50 years since the '66 World Cup
PUBLISHED: 08:39 18 June 2018 | UPDATED: 09:45 18 June 2018
50 years on from one of the nation's greatest sporting achievements, Essex Life celebrates the landmark anniversary of England lifting the 1966 World Cup, a moment that holds a particular resonance in Essex
July 30, 1966, is a date engrained in the sporting fabric of our nation, even for those generations that weren’t fortunate to have witnessed the spectacle first-hand. Whatever your age, fans of English football have all grown familiar with the iconic photographs and nostalgic Pathé News footage of Bobby Moore, proudly hoisting aloft the Jules Rimet trophy upon the shoulders of his jubilant teammates in those vibrant red shirts.
Both across Essex and nationwide, families gathered in unison around their televisions. Rosettes were donned, Union Flags hung in the window and even those not usually followers of the beautiful game, became high on World Cup fever. An unforgettable 4-2 extra-time victory over great rivals West Germany at Wembley Stadium saw Sir Alf Ramsey and his boys of ‘66 became immortalised.
As the sense of euphoria hit, with jubilant celebrations in the streets, suddenly youngsters playing with jumpers for goalposts were out replicating their heroes, scoring goals like Geoff Hurst and defending like the great Bobby Moore.
While this was a victory celebrated by the nation, England’s most lauded heroes among the 1966 outfit hold special significance for Essex. England’s success was an achievement fuelled on a vital Essex contribution, from Moore and Peters, to hat-trick hero Hurst, and all under the guidance of Dagenham-born Ramsey.
Pubs, players and the Ilford Palais
20 years old at the time, Phil Stevens, author of the book Sporting Heroes of East London and Essex 1960-2000 (Apex Publishing), remembers those heady days as if they were yesterday.
‘It doesn’t in any way seem like 50 years,’ he begins. ‘My father was a painter and decorator, and he had a job at the rectory in Chingford next to the church. I worked for him on Saturdays and having finished about 1pm, I walked to my friend’s flat where we watched the game. It was on a knife-edge, wasn’t it?
‘In the evening we went to The Prince Albert in Chingford, which was a big football pub. Everyone wore red, as England had. It was such a fantastic party atmosphere, singing all night. Afterwards we headed to Trafalgar Square. It was packed full of people, much like Kensington High Street, where the players were staying at the Royal Garden Hotel.’
In writing his book, Phil called upon his own personal experiences of mingling with England’s heroes during this period, with Barking-born Bobby Moore ultimately an essential inclusion in his book. ‘I don’t think Bobby Moore was any different after the World Cup. He was a celebrity, but a very approachable one. There was certainly no ego.’
Recalling the glory days when players mingled with supporters down the pub, Phil remembers, ‘There were many times I’d been in the same pub as Bobby and co, they were accessible then. You were guaranteed to see them at the likes of the Ilford Palais or dog racing a Walthamstow Stadium.
‘Players knew how proud we were of them and what it meant to us as fans, but no one pestered them as they would today. They felt comfortable, were respected and wanted to be with the fans. We’ve lost something in the way that football was so close to its working class roots.’
Learning from the best
At the time, a gifted prospect at West Ham United, the young Trevor Brooking, suddenly found himself training everyday alongside Moore, Peters and Hurst, the latter who had embraced the Essex way of life after moving south to Chelmsford, aged six.
The famous World Cup winning trio at the Boleyn Ground became a huge inspiration for the up and coming Brooking. He explains: ‘We’d always tell you that West Ham won the World Cup, because to have the three key members, Bobby as captain, hat-trick man Geoff and fellow goalscorer Martin, the impact they had was fantastic. We had the focus of three of the starting 11 actually at our club.’
Recalling the Wembley final as if it was yesterday, Trevor found himself glued to the match at his home in Barking. ‘It was very funny as my dad at 2-1, was standing waiting for the final whistle, ready to pick my mum up from the hairdressers. Then West Germany equalised. I remember shouting to him, “You can’t leave, Mum’s bound to hear about it,” which she did. Fortunately, my dad stayed and saw us end up winners.
‘There was a lot of hooting from the cars in the streets as locals came out to celebrate. We had a family gathering and watched a replay of it, just to see all the goals again. No one quite realised the significance, because we thought, “Oh, it will happen again,” but 50-years later, it hasn’t,’ remarks Sir Trevor.
‘Our generation count themselves very lucky. It was a magical moment and I’m sure that right across the country they still remember it, but for this area it’s ultra special and stayed with all of us for so long because of that East End connection.’
Another to find himself fully engrossed in the tense occasion was an eight-year-old Glenn Hoddle, who would go on to have a successful career for both Tottenham Hotspur and England.
Speaking at the 2016 London Football Awards, helping raise funds for national charity, Willow, Glenn nostalgically recalled: ‘I was living in Harlow where I watched the 1966 final with my dad and my mate, Andy. The occasion was fascinating for me. We watched every single game we could during that World Cup and I remember making a banner for the final.
