class trying to avoid everything. We got back and turned on the video. But we had only set it for 80 mins and after that it went cccssshhhhh and turned off. So the only two World Cups England have won the Selvey family have missed both of them.
Driving back from our holiday in north Wales listening in to the car radio: a Radiomobile valve set. I got my Dad to flash everyone coming the other way after we won.
I remember the tournament as a seven year old. I’d kept my World Cup wall chart up to date each morning as most of the games were concluded after my bedtime. The real memory though is the Final. Come the glorious day my sports apathetic parents decided the day of the final would be a great day to take my little sister and me to Chester Zoo as it would be nice and quiet. They were 100% right - we were about the only people there and my grumpiness was compounded by the fact that the animals seemed as fed up as I was at missing the big day.
Ever since, I‘ve not liked zoos. For some people it may be a view based on animal welfare but for me I can’t see a lion without thinking of Bobby Moore.
I was 14 years old. On the day of the final we were going on holiday, driving from London to Southampton, the port where we were to set sail to Lisbon. As West Ham supporters we had an added interest in the match as the trio of Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst and of course Bobby Moore were playing. We listened to most of the game on the radio in the car and reached Southampton ahead of departure with extra time to go. So, we drove hectically around the town, looking for a television shop that had a television turned on in the window, which luckily we found and together with a crowd of other people saw England win 4-2 over West Germany. A super start to our holiday!
My dad was 11 in the summer of 1966 and grew up in Ponders End, Enfield, what was then your typical white, working-class London suburb. He lived with his two older brothers and his parents in a rather loveless, joyless home filled with mutual unhappiness. So the day of the World Cup final, my dad and several of his relatives are watching the match in the living room on their rented television. (A year later on 1967 FA Cup final day, Spurs playing Chelsea, a poor sap from the TV rental store came to collect the telly due to unpaid rent. My grandad chased him out the house with an axe.) He wasn’t the kindest of individuals was my grandad.
The game duly goes to extra time. Now, my grandad at the time did an afternoon paper round and extra time in the game clashed with when he was supposed to be delivering newspapers. What does he do? Goes up to my dad and tells him he has to do it. So it’s extra-time in the 1966 World Cup Final and my dad, age 11, is delivering newspapers rather than watching the game. He would hear people cheering in their living-rooms when England scored which just made him feel worse. He never saw England win the World Cup. He never saw Bobby Moore lifting the Jules Rimet trophy.
Even now, it’s a topic I daren’t bring up.
The day England won the World Cup was the same day that my parents and I were going to Italy on our first package holiday. Needless to say we just made it in time to catch our plane and celebrated with a crowd of young taxi drivers from the East End of London when we arrived in Riccione.
I was nine when England won the World Cup. I still remember the day.
My brother and I had the Saturday job of collecting our pre-ordered boxes of groceries from the village shop. As we walked down I commented that the village was strangely silent and deserted. It was a warm summer day but there was nobody in their gardens — not even any cars. The shop was open but the shopkeeper wasn’t there. When we called out the old man came running out, bundled the boxes onto the counter then disappeared with hardly a word. When we got home I asked Dad what was going on.
“Oh, I think it’s the football World Cup today,” he said.
“Oh,” I said.
And we got on with our normal Saturday things.
I was on holiday on the Clyde coast at a place called Millport on the Isle of Cumbrae. I was there with my parents, and unlike me, my dad had little interest in football. Although television was fairly widespread throughout the country back then, Millport was a holiday town and hardly anyone had a television set in their rented property. This wasn’t a problem normally. People were active outside most of the time. No one wanted to waste their holiday watching TV.
This year was different, though. We knew that the World Cup was being televised live and a few of us wanted to see some of the games. One particular cafe, the Swiss Café, had a television set and people piled in to see the first match, but rather mysteriously the set went on the blink and never worked again for the entire tournament.
The World Cup was frequently discussed by my holiday mates but we never saw any of it — and then England reached the final. I asked my mum and dad if they knew anywhere that was showing it and eventually they told me I could watch it at a nearby guesthouse, but I’d need to be on my very best behaviour. When the big day came, I was ushered into a room where 15-20 people — boys and men — we’re waiting to see the action. I wanted West Germany to win.
As a 12 year old, the thing that I became aware of as the goals were scored was the different allegiances of those in the room — all of us Scots. I noticed support for England from the dads, but all the boys desperately wanted England to lose. The adults, like my own dad, had been through a war against Germany. They had stood side by side with their English comrades. There was no way they wanted West Germany to beat England but youngsters like myself just wanted to see our football rival beaten.
