‘That night I told everyone I’d been at Wembley… NOBODY believed me!’ The lucky fans who saw England win the World Cup in 1966 share their memories of an amazing day… and are hoping for a repeat in the Qatar heat!
- England’s beat West Germany 4-2 in the World Cup final at Wembley in 1966
- It remains the last and only major trophy that the England’s Men’s team has won
- One group of England supporters find themselves among a small exclusive club
- They witnessed England’s 1966 triumph and are still around to tell the tale
- MailOnline spoke to the select few who were lucky enough to be there that day
- Were you there at Wembley in 1966? Email [email protected] to share your story!
- Click here for the latest World Cup 2022 news, fixtures, live action and results
With the World Cup now just days away, football frenzy is building across the nation as England attempt to end 56 years of hurt by winning their first major trophy since 1966.
Gareth Southgate’s side have made fine progress over recent years, with the Three Lions reaching the semi-finals at the World Cup in Russia four years ago and going agonisingly close before losing on penalties to Italy in the final of Euro 2020.
One group of people find themselves among a small but exclusive club of England supporters who can proudly say they were at Wembley for the 1966 victory and are still around to tell the tale.
We spoke to some of the select few who were able to witness England’s glory in 1966 about their experiences back then and their hopes for Southgate’s side in Qatar.
One group of loyal supporters find themselves among a small but exclusive club of England followers who can proudly say they were at Wembley for the 1966 victory and are still around to tell the tale
Age in 1966: 19
Retired photographer who was the Football Association’s official snapper during England’s successful World Cup campaign. Cattani enjoyed a close relationship with Sir Alf Ramsey and the team, often helping to train Gordon Banks. After leaving, he went onto become a photographer for both The Daily Mail and The Sunday Times.
He captured many memorable moments over the subsequent decades, including the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico. Cattani has also maintained a passion for wildlife and is a current Director and Trustee of LionAid charity.
‘My office used to be next to Sir Alf Ramsey’s and when the team trained, he would often get me to join in and kick balls to players.
‘He told me that I was not allowed to tackle them, just pump the ball to them or take shots at Gordon Banks, which I often did. It was great fun and a real brilliant moment in my life. It was incredible because photographers wouldn’t have that kind of relationship with the team now.
‘One of Gordon’s training sessions he would go down on his knees and have balls pumped past him and he would have to spring up. It was one of my jobs to kick the odd ball at him and take his picture at the same time.
‘Alf Ramsey was a great innovator with using the clippings which I had compiled of the previous international. I would spend many afternoons after each international putting them all together and the clippings showed the corners and free kicks that England used in the previous game.
‘Then at the training sessions I would take my projector and show the team these little clippings. It would be like a succession of corners or free kicks in that game and then Alf would stand by the screen and say: “Ok Bobby (Moore) you should be a little bit further over etc.”
‘He would be able to add that to his coaching sessions. In some ways I might have attributed to their success. For me to be part of that was very very exciting.
Derek Cattani was the FA’s official photographer during the tournament at the age of 19
Cattani said he was ‘right amongst the players, even when they were doing their lap of honour’
England boss Sir Alf Ramsey would invite Cattani to help work with Gordon Banks at training
Cattani took several iconic photos including the above shot which featured in the Daily Mail
‘There was an amazing euphoria when the final whistle went in 1966 but I had to carry on with my job.
‘I was one of the photographers that was on the pitch and was right amongst the players, even when they were doing their lap of honour.
‘It was an historic occasion that I witnessed first-hand and I’ve never forgotten it over the past 55 years.
‘It was great career excitement for me to part of the World Cup and part of the team in many ways.
‘I think England (in Qatar) have a hill to climb. They haven’t been doing very well of late and there will be a few surprise with the team.
‘It’s going to be a completely different environment. But I think Southgate has some cards up his sleeves and we’ve got as much chance as anyone else.’
Ian Verdon, 80
Age in 1966: 23
Retired engineer who re-trained after the company he worked for was liquidated having been part of it for 40 years. Verdon undertook computer exams at Stanmore College and then qualified as a mortgage adviser, spending the next 12 years in that profession before retirement.
‘I remember being on a tea break at the factory where I worked as a lathe operator when the chap next to me spotted an advert in the paper for the sale of tickets for the World Cup the next year.
‘It turned out to be £5 for a complete booklet so we both decided to send off for them. Then we forgot all about it and the tickets arrived about a year later.
