England’s last major final: no wingers, hype or hysteria in 1966

When Wembley hosted the World Cup final, my ticket cost 10 shillings and celebrations were formal as the programme notes

The programme cost half a crown, the standing ticket 10 shillings. That was then, the Wembley of twin towers, 30 July 1966, and the World Championship final against West Germany. Billie-Jean King had just won her first Wimbledon, Jack Nicklaus his first Open.

The summer stage on 11 July was clear for football, 20 days for Alf Ramsey’s “wingless wonders” to prove their manager right in front of 93,000. It seems another age and was, free of hype and hysteria. This is only Europe on Sunday night but Gareth Southgate suggests the same courage of conviction in his team selections and substitutions.

That 1966 programme now is a happy reminder of the after-work spring-in-step walk with younger brother up Wembley Way through the group games and knockout rounds and then the post-match dash to Waterloo for the last train home to Surrey, touch and go but never missed. It shows mug-shots of the 22-man final squads, hair groomed to a man with not a beard in sight. And the tone is formal to a risible fault. England were captained by Robert Moore. The Charltons were Robert and John, the final hat-trick hero Geoffrey Hurst, who did not play until the quarter-finals.

There were three wings in the squad: John Connelly, Terence Paine and Ian Callaghan. Each had his own group game and that was it for them. And there was James Greaves, who played in all three group games without a goal, then no more – to a certain southern outrage. Greaves grieved. Ramsey had better know what he was doing. He did. He stuck with the same back six throughout, with Charlton (R) and Roger Hunt also ever present. Seven of his squad played no part at all. Subs were yet to come.

So were exaggerated celebrations on and off the field, both now playing to the cameras – the one with mouths open before the obligatory slither and team heap; the other, of fans flaunting themselves for photo ops to get in on someone else’s act, letting off post-lockdown energy. It comes from the top. Harold Wilson would never have been seen in an England shirt with No 10 on the back.

That standing ticket was the last of a season bundle for all England’s matches, high to the right of the end tunnel from which the teams emerged 55 years ago or to the left as the forlorn Antonio Rattín, captain of Argentine as the programme had it, returned early when sent off in the quarter-final.

For the final the position was just about level with the goalline to judge Hurst’s shot that hit the bar in extra time and bounced down. Who needs VAR when there is a Soviet linesman called Tofik Bakhramov to call it right? No bias here, of course.


Jeremy Alexander

The GuardianTramp

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