What I was doing Fifty Years Ago today


If you have any interest in football at all, you will already know the event to which I am referring. Fifty years ago today, England faced the then-West Germany in the World Cup Final, at Wembley Stadium, and in the most-watched sporting event ever in television history, won the World Cup for the first, and probably only time.

I work in a five storey building alongside several hundred people. Many of these are football fans, covering a profusion of teams, and not just the obvious ones of Manchester United, Manchester City and Stockport County. Of all those people, I doubt if there more than a handful, myself included, who actually watched the most famous match in English Football History.

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, in an era when summers were sunny, in obedience to the Laws of Nature and the Laws of Childish Expectation. It would not have been Summer for it to have been anything else.

There were seven of us in that living room in Droylsden, 53 Chappell Road, the home since it was built of my paternal grandparents and my Dad’s elder brother. We, that is, my parents and I and, more recently, my younger sister, had gone there for dinner and the afternoon every Saturday of my life so far. So we were gathered there because we always gathered there.

Nobody, not even my ten year old self, was a football fan. My Dad did the Littlewoods Pools, which was about as close as any of us got: I mean, we didn’t even watch the FA Cup Final, which was something given that, up to and including 1966, there were only two television channels and on Cup Final Day, they both broadcast the game.

But this was the World Cup Final, and this was England. There was an atmosphere of inevitability about it, a sense of national community that made watching the game next to compulsory. It would have been like the Coronation, thirteen years previously, something that you could not not watch.

Of the seven of us, I was probably the one most interested in football for itself, at least to the extent of kicking a ball around in the playground, or the street. But I had no real interest in professional football, to the extent that I believe that the first match I ever watched was the World Cup opener, the disappointing goalless draw between England and Uruguay.

I think it was on a Friday evening, because I clearly remember it being on in our house in Openshaw, and it must have been a Friday if I was allowed to watch it all. Not that you could really call my divided attention ‘watching’: it was a dull game, after all.

And I have no recollection whatsoever of England’s other two group games, to the point where I can’t remember how the goals were scored, except that is for Bobby Charlton’s blockbuster against Mexico which has been replayed over and over, and rightly so.

The retrospectives on the tournament that are now appearing paint a picture of the 1966 World Cup that belie 1966’s Golden Legend. In a way, my own limited memories fit in with that revealed picture. I only watched the England games, not any of those featuring the other countries. It was another world, another time, the details of which would seem impossible beyond belief to the fan who only knows football from the last twenty years. It was a smaller competition, sixteen countries, four groups, six games to play for the winners. There was no saturation coverage, no game-every-day, no elephantiasis.

So, twelve days after that opening game (which obviously can’t have been a Friday night after all), the seven of us sat around the TV on Saturday afternoon to watch England in the quarter-final against Argentina. This was the one where the Argentinan captain, Rattin, was sent off, which I can’t remember, and the one in which Geoff Hurst scored his first goal of the tournament.

I don’t remember if I asked for the game to be on. I was older than I was when I watched the first episode of Doctor Who, but I have much less reliable memory to call upon. I must have had some enthusiasm about the World Cup: after all, one of my comics, as far back as something like February, had given away a free World Cup booklet, including a page for you to make your predictions about all manner of things, especially who would win, and I still had it in July.

(In my pure ignorance, and I stress that I could not have told you a single fact about Football, I had predicted a win for England, whereas our class’s acknowledged football expert had, as foresight would have dictated, chosen Brazil. That I, who knew nothing, was right when he was wrong, was a thing of wonder to me that I couldn’t refrain from pointing out).

But I can’t remember displaying any actual, to the point of bothering the adults, interest. It was just on. Maybe I do my Dad a disservice, given that by the 1970 World Cup he was interested in watching all the England games (we saw the Final, we saw Gordon Banks’ save), though my own highly-developed enthusiasm for football might have rubbed off a bit on him by then.

But nevertheless we watched the game. And in midweek, we watched the semi-final against Portugal.

