Caribbean-bound boys of '66 miss Wembley farewell

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The Independent Football

The dress code has been chosen in their honour but the boys of 1966 regret they will not be present at Wembley on Saturday. Due to an unfortunate fixture clash most of yesterday's heroes will be cruising the Caribbean as their successors in English red, who assembled at their Berkshire HQ last night, attempt to repeat the World Cup triumph over Germany.

The dress code has been chosen in their honour but the boys of 1966 regret they will not be present at Wembley on Saturday. Due to an unfortunate fixture clash most of yesterday's heroes will be cruising the Caribbean as their successors in English red, who assembled at their Berkshire HQ last night, attempt to repeat the World Cup triumph over Germany.

The cruise, which was booked long before the World Cup draw, means only Sir Bobby Charlton of Sir Alf Ramsey's XI will see the latest rematch between these traditional foes.

Travel plans even forestalled the Football Association's attempt to repair the hurt caused by their predecessors' shabby treatment of Sir Alf by inviting his widow, Lady Ramsey, to be guest of honour. She will be out of the country but, to the FA's relief, did respond with "a terrific letter" outlining her disappointment. The FA's long estrangement from Sir Alf is viewed with some embarrassment in the corridors of power.

A more than useful substitute for Lady Ramsey has been found in the FA's new patron, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who presumably has a greater interest in the people's game than the rest of the senior monarchy.

In addition a "well-known and appropriate" figure has been asked to lead out the teams on Saturday but, apart from a post-match firework display, and an appearance by Chris Evans in aid of the NSPCC, that is largely it for celebrations and commemorations.

It may not seem much of a farewell but, as Adam Crozier, the FA's chief executive, pointed out: "First and foremost it is a very important World Cup tie. That is the number one priority." Thus nothing has been planned which could disturb the England players, or inspire the Germans who might be even more motivated were "1966 and all that" to be endlessly rubbed in their faces.

Besides, it is not quite goodbye. Wembley will stage several more matches, most of them featuring people who have either paid for the privilege, been invited by sponsors, or won a competition, before closing on 2 November with a banquet on the pitch. This is in aid of the NSPCC with Prince Andrew, who is also the charity's patron, again involved as are AXA. A target of a million pounds for the Fullstop campaign is the aim and, with tickets priced at up to £1,500 each, could well be raised and for that diners also get a video show, celebrity guests and a musical contribution involving artistes from Shirley Bassey to Duran Duran.

A good result on Saturday might help shift a ticket or two and to that end Kevin Keegan and his medical staff were last night checking the squad's bumps and bruises. All reported but Kieron Dyer who suffered a shoulder injury at Maine Road on Saturday was expected to be sent back to Newcastle today. Most other players, including Martin Keown, Paul Scholes and David Beckham, all of whom were carrying knocks by the end of Sunday's match at Highbury, are expected to remain, especially as the squad will stay together for the tie with Finland in Helsinki on 11 October.

The Germans, who will arrive tomorrow and use Arsenal's training facilities, will be followed by 7,000 supporters including two members of their '66 team, Franz Beckenbauer - who seems incapable of venturing outside without Charlton these days - and Uwe Seeler, their captain 24 years ago. Gunther Netzer, who produced one of the great performances at Wembley when knocking England out of the European Championships in 1972, will also be present and that, as much as anything, may remind both teams history is irrelevant. Come Saturday, victory will be about performing in the present.

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