Ian Callaghan has become accustomed to the look of surprise on the faces of football fans when the subject of England's triumph in the World Cup in 1966 crops up in conversation.
"When I tell people that I played in one of the matches, they say things like, 'You played for England in '66?'" Callaghan says, with a hint of exasperation and resignation in his voice. "People know all about what I did at club level with Liverpool - the League titles and the Cup wins - but even committed football followers, real fans, haven't a clue that I helped England win the World Cup, and yet it was one of the great highlights of my career."
Callaghan is one of only 14 living Englishmen who can boast of playing an active role in winning football's greatest prize. Yet while the names of the 11 men who defeated West Germany in the final are lauded to this day and the role of Jimmy Greaves at the tournament is well known Callaghan's contribution - and that of fellow wingers John Connelly and Terry Paine - is all but ignored. Forty years on, they are England's forgotten heroes.
In 1966, Callaghan, who won four England caps and made a club record 856 appearances for Liverpool between 1960 and 1978, played a full 90 minutes at outside-right in the group game against France at Wembley.
Then aged 24 and making his home international debut, he repaid Alf Ramsey by setting up a goal for Anfield team-mate Roger Hunt in England's 2-0 win, a victory that kept the hosts at Wembley as group winners.
"Alf told me what to do, and I thought I had a decent game," Callaghan recalls. "I was a direct type of winger in those days, before switching to midfield. My objective was always to get at the full-back. All I wanted to do was get past him and pull the ball back.
"I did expect to keep my place. Alf didn't say much when I was left out, but he did say that it wasn't because I played badly. He told me he wanted to change the system against Argentina, when he dispensed with specialist wingers. As a player, you accept that, although I was a bit disappointed."
Ramsey's tactical decision also meant the end for Connelly, who played in the opener against Uruguay, and Paine, who took over that role against Mexico before he was left out for Callaghan.
At least they got a kick. Seven of Ramsey's squad - goalkeepers Ron Springett and Peter Bonetti, defenders Jimmy Armfield, Gerry Byrne, Ron Flowers and Norman Hunter and midfielder George Eastham - did not play at all during the tournament. There were no substitutes allowed in 1966, so they watched from the stands at Wembley.
Ramsey, however, realised the importance of all his players and did all he could to give the reserves the credit he believed they deserved. "No one was allowed to feel that he was less than a part of the whole. And it was typical of Alf that he always insisted that a World Cup player was a World Cup player, in the team or not."
On the day of the final, Ramsey insisted that the whole squad take part in the post-match celebrations at Wembley. The following day, the team voted to split the winning bonus equally between all 22 squad members.
"Without the assistance and loyalty of those players who were not selected to play, the men who were on the field in the final would not have gone on to win the World Cup," Ramsey wrote later.
Ramsey backed up those words with actions, announcing that the non-playing reserves would be selected, as a unit, for the next Football League XI in a representative fixture the following season, as a tribute.
The Football Association and Fifa, however, were less generous. Only 11 medals were struck, not 22. "It was a bit disappointing that the rest of us received nothing official," Callaghan says. "All these years later, that does still rankle a little bit with the lads."
Robert Galvin is the author of 'Football's Greatest Heroes - The National Football Museum Hall of Fame' (Robson Books, £25)Reuse content