Here is my first, unassailably genuine memory of that tournament. Bobby Charlton scored twice, to win the game, to take us into the Final, but what I remember is that Portugal scored against us, from a penalty. It was the first goal England had conceded in the World Cup: imagine that. It came as a shock to me in my naivete.

And so to the Final. Granny, Grandad, uncle Arthur, Mam, Dad, me and my sister. Of all of us, only she and I are here to remember that day so very long ago, and her interest in the World Cup Final is no whit more developed than on that day so long ago, when she was just turned four.

The problem with the Final, as it is with the World Cup in general, is in discerning what memories of watching that game are real, and which belong to the decades since, to the endless replaying of the goals, to the still-extant arguments over Hurst’s second goal, to Wolstenholme’s imperishable moment: “Some people are on the pitch! They think it’s all over! It is now!” Bobby Moore wiping his sweary habds on the plush of the Royal Box so as not to soil the Queen’s gloves. Nobby Stiles dancing with his socks around his ankles.

Dammit, I watched all this. I watched that game from beginning to end and I have all these images in my head, burned in so deep that I no longer need YouTube to watch them, I don’t even need to close my eyes, but which of them are real memories from 30 July 1966 and which of them are impressions from those hundreds and thousands of replays in all the years since? The only memory that I can truly be sure of is, ironically, none of the above: it is of the German equaliser, of Wolfgang Weber sliding in to sidefoot the ball past the desperate Banks in the final minute, when England had won, had had one hand and four fingers on the Jules Rimet Trophy, and were stopped dead in their tracks.

We went on to win. It was the inevitable outcome. The World Cup is here, and England will win it. That’s what really remains, the ignorance and unquenchable optimism of a small boy yet to see that optimism isn’t always enough, that bad things happen, that the story doesn’t always work out like stories do when you come to it in real time. I never for one moment thought that it wouldn’t happen, and I was cherished by fate so that I did not have to be disappointed so young. And I never understood, on that visceral level that only knowledge of who and what England were, of who and what the World Cup, and the other nations participating, just what an achievement it all was.

Should it happen again, and I don’t expect to see it if ever it does, no-one who watches it now will ever be in the slightest doubt as to what it means.

I have lasted fifty years since that amazing afternoon that I watched but didn’t understand. Amazing, no less than nine of those Boys of ’66 have survived with me. Gordon Banks. George Cohen. Ray Wilson. Nobby Stiles. Jack Charlton. Bobby Moore. Alan Ball. Roger Hunt. Bobby Charlton. Geoff Hurst. Martin Peters. Only Moore, the Captain, the Golden One, and Ball, the youngster, have gone ahead, proving that this world turns upon the application of irony.

Overhead, clouds are gathering in a dark mass. Blue sky, blue as the skies of memory, of fifty year old days, fringes them. Another irony is that when England won the World Cup, the number one single was Chris Farlowe, singing Jagger and Richard’s “Out of Time”. Outside of time, the Boys of ’66 give it their all still, and we watch shadows flickering on a black and white tv screen, each of us sharing our own tiny piece of immortality, their backcloth, their audience, their public, their worshippers.

Fifty years. I was there.

 

