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Alfie’s Boys

It was inevitable in the 50th anniversary of the World Cup victory there would be a tv tribute to the victors of 1966.  Sadly with Alan Ball and  Bobby Moore lost to us , substitutes had to be found in the form of The son of  Ball and Tina first wife of Moore.  Footage could also be used  for those not enjoying the best of health like Martin Peters and Jimmy Greaves and  Ray Wilson.  It made for an engaging programme narrated and presented by Sir David Jason.

Perhaps the most interesting and complex character of all never kicked a ball but played the biggest role, Alf Ramsey. Born in Dagenham he clearly took elocution lessons and had a forced use of language often using the words “most certainly” . Prior to him there was selection committee like cricket but he was the first to impose tight disciplinary control. The programme did not tell of the time when Jimmy Greaves and Bobby Moore and two others misbehaved in Blackpool, played truant and returned to their hotel to find their passports on the bed. Ramsey had an iron belief that England could win and that his tactics of no wingers and no stars could achieve this. Much is made of Geoff Hurst coming into the side for the injured Greaves, less that he always preferred the more hardworking but less talented goal scorer Roger Hunt from  the start.

The programme  did focus on the famous incident in the Final of,whether the ball was over the line or otherwise. . Sadly Ken Wolstenholme whom I had the privilege of knowing well in his latter years was not there to give one of the most convincing reasons that it was a goal, namely Roger Hunt was close enough to see whether the ball was over the line  , wheeled away and did not have to take that ultimate  honour  of scoring in a World Cup Final.

There was some duplication with the excellent Jimmy Hill tribute. Sue Johnston the Liverpudlian actress was in both giving a working class , non London female view as she did with Jimmy Hill. Barry Davies and John Motson were wearing the same clothes so one imagines they were interviewed for both at the same time.

The  footballers were less cocooned then. When they saw a western (‘The Magnificent Seven”)  , which Ramsey always enjoyed they walked round  to the the Hendon Gaumont. This seems inconceivable now in a world when footballers pay drivers to park their expensive cars so they do not have to wade through crowds.

In the fifty  years following England have not even got close to winning another tournament whilst the losers that day in July Germany have been regulars winners and finalists of both World Cups and The European championships  it might be interesting to have a German view why this  is so  . Equally an Argentine view of the 1-0 defeat might have been illuminating  .  Our chess correspondent plays with Ossie Ardiles and he told him the team retuned as heroes believing  an Englsih referee in the 4-0 defeat of Uruguay by Russia and German referee in the Argentina defeat was a conspiracy against the South American sides. I read somewhere that England committed more fouls in that game. Nor did the programme mention that as well as home advantage England played every game at Wembley except for one at White City and could be based in the Hendon Hall Hotel whereas other countries had to travel around the country for the group and final stages.

Alf Ramsey had a contempt for the press. I remember a senior member of the Press Corps telling me how delighted he was in ‘getting ‘ him in 1974. Successive England managers were called “plonkers” and “turnips” and until recently the tabloids greeted a gung ho feeling fueled by military metaphor. Then England went out into the quarter final on penalties. Though never mentioned the Press have their role to play in 50 years of non-achievement.



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About Tom Hollingworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a former deputy sports editor of the Daily Express. For many years he worked in a sports agency, representing mainly football players and motor racing drivers. Tom holds a private pilot’s licence and flying is his principal recreation. More Posts