‘There was a totally different atmosphere around football then. Nowadays with all the influx of money everything is hyped up and matches are massive occasions, but there was not the same level of excitement back them
‘Going to the final just seemed like a normal day. I got to Wembley quite late and didn’t even bother to buy a programme. I didn’t think of it at the time.
Ian Verdon, 80, was just 23 when he attended the World Cup final at Wembley Stadium in 1966
‘The stadium was so crowded when I got there. I can remember there was not much room for jumping up and down. There was also some German fans in front of us, but there was no aggro.
‘It got very tense when Germany scored their late equaliser. Then when we won in extra time, it felt fantastic. I still remember the players dancing on the pitch.
‘There were a few people waving flags, but the scenes were nothing like you get nowadays. There was nobody jumping on buses or anything like that. I remember getting home in time to see the highlights on TV and the debate over whether Geoff Hurst’s goal was over the line.
‘I’m hoping for success in Qatar but I feel like the cards are against them. They’ve been playing two or three matches every week.
It’s a hard season then they go straight into the World Cup, which will be hard with the conditions. I don’t think it should ever have been in Qatar.
‘I will be cheering them on but people must understand after the sort of season they’ve got to be realistic.
‘Injuries are inevitable. I’m keeping my fingers crossed though and the youngsters may come to the fore.’
Derek Roberts, 74
Age in 1966: 18
Retired police sergeant who also was part of the Royal Marines. Roberts originally worked in Devon and Cornwall and spent time on a secondment with Interpol in London.
He was working when the news came through of 11 musicians being killed by the IRA in the bombing at the Royal Marines School of Music in Deal in 1989.
‘I was 18-years-old and in the Royal Marines band stationed in Portsmouth, so I was playing my clarinet on the pitch before the match and at half time.
‘We departed from Portsmouth at around 7am and we had only gone around ten miles to Waterlooville when I was going through my checklist in my mind and suddenly realised my uniform and helmet was still hanging up back in the barracks.
‘I had to gingerly go up to my Drum Major and told him what had happened. His reaction was to kick me off the coach and tell me that I would be on a charge if I did not make it to London with my uniform on time.
‘There were no mobile phones, but I caught a bus and got back to my Morris Minor 803 van. I then picked up my uniform and set off for London up the A3. Luckily, I got to Wembley in time and the Drum Major told me, “Well done Roberts, you will not be on a charge”.
‘I was not a big football fan at the time because I was more interested in playing hockey, but it was great to be at the World Cup final. I also got paid around £3 for playing which was nice as I was only earning around £7 a week at the time.
‘I remember the noise of the crowd all around as I was waiting in the player’s tunnel and going out on the pitch. It made the hackles on the back of my neck go up. I was only a young lad and it was a massive thrill to play in front of so many people.
‘We had to play God Save The Queen, but I can’t remember if we played the German national anthem. I guess we probably did. Then we were allowed up into the stand to see the game.
‘I remember it seeming like a big occasion, but I didn’t think we would still be talking about it 55 years later. It was a good game but nothing like as fast paced as today because the footballs were so much more solid then.
Retried police sergeant Derek Roberts, 74, was just 18 in 1966. He was in the Royal Marines band stationed in Portsmouth at the time of the match, so played his clarinet on the pitch before the match and at half time
The 1966 World Cup-winning squad: Top row left to right: trainer Harold Shepherdson, Nobby Stiles, Roger Hunt, Gordon Banks, Jack Charlton, George Cohen, Ray Wilson, Manager Alf Ramsey, and bottom row, Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore, Alan Ball and Bobby Charlton
‘When it went into extra time, I thought about leaving early because I did not want to get stuck in all the traffic. So I watched the first quarter of an hour and then went off with three of my mates because they wanted a lift back.
‘We went back to our changing room and quickly got into our civilian clothes and headed back to my van with our uniforms and instruments so we could make a quick getaway.
‘We were in such a hurry that we didn’t even pick up a programme and I think we were already on the road when the match ended. Now, I kick myself for not staying until the end – but at the time I wanted to get back.
‘I had no radio in my van so I don’t think we even found out the result until we got back to Portsmouth. To make matters worse, the big ends in the engine went and we had to limp back. All the money I earned from playing ended up being spent on repairs.
‘I have become more of a football fan as I have got older but I’m not too optimistic for Qatar. We’ve been pretty rubbish the last few games but let’s hope we do well.
‘Gareth Southgate has done well compared to other managers who had a go. I’d hope for at least the semi-finals but I’m not sure about the final.’