Up for t’Cup: 1972 – 1981


The Best Cup Final Save Ever

A Century had passed since the FA Cup began. It had progressed from public schoolboys playing before a crowd of 3,000 at Kensington Oval to professional clubs before 100,000 at the Empire Stadium. The Centenary Cup Final was a grand occasion, celebrated as such with banners and emblems representing each of the Cup’s (then-) thirty-eight Winners. Fittingly, the Cup Final represented the North-South divide that had dominated the ancient trophy’s first two decades, although it would have been a more exact fit if the North had been represented by a team from west of the Pennines. But it was Leeds United who won their first and only Cup, ending Arsenal’s hopes of wining successive Finals, and adding to that tally of Winners.
Had they won or even drawn their last League game, played five days after the Final, Leeds would have secured the Double, twelve months after Arsenal had become the fourth club to achieve that feat. But defeat at Wolverhampton saw the League go to Derby County.
The Final was not a classic, though the Third Place Play-Off achieved a record by becoming the first FA Cup tie to be settled via a penalty shoot-out, twice losers Birmingham City achieving a measure of success by beating Midlands rivals, Stoke City. Penalty shoot-outs would not become a regular feature of the Cup for another two decades.
The longest Cup-tie ever happened this season, in the Fourth Qualifying Round, when Alvechurch needed eleven hours of play to beat Oxford City, the game going to a Fifth Replay before being settled. Ted McDougall of Bournemouth set a Cup record in their First Round 11-0 victory over non-League Margate, by scoring nine of his side’s goals.
But the 1971/72 season, for fans of a certain vintage, will be forever remembered for a delayed Third Round tie. Newcastle United vs Hereford United was postponed twice before the game ended in a draw. The replay was held the day of the Fourth Round and thus appeared on Match of the Day, as a result of which John Motson’s television career was made, and Ronnie Radford’s wonder goal that forced extra-time was seen by the country, and has been available upon mental replay ever since. Radford’s crashing shot from thirty yards was one of the most spectacular goals of all time, and Hereford went on to score again in extra-time, to become the first non-League team to knock out a First Division club.
Their fame led directly to Hereford being voted into the Fourth Division that summer, at the expense of Barrow.
As in 1972, the 1973 Final saw the holders back at Wembley, only to fall at the final hurdle for a second successive season, but this was a minor consideration in the face of one of the greatest ever Cup Final shocks. Leeds, a team consisting of eleven full International players, were faced by Sunderland, a Second Division team containing no (then-) Internationals at all. It was one of the biggest mis-matches in a Cup Final ever, but Sunderland won it, with Ian Porterfield scoring the only goal, midway through the first half. It was the first Cup win by a Second Division team in forty-two years, and it would be the first of five Second Division Finalists in a decade, three of whom, including the Wearsiders, would win the trophy.
Sunderland’s victory was compounded by their having, in the semi-finals, denied Arsenal the chance to become the first team since Blackburn Rovers in 1884-86 to reach three successive Finals.
Vital though Portfield’s goal was, for those of us who watched the Final, the game is most remembered for Jimmy Montgomery’s save, twenty minutes from time. Montgomery, one of the greatest keepers never to play for his country, had dived full-length to his left to parry a diving header from Trevor Cherry, only for the ball to drop to the feet of Peter Lorimer, six yards out. Lorimer, who had been officially recorded as having the hardest shot in football, let fly from point-blank range, an equaliser all the way. But Montgomery got himself off the ground and in front of the ball, deflecting it up against the crossbar and away to safety.
It was one of the greatest saves of all time and, for people of my generation, second only to Banks v Pele in the 1970 World Cup. My instant thought was that if Leeds couldn’t score there, they would never score, and it’s impossible not to think that that was what went through the players’ minds. The Cup is about the underdog, the Giant-Killer. There has been only one Final since where the same magnitude of shock has been felt.
In the Third Place Play-Off, Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Arsenal 3-1, but it is a mark of the complete indifference in which the game was held that, instead of being played on the evening before the Final, it was delayed three months, until the eve of the 1973/74 season.
That year saw Liverpool win their second Cup, comfortably beating Newcastle United 3-0. Steve Heighway, in scoring the second Liverpool goal, became the first player since the Fifties to score in two different Finals, and the result might have been even greater but for the erroneous disallowing of a goal from full-back Alec Lindsay when the game was scoreless. Lindsay was given offside after cracking in a fierce shot from a very tight angle, the officials having been bemused by a Kevin Keegan dummy that saw the ball put into Lindsay’s path by a Newcastle defender instead of a Liverpool player.
The Final is remembered as being the legendary Bill Shankley’s last game as Liverpool manager. As was his custom every year, Shankley tendered his resignation to the Directors, but was stunned when they accepted it, appointing his assistant, Bob Paisley to succeed him. The decision broke Shankley’s heart.
Newcastle’s route to Wembley that year was dogged by controversy in the Sixth Round, when they staged a recovery from 3-1 down, reduced to ten men, to beat Nottingham Forest 4-3. However, the game had been marred by a home pitch invasion after Forest’s third goal. Two Forest defenders were injured in the melee, but the match restarted with the agreement of both captains.
Nevertheless, Forest made an official complaint after the game, demanding that the result be overturned and Newcastle disqualified. It was argued that the Magpies had gotten through on merit, given their circumstances when the gave resumed. The FA’s solution was to declare the result void and order the match replayed. Newcastle won the tie legitimately after a replay.
In the final appearance of the unwanted Third Place Play-Off, Burnley became its last winner, beating the perennially unsuccessful Leicester City.
It had taken ninety-seven years to produce the first London Derby Final, but it took only another eight for the second. West Ham United were paired with First-Time Finalists, Fulham, also of the Second Division. It was Bobby Moore’s second appearance as a Cup Final Captain, ironically in Fulham colours against his old club, but there was to be no romance in 1975. West Ham’s Alan Taylor became the youngest player to score in a Wembley Final, netting twice in five minutes.
