‘Ils pensent qu’il a terminé – il a maintenant.’ I’m fairly confident these were not the words used by the French Kenneth Wolstenholme as Geoff Hurst scored the fourth goal in England’s 1966 victory in the World Cup final, but I like to think they were.
It’s rather scary to be part of history rather than a student, even if it was only as a spectator, but as the country looks back at 1966 and all that, I figured I should add my own recollections.
I was twelve years old and not a massive football fan if truth be told. I was more interested in playing than watching, but there wasn’t much chance of missing the fact that the World Cup was being played in England for the first time.
Then there was the ‘World Cup Stolen!’ headlines when the solid gold Jules Rimet Trophy went missing for a few days in March before being found by Pickles the dog.
I did get to see a couple of the matches, taken by my dad, as it was obviously a lot easier to get tickets in those days, there being far fewer corporate seats. In fact, there were no seats at all for us back then as it was standing room only.
To be honest, I’m not entirely certain which matches they were. I recall watching Antonio Rattin being sent off for Argentina in the quarter-final, so I must have been around until 23rd July, so it could have been any of the group games. I thought I saw both games at Old Trafford, but dad tells me that one of the matches was at Goodison Park in Liverpool. I’m pretty sure that I saw Hungary and Portugal play, so I’m guessing that the games were Portugal and Hungary and Portugal and Bulgaria, but I couldn’t swear to it.
It’s called Le Terminus du Val these days, but from the photo on the right, the place looks pretty much as I remember it fifty years ago.
So that is where I found myself on the day of the final, but a little way down from the hotel was the Café Tabac, a small bar that lived up to its name with its smokey atmosphere. But they had a television! It was small, the picture was black and white and the commentator spoke gibberish (or French as we have to call it these days) and there we nursed a coca cola each as the drama played out.
The thing is, young and callow that I was, it never crossed my mind that England might lose. It was the natural order of things that we always won. If only I knew then what I know now, I would have much more of it than I did.
All I do recall is skipping back to the Hotel Terminus for out potato soup and bread roll, singing: ‘Angleterre! Angleterre! Angleterre!’ which would probably have the gendarmes wheeling out their water cannon today.
These memories are likely to be lost in the hoopla of celebration on the BBC today, but here’s an interesting bit of memorabilia – the BBC radio commentary of the extra time thought have been lost forever, but recorded by a sports enthusiast, Frank MacFarlane. It features the legendary commentator Brian Moore before his tv career.