England players celebrate after winning the World Cup final 4-2 against West Germany in 1966
Tom Lutton, 81
Age in 1966: 24
Retired telecoms worker who moved into the housing sector a year after the World Cup final. A big Liverpool fan, Lutton regularly attended games with his father who he was meant to be at the World Cup final with.
‘At the last moment my father had to work, and so I travelled alone by train. I was hoping to sell my spare ticket once I arrived at Wembley.
‘Making my way slowly up Wembley Way I looked around for anyone who seemed to be seeking a ticket, but, strangely, I did not see anyone. And so I eventually found myself standing outside the stadium.
‘At about twenty to three, and quite suddenly, the crowd disappeared inside. As I was about to give up on selling the spare ticket a young man, perhaps two or three years older than myself, approached me. “Do you have a spare ticket ?” he asked.
Tom Lutton was keen photographer at the time and took pictures at the final (pictured here)
Lutton at Wembley at the 50th anniversary celebration display of the 1966 triumph in 2016
‘My face must have lit up as I answered in the affirmative. He quickly added “I don’t want to buy it, it’s that I am here with my father and we have tickets for different pens and would very much like to be together to watch the game, so, do you have a ticket for the same pen as one of mine ?”. And, amazingly, I did !
‘So, I still had two tickets ! However I do not know which of the tickets I used to gain entry ! But the most important point is that the ticket I did use put me in the perfect position to take photographs.
‘I do still have an unused ticket of course, and it is such a pity that it wasn’t used.
‘I was a very keen photographer at the time and took loads of great pictures both at the final and at some group matches that I attended.
‘I’m proud of being one of those who was there in ’66’!’
‘For England at this World Cup we have the strongest squad I have seen for a very long time, and Gareth Southgate is our best coach since Alf Ramsey.
‘With a fair share of luck we will still be there at the end. Good luck lads!’
Geoff Goldston, 82
Age in 1966: 25
Still working as a computer consultant running his own software company, Goldston has been a Chelsea season ticket holder for 58 years having followed the Blues since he was born. The love for Chelsea has been passed down to his son and three grandchildren who all also follow Graham Potter’s side.
‘There was an announcement in 1964 that tickets were going on sale for the 1966 finals and you could apply for packages to go to as many games as you wanted.
‘I applied for every match at Wembley and got a package for all eight or nine games including the final, even though I had no idea how far England would go.
‘I was aged 25 and running two jobs at the time and it took all my money to get those tickets. I can’t remember how much I paid in total, but my ticket for the final was 10 shillings and it was another six pence for the programme.
‘It was at astonishing atmosphere. Everybody got there really early and was in incredibly high spirits. Everybody was standing, and chatting to one another. Most people surprisingly were on their own, just supporting the cause and hoping for the best. It was very convivial and it is not like nowadays when everybody goes in groups.
‘I was standing right behind the goal when Geoff Hurst scored the final goal. It was just a brilliant occasion.
Geoff Goldston was aged 25 in 1966. It cost him 10 shillings for tickets for the final – and he paid another six pence for the programme
‘My abiding memory was when Germany equalised to make it 2-2 just before England were due to win at the end of full time, so the match had to go to extra time.
‘This guy in front of me who was in his mid 50s started sobbing uncontrollably as he was convinced that England had blown it and Germany would go on to win. He just couldn’t control himself and he had to be calmed down by people in the crowd.
‘My second job at the time was as a supervisor at the Tote stand at the greyhound racing stadium at White City. I had a shift which was due to start at 7pm on the day of the final, so when it went into extra time, I began to panic.
‘I knew I couldn’t be late for work, so I watched the trophy being presented, and then I legged it from the stadium and hopped on the tube to White City. I was running all the way.
‘I had 18 people working for me on the Tote stand that night and I got there in the nick of time. Everyone was talking about the game, and I said, “Actually, I was there”, and nobody believed me.
‘I don’t think anybody who was there dreamt of it as being a bit of history. At the time, I just thought it was something incredible to have been achieved. It was just like any final. If you win, it is euphoria, and if you don’t, it’s a let down.
‘Looking back, it was one of the best days of my life, and it has been with me ever since. To say, “I was there” is just an amazing thing.
‘I’m not too hopeful for England at this World Cup. I think they’ll get through the group and the Round of 16 but after that it’s a toss-up.
‘It’s sad that both Reece James and Ben Chilwell are injured – they’re a big miss for Chelsea and England as wing-backs are so important these days.’
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