Monday, June 14, 2010

There was no spirit of 1966

I was sixteen years old and we were on a school trip to France. That particular Saturday we took a train from Paris to the Loire Valley. There must have been about forty of us - all boys in their teens. We got to the hotel in time to watch the end of the second half and extra time sitting on our suitcases in the lobby. That's how we saw England win the World Cup.

Here's the thing about football in the 60s - it was quite a big deal but nothing like the all-consuming craziness it is today. I can't help but laugh when I hear appeals to "bring back the spirit of 66". There was no particular spirit. There was a nation, a football tournament and daily life, which went on. When the England team won it caught the nation unprepared for what it was supposed to feel. You only have to look at the venue for the team's celebrations - the Royal Lancaster Hotel. It's like a Travel Tavern.

In the very unlikely event that England get anywhere near a World Cup Final today parties of teenage schoolboys will regard it as a fundamental breach of their human rights if they're not watching the whole of it in HD on a giant screen. Nobody will be taking school parties anywhere. Everything will stop even more than it did on Saturday evening.


  1. Jack Charlton went home that evening and stopped for his tea at Scratchwood Services. Geoff Hurst tells the story that he was cutting the grass the following day and then asked to open a shopping centre on the Monday: he was introduced to the public as George Hurst. 44 years ago, life went on.

  2. The nation did stop, for the final at least. I was eleven, and couldn't stand the tension when Germany scored first. I went for a walk in the park, and it was eerie - a bright summer Saturday, and no-one around anywhere. By the time I got back it was 2-1.

  3. My Dad was in his early 20's at the time and on holiday in West Germany. He watched the game in a bar with a couple of fellow English friends. He recalls that there was no fevered atmosphere. When England won, well the locals just came over and shook hands. Then everyone just carried on like any other evening.

    When I ask him if he expected any trouble or wild scenes, he just says... no it was 1966 not today.

  4. I think you underrate the Royal Lancaster Hotel. After all, it went on to have a crucial role in The Italian Job. There are few things more '60s' than Michael Caine sweeping down that car park ramp in an Aston Martin while the Pakistani Ambassador's (stolen) car is scrutinised by the boys in blue.