It was the last but one day of our caravan holiday in Wales. No television. My father and me and my brother wanted to drive back to our Birmingham home to watch the match. My mom refused to cut her holiday short. Words were exchanged. We had to listen to the match crouched around a tinny transistor radio. Never mind, we shared in the drama and excitement of an unforgettable occasion. What my mother did I do not remember.
Greg and I had Subbuteo that year and had had several World Cup finals of our own. But, this was the real thing. You know those days when you just feel, “this is special … this is a special day”. We all crowded into the front room, even Grandad Taylor came to watch the match. “Bloody Jerry you can’t trust him, he’s either at your feet or your throat,” Grandad quipped. He had been through the First World War and saw action at the Somme, just over 50 years before. I loved my Grandad. Greg and I lay on the floor, with our hands supporting our chins, we were transfixed.
Extra time came. “Greg, its time for you to do your paper round,” mum said as she went into the kitchen. We just looked at each other; surely mum was having a laugh? We decided to switch into ‘invisible mode’ and simply merge with the carpet, surely mam would forget. It’s the World Cup final, it’s extra time in the World Cup final!
We watched the Germans sitting on the pitch they were done… surely they were done? Alf Ramsey and the coach told the England lads to get up, stand up, let’s show them we are fine, we are English and now we will finish them. Suddenly, piercingly our peace was threatened… “Gregory… get your bag and get yourself to that paper round.” I turned to Greg and said, “Don’t worry… I’ll tell you all about when YOU get back from your round.”. Oooops… He turned to mum and said… those immortal words, “It’s NOT FAIR!” I was adamant that I was staying put. Then mum turned to me and said, “You can go with him — you’ll be back soon you won’t miss much.”
And that is how Greg and I missed England’s finest hour. We went, the only two lads in Braunstone… in England… in the world… in the bledy UNIVERSE to miss extra-time. Walking up Pollard Road towards the end of the round, it was a ghost town.
Then there was the sound of a huge outbreak of sound. England had scored! Some neighbours invited Greg and me in to see the final few minutes of the match. We ran out of the neighbours’ house, and ran all the way home. That evening we played and replayed England’s World Cup win like thousands of kids. What a moment in time.
I was 14 and saw a lot of the matches on TV. I remember thinking Farkas’s goal for Hungary against Brazil was the best goal I’d ever seen. The World Cup final was the day we left for Boys Brigade camp so I didn’t see it.
I was eight-and-a-half months pregnant and as vast as a barrage balloon. My husband and I didn’t even know the World Cup final was on — we had other things on our mind, like buying a spin dryer before the baby arrived. So, there we were, in the electrical goods section of our nearest department store when we realised we were completely alone. It was like the Marie Celeste. Eventually we came across the staff — all watching the largest TV in the store. They took one look at me and two of them wordlessly wheeled up a huge settee…
I was eight years old and stuck on an extremely hot and cramped coach returning from a week’s break at a Pontins holiday camp on the south coast. I remember all the men on the coach with pensive faces trying to catch the commentary on a tin-can tranny drowned out by the growl of a struggling engine. They kept asking the driver to stop for a wee every ten minutes, during which time they crowded around grainy black-and-white TVs in Little Chefs. I think the six-hour journey took about ten that day!
I was ten years old and a glasses wearer since the age of two. A new pair was ready to be picked up at the opticians but I hung on as long as possible watching the final. Eventually the end of full-time was approaching, and Dad said I had to go. I trudged through deserted streets to the edge of town, to find a bored optician, who asked me the score. I told him we were losing. “Oh well,” he replied. “At least I’m not missing anything.”
Back home, again the only living soul on the street, I rang the doorbell. No one came. A second ring, still no response. Yelling through the letterbox, I could hear the excitement mounting. Dad opened the door. “You’ll just make the extra-time whistle — we’ve won!”
I push past towards the living room and the black and white screen. There are people running onto the pitch. No one even noticed my new glasses.
I was six, my brother four. We were so excited by all the talk about the World Cup Final that, instead of actually watching the game, we played football in the hall with a rolled up sock. England won the main game, I hear, but there was some debate about who won the game between me and my brother. Probably him because he had a good engine and more of a will to win than me. You can’t teach that.
