A world of difference
'Moore cleaned his hands before clasping the Queen's white glove. Football rubbed its hands in anticipation of a new dawn'; Norman Fox recalls the contrasts before and after the triumph of '66
Sunday 26 May 1996
The austerity of Ramsey's approach could not have been more different to Venables' media-friendly preparations, but they worked. Alan Ball, the young dynamo of the '66 side, remembers that throughout the finals he and Nobby Stiles shared an attic room at the Hendon Hall Hotel ("perhaps we were the only ones fit enough to make it"). Practice before the competition proper had been carried out at Lilleshall, a Midlands physical education centre that only monks would have thought luxurious.
The thrust of the training was teamwork based on the 4-3-3 formation that Ramsey conceived against Spain the previous December. In the end the players felt they could pass to each other blindfolded. The 11 days of intense preparation before going on a four-match tour of Europe involved training most of the morning and no time off in the afternoon when there were various games after which the least successful player was awarded a yellow jersey. Jack Charlton was driven to call Lilleshall "Stalag". He remembers that most of the players got desperate for a pint. Ramsey had not actually forbidden anyone to leave the camp but when two of them slipped out for a drink at the local golf club he was livid, not for drinking but because they did so secretly.
Ramsey was quick to disabuse anyone who assumed they had a place in the team. Before the squad left for their warm-up games in Europe he allocated numbers one to 22. Naturally, Bobby Moore was six and, as he said later: "I was full of myself." Ramsey left him out of the first match. Yet Jack Charlton said that by the time the finals began, the team spirit was better than at any club. So, on 30 July, the discipline and the mutual loyalty between players and manager paid off. Moore climbed the 39 steps and gallantly cleaned his muddied hands on his shirt before clasping the Queen's white glove.
Football rubbed its hands in anticipation of a new dawn. Of course, gates went up, just as they will if David Platt or whoever happens to be captaining England on 30 June receives the European trophy from the Queen. But victory in 1966 merely painted over deep troubles: a lack of sufficient truly gifted English players, and hooliganism. Some problems never quite go away.
Whatever the outcome next month, England's players will do rather better financially than the men of '66, and so will the manager. Ramsey's salary at the time was pounds 4,500 a year, although to put that in perspective, you could get a reasonable view of the final at Wembley for only pounds 3.15. Martin Peters recalls that while he received a white Ford Cortina as part of a sponsorship deal, his World Cup winning bonus was only pounds 1,000, of which pounds 300 was unpatriotically demanded by the Inland Revenue.
The owner of Pickles, the dog that found the World Cup after it was stolen from an exhibition, received a greater reward from the FA and newspapers than did the winning England players. And he was also invited to the official post-final banquet whereas the players' wives and girlfriends were not. Ironically, too, while television now provides much of the revenue to turn average players into stars and millionaires even before they appear in the World Cup finals, it was the poorly rewarded footballers of '66 who were the first to be seen across the world by satellite-relayed pictures. The estimated total audience for the 32 matches was 2 billion. This summer it will be 7 billion.
The initial swell of optimism after the 1966 final was summed up by a Daily Telegraph editorial which spoke of the need to "exploit a spirit of adventure and resist in the months ahead a temptation to resort to tactics of dreary defence". The writer had failed to notice that, fundamentally, England's successful side was defensive with inspired touches of originality from Peters and Bobby Charlton.
The World Cup, which made the FA a profit of pounds 435,000, obscured the fact that football was in decline. The Government asked Norman Chester to produce a report on the future of the game. The outcome was a document full of good sense that was almost totally ignored.
As to the tactical progress of football itself, Ramsey's pragmatic outlook was right for the 1966 occasion but wrong when teams tried to copy his lead without having players of similar ability. As the cantankerous League secretary Alan Hardaker said afterwards: "Alf did a magnificent job and deserved credit for it. The people at fault were those who later copied his methods. There was such a paucity of original thinking in our game that every new idea was followed slavishly."
Similarly, Stiles, who may have been the hard man of the team, still regretted that after '66 defence became so much the name of the game that whereas he used to mark goalscorers like Jimmy Greaves on the edge of the penalty area, within a short time of England's victory defenders were closing down attackers just inside their own half.
Ramsey stayed too long and remained loyal to fading players. Glenn Hoddle has the great advantage of being able to build on a winning team or not being blamed for one that fails next month. Either way, the younger players should benefit from the experience. Ball said: "When anyone asks me about pressure - like this season at City - I tell them that '66 was pressure, real pressure. Anyone who could survive that could face anything."
Some of the players, however, found it difficult to motivate themselves for future big matches, or to motivate others, which was one of the reasons why only Jack Charlton, the most Ramsey-like of the lot, really succeeded as a manager. Ball remembers Ramsey saying after the final: "Young man, you'll never play a better game of football in your life than you did today." It was difficult not to rest on the comfortable laurels of that summer.
Although the media had built up reputations in advance of 1966, it was only after that victory that footballers became the sort of people nightclubs wanted to encourage rather than bounce. Annabel's and Tramp became regular haunts, advertisers wanted to use their faces, Harold Wilson, re-elected as Prime Minister in the winter before the World Cup, was forever inviting players to his dinner parties.
One thing is certain. If in his very different way Terry Venables should produce a cup-winning England team: his close relationship with many national newspaper journalists will ensure that he will not react to requests for an audience on the day after the final by saying, as Sir Alf did, "I don't give interviews on my day off."
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