It's a brand New Year and in 2016 we have a lot to look forward to.:The European Championships in France, for the first time with 24 teams, The Rio Olympic men's and women's tournament, (without Team GB), the Champions League Final, some excitong English play-off matches, Copa America in the USA for the very first time, and the upcoming FIFA Presidential elections.
However, for myself and others from a past era we have JULY 30th and the FIFTIETH anniversary of WORLD CUP 1966 final: England 4 v West Germany 2 at Wembley Station,to look forwatd to,. Wembley was in fact in fact the YOUNGEST stadium used in that 16 team tournament. Monday night on SKY TV we had about 4 hours of memories including interviews with some of the surviving players, a ride on the 1966 team bus, and the full black and white BBC TV report of the 90 minutes plus 30 minutes extra time, plus all the other England matches and some colour film clips. I WAS IN HEAVEN !
It was my very first LIVE World Cup although I had watched the 1954 tournament from Switzerland and the 1958 one from Sweden on Eurovision TV, while the 1962 competition in far away Chile had film flown overnight to London with England going out in the quarter final in Vina Del Mar to champions Brazil. However I had been to Rome in 1960 and Tokyo 1964 to watch some of the Olympic football matches.
I had caught the train down to London the year before to meet Ken Wilsson, the man from Birmingham who was running the World Cup from his small suite of offices in thr White City Stadium, built for the 1908 Olympic Games and to be used for one match in 1966, France v Uruguay. All the other group matches were at Wembley which also hosted greyhound racing twice weekly. Incredibly Wembley Stadium would not make exceptions and their Friday meeting took place as usual. I was looking for a paid job but was offered a role in the press office in Sheffield as a volunteer which I could not fit in with work in Leeds.
Another incredible thing was that until 1966 The F.A, had to pay for team uniforms through a local retailer...with a 20% discount. No wonder that players were charged if they did not leave their uniforms in the dressing room after matches. Mr Charles hUMphries from Humphries BROthers flew around the world to persuade 15 of the 16 nations to accept nearly 5,000 home and change strips and other gear, free of charge, and made in their Wilmslow, Cheshire factory, which I got to visit. At the opening ceremony local teams marched round Wembley in UMBRO gear representing the 16 nations.,,,which they got to keep as a souvenir, along with adidas footwear.
Humphries, along with Adi Dassler, who at the time did not produce uniforms, agreed that UMBRO would distribute their footwear in the UK from Wimslow. Along with London stockist Ron Goodman they met Alf Ramsey and Dennis Follows, the F.A. secretary, at the Coburg Hotel in Bayswater to accept the new deal and replace BUKTA as the England brand uniforms. Umbro had started up in 1924 and a post war client was Manchester United, whose uniforms were designed by Matt Busby who owned the first ever United store in the South Stand at Old Trafford.
For the first time there was some serious marketing and besides the kiosks outside the stadiums, Woolworths and other nationwide stores sold flags, mascots, stickers, badges, tea towels, tea mugs and more. World Cup Willie was the first ever mascot, a lion in a Union Jack uniform, not an England flag as it would be these days. A very small man even walked the streets in a full body uniform. The mascot was designed by freelance children's book illustrater Reg Hoye. He received a small one time fee, and the F.A. made millions. !
England, with 22 players and support staff were training at Lilleshall in Shropshire at the National Training Centre. A week before the opening match a friend and I drive there from Leeds and there was a complete lack of security. We wandered around the grounds and into the residencial hall to meet players and staff. I took a next days match squad sheet pinned on the notice board only to return it when Les Cocker the Leeds United and England trainer and Alf Ramsey showed up. The lads were two to a room with a radio and tea maker, and one black & white TV in the lounge. They moved to the Hendon Hall Hotel in north London for the tournament.
Besides the Wembley group featuring England, Uruguay, France and Mexico there were three groups further north. Aston Villa and Hillsborough, with its brand new cantelever stand opposite the main stand featured West Germany, Spain, Argentina and Switzerland. Two obvious venues Elland Road in Leeds and St, James Park in Newcastle were not ready to upgrade at the time and so Ayersome Park, Middlesborouhj and Roker Park Sunderland were chosen to host Italy, North Korea, Soviet Union and Chile. In the north west Goodison Park was chosen as the lead venue along with Old Trafford. The top team got to play all three group matches at one stadium, so champions Brazil played Hungary, Portugal and Bulgaria in Liverpool at Goodison Park.
I had bought 2nd category tickets for all England matches, with seats just below and to the right of the Royal box £1 for group matches (it was only 50d to stand), while the quarter final seats increased by 50d, the semi final to £2.0 and the final to £2.50. The opener, England v Uruguay was a 0-0 bore and Alf and the team were given a hard time in the national press. Colour TV did not arrive in UK until 1967 so BBC and ITV shared the same black & white cameras with different commentary teams.
With my three mates we also paid 50d at the turnsiles Old Trafford for Hungary v Portugal after attending Switzerland v West Germany at Hillsborough. The Germans won 5-0 with 20 year old Franz Beckenbauer, in his very first World Cup match, scoring twice. He was such a wild guy, already with a son out of wedlock, that he was forced to room with assistant coach Dettmar Cramer.
The third match in the north east group featured Italy v North Korea at Ayresome Park. We paid 50d for what turned out to be one of the most famous results in World Cup history. 1-0 to the Koreans. UK had no diplomatic relations and later released government documents after 30 years showed that the British government had considered not issuing visas, but FIFA had said that they would take the tournament away from England if this happened. Sir Stanley Rous FIFA President had flown to Asia to see both leg matches between the only two Far east entries, North Korea and Australia, in Phnom-Phem, Cambodia with a 9-2 aggregate and commented that they would be competitive, SO RIGHT HE WAS.
Pak-Doo Ik scored the only goal of the match in the 42nd minute while the Azzurri were down to 10 men for an hour due to injury to advance ,with Italy flying home in disgrace in the middle of the night to an obscure airport and manager Edmundo Fabbri resigned. The 'Chollima'. a mythical winged bird was the Korean mascot and they played in red jerseys, the same as Middlesborough. whose residents took them to their hearts. In fact 3,000 'Boro fans went to Goodison Park to support them in their quarter final against Portugal. AND THATS ANOTHER STORY !!
I had purchased the official World Cup blazer badge, which I still have, from the Leeds University outfitters on Upper Briggate. It was an embossed Union Jack with the Jules Rimet trophy in silver and gold wire..very impressive. I had it sewed on my blazer and after the final whistle marched triumphently through the players tunnel and into The North Korean dressing room and drank saki - or whatever they were handing out and celebrated until realising my mates were waiting outside to drive home down the A1 passed Italians returning to London.
Next time...England's progress, the play-offs and the FINAL DAY.