Ils pensent qu’il a terminé …

The way I remember 1966‘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.

For a start, there was World Cup Willie and that song by Lonnie Donnegan (right) that was all over the radio. Then there was the merchandising, or what passed for it back then. For me ,amounted to penny chew wrappers printed with the name and flag of one of the competing nations.

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.

Hotel TerminusBut I wasn’t to be around for the great denouement as I away on a two-week school trip to France, staying at the Hotel Terminus in Rothéneuf, a village outside Saint-Malo in Brittany.

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.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

3 comments… Add yours
  • Yorkshire Pudding 30th July 2016

    I was also twelve and by then obsessed with football. Hull City had just been promoted from Division Three and had reached the FA Cup quarter finals – losing to Chelsea in a replay. Everton beat Sheff Wed in a thrilling final… then came The World Cup. I watched it all on TV and am now insanely jealous that you got to attend a couple of matches with your father. You lucky ***t***!

    • Mr Parrot 30th July 2016

      I feel privileged to have seen Eusebio play in ’66 and again in ’68 when I was at Wembley for the European Cup final.


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