Watching From Overseas
I remember as a teenager in Montevideo listening to the games during class at school (four hours difference with GMT) from an earphone cupped in my hand and artfully connected via my sleeve to a portable Spica in my blazer pocket. The opener was a goalless draw with England (they never could beat us in a World Cup). The day of the opener we were on a farm in upcountry Uruguay, where we woke up to the sound of heavy rainfall. As we were breakfasting in the kitchen the foreman popped his head through the doorway to say, “Doesn’t look good for the game, this is going to carry on all day.” We all giggled while Dad patiently explained that London was thousands of kilometres away and then invited him to come and listen to the match on the radio with us at midday. Sure enough, he turned up about five minutes before kick-off just as the commentator was informing that both teams were coming on to the pitch at Wembley under a steady downpour. As he sat down to remove the mud from his boots he gave us children a complicit wink and turned to Dad to say, “Told you it was a big’un”.
I remember this with such clarity. I was in Lyon, France, and my French wife to be, Martine, had left the apartment to buy her wedding dress. Her grandmother and I watched the game together sitting on a sturdy sofa bed. Memories of the war and occupation were still raw and everyone I knew in France supported the England of mini cars, Beatles and Carnaby Street. When Hurst scored that last goal I jumped with delight landing back heavily on the sofa which duly collapsed, splintering in all directions and enveloping ‘Grandmaman’ in a mayhem of wood and cloth. The event became a much-embellished family story. The wedding took place a few days later and nearly 50 years on survives. Vive la France!
My memory of the 1966 World Cup final was from the perspective of a 10-year-old football-mad kid living in Singapore, where my dad was stationed with the RAF. We had to listen to the game in the wee hours of Sunday morning on the World Service, by means of a crappy shortwave radio. No footage of the final reached Singapore for about two or three months, until Goal!, the feature film of the ‘66 finals, was finally released and made it out to Asia, I then finally saw what I had heard on that fateful and brilliant day in July.
Many years later as a young sound technician at the BBC I had the great pleasure of working alongside Bobby Charlton and regaled this tale to him over a game of Subbuteo, (which he won with great aplomb). I did, however, get to deliver the immortal commentary line, “Charlton shoots and Charlton scores” as the greatest No 9 ever to pull on an England shirt bore down on my goal. Happy days indeed.
In the summer of 66 I was a recently graduated art student with all the prerequisite Left Bank posturing and pretensions (very big at the time). I wasn’t that into football, despite having played for my school. French cigarettes (Gitanes), Thelonious Monk and an existential scowl was my thing. Football didn’t solve the true meaning of life, man. I was too cool to fool. But it was hard to miss the excitement building around London. A friend insisted on giving directions in terrible Spanish to a group of Brazilians on the top of the Fulham Broadway bus. They thanked him in excellent English. I hoped England would win of course. But really, did I care? I was off on a soul-searching quest, hitch-hiking around the Aegean to soak up classical antiquity. Was a man throwing a discus superior to a man kicking a ball? Would Praxiteles have chipped out a great Bobby Charlton?
Through the preliminary rounds I had made my way to Athens and admired all the naked goddesses and frozen athletes that I was supposed to admire. My idea was to make the full circle. Istanbul down to Rhodes, across to Crete and back to Athens. I moved on, thumbing my way up to Thessaloniki, where at the Youth Hostel I was warned getting to Istanbul could be dodgy. Enmity between the Turks and the Greeks severely restricted cross-border traffic. They were right, the first day I tried there was nothing. I don’t mean nothing stopped, I mean there was no traffic at all. The second day a couple of other travellers showed up at my spot, a Swede and his girlfriend. And by the time the flat bed lorry pulled up a Swiss kid had joined us. We climbed onto the back and hung on for life as the beast bounced and sped along the empty pockmarked roads. As the day got hotter we took off our shirts, even the girl, and cooked ourselves in the Aegean sun. For the whole day! It was a very long trip.
By the time we arrived in Istanbul, late afternoon, I was all too aware of my crisply burnt back. The kind of pain that makes you cry without realising you are crying. I could only cringe at the weight of my shirt on my shoulders. The cafés lining the ancient streets were crowded with noisy men huddled at tables, too focused on little transistor radios to notice us. From the ebb and flow of the Ooos and Ahhhs and muted cheers it was obvious they were following a match. I had lost track of the World Cup schedule, and not speaking a word of Turkish, I had no idea who was playing. Then finally there was a unanimous cheer, a thunderous roar as cafés up and down the street erupted. Men jumped from their seats hugging and shouting and waving.