Both teams reached the Final via semi-final replays, West Ham defeating Ipswich Town, who had already required three replays to knock out Leeds United in the Sixth Round.
West Ham are the last team to win the Cup with an all-English line-up, including their unused substitute. It is unlikely that this will ever happen again.
The Second Division’s run of success was extended in 1976, with Southampton not only reaching the Final, their first since 1902 as members of the Southern League, but emulating Sunderland in beating First Division Manchester United with a late goal from Bobby Stokes. It also brought a Winners medal to his team-mate, Jim McCalliog, a member of the Sheffield Wednesday team beaten in the Final exactly a decade earlier.
This match is probably also the only Cup Final to be immortalised in a pseudo-folk song by Jasper Carrott.
Manchester United had been horribly embarrassed by their defeat to Southampton, though the 1976 Final came only twelve months after the two clubs had been contemporaries in the Second Division. They got their opportunity to redeem themselves a year later, emulating their local rivals’ twice-performed feat of returning to Wembley to win the Cup on a second successive appearance.
To achieve this, United had to burst the ambitions of the Bob-Paisley led Liverpool, out not only to win the Double but to combine this into a unique Treble that would incorporate the European Cup. Though this feat (and one better) had been accomplished by Glasgow Celtic in 1967, it had not been done in the five major European Leagues (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish). Liverpool were League holders, and would go on to emulate United in bringing the European Cup to England, but United would deny them their Treble.
The Final was settled by a flurry of three goals in five minutes, United striking first, Liverpool equalising, and United scoring a bizarre winner when a shot drifting wide struck striker Jimmy Greenhoff in the chest and floated into the net. Just as McCalliog in the previous Final, Greenhoff became a Cup-Winner twelve years after being on the losing side in his only other appearance.
Ironically, Manchester United would go on to complete the Treble denied to Liverpool, twenty-two years later. Doubly ironically, as with Bill Shankley in 1974, the Final was to be the last match for United Manager Tommy Docherty, fired for abusing his position as manager to conduct an affair with one of his subordinate’s wives.
There was another First-Time Winner the following year, as Ipswich Town overcame the odds to beat the highly-fancied Arsenal. This was the third Final of this decade to be decided by a single goal, scored twelve minutes from time by midfielder Roger Osborne. The Cup-Winner never kicked a ball for Ipswich again. Osborne was substituted before the game re-started, officially due to ‘exhaustion’ (it was later revealed that he had actually fainted and had to be revived on the pitch, though at the time it looked as if the real reason he couldn’t carry on was the way his ten team-mates had jumped on him!)
Osborne was injured during pre-season training and sold without playing for the club again.
Ipswich’s win was the thirteenth consecutive win by different teams, since Tottenham Hotspur had retained the Cup in 1962, equalling the previous Cup record of thirteen wins by different clubs between 1931 and 1949.
Arsenal were back at Wembley the following season, facing Manchester United in their third Final in four seasons. The game is regularly called a classic, but for 85 minutes it was far from that, being a dull, one-sided affair in which Arsenal were cruising to victory until United scored what appeared to be a consolation goal. Within a minute, they forced an equaliser and were on course for extra-time in which it was assumed they would overcome mentally beaten opponents. However, with only a minute left, a seemingly desperate Arsenal rebounded with a dramatic winner, that could hardly be denied as deserved.
For Arsenal, Brian Talbot – a member of the Cup-Winning Ipswich team twelve months previously – set a unique record as the first and so far only player to win successive Winners’ medals with different clubs. And with Alan Sunderland scoring the winner, Talbot received credit for Arsenal’s opening goal, which I have always believed was struck simultaneously by he and Sunderland.
Having failed to reach the 1973 Final, Arsenal had only seven years to wait before becoming the first team in over ninety years to appear in three consecutive Finals, though their win against Manchester United would be their only success. West Ham United, the fourth Second Division Finalist since 1973, would win the Cup by a single goal in the third London Derby Final.
Both Finalists required replays to reach Wembley, Arsenal needing three replays to achieve their goal. West Ham’s Paul Allen replaced Howard Kendall as the youngest ever Finalist, and was denied a near-certain late goal by a cynical professional foul on the edge of the area when clean through. In modern times, it would be a clear red card, but in keeping with the history of the Cup, only a yellow card was shown, reserving the record of never having a sending-off in the Final.
A decade that began with the Cup’s Centenary Final ended with its hundredth Final, as Tottenham Hotspur played Manchester City. For Spurs, it was assumed victory would come, it being a year ending in 1, and the club having won the Cup in 1901, 1921 and 1961 (it may be assumed that if War had not intervened, Spurs would have claimed the 1941 Cup).
Since Wembley had melded itself to Cup Final Day, each year one of the country’s principal stadiums, grounds that expected to hold semi-finals on a regular basis, had been nominated to host any replay, of which there had only been one. In 1981, the FA decided to change this arrangement by stipulating the Empire Stadium itself as the official Replay venue.
As if to honour this, three successive Finals would need replays.
Manchester City’s Tommy Hutchison would emulate Bert Turner’s unwanted record by scoring for both teams in the Final, first by heading a spectacular opening goal, then by deflecting a weak free-kick past his own goalkeeper. Tottenham Hotspur, who had become the first team to reached the Top 10 with an FA Cup Final song (‘Ossie’s Dream’, about which…), included both their Argentine players in  the Final, the first of that nationality to do so.
Ricardo Villa had an undistinguished game and was substituted just before the Spurs equaliser, but he was the star of a seesaw replay which saw the lead change hands twice before Villa set off on a mazy dribble that saw him score the winner, a goal hailed as the greatest Cup-Winning goal of all time.
In its second century, the Cup continued to give football in England some of its greatest and most memorable moments. As it moved forward into the Eighties, it would still remain the most dramatic and romantic competition of them all.

