Group Matches Change

Group Matches Stuart Reilly

In response to Sir Bobby's request, I have fond memories of the World Cup Finals in 1966 and attended all the games in the North West, together with the quarter final, semi final, 3rd/4th play off and the final itself. My elder brother was in the Royal Navy at the time and involved in the R.N.F.A from which he managed to obtain a set of tickets for all of the above games. Our father had recently died suddenly and going to the World Cup was a form of therapy to get over it.

My initial memories of the games in the North West at Old Trafford and Goodison are of the style of football played and the great players involved, I think the NorthWest group had the strongest teams with Portugal, Brazil, Hungary and Bulgaria. Even Bulgaria had players like Aspurukov and Hungary's Albert was a joy to watch, but seeing Brazil with Pele and Portugal with Eusebio was phenomenal. The style of football seemed so skilful and new systems such as 4-3-3 were a revelation for those of us brought up on 2-3-5 ('m a Blackburn Rovers supporter and still have a season ticket for Ewood while my brother was a Bolton Wanderers supporter brought up on the somewhat different skills of Banks, Hartle,Higgins etc!). The atmosphere at most of the games was great with the Brazilian bands and general carnival mood plus full stadiums. I know there was controversy over Pele being kicked out of the games but don't remember too much about it, Portugal did seem to have a gifted team with not just Eusebio but giant Torres,diminutive Simoes and the colossus Colluna driving them forward. Of course probably the most memorable game in our area was the Portugal v North Korea quarter final, astonishing! Eusebio's performance in that game was the most complete display of football I have ever seen to this day! The subsequent semi-final between Russia and West Germany was a more dour affair spoilt by an early Russian sending off and there seemed little love lost between the sides although I do remember an impossibly young Franz Beckenbauer running the show.

When England made it to the semi-final against Portugal, (maybe that should have been the final?) it was off down to London. We had a puncture on the way down but arrived safely at the hotel my brother had booked somewhere in the West End. It was the height of "Swinging London" and I remember going to Carnaby Street and all the boutiques, buying a Donis cord bomber jacket which I cherished for many years. We also bought some curtain and cushion material near Regents Park to pacify Mum with. In the evening we went to the theatre to see "Beyond the Fringe" although I can't remember who was in it. As for the semi and the 3rd/4th play off I felt Portugal did not play to the level we had seen them play in our group although that may have been down to Sir Alf's tactics and organisation, perhaps Sir Bobby could enlighten us? The final of course was a great tension ridden day and an epic match. We had seats in the stand opposite the Royal Box next to a Brazilian gentleman. From our vantage point we could'nt tell if it was over the line but I well remember Geoff Hurst's final blast. After the game I imagine it was similar to VE Day with people celebrating, flags waving all the way back home to the North of England.

At the time I didn't realise how significant that day would become in English football history and people today scarcely believe me when I say I was there. Sadly, my brother died some six years ago but it was always an unforgettable experience we shared together of a unique and happy time in our lives. I still have the final programmes we bought on the day together with a recently discovered stub of the Bulgaria v Hungary game at Old Trafford found during "de cluttering"!

Stuart Reilly

Memory added on March 7, 2016


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