They saw us, me in particular, and with mob instinct immediately focused their frenzy. Was it my long hair? My arty clothes? Then I realised my skin — by now boiled lobster pink — gave me away. Was that good or bad? I couldn’t tell when they rushed me, I was too freaked to read their expression. It was only when they began to pound me on the back while jubilantly shouting “Engleesh! Engleesh! Engleesh!” that I understood. Their delight was so great they took my tears and howls of pain to be an English expression of joy.
The ‘morning’ England won the World Cup I was sitting in a room with 15 or so others listening to the World Service broadcast in Borneo. It was about 3 o’clock in the morning, ceiling fans whirring, mozzie nets tucked in. We were serving with the Army Air Corps by Kuching airstrip. Twelve years later, I met up with Bobby Moore in a bar at Terminal 3 at Heathrow. I was on my way to the desert in Abu Dhabi. He was heading for Singapore.
I was eight years old and my family lived in Paris. We always went to my grandfather’s house in deepest rural Brittany (Tremel, population 300) for our summer holidays. It was barely 20 years since the German occupation had ended and many families, including mine, had suffered greatly. Needless to say, the Boche were not forgiven. The English, on the other hand, were extremely popular, especially in my family.
My grandfather lived in a small house with no running water, but in 1966 he had just had the electricity connected. On the day of the final he hired a black-and-white TV, which was incredibly exciting, for us kids especially. It sat on a sideboard in the kitchen and the whole family (my grandfather, parents, aunts — there were about 10 of us) crammed into this room and sat on wooden benches to watch the game.
England’s goals brought screams of delight, my normally very severe grandfather, my parents, my aunts, all jumping up and down, hugging each other, clapping and laughing. I remember this so well, because I had never seen my entire family so happy, and so united. However, when Germany scored the second time, one my aunts left the room in floods of tears. She didn’t come in again for ages, but she was standing outside listening, I could see her through the window. When the third goal was awarded by the Soviet linesman, we totally knew it was for all the Russians who had died in the war - there were cries of “Bravo les Russes!”.
I had not experienced anything like it before. It got me and my brother into football.
The game wasn’t shown live in Canada. Rather, we had to wait till later in the day to see the tape. I settled down in front of the TV to watch. Five minutes before kick-off the phone rang. My mother said, “Hello, Willie, isn’t it wonderful about England winning the World Cup!” Her and her bloody radio.
Meanwhile… In Germany
What a year 1966 was, I was 16, just left school and got my first girlfriend (or should I say she got me!). Then, big blow, my father was posted to RAF Rheindahlen at HQ RAF Germany, where I got a temporary job in the NAAFI, stacking shelves. I had never been interested in football, but everyone at work was trying to watch the World Cup final in the stock room on a small, grainy, black-and-white TV. When England actually won the Cup, I joined in the celebrations and was sacked soon after. That evening, to mark England’s win, myself and some friends went into the local town of Mönchengladbach and put washing liquid in the fountains. Such fun!
I watched the final in a bar in Germany with my mate Geoff. We were students hitchhiking around Europe and were trying to get to Denmark to watch it, when someone told us — and I never found out whether or not this was true — that it was not being shown live there. The bar was packed. We were the only English people there and the atmosphere was quite hostile. We couldn’t understand why the place erupted when the white shirts scored. We then realised that England must be playing in the dark shirts! (The television was both small and black and white).
The bar emptied a bit when England took the lead in extra-time and, once the last goal went in it emptied completely. By the end, there was only Geoff, me and three Norwegians who joined us for a celebratory beer — not as easy as it sounds as the solitary barmaid was sobbing her heart out behind the bar!
When we left, there was a major traffic jam and a group of British soldiers — not exactly on their first drink of the day — were doing their bit for Anglo-German relations by walking up and down the road banging on car roofs and shouting out the score.
On the day I was 16 and with a Venture Scout group camping in southern Germany near Freiburg. We found a local inn with a TV and took over a section of the bar to watch the final as we had done to watch the semis. When Hurst scored that disputed goal there was a bit of reaction from the other customers but apart from that the reaction was always friendly towards our group and philosophical about the result.
I was on my first trip abroad on a school coach trip to Belgium and Germany. July 30 was my 11th birthday and we were staying at a hotel in Königswinter on the Rhine. The tour schedule for the 30th was a visit to the Drachenfels and on the way back the German coach driver had the radio tuned in to the final. There was a communication problem and by the time we got back to the hotel we believed that England had lost the final 3-2. It was only the next day that we found out the truth. Maybe the coach driver was scared of being mocked by a bunch of unruly school kids.
