the real fa cup

1966 And All That

1966: The 50th Anniversary – England Win The World Cup

It couldn’t really be more doomy or gloomy right now, either for England’s national football team or the country itself. Grim. But there was a happier time, a time when fans across the country celebrated victory and looked forward to a couple of comedians writing a song bemoaning the pain of not winning anything again in the intervening 30 years. Twenty years after that … we’re still going.

So, to cheer us all up the Football Association has decided to celebrate England’s 4-2 victory over West Germany with a big glossy book. LOOK! It is big, it is glossy and it contains more nostalgia than a Channel 4 weekend evening schedule.

OK, OK, no one EVER stops going on about England winning the World Cup, it can get a bit tiresome seeing Geoff Hurst saying Geoffrey type things whenever England do something good or, more frequently, bad. Do we have to see Sir Bobby C’s comb-over yet again? Do we really want to see Nobby Stiles’ cheeky grin? Do we remain interested by still photos of that ball (definitely) just over the line?

If you say ‘no’ then do not buy this book. For everyone else with a heart still beating, this thing is pretty fabulous.

Basics:

  • 9″x11” hard cover
  • embossed fabric covered sleeve
  • 250 thick glossy pages
  • princely sum = £30.

The book covers the whole shebang, from pre-tournament build up to the post-final celebrations. In between is game-by-game coverage of England, less detailed coverage of the other groups and knock-out games, unit-by-unit focus on the final squad, from defence to strikers through midfield, an Aladdin’s cave of memorabilia and ephemera from ads and games to celebrity hangers-on and newly discovered or published photos.

It’s very much a looking book, rather than a reading book, a coffee table special. You’ll not learn a huge amount from the fairly formulaic player biographies, nor the game summaries, but really what would you expect to? It’s 50 years ago, it’s talked about every 4 years, if England qualify to look longingly at Jules Rimet from afar, and it’s difficult to dig up new things about something that is regularly re-hashed and regurgitated at every 10 year anniversary. So, you can forgive that, it’s the looking that’s interesting as what the book does do is add colour to widely known facts.

There’s Edward Holliger, the Swiss fan who walked from his homeland all the way to sheffield pushing a pram containing his belongings (complete with football). And there’s the 200 Germans who turned up at Argentina v Switzerland simply to boo the Argentinian players who’d kicked their heroes around Villa Park a few days earlier.

In a rare moment of clarity Geoff Hurst admits “I wasn’t considered the best striker in England and I wasn’t even the best player at West Ham”. You find out that Everton’s pitch had to be lengthened to meet FiFA regulations while Old Trafford and Hillsborough benefited from having entire ends rebuilt making both significantly bigger – in the latter’s case. the sadly ill-fated Lepping Lane End. You learn that a season ticket of 10 games, including all England’s games plus the final, for the horrific price of £3.37 (£58 in new money) and there was a pitch invader in the warm up of the Portugal game …

There are a number of little historic moments you might not know. The North Korean’s get a decent write up, FIFA’s bureaucracy nearly robbed England of their captain, some political context behind Russia v Hungary and the amusing oversight that led to White City being chosen as a venue.

Because it’s a celebration it somewhat glosses over any negatives about the tournament, team and players, though it does not exclude criticism entirely. But the 1966 was the first modern World Cup with the a marketing miasma. The book has dredged up pretty much everything they could find and IT IS A LOT. Heres where the book excels, it’s choc full of nik-naks that by all accounts, didn;t sell well at the time and ended up piled up and unsold in a huge East London warehouse after the tournament. The World’s first marketing World Cup wasn’t a roaring success, except for rosettes and pennants, one thing they really loved in 1966 was a rosette and a pennant, and it would be good to have more of them now.

The few criticisms are minor. The results sections of each group aren’t great, the scorers are listed in such a way that it isn’t instantly obvious who scored for who. And, while it’s weighty and glossy and the image content is largely superb, the layouts on some pages look like they were designed by the intern. And, although there may be more to income in this year of celebration your immediate thought is that this whole thing is great but would’t it have been better as an interactive experience, maybe a full website with TV footage and radio commentary. Maybe they’ve got that up their sleeve for later.

Buy the book direct from the website www.1966thebook.co.uk or have a look through their Twitter timeline for some samples and a chance to win a signed copy – @1966thebook.

Further reading – England, the FA and the Great EPPP Gamble over on IBWM.

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