With another World Cup almost upon us this my unashamed and totally self indulgent look at England's only one success in the World Cup. As the build up for this years Finals gather's momentum I will be updating on a regular basis. I hope anyone who gets to read this blog enjoys my ramblings and find it amusing in some way, everything written here is done with tongue firmly in cheek
THE NATION PREPARES
England, Saturday evening June 12 2010. The sound of lawn mowers, kids playing in the park, families enjoying summer BBQ's, friends and lovers relaxing in pub beer gardens. A familiar scenario that is about to be shattered by the deafening roar that greets England's opening goal in the world cup finals, we hope
Yes the world cup finals are with us again and England with her long suffering fans expect world cup success, but what we want and what we get are two different things, please don't get me wrong I am as patriotic as the next englishman, even after an evening propelled by the finest lager and a drunken appetite quelled by an arse burning vindaloo my hopes and expectations are high, but as history tells us our nation has failed to repeat the heady success of 1966 on the biggest stage
So the scene is being set by pubs and clubs the length and breadth of the land. Preparing for what we all hope is a glorious England world cup win, a trip or stumble will do as long as we win the damn thing. Flags, football shirts and any other memorabilia is starting to appear on the walls and bars of our favourite drinking haunts. Competitions, such as name the first scorer, guess the time of the opening goal, who will go for a piss and miss the next goal etc etc, will be played by fervent England fans daring to hope, maybe, just maybe this is our year
My local pub "The Links Hotel" situated in Fleet a part of deepest darkest North East Hampshire is such an establishment that has taken the bull by the horns and is well underway in its preparations for the coming world cup. Personally I think its down to Scott, the assistant manager who is still drunk on the exploits of Spurs making the top four of the Premier league, that has led to this passionate out pouring of patriotic belief and the thought of making a killing behind the bar in preparing the pub for a world cup we hope we will remember for all the right reasons
DESTINATION SOUTH AFRICA
Its just not here at home where an army of fans will be watching, there is of course the travelling supporters who by hook and by crook always manage to get to England's oversea sorties, even in the most remote and inhospitable places FIFA can find to send them. As praiseworthy as this is we still have to remember how the country has suffered at the antics of so called England followers in the past, but I must stress I do believe it is down to the minority who have bought shame on us. There is also the over zealous reactions of foreign authorities to be considered who have caused many needless confrontations with English fans by pressing the panic button and running around like headless chickens provoking trouble that could and should have been avoided.
So its with baited breath that after the arrival of the first British flight, that will be liberally covered in Icelandic volcanic dust, bringing its payload of highly charged and emotional English supporters to South Africa that we hope things remains as peaceful as possible. The last thing we need to read in the media or see on TV is that South African Police and English fans have been embroiled in a modern day version of Rorkes Drift as depicted in the 1960's classic film Zulu.
The true travelling away supporter will as always give the team all the encouragement and vocal support they need in such big tournaments this goes without saying really, and of course being English, with our genuine nature of helping others, the local brewery's will benefit by the quaffing outrageous amounts of alcohol that seems to go part and parcel with our travelling fans. Of course there are the more amorous of our latter day hero's from The Boer War who will gladly comfort and help improve the financial situation of the Ladies's of the Night in return for a night of lust and debauchery, a hearty breakfast and couple of painkillers the following morning would also in most cases be well received
MY WORLD CUP 1966
Although I was just a mere slip of a lad back in '66 I do have memories of the only World Cup Finals to be held in our country. Here without I hope boring you all to death I would like to recall how I remember those halcyon days for English football
I had only just really started to get into soccer and was more interested in playing in the street or in the park with my mates than be glued in front the TV watching the exploits of our National team fighting for glory….. to be honest as time has marched on the only way I can now participate in a match is to be glued in front the TV!!.
Saturday 23 July 1966
A warm summers day and England's quarter final showdown against Argentina at Wembley. I remember going to my Nan's house to watch the game and on arrival found her as usual, in the front room well ensconced in her favourite chair, chain smoking, clutching her packet of Kensitas cigarettes and a bag of chocolate eclair sweets at her side. The TV was on and so was the bloody electric fire, bringing the room temperature up to about 30C!!!
Well after the usual interrogation most kids get from their grandparents we settled down along with the rest country to watch the game, apart from my Grandfather who said he had more important things to do and was off to catch some moles or something along those lines. Anyway the game started and I guess with so much at stake neither side was prepared to take any risks early on. I was soon losing interest and nothing of any note took place until Rattin the Argentinian captain was sent off. All hell broke loose!! I think it took something like two days before he eventually left the field of play after he and his team mates remonstrated their displeasure with the match officials, the police, most of the 90,000 plus crowd in attendance and any Bus or Taxi driver that happened to be passing the stadium.
As the fracas continued I had decided England needed more inspiration and someone to show them how to win the game, so armed with my 1966 World Cup Willie plastic souvenir football I headed for my Nan's back garden to win the game and send England through to the semi finals. After a tumultuous workout culminating in two smashed greenhouse windows a decimated bed of roses and finished off with a sublime half volley on next doors cat it was time to return to my Nan's blast furnace of a front room to see if my efforts had filtered through to our gallant team.