My school had a Scout group. In 1966 we were camping in Bavaria, hardly following the World Cup. It was the 70th Birmingham Scout group based at King Edward’s School. We were camping near Mittenwald. On the day of the final we went to a local hostelry to watch the match. The Germans were very generous and came over to shake our hands when the final whistle went. The next day a couple of them came and challenged us to a game of football. There was quite a crowd the following day to see us play. We lost 3-0 . They felt they had restored German pride (in a friendly way). We didn’t tell them that at our school we did not play football. Rugby was our game.
Was a 15 year old on holiday in Germany for the duration of the World Cup. Saw the final on a black-and-white TV in a bar in Michelstadt. Went outside at the end and the whole village was quiet, and I of course celebrated. The shutters opened and heads looked out, “Engländer!” they all shouted. Great fun.
My friends and I were travelling in Germany at the time in a little red mini and it had a GB plate on it. We were South Africans but had hired the car in the UK. When we came to the Austrian border there was a long queue but when someone spotted our GB plate there was much cheering and we were invited to join the head of the line! This in spite of the fact that we four girls were blissfully unaware of the World Cup, were not football fans and not British. We kept quiet however and gratefully accepted the accolades!
I travelled through Germany on a train on the day of the World Cup final. I was 19 in 1966 and had left my home city of Sheffield busy erecting flagpoles for the World Cup along the front of Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium. I didn’t give them a second glance. Football bored me silly, still does. I was doing something far more exciting, off to join a group of complete strangers in London for an international youth working holiday in East Germany or the GDR as I quickly learned to call it. Behind the Iron Curtain! That sounds such an obsolete phrase nowadays but then it caused a real frisson of apprehension and disbelief when I told people where I was off to. It was part of Project 67, organised by CND to promote friendship, peace and understanding between young adults.
It certainly promoted that, along with muscles and exhaustion as we worked 12-hour days on a collective farm a few miles from the Polish border alongside others from the USSR, Sweden, Denmark, Malta and other places I’ve forgotten. Collapsing onto our bunk beds when we got back at the end of the day we found to our dismay that a relentless programme of social and political education awaited us. A quick shower and meal of some variety of sausage and potatoes and we were off again. We visited schools, factories, nurseries, coal mines (“the first socialist nursery”, “the first socialist coal mine”…).
The trip was a powerful experience which did lead to friendship and understanding, but it was the journey home that I remember so clearly. We travelled back in a train through West Germany on the day of the World Cup final. The football enthusiasts in our group were glued to their transistors as indeed were most of the other passengers. There was just the small problem that we were on opposing sides to each other. International friendship, peace and solidarity was suddenly off the agenda. Naked nationalism just as quickly took their place. As the match progressed to its conclusion the entire train could be heard to groan collectively. Sobbing on manly German shoulders took place.
Our football enthusiasts were beside themselves, until the more savvy members of our party picked up on the vibe coming towards us in waves from the other passengers. It was clear that things could take a nasty turn as some male passengers got up and advanced towards us shouting. I didn’t need to understand German to get the drift. We beat a tactical retreat and regrouped in another carriage. But feelings were running high throughout the train and we silently communicated with each other that speaking English out loud was not a great idea. We spent the rest of the journey through Germany in complete silence nervously looking over our shoulders for any looming German football supporter. It was a genuinely threatening situation to be in.
Several weeks spent working alongside Germans and others, sharing experiences, learning about each other’s life and countries, making friends, all gone, all wiped out by 120 minutes of football. So yes, I do remember the 1966 World Cup, and the lesson I learned on the homeward journey has stayed with me over the years. So has my intense dislike of football.
I am from Germany and the family bought a TV just for the World Cup. My grandma could not grasp the concept of people on a screen and insisted that we all put on our Sunday best just in case the people inside the TV could see us. When it came to the end of the game and Germany lost we heard an almighty row next door. Our neighbour had thrown their TV out of the window, followed by various bits of furniture. The wife and kids were crying and so everybody came out of their houses trying to help and calm down the very irate TV thrower.
Six years later I married an English man and have lived in the UK ever since. I watch the game whenever it’s shown on TV enjoying these memories, realising that the rivalry between England and Germany has never really stopped. It’s just a game?
And Now, 50 Years On
Our parents decided television in the home was stultifying for children. It must have been halfway through the 1966 World Cup coverage that despite this they decided watching the games would be educational. They went out and bought what was probably one of the first portable TVs so that we could “watch England win”. I’m not sure what was the most amazing: England winning or a box in the corner of our sitting room.
Once the tournament ended, the TV went up into the attic, to come out about three years later, so that me and my brothers could witness a man walking on the moon.
