July 30th 1966. How lucky was I? Eight weeks away from my eighth birthday was probably just about the perfect age to watch England win the Jules Rimet Trophy. I did so in the company of my late father and three elder brothers. We sat in front of our rented black and white TV set.
It’s likely that had I been 10 or 12 years of age I may now be able to recall more of the finer detail of the game, but what I do remember is how exciting it was to be a child in a country that won the World Cup. I was on summer holidays from school. For once, I wanted September to come around fast so I could meet up with friends and recreate the final in our school playground.
Bobby Moore was our hero. Film star looks, a winning smile, a gift for timing a tackle to perfection and the ability to pick out a pass. That was proved in the dying moments of the World Cup final when his long range pass landed at the feet of Geoff Hurst. People were indeed on the pitch thinking the final whistle had been blown. Hurst burst the net with the fourth goal. It was over.
The Grant boys were fortunate. Outside our council house under the Heathrow flightpath was a large green area. It was our unofficial football pitch. Memory tells me we played there every day, but more likely it was every weekend and every summer evening, when the light allowed us to play until my bedtime. I guarantee that we were out there the day after England celebrated the success at Wembley. No doubt I tried to re-enact the last goal by Geoff Hurst, the goal that sealed the 4-2 extra time victory against West Germany.
We will have watched the BBC. That’s what you did in those days. That’s what the BBC did back then. Cover all sport superbly.
The incomparable David Coleman was the front man in studio. The commentator for TV was Kenneth Wolstenholme. Fast forward thirty years and I found myself interviewing him on camera. Dad would have enjoyed seeing that.
Ten years earlier, in 1986, I found myself working with the gentleman, Brian Moore. He had been the BBC radio commentator for the World Cup final. Far from everyone could afford to own or rent a TV set back in 1966. Listening to sports commentary was the norm. The Grant boys did so on our shared transistor radio, or via the bulky radiogram that sat in our dining room.
Brian Moore’s radio commentary had long been lost by the BBC. But now two Radio 5 listeners have unearthed their own copies, dusted them off and the entire radio match commentary can be heard by a new generation.
I’ve often found it difficult to relate to mates and colleagues who were not alive to witness the last time England won the World Cup. And the last time anyone of my generation will see them do so.
How do you explain to someone born in the 70’s or 80’s that it really hasn’t always been as bad as losing to Iceland? Without sounding churlish, how do you say to someone who thinks Euro ’96 was the pinnacle of English football, that it wasn’t? Not even close.
Watching England win the World Cup on a black and white television was magical. Doing so surrounded by my family made it all the more special. Mum was not there. Poor mum. Imagine being the only female in a football obsessed family of five males. She returned home after extra time and she seemed happy. Did she know the score? No. The highlight of her day was the fact that Hounslow High Street was virtually empty. Shopping was made easy. There was not a man to be seen in Woolworths, C & A, Marks & Spencer or BHS.
The triumphant England players went up town, each with their £100 win bonus burning a hole in their pockets. Meanwhile, at 7 Brabazon Road, mum made tea. Happy days.
If tomorrow a scientist creates a Time Tunnel, I know precisely the day and time to which I will return. July 30th 1966. In time for kick off.
I’d like to be back with my dad and brothers, gathered around that TV set, watching Bobby Moore held aloft and Nobby Stiles doing his silly jig around the pitch. Not everything in life is black and white. But that is. That was. And watching the game in that way has ensured that day, that game of football, will forever be etched in my memory.