WINNERS
(all Finals played at the Empire Stadium, Wembley)

1971/72   Leeds United 1 Arsenal 0
1972/73    Sunderland 1 Leeds United 0
1973/44   Liverpool 3 Newcastle United 0
1974/75   West Ham United 2 Fulham 0
1975/76  Southampton 1 Manchester United 0
1976/77    Manchester United 2 Liverpool 1
1977/78   Ipswich Town 1 Arsenal 0
1978/79  Arsenal 3 Manchester United 2
1979/80 West Ham United 1 Arsenal 0
1980/81  Tottenham Hotspur 1 Manchester City 1 (aet)
R: Tottenham Hotspur 3 Manchester City 2

The first decade of the FA Cup’s second century featured only eleven clubs, the lowest for a full  decade since the Victorian era, and nine winners again, with only Newcastle United and Manchester City failing to win the trophy. This time, only West Ham United won the Cup twice, the second time as representatives of the Second Division. Amazingly, three Second Division clubs won the Cup in this decade (whilst Fulham were beaten finalists), but there has been no winner from the lower tiers since West Ham. Arsenal reached Wembley no less than four times, and Liverpool and Manchester United three, though all three teams only won a single trophy, whilst Leeds United made two appearances, with only one win. Southampton and Ipswich Town were the decade’s only First Time Winners, whilst the decade ended with another draw, but this time and henceforth, Wembley itself would host the replay.