My Grandad was there, behind the goal where Geoff Hurst thundered in the fourth. My Grandad’s name is Dennis Wells but he is affectionately known to everyone as Wilbur. He has dementia now so not too many clear memories. I do recall asking him why he never kept the programme. He gave it to a little boy outside Wembley who couldn’t get in.
In the late 70s I read Richard Crossman’s diaries about serving in the Wilson government. There are detailed entries for almost every day in 1966. There is no mention of the World Cup or football at all in June or July. Nothing on either July 30 or 31. Complete silence. The only reference is I think in September when he complains that Wilson was late for a meeting because the Prime Minister had been at a World Cup celebration event. Now of course the politicians would be all over the place if England got to a final.
In 1966 I was at boarding school. My exams were over but the school didn’t break up until sometime in the week of July 18. I pleaded extenuating circumstances to go home a few days early; my mother was away and my father — a GP — needed someone at home to take messages from patients. It was exciting to have football on the television every day, see all these different countries although the commentator would remind you who was playing from left to right across your screen as there was no colour TV then. At the start of the Final there was just my 10-year-old sister and me watching. However by the time the second half progressed I think all my three sisters and both parents were watching. The injury-time equaliser drained us all.
There was for me a sad sequel to that weekend which many have forgotten. As a family we used to go every August to the Roseland peninsula in Cornwall. On the Monday following we learnt of a pleasure boat disaster off the Cornish coast costing many lives. For some people that victory sadly was the last bit of joy they would have known.
I was 16 in 1966 and went with my Dad to the group games at Goodison and the final at Wembley. I have three abiding memories.
First, we got one of our two tickets for the Final through a lottery. Everyone who went to the group games was part of the draw to qualify for a final ticket. What could be more democratic? What could be further away from the football of today?
Second, I saw two unforgettable games that were symbolic of the time. One was Hungary’s defeat of Brazil and in particular the goal scored from a cross on the right wing. I was in line with the winger and the forward in the centre who together conjured up one of the best moves I have ever seen. The other game was the remarkable recovery of Portugal against North Korea. Eusébio worked miracles to overcome a 3-0 deficit and became one of my great heroes.
Third, the final. A great match which for us began with a Wembley steward willing to let my Dad and me into the same enclosure, despite having tickets for different parts of the ground. Perhaps the oddest part of the day was that, for reasons I cannot explain, my Dad decided to support Germany and wore a German rosette. I acted as if I did not know him on the journey to and from the ground!
All in all, football experiences that have remained among the most vivid of my life, matched only by just escaping being crushed in Block Z at Heysel 19 years later.
In 1966, aged 15, I was at Villa Park to see Argentina, including the notorious Rattin, beat Spain (Gento, Suárez and all) 2-1, but watched the rest, including the final, on TV. When I came to Azerbaijan as an English teacher in 2000, one of the first thing my students were anxious to talk to me about was the great Tofik Bahramov’s role in the 1966 final - of course, like most other people, I’d assumed the famous linesman was Russian.
I didn’t meet Tofik but, with my Azerbaijani wife Saadat, I interviewed his son Bahram, and held the golden whistle that his father was presented with. In the action pictures that Bahram keeps with pride, his father is invariably smiling, enjoying the game, a fan of football. “What was in his soul was on his face” is how his family remembers him.
I drew World Cup Willy for my friends. I grew up to be a graphic designer.
My brother was in Aden at the time. When the Post Office issued World Cup stamps overprinted with “England Winners” they quickly sold out in England and were attracting a premium from collectors. BFPO in Aden however had plenty in stock so my brother was able to source a lot of them and the sales earned enough to keep us both in beer money for many months.
It was the first thing that really bonded my father and me together.
Never forget my wedding anniversary — married on the day that England won the World Cup!
I was six and my brother ten. Our Dad took us to the England v Mexico game. I remember waving my Union Jack flag lots. That summer we went on our first foreign holiday to Tangier in Morocco, flying from Manston airport on an Air Ferry DC6. Our hotel was in the middle of the souk and when the local kids found out we were English they just shouted “Bobby Charlton, Bobby Charlton” at us.
Got married March 1966. Winning the World Cup was the best wedding present I had. It was just wonderful the feeling I had for Alf Ramsey who proved all his critics wrong. I have the greatest admiration for Bobby Charlton for his achievements in football, his demeanour and his part-tragic history. I love that man and he doesn’t know it.
I was born during the match; my dad watched it and mum was a bit fed up because she couldn’t.
I was born the day after.