I was some what disappointed to find the score was still all square, neither side having managed to score and England had yet to capitalise on having an extra man. To keep my spirits up I was passed a now semi liquid chocolate eclair from Nan who by now was slowly transforming her self into a mound of sweet wrappers and ash.
Then the moment the nation had been praying for England scored. Yes!! my efforts in the garden had at last reached Wembley stadium…My joyous celebrations were unceremoniously curtailed after 15 seconds or so when Nan erupted, just realising that England had scored, filling the room with a plume of ash and ticker-tape parade of eclair wrappers that would have not looked out of place in New York City. Unable to either sit or stand for more than 10 seconds at a time and barely able to bring myself to look at the TV as the smog slowly settled in the room, England hung on….Victory was mine….well theirs really, but l had played my part to the full.
Tuesday 26 July 1966
By now the whole country was on a roller coaster ride, caught up with euphoria of England's success in reaching the World Cup Semi Finals. Next up were the immensely talented Portuguese, it wasn't going to be easy but if England performed as well as myself and my motley crew of mates thought we had played in the school playground, the street and the local park it was going to be a walk over.
After the win against Argentina we re-enacted the game a thousand times over, all taking turns at scoring the winning goal and at times letting our young imaginative minds run riot….. we always beat Argentina 5 or 6 nil, we were invincible, true our only opposition was an empty goal, we all played on the same side "England" it was not uncommon for 20 of us to be all on the same side bearing down on an empty net to score for England…. I mean we just couldn't lose…or could we
As for what happened during day its self l can't recall a lot but it was a normal school day, so I guess from that score nothing of any great note happened apart from the break times and lunch period where we would be putting the mighty Eusebio and the rest of the Portuguese team to the sword
Events that evening are still clear as the game approached, my mother issuing threats that if you don't eat all your dinner, don't do your homework "there is no football for you my lad". My God! how heartless is that? Homework, this is no time for homework, the whole country was sitting on a tinder box just waiting to explode. Looking back now I recall being blackmailed into agreeing to do the washing up for the next week in exchange for an evening totally devoted to England's World Cup quest, no bloody human rights in those days.
About an hour before kick off myself and a few other spotty herbert's took to our Wembley Stadium, a small piece grass covered in dog shit, just up from the house, for one last kick about before we went home to watch our hero's perform in the way we had shown them.
Back at home the scene before kick off was set…my sister playing with her Barbi dolls, dad doing his book work, mum doing her knitting and pretending she didn't know what all the fuss was about!!!…. FOOTBALL - FUSS - PRETENCE… l was beginning to doubt my mothers sanity. As the TV crackled to life in glorious Black and White, I was ready… nervous, excited, scared and apprehensive, I had the same feeling's many years later confronting my first Indian Vindaloo. So the two teams appeared on the screen, England in white and Portugal in red or from my viewing prospective, dark grey.
Kick off!! Right from the start this was going to be a completely different encounter that England had against Argentina, the game was open and fast and so were my bowels, I wanted a pee nearly every 5 minutes, my nerves had yet to settle. "If your not going to sit and watch it I'll turn it off" ranted my mother, I must remember to talk to dad after the game, he has got to get mum a doctors appointment. The game continued to flow from end to end with neither side really taking control until about the 30 minute mark when a Bobby Charlton thunderbolt screamed into the Portuguese goal. I leapt in the air with sheer delight as if I had scored the goal myself, I think the excitement was now getting to mother, she dropped a stitch in her knitting. The score remained the same till half time.
With the first half over there was time for me to get in the garden to replicate Charlton's goal, I turned on the floodlights, well the kitchen light and headed for the back garden, "don't kick that ball at the garden fence, you'll break it" came my mothers voice as she made the tea. I was beyond caring about the garden fence or anything else, England were winning thats all that mattered. To be honest I was to excited to be away from the TV for to long in case they started the second half without me.
So the game resumed and it soon became clear, Eusebio and his chums weren't going down without a fight, my nerves jangled more and more as Portugal continued to threaten the England goal. But out of the blue as another Charlton rocket found its way into the Portuguese goal. Two nil its all over I proudly informed the rest of the family, "can we put something else on now" asked my sister who was obviously getting bored with her Barbie dolls as they now resembled the remains of voodoo dolls after a fierce African tribal meeting.
To my surprise she was over ruled by my mother who had now seem to become quite involved in what was going on. Well it was now shit or bust for the Portuguese and they went hell for leather to change their situation. They managed to pull a goal back from the penalty spot with 10 minutes to go, which left me cowering behind the sofa and even my mother who had now cast her knitting to one side was screaming for our boy's to hang on in there. Again Lady Luck smiled on England as they played out the last few minutes, The final whistle blew….England were in the World Cup Final. I went to bed that night deliriously happy of what I had witnessed, doing the washing up for a week was a small price to pay.