‘Of course, after the big matches, I was then off out with my ball. It really was inspiring to witness the cream of the world, watching players like Eusabio. I was a midfield player even at that age, so I followed Bobby Charlton particularly at that time, along with Bobby Moore. They were a different class. I was also fortunate to see Martin Peters when I was a youngster coming through at Spurs.’
Knight the Lions
Hannah Collins, a proud granddaughter of Martin Peters, goalscorer of England’s second goal in the final, has been particularly driven and vocal behind the Knight the Lions petition. Support has been growing to acknowledge this landmark anniversary year with both a posthumous knighthood for Bobby Moore, but also knighthoods for the remaining members of the 1966 squad, joining Sir Geoff Hurst, Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Alf Ramsay.
As with all the 1966 squad, Hannah described Shenfield-residing Peters as humble and down to earth. ‘Knowing them personally, it would mean everything to them to be honoured. As a team, they all remember it like it was yesterday. Not only did they win the World Cup, but football is what they’ve dedicated their whole life towards. My granddad is 73, but he goes to games week-in, week-out and he still sings I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles at West Ham.’
Herself a passionate football fan and Brentwood resident, Hannah reveals that she never tires of hearing her granddad’s anecdotes of that memorable period 50 years ago. From an early age she became aware of what Plaistow-born Peters’ goalscoring contribution meant to people.
‘When he first started taking me to West Ham, we’d park the car and people would be there at the window, asking him for autographs. Attending international games with him at Wembley Stadium, both England and international fans will always want to talk to him about the World Cup.
‘Even on holiday in Menorca, having been on the beach all day, we were packing up to go home and this man ran up to him. There granddad was, in the car park in 32˚C heat, talking about the World Cup. 1966 is such a fond memory for him and all the players, that they are always happy to talk about it.’
Capturing the Moment
Working that sweltering summer’s day from the vantage point close to the royal box, esteemed photographer Kent Gavin was blessed with a prime spot, close to where Bobby Moore would famously wipe his hand prior to greeting Her Majesty The Queen.
Chatting at Kent’s home in Kelvedon Hatch, memories of 50 years ago soon come flooding back. ‘I was emotional up in that stand,’ says Kent. ‘You just felt choked up and very proud. It wasn’t just the East End and Essex, the whole country was mad about it. They achieved something that hadn’t been done before or since. It was one of the greatest days of the team’s life and it was for the whole country.’
Shooting three to four rolls of film over the course of the game, Gavin also captured the pandemonium on the pitch, including Nobby Styles famously ‘going nuts’.
Kent was also in the privileged position of being able to head back to Kensington to capture the players celebrating together. ‘It was there I took one of my famous pictures of Alf Ramsey talking to the players with the World Cup. The following day was pretty hectic. The fans turned up to cheer their heroes, as the players emerged out on the balcony, resulting in all those classic pictures.’
The award-winning photographer went on to become great friends with England captain Bobby Moore, both professionally and socially. Enjoying one another’s company, their families grew closer, even holidaying together.
‘It was just one hell of a rollercoaster ride,’ recalls Kent. ‘Out in Marbella after the World Cup, he couldn’t walk anywhere. Even German fans would come up to him. There wasn’t anywhere he could go without people not knowing who he was. He became like a Hollywood film star. Everyone wanted to meet him and he always had time for them.
‘Wherever we were on holiday, Bobby would always pose for pictures and sign autographs. He stood out in the crowd no matter where he was and those that came up to him weren’t just football fans. Bobby took it all in his stride. He enjoyed the fame and the rewards that came. We built up a friendship and I got to know him extremely well, becoming great mates. He was a legendary footballer, but also a great guy. It was very sad when he died.’
Released this summer to coincide with the 50th anniversary and honour England’s legendary number six, the documentary film Bo66y, complete with nostalgic archive footage, offers fans a sincere account of the life of English football’s most treasured icon, who resided in Chigwell for much of his career.
Journalist and television broadcaster Matt Lorenzo, the producer behind the film which premiered at Wembley Stadium, reflects: ‘He never forgot his roots. I think he was very proud to be where he was from. They all were. I’ve spoken to everyone and I knew him, which made me a little biased, but Bobby really was a decent human being. He was loved wherever he went.
‘One of the best lines from the film came from Russell Brand. Throughout he referred to Bobby as Sir Bobby. Afterwards I said, “You know he wasn’t ever knighted?” His response was, “Well I suppose some people are knighted by monarchs and others are knighted by the people. And I know which has more value.”’
While English Heritage will unveil a blue plaque in Waverley Gardens, at the house where Bobby grew-up in Barking, the Football Association has a host of summer events planned to mark England’s 50-year milestone.
Ensuring the anniversary has a future legacy, the FA will be making 66 awards of £1,966 each to community projects at grassroots level. Given our county’s strong influence in the ’66 success, it’s hoped that the Essex FA may share in this thoughtful initiative, sewing the seeds of future English football success. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 50 years.